Friday, October 5, 2007

Weekend Links

Jim Hill gives a picture-heavy review of the recently release book, Walt Disney's Cinderella. The book is a gorgeous piece of film history, filled to bursting with Mary Blair's unique pastel and chalk conceptual artwork. Seriously, even if you're a cynic and/or just hate all things Disney on principle, it's still worth clicking over to check out Blair's one of a kind work. She was a visionary.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Sputnik, has posted a brand new interview with author Arthur C. Clarke (Prelude to Space (1951), Childhood's End (1953), (1955), EarthlightThe Deep Range (1957), A Fall of Moondust (1961), Glide Path (1963), The Nine Billion Names of God (1967), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Rendezvous With Rama (1973) -- and that's just his long form fiction!).
An excerpt:
SPECTRUM: You, Frederick Durant, and Ernst Stuhlinger were all in Barcelona at an International Astronautical Federation meeting on 4 October 1957. What was your reaction when you got the news about Sputnik?
CLARKE: Although I had been writing and speaking about space travel for years, I still have vivid memories of exactly when I heard the news. I was in Barcelona for the 8th International Astronautical Congress. We had already retired to our hotel rooms after a busy day of presentations by the time the news broke. I was awakened by reporters seeking an authoritative comment on the Soviet achievement. Our theories and speculations had suddenly become reality!
For the whole kit and caboodle, click here. Thanks to for the heads up.

James Ellroy (LA Confidential, White Jazz) writes a nice bit about fellow hard boiled auteur, Dashiell Hammett (Red Harvest, The Maltese Falcon) for the GuardianUK. Where many critics nowadays tend to focus on the borderline fascist elements of Hammett and his protagonists, Ellroy chooses to see them as something slightly more complex -- as men whose 'jobs defined them.'
An excerpt:
Hammett views politics as crime most cancerous and genteel. It's crime buttressed by unspoken sanction. It's crime facilitated by a callous legal system. It's crime enforced by vicious cops in hobnailed boots. Hammett treats politics-as-crime in deadpan fashion. He assumes that the reader knows this: politics is The Manoeuvre as public spectacle and reverential shuck. That means America was a land grab. That means all political discourse is disingenuous. That means his workmen heroes refuse to soliloquise or indict - they know the game is rigged and they're feeding off scraps of trickle-down graft.
Hammett saw himself as complicit. The realisation may have fuelled his self-destructive path with alcohol and women. He was a Pinkerton. He signed on to work for an enforcement agency that squashed workers flat. He knew it was wrong. He knew he was wrong. He did the job on an ad hoc basis and couched his Manoeuvrings within The Manoeuvre in a personal moral code. The monstrous force of systemic corruption cast his code and his own job holder's life in extreme miniature and rendered everything about him small - except his guilt.
Okay, so he's a dedicated and hardworking fascist, then.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Book News, In Brief

Via GuardianUK: "(Poet) Sean O'Brien has pulled off an unprecedented third victory in the Forward prize, taking this year's £10,000 prize for best collection with The Drowned Book." O'Brien says that it's not the awards that drive him, though. It's the groupies. The groupies and the coke.

Sheer silliness: The folks at BeaucoupKevin have taken still images from the goofy old Adam West Batman television show and captioned them with hard-boiled narration from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. The result is hilarious...for geeks.

The Washington Post's online outpost has just launched a podcast series titled The Book World Podcast. So far, their 'Book World' has a podcast population of two: one with Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Edward P. Jones and Robert Draper, the author of Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush, the other with Jeffrey Toobin, a writer for the New Yorker and author of The Nine, and Paul Theroux, author of a new book of novellas, The Elephanta Suite. Registration is required.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Book News, In Brief

Croatian artist Tomislav Torjanac has posted a small gallery of the illustrations he has done for the re-release of Yann Martel's Life of Pi. If you don't remember, a contest was held a year or so ago to find the illustrator. Personally, I was rooting for Tomer Hanuka.

USAToday has posted a rather revealing review of Rosie O'Donnell's new memoir, Celebrity Detox: The Fame Game. And when I say revealing, I mean bare a** nekkid.
An excerpt of their review:
"This is a train wreck of a book — part self-help psychobabble, part searing memoir — by a grown woman who lost her mother as a child. It's baffling and fascinating and brutally honest, although some stories defy logic. As a child, O'Donnell says, she broke her own hands and fingers with a wooden coat hanger and a small baseball bat. And nobody noticed? She also has fuzzy recollections of a man climbing in through her window as a child to molest her — until her mother cut down the tree. Too-much-information is not a concept O'Donnell embraces. You will learn how fame affected her bowel habits, that she "inseminated" her partner, Kelli, and that her son once told her, in the bathtub, that he didn't like her fat belly. (She told him she didn't like it either.)"

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

We Sell 'Banned Books'
(but only after the ban is over)
(and only if it's politically correct to do so)

Banned Book Week is the book industry's annual celebration of their own self-satisfaction and self-importance. Bookstores everywhere (including us) hang signs in their windows and around their stores boasting that THEY. SELL. BANNED. BOOKS. They get a write up in the local paper, place little white cards around their store and (inevitably) blog about it, and for what? To make themselves feel progressive and important. But of all the books that they are so 'bravely' selling, how many have been considered 'dangerous' in the past ten years? How many have been banned in a marginally enlightened society in the past twenty years? None. sell Uncle Tom's Cabin and Huck Finn. How cutting edge! That really sticks it to The Man. Are you serious? I bet you Bill O'Reilly wouldn't even say anything bad about freakin' Huck Finn. But how many copies of the Anarchist's Cookbook does your store have on hand? Or Mein Kampf? Or the Tin Tin in the Congo book featuring offensive racial caricatures that Little, Brown recently decided against publishing? There are import editions available from a variety of distributors. If you're truly against censorship -- and not just the antiquated/outdated examples of censorship -- shouldn't you be carrying such a book? I'm not suggesting that bookstores start a 'Hate' section, but if you want to crow about your unadulterated selections, you'd better not be playing the behind-the-scenes censor with your own stock. To do so is hypocritical. Free speech is the right of everyone. Providing unencumbered access to the literary works created under the auspices of free speech (all of 'em -- not just the ones we agree with or approve of) is our business. Bookstores shouldn't have to rally around themselves once a year to proclaim that they hate censorship and the banning of books. Such a concept should be an integral part of every book store, library and reading room. It should go without saying, really.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Book News, In Brief

Last week we linked to the NYTimes' re-evaluation of S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders. Today, we link to Hinton's own thoughts on the book. Next week, who knows? Maybe we'll use a Ouija board and some unlicensed, homo-erotic fan-fic to summon Dallas and Johnny and ask them what they think.

In an effort to lower taxes, Bridgewater, MA residents have voted in favor of closing their public library. How much will be saved by this immensely stupid move? Less than 2 percent of the town's total municipal budget! Great job, folks. (Bridgewater residents: Ask a literate friend to read this to you.)

Followng in the footsteps of Al Gore, former president Jimmy Carter is releasing a film to go along with his book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. No word yet as to how the Leonardo DiCaprio and the Toyota Prius will factor in to all of this.

Terry Pratchett's Making Money is currently, well, making money, charting #4 on this week's NYTimes Best Seller List. The 33rd(!) book in Pratchett's Discworld series, new readers may feel a bit daunted. Fear not. Krzysztof Kietzman of has created the Discworld Reading Order Guide, which puts the main storylines of the Discworld books in their chronological sequence, with dotted lines showing how each storyline intersects with the rest. (Via:

Malcolm Berko, the financial guru over at the warns his readers to stay away from investing in Barnes & Noble (and bookstores in general), saying, "Barnes & Noble is a very poor choice. You don't want BKS in your portfolio because future revenue gains will be miserly because of competition from video games, the Internet, TV and a declining literacy rate. Many Americans between ages 10 and 40 are infected with a genetic intellectual deficit. (We are observing a phenomena called 'the dumbing down of America” and what Dan Rather calls "the dumbing down of the news.')"
While it's hard to argue with the 'dumbing down' comments, I'd urge future/current bookstore owners/investors to ignore the rest of Berko's dreary portents, instead following the sage advice of a different Malcolm -- Malcolm X: By any means necessary.

NYTimes Best Sellers: Fiction
(now with excerpts)

To read the first chapters (or, in the case of stingier authors and/or publishers, brief excerpts), simply click the titles.

1. You've Been Warned by James Patterson and Howard Roughan

2. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

3. Dead Heat by Dick Francis and Felix Francis

4. Making Money by Terry Pratchett

5. Pontoon by Garrison Keillor

6. The Wheel Of Darkness by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

7. Jonathan's Story by Julia London with Alina Adams

8. Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright

9. Bones To Ashes by Kathy Reichs

10. The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen