Archive for October, 2007

nosism (NO-siz-em) noun

Definition: The use of ‘we’ in referring to oneself.

[From Latin nos (we).]

As it’s often used by editors, it’s also known as the “editorial we”.
It’s also called “the royal we” owing to its frequent use by royalty.
Mark Twain once said, “Only kings, presidents, editors, and people
with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial ‘we’.”

-Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)

“We must avoid both egoism and nosism in order to realize the glory of
humanity.”
J. Odera Oruka; Philosophy, Humanity and Ecology; Diane Publishing; 1996.

Thank you, Wordsmith.org

Advertisements

What am I Reading Lately?

Posted: October 18, 2007 in Current Reading

Wow, what a loaded question. I’m reading an awful lot of articles for school, plus of course a text book on the subject of information (who knew one word could require an entire textbook?).

For my LIS450 course, I’m currently reading Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, the story of a Hmong family’s struggle to care for their young daughter in a culture that’s entirely alien to them. It’s also about healthcare in this country, and the challenges and prejudices that come along with trying to help families with limited, or no, knowledge of English. That’s quite an education in itself, not even taking into account the role of information, and how that’s such an instrumental part of the whole situation.

spiritcatchesyou.jpg

I’ve also been reviewing a fair number of books, more than I should be, to tell the truth, at this incredibly busy time. But agents and publishers keep waving all these things under my nose. I can only take so much.

I’ve done a few interviews, too, one of which I’ll probably post here soon. It’s an interview with the Director of Communications for the Library of Congress, the gent who writes their blog. What kind of sweet job is that?

Frankly, I’m reading so darn much it’s hard to keep track. Here are just a few of the absolute gems I’ve read lately (or am still finishing up):

searchadam.jpg

In Search of Adam by Caroline Smailes
This book is heartbreaking, but so, so beautiful. It’s told from the perspective of a 7-year old girl who’s abused horrifically. It’s difficult to read, but the voice is absolutely brilliant. One of the most powerful books I’ve read with a child narrator, and what’s even more amazing is the voice never falters. You never stop believing this child is narrating. It’s a stunning achievement.

gathering.gif

The Gathering by Anne Enright

The Gathering, of course, just won the Man/Booker. So I ran out the same evening and grabbed a copy at Borders. What’s surprising is the voice in this book is so hauntingly similar to that in In Search of Adam. The subject matter may actually turn out to be similar, too, I can’t be sure yet. This book so deserves the honor it received, and in some ways it’s gratifying Enright came out of left field to snatch the prize. Competition was incredibly stiff, as it always is for the Bookers. Brava, Anne!

good%20thief%27s%20guide.jpg

The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam by Chris Ewan

Different sort of book here, much more funny, for one thing. The plots extraordinarily clever, too, though yes, I know, all plots are basically just derivations of the ten basic plots. Or whatever the number is. Imagine a mystery/thriller/spy novelist who’s a spy himself. That’s at the heart of this book, and it’s a really great read.

Add these to my several piles of other ongoing books and you have the sum total of what I do in my “free time.”

Oh, and to those who’ve been asking me lately how I do it all, the answer is CLONING. So you can tell us apart, I’m the better looking one.

2007 Man/Booker Winner

Posted: October 17, 2007 in Hot Book News

gathering.gif

Big congrats to Anne Enright for her Booker Prize win for her novel The Gathering. Thanks also to the lovely person at Grove/Atlantic for sending me the email to let me know.

I’m trying to schedule an interview with Ms. Enright. If I’m successful you’ll see that here ASAP, otherwise you’ll find my thoughts on the book, as I’m picking it up tonight from Borders.

Saints be praised, they have a copy in stock.

Last year, you may recall, I ran myself ragged trying to read all the shortlisted Booker titles. This year, what with grad school and all, I couldn’t do that, to my regret.

But how exciting, potentially interviewing the winner. I won’t complain!

I have known Simon for, oh, what is it now… Five years? Six? More? Anyway, he and I have been on the same book discussion list for several years now, and through those years I’ve seen him grow from high schooler to Oxford University student to a graduate of Oxford. Now, I’m pleased to say, he is embarking on the wild journey that leads to LIBRARY SCHOOL.

He’s so charming and witty. After reading his guest post I know you’ll agree.

Simon blogs at Stuck in a Book, where he writes about all his bookish adventures, illustrated with his own impressive drawings. Swing by and visit him when you can!

(Thank you, Simon! xo)

simon.jpg

I have never agreed to be on panels for judging architectural excellence. Nor, indeed, have I been asked – but should such an occasion take place, it is unlikely that my immediate action would be to locate a directory of libraries. Though redoubtable sources for reference and learning, libraries are rarely intrinsically beautiful buildings, pleasing aesthetically as well as academically. If, however, I were to create a retrospective award for Architectural Beauty 1489, first-place would have to be handed to the Bodleian Library, Oxford University, England.

Having just finished a degree in English at Magdalen College in Oxford University, and looking for the requisite work-experience before I can begin Library School, I applied for a Graduate Traineeship at the Bodleian. This is basically a year of being a general dogsbody for the people responsible for the dreaming spires’ little collection of books. 8 million of them, that is. On 117 miles of shelving. Quite a lot of which is underground. Oh boy.

Nobody quite understands the Oxford University Library system, least of all the poor librarians. Each college (there are 30+) has a library. Each department (another 30+) has a library. The central Bodleian has a fair few constituent parts too. If there’s one thing Oxford has no short supply of… well, it’s souvenir shops, but if there’s something else they have no short supply of, it’s libraries. I applied with a general departmental application, but ended up with the Golden Ticket – a place as a Bodleian Trainee, moving around all over the place, probably getting to know each individual book by name, nickname and pseudonym.

Week One. I’m in the Stack. That’s what we call the underground section of the library, where shelves and shelves and shelves and shelves of books are stored, just waiting for the readers to request them. This is mostly done by computer now, except for one reading room (the Duke Humphrey’s – as a brief aside, the librarians’ canteen is called Duke Hungry’s. Never let it be said that we don’t have a sense of humour. Or humor, for your side of the Pond). The Duke Humphrey’s still uses a vacuum pipe – slips of paper are put into metal tubes, and shot underground. Wow. As stack staff, we found the books (by no means a simple procedure, since each decade seems to have brought a new shelfmark system), put them in packing cases, and thrust them into an enormous conveyor, which moves under the streets of Oxford. So far, so good. Then I moved to the illustriously named Floor J – still underground, but requiring keys and codes and secret handshakes. This is where the manuscripts and rare books are kept. For readers, these are precious and must be held scrupulously carefully – I, on the other hand, was free to wander around as I pleased, reading what I liked. If you’re the jealous type, look away now. I got to hold and read a letter written by Jane Austen. Actually written by her own hand. And held in my own hands. It’s a defining moment of my life. It almost made the other things I saw seem mundane – and they were letters by Robert Burns (apologising for being drunk, and trying to evade a duel), C.S. Lewis, a handwritten version of Wind in the Willows, Hitler’s marriage certificate… it’s a veritable goldmine down there.

That was week one. Since then I’ve been consigned to the Science area for three months. No disrespect, but after having held Jane Austen’s letter, periodicals entitled The Knee lose their lustre. I’m glad I have two knees, but have never felt the lack of monthly updates. Another is entitled simply Blood. Edited by Bram Stoker, presumably. Still, all a learning curve, and all grist to the mill – when shelving tomes on High Tech Ceramics, I shall be able to think of Jane and, contentedly, sigh.

dorislessing.jpg

Lessing Wins Nobel Literature PrizeBy MATT MOORE and KARL RITTER – 1 hour ago

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) — Doris Lessing, author of dozens of works from short stories to science fiction, including the classic “The Golden Notebook,” won the Nobel Prize for literature Thursday. She was praised by the judges for her “skepticism, fire and visionary power.”

The Swedish academy’s announcement was stunning even by the standards of Nobel judges, who have been known for such surprises as Austria’s Elfriede Jelinek and Italy’s Dario Fo.

Lessing, 11 days short of her 88th birthday, is the oldest choice ever for a prize that usually goes to authors in their 50s and 60s. Although she is widely celebrated for “The Golden Notebook” and other works, she has received little attention in recent years and has been criticized as strident and eccentric.

Even Lessing apparently was not expecting to win, the academy’s permanent secretary Horace Engdahl told The Associated Press.

“I’ve phoned her but there’s been no answer. She was not sitting and waiting for my call,” Engdahl said. “She doesn’t know yet, and I’m afraid she’s out taking a stroll somewhere in the park and people will attack her with the news.”

Lessing’s agent, Jonathan Clowes, said the London-based author was out shopping when the prize was announced.

“We are absolutely delighted and it’s very well deserved,” Clowes said.

However, American literary critic Harold Bloom called the academy’s decision “pure political correctness.”

“Although Ms. Lessing at the beginning of her writing career had a few admirable qualities, I find her work for the past 15 years quite unreadable … fourth-rate science fiction,” Bloom told The Associated Press.

A largely self-taught author who ended formal schooling at age 13, Lessing has drawn heavily from her time living in Africa, exploring the divide between whites and blacks, most notably in 1950’s “The Grass Is Singing,” which examined the relationship between a white farmer’s wife and her black servant. The academy called it “both a tragedy based in love-hatred and study of unbridgeable racial conflicts.”

A prolific author even in her 80s, Lessing was born to British parents who were living in what is now Bakhtaran, Iran. Her many works include short stories, essays and such novels as “The Good Terrorist” and “Martha Quest,” the latter part of her semi-autobiographical “Children Of Violence” series.

But to millions she is known for “The Golden Notebook,” published in 1962 and still a feminist classic although Lessing does not consider the book a political statement.

“The burgeoning feminist movement saw it as a pioneering work and it belongs to the handful of books that inform the 20th century view of the male-female relationship,” the academy said in its citation announcing the prize.

Lessing was also cited for her “vision of global catastrophe forcing mankind to return to a more primitive life, noting such recent works as “Mara and Dann” and its sequel, “The Story of General Dann and Mara’s Daughter, Griot and the Snow Dog,” published in 2005.

“When you look at my life, you can go back to the late 1930s,” she told the AP in an interview a year ago. “What I saw was, first of all, Hitler, he was going to live forever. Mussolini was in for 10,000 years. You had the Soviet Union, which was, by definition, going to last forever. There was the British empire — nobody imagined it could come to an end. So why should one believe in any kind of permanence?”

Lessing is the second British writer to win the prize since 2005, when Harold Pinter received the award. Last year, the academy gave the prize to Turkey’s Orhan Pamuk.

A seasoned traveler of the world, Lessing has known many homes, from Persia to Zimbabwe to South Africa to London, where she lives on a quiet block in a neighborhood long favored by artists and intellectuals.

Like Pinter, Pamuk and other recent Nobel winners, Lessing has a history of political controversy. Because of her criticism of the South Africa’s former apartheid system, she was prohibited from entering the country between 1956 and 1995. Lessing, a member of the British Communist Party in the 1950s who later rejected leftist ideology, had been active in campaigning against nuclear weapons.

The literature award was the fourth of this year’s Nobel Prizes to be announced. On Wednesday, Gerhard Ertl of Germany won the 2007 Nobel Prize in chemistry for studies of chemical reactions on solid surfaces, which are key to understanding such questions as why the ozone layer is thinning.

Tuesday, France’s Albert Fert and German Peter Gruenberg won the physics award for discovering a phenomenon that enables computers and digital music players store reams of data on ever-shrinking hard disks.

Americans Mario R. Capecchi and Oliver Smithies, and Briton Sir Martin J. Evans, won the medicine award on Monday for groundbreaking discoveries that led to a powerful technique for manipulating mouse genes.

Prizes for peace and economics will be announced through Oct. 15.

The awards — each worth $1.5 million — will be handed out by Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf at a ceremony in Stockholm on Dec. 10.

AP national writer Hillel Italie in New York contributed to this story.

On the Net:
http://www.svenskaakademien.se
http://www.nobelprize.org
http://www.dorislessing.org

Oprah's Latest Pick

Posted: October 5, 2007 in Today's Random Book Gossip

cholera.jpg

I’m not usually one to comment much on Oprah, though not because I don’t like her or anything. It’s nothing personal. I’ve looked on while she’s been doing her book club thang, but I’ve just not really been too pulled in by it all. But these last couple choices she’s made, for her book club picks, have caught my attention.

I’ll admit it, I did participate in her Faulkner read, back in the summer of 2005. After I finished choking from shock she’d chosen not one but three of his books, I hung out on her message boards, doing my best to help out and explain Faulkner to the befuddled. I converted a few readers, too, or at least they told me so, possibly in order to shut me up.

As a Mississippi native myself, I considered it a sacred duty helping the masses to understand one of my triad of literary icons (the other two being Virginia Woolf and Charles Dickens). I’m very familiar with Faulkner and his works, so it was also just a darn good opportunity for me to acutally use that somewhere in the real world. That it helped others appreciate him more was the icing on that cake.

But aside from that experience, I’ve really had little true interest in Oprah’s book club endeavor. And that’s not just because I’m a bit of a book snob, though I do have my moments. I respect what she’s doing, especially now that she’s off her dysfunctional family trend and onto some really good, valuable literature. That other stuff wasn’t to my taste. Some of it may have been perfectly good to read, but frankly, getting beaten over the head with one, single theme of sorrow and tribulation gets a little old. I can get that much at home, thanks.

Now, though, she’s taken her club to a higher level altogether. Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a monumental writer. It hardly gets any better than him. Plus, now her themes actually vary, from read to read. That’s a good thing, too. It keeps you from the urge to pull an Anna Karenina, a potential byproduct of reading a constant diet of misery.

I may actually try to squeeze in Love in the Time of Cholera, and read along with Oprah and her crowd. It all screams of conformity, and that really does give me the shudders, but you know, this is one of the better uses of conformity. If I had to choose between Oprah-conformity and going back to that 80s fashion trend of wearing leggings, I think it’s better I go with Oprah. On many levels.

And of course I encourage everyone else to jump on the bandwagon with me. Conformity, after all, loves company.

The World's Worst Poem?

Posted: October 5, 2007 in Literary, Off-Beat

An article in the Guardian rings out the news, there may be a new world’s worst poem:

Read this one if you have a strong stomach.

A Tragedy by Theophile Marzials

Death!
Plop.
The barges down in the river flop.
Flop, plop,
Above, beneath.
From the slimy branches the grey drips drop…
To the oozy waters, that lounge and flop…
And my head shrieks – “Stop”
And my heart shrieks – “Die.”…
Ugh! yet I knew – I knew
If a woman is false can a friend by true?
It was only a lie from beginning to end–
My Devil – My “friend.”…
So what do I care,
And my head is empty as air –
I can do,
I can dare
(Plop, plop
The barges flop
Drip, drop.)
I can dare, I can dare!
And let myself all run away with my head
And stop.
Drop
Dead.
Plop, flop,
Plop.