Saturday, March 1, 2008

Free Manga Online: Nodame Cantabile

The following overview was swiped from The Comics Journal:

Nodame Cantabile is an understated soap opera following a small circle of music students in a prestigious arts college, and two in particular: Chiaki, a haughty, tightly contained music prodigy looking to make his way in the music world as a conductor, and Noda, a spacy and disorganized ditz whose sole apparent redeeming feature is her genius for jazzy improvisation on the piano. Naturally, they are constantly thrust into one another's lives, typical opposites destined for romance. While a more traditional soap opera might throw a variety of obstacles in their paths and make the pair fall in love as they overcome them, Nodame Cantabile takes a slightly different tack: Its two ostensible romantic leads are so wrapped up in their own little worlds that they themselves become the obstacles. It's a wonderful display of delayed expectations, as situation after situation that a lesser writer might have played for sentiment instead becomes another lost chance, advancing the story but not necessarily the leads' would-be relationship. Have you ever seen two opposites clash so often and so fundamentally that you just want to slap each of them upside the head and tell them to get a room and be done with it? Creator Tomoko Ninomiya takes a perverse delight in leaving the reader wanting to do the same thing.

To start reading, click here.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Book News, In Brief

Yesterday at TED2008 (a yearly gathering of assorted geniuses), Dave Eggers was selected to receive a $100,000 grant to make any wish of his come true. Eggers' wish? "That everyone will engage in a public school in their area." He’s asking for a thousand examples of "transformative partnerships," and has gotten the ball rolling himself by moving his McSweeney's office into a storefront locale where writing classes are given free to the neighborhood kids.

Asiana Airlines will be offering an in-flight audio book service beginning this month. This is great news for frequent fliers, as Homeland Security is only one papercut away from banning traditional books from the friendly skies.

Nothing profits like prophets. Oprah Winfrey's newest book club pick, A New Earth, has already sold 3.5 million copies, setting records for Barnes & Noble, Penguin Publishing, and author/'spiritual self-help guide', Eckhart Tolle.

New York Magazine has an interview with Bone creator Jeff Smith, as well as a six page preview of his new book, RASL.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Author Du Jour: Aldous Huxley

(Stolen from Fantastic Fiction UK)
Aldous Huxley was born on 26th July 1894 near Godalming, Surrey. He began writing poetry and short stories in his early twenties, but it was his first novel, Crome Yellow, which established his literary reputation. This was swiftly followed by Antic Hay, Those Barren Leaves and Point Counter Point - bright, brilliant satires in which Huxley wittily but ruthlessly passed judgement on the shortcomings of contemporary society. For most of the 1920s Huxley lived in Italy and an account of his experiences there can be found in Along The Road.
In the years leading up to the Second World War, Huxley's work took on a more sombre tone in response to the confusion of a society which he felt to be spinning dangerously out of control. The great novels of ideas, including his most famous work Brave New World (published in 1932 this warned against the dehumanising aspects of scientific and material 'progress') and the pacifist novel Eyeless in Gaza were accompanied by a series of wise and brilliant essays, collected in volume form under titles such as Music at Night and Enda and Means.
In 1937, at the height of his fame, Huxley left Europe to live in California, working for a time as a screenwriter in Hollywood. As the West braced itself for war, Huxley came increasingly to believe that the key to solving the world's problems lay in changing the individual through mystical enlightenment. The exploration of the inner life through mysticism and hallucinogenic drugs was to dominate his work for the rest of his life. His beliefs found expression in both fiction (Time Must Have a Stop and Island) and non-fiction (The Perennial Philosophy, Grey Eminence and the famous account of his first mescalin experience, The Doors of Perception.
Huxley died in California on 22nd November 1963.

Random Quotes:

"An intellectual is a person who has discovered something more interesting than sex."
"At least two-thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity: idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political ideas."
"Maybe this world is another planet's hell."

(Nicked from Wikipedia)
Crome Yellow (1921)
Antic Hay (1923)
Those Barren Leaves (1925)
Point Counter Point (1928)
Brave New World (1932)
Eyeless in Gaza (1936)
After Many a Summer Dies the Swan (1939)
Time Must Have a Stop (1944)
Ape and Essence (1948)
The Genius and the Goddess (1955)
Island (1962)

Video Interview:

Click here for part two.

Book News, In Brief

Excited by the press coverage that Valerie Bertinelli's autobiography is receiving, publishers are announcing a whole slew of has-been tell-alls. Eminem's got one in the works (the result of his estranged mother having recently announced hers), the Olsen Twins are assembling a coffee table book (rumored to weigh more than the two of them combined), and Diablo Cody is going back to her blog for a second memoir. (Which do you think will come first in Cody's back cover bio: The fact that she won an Oscar for writing Juno, or that she once slummed it as a stripper for MySpace material?)

Ah, those crazy Nazis. Does their hatred know no bounds? From The Telegraph UK: "A rare book of Nazi propaganda which lists legendary comedian Charlie Chaplin as a 'pseudo-Jew' will go under the hammer next month. The black book, Juden Sehen Dich An (The Jews are Watching You), is one of the most notorious works of anti-Semitic propaganda, listing Jewish figures throughout the world, including Albert Einstein." Chaplin and Einstein? Egads. Didn't Spielberg (Jew!) once say that they were the chief influences for E.T.'s design? How can anyone possibly hate E.T.?

We just keep kicking the Canadians' asses, don't we? Not only do we have more gun related crimes, more expensive health care, and more regular readers than they do, we now have more adult content manga! Via The Comics Reporter: "Canada's Border Services Agency has made public its latest ruling on what adult-themed comics and anime can and cannot pass into their country. Denied are a number of books from publishers like Eros Comix and Icarus." We're number one! We're number one!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Recommended Viewing: J.G. Ballard Interview

Book News, In Brief

Simon & Schuster posted double digit gains in 2007, and it's no Secret why. Millions of suckers believed that if they just imagined success, they would inevitably achieve it. $886 million later, and it seems like only Rhonda Byrne and Simon & Schuster were imagining hard enough.

Whoring for headlines, Danielle Steel has put out a press release stating that she always wanted to be a nun. What a coincidence. For years I've been praying that Steel would take a vow of literary silence.

The Quill Awards, an award program created three years ago 'to bring glamor to the world of publishing,' has been shelved. The reason: With the exception of Zadie Smith and Sebastian Junger, authors aren't glamorous. In the end, it was decided that it would be best to keep the pasty lot out of the public eye, confined to the heavily airbrushed 3x3s on their books' back covers.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Book News, In Brief

It's an accepted cliche that 'the winners write the history books,' but how much time has to pass before the rest of us can start re-writing? Eddie Campbell (From Hell, Alec) has an article on his blog about this, provoked by the critical reception to Sophia Coppolla's Marie Antoinette film, but going on to include Grant Morrison's New Adventures of Hitler and the icky-as-f**k engraving, The Circumcision of Christ.

The Huffington Post has posted a piece listing the campaign contributions of your favorite big name authors (Richard Patterson: $2,300 to John Edwards & 3,300 to John McCain, Jay Mcinerney: $2300 to Giuliani, Elinor Lipman: $220 to Obama). This is good news for those of you who can't separate the artist from the art. Heaven forbid you support a writer who supported someone you're not voting for.

Via "Nominees for the third annual Glyph Comics Awards were announced over the weekend. The awards are designed to honor the best in black comics and creators." Kyle Baker's Nat Turner: Revolution and Percy Carey's Sentences: The Life of MF Grimm dominate the ballot. For the complete ticket, hit

Update: As a slap in the face to today's first news item, New York Magazine offers six pages of the new Fantagraphics comic, I Killed Adolph Hitler. It's not The Circumcision of Christ, but it's a'ight.

Monday, February 25, 2008


Booksellers Flee Paris to Create City of Books

Paris is one of Europe's priciest cities, which is why many of its booksellers fled south in search of affordable locations. They found it in a picturesque village on the Loire River, now known as the "city of books."Christian Valleriaux, a specialist in rare books, was the first Parisian bookseller to settle in La Charite-sur-Loire just two hours from the French capital.

"We wanted to leave Paris," said Valleriaux, 61. "We'd had enough of paying such high rent for the store and our apartment. Besides, we were looking for better quality of life."

Most of his regular customers -- over 50 percent of his business -- followed him, but he also sells on the Internet or by catalogue.

Other book dealers in Paris quickly followed suit and tried their luck in the Loire town with the UNESCO-listed church. Today, the village of 5,000 has 12 specialty book stores focusing on old and rare books, original French typography, calligraphy and bookbinding.

Old books brought new life

With 30 times as many books as people, the La Charite-sur-Loire has certainly earned the title "city of books," which has been proclaimed from the town sign for the past six years. Fittingly, regular book sales are held in the center on the third Sunday of every month. There's also a festival of words in August, an internationally known salon of old books in July and a book art fair in May.

When Valleriaux and his wife opened their Bordeaux-colored shop in 1992, the medieval village looked completely different. Most of the shops were empty; there weren't any cafes or art galleries.

"The city, especially the lower part, was completely dead," Valleriaux said.

After a year, the couple had had enough. They needed customers and the town was in need of tourists, so they convinced the mayor to support their plan to turn La Charite-sur-Loire into the city of books.

As an expert in old manuscripts, Valleriaux had worked in Parisian auction house Drouot and his contacts proved valuable. In 1996 he founded the salon for old books. Four years later, the Rue du Pont was lined with bustling cafes, gourmet boutiques, a wine shop -- and lots of book stores.

(Click here to finish this article.)

Book News? I Wish.

I'm sorry to provide y'all with such a sucky Monday post, but recent book news has been duller than last night's Oscars.  There's no drama, no big signings, no upcoming books worth salivating over...just blah. When the biggest celebrity tell-all is by Valerie Bertinelli(?!), it's time to re-define the word 'celebrity.' Do you care that Bhutto's book is getting bootlegged -- in Pakistan? No, I didn't think so. Starbucks is about to release their newest book, Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey through His Son's Addiction, but goddamn, it's just one more teary eyed memoir in a salt water sea of them. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is trying to figure out a way to increase interest in reading, beginning a five day 'Battle of the Books'' on Radio One this evening. Cool, huh? But it doesn't matter to you and I, as we're not Canadians and don't get their government sponsored radio programs. Blah-blah, blah-blah, blah-blah-blah. 

See you Tuesday. If there isn't bigger and better news by then, I'll make some up.