Wednesday, June 08, 2011

A Bit of Housekeeping

Since I was unable to post in the past two weeks, due to pinch-hitting as the editor of Mercer Island Patch while the editor and his wife had a baby, I have a ton of saved-up bits from the fabulous Shelf Awareness to share with you. So we'll start out with this piece, which sums up my feeling toward A Room of One's Own:

As you prepare for the imminent deluge of summer beach read lists, take
a moment to savor Jessica Gelt's Los Angeles Times
piece, "A deep sense of kinship with Virginia Woolf." She recalls her
first encounter--in Tucson, Ariz.--with A Room of One's Own, noting that
"in the summer, reading took on a particularly heroic quality--it
provided escape from the searing misery of triple-digit heat. And in
August 1991, when I turned 15, it changed the person I was becoming with
a revelatory flash--the first, but certainly not the last, time
literature would affect me like that.... So, as I tiptoed into Woolf's
solitary room each day, leaving the sidewalks of Tucson radiating heat
in waves and the pungent scent of dry creosote for the grassy lawns of
early 20th Century Oxford, upon which Woolf, and women in general, were
not allowed to tread, I began to feel something I hadn't before.

"It was a deep sense of kinship--the delicate, magical string that a
good book can sew through the human experience. Pulled tight enough,
that string can draw the whole of history around your shoulders to make
you realize that you are not alone."

I loved this commentary from JK Rowling, creator of the wonderful Harry Potter series:

J.K. Rowling was interviewed by Words with
Jam, where, among other topics, she considered the eternal debate about
literary vs. genre fiction: "There has always been an overlap. The late
J.G. Ballard being the modern example that springs to mind; an
outstanding writer who 'transcended' the science fiction genre. I am
pretty indifferent to the distinction between 'literary' and 'genre'
fiction myself, and I hop pretty freely between the two as a reader
without feeling remotely as though I am 'slumming it.' So-called 'genre'
fiction has given us deathless characters like Sherlock Holmes, Ford
Prefect and James Bond, who have forever influenced our culture and
language; what is there to be snobbish about?"

This made me laugh, as it is such a stereotype of writers (and I don't drink):

Alternative Reel featured its selections for "Top 10 Drunk American
Writers with appropriately (or inappropriately) incriminating quotations,"

This is a great summer reading list compendium:

Yesterday NPR's Morning Edition featured "some of the books that our
trusty independent booksellers are recommending
for your summer reading pleasure." Featured guests on the segment were
Lucia Silva of Portrait of a Bookstore
, Studio City, Calif; Daniel
Goldin of Boswell Book Co., Milwaukee, Wis.; and Rona Brinlee of the BookMark, Atlantic Beach, Fla.

The Christian Science Monitor recommended "11 excellent novels for
summer reading,"
noting that whether "you're on the beach, in the airport, or staying in
your own backyard, there's nothing like the perfect novel to round out
your summer vacation."

Flavorpill highlighted its "10 Most Anticipated Summer Reads"


Amazon's recent announcement of its "most well-read cities in America"
list (Shelf Awareness, May 27,
2011) prompted a number of responses, including Flavorwire,
which took "the top ten in reverse chronological order and created a
list of books that are based in each city to create a virtual, literary
tour for your reading pleasure."

The Christian Science Monitor
observed that a "similar list released by Amazon in February 2010 ranked
the 'Top 20 Most Romantic Cities in America.' The two lists varied by
only two cities.... Which raises the question: Do these lists prove
anything other than the fact that Amazon has a heavy customer base in
these cities?... What it seems that Amazon has really managed to measure
is the affluence of each city, which makes a lot of sense if you're a
retailer. But is there really any point in labeling these cities
'well-read' and 'romantic'? Why not just call a spade a spade and say
that these cities have money--and like to spend it online?"

This is a response to the above:
More fallout from Amazon's "most well-read cities in America" list:
observed that the "list is dominated by college towns, an indication
that is a popular site for books among students."

In the Christian Science Monitor,
Rebekah Denn wondered "if Portland, Ore., (#19) would have scored higher
if we could have factored in sales from independent bookstores. There's
always a healthy crowd and a line at the registers at Portland's
landmark Powell's bookstore. Then, how about towns with strong library
systems? Would Seattle, which regularly dukes it out for the #1 spot on
other literacy lists, have fared better if the list accounted for the
Seattle and King County library systems? King County is one of the top
library systems in the country by circulation--those are a lot of books
that people aren't ordering through Amazon."

This proves what I have always believed, that VS Naipaul is an over-rated writer, a sexist jerk and a putz:

Want to start a good fight? Ask V.S. Naipaul for advice on how to go
about it. Hours after ending a 15-year feud with Paul Theroux during the
Hay Festival, Naipaul stirred up a new controversy by telling the Royal
Geographic Society that he does not consider any woman writer to be his
literary match, the Guardian reported.

Considering Jane Austen, Naipaul said he "couldn't possibly share her
sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world." He also
observed: "I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I
know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me."

The Guardian immediately formulated the "Naipaul test: Can you tell an
author's sex?"

Finally, a smart and sensible article on why it is important to write completely honest book reviews, something I always try to do, even if I hated the book:

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