Archive for ‘News & Culture’

March 7, 2011

Canada Reads (and Buys Books, Too!)

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BY JOHN COLEMAN

So much for the Giller effect.

The National Post reported recently that Terry Fallis’ The Best Laid Plans, the 2011 Canada Reads champion, has seen a 695% sales hike in its first week since winning the title.

The article also reveals other nominees, Ami McKay’s The Birth House, Angi Abdou’s The Bone Cage, Jeff Lemire’s Essex County, and Carol Shields’ Unless are averaging a 170% boost in sales. The stats are according to BookNet Canada, a publication sales tracking site.

CBC Radio has hosted the book battle since 2002. Five personalities each defend the excellence of a nominated novel; judges knock off one book a week until a victor is left standing.

Coinciding with the new year, the event mocks Canada’s Big Three literary awards, all handed out annually in the fall, by garnering attention to titles that usually evade their shortlists.

As a rule, the Canada Reads winner’s publisher donates some sales to a charity promoting literacy.

Listen in at the Canada Reads website every Monday, Wednesday and Friday when Fallis will read a new chapter from Plans. Your bookclub might also be interested in the discussion questions posted with each chapter.

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March 3, 2011

“Faded” Sparks Teenager’s Literary Career

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BY JOHN COLEMAN

Fifteen year old Oakville, Ontario student Maha Hussain is generating a lot of buzz lately. Last fall she published her first novel, Faded, through TriMatrix Consulting. Hussain has been working on the novel since she was twelve, when she mustered up the idea and gumption to make it as a teenage author.

Faded, which is being geared toward a student audience of thirteen years and up, begins when teenage girl Hope Padden survives a car crash which kills her parents. The tragic event rehashes an old relationship with a male imaginary friend who now seeks revenge on her, and with whom she must save the world from fear and unhappiness.

In a recent article with the Toronto Sun, Hussain admits she’s always been fond for writing and started honing her talent at a young age. By the time she was twelve she completed more than most people do in their whole life*she had the workings for a full-on 238 page work of literature.

“I wanted to prove people wrong and make my mom proud by writing the book” she proclaims in the interview. Hussain also keeps up a credible reputation as a student council member at her highschool, and as a volunteer at a hospital, among other endeavours. How’s that for overachieving?

Check out Faded’s Facebook page for more information.

February 19, 2011

February Thoughts from South Asia

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BY KULPREET YADAV

 

Prof P. Lal, one of the most loveable Indian Publishers, closes his final book

I won’t talk about the literary festivals that are proliferating in India these days like wildfire (but don’t take me as someone who is averse to them). Rather, with esteemed reverence I would like to remember one of the India’s greatest publishers and writers, Prof P. Lal, who passed away recently. His ‘Writer’s Workshop’, during the five decades plus of its existence, published many famous names of the present times: Vikram Seth, Anita Desai, Shashi Deshpande and Raja Rao, to name a few.

 

I got to know about Prof P. Lal about four years ago and spoke with him on a few occasions. This was the time when I was looking for a suitable publisher for my novel. I had spoken to about a dozen editors and publishing house receptionists or so, and the only one who spoke to me with excitement was Prof Lal. Not just that, he also gave me a few words of encouragement, something that did a lot to my confidence and for which I am forever indebted.

But sadly, I couldn’t publish with Writer’s Workshop (I repent it to this day). And the only reason I didn’t publish my first title with him was due to the simple fact that WW didn’t have a distribution setup. Mr. Lal’s love for books was so deep-routed and his idea of books so unique that he hand-bound the books himself in lovely and colorful Indian sarees (the traditional clothing of Indian women) cloth pieces from his house at Kolkata, in north east India, and the book numbers were kept as low as 100, something like a limited edition.

During one of our recent conversations, I requested him to accept a small donation from me for the Writer’s Workshop, which his website announced they needed. I was honored because, not only did he accept my offer, but he also made it a point to talk about my small gesture on WW’s website. It is still there now. Aside from this, there was a poetry collection I had been working on, too, about which I told him and he asked me to send it for consideration. But since it wasn’t fully ready, I couldn’t send it. Now, perhaps, I never will. Worse, no one as good might ever be willing to see it.

 

A father at 94

Well, this got me thinking, I mean, how is it possible to father a child that is biologically one’s own at 94?

But it has happened right here in India! The man who achieved this feat asserted, according to a national daily, that it’s due to the food he had consumed when young: three liters of Buffalo milk, half a kilo of almonds and half a kilo of ghee (melted, clarified butter) everyday. It’s a magic formula to remain virile until the final breath, if you go by his theory. Food for thought for scientists, I guess.

In a race to unsettle the previous record holder, another Indian man who fathered a child at 90, this nonagenarian farmer is not just happy, he is bubbling with newly attained fatherhood and posing for pictures in his village in India’s northwest. He has called this unique achievement, ‘The God’s gift’. His wife is in her mid-fifties.

An important question: Is it not the responsibility of a parent to consider, before bearing a child, if he or she has enough residual time to bring up the child properly? But at 94 he can hardly be blamed to worry about such issues. And as Hugh Hefner, CEO of Playboy enterprises, recently said during his engagement to a Playboy model 60 years younger, ‘When you’re in love, age is just a number.’ Let’s watch out: he’s 84.

 

When it’s for the family, it pays to fight the weather

With the onset of a particularly aggressive winter this year, it hurt many of us to see so many people stuck at the airports all over Europe and America, spending Christmas and other holidays sprawled on hard benches or floors. So the question is: is it really worthwhile for you to jettison your travel plans, or the possibility of being with your loved ones, for the fear that the weather may play a spoil sport?

I would like to share what happened to me when I was confronted with the option and the opportunity came for me to visit my family at Delhi, nearly three thousand kilometers from where I am stationed. The newspaper had reported diversion of 76 flights during the last few days of December yet I grabbed the opportunity to visit my family with both hands and booked myself a flight for the first of January. And as luck would have it, the aircraft arrived in the afternoon on a clear day and on time. So you see, it does pay to fight the weather.

January 10, 2011

Whitewashing History In Mark Twain

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BY SWEETMAN

Mark Twain has been surrounded by controversy since he began publishing his writing. Witty, satirical and irreverent, William Faulkner hailed him as “the father of American literature.” Twain was born in 1835 and died in 1910, and his novels and essays were a reflection of his life and times. Twain’s writing is often light and humorous but he was equally infamous for his penchant to delve into sobering societal hypocrisies and inhumanity toward others.

For these dark themes, Twain’s most notable novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) have been mired in controversy over the appropriateness of teaching them to young readers. They have been banned from libraries, schools and curriculum since they were first published. The controversy surrounding Twain’s these novels still rages into the 21st century; his two most famous novels still rank in the top 100 of the American Library Association’s most frequently challenged and banned books.

Enter Auburn University Professor Alan Gribben, a Mark Twain scholar who decided, after forty years of studying and teaching the writings of Twain, to change the content of both The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. His changes substitute racially derogatory words for African-Americans and Native-Americans for, in Professor Gribben’s opinion, the more socially acceptable 21st century terms “slave” and “Indian” (wouldn’t “Native American” be the more politically correct version?). He reasons that by substituting the n- and i-words for more socially acceptable words he is eliminating “preemptive censorship” of the novels and thus preventing further cries of inappropriateness in public schools. Professor Gribben defends his edits as offering to teachers and general readers “an option for a more palatable reading experience.”

Well doesn’t that just make altering a dead author’s work The Right Thing To Do! And maybe the politically correct white-washing of Classic American Literature will revise our unsavory and uncomfortable history of slavery, segregation and racial inequality!

Censorship is censorship. No matter how earnestly one feels he/she is defending an author, alteration of the author’s final text to make it more “palatable” to the masses is censorship. Mark Twain did not use the word “slave” 219 times in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and no amount of good intention by Professor Gribben gives him the right to change Twain’s work. Furthermore, using a less inflammatory yet definitively wrong word as the substitution for a highly offensive, racially charged word sets Professor Gribben squarely on a path of whitewashing then rinsing an unfortunate part of American History.

There is a word for Professor Gribben’s particular brand of censorship as he is not the first well-meaning expert to try to gloss a work of literature to make it less offensive. Thomas Bowdler, an English physician, decided to expurgate the works of William Shakespeare and Edward Gibbons to render them more appropriate for the delicate eyes of 19th century women and children. His edits were soundly ridiculed and rejected. The term bowdlerize is now eponymous with literary censorship.

Gribben’s bowdlerization of Twain’s writing is an act of incredible vanity. During a reading as part of the NEA’s Big Read Program in Alabama, Gribben read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and routinely substituted “slave” for the n-word to make for a more comfortable reading. Apparently Professor Gribben liked the swap so much that he is perfectly comfortable tweaking Twain’s works in writing to make it easier on our modern eyes.

Censorship of Twain’s novels does both the author and the content of the novels a tremendous disservice. It is impossible to know if Mark Twain would make politically correct changes to his novels today and we can only guess what he would want. Twain wrote in the vernacular of the time. The derogatory slang use of the n-word in the 1870s is not burdened with the unspeakable weight that it carries in the 21st century. Yet that unspeakable weight is the burden of a society that has to live with the acts and deeds of its predecessors, like it or not. Difficult as it is to read, write and speak, censorship of a novel that reflects true historical times does not protect or teach young readers and bowdlerizing literature to make reading more palatable teaches nothing.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are tremendous novels with a sad truth still present today: our capability for committing inhumane acts. As a society, we haven’t changed enough to read Twain’s novels with any historical distance. To the contrary, the power of Twain’s writing has drastically changed to make his words uncomfortable, taboo and unspeakable in classrooms. Expunging those words changes nothing within our present culture. It’s just censorship.

January 10, 2011

Who Can Say the N-Word?

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Writer, poet, and activist Ishmael Reed is interviewed by the BBC’s George Galloway on the controversy surrounding NewSouth, an Alabama-based U.S. publishing company, whose new edition of Mark Twain’s novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn have removed the n-word, a derogatory slang term for blacks, and replaced it with “slave.” A derogatory term for Native Americans was also removed and replaced with “Indian.”

 

December 31, 2010

Happy New Year from THIS!

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Wishing you a happy New Year! We look forward to reading many amazing submissions in 2011!

 

December 28, 2010

Word Up: Austerity is Word of the Year

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Each year, Merriam-Webster creates a list of the top words culled from the trends, mood, and interests of American culture.

Merriam-Webster’s Top Ten Words of 2010:

1. Austerity
2. Pragmatic
3. Moratorium
4. Socialism
5. Bigot
6. Doppelganger
7. Shellacking
8. Ebullient
9. Dissident
10. Furtive

The top word, austerity, is defined by the dictionary as “enforced or extreme economy,” amply appropriate in a year of global economic worries and seemingly continuous financial bad news.

December 19, 2010

December Thoughts from South Asia

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BY KULPREET YADAV

John Lennon – We Imagine you!

The two people who impacted me the most when I was teenager growing up in downtown Pune, a large city in India’s Midwest, were John Lennon and James Hadley Chase. John’s gone for thirty years now.

Why do crazy people spot and erase such geniuses? It’s a question that I have been wondering about recently. Imagine if we had John’s songs for a decade or two more. I can’t imagine, can you? I think only John could tell me how and with his untimely demise our right to vivid imagination has been stolen away. The BBC, in a specially aired show on the eve of the anniversary of his death, showed young college students singing his songs at campuses in America and other places. I guess the songs of John Lennon will continue to live forever – just like him. This I sure can imagine.

 

Publishing ruckus in India

Throughout India, there is a lack of publishers, surely not enough for the appetite of millions who have the aptitude to pen down their stories, poetries or observations. Understandably, many from foreign shores are queuing up, which leads to strong emotion here, but if you are alongside me here in India you will see the point. A recent article in a leading weekly has pegged the publishing industry in India growing at twenty percent, an enthusiasm that is slated to sustain for at least five more years. Recently, U.S.-based publisher Hachette set up their India office and more are rumored to follow.

The traditional Indian publishing industry, if they intend to survive this invasion, need to put their houses in order. Distribution and sieving through each submission that comes their way is the key. While the former might be easy to figure out, it is the latter that is the real problem. A publisher friend says he has time and resources to read only five percent of what he receives.

 

Winters at Port Blair

While my family is braving the chills in Delhi, I am all bandana, shorts and T-shirt clad here at Port Blair, an island city in the middle of the Bay of Bengal. It’s December and here the weather is as good as it can get. There are people – Indian tourists and irregular foreign ones – everywhere you see. It’s good fun to visit bars in the evenings and I do just that on most days. At the bars everyone wants to sing, most men can be heard boasting their stories at the tables with others around the table not necessarily listening, and the girls are their giggly best. But I still miss my family. Anyone who has stayed away from his wife and kids for over two months at a stretch can feel my pain.

 

***
Kulpreet Yadav is a novelist, short fiction writer and a poet from India. You can visit his blog here.

December 9, 2010

From Milan to Michigan: The American Horse at the Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

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BY URSULA K. RAPHAEL

Most people would probably think that Milan, Italy and Grand Rapids, Michigan don’t have anything in common, but they are the only two cities that have the world’s largest horse sculptures (of equal size) designed by Leonardo Da Vinci. Milan has “Il Cavallo.” Da Vinci’s “The American Horse” can be found at Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan (halfway between Chicago and Detroit).

Larry ten Harmsel, the historian for Meijer Gardens, presents us with The American Horse (August 2010, Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, $11.99), the story of how this great horse came to be. He is also a member of the Sculpture Advisory Committee and describes in vivid detail how “The American Horse” has helped Meijer Gardens become one of the world’s premier cultural institutions.

The first chapter touches on the creations of this 132 acre site, which includes boardwalks and nature trails that lead through small forests and wetlands, complete with native wildlife, as well as greenhouses, sculpture loops, and an amphitheatre. Fred and Lena Meijer donated the original 80 acres garden park and many of the permanent sculptures. In addition to the generosity of the Meijers, volunteers, members and visitors have helped Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park become a wondrous experience of art and nature blended together.

Subsequent chapters give the history of the horse going back more than 500 years. Initially planned as a life-sized equestrian statue, changes were constantly being made. While waiting for the needed bronze, Da Vinci completed “The Last Supper.” Due to complication, namely the Second Italian War, the horse was never actually made. The non-profit organization Leonardo Da Vinci’s Horse, Inc (LDVHI) resurrected the long-lost project. Eventually, Nina Akamu, a sculptor who had studied in Italy, became the creator of a model based on Da Vinci’s notes and sketches.

Included in this monumental story of art, history and determination, Larry ten Harmsel references many other beautiful pieces added to the Sculpture Park over the years, including “Mad Mom” by Tom Otterness and temporary exhibits like “The Thinker” by Rodin. It has been completely awe-inspiring to bring my five-year-old son to Meijer Gardens since he was a baby – one of his first words was “Da Vinci.” One of the most wonderful aspects of Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is that it is constantly changing from one season to the next, year after year, so no two visits are the same, as aptly proven by the breath-taking photographs included in ten Harmsel’s book.

I highly recommend adding Grand Rapids, Michigan (home of Art Prize, incidentally) to your list of must-see cities, and pick up a copy of The American Horse while you are there.

The gift shop at the Meijer Sculpture Park & Gardens accepts orders via phone and will ship the book upon request. Please visit the gift shop website for more information or call 616-975-3176 to order.

November 30, 2010

Fiction + Hollywood = A Very Beautiful Love Affair?

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Hollywood films frequently borrow from literary (and sometimes not so literary) writers. This year, everything from Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go, graphic novels Tamara Drewe by Posy Simonds and the Scott Pilgrim series by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Elizabeth Gilbert’s heartfelt memoir Eat, Pray Love and the biopic on Allen Ginsberg, “Howl,” appeared on the silver screen.

What’s missing from this list? A little Gothic romanticism perhaps?

Indie filmmaker Cary Fukunaga (“Sin Nombre”) has a new adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre set for release in March 2011 and starring Mia Wasikowska (“Alice in Wonderland,” “The Kids Are All Right”), Dame Judi Dench (does she really need an introduction?), Michael Fassbender (“Inglourious Basterds”), and Sally Hawkins (“Tipping the Velvet,” “An Education”).

Since the last good film adaptation of Gothic fiction was Alfred Hitchcock’s take on Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca,” let’s hope that Fukunaga’s “Jane Eyre” doesn’t disappoint. Check out the trailer below.

 

 

The other Hollywood-Book news is James Franco – actor, writer (his short story collection Palo Alto was published in October), PhD candidate in English literature at Yale, MFA student, performance artist, soap opera star and visual artist – is confirmed to host the Oscars with Anne Hathaway who, as far as we know, is only an actress. After hosting the Oscars, Franco will bow out of attending any post-award parties to clime Mt. Everest, end world hunger, negotiate a renewed cease fire between Israel and Palestine and rescue a kitten trapped in a tree.

November 18, 2010

Small Book Wins Big Prize: Johanna Skibsrud’s The Sentimentalists Snags the Giller

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BY JOHN COLEMAN

Johanna Skibsrud’s The Sentimentalists winning the Giller Prize, Canada’s highest literary achievement, does more for CanLit than for Skibsrud. That’s taken lightly though, because the young, thirty-year-old author of a highly esteemed novel will feel the Giller effect of worldly recognition and mass sales in the ball park of 75,000 copies. But even that sounds miniscule compared to the real story behind The Sentimentalists. When this novel was first published in 2009 by Kentville, Nova Scotia micro-press Gaspereau Books, it was in a wiry run of 800 copies.

That’s what makes this year’s Giller so unique in the world of CanLit, and so groundbreaking. The Sentamentalists is the smallest book ever to win the prize, which pays a pleasant $50,000, and beat out two big commercial novels, David Bergen’s The Matter With Morris and Kathleen Winter’s Annabel. Winter’s novel was also nominated for the Writer’s Trust and Governor General’s awards. Last year’s Giller winner was long time CBC newscaster Lynden MacIntyre for his widely successful novel The Bishop’s Man. In its fifteen year existence, past Giller winners include Alice Munro, Joseph Boyden and Margaret Atwood. No one saw the major literary award centering in on something as obscure as Skibsrud‘s novel, an account of her father’s life as a soldier in the Vietnam War.

At the same time, The Sentamentalists contended with other underdogs, including Sarah Salecky’s This Cake Is For The Party and Alexander MacLeod’s Light Lifting, two considerably smaller books, thought their quantities were at least in the thousands when recommended by the jury.

Once the 2010 Giller longlist was announced, Gaspereau owner Andrew Steeves turned down commercial offers to mass produce copies of The Sentamentalists. “If you are going to buy a copy of that book in Canada, it’s damn well coming out of my shop,” Steeves proclaimed in an interview with the Globe and Mail. He’s since changed his tune, telling the press on Monday that Vancouver publishers Douglas & McIntyre will be producing 30,000 paperback copies by the end of the week, with an additional 20,000 lined up when demand bubbles again.

Also currently hitting the news is a dash of Giller controversy. Ali Smith, British author and one of the three Giller jurors this year, reportedly tipped off a publishing friend during the middle of deliberations about her love of Skibsrud’s novel. The National Post reported that Smith’s friend, Tracy Bohan of The Wiley Agency, may have taken the advice a little too seriously, because she sold foreign printing rights of the book to a UK Random House imprint with a release date set for next March. Giller president Jack Rabinovitch acknowledges the information sharing was out of line, but was done innocently.

Meanwhile, Steeves at Gaspereau in Kentville, Nova Scotia is trying to keep his head above water while pumping out 1,000 hand-printed and hand-bound copies a week, with enough on backorder to keep them in business until e-books really do take over the world. Oddly enough, The Sentamentalists is available online as an e-Book from Kobo. Since the announcement of Skibsrud’s win last week, Amazon.ca has her novel topping the bestseller list ahead of Keith Richard’s Life and George W. Bush’s Decision Points. Beating out famous names like that is no little feat.

November 10, 2010

Live Show Review: A Powerhouse of Punk and Grit, The Delinquints Nod to Early Hardcore

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BY JOHN COLEMAN

The 8th annual Toronto Zombie Walk hit downtown T.O. Saturday, October 23, giving Hallowe’en lovers a chance to try on their costumes a little early. I caught one of the many after parties happening that night, this one at the Bovine Sex Club, where the Delinquints laid down a gritty and captivating set.

The Delinquints’ live performance is a powerhouse of noise. A raw, electric spectacle comprised of singer Jimy Delinquint’s dark, Misfit-greaser aesthetic; Beardo and Sarah’s classic punky-garage, U.K. Subs style guitars, coarsely distorted and frantically chugging away; and Dan Arget’s blistering drums continually cycling through high tempo, four on the floor beats. The Delinquints play heavy, monstrous punk, yet simple and with enough soul to stay out of the new hardcore-cum-metal spectrum. This is hardcore punk in the classic sense: Johnny Cash down on Avenue A. Back alley Elvis wielding stiletto. The Ramones on speed.

Of course, with so much punk history encroaching on their sound, the Delinquints had to pay homage to their heroes. This came with a much more core than Social D cover of Cash’s eternal psychobilly anthem “Folsom Prison Blues.” And three Misfits classics, “Horror Business,” “Hybrid Moments” and, which got everyone fist pumping, “Last Caress.” Belting out the songs at double speed, sounding almost exactly like today’s touring Misfits, all of the Delinquints’ covers were graceful nods to their forebears. This band isn’t out to prove they’re punk; they naturally strut in intimidating confidence.

Sending off guitarist Sarah Hoedlmoser in her last set with the group, plenty of Delinquints favourites were also on hand. These included “Punish The Wicked (With a 2X4),” “No Cure For” and “Criminalise The Poor.” Demonstrating their early eighties street, specifically anarcho anthem meets fifties garage sound, these tracks got local followers chanting. By the end of the set, the Bovine was packed shoulder to shoulder with people catching a glimpse of these punks who know that respect for elders trumps striking a pose.

 

photo: alexandra

November 10, 2010

The Very Writerly President

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Just in time for the Republican and Tea Party sweep of congressional and gubernatorial seats, former United States President George W. Bush’s memoir, Decision Points was released to enormous media hoopla today. Back in May, The Huffington Post invited folks to photoshop their own titles and covers for the book. (Personal favorite: #10) In her New York Times review, Michiko Kakutani says that Decision Points “lacks the emotional precision and evocative power” of former First Lady Laura Bush’s memoir Speaking from the Heart. Between the two, Kakutani says save your money and your time for Laura’s memoir over George’s.

November 3, 2010

THIS Reads: NaNoWriMo Killed the Literary Star

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BY LACEY N. DUNHAM

I always find myself frustrated by all the books I’m not reading. My “to read” list is always miles longer than the list of books I’ve finished. Compounding my frustration is that I’m a slow reader. I have friends who readily soar through three or four books each week and, unless all I do is sit in a chair for six hours a day intently focused on one book, knocking through multiple titles only days apart is something I rarely accomplish.

Then again, at least I’m reading, right? In an article at Salon in which she rails against National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), Laura Miller complains that there aren’t enough readers and far too many writers. And while there are statistics revealing that many folks in the U.S. spend more leisure time watching television or using a computer than reading, I don’t believe the argument that there is a dearth of readers in the U.S. People are reading; what people are reading has changed.

In the age of technology, reading occurs outside of books with an increasing frequency, something Miller doesn’t acknowledge in her article (which I “read” online although, because it doesn’t occur between the pages of a bound book, might not count as actual “reading” in Miller-world). Each Sunday I read the New York Times Book Review, in print; I try to read most of the New Yorker each week. When I travel, I frequently pack back-issues of magazines and literary journals I’ve been meaning to get around to and haven’t: Bitch, Poets & Writers, Zone 3, Zoetrope, The Normal School. I don’t work at a typical desk job, but if I did, I imagine that a chunk of my day would be spent reading articles and blogs online. Does all of this, because I’m not purchasing my reading from a traditional bookstore or downloading it on a Kindle, mean I’m reading-deficient?

To be fair, Miller’s article mostly deals with the reasons why someone shouldn’t participate in what she calls the “self-aggrandizing frenzy” of NaNoWriMo: “…while there’s no shortage of good novels out there, there is a shortage of readers for these books.” She’s right: getting published is not half as hard as getting someone to purchase your book, read it, and recommend it to others who will also purchase it once you’ve been published. And it’s true that few authors are commercially successful. But reading novels and writing them isn’t a zero-sum game.

Maybe I’m touchy because I am participating in NaNoWriMo and I take it personally that Miller refers to writing as a “narcissistic commerce,” even if I’m not sure where the “commerce” part comes in. If I’m supposed to be getting wealthy from all this, I wish someone would have told me long ago so I could have the last laugh over my friends who elected law and business school.

Miller implies that Wrimos (NaNo parlance for participating writers) aren’t reading any books or, at least by her judgement, not enough of them. I disagree with this assumption, too. Maybe Wrimos aren’t reading the same types of books Miller would read (she goes on a long rant against self-help books in her article) but reading is reading, regardless of the material. And, unless it’s Nicole Richie’s latest novel, I don’t think reading in all its many forms is making anyone more stupid.

So in addition to all the magazines, lit journals (both in print and online), book reviews and newspapers this particular Wrimo has read over the last month, I also enjoyed Julia Glass’s novel The Widower’s Tale, a story shaped by four voices that represent various corners of modern American culture. Set against the backdrop of eco-terrorism, limousine liberals, and a longing for the past in the face of rapid change, Glass succeeds in illuminating the darkest corners of our hypocrisy and hopes, all with her characteristic tenderness and humor.

Leslie Marmon Silko has been a favorite writer of mine ever since I read Ceremony. The Turquoise Ledge is her first book in ten years and a beautiful memoir that fuses elements of her family’s mixed-race heritage with Native myths and reflections on the natural world. Her imaginative storytelling travels across boundaries of time to share aspects of her life as they are remembered; for example, her first divorce is discussed alongside the eradication of the Laguna language.

University of Chicago historian Thomas C. Holt presents a generational and nuanced portrait of African-Americans in Children of Fire, a uniquely framed history that traces the shifts in culture, policy, and social norms that have defined race relations and institutions of oppression in the U.S. from when the first Africans were sold in Jamestown in 1619 to the election of President Barack Obama. Holt’s history reminds us that lives mired in history as it is lived are far more complex and dynamic than the flattened accounts textbooks would have us believe. I don’t generally read histories but appreciated Holt’s perspective and sharp narration. Children of Fire is a long book but it doesn’t lag.

Finally, confidential to all the Wrimos clattering away at their keyboard out there: Carolyn Kellogg is on our side.

October 12, 2010

From Shortlist to Winner, the Man Booker Committee Pulls an Upset

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Howard Jacobson‘s novel The Finkler Question was announced the winner of the 2010 Man Booker Prize in a London ceremony earlier today, dispensing with Tom McCarthy’s C, which was considered the front-runner for winning the prize and even caused the British bookmaker Ladbrokes to close betting on wagers for the prize after they received nearly $24,000 USD in a single day.

Jacobson’s previous novels include Who’s Sorry Now and Kolooki Nights, both of which we shortlisted for the prize in 2002 and 2006, respectively. The prize comes with a $79,000 USD monetary award and an almost guaranteed bestseller status in the United Kingdom. Assuring the winner’s book will fly off the shelves in North America is another matter, one that last year’s winner, Hilary Mantel for her novel Wolf Hall, surprised with its commercial success abroad. Wolf Hall went on to win the National Book Critics Circle Award in the U.S.

October 11, 2010

National Coming Out Day: 10 Recommended LGBTQ Books

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Today lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and queer folks across the U.S. celebrate National Coming Out Day, a civil awareness day to bring attention to issues that impact LGBTQ communities nationwide. With media attention on the number of teenage suicides connected to homophobic bullying and the stalled repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the U.S. military ban on gay and lesbians in the military, we decided to contribute something positive to the negative news.

10 RECOMMENDED LGBTQ BOOKS

1. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
Bechdel, who penned the long-running comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, reached both new audiences and a greater artistic depth with her autobiographical graphic novel about a family falling apart. Bechdel quietly examines how secrets and lies can undo the truth while simultaneously becoming their own reality.

2. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
This illustrated children’s book topped the list of the most banned and challenged books in the U.S. for three years running; this year, it fell to third on the list. The true story of two male penguins at the New York City Central Park Zoo who are given and egg to hatch is also a moving tale about love and family.

3. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity by Judith Butler
Frequently critiqued for her obtuse writing style, Butler’s academic text has been a constant critical companion to gender and sexuality courses at universities ever since its initial publication in 1989. Drawing from French philosophers like Lacan, Foucault, Sartre and, of course, de Beauvoir, Gender Trouble is a seminal work on the paradigm and politics of gender identity that is not for the casual reader.

4. Three Junes by Julia Glass
Glass’s debut novel won the National Book Award – and rightly so. A compassionate, moving tale that weaves the lives of three characters over the course of three vital summers is both gently humorous and dramatically compelling: Paul, a widower, his self-protective gay son Fenno, and Fern, a young artist searching for love and meaning in her life. Through these and her supporting characters, Glass tells a tender, beautiful story of the circular nature of life and love.

5. Lockpick Pornography by Joey Comeau
With its fierce, hybrid cover that mashes the face of the Sesame Street character Bert over a pencil drawing of a leather jacket-wearing, crowbar-wielding thug, Comeau’s debut novel picked up considerable word-of-month buzz that sold out its first printing in just three months. Described as a “genderqueer adventure story” Lockpick Pornography is also a wild romp through violence, gender, family and societal values, and sex. It’s also not a recommended title to Google without quotation marks.

6. The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
Winner of the 2004 Man Booker Prize, Hollinghurst’s novel fully encompasses England during Margaret Thatcher’s reign as prime minister and the fast gay culture of the ’80s while also examining the tangles of class, politics, and lust.

7. Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman
Aciman’s coming-of-age novel centers on the erotic longings and desires that frequently define our youth, whether left unconsummated or not. Seventeen-year-old Elio is attracted to the confident American university student Oliver. Their friendship gradually becomes a passionate and clandestine affair. Aciman draws a portrait of youthful obsession with intensity.

8. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
Another coming-of-age novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is semi-autobiographical; the narrator and budding evangelical, Jeanette, must reconcile her Jonathan Edwards-style religious beliefs with her growing same-sex attractions.

9. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Following up on the lesbians-in-Victorian-England theme begun with her novel Tipping the Velvet and continued in Affinity, Fingersmith is a Dickensian melodrama replete with pickpockets, orphans, sooty London streets, and asylums. It’s also a sharp critique of Victorian moral and sexual hypocrisy.

10. The Night Listener by Armistead Maupin
Another writer whose novels are frequently compared to the works of Dickens, Maupin’s protagonist in The Night Listener, finds himself drawn to an abused but devoted thirteen-year-old boy and fan of the radio show he hosts. Suspenseful, humorous, and filled with pathos, the anxiety of the midlife crisis is examined alongside greater questions of the blurred line between art and reality.

October 11, 2010

What Does Karkwa’s Polaris Prize Win Mean for the Canadian Underground Music Scene?

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BY JOHN COLEMAN

Polaris Prize season is always exciting for Canadian music journalists. The hype around the heftily weighted $20,000 purse acknowledging the best independent album of the year takes on a feverish holiday feel. This year, after a summer of waiting since the longlist was announced on June 17, and the shortlist on July 7, music nerds were getting antsy. For months, record biz insiders, journalists and music fans were making their predictions known all over social networks. Leading up to the special day, September 20, people were wishing each other a “Happy Polaris Prize Day” on Twitter and Facebook.

Now it’s all said and done and, I am pleased to announce, the winner of the 2010 Polaris Prize is Montreal indie rock group Karkwa for their record Les Chemins De Verre. The band has been around since 2003 and have released four albums on Audiogram Records.

Much like the hype preceding Polaris day, after the winner is announced there is always strong reaction from media and music listeners alike. Last fall I was happier than a punk with a bottle of malt liquor when I heard one of my favourite bands, Fucked Up, won for their record The Chemistry Of Common Life. But after the Toronto hardcore-turned-experimental troupe took home the oversized cheque, reaction ensued, and critics unleashed. People couldn’t believe that a curse-named punk band could beat out more radio friendly underground music. “For heaven’s sake,” mainstream snobbies protested, “Metric was up for the award – and Fucked Up won?!”

This year, it’s much of the same jealousy fired at Karkwa. I guess it is tradition for people to lash out, usually in defence of the bands that don’t need twenty grand. Mostly I’ve seen people angry about popular bands like Tegan and Sarah and Broken Social Scene being sidelined by the judges in lieu of an underdog. I confess, I haven’t heard Les Chemins De Verre entirely, yet, but from what I’ve Youtubed I like. I applaud Karkwa for proving Edge102 radio and MuchMusic aren’t the be all, end all to what’s hip in Canada.

However, I wonder why some well-known underground bands were left out this year. Although one of my favourites, The Sadies, made the shortlist (much to my surprise), I think some other Canadian albums should at least have been considered, like Bison BC’s Dark Ages, which I heard back in March and immediately declared the best Canadian album of 2010. I also would have nominated Fuck The Facts Unnamed EP, which to your next door neighbour sounds like the heaviest metal of all time but is really one of the smartest, genius punk/grind records ever.

I’ve kept quiet on my thoughts because, frankly, I know it will be a while before a heavier bands take the Polaris. For some reason hardcore and metal are too out of reach for vogue listeners. This is why it still amazes me that Fucked Up won last year. If the judges heard any of their music prior to Chemistry, I’m sure they would have barfed in disgust and declined them any right to acknowledgment in the arts scene.

October 8, 2010

Two Videos of the Week: Vampires and Camp

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We couldn’t resist – with so much mind candy on the Internet, how can we only put one video of the week on our blog? So, dear readers, a special treat: two awesome videos that we think you’ll enjoy.

The first video begs the question What Would Jim Henson Think? The cast of Sesame Street take their own unique twist on “True Blood,” the popular vampire/werewolf series based on the novels of Charlaine Harris.

Our favorite moment? The Muppet version of the character Lafayette sashaying through the foreground at the beginning of the video.

 

 

 

In the next video, Ron Charles at The Washington Post reviews Michael Cunningham‘s recent novel By Nightfall. True to Ron Charles form, only he would find a way to bring the Twilight franchise’s Taylor Lautner into a review for a character-driven book by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author.

Due to copyright restrictions, you’ll have to click here to watch the video review.

October 7, 2010

Mario Vargas Llosa, Nobel Laureate in Literature, Breaks Eurocentric Streak

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Mario Vargas Llosa was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature today, ending what some have decried as the prize’s long Eurocentric streak. Vargas Llosa, a Peruvian native, is probably best known for his novels published in the 1960’s and ’70’s, including The Time of the Hero, The Green House and Conversation in the Cathedral, all of which are deeply political works that examine the pervasive corruption in Latin America.

Vargas Llosa is the first South American writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature since Gabriel Garcia Marquez was awarded the prize in 1982; Mexican novelist Octavio Paz, the most recent Latin American to win, was awarded the prize in 1990.

Vargas Llosa has been criticized for a shift in his politics. Initially a supporter of the Cuban revolution, he took a political step away from Fidel Castro in the 1970’s and ran for the presidency of Peru in 1990 as a right-center conservative. Despite the political nature of his work and its examination of corruption in Latin American, his alignment with policies and economics of the right have left hard feelings among some writers and politicians in Latin America. According to the Wall Street Journal, Vargas Llosa punched former friend and ally Gabriel Garcia Marquez at a movie premier in Mexico City in 1976. The two writers have not discussed the feud publicly.

Vargas Llosa currently teaches Latin American studies at Princeton University. Last year’s Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to German-Romanian writer Herta Muller.

September 30, 2010

Poetry Against Censorship: Musings on Terry Jones

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White Moustache
by John Coleman

I read in the newspaper
about a man with a white moustache
who said he wanted to burn the Qur’an.
His moustache looked just like Hulk Hogan’s,
and it reminded me of white bread.
Fake, like white bread –
so overworked and distant from nature.
Bleached, misshapen, manipulated, unnatural.
Unreal – like wrestling.

The moustached man said that
if they built a mosque where
(people can pray)
so many innocent people died,
that would comply with the enemy.
He didn’t have mighty arms like Hulk Hogan does,
but he worked in the same way:
to bring down the enemy.
And I thought,
I belong to the most violent generation.
But not like,
My generation is so violent, it’s absurd.
My thoughts wandered to the conclusion that
I live in the most violent generation ever.

That’s all burning the Qur’an is anyway, right?
Violence.
Instead of burning the Qur’an,
this man really wants to burn the enemy.
He really wants to burn human beings.
But burning the Qur’an sends the same message:
red-white-and-blue
(so easily, how it flows)
wants you to die.

Target, burn, kill your enemy
preached the white moustached man.
It made me want to burn
red-white-and-blue mentality.
I want to burn my Wonder Bread.
I want to darken my white bread mind.

Because my side
(culture)
is being strung up
(hung)
like a(n) flag
(enemy).
I feel misrepresented.
I don’t believe in flags.
Because of the man with the white moustache
I will never believe in God
because believing in God means being hung.

There is a mosque in my neighbourhood in the GTA.
Little mosque on the concrete prairie.
It’s like a church in a school gym
with a Coke machine in the entrance
where my neighbours pray to
Jesus.
But opposite
(wrong).
Right, white moustached man?

I later read that Hulk Hogan
stepped down from his challenge
and that bruised his integrity
because he was fake.
If he was real he would have
burned all the Qur’ans.
But some Hoganites were still going to
carry out the crusade,
the original plan.

They said:
This is the right thing to do.
The only thing left
but more so right
thing to do.
Burn people that burn you.

And a friend, or two, or many of mine read the Qur’an.
Read, or pray, or wander in thought,
then we all watch wrestling.
Hulk Hogan on the screen in fiery yellow and red.
When he powerslams the enemy, the violence is
fake, thin, blank.
Like Wonder Bread.
But there is always a small city who thinks
it is worth standing up to say
“Hulk Hogan is the best,
I would do anything he tells me.”
It is the most violent generation.

September 29, 2010

THIS reads: Judge a Book by Its Cover

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BY SWEETMAN

I’ve wrestled with the notion of the e-reader for the past few years. I admit, at first I was like, No. Way. No friggin’ way. Nope. No. No, no, NO! It seemed impossible to compare a sterile flat screen with the physical book that has a cover announcing what it is and is filled with pages that have a feel and a smell. Trading off a book for a device just wasn’t possible for me in the early days of the e-reader.

Yet I understand this amazing modern age. I’ve reconciled uneasily with how fast life is changing bacause it’s work to keep up. I understand if you can’t keep up with what’s new, you’re old school but in a really uncool, awkward way. If you can’t keep up you miss out.

My feelings about the e-reader changed when I saw my young son lugging a backpack filled with textbooks older than he is. Now there’s a good reason for an e-reader. Text books, especially college text books, would be perfect in an electronic format because they can be updated quickly, subjects can be linked easily for further references and the dire need for those ridiculous backpacks with wheels will hopefully go away. Forever.

Environmentally? Sure! Let’s save the trees! I see the upside to keeping forests intact although honestly, I give little thought to the trees when I am immersed in a great book.

I have seen people with the e-reader. It doesn’t really grab me like, Oh my gosh there’s an e-reader! It’s just another electronic gadget that commands its owner’s attention so completely that those people and things surrounding him or her cease to exist.

 

 

As far as feeling that books are going to fall before the almighty e-reader the way VHS fell to DVD, I am no longer frought with despair. The birth of the e-reader is a response to what the public wants but it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the book. The e-reader has its down-sides: it needs to be plugged in to work. You can’t read it in the tub. It’s very expensive to leave at the airport.

For me, the worst thing about the e-reader is probably what makes it one of the best things: it can hold a huge number of books. Imagine, all my favorite books in one little gadget.

My favorite books are often my traveling companions. They’ve ridden with me on trains, buses, planes and smokey cars of people I barely knew. They’ve kept me company in lobbies, waiting rooms, bars, bathrooms and hallways waiting for the bathroom.

My books haven’t just kept me company, they’ve helped me find friends. I’ve met like-minded individuals who light up with, Oh, I love that book! after glancing at the the title. I’ve met equally shy people who, like me, never just say Hi but venture with a So how do you like that book? I’ve even had fantastic, heated debates with a complete stranger about the importance of Kerouac’s On the Road. How can an e-reader inspire that exchange?

My favorites books are beat-up and dog-eared with underlined passages. Occasionally there are some highlighted paragraphs and most are filled with little scribbles in the margins. All the war wounds of my books are testimony to their travel with me and my travels and travails into them. How could an electronic device compare to the life my books lead?

While feeling less threatened by the electronic reader, I admit I do despair for the future of books in future generations. These are the people who will grow up with electronic devices as the norm and might look at books as I look at a phone with a rotary dial. In the path of progress some things are, unfortunately, lost along the way.

Here are some of my books that have sparked the best friendships, conversations and insights from strangers:


DIVA
by Delacorta. A French novel and not a great translation, it was made into a much better movie. I took this on a bus from Boston to NYC and sat next to a musician who loved the soundtrack from the movie. We talked for the entire trip to New York.

 


ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac. This was the book that lead to a shouting argument on a train from Salem to Boston. It was ridiculous!

I brought the book on the train to look pretentious but the whole idea of the Beat generation, the characters and ideals, were a joke to me. Maybe I just had a hangover. Maybe the poor guy who wanted praise Kerouac reminded me of my blissed-out college professor. Whatever it was, I ended up in Boston being called an uptight, closed-minded hypocrite. The memory still makes me laugh – it’s the best part of the book for me.

 


THE BASKETBALL DIARIES by Jim Carroll is a great collection of poems that better defines a certain era. It is edgy and sharp. I carried this on the bus to and from work in Worcester, MA and had developed an odd group of friends who had read it. We met often for coffee and discussions after work. It takes me back to such a great time in my life.

My books are interlaced with memories, times and places that help define who I am. Could I ever get that with an e-reader?

September 27, 2010

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Censorship

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BY URSULA K. RAPHAEL

If you’ve paid attention to recent news, you’ve probably heard about Terry Jones, the preacher who proposed burning the Qur’an. Alas, book censorship is still alive and well in the United States, the country that totes freedom of speech as our national mantra. Not only is it ridiculous, but it’s a shameful waste of millions of trees. Unfortunately, there are people who are so desperate to protect others from what they consider “harmful reading material,” they are probably recruiting computer hackers to create viruses to stop the downloading of “dangerous ideas” to Kindles everywhere.

Number one on the banned/challenged book list of 2000-2009, compiled by the American Library Association, is *drum roll please* the Harry Potter series. This series has been accused of promoting witchcraft/atheism, encouraging children to misbehave and make bad decisions, and being just plain frightening. (I’m not sure if trying to fly on a broom falls under “witchcraft” or “making a bad decision.”)

I personally thought the Harry Potter books were a fantastic collection of mythology and folklore interwoven into a story of an abused boy who makes something of himself despite not having a loving family environment and having to ward off attacks on his life every year. But, I was probably reading too far into the storyline and overlooked the details enticing children to the dark side with promises of owl-delivered invitations to a wizarding school.

I will be the first to admit that Harry and his friends do lie, break rules, and disrespect authority figures, but so do most school children (which is why I homeschool). I would also like to point out that if fictional characters always told the truth, followed the rules, and showed more respect for others, stories would be pretty boring, probably not go anywhere, and miss the point of creative writing.

The complaint that makes me laugh the most is the accusation that the Harry Potter series is too scary for children. Honestly, I think the news is the scariest thing I’ve read on any given date. At least when they read the books the kids can tell themselves “it’s just a story.” Of course, any sensible parent would read what their kids read, be aware of what is age-appropriate and realize that, in our world, children are no strangers to suffering and death.

My personal experience with the Harry Potter books includes reading the series, watching the movies, and collecting some of the memorabilia (which includes a sorting hat). I have thrown Harry Potter themed parties for organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters. I had craft tables where the kids could make their own wands with unicorn hair, dragon scales, and phoenix feathers. We sorted participants in the four houses of Hogwarts (by drawing names out of my sorting hat), gave prizes for trivia questions about the books, and shared a Harry Potter birthday cake. In return, our guests were asked to bring new books (any children’s books) that were donated to children of families who could not afford the luxury of reading material.

Some people would say that a kid reading anything without discretion or standards is not an accomplishment, but I say that kids reading books and sharing that love of reading with less fortunate children is something to be proud of.

September 25, 2010

Banned Books Week

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The 2010 Banned Books Week is September 25 – October 2. Sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA), banned books week was founded to highlight issues of censorship around reading and free speech. During Banned Books Week, the ALA looks at books that have been banned (formally removed from school or library shelves) and books that have been challenged (where someone has lodged a formal complaint against a book). Over the course of the week, we look forward to sharing with you our experiences with banned books and our thoughts on censorship and free speech.

Why are books banned or challenged?
The Office of Intellectual Freedom cites the following three reasons for challenging materials:
1. the material was considered to be “sexually explicit”
2. the material contained “offensive language”
3. the materials was “unsuited to any age group”

Why should I care about banned books?
Intellectual freedom, which the ALA defines as “the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular” is integral to the free and open access of information, democratization, self-belief, and self-expression. When restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society, the foundation of that very society is at risk.

The ALA’s list of frequently challenged classics reveals an interesting irony: George Orwell’s 1984 is on the list. Here are the others:

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses by James Joyce
7. Beloved by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
9. 1984 by George Orwell
10. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
11. Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov
12. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
13. Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
14. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
15. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
16. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
17. Animal Farm by George Orwell
18. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
19. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
20. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
21. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
22. Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
23. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
24. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
25. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
26. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
27. Native Son by Richard Wright
28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
29. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
30. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
31. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
32. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
33. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
34. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
35. Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
36. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
37. The World According to Garp by John Irving
38. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
39. A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
40. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
41. Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally
42. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
43. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
44. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
45. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
46. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
47. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
48. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence
49. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
50. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
51. My Antonia by Willa Cather
52. Howards End by E. M. Forster
53. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
54. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
55. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
56. Jazz by Toni Morrison
57. Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
58. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
59. A Passage to India by E. M. Forster
60. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
61. A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
62. Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
63. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
64. Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence
65. Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
66. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
67. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
68. Light in August by William Faulkner
69. The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
70. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
71. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
72. A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
73. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
74. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
75. Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence
76. Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe
77. In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
78. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein
79. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
80. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
81. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
82. White Noise by Don DeLillo
83. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
84. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
85. The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
86. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
87. The Bostonians by Henry James
88. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
89. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
90. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
91. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
92. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
93. The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles
94. Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis
95. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
96. The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
97. Rabbit, Run by John Updike
98. Where Angels Fear to Tread by E. M. Forster
99. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
100. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

September 24, 2010

Happy National Punctuation Day!

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Today the U,S, celebrates the {unofficial} seventh annual National Punctuation Day; with a Punctuation!? Program in “elementary schools…. a Haiku contest’: and meatloaf shaped! like a question mark – We hope you”ll celebrate your punctuation dexterity and power today too;-!

September 15, 2010

Trailer: Howl

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Beat Generation fans, prepare yourselves! Next Friday is the release of “Howl,” the film biopic about Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, starring James Franco as the infamous poet. The film loosely follows Ginsberg’s life, including the penning of his most famous poem, and the resulting obscenity trial against poet and City Lights Bookstore co-founder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who originally published Howl. Trailer is below.

Franco is currently enrolled in the Warren Wilson College MFA program, where he writes and studies poetry. To prepare for his role in “Howl,” the actor enrolled in additional master’s programs in film and writing at New York University, Columbia University, and Brooklyn College. While walking to class, Franco would listen to a recording of Ginsberg reading Howl on his iPod.

Book-to-film adaptation fans have another thing to look forward to this week with the release of the film adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go