Friday, April 4, 2008

Blog-Jacking: The NYTimes
It’s Not You, It’s Your Books

by Rachel Donadio
Originally published: March 30, 2008

Some years ago, I was awakened early one morning by a phone call from a friend. She had just broken up with a boyfriend she still loved and was desperate to justify her decision. “Can you believe it!” she shouted into the phone. “He hadn’t even heard of Pushkin!”

We’ve all been there. Or some of us have. Anyone who cares about books has at some point confronted the Pushkin problem: when a missed — or misguided — literary reference makes it chillingly clear that a romance is going nowhere fast. At least since Dante’s Paolo and Francesca fell in love over tales of Lancelot, literary taste has been a good shorthand for gauging compatibility. These days, thanks to social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, listing your favorite books and authors is a crucial, if risky, part of self-branding. When it comes to online dating, even casual references can turn into deal breakers. Sussing out a date’s taste in books is “actually a pretty good way — as a sort of first pass — of getting a sense of someone,” said Anna Fels, a Manhattan psychiatrist and the author of “Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women’s Changing Lives.” “It’s a bit of a Rorschach test.” To Fels (who happens to be married to the literary publisher and writer James Atlas), reading habits can be a rough indicator of other qualities. “It tells something about ... their level of intellectual curiosity, what their style is,” Fels said. “It speaks to class, educational level.”

Pity the would-be Romeo who earnestly confesses middlebrow tastes: sometimes, it’s the Howard Roark problem as much as the Pushkin one. “I did have to break up with one guy because he was very keen on Ayn Rand,” said Laura Miller, a book critic for Salon. “He was sweet and incredibly decent despite all the grandiosely heartless ‘philosophy’ he espoused, but it wasn’t even the ideology that did it. I just thought Rand was a hilariously bad writer, and past a certain point I couldn’t hide my amusement.” (Members of, a dating and fan site for devotees of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead,” might disagree.)

Judy Heiblum, a literary agent at Sterling Lord Literistic, shudders at the memory of some attempted date-talk about Robert Pirsig’s 1974 cult classic “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” beloved of searching young men. “When a guy tells me it changed his life, I wish he’d saved us both the embarrassment,” Heiblum said, adding that “life-changing experiences” are a “tedious conversational topic at best.”

Let’s face it — this may be a gender issue. Brainy women are probably more sensitive to literary deal breakers than are brainy men. (Rare is the guy who’d throw a pretty girl out of bed for revealing her imperfect taste in books.) After all, women read more, especially when it comes to fiction. “It’s really great if you find a guy that reads, period,” said Beverly West, an author of “Bibliotherapy: The Girl’s Guide to Books for Every Phase of Our Lives.” Jessa Crispin, a blogger at the literary site, agrees. “Most of my friends and men in my life are nonreaders,” she said, but “now that you mention it, if I went over to a man’s house and there were those books about life’s lessons learned from dogs, I would probably keep my clothes on.”

To finish this article, click here.

Political Book News, In Brief

What does it mean for Obama when anti-Hilary books are hitting the bargain bins? Is this a sign that the public loves her, or that even the haters have grown bored with bashing the broad?

Most folks outside of Massachusetts won't care, but our state's first Black Governor, Deval Patrick, has just signed a deal with Broadway Books worth $1.35 million. It's for a memoir to be published in 2010.

The Huffington Post has an excerpt from Jesse Ventura's new book, Don't Start the Revolution Without Me! In it, Ventura quotes Bush dissing him (calling Ventura's wife "the most patient woman in America"), and him dissing Bush ("he's not a man of his word"). This might just be the most even-handed political book out there.
(Initial heads-up: Publisher's Weekly)

The Pork Book -- it's like a Guinness Book of World's Records for politicians' fiscal crimes! From Las Vegas Now: A congressional watchdog group released its annual pig book Wednesday. It details pork projects -- those projects listed as extravagant that members of Congress get for their home states paid with your tax dollars. Citizens against government waste revealed more than 11,000 earmarks for specific Congress members' home states, totaling more than $17 billion in alleged pork.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Book News, In Brief now offers shopping via text message. Is this a breakthrough in short attention span shopping, or a frown-faced emoticon waiting to happen? Publisher's Weekly has the details: Here’s how it works: a person sends a text message to “AMAZON” (262966) with the title or ISBN of the book she wants to purchase. Amazon sends a response confirming the book and stating its price, telling the customer to reply with the text message “1” to purchase the book. Amazon then calls the customer with the final details and asks the customer to confirm or cancel the purchase.

Bookgasm has a list of The 9 Most Annoying People I Always See at the Bookstore. If you don't see yourself on this list, you're blind to the truth. Feel free to ask us which category you fall into the next time you're in our store.

The next time you're in Vegas, make it a point to visit the Gambler's Book Shop. Then, when your family and friends make fun of you for your tacky, culture-free choice of a vacation destination, you can pretend you were on one of those Book Store Tours. That should shut them up.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Quick Time Killers

Good grief! BoingBoing has found the answer to that age old question, "What if Charles Schulz created the Watchmen?"

Underground cartoonist Gary Panter (Jimbo) gets interviewed by Marvel about his art, influences, and the comic-within-a-comic he's doing for Jonathan Lethem's Omega the Unknown. has a post illustrating the evolving cover art of some of teen lit's classic titles. Surprise, surprise: they always get worse!

Book News, In Brief

College students in Utah are protesting the use of Alison Blechdel's Fun Home in their school's curriculum on the grounds that it's pornographic. Remember the good ol' days when college kids used to protest in favor of free speech?

Amazon has expanded their new print on demand policy -- slightly. Yesterday, it was 'You either p.o.d. with Amazon, or Amazon's not selling your book.' Today, it's, 'If you want to use an outside print on demand service, you must provide the Amazon warehouse with at least five copies of your book. No exceptions.' The monolith explains: “It isn’t logical or efficient to print a POD book in a third place, and then physically ship the book to our fulfillment centers. It makes more sense to produce the books on site, saving transportation costs and transportation fuel, and significantly speeding the shipment to our customers."

The comics publisher Dark Horse blames scanlations and in-store shrink wrapping for the cancellation of their critically acclaimed manga series Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, Mail, and Hiroshi Hirata's samurai epic, Satsuma Gishiden. Although scanlations and shrink wrap may seem unrelated, the two actually effect one another quite a bit. Here's how the unlikely union works: The kids go into a bookstore to check out the new manga, but they are unable to browse it due to it being wrapped in plastic. This forces the savvy kidlings to go online to preview the books that they were interested in. But upon finding the whole series online for free, they no longer see any reason why they ought to bother going back to the bookstore to pay for it. In closing: Thanks, overly protective parents groups. You f**ked up another good thing.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Author Du Jour: Gilbert Hernandez

(swiped without permission from from RAW)

Gilbert (pronounced heel-bear-toe) Hernandez was raised in Oxnard, Southern California with his other four brothers and one sister. His father was a Mexican immigrant, married to a Texan from a family with deep Mexican roots. In her youth, his mother had collected comic books and that passion was passed on to her children. "It was nostalgic for her, I guess. So comics were always normal to us, it was an everyday thing. It wasn't until school that we realized that we were abnormal," commented Gilbert. "I always felt that I was living in two worlds. One was the little Mexican world, because nearly everybody I knew, relatives and cousins and even kids in the neighborhood, were Mexican. Then school was a different world. It was pretty ethnically mixed."

Raised on a diet of pop culture, comics, science fiction and monster movies, all the family were drawing comics from an early age. However, for Gilbert and Jamie, that childhood passion never left them, even when punk rock gripped their lives in the late 1970's. At the urging of elder brother Mario, Jamie and Gilbert self-published the first issue of Love & Rockets, which was quickly picked up by then fledgling comic publisher, Fantagraphics, in 1982 and continues to this day.

Essential Reading:
(stolen from RAW)

Palomar: The Heartbreak Soup Stories
Imagine a novel by Gabriel Garciá Marquez told in comic form, with the depth and vibrancy to bring a fictional Latin American village and it's people to life. Palomar is the intricate tale of the relationships between the citizens of that town - their lives, loves and deaths. This volume collects all the Palomar stories by Gilbert Hernandez including the essential classics Blood Of Palomar and Poison River.

"Beyond impressive. The cumulative power of the Palomar saga is arguably that of the most substantive single work the comics medium has yet produced."

"With Heartbreak Soup I had an agenda of sorts. I'm trying to get non-Latinos, for lack of a better word, to identify with Latinos as human beings. Simple as that. I think I've felt that since I was a kid."
Gilbert Hernandez, The Comics Journal #178

A portrayal of 1990's LA society centred on Luba's daughter Maricela, who is now an illegal immigrant in the USA working as street corner flower girl. It is a story that conveys the class and racial tensions that exist in all city streets, dealing with rock bands, skin heads, surfers and jaded yuppies.

"It was my version of a Maggie and Hopey story. I thought, Well, I have the same punk rock n' roll background, and I've never used it in a comic. Then that became dark and twisted, too. Something was going on with me and I don't really know where it came from."
Gilbert Hernandez, Comic Book Artist #15

Luba In America
Luba is the matriarch of the mythical Latin American village of Palomar. But now she has relocated to the USA to be with her extended family as their careers and lives develop in unexpected directions.

Recommended Interviews:

The Daily Crosshatch
The Pulse

Book News, In Brief

This year's Oddest Book Title Award goes to If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs. Previous winners include The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories, Bombproof Your Horse, and The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification.

Grab your magic beans. It's high time we killed a giant. Via Publisher's Weekly: BookSurge, Amazon’s print-on-demand subsidiary, is making an offer that most publishers would like to refuse, but don’t feel they can. According to talks with several pod houses, BookSurge has told them that unless their titles are printed by BookSurge, the buy buttons on Amazon for their titles will be disabled.

This Superman-centered court decision is a win for truth, justice, and...well, let's not go overboard. Via After seventy years, Jerome Siegel’s heirs regain what he granted so long ago – the copyright in the Superman material that was published in Action Comics Vol. 1. What remains is an apportionment of profits, guided in some measure by the rulings contained in this Order, and a trial on whether to include the profits generated by DC Comics’ corporate sibling’s exploitation of the Superman copyright.

Japanese court ruling exonerates Nobel laureate Kenzaburo Oe and his book, Okinawa Notes. Via Kenzaburo Oe won a major court battle yesterday over a book he wrote more than 30 years ago detailing how Japanese soldiers perished and sometimes forced Okinawan civilians to commit suicide rather than give themselves up in the closing days of World War II. The ruling was also a high-profile setback for a vocal lobby among Japanese conservatives who have long sought to discredit materials documenting Japanese excesses during the war, including government-supported prostitution, the rape of the Chinese city of Nanjing and other incidents.