Friday, May 9, 2008

Top Five Election Books
(note: this list was not compiled democratically)

5. What It Takes by Richard Ben Cramer
Review excerpt, care of Brothers Judd: If this were a novel, there would be no doubt in my mind that it was the Great American Novel. But, amazingly enough, it's all true. These men really exist and they really did all put themselves through the grueling process of running for president. We want our presidential candidates to be heroic figures, but then we put them though an oftentimes degrading process that supposedly determines whether they are fit to lead. Before you judge either George W. or Al Gore too harshly, read this book and find out what it takes to run for president.

4. Oh, Waiter! One Order of Crow! Inside the Strangest Presidential Election Finish in American History by Jeff Greenfield
Review excerpt, care of CNN senior political analyst Jeff Greenfield tells how CNN and the other news organizations mistakenly called the winner of the presidential race not once, but twice. He provides a feel for the off-camera drama of covering this historic election, showing both the show business side of television news, as well as the backstage nitty-gritty of anchors and analysts cramming their heads, or notecards, full of interesting facts and figures to fill the airtime. Greenfield makes no effort to justify the goofs, rather he reveals how they so easily happened.

3. Miami and the Siege of Chicago by Norman Mailer
Review excerpt, care of NYBooks: In lesser hands, New Journalism could also be a recipe for self-indulgence, solipsism, and mischievous fictionalization, but that is not the case with Miami and the Siege of Chicago. Mailer's book holds up better than most political journalism written last week, let alone four decades ago. Indeed it survives better than it has any right to—as history, as literature, and as a portrait of America both then and now. As a narrative of the summer's actual political events it is both compactly comprehensive and dead-on, often hilariously so.

2. Election by Tom Perrotta
Review excerpt, care of belladena: On the surface, Election seems just another tribute to Generation-X, broken families, and the classically icky tale of the over-achiever you knew in high school. However, what unfolds in this slim volume is a seamless story about a classless anti-heroine. Amidst some very sharp diction, biting humour, and poetic observations...The ultimate impact of Election is an exacting political satire and complex human portrait that is not without its jabs at the American Dream and the inherently doomed and damnable American Dreamer.

1. Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72 by Hunter S. Thompson
Review excerpt, care of NYTimes: Thompson writes on two levels. On one, he is the journalist observing the candidates in action from any accessible perspective. His comments in this regard are revealing both about the problems of campaign coverage and the differences among the candidates...On another level, Thompson is defiantly subjective. Unlike his more conventional colleagues, he feels free to denounce hypocritical political maneuvering when he spots it.

Don't agree? We welcome your violent dissent in our comments section.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Book News, In Brief

Airbrush artists fear unemployment as fake breasts drop on Wall Street.
Take it away, Yahoo: Adult entertainment publisher Playboy Enterprises Inc posted a quarterly loss on Tuesday because of weaker publishing and domestic television revenue and forecast more trouble during the year, pushing its shares down 8 percent. The worse-than-expected results illustrate the trouble that Playboy and other publishers and television companies face as more people get their entertainment online, and often for free.

Rowling loves lawsuits. Not content with slapping gag orders on the would-be lexicon writers of the world, everyone's favorite struggling-mom-turned-billionaire has aimed her litigious broomstick at the already put upon paparazzi.
The lowdown, via Newspapers face tight restrictions on publishing photographs of celebrities’ children after a privacy law ruling involving JK Rowling, the author of the best-selling Harry Potter series. The Court of Appeal said that pictures of Ms Rowling’s son, David, taken with a long-range camera while the family was out walking in Edinburgh might have infringed his human rights...The decision brings the UK closer into line with the European Court of Human Rights, which took an expansive view of privacy rights in a 2004 decision involving Princess Caroline of Monaco. In that case, the court appeared to bar media outlets from publishing pictures of celebrities and their children engaging in everyday family activities.
(Editor's note: She does look foxy in that picture, doesn't she?)

The airport is either the worst place or the best place to pick out a book. You either have three minutes, or you have five hours because your flight just got delayed.
With this in mind, investigates the "thought process" that goes into designing the book covers for "airport books."
"When it comes to designing our product packaging, much of the decisionmaking is based on instinct or gut feeling, not on proven consumer testing or scientific method," says David Gray, founder of Gray & Co., the Cleveland publishing house. Imagery, font styles, type size and color palette conspire to telegraph whether the stuff inside is concerned with code-crackers and shoe phones, spirits and trapdoors or rich widows and pool boys.
Chip Kidd must be hemorrhaging.

Last year, Microsoft reaffirmed its support for DAISY, the "talking book" standard developed for the visually impaired. Now that the program has been unleashed as shareware, Microsoft is hoping that DAISY becomes the new go-to on-the-go way to read hear your emails. And from there? Well, it doesn't take a TED member to see this technology being used to read hear magazines, newspapers, and (gasp!) books in the near future. For more details on the tech specs, and the link to the free DAISY download, click here.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

(The Villages Is About Florida Retirees, But A Lot Of Those Same Grey Hairs Summer Up Here)

Book exposes 'darker view of sunny retirement' in Florida
By Adrian G. Uribarri, originally published in The Orlando Sentinel, May 7, 2008

The Villages - The book cover projects a pleasant view of retirement: a row of houses and golf carts, a pool, a tennis court. Even the title seems complimentary to residents of this retirement community, about 60 miles northwest of Orlando.

So much for appearances.

In Leisureville: Adventures in America's Retirement Utopias, released last month, author Andrew D. Blechman uses The Villages as the key example in his 244-page critique of retirement communities across the country. He started writing the book a few years ago, after his New England neighbors moved here.

Now, some Villages residents are miffed about how he portrayed their lifestyles.

"Boy, that guy went looking for dirt — and he found it," retired software engineer Joe Becker said of the author. Becker, 79, panned Blechman's book on after he bought it about two weeks ago at a bookstore in the retiree haven.

"Ninety percent of the people here are happy 90 percent of the time," Becker said.

Throughout the book — called a "darker view of sunny retirement" in The Wall Street Journal — Blechman highlights the social pitfalls of communities where people 55 and older have scant civic engagement and interaction with young people. He laments how the perennial village elders have become elders of The Villages, leaving their hometowns for a life of pickleball and golf."

"A lot of these people are, in a sense, dropping out of the larger society," Blechman said. "They can do this. It's legal and it's their right. It just calls a lot of things into question."

To finish this article, click here.

Book News, In Brief

Prince is putting out a picture book. Ten years ago, when he was still singing his sex jams and performing in buttless pants, this would have thrilled me. Now that he's all religious, though? Eh, whatever. (The Inkwell's bookie adds: Smart money says the cover will be purple.)

I used to work with a fella who claimed that he could only write from this one chair in his living room. Sounds like this guy suffers from a similar affliction. Via Yahoo: A South Los Angeles gang member who wrote a critically praised autobiography behind bars has been sentenced to six years in state prison for a 2006 carjacking. Kody "Monster" Scott, who also goes by the name Sanyika Sakura, was in prison when he wrote Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member.

Critically acclaimed comics critic, Douglas Wolk, has written a two page article reviewing this past Saturday's Free Comic Book Day comic books. It's a great way to find out which comics you should have scooped up for nothing, but now have to pay $5-10 for on ebay. Suckers.

Kerry Lengel from The Arizona Republic has good news and bad news for aspiring authors. Via The Carroll Country Times: Contrary to the apocalyptic prognostications of digital doomsayers, books aren't going the way of the dinosaur quite yet. But for would-be Hemingways hoping to make their fame and fortune on the best-seller lists, the publishing business is looking more like the world's biggest casino: A few lucky souls hit the jackpot and the rest are out of luck.
For the names of those lucky few receiving this year's multi-million dollar book deals, click the link above.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Recommended Reading:
The Baron of Bibliomania

Via The Guardian UK:
Bibliophilia: the love, and collecting, of books. No problems there: the odd fit of extravagance, possibly, but everything more or less under control. But watch out. The next step up may be bibliolatry: an extreme fondness for books. And beyond that lies bibliomania: a mania for the collection and possession of books. That can be very dangerous territory.

To continue reading, click here.

Survey Reveals Startling Truth:
Kids Like Kids' Books

A survey of American schoolchildren (purported to be the largest of its kind) has unsurfaced the unbelievable: Harry Potter is not the most read book/series. Sadly, the Potter books do show up on most high school, college and Oprah Book Club member lists (but we'll save that for another survey).

First grade:

1. "Green Eggs and Ham," Dr. Seuss

2. "The Foot Book," Dr. Seuss

3. "Are You My Mother?" P.D. Eastman

4. "Hop on Pop," Dr. Seuss

Second grade:

1. "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie," Laura Numeroff

2. "Green Eggs and Ham" Dr. Seuss

3. "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," Eric Carle

4. "If You Give a Moose a Muffin," Numeroff

Third grade:

1. "Charlotte's Web," E.B. White

2. "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," Judi Barrett

3. "Officer Buckle and Gloria," Peggy Rathmann

4. "The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs," JonScieszka

Fourth grade:

1. "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing," Judy Blume

2. "Sarah, Plain and Tall," Patricia MacLachlan

3. "Because of Winn Dixie" Kate DiCamillo

4. "Charlotte's Web" E.B. White

In related news, J.K. Rowling has announced plans to sue the folks that did this survey, saying it infringes upon a similar survey that she was planning to do.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Wait, There Are Good Chinese?

Providing a nice antidote to their normally negative portrayal of the Chinese ("They're killing Buddhists!" "They're going to destroy the U.S. economy!"), Sunday's New York Times Book Review offered up a poo poo platter of articles regarding the Middle Kingdom.

I'd recommend starting out with Jonathan Spence's review of Mo Yan's Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out. The book is a look at the last fifty years of Chinese politics, and is narrated by the five animal reincarnations of a man named Ximen Nao. (Have no fear, the author realizes that this is a ridiculous literary conceit.)

Next, I'd read China's Pop Fiction, an essay by the gloriously named Aventurina King about writer Guo Jingming, a 24-year-old cross-dressing, image-obsessed pop idol whose tales of alienated urban adolescence have made him the most successful writer in China.

Also worth your time are Pankaj Mishra's review of Wolf Totem, Francine Prose's review of The Song of Everlasting Sorrow, and Liesl Schillinger's look at Yan Lianke's Serve The People!

And now, back to the NYTimes' regular international news reporting.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Disney Book News, In Brief

May 3 marked 2008's Free Comic Book Day. While the complimentary Hellboy, All Star Superman and Dan Dare comics were lapped up by the adults, according to blogger/comic book shop owner, Eric Trautman, the kids were going crazy over Disney's Gyro Gearloose one shot.

Mark May 13 on your calendar. That's the day that this year's must have animation tome, The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company, is being released. David A. Price's book describes itself as "the first in-depth look at the company that forever changed the film industry and the fraternity of geeks who shaped it."

Disney has just announced the launch of Disney En Familia, a Spanish language magazine aimed at moms. The magazine will be produced by the same team responsible for Disney Publishing’s award-winning FamilyFun and Wondertime periodicals. For more info, click here.

The Star Online has a review of former imagineer Randy Pausch's new book, The Last Lecture. The book is an extension of the life-affirming lecture Pausch delivered at Carnegie Mellon after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. (Cheerier than it sounds!) Click here.

Too much fuss has already been made over Miley Cyrus' Vanity Fair pics, but if you can still stomach one more take on the media-manufactured scandal, Steven Colbert's is well worth watching. Click here.