July 2005 Archives
Good-Bye John Harwood, Hola Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Iím sure all the participants in our discussion of The Ghost Writer would agree that it has been a good one. The novel has a complicated plot structure that discusses well since we were able to help each other figure out what happened when and who did what to whom. A great book club choice, Daisy!
For future discussions, I changed the way the homepageís left sidebar looks so everyone would have access to both new and used copies of the books. I also added links to first editions and signed copies in case thatís your thing.
As of right now, there are six copies of Chronicle of a Death Foretold signed by Gabriel García Márquez available on abebooks.com. The prices range from $450 to $1,000. Whoa! I realize heís a Nobel laureate and wonít be signing too many more books since heís nearly 80 years old, but damn. Thatís a lot of money for an autograph.
In contrast, Harwoodís signature is currently going for a paltry $35 to $45. Heís a good writer. The Ghost Writer is his first book. Anyone else seeing an investment opportunity here?
The Ghost Writer discussion
I loved re-reading The Ghost Writer. The first time I read it, it was near Halloween, so the creepiness was perfect, but even in the sauna-like heat of a New Orleans July, it gave me goosebumps.
A few questions to get us started:
1. Why did Gerard never wonder how Penfriends International got his address in the first place?
2. Why did Alice present herself as paralyzed and orphaned? Why couldn't she just have been a regular kid Gerard's age?
3. Viola's stories mirror Gerard's life at the time he reads them: he read "The Gift of Flight" in the British Library, where it was set; he read "Seraphina" at the same time that he was chasing a redheaded girl only he could see. Was this too much of a stretch, or a useful literary device?
4. The end of the book leaves us a lot of questions. It seems that Phyllis slept with Anne's boyfriend and then purposely (or not?) caused her to suffer radiation poisoning. Does this fit with the Phyllis we knew as Gerard's mother?
5. Why was Anne/Abigail/Alice so determined to get revenge on Gerard? He was, after all, innocent. Was it related to the other baby Gerard that was probably Anne's boyfriend's son?
6. Many critics say that the book really fell apart at the end, with the dramatic cellar scene and the fire. What do you think?
Scary Harry Potter fan
Some people went to midnight Harry Potter release parties because they wanted to see what the hype was about. Some people went because they couldn't wait to start reading the next story.
And some people dressed up and wanted to open the box and have the first book, and when they were passed over for a kid, they flipped out. Via Bookslut comes a pretty interesting Livejournal post. An excerpt:
I made an effort. I spent money making an effort. I showed up early. I will remember and treasure this event for ever and eternity. And I'm passed over for an ugly little brat with a sparkly tie. Woo fucking woo.
I didn't stab her in the eye with my wand. I WANTED to. I talked about doing so VERY FUCKING LOUDLY. I was going to eviscerate her mother with the cover of my brand-new copy.
Gigglechick, Live at the Improv
Got back a little while ago from seeing Erin a.k.a. Gigglechick, one of our very own bookbloggers, perform at the New York Improv Comedy Club. The crowd was pretty large and she did well despite being visibly nervous. Although my seat was right in the front row, I have to be honest and admit that I missed the very beginning of her act because I was too busy taking pictures. (I put down my camera when my friend smacked me on the back of the head and said I was making Erin self-conscious.) Her material covered birth control, sex and the single girl, and her very own Gigglemom, whose surly and straight-talking nature makes for good comedy. I thought Erin did best when she interacted with the audience. That's when she seemed most comfortable because in those few moments she was just Erin being Erin.
I'm sure she'll blog about it soon on her own site, so stop over there and give her a pat on the back. Way to go, Erin!
[This being a book blog, I must mention that afterwards we went to Strand Book Store for more titles to add to TBR piles which are multiplying faster than a warren of horny rabbits. Then it was a bit of salsa dancing, where my white girl disco moves caused my Colombian friend to nearly bust a gut from laughing.]
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, A Review
I haven't seen Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory yet and keep wanting to find the time to go, but I guess The Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ) didn't like it:
The star of the movie, though, remains Johnny Depp. And he soon becomes its biggest problem.
Say it isn't so!
This part of the review was a little confusing:
Add Depp's strangeness to it, and some overdone horrors (Veruca Salt is attacked by vicious squirrels, and thrown down an incinerator shaft) and it's easy to imagine little ones crying out for "Herbie: Fully Loaded" halfway through.
Um, in Roald Dahl's version, Veruca Salt is
attacked by vicious squirrels and is
thrown down an incinerator shaft. That's why there's a chapter called "The Nut Room." Or maybe this reviewer is in the same situation as me and also can't find his copy of the book
Freaky Deaky Cover Art
Harry Potter Trash? Or Treasure?
When I left the "Midnight Magic" release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, I noticed a lot of customers walking out with empty shipping boxes. I wondered, "Why would anyone want an empty box?"
Now I know:
Buy your very own original Harry Potter garbage on eBay!
Update: This is probably the most creative pitch I've ever seen on eBay, even if it is for an empty box that should be in a landfill by now. What the heck are "burninating mugwart monsterosities?"
Wild About Harry Potter
At around 10:30 p.m., I headed over to my local Barnes & Noble for ?Midnight Magic? and the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It?s true that I?ve been growing weary of Pottermania, but I thought the experience might be good for shits and giggles. Plus I didn?t have anything better to do tonight.
As I neared the shopping center, my mouth dropped open when I saw all the traffic. Awe turned into annoyance when I realized that parking was going to be hard to find. Being a native New Jerseyan and regular mall shopper, I quickly shifted into stealth parking mode. When I found my target, a guy carrying two large take-out bags, I slowly eased my car into position and stalked him at 2 m.p.h. all the way to his vehicle.
Inside the store, I kept looking for the ?Midnight Magic? but didn?t find much going other than Hogwarts fans occupying every inch of floor space and a decimated table which was once home to a display of the boxed set of books one through five. I passed on the goodie bag containing Harry Potter glasses and thunderbolt tattoos.
Up in the fiction section, I asked a clerk how many copies they expected to sell tonight. ?Well, we?re not supposed to talk about it,? she began. ?But I?ll tell you anyway.? The store handed out 2,000 yellow advance reservation wristbands. By the time I walked in, they had already gone through an additional 600 orange walk-in wristbands and estimated that they would sell 3,500 books by the time the last customer left somewhere around 3 a.m. All 8,000 copies in their inventory are supposed to be sold out by Monday.
Hmm? 8,000 times $29.99 less the 40% discount offered to the customer, oh, but then you have to figure that they probably got a 55% trade discount off list, and um, it comes out to be? Whoa! Was that an actual prisoner of Azkaban? ?a huge freaking sum of money for one store for one book in one weekend.
The PA system clicked on at 15 minute intervals to let everyone know that midnight was nigh. I thought about leaving before the madness began, but the friendly clerk suggested that the grand unveiling would be exciting. Oh, okay.
At just about midnight, I was pleasantly surprised at running into fellow blogger Riss of Tequila Shots for the Soul. Although she lives closer to another Barnes & Noble in an urban area, she decided on a suburban location because of the enormous parking lot. She sent her husband, Geo, out at 4:30 p.m. for her wristband, and he landed her lucky number 48. When the books went on sale, Riss let out a cheer and double timed it over to the registers since she was in the first group of buyers.
Some couldn?t even wait to leave the store before they started reading. Some took pictures of their children proudly holding the book, wearing their Hogwarts uniforms and huge smiles. Others jumped up and down and excitedly chattered about finally having Harry?s next adventure in their hands. The buzz outside the store was infectious.
During the drive home, I thought about how my bad attitude toward Harry might be unfounded. Before I arrived, I expected the whole scene to be pathetic. Sure, dressing like a wizard or drawing a thunderbolt on your forehead or getting into a 3500-person line might seem kind of silly from a distance. Being there and watching all of the excitement over a book made me wish my current reading selection contained a little magic.
But do you know what?s really pathetic? I didn't even buy it.
Although BookBlog's members are located all over the place, it's technically a NJ blog since its headquarters (my bedroom) are right here in the great Garden State. Please keep your jokes to yourself, thankyouverymuch. If you don't live here, you just don't get it.
Jim of Parkway Rest Stop, an all-around good guy and one of the NJ blogging elite, was recently mentioned in a New York Times article about The Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers. According to Jim, "Jersey's a small town," and he's absolutely right. No matter where I go, from Fort Lee to Jersey City to Sayreville to Atlantic City, everywhere feels like home.
Click here to read the Times article.
Update: I just saw this tidbit about the article on Gawker:
Still, half of us is from New Jersey, and weíre a little taken aback. First, the presence of Bell Labs notwithstanding, weíve never thought of it as a particularly technologically advanced state. (Our hometown didnít even have cable until 1990.) Weíve also never though [sic] of it as a particularly coherent state: the top part thinks of itself as adjunct New Yorkers, the bottom part as adjunct Philadelphians, and neither wants to have anything to do with the folks in the middle.
Adjunct New Yorkers? Feh. This person in the top half who works in New York is thankful when she sees the "Welcome to New Jersey" sign at the end of each day. Gawker, please, stay in Manhattan and leave the rest of us who know how to drive on a highway alone.
Yesterday, I had a very nice conversation with the very nice manager of online marketing at abebooks.com. The phone call came about because he sent me an e-mail about doing some promoting here on BookBlog, and I didnít delete it like I normally do when I get requests for advertising. See, the difference was that he said nice things about BookBlog rather than the usual pitch to sell or review crappy books for a crappy publisher. (In a former life, I worked for a crappy publisher for eight years. I know crappy books.) I think the phrase that made me keep reading his e-mail was ďpersonal fan of your blog.Ē You have to pet the pony before you ride it.
Intrigued, I took a look at abebooks.com and instantly liked it. Itís sort of like the Amazon used book marketplace except that the sellers are real used bookstores and not joe schmoes trying to clear out some shelf space in order to make room for the next Harry Potter book. And I love used books. I really do. When I go on a pilgrimage, my Mecca is Strand Book Store, the most fabulous shop ever for real book lovers. Now that most of the independent bookstores have been squashed by latte-pushing super retailers, the used bookstore is the only place to go for that great musty book smell. Online shopping for used books isnít quite the same as doing it in person since you canít run your hands over all of the old bindings, but it isnít half bad because you can easily find exactly what you want.
For example, letís say youíre interested in buying this monthís selection, The Ghost Writer by John Harwood. By doing a quick search on abebooks.com, you can find:
Wasnít that easy? A trip to the used bookstore usually involves climbing over mountains of old books, scaling 20-foot shelving units being held together by one rusty screw, and dealing with employees who canít find anything since theyíre all classics graduate students only working there for the discount. I enjoy an adventure when Iím browsing, but Iíd rather get what I want and get out when Iím looking for something specific.
And I put my money where my mouth is. My copy of Noir from the BookBlog library (currently housed in a pile next to my bedroom door) has gone missing. Itís out of print, and I have already placed an order for a gently-loved replacement from abebooks.com.
So, donít be surprised if you find a bunch of abebooks.com stuff popping up around here. I wouldnít suggest the site if I didnít think it was good for books.
Harry Potter Gag Order? Yeah, I'm Gagging.