Thursday, July 2, 2009

Detective Comics' Delectable Covers

The covers to Detective Comics #854-857. All art by J.H. Williams III

My main man, A. Tannenbaum, wrote a great review of issue #854 in the comments section of our Livejournal page. Never one to let a good post slip past, I promptly cut and pasted it in the comments section here. I spend my day trawling comics reviews online, and this is easily in the top 5 I've read for this book.

(Note: In the review, you'll come across a lot of seemingly random references to Jaime Hernandez' Locas stories. This is because (1.) this was the work that caused us to first meet online, and (2.) dude loves the Terry character.)

Palin Plays To Fan Base's Faith-Based Fetishes, Tweaks Autobiography

You can accuse Sarah Palin of a lot of things (like...say...this, this, this, this and this), but Alaska's holier-than-thou homegirl is definitely not clueless as to her fan base's faith-based fetishes. That's why, in a stroke of brilliance I'm leery to label 'inspired,' she's releasing two separate versions of her upcoming memoir -- the regular one, published by HarperCollins, and a special, 'Now with 20% more God' edition being released by Christian publisher, Zondervan.
Via here & here.

A Random Selection of Book News & Links

They were the best of lines, they were the worst of lines. The Guardian UK picks the best and worst opening sentences.

Oprah, indie, indie, Oprah. The Galleycat's got good news for publishing's red-headed stepchildren: Indie books top Oprah's Summer Reading List.

Since I was a slacker and skipped this week's Monday Menagerie, allow me point you in the direction of Super Punch's super cool Philip K. Dick gallery. (It has Lego spinners!)

How well do you know your polish born, British educated novelists? How about your So-Cal reality stars turned ghost-written memoirists? The Daily Beast has paired some excerpts from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Lauren Conrad's L.A. Candy, and is daring you to tell the difference. Via.

Richard 'The God Delusion' Dawkins has put up the cash to fund an atheist summer camp for kids. In addition to the swimming, canoeing, and potato sack racing, Camp Quest will offer classes in "rational skepticism, moral philosophy, ethics and evolution." Dawkins hasn't met many kids, has he?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Catch-Phrases Comics Created

Neatorama has posted a list of common phrases that were coined in comics. To find out which strips spawned 'security blanket,' 'We have met the enemy and he is us,' and 'the heebie-jeebies,' click here.

Book News, In Brief

The Guardian UK has a pop-ed piece on the next generation of history writers, those baby-faced biographers who claim, "The greatest of all crimes is dullness," and, "the secret to making history compelling is to pick quirky subjects." If you just felt a pang of distress, it's official: You're old. has streaming video of the Espresso Book Machine in action. The footage, used to promote the mechanical monolith housed at Manchester Center, VT's The Northshire Bookstore, is cool and all, but someone's gotta streamline that thing toute de suite. It's about as sexy as a 1970's xerox machine.

Good news for bloggers like me you: The blog-to-book bubble has yet to burst! Gawker reports that "two blogs, Texts From Last Night and Look at this Fucking Hipster, scored contracts at Penguin's Gotham Books imprint" this week, calling them "the latest in an endless series of such deals," before providing a simple, five step method for ensuring your own one-book contract.

Less than a week after dropping its North Carolina affiliates to avoid paying state taxes, Amazon has kicked its Rhode Island affiliates to the curb for the exact same reason. So who are the forlorn affiliates blaming for this blatant, greed-inspired break-up? State legislators, the Democrats, RI's not-so-secret slave name -- hell, pretty much everyone but Amazon.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

School Board Lists 'Cannibalism' As Part Of "Liberal Agenda"

The School Board of Campbell High School in Litchfield, New Hampshire has removed four short stories from the 'Love/Gender/Family' curriculum of one of its English classes. According to the National Coalition Against Censorship, "A number of parents objected earlier this month to four stories by Ernest Hemingway, David Sedaris, Stephen King, and Laura Lippman because of their themes of abortion, homosexuality, cannibalism, and drug use, respectively." Even better, Litchfield's panicked parents have labeled these topics as being part of the "liberal agenda" -- as if every Obama voter has 'pro-choice,' 'legalize it,' 'I love my gay honor roll student student,' and 'I ate your honor roll student' bumper stickers plastered all over their Prius. Via.

Update: In response to this act of censorship, Campbell High's English department head, Kathleen Reilly, has resigned. Good idea, Kathleen. That school board sounds like a bunch of reactionary zombies, anyway.

SF Books That Launched Their Own Genres

Everyone knows the legacies left by Frankenstein, Starship Troopers and Neuromancer (gothic SF, military SF and cyberpunk, respectively), but can you name the genres spawned by Infernal Devices, On The Beach and Consider Phlebas? Head to IO9 for those and more.

Tuesday's Tips for Flailing Writers: Links!

The LATimes provides practical advice for memoirists in 'The Pitfalls of Recall.'

If you only click one tip today, make it this one. The Rejecter defines 'The Infamous Synopsis.'

Google: It's unreliable, highly fallible and according to The Guardian UK, a writer's best friend.

Contemplating a new project? The Tripping Muse suggests you pitch your idea to yourself first.

As a new author with a look-at-me complex, which web presence is right for you? The Book Publicity Blog breaks down the pros & cons of writer websites, social networking profiles and blogs.

Last but not least: Everybody uses office supplies for personal projects, but if you're xeroxing copies of your erotic/horror screenplay, you may want to double-check to make sure you don't leave a copy in the copy room. For everyone's sake.

Monday, June 29, 2009


Two artists identifying themselves only as Payman & Sina have "re-mixed" the imagery from Marjane Satrapi's hit comic to reflect the current, post-election, Iranian situation -- and it's good!
Click here to read.

(Thanks to Newsarama for the tip and image.)

Book Review:
Mercier and Camier by Samuel Beckett

Mercier and Camier was my first reading of Beckett, and it threw me for a loop. I knew he was a well-respected author who played with writing conventions, but I didn’t expect to be as amused as I was, nor did I expect such a literary experience based on two oddball, directionless stragglers. To exaggerate a bit, nothing at all happens in the book in the most glorious way. The two of them are convinced they have a destination or objective, yet they seem to wander about aimlessly. Their banter is the main thing that amuses me; the phrasing used is “off” just enough from what we might actually say, which makes for some head-scratching and chuckling. Just one example of many is when Camier asks, “Do you feel like singing?” and Mercier replies, “Not to my knowledge.” What? I chuckled, and then wondered what possibly could cause Mercier not to know whether he feels like singing. Little absurdities tucked away throughout the text draw the reader in, and yet give one pause to think about any possible deeper levels they may imply. Whether or not more meaning actually lies in waiting is another matter, and feels like part of the exploration the reader goes on. In that sense, we as readers/observers may have more direction than Mercier and Camier.

Some darker themes arise (likely due to main characters’ vagabond natures): futility, violence, illness – mental and physical, lewdness, drunkenness, rudeness, and a few others which escape me. Interestingly, these don’t bog down the story for me, nor do they make it too difficult a read. There are some books where I can barely read the text due to the rough subject matter. Only one or two passages in Mercier and Camier come anywhere near making me want to stop reading; however the episodic nature of the book keeps the pace moving which makes the scenes all the more fleeting.

I found it interesting I felt barely attached to the characters; usually it’s important to me that the author cares for the characters in some way, leading me to care. It’s not entirely clear to me in Mercier and Camier how Beckett may care for them, though the style of writing he employs and his non-traditional approach to the story may preclude the need for care of characters. He makes us complicit in the unraveling of the story, and allows us to see things from the narrator’s perspective (sometimes sarcastic and even acerbic) while rarely focusing on the characters’ perspective. I like feeling like I’m in league with Beckett, watching things happen. It may seem odd to say after all this that, while these two characters do exist in their own little world, their world is firmly entrenched in ours, with all the ethical and moral obligations intact. Their rejection of our world and their unwitting creation of their very own is one of many reasons why this book interested me. Their rejection of the usual social mores does not distance them from the reader any more than the narrator wishes, which I like; I wouldn’t want to feel totally removed from main characters.

I’ve enjoyed all the big words Beckett employs, which force the reader to refer to a dictionary for elucidation (even if I didn’t devote myself to looking up every one). These polysyllabic words give the characters a mad professor type of feel to them, which has a delicious tension with how absurd their banter and actions are.

While not an easy or even straightforward book, Mercier and Camier is a rewarding meander. And it’s brief—a novella—which makes it well worth the Beckett-curious reader’s time.

Review by Wendell "Scutopus" Edwards

The Smell of Books -- In A Can!

Even funnier than the photo is the pitch: "An aerosol e-book enhancer." Click here for more info.
Via: Kimbooktu

Book News, In Brief

Here's a disingenuous way to keep old books current -- by re-editing and re-releasing them ad infinitum. Lord knows it's worked for the Bible all these years.

To quote the bookavore, "This look at real numbers for another bookstore is rare and fascinating, esp as it's Politics & Prose." Click here to read The Washington Post's profile of Politics & Prose Bookstore & Coffeehouse.

Happy birthday, Aaron's Books! Those of you who have never been to Lancaster County's premier indie should head on over to their blog, where they've posted a photo-heavy post highlighting the ups and downs of their five year expansion and evolution.

Fresh off his Oprah apology, James Frey is ready to release two YA novels -- one of which is the proposed first volume of a six book series. While no one would doubt Frey's hyperactive imagination, I can't help but wonder if this is a waste of his twisted genius. I mean, I really liked A Million Little Pieces. Why not write a sequel to that? You know it'd garner hella headlines...

Thursday's Guardian UK reviewed online, automated book recommendations, attacking the whack (LibraryThing picks Jane Austen novels for folks enjoying Ray Bradbury books) and commending the competent (The evil A points Bradbury fans toward Alan Moore), before ending with a question that made the whole article moot: When you've finished a book, do you really want to read something similar?