Friday, October 17, 2008

My Menu For A Fictional Dinner

Yesterday I linked to a list of 'The Best Books That Never Existed' from The Guardian UK's David Barnett. It was a brief catalog of some of the cooler works of fiction that exist only in other works of fiction -- sort of like the contents of Dream's library in Neil Gaiman's The Sandman or of the lighthouse in Dylan Horrock's Hicksville . Anyway, it was so popular with our staff that I decided to leach off Barnett's brilliance and come up with a similar shtick for today's blog post.

(Don't be mad, David. I saved you a seat at the kids' table.)

Let's start with the dinner rolls:
Most manga fans will agree that no book has ever made bread sound better than Yakitate!! Japan (Takashi Hashiguchi). It's the story of Young Kazuma, a bakery prodigy with one dream: creating 'Ja-pan,' the ultimate bread for Japanese taste buds. (Fun fact: 'Pan' means bread in Japanese.) For those of us too far gone to worry about counting calories, why not add a little butter from the churns of the Little House on the Prairie (Laura Ingalls Wilder)?

Alternate choice for finicky fictional eaters:
Lembas bread from the LOTR trilogy (J.R.R. Tolkien)

Um, I'm not a huge soup sipper, so I'm gonna dedicate this one to Mr. Bennet and his British brethren: The mysterious 'white soup' served at the Netherfield ball in Pride & Prejudice (Jane Austen).
Actually, you know what? I want to change my order. 'White soup' sounds like it's gonna look like wheat paste and taste like something from my days in the all-boys' school. Is it too late to get a bowl of Heartbreak Soup (Gilbert Hernandez) instead?

Alternate choice for finicky fictional eaters:
Chicken Soup for the (insert random, self-diagnosed malady here) (Insert random, shameless author's name here)

Let's I get an appetizer or do I save room for dessert? Who am I kidding? I do both. In fact, I'm gonna go American Psycho (Bret Easton Ellis) and order an entree -- lobster with caviar and peach ravioli -- as my app.

Alternate choice for finicky fictional eaters:
Salad from Anthony and Cleopatra (Shakespeare)
(Okay, so no one in A&C actually talks about salad, but the expression "salad days" is used by Cleopatra.)
(And yes, I did have to resort to Googling blindly to find this one.)

Main course:
For my 'real' entree, I'll have the orgasm inducing 'Quail in Rose Petal Sauce' from Like Water For Chocolate (Laura Esquivel). Oh, and my advice for the fellas: Put your napkin in your lap before tasting.

Alternate choice for finicky fictional eaters:
Wilbur from Charlotte's Web (E.B. White)

I'm gonna have go with one of those giant banana splits that Jughead used to always order at Pop's Malt Shop in Archie Comics (various), with a side of maple syrup so I can drown the sundae in it. (This is a super stretched to the limit reference to the scene in To Kill A Mockingbird where Alabama redneck Walter Cunningham pours syrup all over his dinner. Truth be told, I often do the same damned thing.)

Alternate choice for finicky fictional eaters:
Madeline cakes from In Search of Lost Time and/or Remembrance of Things Past (Marcel Proust)
Note: I'm giving myself +5 blogger points for finally referencing a college level work of fiction. We now return you to your regularly scheduled dumb shit, already in progress.

Now it's at this point -- before the plaque settles and the semen stains -- that I'd politely excuse myself from the table, run into the bathroom, and brush my teeth with the toothpaste from The Toothpaste Millionaire (Jean Merrill & Jan Palmer). This goopy amalgam of household items is the brainchild of a poor kid who decides that store bought toothpaste costs too much so he recruits a group of his neighborhood pals to make and market their own. (Oh, and the best part? The packaging. They sell the shit in in old baby food jars.)

Voila! My belly is full (Jim Aylesworth & Wendy Anderson Halperin) and my teeth are white (Zadie Smith). While I clear the dirty plates, why don't y'all give me your ideas for alternate dishes in the comments section.

Author Du Jour: Emma Bull

(stolen whole from Wikipedia)
Emma Bull (born 13 December 1954) is a science fiction and fantasy author whose best-known novel is War for the Oaks, one of the pioneering works of urban fantasy. She has participated in Terri Windling's Borderland shared universe, which is the setting of her 1994 novel Finder. She sang in the rock-funk band Cats Laughing, and both sang and played guitar in the folk duo The Flash Girls while living in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Her 1991 post-apocalyptic science fiction novel Bone Dance was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards. In 2007 Bull released Territory, a radical retelling of the shootout at Tomstone's O.K. Corral involving tough minded widows, battling wizards, and a bungled stagecoach robbery.

Bibliography - Novels
(again, thanks to Wikipedia)
War for the Oaks (1987)
Falcon (1989)
Bone Dance (1991; nominated for Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards)
Finder (1994)
The Princess and the Lord of Night (1994)
Freedom and Necessity (1997, with Steven Brust)
Territory (July 2007)

Selected Interviews
w/ Backstage Live
w/ Bookslut
w/ um...herself, at the Magical Musings blog

To read the free e-book of War for the Oaks, click here.

Care to see an author sing? Emma Bull sings western ditties below.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Book News, In Brief

Embarrassed by the fact that no one in the U.S. had heard of this year's Pulitzer Prize winner, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, NPR has whipped up a list of The Best Foreign Books You've Never Heard Of. (Bonus! With NPR's streaming audio, you'll learn how to properly pronounce the writers' names. Now you'll not only appear enlightened, but edge-u-ma-cated as well!)

The Guardian UK's David Barnett has followed up his 'Night Out in Fictional Pubs' piece with a new one: 'The Best Books That Never Existed.' (Kids take note: Not only are Barnett's articles fun to read, but he's figured out the perfect way to write for a national newspaper without doing any actual research. That's what the repetitious call a 'win-win.')

Can I get an un-ironic 'Yee-haw' from all the indie-rockers rocking cowboy hats? Alt-country magazine No Depression is back -- as a 'bookazine.' Via No Depression will feature the longform music journalism the magazine was known for, but it will be published in a large-format paperback book. The bookazine will be sold primarily in bookstores and without any advertising in its pages.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Not At All Book Related

(unless you're connecting the book industry's sagging sales to the worldwide economy crisis)
(and really, why wouldn't you?)

Via The AP: Don't Assume You're Too Rich For Aid: Financial-Aid Tips For Well-Off Families. Wait, wasn't giving rich, white folks unnecessary financial breaks what got us into this mess in the first place?

Via Time Magazine: Is it okay to pray for your 401K? A Whitman's sampler of spiritual scam artists/sound byte whores theologians provide advice to zealots worried about their earthly rewards.

Via The Guardian UK: Are people becoming addicted to sex because of the financial crisis? Answer: No. The press is just killing time, running 'Investors Jumping Into Bed' stories until the 'Investors Jumping Out Of Windows' stories start pouring in.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Recommended Viewing:
Lynda Barry in San Fransisco

Yes, it's choppy. And yes, it does start and stop at random. But Barry is an engaging and entertaining speaker, and it's a helluva lot better than Two Girls & A Cup.
Parts 2 & 3

Book News, In Brief

Marie Toulantis, former head of Barnes &, will be receiving over $1 million as part of her "termination agreement." Psst, Barnes & Noble. Fire me!

Money-centric website The Motley Fool has chosen the following three retailers as candidates for foreclosure in the coming year: Circuit City, Talbots, and...wait for it...Borders! Hmn...I wonder what the severance pay-offs will be like for the executives of this big box bookstore? (Hint: $$$) And for the worker bees? (Hint: --- )

Marcia! Marcia! Marcia! In Brady Bunch babe Maureen McCormick's new memoir, Here's the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice, the actress admits to being nervous about singing the song It's a Sunshine Day, the awkwardness of hanging out with Micheal Jackson, and, oh yeah -- trading sex for drugs.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Top 5 Prison Books
(because even the most relaxed rectum won't hold six)

Cast the First Stone
Chester Himes
From Cast the First Stone (1952) is another of Himes's semi-autobiographical novels. The main character, Jim Monroe, is a white man, but seems to represent Himes as is evidenced by their similarities: both attended college, suffered a serious back injury, and were sentenced to 25 years for armed robbery. The novel focuses on the growth that Monroe experiences while in prison, and is notable for its direct treatment of homosexual relationships in prison.

Escape from Colditz; The two classic escape stories: The Colditz story, and Men of Colditz
P. R Reid
From Iron Gumby: Escape from Colditz is a factual book which reads like a fictional work. P.R. Reid who wrote the book is the main character who is narrating, and participating in the story. The book tells how the Prisoners of war during World War Two lived in confinement and how they used their surroundings to make their escape using replicated German uniforms, and a glider constructed of bed frames and fabric hidden in the attic of a chapel. The prisoners are all bent on escape and the story is how these men plan to flee to Sweden.

Henri Charriere
From In a nutshell, this book is a tale of Papillons many escape attempts to get away from the penal settlements in French Guiana (many of which were sucessful in the short term) and the amazing lengths he went to to avoid spending the rest of his life repenting a crime he was innocent of. In the end he only served 13 years of his sentence, but to survive 13 years in the environment he found himself in was an accomplishment it itself. He continually escaped, was re-captured, escaped again, was re-captured again and it goes on and on. His escape attempts were daring as he said he'd rather die trying to be a free man than carry on living in the living hell he was in. His final escape was made from Devil's Island, riding the biggest wave that hit the island chained to a sack full of coconut shells.

Are Prisons Obsolete?
Angela Davis
From Political Affairs Magazine: Just a little over 30 years ago the entire prison population stood at 200,000 in the US; that is a tenfold jump in just one generation. In California alone, 3 prisons were built between 1852 and 1952; from 1984 to the present, over 80 facilities were constructed that now house almost 160,000 people. While being jailed or imprisoned has become “an ordinary dimension of community life,” according to Davis, for men in working-class Black, Latino, Native American and some Asian American communities, it is also increasingly an issue women of these communities have come to face.
Davis points to the increased involvement of corporations in prison construction, security, health care delivery, food programs and commodity production using prison labor as the main source of the growth of the prison-industrial complex. As prisons became a new source of profits, it became clear to prison corporations that more facilities and prisoners were needed to increase income. It is evident that increased crime is not the cause of the prison boom. Davis writes “that many corporations with global markets now rely on prisons as an important source of profits helps us to understand the rapidity with which prisons began to proliferate precisely at a time when official studies indicated that the crime rate was falling.”

Arkham Asylum: Living Hell
by Dan Sloott and Ryan Sook
From Jorge: This book is good, creepy fun! Much like the old HBO show OZ, this is the story of all the inmates in a prison, but this time around it's the prison for all of Batman's villains. We follow an all new character, the Great White Shark (a white collar criminal), as he is thrown into the loony bin with the rest of Batman's bad guys. Will he make it out alive? How will this experience change him? Or is he possibly a new Bat-villian in the making? Those are the questions that keep you flipping page after page in this book.
The first half of the book is some of the best Batman/Gotham City stories I've read in a long time. What makes it even more impressive is that Batman is barely in it! And most of the characters (Humpty Dumpty, Death Rattle, Jane Doe, and Junkyard Dog) are new. But they FEEL like they've been Batman characters for YEARS. That's where this book really excels. I had to go online and make sure that there weren't Batman stories that I'd missed over the years. And that, right there, is something very special that the writer and artist pulled off effortlessly. I bought that these were longstanding Bat-villains. And they are SO good, that I hope future Batman writers incorporate them into future stories.
The second half of this book takes a drastic and sudden turn into, what I feel, is a wrong direction. The rug gets pulled out from under us and the prison drama we were reading suddenly turns into a horror film. It's the same drastic turn like the movie Dusk Till Dawn. And, in this case, it really doesn't work.
However, even in the later half of the book, there are STILL priceless Bat-villain moments-- like the Joker's escape, his subsequent palindrome crimes, and his eventual "run in" with Batman. With that in mind, I'd recommend buying this book. Because even though it takes a wrong turn and slightly stumbles, even then it's still better than most of the Batman books out there. And the first half of the book (especially the Humpty Dumpty issue) when everything's working, Arkham Asylum: Living Hell is some of the best Batman work I've ever read!

Book News, In Brief

Everybody knows that having a prominent politician name drop your book will give sales a boost. But what happens when an aw-shucks Alaskan VP candidate attempts to ban your book? The online auction asking price skyrockets to $500+!

Hmn...I wonder what Palin's gonna think of Bible Illuminated: The Book. It's a Swedish repackaging of the so-called 'Good Book' which pairs "intense photo essays" -- including shots Martin Luther King Jr. and Angelina Jolie -- with passages from the New Testament. In Sweden, where Bible sales average 60K per year, Bible Illuminated has already sold 30K. A US release is due later this month.

The folks on the Nobel literature jury suspect that the name of this year's pick -- Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio -- was leaked early. Why? The surprising number of online bettors who picked Le Clezio to win. For those of you us who have never heard of J.M.G.L.C., click here for his Wikipedia entry. For those of us you who didn't know you could bet on the Nobel prizewinners, click here.

Two brothers created two online bookstores. One bookstore was a "wide site," featuring links that kept browsers close to the homepage. The other bookstore was a "deep site," which allowed browsers to navigate through countless links, bringing them further and further away from the homepage. The point of this? To find out if the ol' 'hunter/gatherer' stereotypes about men and women proved true on the internet. To read the results, both men and women may click here.