Friday, January 2, 2009

Book News, In Brief

Harper Bibles has released a 'Green Bible' made from recycled paper and soy ink. Quite predictably, a small section of small-minded Christians are offended.

Ever the stage director, Harold Pinter even staged his own funeral. The rules were simple: No eulogies were to be read, but drinks were definitely to be drunk.

January 1st was J.D. Salinger's birthday, and you goddamn phonies better not try and pretend you remembered.

Go, Look!

The New York Times has an article about 'reading like a girl,' but they mean it as a compliment -- honest!

The sappy, love-starved suckers at The Australian have penned a paean to the femme fatale. Can't they see she's only using them?

The Los Angeles Times has a brief piece about Asian crime fiction, complete with recommendations. (And they even give the Charlie Chan novels a fair shake!)

For your time-killing pleasure, The Guardian UK has prepared a Books Quiz of 2008. Or, as they put it: As a busy year in books closes, it's time to check whether you have absorbed its contents.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Are You Contemplating Suicide But Need That Final Push?

Then tighten your noose and read these:

Via AP: December Consumer Confidence Drops to All-Time Low
NEW YORK – Consumer confidence hit an all-time low in December, dropping unexpectedly in the face of layoffs and deteriorating markets for housing, stocks and other investments..."Deepening job insecurity and falling asset prices are outweighing any optimism consumers may have derived from falling gas prices," said Dana Saporta, U.S. economist at investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort.
(To read the entire article, click here.)

Via Holiday Sales Drop to Force Bankruptcies, Closings
Dec. 29 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. retailers face a wave of store closings, bankruptcies and takeovers starting next month as holiday sales are shaping up to be the worst in 40 years. Retailers may close 73,000 stores in the first half of 2009, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.
(My, you really are hungry for the sweet smell of formaldehyde, aren't you? Go on, then. Click here for the whole thing.)

Book News, In Brief

2009 marks Edgar Allan Poe's bicentennial, and cities up and down the east coast are hosting celebrations in honor of the notoriously anti-social artist. To see what sorts of unintentionally ironic events are taking place in your area, click here.

The holidays are the busiest time of year for newspaper obituary writers, but ego-stroking technologies are beginning to lighten their workload. Inspired by Art Buchwald's "I'm Art Buchwald and I just died" video and Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture, homemade, online obits are quickly becoming The Next Big Thing. Sandra Martin, obituarist for The Boston Globe, has written an article about these D.I.Y. R.I.P.s.

Barack Obama will use Abraham Lincoln's Bible for his swearing in. According to, this is big news, as "the Lincoln Inaugural Bible has not been used in any other inauguration. It is a powerful symbol of Lincoln's strength and wisdom during a time when the survival of the United States of America was at stake." But over at the U.S. News & World Report, Clark Evans of the Library of Congress takes a more Antiques Roadshow approach: "This Bible is not distinguished unto itself. It's not a rare-edition Bible. An 1853 Oxford Bible with no historical associations would get $30 or $40 today. But by association, it becomes priceless. There is no way to put a dollar sign on it." (Thanks to for the links!)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Book Review: The Kiss Murder

Rambling, One Sentence Pitch: A thriller by genre, a character piece at heart, Mehmet Murat Somer's The Kiss Murder is a week in the life of an unnamed drag queen who looks like Audrey Hepburn and kickboxes like Tony Ja.
A Second Rambling Sentence, This One Attempting To Act As Plot Summation: When one of the girls at 'Audrey's' nightclub goes missing, our hero/ine finds him/herself thrust into a mystery involving right wing politicians, bored housewives, catty co-workers and lustful cabbies.
More Rambling, Only Now It's Being Used To Try And Convince You To Buy This Book Instead Of The Millions Of Others Vying For Your Recession Era Dollars: There's murder, of course. And sex. These are the stock and trade of mysteries, after all. But where The Kiss Murder subverts the genre is in its exploration of the Cinderella-like lives of the club queens who must make it home before sunrise lest their facial hair grow too thick. Somer has created a diverse community of outlandish outcasts who, when not fighting against their repressive society, are cat-fighting mercilessly amongst themselves. So bitchy are these bitches that even the sudden disappearance of their cross-dressing co-worker fails to unite them. In fact, it makes things worse. Old rivalries re-arise, dead drama is resurrected, and what might have been a simple whodunit becomes a labyrinthine journey through the backstreets and bachelor pads of Istanbul.
In Closing: In Turkey, Somer's anonymous, Audrey Hepburn lookalike is already the star of her own series of books. Reading The Kiss Murder, it's easy to see why. Not only is she the classic, accidental action hero, but she's got enough emotional baggage and quirky acquaintances to fill a dozen novels. And then there's the cross-over appeal. Beneath 'Audrey's' fantastic facade of witty one liners and stylish ensembles, she's all of us, male and female.

Book News, In Brief

Why does this New England resident regularly read The Sydney Morning Herald's Books section? Because The Boston Globe would never open an article on poet Robert Burns with a line like this: His love might have been like a red, red rose but it turns out that Robert Burns may have been suffering from a rather nasty STD, according to a collection of explicit writing apparently by Scotland's national bard, due to go on sale in January. (To read the entire article, click here.)

Semi-related (in that it mentions a poem by Burns) is The Guardian UK's piece on the various New Year's traditions that have been immortalized in verse. Everything from leaving a lump of coal at your neighbors' doors to feeding an ear of corn to your horse is included.

The NYTimes blames the buying and selling of used books online for the the deaths of neighborhood bookstores, publisher's backlists and author's paychecks. (Yet this doesn't stop the article's author from making repeated plugs for the wonderful world of one cent books. Weird.)

Last but not least, a killer time killer: Links to hundreds of audio recordings of authors reading their own works.