31 July 2006

Back on Thursday

I'm experiencing technical difficulties (computer down!) but I should be up and running again on Thursday. Thanks for your patience!

30 July 2006

Ye Olde Brit Lit Test

For a little bit of time wasting, you can take The Ye Olde Brit Lit Test. My results: 205 out of 290. The comment: "Wow! OK, some of those were really tricky--but you made it through! Not only would you pass most lit courses, you probably thought about being an English major. Actually, with those numbers, you might be a grad student! Have you given any thought to a PhD? You know they confer omniscience with those, right?" And yes, I was a grad student in English literature. Via Ancarett's Abode.

29 July 2006

Good Site For Author Interviews

The Center For Book Culture has a terrific archive of interviews with authors. The authors featured are diverse: Milan Kundera, Stanley Elkin, Samuel Delany, Angela Carter, and many more. I like the way the list of author interviews is set up: the author is listed, the interviewer is named, and then there is a quotation from the author under each listing. I thought this was a great quotation from the interview with Paul West: "I think the reader has to be willing to work hard, has to be willing to do some work. No worthwhile book is going to go through them like a laxative." I also liked this one by Rikki Ducornet: "Every artist worth her salt knows what I mean--either one chooses the well trodden path, platitude, sentimentality, the current orthodoxy, whatever, or one blazes a trail which is, no matter the nature of the work, part of the process of becoming." Via Neat New Stuff On The Web.

28 July 2006

Writers Featured In The Literary Grafitti Project

Ten Montreal writers are about to have their words put up around the city in a literary graffiti project. The city will put up murals with material from works that highlight certain areas of the city. For example, a quotation from Mordecai Richler's work will be featured near St-Urbain and Laurier. Some of the other writers featured include Leonard Cohen, Michel Tremblay, and Nicole Brossard. The selections will be from works written in English, French, and Yiddish. Via CBC.ca.

27 July 2006

James Lee Burke: New Book, Great Article

Fans of James Lee Burke will be happy to know that his 15th Dave Robicheaux novel, Pegasus Descending, was released on 18 July. The publication of a new book by Burke is always a Good Thing. Margaret Cannon, who reviews mysteries for the Globe and Mail, calls him the "gold standard" for mystery writers. Over at Rake's Progress I found an excerpt from a fascinating article on Burke by Skylar Browning. It covers Burke's work ethic, his world view, his horses, and much, much more. I've been wondering what his novels would be like, post-Katrina, because New Orleans has always been almost another character in them. I'll have to wait to get the book to see that, but now I've found an article he wrote on the aftermath of Katrina. The article, like all of his work, is poetic, evocative, compelling—and like his Dave Robicheaux novels, it speaks eloquently of his love for New Orleans. He says, "New Orleans isn't a city. It's a Petrarchan sonnet. There's no other place on the planet like it." For more information on James Lee Burke, check out his web page.

26 July 2006

Early Book of Psalms Discovered In Ireland

An early book of psalms was dug out of a bog in Ireland recently. Experts have dated it between 800 and 1000 A.C.E. An engineer working with a backhoe to dig up peat for potting soil unearthed the book. It's thought to be the first early manuscript to be recovered in Ireland in nearly 200 years. Via CBC.ca.

25 July 2006

New Freak Brothers Strip

If you like the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers comic strip, there's good news for you. Gilbert Shelton has created the first Freak Brothers strip in 10 years. The strip is online, and you can read it here. I'm a fan of Fat Freddy's Cat, but unfortunately he doesn't make an appearance. Shelton is also working on a web page. It's currently under construction, but it promises to be interesting. Via splinters.

24 July 2006

Re-Packaging the Classics

Rachel Cooke of The Observer has written an entertaining article called Warning! These Pretty Packages May Contain A Lot of Long Words! Cooke looks askance at the modern publishing trend of dressing up the classics in covers designed for a certain audience (she cites a recent pastel chick-lit cover of Pride and Prejudice). She also notes the snazzy blurbs now used to promote them, citing several to illustrate her point, such as the one for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: 'Wild child Huck has to get away.' I agree with her point that however the classics are packaged, the content remains the same. Pride and Prejudice is not Bridget Jones' Diary.

23 July 2006

New Versus Second-Hand Books

I don't much like owning second-hand books. I'll make exceptions for some books—books that are out of print, say, and that can only be acquired second hand. Then there are those that have been given to me after being owned by someone I care about, such as my father's series of action books or the mini-library of medieval texts given to me by a professor I once worked with. But by and large I much prefer new books. I like to know that the books haven't been handled by a lot of other people, although not because I'm worried about germs. A large part of it is my enjoyment of the physical experience of new books. I love opening a new book, smelling the "fresh book" smell, and feeling the texture of the pages. Even after I've read a book often enough that the newness has faded from it, I still have memories of my enjoyment of it when it was new. I don't usually like the smell and texture of the pages of a used book, so that can detract from my enjoyment of the overall experience of reading it. It's not as if I refuse to handle second-hand books; after all, I use the library all the time. I just like the books I own to be new. I think I'm in the minority here, though. Many other book-lovers I know love second-hand books and love the feeling of getting a great bargain in second-hand bookstores. Now I've found an article by Thomas H. Benton in which he has written eloquently about his love of second-hand books and bookstores. However much I don't care for them, I'm certainly glad that there are people who are devoted to finding new homes for books that would otherwise be tossed (shudder).

22 July 2006

Protecting The Apostrophe

Defenders of the apostrophe have at least two resources in their fight to save this endangered resource. The first, of course, is the Apostrophe Protection Society and the other is the Punctuation and Spelling Police Department—Apostrophe Squad. If you would like to ally yourself with the latter, you can buy the nifty T-shirt and put everyone on notice that you're on patrol. Alternately, if you just want to make sure that you're using the apostrophe correctly yourself, you can check out Problems With Apostrophes.

21 July 2006

Robert J. Sawyer on Heinlein's Rules of Writing

Frequently beginning writers wish they had guidelines to follow to become rich and famous. Robert A. Heinlein didn't guarantee wealth and fame, but he did formulate a set of five rules for writers to follow. Robert J. Sawyer has listed the rules, added a sixth, and provided his own witty commentary throughout.

The rules may seem self-evident, but an astonishing number of people don't follow them. Although the rules were originally written for writers of speculative fiction, they apply equally well to writers of any genre. All beginning (and not so beginning) writers should check this page out.

20 July 2006

Petrarch Born On This Day

On this day in 1304 Francesco Petrarch was born. Petrarch was celebrated for his contribution to Italian literature, including his work with the sonnet You can find his complete sonnets here (both in English and Italian) as well as some of his letters and other writings. Petrarch was recognised for his work in his own lifetime; he was made Poet Laureate in 1341. Petrarch is also well known for his love for a woman named Laura. It has been suggested that the woman did not in fact exist, although Petrarch himself insisted she did.

19 July 2006

Books Created By Visual Artists

Here's an exhibition that examines the intersection of books and visual art: The Artist Turns To The Book. There are some innovative pieces here. For example, with Ode To a Grand Staircase (With Four Hands), you can watch a handmade book unfold as you listen to music by Erik Satie (the music was the inspiration for the book). Anansi Company features removable puppets that accompany a text written in Jamaican English. There are several other examples featured here. It's definitely worth a look. Via Plep.

18 July 2006

A Good Site For Learning About New Words

If you like to keep up with the latest words making their way into conversation, check out Word Spy. Some recent words added to their list are the following: · "face blindness": the inability to recognise faces of friends and family · "retro running": running backwards to exercise · the "Manilow Method": the practice of playing music that young people will not enjoy, such as the music of Barry Manilow, to discourage teens from loitering Word Spy has been around since 1996; it's interesting to look in their archives to see which words have lasted. A few of these include "big-box store," "nanny-cam," "go postal," and "Ebonics." Via Weblog V2.

17 July 2006

Sonnet Central

If you're a fan of the sonnet, here's a site for you: Sonnet Central. This site is described as "an archive of English sonnets, commentary, and relevant web links and a forum for poets to share and discuss their own work." You can find information here about how to write a sonnet, or you can read the sonnets of others (ranging from contemporary writers who are experimenting with the sonnet form to famous writers such as Shakespeare). There is information and collections of sonnets from Great Britain (from the first works of Sir Thomas Wyatt in the 16th century through to 20th century sonneteers). There is also information and collections of sonnets from around the world (including Australia, Canada, the United States, France, Germany, Poland, and more). Finally, there is a section for sonnets that have little or no literary merit, but that are of interest for other reasons. Included here are such entries as an anonymous sonnet about a nose and the sonnets of a chorus girl.

16 July 2006

Looking At The Gutenberg Bible

The British Library has a function which allows you to compare their two versions of the Gutenberg Bible. You can choose a book of the Bible and look at the differences between the paper version and the vellum edition. I looked at Jerome's Epistle to Paulinus and saw how much plainer the paper version was; I hadn't realised there would be such a difference. You can also read the introductory information about the Gutenberg Bible and more information about Gutenberg, printing texts, and other relevant topics.

15 July 2006

Comparing Dickens and Bulwer-Lytton

As a follow-up to yesterday's post about the Bulwer-Lytton prize, here's a test you can take to see if you can tell the difference between Charles Dickens and Edward Bulwer-Lytton. I love Dickens, so I was shocked to find that I only scored 50% on this test. Via The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest Page.

14 July 2006

And the Bulwer-Lytton Prize Goes To . . .

. . . Jim Guigli, for his parody of Raymond Chandler:
Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said you've had your last burrito for a while, whose face said angels did exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and lick the shovel clean.
Great stuff. You can read the rest of the winners in various categories here and you can read all the past grand prize entries here. The Bulwer-Lytton Prize, named after Edward Bulwer-Lytton, was established in 1982. It offers writers a prize if they can intentionally create a very bad opening line of a novel.

13 July 2006

News From The Christian Book Publishing World

Several awards were handed out recently to Christian writers and publishers. Publisher's Weekly reports on this year's Christian Book Awards (previously the Gold Medallion Awards). Publisher's Weekly also has a story on the results of the Christy Awards. There were some surprises at both awards.

12 July 2006

Mary Watson Wins the 2006 Caine Prize For African Writing

Mary Watson has won this year's Caine Prize for African Writing for her story "Jungfrau" from her book Moss. The Caine Prize was established in 2000 and is Africa's most prestigious award for writing. It comes with £10,000 award money. Here's a list of all the short-listed authors with their bios and here's a Guardian article on the awards (written before the announcement of the winner). Via CBC.ca.

11 July 2006

Some Tips On Writing From Poul Anderson

If you're looking to improve your writing, Poul Anderson wrote a terrific essay years ago that's still applicable today. On Thud and Blunder is written primarily with fantasy writers in mind, but writers from any genre often unfortunately show the "frequent lack of elementary knowledge or plain common sense" that Anderson deplores in this essay. Check out the very short story of Gnorts the Barbarian and find out from Anderson why the writing needs work. Writers can take heart from learning that they need not be an expert in a field to improve their material--they simply need to do some basic research and to implement some logic. Readers can simply sit back and enjoy.

10 July 2006

Winners Of The ReLit Awards Announced

The winners of the 2006 ReLit Awards were announced on Friday 07 July at a bonfire ceremony in Newfoundland. The winners are as follows: · short fiction: Barry Webster for The Sound of All Flesh (Porcupine's Quill) · poetry: Leon Rooke for Hot Poppies (Porcupine's Quill) · novel: Lisa Moore for Alligator (Anansi) The awards are open to books published by independent Canadian literary publishers.

09 July 2006

A New Method For Dating Hand-Printed Books

Now this is interesting: an article on the use of biology to date hand-printed books. An evolutionary biologist has developed a method to date maps and hand-printed books that scholars have not been able to date in the past. The work is done based on an analysis of the images made by tools (either copper plate or wood blocks). Because the deterioration of the tools is something that can be tracked, the undated images can be dated by comparing them to those images that are identical but dated. The biologist estimates that there are several hundred thousand undated books that are hand-printed, so there could be a surge of scholarship in the next few years once more work is done in this area. Via Alone On A Boreal Stage.

08 July 2006

Robert J. Sawyer Wins SF's Most Prestigious Award

Last night author Robert J. Sawyer was presented with the world's most prestigious juried award for speculative fiction: the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. This is Sawyer's 38th award for his fiction writing, and with it he has joined a select few who have won all three of the top awards for speculative fiction (the other two awards are the Hugo and the Nebula). Only six other writers have won all three: David Brin, Arthur C. Clarke, Joe Haldeman, Frederik Pohl, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Connie Willis. Sawyer won this award for his book Mindscan.

07 July 2006

Online Exhibition About the Written Word

Here's an interesting exhibition about "the visual and tactile aspects of the written word": Paper, Leather, Clay, and Stone. The creators of the exhibition were interested in how written texts have been displayed over the years:
far from being a uniform box of rows and columns, the written word has been recorded historically in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. Books were embellished, handsomely illustrated, jealously guarded, and moralistically expurgated. When the contents were too charged, impious, or explicit, the book might even be destroyed—ample indication of how content depends upon the physical vehicle for survival.
There are images and discussions of cuneiform tablets, vellum, palm-leaf manuscripts, a jade book, the Life of the Buddha recorded on mulberry bark, a sample of a book censored by having the images of the devil blotted out, and much more.

06 July 2006

The Art Of The Book Trailer?

Apparently book trailers—the same concept as film trailers—are the next big thing for publishing. Journalist Andre Mayer has written an article about the phenomenon called "View To A Thrill". Sub-titled "Book Trailers: Building Hype, Movie-Style," the article describes the relatively recent phenomenon of using videos to promote new books. The article includes a link for HarperCollins' trailer for Londonstani, the debut novel by Gautam Malkani. It takes a while to load, but after watching it Mayer says, "Never before have I felt such a visceral urge to read a book." I sympathise with the critics of the concept, those who feel that their imaginations are pre-empted by having actors in a trailer play the characters in the book. I won't even watch movies made from books that I love. But I'm guessing that book trailers are probably here to stay. Via CBC.ca.

05 July 2006

Russell Smith Is Passionate About Language

As a follow-up to my post the other day about new radio show "And Sometimes Y", here's a great interview with the show's host, Russell Smith. Smith is a novelist and popular columnist with The Globe and Mail. He's passionate about the use of language:
Painters love to mess around with paint; they know about the different luminosity of each brand name. They love paint itself. Writers should have a similar excitement and curiosity about words. If they think that kind of obsession is "snobbish", then they're in the wrong profession. Writing is basically, deeply geeky.
To get a sense of what "And Sometimes Y" is like, definitely check out Helen Spitzer's great interview with him. One more plug for the show. The current episode of "And Sometimes Y" repeats on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. on CBC Radio One (click here to find links for local broadcasts). Here's the description of this episode:
Why do words die? Like cells in the body, the words of a living language follow a kind of life cycle, in which death, mutation and creation form a normal part of healthy existence. But can this change also be unhealthy? Can it lead to the death of an entire language? We hear from a writer who specializes in digging up dead words, another who has travelled among dead languages, and also some rather ill characters called Wherefore, Fishmonger, and Hinterland, who tell us directly about their predicament.
Via cleverLazy.

04 July 2006

The Brothers Hildebrandt

I had never known the names of the illustrators known as the Brothers Hildebrandt before, but, like many people, I've certainly seen their artwork. Perhaps most famously, they designed the original poster for Star Wars as well as three Tolkien calendars. They're also prolific book illustrators. According to The Brothers Hildebrandt home page, the brothers (Greg and Tim) have illustrated "text books, children's books, calendars, book covers, posters, comic books, advertisements, movie posters, production design for films, collectables and trading card games." There's a lengthy bio on their site as well as some of their many illustrations. Via Librarians' Internet Index.

03 July 2006

Summer Radio Show About Words

CBC Radio One has a new, 10 episode show called that focusses entirely on words. It's called "And Sometimes Y". The little blurb about the show carries the following explanation: "This is not your high-school librarian's dream show. From losing ourselves in translation to language taboos, "And Sometimes Y" digs beyond words and explores what's behind the way we talk and why." If you'd like to listen to the show online, check out CBC's list of links to local stations. I don't know if U.S. or international listeners can tune in to the show live, but there are snippets of it archived. The Word Nerd has items to share, and host Russell Smith has a section for rants about language. Via Quill and Quire.

02 July 2006

An Unusual Way To Arrange Bookshelves

I'm fairly compulsive about organising my bookshelves. First, I sort my books according to category (poetry in this section, fiction here, non-fiction on the other wall). Then I break it down by genre. In the fiction category, for example, my literary fiction is separate from the mysteries which in turn are separate from speculative fiction. Then it's broken down alphabetically (Atwood comes before Dickens) and if I have multiple titles by the same author, I shelve them chronologically (Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey comes before Pride and Prejudice, for example). Imagine my shock, then, when I came across this method of organising books: by their colour. According to this blog's writer and those who have left comments, it's a method that works well. I'll take their word for it—just the thought of it makes my toes curl under. Via Flutterby.

01 July 2006

Some Lists of Bestsellers

If you'd like to know what books were popular in their day, you can check out this list of bestsellers from 1900 to 1998. As you would expect, in the 90s authors like Danielle Steel, Stephen King, John Grisham, and Jean Auel figure prominently. It's heartening to also see that writers such as Edith Wharton, Upton Sinclair, Sir Arthur Conan Doyale, and Toni Morrison also make the list. Via Weblog V2.