Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Waiting to be convinced -- one way or the other

In my mind, the “phenomenon” of the Kindle has become synonymous with a train wreck which I cannot help but watch. Any in depth article I read impresses me only for its indecisiveness.

Last night, Twitter took me to this article (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/08/03/090803fa_fact_baker) from the New Yorker, and I reached the end of it completely baffled as to whether or not the author was in favor of the device or not.

Nicholson Baker lists plenty of reasons to either stick with the tried and true paper, ink and glue version or to choose another gadget, but in the end, he succumbs as the Kindle performs as advertised and “disappears.”

I already know that I will not be purchasing a Kindle. Nor will I add one to my Christmas list. I would like the opportunity to spend about a week playing with one (and such an experience might change my mind), but all I can think of is how many real books (especially used books) I could purchase with that much money and then sell to or share with others.

The list of books which are *not* available gives me pause. To quote Baker ‘There is no Amazon Kindle version of “The Jewel in the Crown.” There’s no Kindle of Jean Stafford, no Vladimir Nabokov, no “Flaubert’s Parrot,” no “Remains of the Day,” no “Perfume,” by Patrick Suskind, no Bharati Mukherjee, no Margaret Drabble, no Graham Greene except a radio script, no David Leavitt, no Bobbie Ann Mason’s “In Country,” no Pynchon, no Tim O’Brien, no “Swimming-Pool Library,” no Barbara Pym, no Saul Bellow, no Frederick Exley, no “World According to Garp,” no “Catch-22,” no “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” no “Portnoy’s Complaint,” no “Henry and Clara,” no Lorrie Moore, no “Edwin Mullhouse,” no “Clockwork Orange.”’

The simple fact that it is electronic is also a significant deterrent, and not simply because I tend to be a Luddite at heart. I pay the phone company an extra five dollars a month essentially as insurance against myself. If I lose the phone, or drop it in a puddle, or step on it, or some other catastrophe befalls it, I will not have to pay to replace it. A Kindle living with me would be exposed to the same sort of risks, and it costs at least twice as much as my phone.

I just imagine the heartbreak of losing hundreds of books because something happened to the Kindle.

Paper books are much sturdier, heartier creatures and can withstand an impressive amount of abuse.

Maybe that is another part of my suspicion – I consider books (especially the ones I really enjoy) to be almost living creatures. They are my friends and companions who see me through the best and worst of times. Can an electronic device really inspire the same depth of feeling?

I highly doubt it, and for most of his article, Baker seems to agree. I can’t help but wonder what caused him to waiver in his judgment. It makes me curious to find out, but not for $300.

The supposed ease and accessibility – start reading an impulse purchase in under a minute – is tempting to be sure, but I can’t help thinking that this might be a case of something being too good to be true.

For the present, I shall retain my skepticism.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Pillars of Creation by Terry Goodkind

For some reason I thought that The Pillars of Creation was separate from the epic Sword of Truth saga, and arguably it is in the sense that the primary characters in the previous books play secondary, offstage roles for the majority of this installment. I have not read the previous six, and I am not planning to read the subsequent four, but I can't help wondering if this book is meant to be a sort of transition or intermission to give the author time to figure out what really comes next.

I'm not much for the epic fantasy sagas, and if this book is representative of the series as a whole or even the sub-genre, it is a good reminder of why.

It takes the author more than thirty pages to say that two characters escaped the palace. And it is not even a particularly hair-raising escape. The hard part -- getting out of the dungeon -- was already done.

Lots of repetition and lots of words to say not very much made the book an easy, if somewhat tedious, read.

On the bright side, the ending (the last three chapters or so) was quite satisfying, mostly because so much happened and came together in such a short period of time, in comparison to the previous seven hundred pages. If the rest of the story had been a little (okay, a lot) tighter, however, then the ending might have seemed a little too convenient and contrived.

I'm quite sure that it sets the stage nicely for the next book, but I have too much else to read to find out.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Why I love the Right Wing

The entertainment value.

If I wanted to be a bit more accurate, I could make the heading, “Why I love loud public figures.”  That phrasing would probably make more sense, but I am going to pick on the Right Wing because, as I recall, that is where Pat Buchanan hangs out.

Anyway, I came across the following quote:

"With regard to Levi, I think First Dude up there in Alaska, Todd Palin, ought to take Levi down to the creek and hold his head underwater until the thrashing stops."
-- Pat Buchanan

Am I the only one who doesn’t see how this is the business of anyone but the Palin family (and possibly the readers of People magazine)?  But then minding one’s own business isn’t any fun for loud public figures who spend an inordinate amount of time being concerned about whether or not anyone can hear them.

And then there is the heavy dose of irony in the statement.  Terminating a pregnancy is terrible, sinful, should be illegal, etc., but drowning the kid who knocked up your daughter (or who was perhaps seduced by your daughter) is acceptable.

Killing is bad unless it is in the name of God or family honor?

Do I have that right?

Or have I grossly misinterpreted the statement so that I can twist it to strengthen my own ill-informed, misguided liberal bias?

Squishy green stuff

Although I am generally not much of a fan of guacamole (to the point that I am not even entirely sure how to spell it properly), Martha’s recipe -- Mix juice 1 lime, 4t crushed garlic, 5 chop scallion, 1C chop cilantro, 1 mince jalapeƱo + 3 ripe avocado – intrigues me.

Perhaps garnished with tomato and black olives.

Nom nom nom. Now I’m hungry.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

It's nice to know that I am not alone.


The titles listed here make for a fairly short list, and urban fantasy stretches far beyond vampires.

Take Emma Bull's War for the Oaks, for example, which was one of my first forays into the realm of urban fantasy, and while there are magical beasties aplenty, I don't recall vampires. I might even go so far as to say that cautious parents would deem it "safe" for teenaged girls to read, although I do have a hard time applying "safe" as a description to almost anything having to do with the printed word. I follow the fairly basic analogy that good art (in this particular context, good writing) should do two things: make you think and make you feel. Thoughts and feelings are dangerous and wonderful things at pretty much any age (and arguably more so in those treacherously formative teenage years).

I second the vote for Holly Black's stories.

I am also going to add Charles de Lint. Yes, he's a man, but given the wonderful female characters he writes to life (teenaged and adult), he deserves a vote of solidarity.

The article focuses mostly on the teen audience.

Once they have grown up a bit, I would suggest the adventures of Jaz Parks and Cat Crawfield. Perhaps even the first few installments of the tumultuous life and loves of Anita Blake.

There are more worth mentioning, I am sure, but I need some time to let them surface in my mind.