If there’s one thing that makes me a somewhat peevish reader these days, it’s the weedlike way some books have grown (Freedom, “Twilight,” and “Dragon Tattoo,” I’m looking at you), seemingly without the careful pruning and nurturing of an editor. Relentlessly repetitive imagery, endless superfluous information, charmless language choices—the content just goes on and on.
Which is why it was such a joy to encounter The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes a few weeks ago, with its beautiful economy of language and loving restraint. Anne Tyler’s The Beginner’s Goodbye is another such book—although it wasn’t as revelatory for me as Barnes’s book, the gentle but insistent tidiness of the text wrapped up a direct and pithy story in under 200 pages. It’s not that I have any problem with a longer book, it’s just that some longer books I’ve read lately (Game of Thrones, I’m looking at you) are such exceedingly lengthy forced marches, they are more to be endured than to be read. Every once in a while, I appreciate a book that shows up, says what it has to say, and then bids a fond farewell.
Having said that, here’s a little tidbit from The Beginner’s Goodbye. It’s a scene that comes after Aaron, who is both a widower and an editor, has just been introduced to Louise, a fellow editor with whom he hoped a spark might ignite. It’s a little wink and a nod to the editorial sensibility (although not an altogether flattering one). Enjoy!
Have you seen “The Joy of Books” yet? You haven’t? Then you must—simply must—take a minute to watch this absolutely and whimsically delightful video of a bookstore coming to life at night.
The video was created by husband and wife Sean Ohlenkamp and Lisa Blonder Ohlenkamp and their team of volunteers, with awesome music by Grayson Matthews. If you enjoyed it, the Ohlenkamps are also responsible for “Organizing the Bookscases,” a similar video done on a much smaller scale with a pair of bookcases. Read an interview with Sean Ohlenkamp.
In a thorough analysis by the computer algorithm hard at work over at I Write Like, yesterday’s post here at MRP was said to be written in the style of Cory Doctorow. Do I sound like a total Philistine if I say this is an author with whom I’m totally unfamiliar, despite the fact that he’s apparently a great influence on my style of writing?
The fact that this post was deemed by I Write Like to be written in the style of Dan Brown caused Mister MRP to hoot out loud (no disrespect to Dan Brown). I, on the other hand, take it only to mean that MRP’s style is easily accessible to and popular with thousands and thousands of people. Or something like that.
I feel slightly redeemed (again, no disrespect to Dan Brown) by the fact that this post was deemed to be written in the style of Vladimir Nabokov, who is actually mentioned in the post.
So there you have it.
Dave Itzkoff at the New York Times and Christopher Shea at the Boston Globe both have at I Write Like, which also finds that they both write like Dan Brown (Shea subjects his own work, and a smart-aleck commenter of Itzkoff’s puts his article through IWL for him). Coincidence or just keeping good company?
So, as you know, I’ve been taking on some light summer reading such as What Is the What? Dave Eggers’ book about the conflict in southern Sudan and, currently, Blindness by the recently deceased José Saramago (what can I say? Death inspires me). Next on my list is another by Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (if I can tear it out of Mister MRP’s hands). Good beach reading, huh? Perhaps it’s just marginally better than plopping down on the sand with some of the stuff I read during the spring, such as McCarthy’s The Road. (Although I did take on the blockbuster Official Bookclub Selection by Kathy Griffin. Don’t hate.)
So I guess what I’m saying is, MRP needs help! What’s on your summer reading list? Is everyone going to be reading Eat, Pray, Love before the movie comes out, or have you already covered that?
With the end of the school year come thank-you gifts for teachers. Even Mister MRP, a high school teacher, gets a few from his students, usually in the form of gift cards or sweet treats. But the most fun are the gifts that come with the theme, “Appropriate for English Teachers.” This year, a t-shirt:
What would Raskolnikov do? I wish I knew the answer.
There is an absolutely addictive trending topic on Twitter today, #hybridmovies. After contributing a few (“Save the Last Flashdance,” “The Last King Kong of Scotland,” “The Breakfast at Tiffany’s Club,” and “Singing in the Rainman”), I had to tear myself away.
Which got me to thinking about hybrid book titles. Here’s a few:
The House of the Seven Anne of Green Gables
The Handmaid’s Tale of Two Cities
The Lovely Writing Down the Bones
Harry Potter and the Half In Cold Blood Prince
Tender is the Midsummer Night’s Dream (So, okay, it’s a play not a book. I’m easy.)
Smilla’s Sense and Sensibility of Snow
Got any of your own? Book or movie titles welcome!
Monday, April 20 is the day we have a little race around these parts called the Boston Marathon. In honor of those who will make it to the finish line, I’m sharing a couple on instances where MRP did not.
You may have heard that MRP is about 35 pages into Updike’s Rabbit, Run and I’m already considering abandoning it for something else a little less, er, smugly self-satisfied with its own literary prowess. Having said that, I have to say that I hate to put a book down once I’ve started it, it’s my own little thing. However, here are three that defeated me:
1. Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins. After 50 pages, I just couldn’t go on. The characters were so vapid. I did, however, usefully learn the difference between naked (you have no clothes on) and nekkid (you have no clothes on and are up to no good), which I have carried with me since then.
2. Vanity Fair, by Thackeray. I wanted to read this because I grew up near Thackeray Road and also it may have been on some list of “Great Books” or something. But eventually the, er, vanity just got to me.
3. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving. I DID ACTUALLY READ THIS ENTIRE BOOK BUT I FOUND THE ALL CAPS THING SO ANNOYING THAT I WISHED I HAD JUST PUT IT DOWN.
So I put this to you, readers: what’s a book you’ve put down before finishing because you just couldn’t stand to get to the end? And why?
This just in from former President George W. Bush, who is planning to write a book:
“I’m going to put people in my place, so when the history of this administration is written at least there’s an authoritarian voice saying exactly what happened.”
Did Bush say authoritarian when he meant authoritative?
These words are markedly different: authoritarian means “requiring unquestioned obedience to authority, dictatorial,” as in His approach to discipline was authoritarian; he would brook no disagreement or discussion whatsoever. Authoritative has no pejorative overtones where it means “reliable, official, well-qualified,” as in She has written the authoritative biography of the poet. The only overlap is in the sense of “being fond of exerting authority,” but authoritarian is much the stronger in that meaning and suggests a less admirable quality. (Columbia Guide to Standard American English)
Or was this just one those, er, Freudian slips?
Maybe you are looking for gifts for the word nerd in your life. Here’s a couple of tidbits:
It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: The Game for People Who Love to Read. It’s a board game something like Trivial Pursuit, although to be perfectly honest, so far Mister MRP and I have only used the cards to quiz each other on our knowledge of first lines, not so much to play the actual game. Topics range from poetry to children’s books to novels (with science fiction, Shakespeare, and some other stuff in between).
Or check out The Word for Jan Freeman’s suggestions here and here about great books that will delight the above-mentioned word nerd in your life (or you, if you happen to be the word nerd in your life).
Here’s a typo that would really burn my biscuit if I were Marisa de los Santos, the author of Love Walked In.
Here’s page 98, where the name of the character “Clare Hobbes” is spelled correctly (twice):
And here is the back cover, where the name of the character “Clare Hobbes” is spelled incorrectly:
Did I mention it’s the back cover of the book? And how much it would burn my biscuit if I were this author?