Archive for July, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays — “Shallow Rewards: Commentaries on Pop 2005-2012”

Posted in Music, Teaser Tuesday with tags , , on July 31, 2012 by JE Cornett

“Critiquing the past is a fool’s game — icons are neutered by irony and revisionism, dug up and spat upon by snide pundits — but albums like Secret Messages are exactly the kind of bloated, mortifying excess that justify the practice.”

Ouch. That’s Chris Ott discussing a shelved record by my belovedELO (Electric Light Orchestra, for you knaves). The passage is from his book Shallow Rewards: Commentaries on Pop 2005-2012. Curious?

Here’s a synopsis, courtesy of Amazon:

A compilation of the author’s views on pop music memorabilia and music culture in the digital age.

That was deep, wasn’t it? And that’s exactly what the book is. I don’t know why I bought it. After all, Ott has the gall to emasculate and castigate MY BELOVED ELO. But I actually liked it.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just open your current read to a random page and share a few sentences. Be careful not to include spoilers!

No, Really: “Killer Joe” Is an Adult Film

Posted in Media, Really with tags , , on July 27, 2012 by JE Cornett

Your baby does not need to see “Killer Joe,” okay?

Today in omg-r-u-srs, this from the Associated Press’ Sandy Cohen:

The MPAA says on its website that an NC-17-rated film “is one that, in the view of the Rating Board, most parents would consider patently too adult for their children 17 and under.”

That’s certainly true of “Killer Joe,” which opens in New York on Friday and other major cities next week. The MPAA says it contains “graphic disturbing content involving violence and sexuality, and a scene of brutality.”

Adapted from the stage by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tracy Letts, it’s a story about a small-time drug dealer (Emile Hirsch) who hires a cop moonlighting as a hit-man (Matthew McConaughey) to kill his mother for her life-insurance benefits, and offers his virgin sister as collateral. It’s adult material.

Shew. I’m glad I saw that before I took someone else’s baby to see Killer Joe.
And yes, that’s my emphasis on my favorite new phrase, “it’s adult material.”

Book Beginnings Friday: Know Nothing by Mary Lee Settle

Posted in Book Beginnings Friday, Literature with tags , , on July 27, 2012 by JE Cornett

Uncle Telemachus told about water and women, how they sank a man, weak soft, tears and water, rot and win. He said so. He said, “Ifn the river don’t git ye, a woman will…”

Alright, alright. That’s three lines. But those last two were just too good to pass up.

That’s the first three lines from Mary Lee Settle’s Know Nothing, which I am re-reading after several years. It’s even better this time around, I do believe.

Here’s the synopsis, courtesy of Google Books:

Set in the decades preceding the Civil War, this third volume of The Beulah Quintet – Mary Lee Settle’s unforgettable generational saga about the roots of American culture, class, and identity and the meaning of freedom – tells the tragic tale of Peregrine Catlett and his second son, Johnny. The year 1837 brings a host of perils to the verdant Virginia valley where Peregrine, a third-generation American, is the owner of Beulah. Amid financial panic, debate over the abolition of slavery, and mounting tension between North and South, Peregrine considers freeing his slaves but believes that, with his children scattered, his only hope of retaining his livelihood rests on the use of slave labor. Tied to the land by a special bond, Johnny returns to his father’s farm but stays only until the outbreak of hostilities. As a Confederate soldier, Johnny is aware of the tragedy to come. But family ties outweigh convictions, and he ends up fighting in the war with disastrous results.

A little about the Beulah Quintet — it is a series of five novels that includes (in order) Prisons, O Beulah Land, Know Nothing, The Scapegoat and The Killing Ground. Saga is a better term for the Beulah books, which follow a sprawling West Virginia family from the English Civil Wars, through the American Revolution and the Civil War up to the miners’ strikes in 20th Century West Virginia coalfields.

Know Nothing is gorgeous, literary historical fiction, with an emphasis on literary; while her reputation has diminished in the past few years, Settle is recognized as one of the best American writers of the mid-century period.

Each book of the Beulah Quintet stands alone, by the way, so there’s no need to worry about jumping in in the middle of something if you’re interested in Know Nothing.

Know Nothing

Mary Lee Settle

Univ of South Carolina Press, 1960

So – what are you reading?

And thanks to the Rose City Reader for coming up with this great Friday idea!

Where You Find It: The Best Cease-and-Desist Letter Ever

Posted in Book News, Media, Where You Find It with tags , , , on July 25, 2012 by JE Cornett

Who says the art of letter writing is dead? This cease-and-desist letter from Jack Daniel’s’ rep Christy Susman, asking writer Patrick Wensink to stop using a Jack Daniel’s label-style image on the front of his book Broken Piano For President, is a thing of beauty and a joy forever (click on the letter, then click again for a larger, readable version):

Via: The Atlantic Monthly

Teaser Tuesdays — “Through a Glass Darkly”

Posted in Teaser Tuesday with tags , , on July 24, 2012 by JE Cornett

“But here, it was different. She was ashamed, and shame was a new emotion to her–scalding and corrosive, like wormwood. Please come soon, she prayed, her thoughts going out the window, into the square, past the cobbled, dirty, busy streets, somewhere into the great, throbbing city she had yet to see.”

That, babies, is a little bite of Through a Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen. Don’t you want to know more?

Here’s a synopsis, courtesy of Goodreads:

Karleen Koen’s sweeping saga contains unforgettable characters consumed with passion: the extraordinarily beautiful fifteen-year-old noblewoman, Barbara Alderley; the man she adores, the wickedly handsome Roger MontGeoffry; her grandmother, the duchess, who rules the family with cunning and wit; and her mother, the ineffably cruel, self-centered and licentious Diana. Like no other work, Through a Glass Darkly is infused with intrigue, sweetened by romance and awash in the black ink of betrayal.

Have mercy!

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just open your current read to a random page and share a few sentences. Be careful not to include spoilers!

Book Beginnings Friday: Still Life With Murder by P.B. Ryan

Posted in Book Beginnings Friday with tags , , , on July 20, 2012 by JE Cornett

Here’s how it works: post the first line of the book you’re currently reading, and why it caught your fancy!

Here’s mine, from P.B. Ryan’s Still Life With Murder:

“It’s going to be a bad one.” Dr. Greaves said it so quietly that Nell, sitting across from him in the Hewitts’ glossy black brougham, almost didn’t hear him.

Now if that’s not an auspicious beginning for a mystery, I don’t know what is. Suffice to say it drew me in. If you’re interested, here’s the Goodreads synopsis:

Young Irish immigrant Nell Sweeney is governess for the adopted daughter of wealthy Bostonians Viola and August Hewitt. Nell has become a favorite confidant of Viola. The pair had four grown sons, the eldest two thought to have died in Andersonville during the Civil War. A visit from a family friend changes all that with news that sets in motion a chain of events that has the potential to restore this torn family or to destroy it forever. The news that August receives is that his eldest son Will is still very much alive, though he might not be for long–Will Hewitt sits in jail accused of having slashed a man’s throat during an opium rage. Nell and Viola set out to prove Will’s innocence and catch the true criminal…

So – what are you reading?

And thanks to the Rose City Reader for coming up with this great Friday idea!

Fractured Fairy Tales

Posted in Book News, E-books, Media with tags , , , on July 17, 2012 by JE Cornett

According to a recent post on Smart Money‘s blog, nearly 50% of U.K. parents say they now read books to their kids on e-readers or tablets.

Andi Sporkin of the Association of American Publishers tells Smart Money that sales in the juvenile e-book category (books for children 18 and under), grew  233% to $64 million in the first quarter of 2012, and called children’s e-books “the fastest growing category in trade.”

For teens and preteens, who live increasingly digital lives, this news is heartening, as it gives a McLuhanite hope that books and reading will be embraced by the reluctant readers who’d never pick up a dead-tree book by choice. But for younger children, this news is troubling.

Anything that brings children and their parents or caregivers together over a book cannot be all bad, of course, but e-books, for all their positive qualities, may deny young children one of the most wondrous experiences of childhood: discovery.

When I think of my own childhood reading habits, I think automatically of libraries. Of public libraries and school libraries, and browsing in shelves and stacks, looking at books, discarding books, choosing books to take home with me. My parents/caregivers were only tangentially involved in the process of my book selections; for the most part, what I self-selected. Moreover, the books were mine to read when I wanted, where I wanted, once I checked them out.

For the youngest readers and pre-readers, the roadblocks e-books pose to this kind of self-directed reading and browsing are obvious. The transactions required to access e-books are too complex, even with child-centric devices that limit functionality and direct browsing. The number of steps between the child and the book are too many, and selection lies in the hands of parents and caregivers. So too, is the access to the books, once chosen; while many parents may give young children free reign with tablets and other devices, barriers will nevertheless exist to spontaneous reading.

But it is the element of choice, perhaps, that is most disheartening when children’s reading is restricted, even with the best of intentions. Librarians, educators and parents who’ve experienced the Accelerated Reader phenomenon decry the effect on motivation and enjoyment of reading in school-aged children when prescribed reading lists remove choice from the equation. For younger still children, whose choices may be further restricted by well-meaning or time-crunched parents and caregivers, the risk is even higher. No matter what age the reader, when the experience of browse through shelves, be they physical or digital, is removed, the worlds that reading have to offer shrink.

The ways children experience books on devices brings another troubling aspect to the ascendancy of e-books. As the Smart Money article points out, “experts say younger children like the graphics and color of e-readers, as well as the option to hear the book read aloud even when a parent is unavailable.”

Reading with a child creates a vastly different experience for the child than giving the child a device which reads the story to the child. A tablet, no matter how bright, shiny or audio-equipped, cannot automatically pause to allow a concept time to marinate in a child’s mind, nor can it sense when a child needs more or additional information to make sense of a story.

And, unless e-books are used as a way to engage children, rather than occupy them, they may be doing more harm than good to reading skills.  The Guardian recently reported on a study that found that reading enhanced e-books was actually detrimental to children’s reading comprehension:

Children reading enhanced ebooks also “recalled significantly fewer narrative details than children who read the print version of the same story”, said the researchers, speculating that the extra features may be distracting. But while “print books were more advantageous for literacy building co-reading”, ebooks, and particularly enhanced ebooks, were better “for engaging children and prompting physical interaction”.

But my biggest problem with the book-on-a-device idea, when it comes to children, must be seen to be appreciated. Click on the image twice (it should expand to fill your whole screen), as it just can’t be done justice otherwise:

It’s two pages from one of Richard Scarry’s books (What People Do All Day, to be exact). Scarry’s books, almost always oversized and thick, explode with details and information that simply cannot be captured on a screen, including the one you are reading this on. They beg to be looked at again and again and again; a copy of Busy Busy TownCars and Trucks and Things That Go, and Best Word Book Ever is soon smudged and dog-eared, favorite pages blurred with fingerprints where a child just can’t help but point out and touch the things she loves over and over again. That’s an experience no device can replace.