How to Deal With Articles on E-books

The recent Thunderdome match between Super Literary Agent Andrew “The Jackal” Wylie and Random “The Giant” House has produced yet another Mississippi-sized river of words going on about “What E-books are Doing to the Publishing Industry.”

For those who don’t really care to keep score, and would rather read a book and have a good time, Bookavore has something for you: the E-books Article Drinking Game.

“Will e-books wipe out/kill/decimate/pulverize/HULKSMASH/angry verb real books?” — one drink

Every use of phrase “real book” — one drink

“smell of a real book” — clean out the liquor cabinet, drink until you pass out, wake up next morning, puke, then continue drinking

Warning: People should not attempt to operate heavy machinery during or after playing the E-books Article Drinking Game. Blogging, however, is heartily encouraged. (On a side note, someone was either very drunk or very stoned when they wrote this post. I’m leaning towards very stoned.)

[Hat Tip: Bookslut]


Cheeto Art

So I see this video of a Rachel Ray portrait done using Cheetos on FoodNetworkHumor,

and I get to thinking, “Of course, this can NOT be the only work of art done with Cheetos.”

And boy was I right. I found way more on the Internet than I expected. Here are some of the best in all their “cheesy” glory.

First, a sculpture made with Cheetos,

Here’s what might be the world’s largest sculpture of a Cheeto,

Then there’s the Cheeto Britney,

This chick is taking a bath in Cheetos,

That kind of bath will give you Cheeto fingers, Cheeto toes, Cheeto, legs, Cheeto breasts, etc.

Here’s a video of a cheesy portrait of Conan O’Brien,

Now, the piece de resistance: Cheetos Velvet Elvis!

“Pale Fire” the Poem Versus Pale Fire the Novel

So a publisher is coming out with an edition of the poem “Pale Fire” that is the centerpiece of Nabokov’s novel Pale Fire. For those unfamiliar with the book, Ron Rosenbaum over at Slate gives a good rundown.

First, we read a brief, strange foreword written by someone who calls himself Charles Kinbote. Kinbote (who turns out to be a delusional madman not really named Kinbote) tells us he’s absconded with a pile of index cards, the nearly completed manuscript of a poem written by a neighbor of his, John Shade, left behind after Shade was murdered.

The poem—the text of which follows the foreword—is called “Pale Fire” (after Shakespeare’s line: “the moon’s an arrant thief,/ and her pale fire she snatches from the sun,” with all its resonance of the relationship between reality and its reflection/afterlife in art.) Kinbote, it becomes apparent, is an arrant thief as well; his “Pale Fire” he’s snatched from the dead man’s widow.

As we read the footnotes that follow the text of the poem, it is revealed that Kinbote has taken the stolen index cards and fled to a cheap motel in the American West, where he is madly scribbling delusional footnote annotations to “his” edition of the poem. In the footnotes he makes a desperate but comically inept attempt to prove the poem is “really” about him, Kinbote, and his exotic history as “King Charles the Beloved,” the deposed and exiled ruler of an exotic “northern land” called Zembla and the real target of the bullet that killed his neighbor and colleague, Shade.

Rosenbaum goes on to describe all the literary views of the poem and the work itself, and how it all led to publishing the poem as an entity separate from the original work, talking with the people behind the poem’s impending publication.

I haven’t read Pale Fire since being an undergraduate. I don’t remember much other than I thought it was very funny. The book is still sitting on my book shelf. It’s one of the few books that has stayed with me since college, from various apartments, to across the country and back. I keep meaning to reread it.

Publishing the poem as a standalone work seems gimmicky. Whatever “controversy” erupts will cause a bunch of over-stressed tenure-track English Lit professors to salivate. They know that there will be plenty of “scholarship” to be done about such a thing that will make for absolutely gripping reading; plenty of sternly-worded papers, missives, emails, and essays with copious numbers of endnotes defending/decrying the act of publishing the poem “Pale Fire” separate from the novel Pale Fire and what this means for authorial intent, textual criticism, the reading experience, etc.

Though, being married to a tenure-track professor, I do understand the stress they’re under.

For the vast majority of readers none of this will matter. Much like the fight over “who was Shakespeare” doesn’t have any effect on the cultural impact of the plays, this won’t have any effect on the novel Pale Fire or Nabakov’s legacy.

But if it draws more attention to an excellent book, then maybe some bit of good will come of this. And maybe that’s what this ginned up controversy is really about anyway.

Personal Note: Pale Fire was for a class on Modernism. The reading list included such light fair as Ulysses, The Trial, The Sound and the Fury, 100 Years of Solitude, and Burgher’s Daughter. Believe it or not, it was the class that convinced me I should change majors from Mathematics to English Literature.

Friday Links

1) Seth Godin in a post titled, “But who will speak for the trees?” says the people behind newspapers, book publishers, and magazines are standing scared,

And yet there’s no shortage of writing, or things to read. No shortage of news, either. And there doesn’t appear to be one on the horizon. In fact, there’s more news, more images and more writing available to more people more often than ever before in history.

No, just about all of the whining is about protecting paper, the stuff the ideas are printed on, not the ideas themselves.

Stories are still being told. It’s the format/form of delivery that’s changing. Human beings have always told stories, from cave paintings to tapestries, to lyric poetry, to novels, to films. And they’ll keep getting told one way or another.

(I have to admit that when I saw the title of the post, I wanted to answer, “Neil Peart.”)

2) This fall I’ll be participating in the Fall Read over at Conversational Reading. The Book is The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt (no relation whatsoever to the Tom Cruise movie).

If, like me, you’ve never participated in one of these group reads, here’s how it works: everyone reads the same book and throughout the period there are essays and discussions about the book. Previously, Conversational Reading did this with Javier Marias’ Your Face Tomorrow.

The Last Samurai appealed to me for a number of reasons based on what Scott wrote. And also because of this quote he found by a writer I admire a lot, A.S. Byatt:

So Helen DeWitt is taking risks in writing a fat novel about a highly educated single mother of a boy who may well be a young Mozart or an Einstein—or may, as she recognizes, be heading for the kind of nervous collapse produced by the hothouse education of John Stuart Mill. “The Last Samurai” (Talk Miramax; $24.95) is in fact a triumph—a genuinely new story, a genuinely new form, which has more to offer on every reading but is gripping from the beginning of the first.

3) Now for some titillation (bad pun intended). Here’s a post over at Flavorwire showing some Literary Tatoos NSFW). My fav would have to be the one for The Little Prince.

[Hat Tip: Bookslut]

What I’ve Read Lately

Here are three books that I’ve read recently. Oddly enough, all were checked out of our local library.

Master of Shadows: The Secret Diplomatic Career of the Painter Peter Paul Rubens by Mark Lamster. I came across a piece of writing by the author from a friend on Facebook, saw the title of his book and was intrigued by it. Who knew the artist Peter Paul Ruebens was also diplomat? Because of his profession, Rubens had access to the Royal Courts of Spain, Italy, France, and England. Combined with his deep knowledge of a wide range of subjects, it made him the perfect unacknowledged diplomat.

America’s Report Card by John McNally. Dear Lord is this book funny. I picked it up at the library when I went to get Master of Shadows. I was browsing the stacks in the fiction section. It’s about a misfit high school student struggling with her strange family and her future, and a young guy with a masters in film criticism who finds himself without his girlfriend and stuck in a soul-deadening job scoring standardized tests. The plot runs out of steam near the end and the satire gets heavy-handed, but before that it’s an hysterical look at the weird importance placed on standardized tests and being over-educated and underemployed.

The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown. This book by the author of Goodnight Moon (which has been read to both of my kids probably hundreds of times) was checked out of the library by my wife on behalf of our two-year-old daughter. I’ve had to read it at least a couple dozen times now. My daughter loves it. I think it’s creepy. The little boy bunny tells his mom he’s going to run away. If he becomes part of a mountain she’s going to be a mountain climber to get him. If he goes on sail boat she’s going to become the wind and blow him where she wants him to go. Etc. Finally, he gives up and stays at home. Recommended for Helicopter Parents and Mammonis.

(Note: Our daughter gnawed off one corner of the book. So we bought another copy for the library. The librarian was grateful, but seemed genuinely shocked that we had purchased a replacement for them.)

E-book Milestone

According to Wired, during the second quarter of this year Amazon sold more e-books than hardcover books.

Amazon hit a symbolic milestone last holiday season, when for one day its sales of e-books exceeded the number of dead-tree books it had sold.

Now the company has hit a more significant milestone, selling 143 e-books for every 100 hardcover books sold over the course of the second quarter. The rate is accelerating: For the past month, Amazon sold 180 e-books for every 100 hardcovers, and it sold three times as many e-books in the first six months of this year as it did in the first half of 2009.

For those of you who own a Kindle, iPad, Nook, or other digital reader, don’t get too excited. Publishing is a $30 billion market. E-books are still less than $100 million of that. Regardless, this is still a significant milestone, one that people will look back on and say that it marked e-books “officially” becoming part of the mainstream.

One more thing,

And since e-books cost Amazon virtually nothing to distribute, the company — and the publishers whose books it is selling — should be enjoying pretty fat margins on these titles too.

Cue carping by industry types who say, “NO, THAT’S NOT TRUE!