Category Archives: books

I may have to read Glenn Beck’s book.

When I was in the drugstore yesterday, browsing in the books and magazines aisle (I bought Game of Thrones in anticipation of the TV series, which I’d rejected a couple of times previously as too florid, but, as you can perhaps gather, I’ve lost all control of my bookish impulses.), I picked up the Overton Window and read from the middle, in which our hero makes out with our heroine and feels a passion unlike any he’s felt before, and then they talk about the tax code and go to the office where a meeting about the plot to ruin America was held.

I love it. It’s not as good as Ayn Rand–all hail the release of Atlas Shrugged Part I, which I will be attempting to convince my mother to see despite wretched reviews–but it’ll do. I’m not sure what it is about the fictionalization of these politics that make them suddenly not just palatable but delicious. These books are infinitely more revealing than their corresponding nonfiction in that they show us the kind of superhero the author imagines s/he’d be (or is?). It makes me feel sort of tender toward the writer–which Rand would find disgusting; I’m not sure whether Beck cares either way. There’s a hyperseriousness to these stories that makes someone think it’s perfectly appropriate to make one book (a long book, but still) into a movie trilogy. And that leads to this trailer:

I wish very, very much that I could tell you Glenn Beck wrote that poem, but no. It was Rudyard Kipling.

Do you have a favorite political-tract-as-novel? What exciting and strange propaganda am I missing?

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Contest

I don’t think of myself as a big DISCARDER, a la the new header (once again courtesy of Al; thanks Al!), but in the face of my impending move across the country, some culling’s become necessary. So, how many pennies are in this jar?

eight years worth of pennies!

Guess the best and you can have your choice of three-five of the books from this list (i.e., I can get rid of three-five of the books from that list without feeling like such a discarder), and the jug, if you so desire. I’ll send stuff anywhere in the U.S., and outside of it if you want to pay shipping.

The contest is closed. There were 2,846 pennies and one dime. Thanks to all the guessers.

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I’ll never be a sci fi aficionado.

This is something I realize by degrees and then forget about. The idea that I’m just a few Philip K. Dick* novels short of total mastery of all alien planets and potential futures is alluring. I spent a couple years in high school reading Dune and Sirens of Titan** and William Gibson and… mostly fantasy, actually, which, I think my refusal to care much about the boundaries between the two, much less the distinction between hard and soft sci fi and the semantic battle between “sci fi” and “science fiction,” which may or may not exist only on the internet, is indicative of the ridiculousness of my aspirations to thorough familiarity with the genre… but these books and Star Trek and Farscape*** have taken up enough of my time, and been notable enough to the people around me, that I start to feel the tug of obligation towards the supposed canon and the Important books. I haven’t read any Arthur C. Clarke novels, for example, though he’s responsible for one of my favorite quotations. (Ah, I didn’t know it was a “law”. Number three.) And this is how I end up carrying around a copy of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy.

This post was born in my head when I decided I had no desire to read 800 pages of mostly dialogue like

Hokum! Royal Governors, Kings–what’s the difference? The Empire is always shot through with a certain amount of politics and with different men pulling this way and that. Governors have rebelled, and, for that matter, Emperors have been deposed, or assassinated before this. But what has that to do with the Empire itself? (pg. 42, the first one I opened to)

and wondered why I’d bought the book in the first place, but just now, leafing through it, I was not unintrigued. I’m putting it in the bag of books to sell, before I become attached to the idea of wading through what appears to be a lot of unfun for the sake of knowing what happens, again.

*I highly recommend Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
**I highly recommend Sirens of Titan.
***I highly recommend Farscape.

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The Exceptions

I am not only reading what you tell me to. This started small and snowballed, justifications accompanying each slip.

1) Periodicals – The New Yorker, The Atlantic, One Story, Electric Literature, sundries – They’re not books. And if I don’t keep up with them, I’ll drown at my desk. The drown-at-my-desk factor ended up seriously irritating, leading me to turn from proper magazines to more minimal journals, and then to single issues (The Agriculture Reader #3, The Sonora Review with David Foster Wallace tribute) that weren’t, for me, periodical at all, kind of looked like books, and threatened to drown me more than books only insofar as they’re stacked on the desk instead of the bookshelf.

2) Children’s books – Mitchell is Moving – Are for children.

3) Comic books and comic book-like books – Buffy Season 8, Y: The Last Man, Kingdom Come, Gravitation, Northlanders, Everyday Matters, Fables, some Kabuki: The Alchemy before I lost the bag it was in, The Invisibles – Sometimes they’re periodicals. When they’re not, they’re full of (hopefully) pretty pictures and quickly digestible. In the case of the Invisibles, all 59 issues (approx. 1400 pages) of them. Although I may have given some less attention than I could’ve because they were pissing me off.

4) Freebies – AM/PM, Puro Border, Adderall Diaries, Tongue – If I don’t read them right away, the donees will know and cry. Although 2666 also falls into this category and I can’t quite face it.

5) Plays – Southern Baptist Sissies – Aren’t supposed to be read anyway.

6) Quickly digestible books – Sookie Stackhouse novels, The IHOP Papers – Anything that happens without my having to leave the house midway through doesn’t count. Robin Hobb may be on the horizon. They look a little chunky for me to make it through before I want a bagel, though.

7) Poetry – Letters to Wendy’s – Comes in bite-sized portions.

8) Plane reading – Columbine – The only rules that matter on the plane are issued by flight attendants.

9) Reading out loud – Infinite Jest, Sense and Sensibility back at the birth of the blog – Is there something wrong with how I’m reading/choosing books, that I love Infinite Jest so much more than almost everything?

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Words mean things.

Can anyone explain to me how Letters to Wendy’s is non-fiction? I was getting tired of it, as fiction, because not only is the letter-writer not a specific person, he’s no person likely to ever exist.

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make a header and get books

The blog could use a new header. And in keeping with the principle that if I really love my unread books, I’ll find them again, I’m giving three away to whoever makes me one. It must be prettier and less boring than the current one, which (sorry, header!) should not be terribly difficult. 770 x 200 pixels or scalable/cropable. In exchange, you can have three of these books and credit, which will surely lead to fame and fortune. Runners-up can pick one book.

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gift card maximization

I have rules about buying books: I’m not allowed to buy books, I’m not allowed to buy books for more than $5, I’m not allowed to buy books for more than $5 unless they’re from a small press, I’m not allowed to buy books for over $5 from a major press unless I’m going to read them immediately.

My bookshelf looks like this, only less blurry:

blurry bookshelfI’ve read, generously, 75% of the books in it. So the book-buying rules are an attempt to increase that percentage.

But my ex-boss likes to go through her wallet over drinks, during which we discovered that she had gift cards she’d been carrying around for months. I’m unclear on why she didn’t use them, even after asking, but since they soon became my gift cards, I didn’t press. (I don’t give Borders or Barnes & Noble my money. When they already have somebody else’s money, I’m less scrupulous.)

It took about an hour per card coming up with the perfect combination to bring me within a dollar of $25, but it was totally worth it. B&N will let you buy used with a gift card online (and isn’t it cute that gift cards are basically cash with subtracted value? why did we agree to this?), which yielded: Joshua Ferris’ Then We Came to the End, Natsume Sōseki’s I Am a Cat, and Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren. I was sad not to have the introduction William Gibson wrote for later editions of Dhalgren, but otherwise pleased with myself. One way that the internet is not like stores: I Am a Cat is written from the perspective of a cat. I assumed the cat would not be very verbose, but I was wrong. Book is nearly two inches thick and comprised of three volumes. I am intimidated by the cat.

Borders was not having my wish to buy used with a gift card, but it did have a little box for promo codes that I dutifully asked the internet for to save myself $5. (They then calculated tax after I’d already given them billing information, by which point I was sufficiently worn down to pay them $2.48, which is more than a dollar. Mea culpa.) Resulting haul: Joshua Beckman’s Take It, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s The Difference Engine, Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, and Matthew Lewis’ The Monk. I appreciate the thriftiness of Dover Thrift Editions. And the use of a detail from the “hell” panel from Heironymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights for the cover of The Monk (behind a figure of a monk), which I have a feeling is no more dramatic than the book itself, if weirder and more serious.

Anyway, poll to follow on the gift card books.

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