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Hello! I’ve been away. Did anyone notice? What have I been away doing? Well, first, Thursday last week was Bookman’s birthday. He turned forty-eleven, something worth celebrating, eh? So we did. We went out to breakfast at our favorite breakfast place and I baked him a cake. Per Bookman’s request, the cake was chocolate chocolate chip with peanut butter cream frosting. I am not the cook of the house but that does not mean I don’t know how to cook, and I made a freaking awesome cake if I do say so myself. We had a meandering kind of quiet day with a little of this and a little of that. Some of that included packing because Friday morning we flew to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Bookman’s brother lives there and his niece got married on Saturday. We were very happy we could make it for the wedding. Bookman and I don’t often get to travel anywhere together, our slow times at work don’t exactly coincide and we both work places with a small staff which requires a whole other level of scheduling consideration. We knew about the wedding though since last winter and were able to make sure everything coordinated.
A friend of ours stopped by and took care of Waldo and Dickens. We travel so little, and, as I said, rarely together, that we had never left the cats alone like this before and they are 8-years-old! They survived just fine though. They were a bit mad at us when we got home last night, did the “I’m going to sniff you but you are not allowed to touch me” bit. Waldo is also an expert at making big sad eyes so he mooned around the house trying to look as wounded as possible to elicit sympathy and then not let us touch him. Ah, the cats, they know how to make their people feel guilty. They soon got over being mad though, their desire for cuddles outweighing their resentment. When I woke up this morning I had Waldo snuggled up and purring on one side of me and Dickens snuggled up and purring on the other. Today they have been sticking to me like glue. Bookman and I left for an hour to go grocery shopping and upon our return they tried to play the “you’re causing us trauma” card but they dropped it pretty fast when they realized we weren’t buying it.
It was a good trip. A Beautiful wedding that even had vegan food! And it was great to catch up with Bookman’s family, many of whom I haven’t seen in a very long time. The flight to and from wasn’t completely terrible. The only snag was on our return yesterday. I opt for the pat down instead of going through those full-body x-ray machines. The TSA agent got a false-positive for explosives on her gloves after the pat down. So then she took everything out of my carry-on bag that had just gone through being x-rayed and had passed and tested it all for evidence of explosives. In the bag was a sealed, just bought container of hummus and some pita bread that was going to be my and Bookman’s lunch. Well, apparently hummus is considered a potential hazard and even though the luggage screener had let it through, the TSA agent emptying my bag refused to. When I told her it was sealed and it was my lunch she told me I could go back out of the airport, eat it and then come back in. And go through all this again? My flight leaves in an hour! She was not sympathetic and tossed my hummus in the trash. I suspect after I left she fished it out and had it for her own lunch.
After going through my bag and finding no explosives, the TSA agent took me to a private room and gave me another pat down. I’m not sure why I needed a private room for this because the pat down was exactly the same as before only she used the palm of her hand down the inside of my legs rather than the back of her hand. Bookman gives them the benefit of the doubt and says they are offering privacy, but I suspect it is meant to be intimidating. Of course on the second go-round everything was fine. Except it wasn’t because Bookman and I no longer had any lunch.
Albuquerque airport does not have an abundance of restaurants like the one in Minneapolis does. There was no decent food to be found so we ended up having a big plate of overly priced, greasy french fries for lunch. I have not had french fries in quite a few years and this “lunch” had the curious effect of feeling both like a naughty treat and disgusting at the same time. But between that, some almonds the TSA agent did not deem a threat, and a tiny bag or airplane peanuts, we made it back to Minneapolis a little hungry but not starving.
There wasn’t much time for reading during our stay in Albuquerque but of course I had plenty of reading material! I had my Kobo with several books on it, my iPad with magazines, and I finished reading The Martian by Andy Weir on the airplane yesterday.
It’s nice to be home, sleeping in my own bed that doesn’t sag in the middle, not having to breathe dry desert air and dry, overly air conditioned air, having my garden-gone-wild and being surrounded by brilliant greens instead of the dusky desert colors, which are pretty but don’t exactly satisfy me.
Oh, one last thing! Thursday last week while weeding in the garden around some milkweed and feeling a bit sad about not hosting any monarchs this year, I came upon a big fat monarch caterpillar! It was huge and I suspect, close to being ready to spin a cocoon. I will have to keep my eyes out for it!
Back to work for me tomorrow and back to a regular schedule. Breaking up your routine is good to do now and then, but it is also nice to get back to one as well.
Filed under: Personal
Well, I've waited around a long time for this, and I couldn't be more thrilled... Zero Books have announced the forthcoming publication of my wonderfully talented friend Stephen Mitchelmore's This Space of Writing:
What does 'literature' mean in our time? While names like Proust, Kafka and Woolf still stand for something, what that something actually is has become obscured by the claims of commerce and journalism. Perhaps a new form of attention is required. Stephen Mitchelmore began writing online in 1996 and became Britain's first book blogger soon after, developing the form so that it can respond in kind to the singular space opened by writing. Across 44 essays, he discusses among many others the novels of Richard Ford, Jeanette Winterson and Karl Ove Knausgaard, the significance for modern writers of cave paintings and the moai of Easter Island, and the enduring fallacy of 'Reality Hunger', all the while maintaining a focus on the strange nature of literary space. By listening to the echoes and resonances of writing, this book enables a unique encounter with literature that many critics habitually ignore. With an introduction by the acclaimed novelist Lars Iyer, This Space of Writing offers a renewed appreciation of the mystery and promise of writing.
Today, July 14th 2015, marks the tenth anniversary of this blog's creation.
Just writing that down amazes me. This is where I'm supposed to say that when I started this blog I had no idea that I'd still be keeping it up a decade later, but the truth is that Asking the Wrong Questions's longevity, in itself, doesn't surprise me. I started this blog because I had things to say and nowhere to say
By: Mark Thwaite,
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Those of you who notice these things will have noticed that ReadySteadyBook has been very quiet for a very long time now. Recently, Stephen Mitchelmore wrote: "The main reason I still write this blog is to maintain a contact with the need or condition that drove me to read and write in the first place; a need often misdirected in pursuit of what the industry is talking about. Long silences here report stout resistance to the temptations of disinterested reception. But what is this need?"
My "resistance" is fully compromised, as I work in the industry to which Steve refers; my "long silences" report only that I'm busy elsewhere (currently at Foyles) doing my best to champion the kind of books I first started writing about here thirteen or so years ago. I'm loath to close RSB down, however, as I'm sure I'll soon have the time and energy to report again on what really matters. That horizon keeps receding, but those books that feel vital, axes for the frozen sea inside, remain the reason to maintain this space, and will be the only reason to return back to it.
NOTE: This post is political and personal. It is not about books, or storytelling, or crafts. It IS about change and my thoughts on all the change that is going on right now in the Untied States.
A week and a half ago, a young man sat with a Bible study group for an hour and then killed nine of the members. He chose this group on purpose. He had a plan. Suddenly, the hatred, obstinacy, and irrational craziness that many Americans subscribed to since an African American became president was exposed for what it was. Racism. Bigotry. Cruelty. Evil. Fear.
1. The Confederate flag has been demonized - rightly so. It should never have been flown on public land after the Civil War. (Private rights are another thing.) It's just a piece of cloth, but it's significance in the war against equality is now clear.
2. The Supreme Court has outlawed housing discrimination - again - upholding broad discrimination claims.
3. The Supreme Court made marriage among all people - same sex, two sexes - a law in 50 states. This means people everywhere in the United States have the right to not be lonely anymore regardless of whom they love.
4. Our president delivered the speech of his lifetime when he delivered the eulogy for Clementa Pinckney - a speech that showed his intelligence, his confidence, his empathy, and his faith.
People were shocked into their senses again. Politicians had to admit that their party loyalty just might be counterproductive, if not downright anti-American.
The battle to be a better country is not over. Hate crimes are still being committed. The Equal Rights Act needs to come to fruition. But, my dwindling hope has rebounded. There are good people here - on both sides of the aisle.
I haven’t added any books to my library hold list in a month and a half but that has not kept the holds I had already placed from arriving. And, of course, as these things happen, they arrive in bunches. So now I am frantically reading On Immunity by Eula Biss. It is very good. And then I have to try and read Geek Sublime by Vikrma Chandra. I do not get to renew either of these because there are others waiting their turn for them. Well, only two books with hard deadlines but it seems like a lot for some reason. Probably because I have Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie that I am desperate to start reading. And that book at work that went AWOL — This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein — it finally found me! So I have that to read. Thankfully since it is from the university library I have it for a couple months instead of a couple weeks so I don’t have to rush through it which is good because damn, is it depressing and I can only take in small bites.
Also in the pile from the library are several chicken books. Yup, I am slowly wearing Bookman down when it comes to us having chickens. The urban farm supply store is offering another backyard chicken class on February 28th and I have signed up for it. I know I was going to wait until next year to take the class, but I decided sooner is better than later. The class will explain how to get the required city permits, the coop requirements, chicken care, the whole nine yards. After the class I will know for sure whether or not we will do the chicken thing. And if the answer is yes then over the summer I will enlist Bookman into preparing for chickens this time next year. This will be a bigger project than just chickens that will involve tearing down our crumbling detached garage so it will definitely be interesting.
Goodness, no wonder I’m feeling pressed for time books and chickens and garden planning. But also biking, indoors at the moment, taking up time. I think I’ve mentioned a couple of years now in September about Bookman and I doing a thirty-mile ride in the St Paul Bike Classic. Well, I decided I liked it so much that I want to go for longer rides. I’m ultimately aiming for a century — 100 miles. This year the goal is a half-century ride in Mankato in October. One of the rest stops has pie which makes it all worth it right there. So five nights a week I ride for an hour and Saturday afternoons I started doing a fast as I can 90 minutes. I managed 34.7 miles during my 90 minutes yesterday on a programmed course with hills. I think that’s good but I’m not sure since I have no one else to compare to. One thing I do know, thirty miles is now really easy and I look forward to getting outdoors and trying a long ride on the road on a new bike which I have not bought yet but will very likely go hunting for next weekend.
I’ve always enjoyed biking but I never expected to catch the biking bug. I think what did it was my first ever group ride this last October. It was a really short ride and at times unbearably slow, but I had a blast riding with other people. I’ll be joining a local bike club this spring, I have several to choose from so will be going on some test rides too see which group I like best.
So busy, busy around here. But it’s all good stuff. Now, if only it would warm up. It’s been below zero (-18C) the last several mornings and I am ready to be done with winter.
Filed under: Books
This has not been the bookish weekend I had hoped it would be. Well, there was some bookishness yesterday but it wasn’t the fun relaxing kind. I had to finish up reading a nonfiction book of comparative literature for a Library Journal review that is due by tomorrow. The book is called An Ecology of World Literature From Antiquity to the Present Day by Alexander Beecroft. It’s an interesting way to compare literatures but is entirely aimed at an academic audience so wasn’t exactly easy-going fun. Finishing it took far longer than I expected and left little time for more pleasurable reading. Then of course today I had to take the time to write the review. I only get 200 words, which is not so very easy to stick to when assessing an academic book. But I managed with about five words to spare. We’ll see what my editor thinks.
After yesterday was a wash on my own personal reading I thought I could indulge today but that didn’t happen either. The morning was given over to chores of various kinds and the afternoon got eaten up with switching to a new phone and mobile carrier. Bookman and I discovered recently that our mobile carrier was charging us for phone and unlimited texting as much as AT&T would charge us for iPhones with a small data plan. So we switched. I finally have a “smart” phone. Since I have an iPad and a Macbook they all sync up which is kind of convenient. Of course the switching has not gone as smoothly as it was supposed to. Getting our phone numbers switched over to the new phones from the old carrier is still a work in progress and we’ve been promised it will be completed within the hour. Fingers crossed. And of course I’ve had to transfer phone numbers from my old phone to the new and choose ringtones and set up my morning alarm clock and all the other stuff that an iPhone requires one to set up. But it will all be good, right? I won’t regret finally giving in and getting rid of my not-smart phone? That question mark tells you I am not entirely certain on the matter.
My ban on placing hold requests at the library is going pretty well. I have been really good at resisting, though it has not been without pangs from time to time. I did borrow a few cookbooks, however. Since these are not books one sits down to read for hours over the course of a few weeks, I decided it was allowed. They are all vegan cookbooks I have never heard of before. Of course I started with the dessert, Lickin’ the Beaters: low fat vegan desserts and Lickin’ the Beaters 2: vegan chocolate and candy. Recipes for chocolate donut holes and gingerbread chocolate cookies just seemed so much nicer to swoon over this weekend than recipes from North Africa and India. I’ll drool over those next weekend.
I’ve had so many book finishes lately I now find myself in the middle of a good many books and nowhere near the end of any of them. I am enjoying each one and don’t have that “I’m not getting anywhere” feeling I often get when I find myself in this kind of situation. The only thing this time around I’m having trouble with is coming up with post topics since I have nothing to review. I’ve managed so far but I don’t yet know what the week ahead holds. We’ll see. If posting is spotty you’ll know why!
On a side note, all those seeds I ordered last weekend got delivered on Friday. I didn’t even open the packages because well, snow-covered garden. It would just be too depressing to have to look at those colorful seed packets.
Enough pointless rambling for one day. Our phone numbers still haven’t transferred, there’s another what the heck is the problem phone call to be made.
Filed under: Books
By: Nina @ Death, Books, and Tea,
Blog: Death Books and Tea
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Hey! Things are kind of getting sorted in my life right now.
There's going to be a chat tomorrow (19 January) on twitter about teenage mental health at 7pm GMT. The hashtag is #gdnbluemonday. Go join in.
Also, Tom Pollock wrote an incredibly brave and powerful post
. Go read it.
I'm really glad that mental health is something that's being talked about more. It might feature a bit more on this blog, I don't know yet. But, like many other things that we need to talk about, it is being talked about more, and maybe slowly society can do the same.
Happier news! I discovered Judd Books, and independent store in London, because I saw Stacey (The Pretty Books) and Jim (YaYeahYeah) by chance while trying to visit the Gothic exhibition in the British Library (I failed. Why did my teachers, who knew we'd be studying Frankenstein all year, only tell us that it was on and it would be highly useful the week before it closed?) Anyway, I got two non fiction books because non-ficion second hand books tend to be rarer so I got a book on the history behind the Trojan War and on LGBTQ rights in the Middle East.
Also, I'm thinking of attempting to do fortnightly vlogs. Would anyone be interested?
Main post time! I got nominated for two blog awards over the past few weeks- the Liebster award from Jo, who writes the Eclectic Feel Blog
, and the Infinity Dreams award from Holly, who writes Holly Quills and Ivy.
Thank you, guys!
From Eclectic Feel Blog. wordpress.com
- Describe your blog in 3 words. So much work.
- What’s your favourite smell and why? Rum and vanilla tea because good memories of times when it was there- see birthday party involving tea duelling
- Name an unusual skill/talent you have. Less a talent, more proof of my brain being a jumbled mess- randomly slipping correctly conjugated/declined Latin into French lessons or mostly incorrectly conjugated French into Latin
- If you could only choose one – books, music, art, craft or photography? This is evil. Book s or music... books. Just. Evil.
- Oranges or lemons? Organes.
- Your top 3 ambitions for 2015? Sort out my physical health and mental health and sleep pattern. Get decent grades. Not mess up too badly.
- What was your last holiday destination and what’s (hopefully) your next? Edinburgh (Fringe festival!!) and Spain (not sure where).
- Trilby or fedora? Fedora
- What was the last book you read/album you listened to (and rate it out of 10)? Last book completed- Love, Sex, and Tragedy- 7.75 out of 10. Last album listened to: Spring Awakening Original Cast- 7 out of 10
- What’s your favourite cheese? Whatever it is that goes on dominoes pizza
- Will you be rocking Pantone’s colour of the year “Marsala” in 2015? No, since I have no idea what it is.
From HollyQuillsand Ivy
Required 11 facts
- I can’t stick to plans about what to read next
- I love my Latin lessons excessively
- I have illustrated my Latin workbooks with daleks, corsets, and a graphic body count of Titus Andronicus
- Underneath my bed is a lot of food
- Current teas on the go: Russian Morning Kusmi 24, and Lapsang Souchong.
- I can’t drink lapsang souchong at night or the caffeine keeps me awake
- I have no idea where I want to start writing my TEDx talk
- My to-review box is overflowing badly
- I keep random bits and bobs in pretty teacups
- Miscast cabaret/backwards broadway nights on youtube make my life complete
- I really want to become fluent in at least two more languages.
- In your opinion, what book has the most beautiful cover ? Current favourite, liable to change: This Book is Gay just because its cover fits it perfectly.
- What is your favourite song? Another current favourite , liable to change, is Touch Me from Spring Awakening.
- Why did you start blogging? Stephanie said she did it and she loved it. I decided to go.
- Would you rather be in The Hunger Games arena or in a zombie apocalypse? Zombie apocalypse
- If you travel anywhere where would you like to go? A tour of all the capital cities.
- What celebrity would you fangirl over most? Hmm...... there’s many..... I have love for Haylee Atwell, Kat Dennings, Colbie Smoulders, Scarlett Johanson.... all the ladies of Marvel really... and Sebastian Stan.... and James Dawson.... and Kim Curran... and Patrick Ness.... and Tom Pollock.... and Laura Lam... and Rainbow Rowell.... I don’t know!
- What is one skill you wish you had? Apart from languages, consistently decent violin skills.
- Narnia or Neverland? Neverland
- Is there one film you can quote word for word? Repo! The Genetic Opera. And the play version of Rent (not a film, but I can do that as well)
- What was your worst read of 2014? I can’t think of an absolute worst, but I couldn't deal with Game of Thrones.
- What was your best read of 2014? Probably A Kiss in the Dark.
OK, I’m sorry I don’t have time to nominate people or write questions, because I can’t deal with going and seeing who’s won it already and such right now and my interview conducting skills are zero, but if anyone wants to tell us a bit about themselves, please do!
By: Nina @ Death, Books, and Tea,
Blog: Death Books and Tea
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I have plans for this year. Some are definite, some are hopeful. All have a slightly higher chance of being achieved if I make my intentions public and there’s people who can shout at me if I don’t do them. Normal blogging service will resume next week. As for my goals for this year, here you are!
- Blog at least twice a week. I think this will have to be a case of “schedule things so you don’t get a full week of posts then radio silence” thing, but you should start seeing regular content from now on
- Be involved in at least two theatre projects. I know there are two theatre projects I’d like to be involved in because one (Spring Awakening with the fabulous Renegade Theatre Company) is auditioning on Monday and the other is one I’ll be doing myself (see next point).
- Do a Latin play! I have this all planned in my head. There’s a play called Menaechmi, which is like The Comedy of Errors but marginally simpler. I have the Latin text and an English translation. I need to edit it down so it’s shorter. We rehearse the play and produce as normal. We perform it, speaking Latin and having a PowerPoint in the background surtitling the English like an opera. This is ambitious, but it should work!
- Do TEDx! I’m a confirmed speaker at my school’s TEDx Youth Conference, which came about because one of my friends is just brilliant and decided to hold one and so we’re having one. I’ll almost certainly be speaking about diversity in teen fiction, because that is what I somewhat know about. And there’s some bloggers who’ll be coming for a bloggers’ alley and an author will be speaking too(probably)! It’s exciting, it’s happening in July, and you can find more information on Twitter and Facebook.
- Read at least 52 books and review them. Without letting them pile up.I'm setting targets low, because this will be a busy year. Hopefully I'll do more. But low targets to start with are good.
- Keep on top of emails. Not just read them, say "I'll reply later" and look back a month later and think "Would it be awkward to reply now?"
- Connect with bloggers even more. I’ll make buttons to find me elsewhere in the coming weeks, but connect on the blogs as well. I’m terrible at commenting, both because of time and because of lack of knowing what to say, but I’ll try. Also, I should be going to the Fire Sermon Blogger event later on in the month, so anyone going should say hi.
- Survive the year without doing anything permanently stupid.
- Sort out my sleep pattern. I try and get off screens by 10 and be asleep by 11, to wake up at 6.25, but it's not working to a ridiculous extent and it's messing with my life too much. Any tips would be appreciated!
- Become somewhat healthier, both physically and mentally.
- Decide on a uni course! I think want to go into law. So do I do a law degree, or go do classics and a conversion course after? Because classics would be awesome, and I love classics, but then that’s another year of my life in training and who knows what’ll happen to training fees? But then, coming out of a classics course, I have few more options if I decide not to do law. Choices!! Anyway, this decision WILL be made by October, because I’m applying for Oxford if I get the grades and early applications must be made by then and so yay UCAS?
- Connect more with writers. I like the idea of maybe going into editing (writing’s hard. Improving it is something I’m much better at) and I’d be happy to help anyone with any writing that they want going.
- Get good grades on my AS levels, but also not stress out over them excessively! French, Latin, Government and Politics, English Literature, and Critical Thinking. Exam time gets nearer and nearer and I do not feel prepared. Yay!
- Have a good year! I know it won’t be all brilliant, but hopefully the good times will outweigh the bad ones.
These aren't resolutions, because if they were, they would not happen. Just things I shall be attempting to do. Anyone who also has things they would like to do this year, I wish you success. Happy New Year, everyone!
One of the small pleasures I treat myself to is visiting the book stores of every town I visit in my travels if possible. I figure I’m ‘working’, right? I was able to visit two on the Outer Banks NC last weekend while visiting and saying goodbye to summer.
One is the sweetest tiny bookstore in Buxton NC…lower part of Outer Banks, very near the Hatteras Light House Point we love so much… good fishing normally and the best beaches! (skunked this year….)
and the second I revisited was the Corolla Light Bookstore in the northern part of the Outer Banks. (Do visit the Sanderling Resort and Spa if ever near there!)
They are so adorably old fashioned..and yet very modern and up to date too. Just a pleasure all around and remind me how LUCKY I am to love reading as I do and have children’s books be my livelihood ! Work, Work, Work, …..
It seems like only yesterday that I was announcing on this blog my new position as Strange Horizons reviews editor. That day, however, was nearly four years ago, and in that time I've worked with incredible people and helped bring fantastic, thought-provoking, necessary criticism into the conversation about genre. It's been a privilege, and an enormously rewarding experience (not least in the
Well, here I am, back from London and Loncon, with much to tell. I combined my third foray to Worldcon (and my first as a Hugo nominee) with a family vacation, both of which were delightful if a little tiring--a classic "I need a vacation after this vacation" situation. The experiences of both convention and city are already swirling in my head, so I'd better get them down while it's still
Yesterday I was away celebrating Bookman’s birthday. He says he turned forty-ten. Sure, why not? We went out to breakfast at our favorite cafe, spent some time in the garden, went for a walk at the lake and went to a bookstore. I also made him a cake so chocolatey that it is a good thing we have been building up our chocolate tolerance for years otherwise we might have overdosed. Also, it is just as well that I don’t cook very often, especially when it comes to things like cake. As I was mixing up all the ingredients I was overcome with horror — how much sugar? How much butter? OMG, MORE sugar?!!! Of course when it came to eating cake I still had a piece, though maybe not as big as I would have had if I had been ignorant to the sugar and fat content. It’s a good thing Bookman has a birthday only once a year!
One of the things Bookman decided he wanted to do was go to a bookstore. So we did. We went to Half Price Books. It has been a really long time since we have been there and we had even vowed to never go back after some bad experiences there, but it is close to our house and we decided to check it out.
They must have had a sale recently because there were large gaping holes on their shelves where I would have expected books. And browsing, it seemed like there just wasn’t much of anything. However, I still managed to bring home three books.
- Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors by Susan Sontag. Leslie Jamison mentions Sontag and this book in Empathy Exams and I have seen it crop up in other places. It seemed like it was about time to get a copy.
- Angel by Elizabeth Taylor, the NYRB edition. I’ve heard good things about Taylor but I rarely see any of her books turn up at the secondhand shop so when I saw NYRB and Taylor together, I couldn’t pass it by.
- Vita Nuova: A Novel by Bohumil Hrabal. I do love Hrabal and his books are hard to find in bookstores either new or secondhand. This one is the second in a trilogy of fictional memoirs but it seems I don’t have to read them in order. At least I don’t think I do. It is written from the perspective of his wife and depicts their life in Prague from the 1950s to 1970s.
Not bad, huh?
We also found Doctor Who salt and pepper shakers that we are attempting to repurpose. We are in the midst of a little setback on that project but hopefully we will be able to figure it out and I can make a happy reveal of it soon. In the mean time you will just have to imagine what one might use salt and pepper shakers for besides salt and pepper. Hmmmm.
Filed under: Books
, New Acquisitions
The Worldcon program was published today, and just from a quick glance I can already tell that I am going to be a) worn off my feet running from panel to panel, and b) overcome by agonizing choices between conflicting but equally awesome events. I'm truly looking forward to this convention.
My own excellent slate of panels is below. In addition to these, I will be on hand at the Strange
As I tried to make very clear in my post on Sunday, the small and contained argument that I'm advancing is not that serious and interesting writing about books is not happening online. Categorically, it is. I listed five blogs and bloggers in my original Guardian post – This Space, David Winters, 3:AM, Flowerville, Time's Flow Stemmed – and in my follow up blog, I listed several more – John Self, Berfrois, LARB and Dan Green. Very many more wonderful book-related spaces and places could be mentioned – The Quarterly Conversation and HTMLGiant both deserve a shout, as do Marooned Off Vesta, Infinite Patience and in lieu of a field guide. Without all this fine online work, the cultural landscape would be very much more bleak. Thank god for websites!
I'm really not sure how more clearly I can say this: I'm not saying interesting work is not going on; I'm not saying you can't find great writing about writing online; I'm simply pointing out the observable, and to me rather odd, fact that in very many other fields (all kinds of genre writing, political blogs, philosophy blogs, food writing etc, etc) a named individual of real skill has emerged from the blogosphere to change the debate in their respective fields. Richard Seymour fundamentally changed, and often set, the debate in his part of the Left. Graham Harman has changed the debate in Continental Philosophy regarding realism for good.
Or lets take the offline example of James Wood – via his 'criticism'/reviewing he has changed the conversation by banging on about e.g. Hysterical Realism or bringing our attention to Free Indirect Discourse. Sadly and strangely, nothing remotely like this has come out of the online conversation about books. Take also e.g. Blanchot's NRF monthly essays from back in the day – quietly and insistently his interventions changed the conversation, altered perceptions, re-routed thinking. The Blanchot example could perhaps be seen as being a little arcane, but I think it might be the best example. Blanchot's monthly essays – no requirement here whatsoever that the blogging should be daily or even weekly – slowly, via their form, percolated into the consciousness of literary France, and changed literary critical discourse for good.
Blogging has added more critical voices to the general clamour. Great. Good to have more voices, excellent to have more views. But neither in content or form has it substantively affected the wider book conversation. These days we just have lots more reviewers mimicking newspaper reviews. Plainly, noting this does not equate with suggesting in any way that blogging is dead, or that online writing is not a considerable cultural boon.
The question remains, however, why have no serious literary critics emerged, maintaining a blog, doing innovative work and gaining a following for that work and changing the wider conversation, as we have seen in plenty of other fields? Where are the lit-critical Jack Monroes, Graham Harmans, Paul Slaines, Richard Seymours, Ian Bogosts? I don't see them. And I regret the lack.
In the UK, one blogger, John Self, has become a talisman. John is a superb book reviewer. Everyone should read him. He writes straight up and down reviews in the broadsheet style, penetrating and amusing, incisive and witty, and he has rightly been embraced by the Guardian, and thousands of eager readers. He is a tremendously good writer. He is not, however, a literary critic, and his writing, on the blog, echoes the form and style of response we see every week in the newspapers. That is not a value judgment, it is a fact. And it echoes another fact: no literary critic has yet emerged from the blogosphere; no writer has yet emerged from the large and informed online writing community and changed the wider conversation about writing on writing.
You may well think that the world doesn't need literary critics. Fine response! You may well think that book reviewing suffices. It's an entirely valid point. You may well want to ignore my actual argument and tell me that great writing is happening online here, there and somewhere else. And, as I've stressed, I can only agree that it absolutely is. Wikipedia tells me the "term 'weblog' was coined by Jorn Barger on 17 December 1997." So blogging has been around for a long time. And blogging is just part of the wider online writing revolution, the vibrancy, breadth and depth of which can only be applauded; it astounds and amazes. But in very many other fields, writers have emerged from online and changed their respective fields for good. Particularly noteworthy, as I've said, is the rise and rise of speculative realism which has fundamentally changed the debate raging in modern European Philosophy and is setting the agenda for exciting work ahead. It's a wonder to behold. Has this happened in the field of literary criticism? No, it has not.
I was honoured to be invited to speak at The Literacy Consultancy's Writing in a Digital Age conference yesterday. (A particular personal pleasure because I got to see Lynne Hatwell and Sam Leith again, and it had been far too long in both cases.) Huge thanks to the organisers for inviting me. Seemed to be a very vibrant and well run affair, and I enjoyed the discussion immensely.
The conference was the occasion for writing this piece (What became of literary blogging?) for the Guardian last Monday. It was the subs at the Guardian who framed the piece thus: I hoped that blogs could provide an outlet for the serious criticism missing from the mainstream media. I didn't reckon on Twitter but it doesn't give a terrible sense of my thinking.
Principally, I wanted to make the observation that whilst the book blogosphere had thrown up some fine writers (those I mention at the foot of the piece, but several others could be cited - and, indeed, the comments thread, whilst occasionally inane and dyspeptic as per Guardian comments threads, throws up some fine examples) it had not thrown many good literary critics. This is simply a fact.
Blogging has been around a good decade now, and the online writing revolution has touched every sort of genre and created well-known writers of many stripes. We've had the rise of fan-fiction (E.L. James), paranormal fiction (Amanda Hocking), women's fiction (Anna Bell) and erotica (James, and H.M. Ward); we've had food writers (Jack Monroe), political blogs (from Paul Slaine / Guido Fawkes to Richard Seymour / Lenin's Tomb) and philosophers (the rise of and rise of speculative realism and all its countless blogs and forums) all hugely affecting their respective fields; we've had wonderful book bloggers (like John Self) arrive on the scene and add sparkle and insight to the book review pages of the MSM; and we've had exciting Multi-Author Blogs (like 3:AM, Berfrois, LARB) arriving to show how broad-based, intelligent and informative online writing can be. All this shows the wonderful diversity and energy of online writing. Most all examples are to be welcomed. But despite the fine work of a few (and I should mention Dan Green here because Dan has worked hard over the years to use blogging as a means to write seriously about books and literature) good literary critical writers have not turned up in droves. I wish I was wrong about this. But it's a fact.
I'm deliberately not defining literary criticism above because by not defining it I'm hoping to keep the category as wide open as possible; I'm not being proscriptive here: if you think it's literary criticism, that's good enough for me. I think most would agree that book reviewing and literary criticism are very different (even if they can be on a continuum). And we all know the difference between a Guardian review and an essay in the LRB and a book by Gérard Genette. Many fine book reviewers have emerged from the blogosphere, but I don't think we can hide from the fact that no serious literary critics have emerged, maintaining a blog, doing innovative work and gaining a following for that work as we have seen in plenty of other fields.
Blog: THE WAY TUGEAU
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Time seems to be just running away this long awaited spring! Part of the race for CATugeau Agency was run in NYC recently…the first visitation trip Christy and I have done together. Thank you to the wonderfully welcoming editors and AD’s at Penguin Group’s Grosset & Dunlap, Dial and Viking for letting us practice on you! :) I think Christy thinks this is all FUN! and I think I agree.
We started with a very special, fun lunch at Westville Hudson with our four NYC artists. They surprised Christy with a silver pin with two cats sitting together! So perfect and she wore it all day! Thank you CAT gals…
left to right: Melissa Iwai, Lisa Fields, Christy Tugeau Ewers (coral sweater), Chris Tugeau (me!), Heather Maione, Nina Mata
The next day we started BEA at the early Children’s Breakfast…always special and inspirational. Then we ‘walked the halls’ seeing publishing people from out of town, and literally bumping into others from ‘town.’ Always fun. We loved seeing so many great children’s books displayed (though I might have picked up a couple of ‘advance’ adult books too!) We passed out lots of our BEA BOOK BRAG SHEET too. Here it is for you to peruse as well. We’re very proud! Hope you’ll check them out at your local bookstore.
So now the follow-ups are done, and we’re settling back into the ‘day to day.’ Oh I almost forgot - Christy and 6 other of our artists have a new email Blast about ready for June’s “Adopt a CAT Month!” How perfect is that? come back soon to see that one…. and of course, we wish all a HAPPY FATHER’S DAY! image by Michelle Hazelwood
"Sorrow is nothing but worn out joy..."
Nice review of one of my favourite films here:
"Old Joy is a movie where nothing and everything happens. It is perfectly paced, wonderfully acted and incredibly shot. The score by Yo La Tengo is also extraordinary and it helps the movie feel so sacred..."
When I got into bed last night, perched my glasses on my nose and opened my book I exclaimed, “I forgot to blog today!” This has never happened to me before, forgetting to blog. It has always been a conscious decision when I don’t. But between being distracted by the arrival of the thing I had to pre-order and it feeling like a Friday because today is Thanksgiving, well, my brain just got all confused.
Bookman and I will be celebrating Thanksgiving today with phone calls to family who are all far away and with our own “traditional” feast. Ever since Bookman and I went vegan back in 1993 we’ve had enchiladas with a side of brown rice and refried beans. It wasn’t even until a few years ago that I had tasted Tofurkey, and yuck, was it terrible, too salty and bland for my taste.
While we don’t have a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner, we do have pumpkin pie. I love pumpkin pie. That humble orange squash baked into a graham cracker crust, sweetened with agave, and spiced with cloves, nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon, definitely something to be thankful for. Even better is the pumpkin was grown in my own garden.
That I have a house with a garden where I can grow my own pumpkin is a blessing for which I am grateful. The older I get the more I realize that it is the small and simple things in life for which I am most thankful. It’s a roof over my head, food on the table, a garden, a husband who loves me, family, friends, a good book, a cat on my lap. This is what happiness is made of and it is right and good to dedicate a day to being thankful and celebrating these things.
My thanks and best wishes to all of you, whether you are celebrating Thanksgiving today or not.
“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” ~Meister Eckhart
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Today marks the 8 year anniversary of the day that I started my blog. Here's what I said in my very first post:
"Hi! I'm Jen Robinson. Here are three things that you should know about me.
- I love stories, especially in book form, and most especially mysteries, thrillers, and children's books. To that end, I would like to offer support to the people who produce stories (writers and publishes), and offer ideas to the people who love stories.
- I strongly believe that all children should be given the opportunity to learn to love books and reading for pleasure. I'll be on the lookout for suggestions for parents to help raise children who read, inspirational success stories, and literacy news and resources.
- I think that many adults could benefit from reading children's books, too. I think that if more adults read children's books they would a) find them enjoyable, b) help to support the children's book industry (thus bolstering item 1 above), and c) offer tremendous validation to children (thus supporting item 2 above).
I'm saddened by the declining rate of reading for pleasure in the our adult population in the U.S. I'm even more saddened when I hear of children growing up illiterate, or literate, but too busy to take time to read. I've started this blog as a tiny step to do something about that. Thanks for reading! More to follow..."
And more has followed. This is post #2697 at Jen Robinson's Book Page. Typepad says that I have >800,000 page views and >10,000 comments (including my own responses to other people's comments). I now have my own snazzy logo, designed by the talented Sarah Stevenson.
I'm involved with the Cybils, Kidlitosphere Central, KidLitCon, and the Children's Book Review Wiki. I've participated in dozens of Carnivals of Children's Literature. Pretty good, for someone who's not much of a joiner. I've participated in these things because in the Kidlitosphere, I've found my people, and I love interacting with them. The community of children's and young adult book bloggers has become something of an extended family for me, and this makes me very happy.
I'm still reviewing children's and young adult books, and sharing literacy news and tips. In many ways, my blog hasn't changed much over the years. I think the two biggest changes are:
- Now that I have a child, my literacy tips and musings, as well as some of my reviews, include a more personal component. I've been sharing my daughter's literacy milestone, for example, and the books that she loves (even when I don't love them myself). This may make the blog a bit less "professional" (if it ever was), but I think it adds something, too.
- When I run across blog posts or news articles about literacy, I no longer post about them directly on my blog. These days I share those things out on Twitter (and, to a lesser extent, Facebook) right away. Then I round up the links once a week in a single blog post, without any commentary. I'm not sure whether this is a good change. I don't discuss these stories as much as I would like these days. On the other hand, I'm able to share more of them, and with a broader audience. So there are pros and cons. But really, it doesn't matter whether it's good or not, because this is what I can manage right now. And if there's one thing I've learned in 8 years of blogging, it's that you have to do what you can, and not let the things that you can't do stress you out.
As I said in my first post, I am a person who loves books, and who believes strongly that kids should have the chance to love them, too. But I'm also a person who chose to go into engineering and start a software firm (from which I make my living). Even though I chose a different career path, this blog allows me to do something constructive with my love for books and literacy. For that, I am very grateful. And I expect that I'll be here blogging for a long time. Whether you've been with me for the whole 8 years, or are just popping in today for the first time, or anywhere in between, thanks so much for reading.
© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate.
Many thanks to everyone who participated in this month's blog series at readergirlz! I had a lot of fun gathering candid and heartfelt responses from authors. Lorie Ann asked me to post my own list, so here goes nothing:
7 Things You Don't Know About Me
1) I've been writing stories and songs since birth, practically.
2) I am capable of charming squirrels out of trees.
3) There is no television show I have loved more completely from start to finish than Leverage.
4) I love word play.
5) Synchronicity and causality are recurring themes in my life.
6) Chances are, I'm shorter than you.
7) I project. In more ways than one.
So there you have it! I hope March has been lovely for all of you. Don't forget to mark your calendars for Operation Teen Book Drop 2014, which will be happening in just a few weeks on April 17th. Stay tuned to the readergirlz blog, Facebook, and Twitter to learn how you can participate and #rockthedrop!
Of Time and the City is a 2008 documentary collage film directed by Terence Davies. The film has Davies recalling his life growing up in Liverpool in the 1950s and 1960s, using newsreel and documentary footage supplemented by his own commentary voiceover and contemporaneous and classical music soundtracks. The film premiered at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival where it received rave reviews... (wikipedia)
By: Mark Thwaite,
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One day last summer, a visitor came. Greedily devouring my bookshelves with their eyes, finally they landed on the only place appropriate...
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Last month I was visiting a son’s family in Cleveland OH and we visited our favorite place there The Cleveland Museum of Art. Even the 3 young grandkids love this fabulous building and their interactive kids room! just for grandma’s too! The show we went to see was Van Gogh “Repetitions.” (it’s on till May 26th if you can get there)
I got thinking about how we learn from practice as I gazed at this versions and variations on one of his own compositions and subjects. We see differently and deeper as we experience a thing, person or place repeatedly. Studying the differences and similarities between several of his repeated works gives us a new window into the mind and eye of this ‘well known’ artist.
On returning home to Williamsburg I was lucky enough to catch the last day of a small Caravaggio show at our own Muscarelle Museum of Art here on the campus of Wm and Mary. Caravaggio has always blown my mind’s eye anyway with his beyond realistic talents, but this too presented a repetition study of two similar paintings that might have been both by the artist himself…or not. Two unsigned versions of ‘Saint Francis in Meditation’. The viewer, after following the studies and exercises they presented, was to come to their own conclusion! The show also spotlighted the very fine and famous Caravaggio ‘The Capitoline Fortune Teller’ which was a true treat.
I couldn’t help but to notice the message I was to share with my artists and all of you readers! REPETITION = an intentional practice to learn and expand the opportunity to deeply know a subject. Illustrators of course conceive, sketch and revise then paint and maybe revise again on a regular basis. We forget perhaps that famous artists walked this same path over and over that we all walk. Dive in! Deeper! and again! Get to REALLY know your subjects to bring them more fully to the world to view!
my artist son Jeremy Tugeau and grandkids at the Cleveland Museum of Art new atrium…
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I was delighted to learn that a book I read and very much enjoyed earlier this year, Braiding Sweetgrass, has won the Sigurd Olson nature writing award. I was so pleased to learn this and even more pleased to learn that a local press, Milkweed, had published the book. Why I didn’t pay attention to this fact when I was reading it I can’t say, but there it is. Another two Milkweed published books are on the PEN Literary Awards longlist. So exciting!
Now, off topic. Bookman and I have been watching the new TV version of the 1996 film Fargo. The TV version is even more twisted than the movie and stars Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman. The TV show takes place mostly in Bemidji, a city in northern Minnesota not far from the the headwaters of the Mississippi River. I’ve never been there but I’d like to go sometime because in a few steps you can walk across the Mississippi and they have a thing for Paul Bunyan and his blue ox up there. I have had a fondness for Paul Bunyan and Babe ever since I was a kid and my family went camping up in far northern California and stopped at Trees of Mystery. There they have a giant statue of Paul and Babe and Paul used to talk (there was someone inside talking through a microphone to the people down below). We did not know Paul talked and as we stood waiting for my Dad to get the park entry tickets Paul starting talking to my mom and darn near scared the pants off her.
Now I’m getting off my off topic!
Back to the Fargo TV show. When the movie came out in 1996 I had only lived in Minnesota for two years. I thought the movie was hilarious, especially the way they talked, because I knew people who talked like that. I couldn’t understand why Minnesotans didn’t think it was very funny. Now, as of July 1, 2014, I will have lived in Minnesota for 20 years. Watching Fargo I often find it difficult to hear any sort of accent. Sure, I can hear it sometimes, we don’t generally say things like “fella” in the Twin Cities and our “o’s” aren’t so elongated. But half the time when I am watching I find myself thinking, gosh, they don’t sound funny like they did in the movie. And then I think, oh no, I probably sound just like them! Ask my mom in California and she will tell you that I do, that I have sounded like that for quite some time now. To me though, I sound just like I always have.
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