Notable Quotes

"Cary, you and I have nothing in common," she explains, "because you and I are from different worlds, and it's not just Mars and Venus. It's spaghetti and hydrogen. We're different categories."


The future of the book

This great post on Educating Alice describes some of the trends we say in the "noughties". Some of the items? The rise of literary non-fiction and YA literature that crosses the teen/20s bounderies. I'd add the re-editing of adult non-fiction books to appeal to younger readers (eg, Chasing Lincoln's Killers). And Literary Salon celebrates independent publishers.

Another trend, one I'm less happy about, is the rise - and expansion - of extras. Books Blog brings up some great reasons Why Not. My reasons? I. Don't. Care. Yes, sure, acknowledge your inspiration - or dedicate your work to someone (best recent dedications? The Series of Unfortunate Events). But many of the worst books I've read this year have had pages of dedications (don't thank your writing program!) and author Q&A (it doesn't make me want to read more to know what inspired you). Those Book Club 'helpers"? Create a website for them. Stop cluttering up my book, stop adding pages.

But what about the e-book phenomenon? No Shelf Required has a good round-up post, including this article in the Christian Science Monitor stating that it's in our future and will change the way we read. It's obvious that the lower pricing for e-books poses a threat for the current publishing model (Seth Grodin's response is a must read). Now, I don't think that books - printed, bound books, that is - will disappear in the same way VHS has. Why? It's not just the size and the lack of color and the lack of ability to lend and all the other negatives we now have. But think about pop-up books, like those by Sabuda. Or Pat-the-Bunny. Of course, trust the French to battle back (and the photo of Sarko? Priceless.) Less expected was Sherman Alexie's outburst.

I'm also thinking about the definition of "classic". To me, "classic" isn't just about the Books You Must Read. It's also those books that really speak to the individual reader; in other words, it varies from person to person and can encompass less-than-literary works. It'll almost certainly vary from decade to decade and generation to generation. Example? The Outsiders. 'nuff said. "Classic" also means something that I'd read again and again. One problem is that classics I enjoyed, and would re-read (and, ok, I'll admit it, push on my nieces/nephews/great-nieces) are now, perhaps, unsuitable for them. Why? That pesky politically correct thing. Bah.

Notice, I'm staying away from the whole question of the future of the bookstore.

Culture Vulturing

This should have gone in my previous post, but didn't because I'm getting old, and because this is more than just about the event.

In November I went to see Bob Newhart. Yes, he of the button down mind (I've checked. No hyphen.).

Was he funny? Yes, if you weren't expecting (and I wasn't) pee-in-your-pants humor. There were some genuinely funny moments, but far more often it was the 'comfortable chuckle' than the real laugh. That's ok, though. Chuckling is never a bad thing.

Remember, this is a man that has been doing a comedy routine for fifty years, and things have changed in that time. Things like political correctness. He started doing a routine and out popped an ethnic stereotype - someone (perhaps several someones) gasped. This apparently wasn't a new response, and so he then spent a few moments talking about comedy and stereotypes and the fact that we need to laugh at ourselves sometimes: "I'm Irish and German so I'm an organized drunk" (or words to that effect).

Now, none of his comments were Chris Rock raw. No vulgar language, for example. No "N-word". As I said, the routines elicited the comfortable chuckle. So why get upset when Bob pokes fun at the British, or the French, or whatever? Because we're now supposed to. Because being overly sensitive is now part of our daily life.

My argument isn't that he's old, so let's give him some latitude. It's that our failure to allow ourselves the ability and opportunity to lighten up, to chuckle (or even guffaw!) at ourselves, at stereotypes, at each other has led to a climate that isn't terribly funny so when someone like a Chris Rock comes along it seems all the funnier, with a dash of "I shouldn't laugh, but I'm going to" included.

Towards the end of the show he did one of his old, classic routines (in this case, the driving lesson). For me, one of the heartiest laughs of the evening came when he said "I've changed it a little - it throws me off to see people's lips moving when I'm doing it." I've heard, and don't know if it's true or apocryphal, that Bill Cosby was on Carson years after his famous Noah routine and Carson asked him to do a bit of it; Cosby couldn't remember the entire routine and Carson ended up doing the routine with Cosby chiming in with the "riiigght"s. That Bob Newhart knows we're not necessarily there to hear him debut new stuff and caters to the audience by giving us a classic morsel is to his credit.

The conclusion was a tribute to his career (and his family's history here, dating back pre-Revolution), ending with what I will always contend was the best finale to a tv series ever.

Culture Vulturing

From old... to young...

I was among the lucky: Leonard Cohen at MSG. Others may argue if it's John Cale or kd lang that interprets Hallelujah best, if you haven't heard the original, well... you just haven't heard it. M. Cohen drew an amazingly diverse crowd - all ages, all ethnicities. Each song was extremely familiar. Each song was completely new. Some of his mannerisms were a bit annoying (the dropping to his knees during just about every song) but his courtly presence made up for them. Truly one of the last chanteurs.

The next event? The Fall presentations from the Columbia Ballet Collaborative. I was very impressed this time around (as opposed to " enjoyed it" from the Spring). An interesting mix of "classic" ballet moves and more modern ones, and an eclectic choice of music made the program fly by, although Thing One questioned the presence of a ringer in the corps. The founders are now starting to leave Columbia, and I hope that the CBC continues without them.


Oh my stars!

A friend left a comment on my most recent review: "What does it take to get four stars from you? Is five even a possibility?"

The answer is, I gave four stars to A Fatal Grace. My last five-star review was for When You Reach Me. Yes, I'm stingy with the fours and fives, and part of the reason is GoodReads' scale.

To them, the scale runs:
  1. Didn't Like It
  2. It Was OK
  3. Liked It
  4. Really Liked It
  5. It Was Amazing
So I've translated that into Lazyspeak:
  1. A Waste Of Ink
  2. If You're Bored
  3. I'd Recommend This
  4. I'd Strongly Recommend This
  5. OMG I Want To Read This Again
I'm guessing that "0" means "Hated It" to them, while to me it means "Sue The Author For My Lost Hours Reading This Crap".

(of course, this is better than Netflix' scale, which jumps from "Liked It" to "Didn't Like It" with no stop at "Meh")


Notable Quotes

"I'm not sure Reine-Marie would be pleased if I became a librarian like her," said Gamache, looking over at his wife talking animatedly with Clara.

"I can just see both of you working at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Montreal, seething resentments between the aisles. Especially if you got promoted."

"That wouldn't happen. I can't spell. Have to sing the alphabet every time I look up a number in the phone book. Drives Reine-Marie crazy. But you want murderous feelings? Hang around librarians," confided Gamache. "All that silence. Gives them ideas."
A Rule Against Murder, Louise Penny