When I first got the news about HarperCollins' offering, I soon drifted away from their site to friendlier environs because I couldn't get it to work. I tried it again today and finally got the larger browser to launch after much insistent clicking. It has an advantage in that you can, with some squinting, read an entire page without scrolling, but its interface feels clunky. Plus, having to watch "loading" dots between every page tries my patience.
Google Book Search also has its own widget, which The Millions says, "points to a useful service, where readers can discover (and if they want to, buy) books that interest them." Maybe I'm unable to see the big picture, but I haven't yet found much useful about Google Book Search other than finding quotes. And even then I only get exactly what I'm looking for maybe half of the time. Besides being gigantic in both vertical and horizontal form, Google's widget is exceptionally ugly. And certain book covers are unreadable. And I haven't been able to figure out if you can force it to point at specific titles. And it serves up blanks when a suitable match can't be found. And the flashing between each set of search string results makes me go into seizures.
And its code doesn't always play nice with other elements on a web page. If all you see above is "Loading...", Google's widget is being naughty.
In terms of who has the better viewer, I agree that Random House wins "the first round of the 'Widget Wars.'" Although, like HarperCollins' widget, it seems to launch the larger browser when it feels like it, I still think it's cool. I like being able to point to specific books, how the pages flip, and the search function (accessed by clicking on the binoculars). It also convinced me to want one of their books after reading the first chapter of the title I mentioned yesterday.
But, The Millions says, "These widgets...are akin to putting a big billboard on the side of your house and getting nothing in return." This is very true of the ones from HarperCollins and Google Book Search. Random House, however, allows you to customize the "Buy" button to point to your preferred online bookstore. For people like me, who have to monetize to cover the bandwidth bill, I applaud Random House for allowing site publishers to send buyers to a preferred affiliate program. Unfortunately, the customizable "Buy" button only works for the small viewer. If they change it so that I can also embed my affiliate code into the large viewer, I could be persuaded to promote more of their books.
If you click on it, you should get a larger, more readable window and be able to look through the first 57 pages of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The widget is kind of cool, and, after reading the first chapter, I will probably pick up a copy of this book. Although there's been lots of teeth gnashing lately over scrotums, this story, written by Death and telling teens they will eventually die on the first page, seems much more titillating to me.
Update: If you ended up here because it's near the top of Google's search results for Random House's widget, you are surely disappointed. This post, which reviews three book widgets, is more informative: What the Widget?
The Gender Genie has been undergoing something of a revival recently as it is discovered and linked to by those who didn't know about it before last summer's extended break. If you're a new reader here, between May and September 2006 I pretty much let BookBlog rot as I recovered from exhaustion. Teaching fourth grade was already a tiring occupation, and moving to my current home exasperated my situation due to a six-hour round trip commute. The Gender Genie's slapdash code broke down during all this, and I let it wallow until I built up enough strength to fix it.
Personal problems aside, it tickles me to find it mentioned on other sites since its popularity continues to amaze. Following are a few recent links of note, which I place here so I have something to muse on in my golden years.
BBC's Magazine Monitor: "At last! The answer to Paper Monitor's gender can be found at Gender Genie. Based on the last three entries, PM is male. Except on Monday, when we must assume someone filled in for him."
Nerve's Scanner: "We find the Gender Genie interesting, mostly because it’s so BAD. We submitted two recent articles for analysis, including the story we recently wrote about Sarah Silverman (in which we actually write about being a woman), and it told us we were a maaan, baby."
BlogHer: "Most of my blog entries are well under 500 words, so I used a tutorial about Firefox for my second test. I pasted in about half of it, 786 words, and the Genie again declared me male. This time the score was female 732, male 1131. I suddenly feel hair growing on my chest. Testosterone rushes to enlarge my biceps."
John Scalzi's Whatever: "Just to be sure to it doesn't think I'm natively girly, however, I also fed it the first chapter of The Android's Dream, in which, as you know, someone farts someone else to death. The result: The algorithm believes the author of that passage is male."
The Scalzi post is the most notable. Being a popular science fiction author, he naturally has author friends who read and comment on his blog. If you scroll through the comments of the above linked post, you'll see Matt Ruff as an active participant in Scalzi's Gender Genie discussion. Ruff wrote Set This House in Order, the last book we attempted to discuss before BookBlog was silenced last summer. Ruff even says he fed some chapters of Set This House in Order into the Genie and,
I think there's another uber-discussion to be had, about how the toy's underlying algorithm actually works, and whether our responses to it are an example of the Eliza effect.
Wouldn't it be funny if this business about keywords was just a dodge, and it was actually determining the maleness or femaleness of texts by flipping a digital coin?
To respond to Ruff's wondering, the Genie doesn't flip a coin. It really does score keywords based on Koppel and Argamon's text-sexing algorithm. I've never claimed that the program was accurate, but rather think of it as proof of how far society has progressed in equalizing the sexes. Despite the researchers' claim, you can't tell if a writer is a man or a woman, but it is an interesting study in what kind of writing is perceived as male (i.e. concrete) or female (i.e. connective).
This Scalzi/Ruff business also sets off my irony meter. Here's Ruff, author of a BookBlog selection, bringing up an "uber-discussion" about our toy. Yet, we didn't manage to discuss his book because no one read it besides Daisy, the moderator. I have always felt bad about this and, several months ago, put Set This House in Order at the top of a pile near my desk as a reminder to send Daisy a kindly-worded e-mail about reviving the discussion. I'd promise to read it this time.
Okay, so maybe I didn't throw away my post about how much hardcovers suck. In attempting to finish it, which I still haven't managed, I did a little poking around and discovered that I'm not the only one recently complaining about prices:
Condalmo: "A recent post here once again highlighted my preference for the paperback over the hardcover, and lamented that publishers always release the unwieldy, overpriced hardcover first, and then make us wait for the paperback. If only a publisher would step up to the plate and launch a simultaneous release system, thought I."
Literary Kicks: "For now, let me just state an obvious fact as simply as I can: $28 for a book is absolutely ridiculous. We live in an age where hit singles cost $.99 and new albums cost $9.99. Publishers wish that literary authors could be as popular as top bands, but they price their best talents out of that market."
The Dream You Dare to Dream: "We topped off the evening by heading to the bookstore to catch up on our magazine reading. I also looked at "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy, but it was too expensive. Why are books so expensive anyway? I mean, I get the whole supply/demand analysis, but are books really that popular that they can charge like $20 for a hardcover?"
Since the middle of last week, I have been attempting to write a post about the cost of hardcover books. For reasons unknown, I can't finish the damn thing. My thoughts are so scattered that I can't construct an argument or organize sentences to form paragraphs. Distractions are everywhere:
I think we've reached a consensus, What is the What was not one of our favorite books so far. Hmm...I definitely prefer Jonathan Safran Foer. I believe that he gets grouped with Dave Eggers, Jonathan Lethem (I enjoy his short stories), and Zadie Smith, although I've yet to read a Smith.
Although I'm sure Valentino Achak Deng is a much busier person than I am, I wish the blog section of his web site was up and running. I've read a few interviews he's done along with Eggers, but I'm interested in what he's like without having Eggers around.
Northwestern University, which in 2005 restricted investments in four companies doing business in Sudan, is considering the possibility of prohibiting University investments in other companies with business operations there.
University leaders are working with Northwestern students who have recently asked the University not to invest in companies that conduct business in the East African country because of genocide that has occurred in the Darfur region of Sudan.
It's very humanitarian of them to look into the students' proposal. I'd rather they look more at using their excess cash as a reinvestment into the school. And stop harassing me several times a year for a donation because this human needs a break.
A few posts below, Zonker left a comment containing a link to a blog about Sudan. In continuing my education, I have stumbled across several blogs dedicated to the cause:
I hope you have had the chance to finish the novel, given that it was a short month. I know I had a tough time finishing it since I've had to read two other novels this month for my Literature and the State class, not to mention articles as well.
Except that I don't know where to begin. I will definitely need your help in getting the discussion going. What is the What was definitely a dense novel, but pleasing to follow. Tragedy and humor.
I'll begin with what bothered me.
The celebrities, the exact dates, the present-likeness of it, and the reality behind it. Or was it the writing?
These aspects of the novel made me think that I was reading a biography (I know it's a sort of biography), something more non-fiction. I have a personal problem with reading biographies: I don't think any one person is more important than another to have a book written about their life. It's more of a, "If I read your life, then I will feel guilty because I did not read about his life." or "Why should I read about you when there are millions of people out there with their own story?" Eh...
Call it bias, but I disliked the mention of Angelina Jolie in the novel and the clarified connection between Jane Fonda and the founder of the Lost Boys organization. Also, I'm really not sure what to think about the writing. From my experience, I felt like the exactness of facts and dates and names took away some of the charm of WitW being a novel. All of this seemed too factual for me.
On the other hand, it bothered me so much that I never knew Achak's age! I could guess it, but we were never told. Gosh!
The stories were moving. By far, Achak's childhood narration was the most moving and the saddest, yet beautiful lines and concepts came from that narration. One of my favorites comes from pages 181-182: "Eventually a dying boy would find a tree, and he would sit against the tree and fall asleep. When his head touched the tree, the life in him would fall away and his flesh would return to the earth." William K's death was one of the saddest events in the novel. He was also my favorite character.
I found some parts boring, like the history behind the events, celebrations, assemblies, and conferences surrounding the Lost Boys.
I haven't really posed any real questions here, it's been more of a stream of consciousness. Having said that, I hope you share your thoughts on What is the What.
When I taught third grade, the social studies curriculum focused on world cultures. It took a lot of effort convincing the kids that Africa was a continent rather than one gigantic country, so we never made it very deep into looking at its people. As a result, I knew exactly one thing about Sudan before picking up What Is the What. It is the largest country in Africa.
Of course, I've seen the Save Darfur commercials. It took several viewings, however, before I realized that Darfur is in Sudan. Then, talking with Eddie the other night, I mentioned my annoyance at not finding it on the map at the front of What is the What. Eddie lived in Zambia for two years, so I hoped for a quick primer on the conflict. Since Africa is such a big place, he readily admitted also knowing very little about Sudan.
Curious, I began Internet surfing and was very surprised to discover that Valentino Achak Deng, the novel's main character, is not from Darfur. Huh? While reading What is the What, I assumed I was getting some information on what we've been hearing about on television.
Since I can't be the only one who is confused, here is some information on Sudan to help orient us in anticipation of tomorrow's discussion. To begin, the following map shows Sudan's states as they were in 1994:
Clicking on the map will take you to a larger image. Deng's village, Marial Bai, is located in the southern Sudanese region of Bahr al-Ghazal ("river of the gazelles"). Darfur ("home of the Fur," an ethnic group) is a region in the west and is just north of Bahr al-Ghazal. Today, Sudan has been further divided and is currently made up of 26 states.
Deng is one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, a name borrowed from Peter Pan because so many of them arrived at refugee camps without parents. In the late 80s, fighting began between Sudan's government in Khartoum, its northern capital city, and rebels (the SPLA) who wanted autonomy for the south. Driven from their homes by the conflict, these boys, mostly aged 8 to 18, traveled hundreds of miles to Ethiopia. When Communists overthrew the Ethiopian government in 1991, the refugees were chased back to Sudan by armed militia. Walking for more than a year, they arrived in Kenya in 1992 after losing nearly half of their original number.
The current situation in Darfur is not dissimilar to what happened to the Lost Boys. In 2003, rebel groups in Darfur began attacking government army installations amidst cries of injustice and neglect of the region. The Sudanese government sent their own troops and recruited armed militias to quell the rebels. The militias, known as Janjaweed, are made up of Sudanese Arab tribesmen and have been accused of atrocities against the African Sudanese in Darfur. Currently, it is estimated that 400,000 civilians have been killed and over 2 million people have been displaced by the fighting.
Let's see whose query we won't answer properly today.
Search String: book report on charlie and the chocolate factory
Do your own homework, kid.
Search String: comments about "If on a winters night a traveler"
Considering that the Book Mistress didn't make it past the first chapter of Italo Calvino's novel, which is written in the second person, before casting it aside and telling it to shut up, we have no comment.
Search String: what did brother francis eat AND "canticle for leibowitz"
Is this important to the plot of the above by Walter M. Miller, Jr.? Why would anyone need to know this? Is this a question from some kind of fact-based assignment in which a teacher naively expects to discover whether or not you did your reading? Or are you working on cookbook targeted to nomadic priests in the post-apocalyptic future?
Our wonderings aside, the best way to find out is to either actually read the book or try Google Book Search, but we'll tell you what he didn't eat:
"Yesterday. There was this lizard, Father. It had blue and yellow stripes, and such magnificent hams—thick as your thumb and plump, and I kept thinking how it would taste like chicken, roasted all brown and crisp outside, and—"
"All right," the priest interrupted. Only a hint of revulsion crossed his aged face. After all, the boy was spending a lot of time in the sun. "You took pleasure in these thoughts? You didn't try to get rid of the temptation?"
Francis reddened. "I—I tried to catch it. It got away (pp. 33-34)."
Search String: WHAT DOES IT MEAN WHEN A PERSON LIES ALOT
On Halloween night, following an unnerving phone call from his diabetic mother, Hale and six of his med-school classmates return to the house where his sister disappeared years ago. While there is no sign of his mother, something is waiting for them there, and has been waiting for a long time. Written as a literary film treatment littered with footnotes and experimental nuance, Demon Theory is even parts camp and terror, combining glib dialogue, fascinating pop culture references and an intricate subtext as it pursues the events of a haunting movie trilogy that is all too real.
In flipping quickly through the book, I couldn't not notice the footnotes (and footnotes to the footnotes) appearing on nearly every page. I absolutely loved House of Leaves, which uses footnotes and appendices as integral literary devices guiding the reader through its labyrinthine eponymous character. It wouldn't have been the same book without them. Over at the LBC, much of their Demon Theory discussion focused on the footnoteissue, and the consensus was that they distracted rather than moved the story forward. I'm looking forward to reading it and drawing my own conclusions.
But (You knew there was a "but" coming, right?) seeing Demon Theory's page layout reminded me of a semi-unpleasant cereal I recently tasted. Last time I went grocery shopping, I bought a box of Kashi Go Lean because I had a coupon and I'm one of those intestinally-challenged people who needs a lot of fiber. Although I'm no stranger to eating sawdust, I like my sawdust to be appealing. The front of the box describes Go Lean Cereal as "crunchy fiber twigs, soy protein grahams and honey puffs." Despite wondering why Kashi couldn't come up with a more appetizing word than "twigs," I figured the "honey puffs" would be okay. They're not. They look deceptively like Kellogg's Honey Smacks, but taste every bit as twiggy as the "twigs."
On the surface, Demon Theory looks kind of like House of Leaves. I hope there's some honey in it and not a whole bunch of twigs.
We had our first real winter storm today, so I used up the better part of it doing winter things at Casa BookBlog: tending the wood stove, periodically making sure the roof was still on, shoveling the walk, etc. Thus snowbound, my Valentine was my cat who spent our quality time together either napping or stealing the warm chair by the fire or doing both at the same time. I love him anyway.
de Charles Baudelaire
Viens, mon beau chat, sur mon coeur amoureux;
Retiens les griffes de ta patte,
Et laisse-moi plonger dans tes beaux yeux,
Mêlés de métal et d'agate.
Lorsque mes doigts caressent à loisir
Ta tête et ton dos élastique,
Et que ma main s'enivre du plaisir
De palper ton corps électrique,
Je vois ma femme en esprit. Son regard,
Comme la tien, aimable bête,
Profond et froid, coupe et fend comme un dard,
Et, des pieds jusques à la tête,
Un air subtil, un dangereux parfum,
Nagent autour de son crops brun.
by Charles Baudelaire
translated (badly, thereby losing all rhyme and meter) by MaryDell
Come, my handsome cat, upon my loving breast;
Pull in the claws from your legs,
And let me plunge into your beautiful eyes,
Forged of metal and agate.
While my fingers leisurely caress
Your head and your elastic spine,
And my hand becomes drunk with the pleasure
of stroking your electric body,
I see my mistress in spirit. Her gaze,
like yours, pleasant beast,
Profound and cold, cuts and splits like a dart,
And, from her feet to her head,
A subtle air, a dangerous perfume,
Swims around her dark body.
It gave me a good chuckle since I've been to ALA a few times as a vendor. The penguin metaphor fits the biannual librarian migration quite nicely, and I especially appreciated the narrator's line, "There's a hungry vendor looking for a meal."
A little while later, I ran out to do errands. Since I was in the municipal area of town, I decided to stop at the public library to:
track down a 1040 booklet because the IRS stupidly sent me the wrong form and following convoluted tax instructions via the computer is making me rip my hair out, and
get a library card. Although I've lived here for more than a year, this task has been near the bottom of the priority list since I own several hundred unread books.
By the way, there were no forms at the library. Despite doing my own taxes by hand for more than 20 years, I think I should finally get with the times and file electronically.
Anyway, the librarian at the main desk fit the stereotype perfectly and was not unlike those in the video. She was oldish, wearing glasses, and had a sweater, complete with embroidered flower embellishments, pulled over her shoulders. I asked for a card and handed over my driver's license. The librarian was pleasant and accommodating as she silently tapped at the computer's keyboard.
As I waited for my card, I glanced around to check the place out. I'll be damned if there wasn't a glass case displaying several stuffed penguins and featuring books about penguins. It made me laugh. Aloud. I almost asked the librarian if she had seen the video, but my sudden outburst caused her to eye me with suspicion. I decided it was better to leave quietly. Although it's probably only conspiracy theory, I don't want my reading habits ending up in a secret government database.
Like most book bloggers, I get e-mails from authors. In a crowded marketplace, it's difficult for an unknown to get noticed since big publishers are more likely to throw money toward big books by big authors. As a result, little authors need to spend more time being marketers than working on their craft. It's a shame, really.
Last month, I received an e-mail from John Barlow promoting the trailer for the reprint edition of his novel Intoxicated:
(Advice to John Barlow: Edit for grammar and typos before hitting send. Also, don't forget to mention the name of your book. Although you did include a sentence about its content, the title is nowhere to be found.)
Under normal circumstances, I throw such e-mails into a folder called "book press" with the intention of going back and reading them as I find time. Time is hard to find, so those e-mails never see the light of day again. Occasionally, I clean out the folder by deleting but never looking at the super old stuff. But why did I notice Barlow's book and not the many others?
First of all, the e-mail didn't come across as a form letter. Not only did it read and look like something from an actual human rather than a marketing machine, it mentioned BookBlog in the body. Including the name of the site or person you're writing to might take a bit of research or extra time, but it's worth it. I'm a person, and I like personal attention. Recently, I received several e-mails from a PR firm to promote products that would fit into what we do here, but they were all addressed to "Jesse." I was tempted to write back and ask, "Who the eff is Jesse?" but it takes less effort to ignore carelessness than confront it.
Barlow couldn't have known, but I recently acquired Drinking, Smoking & Screwing: Great Writers on Good Times from Bookins. The older I get, the more nostalgic I become for the days of my youth. I used to have lots of fun doing naughty things and damning the consequences, but these days the suffering lasts longer than a morning hangover. (I recently was invited to a bar for a birthday celebration that started at 10:30 p.m. My response was, "Uh, no thank you. I go to bed around ten.") Reminiscing and reading about wild fun is mostly what I do now, so Barlow's Intoxicated, about a cocaine-based Victorian soft drink, hit the right target market.
Did the trailer do anything for me? Not really. Although it's the latest trend in book marketing, I haven't paid much attention. Others have. Watch the Book is a new blog dedicated to book trailers, albeit trashy ones. (I'd never read any of the dreck they've promoted so far.) Book Trailerpark highlighted more diverse titles, but they are apparently defunct because of whatever is going on inside The Book Standard. The future is likely to see more and more titles being promoted via trailers, and I expect it's just a matter of time before they hit the flat screens that have been going up in my local jumbo Borders. To that end, Big Bad Book Blog has offered a few useful tips for would-be trailer producers. The best ones are stylish, short, imaginative, and fun.
I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.
And, honestly, I only know the quote because we covered it here. The rest of the quiz is a complete mystery, since I am not well-read. Rather than mourn my ignorance, I choose to believe I'm medium well-read. That is, warm and slightly pink in the middle.
So what if college seniors haven't heard a Beatles song? I'm 37 and Beatlemania ended long before I began actively listening to music. I know and appreciate The Beatles because they were my father's music, but what did the parents of today's kids listen to as they raised their children? Duran Duran? Guns N' Roses? During my last year of teaching, I was blown away by overhearing a nine-year-old student singing "I Ran" by A Flock of Seagulls. When I asked how he knew it, he told me his father played the CD at home. In 30 years, will this same student complain that the next generation is ignorant of "culture" because they are unaware of glam pop's influence on modern music?
Speaking of old people's pop, a-ha's "Take on Me" is currently blasting from the speakers as iTunes's party shuffle randomly selects from a 10-gig library of songs released between 1980 and 1995. Next up is Alphaville's "Forever Young," which is relevant to today's youth from the soundtrack of 2004's Napoleon Dynamite and not the 1984 single. Vote for Pedro.
What about Norman Mailer? He's more than 80 years old and writes about cultural influences meaningful to those with similar experiences. His new book, The Castle in the Forest, is about Hitler, a man who tyrannized the world and died 40 years before college seniors were born. Even I don't care much about World War II. My life has been most impacted by The Vietnam War since I am Bui Doi, the progeny of an American sailor and a Vietnamese woman. Today, the defining war is in Iraq as our children deal with siblings and friends of friends who are dying in a fruitless battle against terrorism.
Jack Kerouac and On the Road? Sorry, but the Beat doesn't go on. Unless, of course, you're talking about laying down beats for the next hip hop sensation. See how out of touch I am? I think I read somewhere that hop hop is dead, and I have no idea what they call today's music.
Ultimately, the thing that really gets on my nerves is how the blame for supposed cultural apathy gets laid on teachers:
My students aren't stupid. In fact, once exposed to books like On The Road they rapidly become animated. But they are being short-changed by an education system, and by extension, a society, that increasingly devalues the lessons to be learned, and the joys to be had, from our cultural and intellectual forefathers.
And this from another teacher. During my tenure in an elementary school classroom, I saw a lot of bad teaching, some of it from myself, but it is hard enough to get a kid to pick up a book let alone impart an understanding of history. Elementary school students, with their limited experiences, struggle to keep up with classroom culture. In middle school, many more distractions compete with learning the basics. By high school, teachers are freaking out about how kids don't know how to read and not their lack of appreciation for what happened 50 years ago.
The presumption that a college senior should arrive to the classroom already equipped with knowledge about certain cultural influences is nonsense. Even more absurd is dumping on teachers before you because they did not teach what you think is important. They got those kids far enough to make it into your classroom and deserve thanks for it. If you have identified a gap in your students' learning, it is now your job to fill it. Bemoaning what they don't know doesn't help; it just confirms that you're officially old. Go educate.
The Litblog Co-Op has informed me that my entry merited a free copy of Demon Theory. Although fear of a Sesame Street cartoon might seem silly for a 37-year-old, I can still see those footed flowers in my head. Over dinner the other night, I read the story to Eddie and tried to explain how I had to leave the room whenever the scary Dandelions were on. His reaction was a blank stare. Sigh. There is a bright side, though. A neighbor has remarked, more than once, about the lack of weeds in my lawn. Thanks to the LBC, Stephen Graham Jones, and MacAdam/Cage.
You sought answers. BookBlog responds to your desperate pleas.
Search String: is the movie Shopgirl Steve Martin's autobiography
No. The movie Shopgirl is based on a novella (i.e. short novel) of the same name and is Steve Martin's first published work of fiction. It is about a lonely young woman who sells gloves in Neiman's. Unless Martin was once a girl behind a counter in a department store, odds are it isn't his autobiography.
Search String: what are the points of view in reading
There are many. A story can be told from the point of view of the main character, an objective observer, an unreliable narrator, multiple narrators, a third-person omniscient, etc. The best way to figure out point of view for a particular book is to read it. Your job, as a reader, is to understand and interpret what you read, which includes identifying point of view. For example, this paragraph is written from the point of view of the Book Mistress. Now, don't you feel smart?
Search String: how to read "house of leaves"
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski may seem like a daunting read but can be easily conquered by following these steps. Begin at the beginning. Follow the pages sequentially. When you come to a footnote, read the footnote then return to where you left off in the text. If you are directed to an appendix, read the appendix then return to where you left off in the text. You are finished when you reach the end.
Search String: running with scissors fact or fiction
Augusten Burroughs's Running with Scissors is a memoir, a genre that is not held to the same rigorous factual standards as a biography or autobiography. Some of it may be true, some of it may be based on what the author remembers as being true. Often, memoirists use will impression, interpretation, and fictionalization to tell their stories, so memoirs should be read with the foreknowledge that not everything may be completely accurate. Burroughs has asserted that his memoir is factual, but the Turcottes (portrayed in the book as the Finches) disagree. They have filed a lawsuit.
Search String: my name is oliver. i m a 33 year-old living in toronto canada. i have many interests but i ll list a few; i love to read watch movies listen to music and write. i m an author with a passion for writing so i spend much of my time doing that. i m a huge tennis fan...so i usually spend much of my time watching the grand slams.i m interesed in communicating with guys from all over the world. i consider myself to be a friendly honest guy and look for the the same. i am single and i live alone but much of my time is spent around family and friends
Although I wasn't going to enter The Litblog Co-Op's Demon Theory contest, I was hit by a moment of inspiration last night. Here's my entry for your psychoanalysis:
I'm no stranger to embarrassing moments, so it's not difficult admitting to a fear that continues to plague me. As a child, my parents would absentmindedly set me in front of the television. It was their way of keeping me entertained and out of their hair. When mom and dad turned the dial to PBS, they thought their daughter would be exposed to quality educational programming. How wrong they were. PBS carried a program so horrifying that more than 30 years later, I still cannot banish the images from my head. That show, friends, is Sesame Street.
You may scoff. You may ask, "What could be so frightening about the letter 'D,' happily singing Muppets, and one thing not being like the other?" You may wonder why I haven't yet worked this out in therapy. Friends, despite your quizzical looks, I assure you; my enduring horror is real.
The defining moment that forever ruined Sesame Street occurred upon first seeing a particular stop-action cartoon. It was a filler, meant to take up space between Muppet segments. The characters were styled like decoupage cutouts from a Victorian nightmare. The eerie music had lyrics narrating the action. Action which included Dandelions with lion faces and human feet. Feet in a clear glass vase. Toes dangling in water.
Before this moment, I had delighted in picking Dandelions. Their bright yellow flower heads seemed to shine and dance against fields of green. After the petals dropped and the Dandelions turned into snowballs, I never could resist plucking a stem from the ground. A hearty exhalation of air through pursed lips would send the seeds adrift on a breeze. In my own way, with the force from my little lungs, I contributed to perpetuating the life cycle.
But no longer. Friends, I do not have words to describe the sheer terror that filled my body upon seeing this cartoon. Dandelions, which were once so delightful, had faces. And teeth. Sharp fangs that might shred an innocent into hamburger. If the abomination weren't enough, these fierce blooms could walk. Nay, run. The idea that a flower might suddenly leap from a vase to chase me down and eat me was simply too much. I ran shrieking from the room.
To this day, I wage war on Dandelions. When a menace attempts to punch through the lush carpet of my lawn, I vehemently rip it out. I tear its bulbs and leaves to shreds. And I make sure I get its entire tap root. Although I haven't yet found one with feet, I check anyway. You never know when an aberrant flower might try to escape.
We'll see what happens. LBC's two contest categories close later tonight, so there's still time for you to submit your horror and metal hair band stories.
Although most of the liternet is abuzz with news of the July 21st Harry Potter release, I'm not too much of a fan considering I only made it through the first two books. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the books and the movies but, eh, new book, whatever.
The Potter item that really grabbed my attention this week was the release of publicity photos for Daniel Radcliffe's upcoming role in Equus, a play which will include naked Harry and a horse. Well, not a real horse, since it is a stage play, but rather a man wearing a horse costume and, thankfully, pants. Naturally, many parents are freaking out over the explicitness of the Radcliffe photos, but I'm curious to know, "Is that a phoenix feather in your magic wand, Harry?"
Years ago, as an impressionable youth and long before the V-chip, I saw the movie version of Equus on cable. I'm sure no horses were hurt in the making of the film. Yet, yowza. Simulated horse porn still seems like horse abuse.
Even better is the following clip from The Extras (via KateSpot), which includes the boy wizard in a scouting uniform and wielding a condom. Hilarious!
In general, I prefer to hold off on commenting on the content of the books we discuss before we actually discuss them. This avoids giving away important plot points in advance of the conversation. Plus, seeing **SPOILER ALERT** at the top of every post, like on many other book and film discussion sites, is annoying. So, although I don't really want to talk about What is the What before February 19th, I do want to mention that the section I read last night made me cry.
Speaking of the **SPOILER ALERT** thing, the worst place to encounter it right now is at Amazon's Penguin Classics Reading Group. Good for them for starting a book club blog since talking about reading is a great thing. I hope they make a million bucks at it, but gah! They have spoiler alerts before nearly every post AND comment. If the participants haven't finished the book, it's their problem.
Anyway, back to the crying. Being overcome by emotion surprised me because I wasn't expecting to like this book. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, I wasn't too thrilled by Dave Eggers's memoir. When I began A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, I assumed the title was either ironic or satirical. When I got to the end, I realized Eggers was serious. The reading experience was fine until the last chapter, which meant to convey the strength of Dave and Topher's connection and will to survive. But when the message turned toward, "Eff you, you naysayers and people who would put us down," I felt like Eggers was also saying, "Eff you, you stupid person who spent your hard-earned money on buying this book because you are one of those naysayers." It put me in a foul mood.
In a weirdly eccentrically irrational way, I blame Eggers for keeping me from becoming an infamous Reality TV star. I read the "Eff You" chapter while standing in line with Andy of Reality Blurred to try out for The Mole 2. In a Q&A on a now defunct blog, Andy said, "I applied for 'The Mole' in Chicago, but during the interview I gave really lame answers. I think I just wasn't ready to be an over-the-top personality, and you kind of need to be that way." I gave lame answers, too, but it was Eggers's fault. If his book had left me with the feeling that I also could accomplish anything and everything, I'd have been posing for publicity pictures with Anderson Cooper. Instead, I walked into the interview feeling like I suck.
Ironically, last night's crying fit while reading What is the What occurred with Reality TV playing in the background. I had the late-night rebroadcast of the Top Chef finale on because I wanted to find out who won. Although I enjoyed many moments, like the challenges and conversation among the judges, the show overall was a disappointment. The characters (or perhaps the way the characters were edited) turned it into a high school melodrama as childish whining and personal conflict trumped the food. Throughout the season, I thought to myself many times, "Oh, shut up and cook something already." Andy, by the way, didn't enjoy the show either as seen in his MSNBC article "'Top Chef' fails the taste test."
What a turn in events. Eggers, whose memoir ruined my Reality TV career, has redeemed himself with his tragic and moving latest book. And Reality TV, which was great entertainment when it was first conceived, now mostly disappoints.