Archive for March, 2013

27 March 2013: A new genre?

Posted: March 27, 2013 in Uncategorized
Photo: Amazon.com

Photo: Amazon.com

Whenever I pull out my Kindle Fire in public (“Excuse me while I whip this out”), the question I always get asked immediately after the question, “Is that a Kindle?” is “Do you enjoy reading on that thing?”

Like nearly everything else in these not-so-United States these days, the battle lines have been drawn between the traditional and the technological when it comes to books and reading. And there are plenty of valid arguments on both sides of the issue. But I think this article, from the U.K.’s The Guardian this week, raises an interesting point and perhaps spans the gulf between the two sides.

As a reader, I am reading more and more from my Kindle: newspapers (and other news sources), magazines, novels. Which, I admit, is a surprise to me. As a writer, I swore I’d never give up a “real” book – the paper and ink. But as the Guardian piece points out, what exactly is a “real book?” What, as Hannibal Lecter might ask, is its essence?

I disagree with the article’s notion that e-books are their own genre, though. To me, it’s still a matter of medium — how the information is communicated to the reader. And I don’t necessarily agree that the data mining capability of publishers via electronic books — if it exists — is potentially that significant. But the piece still raises some interesting points. I can support the position that the “real book” has nothing to do with the packaging, but the story itself – the words themselves, in whatever form – is the tool of transmission.

When I opened the box my Kindle came in, it contained a letter from Amazon – one of those “Thank you for your purchase” jobs. But one comment stood out – that the developers of the Kindle wanted the device “to disappear in the reader’s hands.” In other words, that the reader would hold the story, not a device, in his hands.

Those developers achieved this vision. Whenever I read from my Kindle, I’m doing just that – reading, unconscious of the fact that I’m holding an electronic device. There are other bennies, too. I love to read in bed before crashing for the night. My wife, not so much. In “the old days” I needed a light to read by – and those wonderfully crinkly pages people love to turn make noise (OK, granted, not that much, except to my wife, so work with me here). But now I can read – no, I can totally disappear into a story – without disturbing anyone. I don’t need a light and I can “turn” a page with the flick of my thumb. Also, I’m notorious for reading with a highlighter, and the Kindle Fire has a cool “highlighter” function (as well as a “bookmark” function). And since I’m actually turning pages (and folding them back) I never have to worry about breaking the spine of a book or the pages being torn out.

I’m not trying to argue that e-books are better (or become a Kindle Fire spokesman) than paper, or vice versa. In fact, I’m happy that Deep Blood will be published in both formats. The point is that, no matter how you read it, a great book is a great book. To Kill a Mockingbird is just as good on an e-reader as it is in print.

No matter the medium, the message is the same.

Coming July 26 from Roundfire Books

Coming July 26 from Roundfire Books

I’m very happy to announce today that, at long last, I have a release date for my third novel, Deep Blood: July 26. If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that the novel will be published in print and e-book format by Roundfire Books. If you haven’t been following along, check out the “My Books” tab at the top of the page for more info.

I’ll be setting up a Deep Blood Facebook page very soon, so be sure to visit there and like the page. I’ll be posting reviews, images, info and more there as well as here. You can also subscribe to the Kudzu Corner (see the tab at right) and follow me on Twitter at @olemissgrad38.

Jim_Thorpe_footballThere are some things that I unabashedly geek out over, and football uniforms is one of those things. And baseball logos, but we’ve already covered that ground. Football uniforms are, and have always been, a subject of some fascination with me. I don’t know where it started. Doodling football helmets as a kid, maybe. Or realizing, also as a kid, that Ole Miss, unlike most schools, had three game jerseys (red, white and blue) instead of the usual two. But I’ve always played close attention to them.

As with many things, I blame the ’70s. That’s when a wave of uniforms “updates” came along in the NFL. Notably, the New York Football Giants and the Jets. I guess the idea was to “modernize” the look, but the result was terrible. So much so, that, as the uniform redesign craze took (with more than a little help from Nike, Under Armor, et al.) both NY teams eventually went back to their original look.

Some teams along the way drastically improved. The Denver Broncos for example. The “never can win a Super Bowl” look was decidedly atrocious. But the “new” look is far better and sort of set the standard for teams looking to improve their look (like the Patriots and Falcons).

The Denver Broncos before ...

The Denver Broncos before …

...and after

…and after

The latest team to get on the makeover bandwagon seems to be the Miami Dolphins. I have no real problem with the current uniform, other than the colors are a little … fey for a football team, but there seems to be a groundswell of support for a new look. At least, there is over at ESPN. The guys at UniWatch held a reader contest to see who could design the best “new” uniform for the Dolphins. Check out all the entries here, but this is my personal favorite (and a great Photoshop job to boot):

NewDolphins1

Don’t freak, Dolphins fans, it isn’t real

Check out more designs at ESPN's "UniWatch" blog.

Check out more designs at ESPN’s “UniWatch” blog.

And speaking of football helmets, my geekiness led me to a great site if you’re a complete football junkie (like me) and think that when it comes to uniforms and looks, more is better (Oregon, I’m looking at you). Check out MG’s helmets — especially his “alternates” section. Some pretty clever and cool looks for your favorite teams. You might even find your old high school helmet there (I did).

blankbookWe’re still banning books? I ran across this from the American Library Association (www.ala.org) the other day, a list of banned books. I don’t know who compiled it or the critieria for a book being “banned” or “challenged,” but it does make for interesting conversation among book nerds like me.

Yep, there’s 100 titles on this list, starting with, of all things, the Harry Potter series. That alone makes me wonder exactly what would cause a book — any book — to be “banned” and by whom, but I’ve never even picked up a Harry Potter book, much less read one.

But, of the ones listed below, I’ve read only nine (those titles are highlighted), which surprised me. But then, again, Friday Night Lights was banned? What’s more interesting is the titles not on the list. Hemingway isn’t mentioned once, and I know Across the River and Into the Trees was banned at one time (that was my original motivation to read it in the first place. The Satanic Verses isn’t on the list, either.

Not that I’m advocating banning any books, at least some that have been banned (Orwell’s Animal Farm, for example, or Lolita) have something controversial going on in the subject matter or politically.

Most of the ones below, however, are real head scratchers. Take a look:

1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling

2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier

4. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell

5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck

6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou

7. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz

8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman

9. ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle

10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

11. Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers

12. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris

13. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey

14. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain

15. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison

16. Forever, by Judy Blume

17. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker

18. Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous

19. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

20. King and King, by Linda de Haan

21. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

22. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar

23. The Giver, by Lois Lowry

24. In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak

25. Killing Mr. Griffen, by Lois Duncan

26. Beloved, by Toni Morrison

27. My Brother Sam Is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier

28. Bridge To Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson

29. The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney

30. We All Fall Down, by Robert Cormier

31. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones

32. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya

33. Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson

34. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler

35. Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison

36. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

37. It’s So Amazing, by Robie Harris

38. Arming America, by Michael Bellasiles

39. Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane

40. Life is Funny, by E.R. Frank

41. Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher

42. The Fighting Ground, by Avi

43. Blubber, by Judy Blume

44. Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher

45. Crazy Lady, by Jane Leslie Conly

46. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

47. The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby: The First Graphic Novel by George Beard and Harold Hutchins, the creators of Captain Underpants, by Dav Pilkey

48. Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sanchez

49. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey

50. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

51. Daughters of Eve, by Lois Duncan

52. The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson

53. You Hear Me?, by Betsy Franco

54. The Facts Speak for Themselves, by Brock Cole

55. Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Green

56. When Dad Killed Mom, by Julius Lester

57. Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klause

58. Fat Kid Rules the World, by K.L. Going

59. Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes

60. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson

61. Draw Me A Star, by Eric Carle

62. The Stupids (series), by Harry Allard

63. The Terrorist, by Caroline B. Cooney

64. Mick Harte Was Here, by Barbara Park

65. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien

66. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor

67. A Time to Kill, by John Grisham

68. Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez

69. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

70. Harris and Me, by Gary Paulsen

71. Junie B. Jones (series), by Barbara Park

72. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison

73. What’s Happening to My Body Book, by Lynda Madaras

74. The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold

75. Anastasia (series), by Lois Lowry

76. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving

77. Crazy: A Novel, by Benjamin Lebert

78. The Joy of Gay Sex, by Dr. Charles Silverstein

79. The Upstairs Room, by Johanna Reiss

80. A Day No Pigs Would Die, by Robert Newton Peck

81. Black Boy, by Richard Wright

82. Deal With It!, by Esther Drill

83. Detour for Emmy, by Marilyn Reynolds

84. So Far From the Bamboo Grove, by Yoko Watkins

85. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher

86. Cut, by Patricia McCormick

87. Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume

88. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

89. Friday Night Lights, by H.G. Bissenger

90. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle

91. Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George

92. The Boy Who Lost His Face, by Louis Sachar

93. Bumps in the Night, by Harry Allard

94. Goosebumps (series), by R.L. Stine

95. Shade’s Children, by Garth Nix

96. Grendel, by John Gardner

97. The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende

98. I Saw Esau, by Iona Opte

99. Are You There, God?  It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume

100. America: A Novel, by E.R. Frank

William Faulkner reading a bookOccasionally, I run across something that makes me sit up, nod at my computer screen and say, “Yep. That’s it.” This post by Stephen Jay Schwartz over at Murderati was one of those things. It’s titled, “Why I Like Writers.” I know, I know, it’s obvious why one should like writers, but he has an interesting — and for me, edifying — take on it.

Schwartz echoes William Faulkner’s opinion — and more than a little disdain — of excuse-makers. Faulkner, in an interview discussing the craft of writing and the writers who do it, had the following to say about his fellow writers and would-be writers who find excuses for not writing:

“I have no patience, I don’t hold with the mute inglorious Miltons. I think if he’s demon-driven with something to be said, then he’s going to write it. He can blame the fact that he’s not turning out work on lots of things. I’ve heard people say, ‘Well, if I were not married and had children, I would be a writer.’ I’ve heard people say, ‘If I could just stop doing this, I would be a writer.’ I don’t believe that. I think if you’re going to write you’re going to write, and nothing will stop you.”

Yea, verily, Mr. Faulkner.

And then there’s this from Publisher’s Weekly: a call to vote for the THE great AmericanTo_Kill_a_Mockingbird novel. But before you jump up and scream whatever book you were forced to read in sophomore English, take a look at the list. I posted this on Facebook earlier, noting that it’s pretty hard to pick Mailer over Faulkner or Faulkner over O’Connor or anybody over Harper Lee. PW lists 60 novels in all, with an “Other” category as well. To simplify things (if you can simplify anything with a 60-item ballot), authors are represented with one work. For example, if you’re looking for Tender is the Night, it’s not there, but The Great Gatsby is and represents all of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books. I haven’t voted yet, but the leader as of this writing is To Kill a Mockingbird. Surprised? Nope, me either.