"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Friday, July 15, 2011

Neil Gaiman is NOT a pencil-necked weasel

Says your mama. Or the mama of the Majority Leader of the Minnesota State House of Representatives. At the Huffington Post.

Everyone be nice. It's Minnesota.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Gatsby wasn't that difficult, was it?

There is, apparently, an "intermediate reader's" version of The Great Gatsby, the great, and short, novel by Fitzgerald.

Roger Ebert is incensed: "There is no purpose in 'reading' The Great Gatsby unless you actually read it. Fitzgerald's novel is not about a story. It is about how the story is told. Its poetry, its message, its evocation of Gatsby's lost American dream, is expressed in Fitzgerald's style--in the precise words he chose to write what some consider the great American novel. Unless you have read them, you have not read the book at all. You have been imprisoned in an educational system that cheats and insults you by inflicting a barbaric dumbing-down process. You are left with the impression of having read a book, and may never feel you need return for a closer look." The Chicago Sun Times blog.

And, "Any high-school student who cannot read The Great Gatsby in the original cannot read."

"When he later found out that the Tarner edition was actually for foreign students, he was unrepentant: 'Why not have ESL learners begin with Young Adult novels? Why not write books with a simplified vocabulary? Why eviscerate Fitzgerald? Why give a false impression of Jay Gatsby?'" From the Guardian.

I have to agree here. Of all books, it hardly seems that Gatsby needs to be simplified, even for ESL students. Just read slower. It's a short book. The vocabulary isn't obscure. They can always turn Infinite Jest into a Reader's Digest book, haha. Ebert makes the single point needed here, that unless you actually read the book, you have not read the book. So why pretend? Might as well read magazine articles or lit essays. What is the real goal here, other than making some money off a text in the public domain by creating one's own version of it as a textbook? I don't know how damaging it is to readers, I suspect not very, but it does seem pointless and dumb, and possibly barbaric, as Ebert says.

Incidentally, "barbaric" was originally used to describe people who did not speak the local language, but whose speech apparently sounded like "bar bar bar." I highly doubt that the ESL students involved actually wanted anyone to rewrite an English language classic in babytalk. So, the intermediate version would, in the original usage, be pandering to their presumptive barbarism, rather than actually barbaric.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Book Blurbs on Amazon

Amazon is offering extra promotion to authors who will blurb books from its imprints.

Amazon Publishing has already shown little interest in industry traditions, and The Observer has now learned how Amazon is looking to revolutionize the process of getting author blurbs: provide a review for a book on an Amazon imprint and Amazon will give the reviewer — and his or her book — extra promotion as a thank you.

At the NY Observer.

Opinions are divided seemingly along the lines of those who benefit from this and those who don't, judging by the two agents quoted in the article. Have to see how it all turns out before deciding, but I think it may backfire on the books blurbed. People won't believe the blurbs, eventually. Kind of like the 5-star reviews on Amazon now, many of which seem written by authors' friends and relatives. I know some readers dismiss the 5-star reviews unless they are particularly in-depth.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Book Frisbee

Hilarious book reviews from Amazon, via the Publishers Weekly blog.

"It is an excellent candidate for book frisbee on a sunny afternoon in the park."

But while you're at it, please do not overlook the reviews for the Steering Wheel Laptop Desk, also on Amazon.

"Thank you Wheelmate for providing a big breasted woman with the support she needs whilst driving! Goodbye to those pesty backaches. Hello to well rested breasts after a long road trip."

Sunday, July 3, 2011

And the future of books is...

Paperbacks that are smaller than e-readers. Called flipbacks, they have small, landscape-oriented pages printed on fine paper, to take up less space. At Abebooks.