Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Exotic Spices

From: ABEbooks

"The great film director's [Erich von Stroheim] first book [1935], a novel about Hungarian Gypsy life, written when he was down on his luck, wearing out his welcome in Hollywood after several costly masterpieces which were nevertheless commercial flops.
     This copy wonderfully Inscribed to fellow author Jim Tully, utilizing the entire front fly: 'Worldly goods which you possess — own you and destroy you! Love must be like the blowing wind — fresh and invigorating. Capture the mind within walls and it becomes stale. Open tents — open hearts. Let the wind blow! (Thus runs a Gypsy song.) To Jim Tully, From one bum to another! With affectionate regard, Erich von Stroheim. Please read it! Please like it! Please talk about it! Please write about it! And — please — ask your friends to buy it! (That mortgage comes due soon).'
     Though they apparently never worked on a film together, Tully and von Stroheim clearly traveled in the same circles in Hollywood [...]"

Here's an edition (1952) of Paprika from Harlequin—back before the Winnipeg publisher hit pay dirt with its tried-and-true Romance formula.

For sample pages of the book, go here...

Monday, January 30, 2012

Paper Rocks

"Last week Maurice Sendak visited The Colbert Report for a very entertaining two-part interview. After commenting on the complexity of children, the 'hopelessly vile' politician Newt Gingrich, and the abysmal current state of children’s literature, Sendak weighed in on e-books: 'Fuck them, is what I say,' griped Sendak. 'I hate those e-books. They cannot be the future. They may well be. I will be dead, I won’t give a shit.'
While the future is arguably already upon us when it comes to e-books, Sendak isn’t the only lauded author to speak out against the technology recently.
     At the Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts in Cartagena, Colombia, Jonathan Franzen spoke of his dislike of e-books as well. 'The technology I like is the American paperback edition of Freedom. I can spill water on it and it would still work! So it’s pretty good technology. And what’s more, it will work great 10 years from now. So no wonder the capitalists hate it. It’s a bad business model,' said Franzen."
—Carmel Lobello, Death+Taxes

"Maurice Sendak looks like one of his own creations: beady eyes, pointy eyebrows, the odd monsterish tuft of hair and a reputation for fierceness that makes you tip-toe up the path of his beautiful house in Connecticut like a child in a fairytale. Sendak has lived here for 40 years – until recently with his partner Eugene, who died in 2007; and now alone with his dog, Herman (after Melville), a large alsatian who barges to the door to greet us. 'He's German,' says Sendak, getting up from the table where he is doing a jigsaw puzzle of a monster from his most famous book, Where the Wild Things Are. Sotto voce, he adds: 'He doesn't know I'm Jewish.'
     At 83, Sendak is still enraged by almost everything that crosses his landscape. In the first 10 minutes of our meeting, he gets through: Ebooks: 'I hate them. It's like making believe there's another kind of sex. There isn't another kind of sex. There isn't another kind of book! A book is a book is a book.'"
— Emma Brockes, The Guardian

Thursday, January 26, 2012

"Is that a broomstick between your legs — or just a flamingo?"

"Alice trying to play croquet with a flamingo" from Lewis Carroll's
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland 
(1865) original illustration:
John Tenniel  (from: Wikimedia Commons)

"Huddled together in the chill January wind, the players listened as a PPE fresher in a black cape read the rules of the game: a Quaffle through a hoop would score 10 points, capturing the Snitch would yield a bountiful 30, and under no circumstances was there to be any 'grabbing of broomsticks.' With that, they were off: two teams, with seven players each, racing round a playing field and trying to shoot a basketball through hula-hoops. [...]
     Known as Muggle Quidditch to those for whom JK Rowling's lexicon is as familiar as any entry in the dictionary, the game was adapted for non-wizards around seven years ago in the US, where it has since caught on and become a familiar pastime for students at some of the country's best-known institutions, including Yale, Harvard and Tufts (Wipfler's college). Instead of flying, players run with broomsticks between their legs, and instead of a golden ball with wings attached, the Snitch is a person dressed in yellow. Although tackling is frequent and being hit by a volleyball, or 'bludger,' is likely, the 'spirit of Quidditch' is encouraged. As one player for the University college team put it: 'If you're massive and there's a little person, don't run into them.'
— Lizzie Davies, The Guardian
For a list of games found in works of fiction, go here...

Buy books by Lewis Carroll and
J. K. Rowling here...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Virtual Shoplifting

“'It’s never been easier to distribute creative work. At the same time, it’s never been harder to get paid for it,' according to former Billboard editor and New York Times writer Robert Levine. [...]
     For those who think the Internet should remain a sprawling bazaar of free samples, a utopian clearing house for consumers who don’t pay, Levine has a harsh, well-researched wake-up call: 'It’s time to ask whether any significant professional media business can thrive in an environment where information can be taken so easily. When nearly a quarter of global Internet traffic consists of pirated content.'
     In 2003, for example, NBC delivered an $800-million (U.S.) profit to its owner, General Electric. Just seven years later, the network was looking to lose more than $100-million. At the same time, Levine says, while viewers were busy downloading Saturday Night Live from the Internet, Google was poised to buy YouTube for $1.65-billion."
— Paula Todd, The Globe and Mail

Buy this book here...
And see a related article here...

Monday, January 16, 2012

At Bloggerheads

"A literary punch-up that had been brewing for a while finally erupted between a bunch of readers, authors and agents on Goodreads – the vast online site where millions of members discuss the world's books. In the same week that award-winning children's writer Anthony McGowan caused a stir with his 'scorching' Guardian review of Blood Red Road by Costa winner Moira Young, the Goodreads flame war flared across Twitter, sparked by writers and agents who seemed to be stamping on negative reviews.
     It all started with a 'snarky' (or 'honest,' depending on who's side you're on) review of a much-hyped YA novel, Tempest by Julie Cross, just published in the UK by Macmillan Children's Books. A sarcastic response and put-downs of reader views on the Goodreads site by Cross's author friends, and comments by her agent, caused outrage. While Cross responded gracefully, other YA authors and agents took the fight to Twitter in a spectacularly misjudged bout of reader-bashing, 'sneering at the people who make their ****ing books reach the NYT bestseller list,' The Bookwurrm judged.
     Things escalated further as authors and agents publicly discussed rigging the ratings on Goodreads and Amazon to push up the visibility of good reviews and 'hide' bad ones."
— Julie Bertagna, The Guardian

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Demanding Supply; Supplying Demand

"In a typically razor-sharp exchange of dialogue which establishes – yet again – that The Simpsons provides the most coruscating illumination of contemporary mores, Lisa says to her grade school teacher that 'Good looks don't really matter,' to which Ms Hoover replies: 'Nonsense, that's just something ugly people tell their children.' Stripping away the layers of irony from this statement we can reveal the central premise of Catherine Hakim's book, which is that not only do looks matter, but that they should matter a great deal more. Furthermore, the people who tell young people – and in particular young women – that their beauty and sex appeal are of little importance are themselves ugly, if not physically then at least morally.
     For, as Hakim sees it, [in Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital] it is an 'unholy alliance' of wannabe patriarchs, religious fundamentalists and radical feminists who have – in Anglo-Saxon countries especially – acted to devalue what she terms 'erotic capital.' In Hakim's estimation, for all young women, and in particular those who are without other benefits – financial, intellectual, situational – an entirely legitimate form of self-advancement should consist in their getting the best out of – if you'll forgive the pun – their assets."
— Will Self, The Guardian

"I THOUGHT THIS book would be a treat. I liked everything about it, in theory: its subject matter (erotic capital, such as charm, beauty, sexuality, charisma and social skills — what could be more fun?); its author, who has an interesting reputation as an academic willing to challenge orthodoxies about what is good for women (she is a senior research fellow of sociology at the London School of Economics); its promise of big ideas about how society works.
     Honey Money however, is an acute disappointment. It looks like a book. It has hard covers, 372 pages, chapter headings, dozens of sources and footnotes, a fat price ticket and a press release from its publishers. But looks are deceptive. There is no structured argument being worked through in its pages. Instead, bewildered readers find themselves presented with repetitious, rambling, contradictory, ill-argued assertions, without the faintest sense from the author that she has written these sentences before. It is as if Catherine Hakim wrote drafts of her chapters, hadn’t quite worked out the essence of her thoughts, and then gave up the struggle, leaving us to figure out what she means.
     I’ll spare you the details of the incoherence and the baffling asides — Hakim’s belief that discrimination against the overweight is justified by the human rights of everyone else; her admiration for Silvio Berlusconi’s smiles; her assertion that, on the whole, only young women like sex. Stripped down (where was her editor?), the selling point of her book is that erotic capital is as important to our success in life as our wealth, education or social networks.
     This insight is described by her publisher as ground-breaking. Well, not since I first heard the story of Cinderella has that been news to me, or I suspect to you. Hakim claims that it’s a revelation to sociology, where the theories about the power relations between men and women apparently pay no attention to the role of attraction and sexual desire."
—Jenni Russell, The Sunday Times (via The Hatchet Job of the Year)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

One Step, One Word at a Time...

Photo: Tristan Mills (Tombstone Territorial Park, 2010)

Once more it's time to take advantage of the blank page we call the "New Year" and resolve to take all those scraps of thoughts and snippets of ideas that we know, deep in our souls, will one day turn into poems or short stories and commit them to paper.
     The 9th annual Elora Writers' Festival Writing Competition is up and running—so you now have a deadline to aim for: Friday, April 27, 2012. The theme of this year's competition is "A Journey."
     On your mark, get set, go...

     Have you had trouble accessing contest information? We've fixed it: find the links to all the info you need here... at Writer's Life, the blog of Contest Chair, Jean Mills.

     For tips on taking that first step go here...
     And here are some other articles that might help you get going: Start by starting... ; And now a word from our Judges... ; The Job of Writing; and "You cannot plow a field by turning it over in your mind." — Author Unknown

For information about the 2013 competition, go here...

          If you have even more questions, contact our Competition Chair Jean Mills at jrmills@rogers.com

A New Eden

"In 1919, Mabel Barltrop declared herself the child of [Joanna] Southcott’s prophecy, and convened a group of mostly unmarried white upper-middle-class British women to wait out the Second Coming with all the comforts of country life in Bedford. [...]
     More than a hundred years earlier, in the second decade of the 19th century, a domestic-servant-turned-prophet from Devon named Joanna Southcott declared herself the expectant mother of a new female messiah. As Southcott and her followers believed, this child (the half-sister of Jesus) would complete the unfinished project of redeeming mankind from original sin. Southcott died in 1814 without having given birth, but her writings and prophecies — some of which were sealed in a large wooden box, with instructions to be opened by 24 bishops of the Church of England in an unspecified time of 'grave national danger' — became the sacred texts of a small but determined 20th-century community that tended garden, as it were, religiously. [...]
     The transformation of Barltrop, the self-educated wife of a vicar and mother of four, into Octavia, daughter of God — the charismatic, exacting figure at the center of Jane Shaw’s group biography, Octavia, Daughter of God: The Story of a Female Messiah and Her Followers — is a remarkable one. Confined to a mental hospital for “nervousness” after the death of her husband, and suffering from what Shaw reads convincingly as a form of OCD, Barltrop found both consolation and community in Southcott’s writings. For Southcott had set forth a decidedly female-centered theology: woman, responsible for the world’s fall, would in turn be responsible for its restoration. Furthermore, the upheavals of the Great War — by any account a period of 'grave national danger' — made the time ripe for therapeutic revelation.
     The women who gathered around Octavia in Bedford in the early 1920s were not war widows (they were for the most part significantly older than the generation of women left husbandless by the war’s immense casualties). But they lived in a world of gender relations remade by women’s labor and ingenuity during the conflict. In becoming Octavia, as Shaw demonstrates, Barltrop brandished considerable charm and organizational savvy, situating herself as spiritual hub for a group of world-weary seekers."
— Lindsay Reckson, Los Angeles Review of Books

"When [Mabel Barltrop] died, in 1934, there were 2,000 'sealed' (or signed-up) members of the society, many of whom lived in and around Albany Road, their homes backing on to a shared communal area, which they believed was the site of the original Garden of Eden. A further 75,000 followers worldwide were convinced that water and linen squares that Barltrop had breathed on, and which were then posted to them, contained miraculous healing powers.[...]
     Among those who endorsed her claim were many Southcottians and war widows, but there was also another constituency. For suffragettes, this female messiah had an obvious attraction as a way of discrediting what they perceived as the all-male ghetto of the church. Though there were small numbers of men in the society, its upper reaches – Barltrop anointed first her own 12 apostles, and then a 'Divine Mother' – were exclusively female. It was run by and for women – a rare and appealing thing, socially and spiritually, in the 1920s and 1930s"
—Peter Stanford, The Guardian

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves." —Gilbert Highet

"Ever wonder what happens to the books at the book store once all of the customers and workers are gone for the day? A friend posted this video on Facebook yesterday and it just blew me away. Sean Ohlenkamp (AKA crazedadman) and his wife plus a team of volunteers shelved and re-shelved hundreds of books night after night at Type book store in Toronto to make this whimsical stop motion piece."
love and cupcakes

The Ineffable Glenn Gould — Better than a Book

From: Freshdl.me
In September of last year, on his 79th birthday, the CBC released a comprehensive DVD boxset: Glenn Gould on Television: The Complete CBC Broadcasts. It's not a book, but, with the transition to e-books and digital "volumes" of all kinds, this is just as good, or even better than a book. Needless to say, when it comes to an appreciation of what Glenn Gould was all about, mere words are not enough.

"A famous perfectionist, Glenn Gould would have been delighted with a new film series of his work [...]. Tim Page, a friend of Gould's in the last years of his life, contributed to the new collection [...].
     'He'd be delighted. Glenn was a very loyal Canadian and he loved his life in Canada,' Page, who wrote the liner notes for the DVD box set, told CBC News. 'I think he'd be thrilled that finally his film work will be presented in a way he wanted it to be, which hasn't been done before.'
     The 10-disc box Glenn Gould on Television: The Complete CBC Broadcasts will feature many of Gould's rare recordings, unreleased full-length programs and documentaries, interviews and nearly 30 years of archival footage."
CBC News
     Buy this collection, and books about Glenn Gould here...

     Budding Glenn Goulds and young Canadian classical musicians of all stripes can flex their chops here...

"The 2012 TD Canada Trust Festival Competition is open to musicians in the following categories: voice, piano, strings, woodwind and brass. Competitors must be born in, reside in, or study in Canada and be between the ages of 17 and 27 as of April 2, 2012.
The Grand Prize, $3,000.00; Second Prize, $2,000.00; Third Prize, $1,000.00; and the Kathleen Deters Audience Favourite award is $500.00. [...]

'Twenty-two years ago I saw an opportunity to give young artists a chance to perform at a first-class event and also offer financial support towards their artistic education. I have always felt that students need encouragement, especially students in the arts.
     Each year at the Elora Festival, with the generous support of TD Canada Trust, we proudly present the final-round concert. It is truly memorable and rewarding to see and hear these young competitors with various musical disciplines on the threshold of a professional career. The audience has its favorites and the judges have theirs. And this year’s competition will once again boast an internationally recognized jury panel.
     I invite all young artists to apply. You could very well be one of the finalists who launch their career in a dazzling performance on July 18, 2012 at the
Elora Festival!' — Noel Edison, Artistic Director of the Elora Festival"

A downloadable PDF of the Competition Brochure can be found here...

Monday, January 9, 2012


"We live high up in the hills in the Scottish Borders, so when the lights flickered and then failed this week, we were well prepared. The wood burner was stuffed with logs, a pot of water was put to boil on top of it and I set off for a confab with the neighbours. As dusk fell, just after three, I lit the candles in the front room and settled back down to read. [...]
     It struck me that this was how people had read for almost all of the time that people have been reading: in darkness, slowly, concentrating, and more sensitive to the subtle interplay between what was on the page and what appeared to be on the page. In a sense, this was reading normally; reading with ample, white light was the exception."
— BOOKSBLOG, The Guardian

"A LUMEN is a unit of measurement of light. It measures light much the same way. Remember, a foot-candle is how bright the light is one foot away from the source. A lumen is a way of measuring how much light gets to what you want to light! A LUMEN is equal to one foot-candle falling on one square foot of area.
     So, if we take your candle and ruler, lets place a book at the opposite end from the candle. We'd have a bit of a light up if we put the book right next to the candle, you know. If that book happens to be one foot by one foot, it's one square foot. OK, got the math done there. Now, all the light falling on that book, one foot away from your candle equals both…….1 foot candle AND one LUMEN!"

Sunday, January 8, 2012

"I was so much older then/ I'm younger than that now" — Bob Dylan

UNIVAC I (1951) from: Lazy Desis

"The editor of Punch [September, 1867] sniffed out a deeper deal in the typewriter than simple legibility:
     'Every author his own printer! What a happy state of things! No more struggles to write legibly with nibless tavern-pens: no more labour in deciphering the hieroglyphs of hasty writers. Literary work will be in future merely play—on the piano. The future Locke may write his essays by a touch upon the keys.'
     But the disappointments of the possible future wouldn't stop there, and would or could or should go screaming into the dark night, the invention marking time in the brain of the writer, making able for him or her to compose without thinking, pillows taking over for the mind:
     'In this inventive age there really is no saying where discovery will stop. Now that authors are to put their thoughts in print with twice the pace that they can write them, perhaps ere long they will be able to put their works in type without so much as taking the trouble to compose them. A thought-hatching easy chair may very likely be invented, by the help of which an author may sit down at his ease before his thought-printing piano, and play away ad libitum whatever may occur to him. Different cushions may be used for different kinds of composition, some stuffed with serious thoughts, fit for sermons or reviews, and others with light fancies, fit for works of fiction, poetry, or fun. By a judicious choice of cushions an author will be able to sit down to his piano, and play a novel in three volumes twice or thrice a week, besides knocking off a leader every morning for a newspaper, anil issuing every fortnight a bulky epic poem, or a whole encyclopaedia complete within a month.' "
JF Ptak Science Books LLC

Friday, January 6, 2012

Nobel Prize Winner, 1961 - Ivo Andrić

"J. R. R. Tolkien may have won over millions of devoted fans across the globe with The Lord of the Rings, but to a small committee in Sweden known as the Nobel prize jury, his epic tale of Middle Earth just wasn't up to scratch.
     Newly declassified documents showing the inner workings of the world's most prestigious literary prize have revealed that, 50 years ago, Tolkien was rejected because The Lord Of The Rings had 'not in any way measured up to storytelling of the highest quality'.
     Nominated by his friend C S Lewis - author of The Chronicles Of Narnia - in 1961, Tolkien was swiftly dismissed by the committee along with other lauded figures such as Graham Greene and EM Forster as they awarded that year's prize to Yugoslavian writer Ivo Andrić instead."
Huffington Post

"At the beginning of the book [The Bridge on the Drina] Andrić focuses on a small Serbian boy taken from his mother as part of the levy of Christian subjects of the Sultan (devshirme). Andrić describes how the mothers of these children follow their sons wailing, until they reach a river where the children are taken across by ferry and the mothers can no longer follow. That child becomes a Muslim and, taking a Turkish name (Mehmed, later Mehmed pasha Sokolović), is promoted quickly and around the age of 60 becomes Grand Vizier. Yet, that moment of separation still haunts him and he decides to order the building of a bridge at a point on the river where he was parted from his mother."

Get books by all the authors mentioned in this article here...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Charles Dickens Helps Himself

As February 7 fast approaches, Charles Dickens himself has been called in to lend a hand (or two) at copyediting his own work. The 30,000 digitized pages of his weekly magazine Household Words (later changed to All Year Round) need to be cleaned up in time for the bicentenary of his birth.

Go here to help with the project; or make a donation here...

Go to a related article here...

Monday, January 2, 2012

Recovered and Uncovered

From: RareList Rare Books

"From the famous theft of Ernest Hemingway’s novels to the loss of William Faulkner’s novel four times, manuscripts have had a way of getting lost. It is no less than a eureka moment when they’re found many years later.
     This year has been quite eventful in terms of discovering lost literary treasures. Here’s a look at the famous manuscripts which were found in 2011."
Hindustan Times

"An unpublished and previously unknown Enid Blyton novel is believed to have turned up in an archive of the late children's author's work.
Mr Tumpy's Caravan is a 180-page fantasy story about a magical caravan.
It was in a collection of manuscripts that was auctioned by the family of Blyton's eldest daughter in September.
     'I think it's unique,' said Tony Summerfield, head of the Enid Blyton Society. 'I don't know of any full-length unpublished Blyton work.'
     The collection was bought by the Seven Stories children's book centre in Newcastle.
Blyton, who died in 1968, remains a children's favourite and a publishing phenomenon thanks to such characters as the Famous Five, the Secret Seven and Noddy.
An estimated 500 million copies of her books have been sold around the world, with updated and reprinted versions of her most popular stories still selling eight million copies a year."
— Ian Youngs, BBC

"It's quite surreal," says Hannah Green, archivist at the Seven Stories centre for children's books in Newcastle and one of the few to have read the story in recent years. "It's about a caravan on legs which gets up and walks around," she continues.
     In the caravan with Mr Tumpy are his two friends, Muffin and Puffin, and a dog called Bun-Dorg.
"They live in this caravan and go off on adventures," she explains. "They don't really control it - it decides where it's going to go and when it's going to stay somewhere."
— Hannah Green, in an interview with Ian Youngs (BBC)

"In 2008, Enid Blyton was voted the UK's best loved writer, beating JK Rowling, Austen and even Shakespeare. Yet, although characters like Noddy and the Famous Five still have devoted fans, Blyton has become a controversial figure, dogged by criticisms of her writing style and accusations of sexism and racism."
BBC Archive
Get all the books mentioned in these articles here...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Slow Food. For Thought

"In her new book, “The Republic of Noise,” New York City public school educator and curriculum advisor Diana Senechal argues that one reason for this problem [academic failure] is the students’ loss of solitude: the ability to think and reflect independently on a given topic. Schools have become more concerned with the business of keeping students busy in what Senechal deems is a flawed attempt to ensure student engagement. But as a result, students are not given the time and space to devote themselves completely to the study and understanding of one specific thing. It’s a need she finds reflected in our culture as a whole: We are a nation glued to smartphones and computer screens, checking email and Twitter feeds in our need to stay in some loop by reading and responding to rolling updates. [...]
    Solitude is not about being in a hut out in the woods or being out in the desert or living without other people around. I define solitude as a certain apartness that we always have, whether we’re among others or not. It is something that can be practiced — maybe to think just on one’s own, even when in a meeting or in a group and so forth — but that also has been nurtured by time alone. So there’s an ongoing solitude that’s always there, and there’s also a shaped or practiced solitude, which requires both time alone with things, to be thinking about things and working on things, and time among others when you nonetheless think independently. [...]
     'What I see is people having great difficulty sitting with a book for a long time, or with a pad of paper,' [says Ms. Senechal]. 'They want to have the stimulus right nearby – they want access to their email, they want access to their text messages no matter what they’re doing. You see people walking down the street with their phones and just staring at their phones; and you see people holding their phones in all situations – at a concert or when having dinner with a friend – so they can check that they don’t miss anything. Yes, there is a loss of ability to just sit with something.'"
— Alice Karekezi, Salon