Tag Archives: reading 2008

And also…

Book #23 – The World of Edward Gorey by Clifford Ross and Karen Wilkin

Picked this up on the way into Barnes & Noble last week. (That’s a half-truth. I saw it in the entryway, but a guy was politely holding the door for me so I went in, browsed, and double-backed.) I didn’t know much about Gorey other than I enjoy his work. It’s broke into three parts: Clifford Ross’s interview with Gorey, Karen Wilkin’s analysis of Gorey’s work, and selection of art plates. I find it amusing that Gorey’s own analysis of his influences is some what slip-shod, as most analyses by authors and artists of their own works are, while Wilkin is concerned with pinning down what piece has come from where. Nice bit of art to have around.

If music be the food of love…

Book #22 – Shakespeare in the Cinema by Stephen Buhler

I must recuse myself on two counts:

First, in my efforts to finish reading thirty books by the end of the year, I decided to *finish* reading this book. I had started it a while back (over a year ago) and was about halfway through. That I originally put this book down halfway through in no indication of how good or bad it is. It’s just something I do with books. I start reading, I might put them down and start reading something else. It’s not that the first book wasn’t interesting, I’m just fickle in this. The beauty of nonfiction is that I can pick up the book again and not worry about how much of the narrative I’ve forgotten.

Second, Dr. Buhler was one of my favorite professors in college. I took two classes taught by him. The first was an experimental two-section class called "Stories and the Human Experience." It was the best class about writing that I ever had that didn’t include the act of fiction writing (per se). The second was a class on Milton. As part of this class on Milton, Dr. Buhler performed his blues rendition of Paradise Lost. No, that’s not any less lit-geeky than it sounds, but that’s the thing about Dr. Buhler. He’s a lit-geek, not some hoity-toity Literature-With-A-Capital-L teacher. Therefore, a book he wrote on the cinema side of performing Shakespeare is fun and conversational and slightly irreverent. It is inclusive of the first 100 years or so of Shakespearean cinema and includes a survey of non-English language productions as well. Good stuff, if you’re a lit-geek.

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I forgot to mention last post, I started a new blog. Why? There’s a good deal of music I enjoy that garners blank stares from people. Therefore, I introduce Obscure Music Monday. I have a feeling that it will occasionally be not-so-obscure and maybe even be Obscure Movie (Media?) Monday, but there it is.

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Now back to NaNo. 27,500 and counting. Working with an outline is a good thing.

Stupid giraffe…

That which the ASU kid might find interesting:
Sunlight has more powerful influence on ocean circulation and climate than North American ice sheets

That which is behind the annoying “Migraines Cut Breast Cancer Risk by 30%” headline:
Science-Based Medicine » Breast cancer and migraines–what is risk, anyway?

And that which is the last you’ll hear of politics from me for probably another four years or so (unless someone does something stupid, really stupid): Election maps

Had an interesting conversation with Eric about this:
Intentional Action and Asperger Syndrome | Psychology Today Blogs
I viewed the intentions of Joe in the Aspergerian light, but not because I have Asperger syndrome. (Well, I probably don’t have Asperger syndrome. If I do, I’m ‘girly’ enough to make it work for me…) More likely, I’m just too literal-minded, especially when it comes to reading fictional “probes.” This could be why I generally hate reading allegories and satires. It is also possible that the inclusion of food and drink skewed my thought process. If I am modeling Joe’s behavior, it is after my own in a similar situation. If you’ve ever been in a mall and really thirsty, you don’t really care if the smoothie comes in a spiffy cup, costs a dollar more, or requires a Faustian contract. To me, Joe wanted a Mega-Smoothie and that was all there was to it.

Speaking of being thirsty:
Rice students hope BioBeer can fight disease – USATODAY.com:

BioBeer — a more consumer-friendly name than the original Frankenbeer moniker — will be brewed using yeast genetically modified to produce resveratrol.

While I’ll be inclined to try this product anyway, if it ever hits the shelves, I would gleefully purchase it if it were called Frankenbeer.

And speaking of reading:
Book #21 – The Kidnapper by Robert Bloch: Books
I had heard so many good things about this book. That it was suspenseful and stomach-churning. That it was the book that Robert Bloch found to be his most disturbing. This from the man who gave us Psycho! I was pretty happy when I nabbed a copy at Bookmans. Now I could see what everyone was going on about! And…I just don’t get it. I feel like a kid that’s been told by all her uncles, aunts, and cousins that there’s a giraffe in the closet only to find out that there is no giraffe and that everyone was in on the joke. (No, that’s not based on a true story, but it is the sort of thing my extended family would do.) Maybe this is just a case of having encountered better in other books and other mediums and not being able to appreciate what Bloch wrought. But even on a technical level, I found the writing to be fairly mundane.

My own writing is going along.  I’m a day and a half ahead of where I should be for a 1667 pace.  Couldn’t get going yesterday, but I hope for a better today.

I could enjoy temporary tattoos too much.

Book #20 –To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This is one of the many Great American Classics that I managed never to read despite honors English classes in high school and a BA in English in college.  I know it might seem strange to compare this book to two lesser books in the great classics scheme, but I will do so. I’ve never held with the notion of literature existing in a vacuum or only in the context of the time it was written. While reading, I couldn’t help but make comparisons to Berent’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Both are Southern novels (though Midnight is actually nonfiction) and both deal with crime and the court system. Both are filled with Southern peculiarities, though the primary difference is that Berent’s is from the perspective of an outsider and is an order of magnitude more tabloid in its treatment. (Not saying that Midnight is strongly tabloid at all.) Both are exquisitely written. The other novel that kept coming to mind is Alice Sebold’s Almost Moon. Yeah, I know, I’m comparing a Classic with a book that no one likes. One of the things that Sebold does well with Moon is that she doesn’t look away from the nastiness that being human can be. Lee doesn’t either. For example, Mrs. Dubose is not pleasant and Scout’s attitudes toward her are rather cruel. And that’s a good thing. No character should ever be entirely sweetness and light (or pure evil for that matter).

As for the Issues of the book, much can and has been said. Honestly, I thought it got a little too didactic at the end instead of continuing to show attitudes through the behavior of the characters. As with many books, I wish I had read it earlier in life. Scout’s a great tom-boy character and I would have appreciated her more at a time in my life when I needed her.  Great book though.

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So, ten more books in two months to make my goal. Yeah, right. Especially considering that next month is NaNoWriMo. To that end, I’m giving up on Divine Fire rewrites and using this week to prepare for writing Fuel Eater. Among other things. There will also be some gaming. Maybe I’ll rewrite the short story that I really should send out by the end of the year (so says my 1001 Things list). And, of course, much Halloween prep and revelry.

I volunteered to put together the prize goodies bag for league’s costume contest tomorrow and Thursday nights. I hit the dollar store for some skull-shaped containers and silly goodies. I’ll top them off with yet-to-be-bought chocolate candies. And I will be dressing up tomorrow as well. My pirate regalia is pretty much set, aside from a few minor details.  Still need a pumpkin and to decorate outside for Friday.  I hope there’s enough kids in the neighborhood that will trick or treat.

Blogging some Bradbury

Book #19 – The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

It doesn’t have the wistful nostalgia of Dandelion Wine or creepy tension of Something Wicked This Way Comes, but it’s still a lovely little book. There are many Spirit of Christmas stories, but very few Spirit of Halloween stories. This is certainly one of them. Bradbury leads a group of boys (of course) through the autumnal customs of many cultures. As Bradbury puts it:

Hold the dark holiday in your palms,
Bite it, swallow it and survive,

And be glad, ah so glad you are…alive!

What more reason do you need to celebrate?

If I finish To Kill a Mockingbird before the end of the month, I might crack my gigantic Bradbury anthology.

3 Months, 12 Books Left…

Book #18 – Rope Burns by F.X. Toole

My girl’s club membership card is going to be revoked soon. According to my "Stupid Book Facts" spreadsheet I’ve only read two books by women thus far this year and here I am admitting that I just finished a book of stories about boxing. I’m reading Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird next, that’s got to help balance it all, right? Yeah, probably not. Oh well.

From the back of the book:
"F.X. Toole was a trainer and licensed cut man in the world of professional boxing. He was seventy when Rope Burns, his first book, was published, and had been writing and battling rejection letters for forty years. He died two years later, in 2002."

Something to keep in mind next time I’m I bemoan being in this profession a mere 10-ish years with more paper incoming than outgoing.

My edition of this book was put out to coincide with he release of the movie Million Dollar Baby. Toole wrote the short story/novella and it’s included in this collection. And while it is a very good story (and the movie was faithful to it), "Rope Burns," for which the collection was originally entitled, is the crown jewel of the book. Toole weaves the story of a black Olympic-hopeful boxer and his white trainer against the background of the LA riots.

Toole’s writing is solid. He knows his stuff and he does a wonderful job of putting actions into words. From a craft point of view, I’m going to spend some time in the future picking apart his fight scenes. I’m terrible with action and there’s much to learn. My one criticism of the collection was that some of the details surrounding the fight business are repetitive. It was a relief to hit "Rope Burns" which is more about the fighters and less about the fights.

Braaaiiins… Better to use them than to eat them.

Book #17 – Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie by Wade Davis

There was some reason, about two or three years ago, that research into Haitian zombies was important. Can’t remember now why, but it’s still an interesting subject and one that intrigued me before I got on a research kick. Davis seems to be "the" guy in this field. I watched The Serpent and the Rainbow ages ago and was fascinated by the concept that there might be a non-supernatural aspect to zombies; that they might actually exist and be a useful tool within a society. Unfortunately, the film goes rather stupidly supernatural at its end and undermines any credibility. Still, I was surprised to find that the film was based on a book. Or at least shared the same title as a book. I eventually tracked down that book, as well as this one both by Davis, through PaperbackSwap.

Several things that struck me about Davis’ research. He’s very conscientious about cataloging what’s in "zombie powder" and how it might be administered, but he seems to miss a few points that play into the behavioral aspect of zombie-dom. First, that even though someone might be able to survive a fairly nasty neurotoxin as well as being interred for a length of time, brain damage is probably likely to occur. That a zombie forgets his family, past, etc. shouldn’t be surprising. Second, Davis related the myth that salt can restore a zombie to his previous levels of cognition, breaking the spell, if you will, or at least enraging the monster. Despite not finding any reasonable explanation for why this should be, salt is nevertheless withheld from the zombie. Now, it is extremely unlikely that all salt is withheld. A man can’t live without salt. But let’s think about being denied extraneous salt and being made to work out doors in a hot humid atmosphere. I’ve been mildly dehydrated and probably suffered from slight hyponatremia while watching ultimate frisbee in Florida. About all I was inclined to do by the end of the afternoon was lay in a tent and listen to Renzo heckle. Withholding salt might just be a way of keeping a man pliable.

I’m also surprised that they (academia, historians, popular media, whomever) seemed to think that if zombies could be made, they were being made in a random fashion. Random fear-inducing behaviors really don’t go over well in societies. Davis does a good job of showing how the practice is tolerated within Vodoun and Haitian society. How such a seemingly strange and terrible practice can be an accepted part of a society is valuable to me as a world builder.