Friday, October 31, 2008

Children's Book Week: An Early Halloween

It might look like Halloween to us, but the event you see at the right is actually a Book Week event the Uplands Primary School in the U.K. Students were encouraged to dress like their favorite literary character, which as one might expect skewed towards Harry Potter, but any interest in books is worth the attention, especially if it means you get to dress up! This year's Book Week was October 6th - 12th.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bloody Bookmarks

It's probably short notice for Halloween, but if you're a fan of horror you can bloody up your books while you keep your place. Designboom is offering a set of Japanese-made "liquid bookmarks" for $24. They're not actually liquid; they appear to be made from some latex or vinyl (I hope it's the latter; less likely to 'bleed' color on your pages), and flexible enough to appear to be dripping from between your book's pages. They come in packs of three, with a light gray and a black one besides the red one.


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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Le Bal Des Ardents' Book Archway

Let's say you run a bookstore in a rather nondescript, uninspiring storefront on a sidestreet prone to graffiti. How do you make a memorable presentation, using what you have on hand? Use books.

The bookstore is Le Bal Des Ardents, specializing in alternative, fringe, art, and erotic works. You can stop by there if you happen to find yourself in Lyon, France.

More photos: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] — photo above, via.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Barnes & Noble's Social Networking

B&N has announced their own entry into the 'social networking' world with My B&N. Unlike Shelfari (now owned by Amazon), LibraryThing, or Goodreads, B&N is quite obvious about its retail tie-in, which probably won't work for most readers but will do well for people who really, really like Barnes & Noble. B&N has always prided itself on being a friendly, comfortable place to be in its retail locations, and they'll probably stick with that methodology in their online store, too. The retail stores have long been called a good place to meet members of the opposite sex; maybe they've inadvertently created an online dating website? It always amazes me that there's room in the world for more than two or three social networking sites; Amazon went by buying an established network, but B&N is building on little more than their existing customer base. It seems like a lot of work for very little return, other than to impress investors with new Web 2.0 whirlygigs.

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DIY By The Great Authors

UK Newspapers have been on a roll when it comes to book-related humor (see) this time from The Independent — today, we have Do-It-Yourself manuals written in the style of great authors, such as Hunter Thompson's guide to building a small fence:
When he'd recovered the feeling in his legs we unloaded the materials onto the lawn. I drove a wooden peg into the ground at each end of the fence run and stretched a line between. I then marked the position of the fence posts, avoiding tree roots and landmines. I instructed my attorney to start digging and waited for the mescaline to kick in.

As the Samoan slammed his spade into the ground he stopped to look back over his shoulder. "There's someone watching us," he said.

"It'll be the neighbour," I said. "It's a small town."

"As your attorney, I advise you to kill her. Once she's seen where we bury this stuff, what's to stop her coming over to dig it up after dark?"
We also hear from Hemingway, Duras, Nin, and Dostoevsky, but all the good stuff is in the book Sartre's Sink, by Mark Crick, from whom these excerpts came.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Oxfam's 18th-Century Gift

People are supposed to drop off old, beat-up books that they didn't want anymore, but the people working at the Oxfam in Stirling, England,were a bit surprised at the 4 volumes that turned up in their charity bin. Some generous person dropped off four volumes of Lord Clarendon's History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England — dated 1731. Estimated value of each volume is about $300, but Oxfam is intending to building on the already profitable altruism. The entire set is six volumes, making them only ¾ of the way to what could be a $5,000 donation if they can find the matching missing volumes.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

"Let's Talk Books," Saturday Night Live

Oh, we all love some dirty puns, you have to admit it. Here, we have several literary experts discussing authors and their books…courtesy of Saturday Night Live:

Professor Carl Lenz: What?

Kevin Henchey: You're referring to The Tiger's Revenge, by Claude Balls. An excellent writer on par with Dick Gosinia, or the Greek writer, Harry Paratesties.

Karen Holsbrook: Paratesties is certainly on par with Balls or Cox. Absolutely. Now, I read a scathing indictment of drugs and professional sports, called Under the Bleachers, by Seymour Butz.

Kevin Henchey: Exactly. I think it's really non-fiction like this that we need to be looking at. I taught a seminar at Duke University, where we read Richard Sawyer and Alan Bush's fascinating study of voyeurism..

Karen Holsbrook: Mmm hmm. The Sawyer-Bush Report.

Kevin Henchey: Yes. Yes. And, from there, we segue-wayed into an interesting report on the Stonewall Riots, authored by Harrison Butz and Randall Dixon.

Moderator: Oh, I love Dixon-Butz.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Greatest Non-Existent Books

The Guardian's Book Blog has a roundup of the best books that never existed. As I expected, the Necronomicon is there (which has since become a real book in several forms), but I was quite flabbergasted that there was not one single Kilgore Trout novel. For shame.


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Condensed Banned Books

Alas, it's a bit too late for Banned Book Week, but there's never a bad time to read something that's a bit too naughty. If you're short on time, read these condensed versions of banned books — such as the end of Of Mice And Men:

""Say whad'ya doin?" Curley's wife pouted.
"I bin pettin' the pup," said Lennie. "But it seems ta not be movin'."
"That's cos you gonna' squashed it. Why don' you play with my purty hair instead?"
"Oh naw," Lennie said. "Ah've gonna' squashed her too"
George heard the men coming for Lennie. "What you gonna dun' this time?" he said, placing his arm round Lennie's shoulder.
"We still gonna get us some lan', George?"
"We sure are, Lennie."
"An' rabbits?"
"Lotsa rabbits," George said, putting his gun to the back of Lennie's neck and pulling the trigger, thereby killing the American Dream.

Really, not much worse than a Cliff's Notes.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Wager Books of Cambridge

Over the centuries, the faculty at Cambridge have challenged one another with wagers — betting each other about points of debate, doubting one another on whatever uncertain topic their brandy-addled minds could find to discuss during after-hours meetings between professors. The wagers weren't purely rhetorical; they were documented for posterity in blank-paged 'wager books', so anyone (most likely the winner) could refer to their original bet with confidence that they remembered the wager correctly. Alexander Rose, director of The Long Now Foundation, met these books during a visit to the venerable institution.

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Marxism Selling Well

In a move to make any economist's skull well up with blood and burst, the bookselling market shows that books by Karl Marx are selling well during this time of capitalistic collapse. Yes, a book by the communist writer, who advocated ownership of social collateral by the government so its profits can be shared by all, has fallen into the public domain and is being published by a private entity, who is seeing his profits grow due to book sales within a network of privately-run middlemen that ensure the book appears on the bookshelves of private businessowners, whose operations are being muted by the proliferance of big-box booksellers and online bookstores. If this trend continues, and more and more of American income is devoted to the purchase of Karl Marx' revolutionary tales of class inversion, we might just turn this economic downturn around.

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Nobel Prize Codenames

Being assigned to the Nobel Prize literature selection committee isn't all stuffy libraries, snifters of brandy, and wingbacked chairs (this isn't the Man Booker prize, you know) — the Nobel process is loaded with cloak-and-dagger sneakiness that is rarely seen outside of a Tom Clancy novel. Contenders for the Nobel Prize in literature are referred to by code names, reducing the likelihood that word will leak out of who is in the running, such as code-naming Harold Pinter as Harry Potter, or Doris Lessing as Little Dorrit. The code-naming process, which no doubt requires supercomputers and a team of old men who speak an ancient dead language, appears to have been cracked: bookies saw a sudden surge in bets on this year's Nobel winner shortly before the results were announced. There seems to be a mole in the system: someone within the Nobel team has been compromised. Be prepared to hear of mysterious 'disappearances' in the literary world as this hole is sealed up: there is no mercy at Nobel. Remember, it isn't the Man Booker.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bunny Suicides: Stolen, to be Burned

Her son checked out The Book of Bunny Suicides from his school's library, but the mom was not amused. In fact, she's so unamused that she won't return the book to the school under any circumstances, and plans on burning the book. The school has offered her the opportunity to go through the normal book-challenge process, but she'd have to bring the book back (the book would be out of circulation until the decision comes). She's so concerned about the book falling into the hands of another child, she will not return it, and if the school buys another copy, she'll get that one too and destroy it as well. It's sure a good thing that you can't find that stuff on the internet, but don't tell her that: her head might explode. The saddest thing is that, until the book is returned or replaced, the woman's son will not be able to check anything else out of the library. She seems be killing two birds with one stone: what else might her son be able to check out? Knowledge of that sort if awfully scary.
Update: the woman has recanted her threat of book destruction, and claims she said it out of anger. The school, on the other hand, has been inundated with support from people interested in freedom of speech and press, and even one altruistic soul has already bought and delivered a new copy of the book for the school. The school will continue with their challenge-review process, and decide if the un-returned book (and any free ones they get from well-wishers) will remain on the library's shelves. “To accept a book that is in review to be banned, that is talking about suicide?” she said. “A book that’s not good for kids, let’s start giving the school hundreds of them?” She still seems to be missing the core of her problem: the eye of the beholder isn't the weightiest variable.

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Tribbles at the Thrift Shop

While rummaging through thrift shops Saturday, I found a book I'd never seen before but had read a year or so ago: David Gerrold's The Trouble With Tribbles (or, the complete title, The Complete Story of One Of Star Trek's Most Popular Episodes "The Trouble With Tribbles") Gerrold's current publisher, Benbella Books, re-released the book in 2004, but it was originally published as a paperback by Ballantine in 1973. Benbella has also been nice enough to provice a PDF e-book of their edition, for those of who who aren't lucky enough to have a well-stocked thrift shop nearby. The two editions are nearly identical: there's a few illustrations that don't appear in the later edition, and the Ballantine copy I have has 32 black-and-white photo pages in the middle. Most are just promo headshots of the actors and frames from the episode, but there's a couple fun behind-the-scenes shots, such as tribble construction.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Arthur Mee, on Freelance Writing

A Rare Courage. And, because [a writer must be at his best always], he must have a courage that is one of the rarest things in the world — the courage to cut off his income at any moment. He will find that the strain is at times greater than he can bear, and there is only one penalty, as tragic as it is sure, for the man who neglects the warning that Nature always gives in time. No man should rely upon a free life as a journalist who is not prepared to face the risk of having to stop his income for a week or a month or a longer period at the bidding of a master who cannot be disobeyed.

From "The Freelance Journalist", itself an excerpt from The Harmsworth Self-Educator, written in the late 19th century.

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Antique Embossed and Gilded Covers

Books don't usually make their way into my hands in this good of condition. I'm cheap, and I frequent rummage sales instead of antiquarian booksellers, so an embossed and gold-leafed cover is looking pretty ratty by the time I get it. The University of Alabama, however, has plenty of covers in excellent condition, and they're happy to share: Publishers' Bindings Online, 1815-1930 is a wonderful resource for seeing what these books looked like in their prime.


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Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Orwell Diaries

George Orwell, prolific writer and political philosopher, kept a diary, which is online, being republished day-by-day exactly 70 years after it was originally written. In late 1938, Orwell was establishing a household for himself in northern Africa, and learning how to get milk out of the African goats. I'm unsure whether this is engaging because of the writer, or if the writing is actually interesting. I think I'm riding on the belief that, since it's Orwell, things will pick up and something amazing will happen. In reality, probably not so much.

(via: via)

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Non-Design Books For Designers

The question: if you're a designer, what non-graphic-design book has inspired you the most? Some excellent, esoteric, and un-designy picks, but with one subversively-designy book: The Color Kittens, a classic Little Golden Book recommended by Michael Doret:


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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mafia Wants Author Dead

Author Roberto Saviano is in hiding — the Mafia is after him. He didn't neglect to pay protection money, he doesn't owe them a debt, he didn't testify against them. Saviano wrote a book, Camorra, which describes the mafia in a his Italian hometown. The book seems to have been a bit too accurate: a price has been put on his head. Salman Rushdie has lasted decades with a price on his head, but Radical Islam isn't nearly as efficient as the Mafia. Being 'in hiding' hasn't stopped Saviano from meeting with the media, however.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Priceline Founder's Library

Jay Walker, a made-up name if I ever heard one, has one of the geekiest personal libraries ever:

Yes, that is an actual Sputnik.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Hidden Camera In Book

Pull off the dust sleeve, pop up the binding, and take your secret agent photos:
The book being impersonated? сказка ълизнецах ъемъи — translated from Russian literally to "Fairy Tale of Bambi's Twins." We Americans know the book better as Bambi's Children: The Story of a Forest Family.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Gals vs. Guys Literary T-Shirts

Cult of Gracie (site nsfw!) has discovered that guys like books, but girls like guys. Urban Outfitters has a series of literary-themed t-shirts in guy sizes, but girls get one that twists a children's book title to a slutty comment.

In case you can't read it, that girl's shirt — the only girly one in the series — says "I love wild things". You know the 'wild things' the shapely shirt loves aren't Sendak creatures. Could they not come up with a single book that speaks to women? The men's shirts promote The Great Gatsby, On The Road, and an inexplicably Italian version of Green Eggs and Ham. I mean, at the very least, what stylishly ironic woman wouldn't want a Fabio romance novel cover on their chest? It smacks of sexism, but, I guess I need to remember it's Urban Outfitters. Nobody should expect much in the form of social responsibility from any of the young-person's fashion stores. Another viewpoint from a 'Safe For Work' website.

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Banned Book Quiz

The Guardian in the UK has composed a thirteen question quiz on the state of book banning around the world. Sadly, I only got 6 out of 13: "Rather ignorant, I’m afraid. You’re clearly reading in slavish obedience to the censors. Are you going to be voting for Sarah Palin?" Ah, the UK even thinks the Republican vice-presidential candidate is a joke.

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