Monday, July 20, 2009

Vladimir Nabokov discusses “Lolita" - Boing Boing

Vladimir Nabokov discusses “Lolita" - via Boing Boing

Part 2:

Ebook Reader Roundup, part 1: Devices

Let's start by looking at the dedicated reading devices . . .

Kindle 1: Here is my original Kindle review. I’d also add that the more I think about it, the more I am opposed to carrying an extra device just for books. It says a lot about the coolness factor of the iPod Touch that I’m willing to carry an extra thing around (and I know that it is a multi-purpose device—I just happen to use it primarily for books). It also helps that it is very small.

Sony Reader: I’ve only ever seen one and I didn’t really read anything on it, but I flipped through a book on it. From what I could tell, though, it has many of the drawbacks of the Kindle. Primarily, to me, the fact that it’s only good for reading.

However, I could see my parents using something like a Kindle or Sony Reader. Particularly my dad: he likes to read newspapers (currently reads some online, some in paper) and books and mainly does so at home.

Time for some multi-purpose devices . . .

Palm Treo: I have been reading on my Treo for years. My current one is a 700p (I'm looking to upgrade, but can't pull the trigger on the Pre yet). The biggest selling point for this approach is that I always have a book with me, because I always have my phone with me. Since the eReader mobile site launched, I don't even need my computer—I can purchase and download directly to my phone. The downsides are the very small screen (which doesn't bother me, but I know it matters to many people) and the poor text resolution (which I didn't notice until I started reading on the iPod, but I'm getting ahead of myself).

iPod Touch: My new favorite thing—so pretty, so shiny. As I just mentioned, the screen on this thing is just gorgeous: it's big and both text and images look great on it. Also, there are so many great books and book apps available for the iPod/iPhone—and many of them are free! Makes my little heart flutter just thinking about it. By far my favorite reading device to date. It's also great for social networking (I use the Facebook and Tweetdeck apps), and the browser is quite nice. But are there any downsides? Yes. For one, I'm at the mercy of wifi availability since I have an iPod and not an iPhone. Also, (again, since it's not the iPhone) it's an extra thing to carry around.

Coming soon . . .
Ebook Reader Roundup, part 2: Apps

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Judging a Book by Its Cover: Columbine

Designer Henry Sene Yee blogs about designing the cover for Columbine (recently reviewed by Beth).
I thought that like 9/11, this was a regular day in the life of a regular high school. I wanted to depict the banality of school life . . .

Book Blogger Appreciation Week : September 14-18, 2009

Book Blogger Appreciation Week : September 14-18, 2009

Check it out: there will be awards, prizes, and giveaways. Nominate your favorite book blog; follow BBAW on twitter; be a part of the book blogging community.

I think I need this book

Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook
(Reviewed by Unclutterer)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Egyptologist, by Arthur Phillips

The Egyptologist, by Arthur Phillips, is canny, smart, funny, and a bit heartbreaking. It's really nicely written. It's an epistolary novel with two deeply complicated, unreliable main narrators (though they are not writing to each other). One character is Ralph Trilipush, an Egyptologist working in 1922 to excavate the tomb of the (possibly false) pharaoh Atum-hadu (whose erotic poetry RT has already translated and published)--he is digging in Egypt right near where Howard Carter is about to discover the tomb of Tutankhamen. The second main character is an Australian private detective; he is in a nursing home and writing in 1954 (I think) about the events of 1922 when he was hired to hunt down the Egyptologist, whom he believes was a confidence man. Each character is complicated, alternately likable and disgusting, and very worthy of attention.

The book made me think about:

1. authenticity: What makes a person acceptable and accredited, bona fide? How can we identify people who are shams, or all we all shams? To what extent can we reinvent ourselves and transcend our past history? Is identity always a sham/temporary guise?

2. academic competition/classism: The novel reveals how social class/upbringing/going to the right schools could either set one up or sink one, particularly in the 1920s, when archaeologists relied on funding and patronage through an old boys' network of sorts.

3. immortality: The novel details various ways people seek it--Egyptian pharaohs through their tombs; academics through their work; archaeologists through their finds; collectors from the items they've assembled.

4. self-invention: The book is full of retellings and reinventions--both of personal history and of historical figures/history more broadly; at the end, the two intertwine in very funny, very horrible ways.

Really, this novel is so nicely executed, in my opinion. Others have compared it to Nabokov's Pale Fire; I'll have to read that.

Author has an excerpt of the book at his Web page. Also, apparently, a new Phillips novel, The Song Is You, is out.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sock Innovation by Cookie A; Country Weekend Knits by Madeline Weston

Cookie A is a great sock designer. She brought us one of the most popular and fun sock patterns of all time--Monkey--and now she has an entire book of creative designs, Sock Innovation. She is known, I think, for doing very interesting, cool things with cables; she also has a real talent for writing patterns very clearly, which I love. Sock Innovation has socks for a range of skill levels; the hardest ones are way beyond anything I'd dare attempt at this point, but there are several I feel willing to try. In fact, I have tried one pattern, "kai-mei," and I thought it produced some very pretty socks.

At the beginning of the book, Cookie A includes design information--you can learn how to design your own socks or how to alter the sizes/patterns for the one's she's provided here. Each pattern in the book is named after someone she knows, which gives the socks personality, and which I really like. All in all, a great sock book; I highly recommend it. The irony: hardcore knitters, all of them, probably already own the book!

Madeline Weston's Country Weekend Knits is exactly the kind of knitting book I love: it presents classic styles (in this case, from the British Isles, including Aran, Gansey, Fair Isle, and Shetland lace) and a brief history of each type of knitting. The sweaters are just gorgeous, and I am longing to knit a gansey soon. Have not yet tried any patterns, but they seem very easy to follow. The photography in the book is as beautiful as the sweaters.

Columbine, by Dave Cullen

I just finished listening to the audio version of Columbine, by Dave Cullen, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Previously, people had believed certain myths about the tragedy, primarily, that Harris and Klebold were outsiders who attacked because they had been bullied and persecuted. In this work, Cullen debunks that myth and others, in part because he has had access to the crucial primary sources: the boys' diaries; the "basement tapes" in which they videotaped themselves in the weeks leading to the shootings; interviews with their friends and other students, and several survivors. The book thus presents an excellent, sad portrait of Eric's and Dylan's mental states as they worked themselves up to the act of committing mass murder. The boys, it seemed, were driven primarily by Eric, whom Cullen diagnoses (following the lead of FBI profilers and analysts) as a budding psychopath; Dylan was more prone, it seems, to suicide than mass murder, but he got swept along with Eric. The thing that was most powerful to me was how impossible it is to know anyone--even one's own children. Klebold's parents in particular (who have talked more to sources) appear as very kind, good people who were totally shocked and overwhelmed by their son's actions, and in the Harris family, Cullen traces a long series of diary entries from Eric's father that indicate the various disciplinary strategies and ideas they were implementing with him. Furthermore, the boys had had contact with various mental health and legal professionals. They should have been caught and stopped beforehand--this book definitely shows that--but I just don't think anyone (and Cullen shows this) was actually able to believe that these kids would really do what they did.

The book also traces the stories of several survivors and their parents; these tales are poignant as well because they demonstrate the complex relationship between grieving and anger, and also describe very convincingly just how hard it is to recover from trauma.

The reader of the audiobook, Don Leslie, has a commanding bass voice and he does a good job of rendering teen anger and angst and speech patterns. As always seems to happen with male readers, his voices for women sometimes climb into the falsetto and thus become grating, but Leslie is definitely a talented reader, and he made the audiobook quite compelling.

In conclusion, I'd just like to say, FIFTEEN GRAND SLAMS LOOKS GOOD ON YOU, ROGER: