Tag Archives: Books

The End of Publishing

I have no idea whether to believe the first or second half of this two-minute YouTube video. But I salute ingenuity:

(Via clusterflock)

Writing Begets Slavery

A rather stunning statement on reading, buried inside Claude Lévi-Strauss’s Tristes Tropiques:

The only phenomenon with which writing has always been concomitant is the creation of cities and empires, that is the integration of large numbers of individuals into a political system, and their grading into castes or classes. Such, as any rate, is the typical pattern of development to be observed from Egypt to China, at the time when writing first emerged: it seems to have favoured the exploitation of human beings rather than their enlightenment. This exploitation, which made it possible to assemble thousands of workers and force them to carry out exhausting tasks, is a much more likely explanation of the birth of architecture than the direct link referred to above. My hypothesis, if correct, would oblige us to recognize the fact that the primary function of written communication is to facilitate slavery. The use of writing for disinterested purposes, and as a source of intellectual and aesthetic pleasure, is a secondary result, and more often than not it may even be turned into a means of strengthening, justifying or concealing the other.

Dan Visel, who noted the passage, adds his own thoughts:

One sees on an almost-daily basis recourse to the position of Socrates in Plato’s Phaedrus – technology, no matter how simple, inevitably leads to a lessening of human facilities of memory – but this is something different, and one that I think merits consideration. Periodically, I wish that someone would present a cogent argument against reading, rather than the oft-regurgitated pablum that “at least the kids are reading.”

The argument is essentially one between receiving stories and experiencing them. What good, really, does reading do? Wouldn’t it be better to go out and smell a tree than read about one? Play piano rather than read bout it? Live life rather than receive it? Maybe.

The rest of the piece talks about Tino Sehgal’s fascinating installation at the Guggenheim. The New Yorker wrote about the human installations.

100 Best Last Lines from Novels

Matt Yglesias, who first pointed me to this list of the 100 Best Last Lines of Novels [PDF], complained that Gatsby was robbed at No. 3:

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Respectable. The only line that came to my mind before looking at the list was Hemingway’s:

“Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

So, by default, that’s my “best.” Papa came in at No. 6, behind Beckett, Ellison, Fitzgerald, Joyce, and Twain.

Related: the quality seems to drop rather abruptly after the first dozen or so. Am I wrong?

Graphic covers

We’re suckers for a good book cover, and especially so after recently seeing the maze of covers at the world’s largest independent bookstore. These, from the Penguin Graphic Classics, are particularly cool. Here’s Huck Finn:

And Candide, by a favorite of ours, Chris Ware (click to read the text):

More seen here. Via the Book Bench.

The End, Revisited

Design maven and Kansas native (and Meanderings’ rec league basketball teammate) Marshall Rake has a cool book. It’s filled with the end of famous novels, reimmagined. Here’s “On The Road”:

More at Epilogue Magazine. Even more here.

Books can be cool too!

This video, from the New Zealand Book Council manages to make books look cool, which is an accomplishment in and of itself:

Books for girls, too

In the interest of gender equity, here are 10 books for girls. I’m 50 percent girly.

Books for boys

It appears my young manliness has been only 17/50ths as manly as it should have been, literary wise. The Art of Manliness has 50 books for young men, and I’ve read 17 of them.

Calvin and Hobbes is one of them.

“It tasted like the Salk polio vaccine”

I’m not one for book reviews. Music reviews help me parsel through heaps of new albums because I care to keep up with them, and movie reviews (or the conglomerated stars at Rotten Tomatoes, at least) shape what I spend 12 bucks to see. But there are simply too many actual books I haven’t read, that are old, and that I get at the library – and the I read too slowly – to spend my time with new reviews.

But holy crap do I want to read William Vollmann’s Imperial after reading this paragraph from New York magazine’s Sam Anderson:

I was sitting on the train one day chipping away at William T. Vollmann’s latest slab of obsessional nonfiction when my friend Tsia, who incidentally is not an underage Thai street whore, offered to save me time with a blurby one-sentence review based entirely on the book’s cover and my synopsis of its first 50 pages. “Just write that it’s like Robert Caro’s The Power Broker,” she said, “but with the attitude of Mike Davis’s City of Quartz.” This struck me as good advice, and I was all set to take it, but as I worked my way through the book’s final 1,250 pages, I found I had to modify it, slightly, to read as follows: Imperial is like Robert Caro’s The Power Broker with the attitude of Mike Davis’s City of Quartz, if Robert Caro had been raised in an abandoned grain silo by a band of feral raccoons, and if Mike Davis were the communications director of a heavily armed libertarian survivalist cult, and if the two of them had somehow managed to stitch John McPhee’s cortex onto the brain of a Gila monster, which they then sent to the Mexican border to conduct ten years of immersive research, and also if they wrote the entire manuscript on dried banana leaves with a toucan beak dipped in hobo blood, and then the book was line-edited during a 36-hour peyote séance by the ghosts of John Steinbeck, Jack London, and Sinclair Lewis, with 200 pages of endnotes faxed over by Henry David Thoreau’s great-great-great-great grandson from a concrete bunker under a toxic pond behind a maquiladora, and if at the last minute Herman Melville threw up all over the manuscript, rendering it illegible, so it had to be re-created from memory by a community-theater actor doing his best impression of Jack Kerouac. With photographs by Dorothea Lange. (Viking has my full blessing to use that as a blurb.)

Goodness. I don’t even know if that’s a positive or negative review, but the only thing that could possibly make me want to read this book more was if the author was actually as ridiculous as his book sounds. Holy crap, he is:

A companion volume, to be published next month by powerHouse Books, contains some 200 photographs he took while working on “Imperial,” for which he also wore a spy camera while trying to infiltrate a Mexican factory, and paddled in an inflatable raft down the New River in California, a rancid trench that is probably the most polluted stream in America. The water, he writes, tasted like the Salk polio vaccine.

Oh. My. Two writers writing words have interested me in reading a writer I barely knew existed. I need to go watch some TV.