The weekly links, opinion, and personal updates post:
Links of Interest:
Some of us are having a good discussion over at Katherine Beutner’s blog about romance pedagogy and scholarship. Click over to see what DA’s Robin, author Jeannie Lin, author Carolyn Jewel, moi, Eric Selinger, and others have to say.
Author Lionel Shriver, in the Guardian, “I write a Nasty Book and They Want a Girly Cover on It“, another take on the Franzenfreude, with a focus on book covers, titles, and marketing in general (via @redrobinreader, who weighed in herself here):
When my novels are packaged as exclusively for women, I’m not only cut off from a vital portion of my audience but clearly labelled as an author the literary establishment is free to dismiss. By stereotyping my work’s audience as self-involved and prissy, women-only packaging also insults my readers, who could all testify that trussing up my novels as sweet, girly and soft is like stuffing a rottweiler in a dress.
To me, the questions raised by the kerfuffle over Franzen’s reviews gets at something I’ve long watched with relish, covering this business. Within the industry there’s a feeling that anything that gets anyone reading is good, yet, filled as publishing is with people who love books, people who think books are important, people who think they’re not simply churning out popular entertainment but also high culture, there’s an intense jealousy about what becomes popular.
Tess Gerritsen also weighed in, writing a direct response to the article by Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult that started it all:
You really don’t need the New York Times. You don’t need Michiko Kakutani or Janet Maslin or three whole fricking pages in the Book Review. Because you have something far, far better: readers who actually buy your books.
One of my profs said, “Jenny, you write so well. Have you ever thought about writing literature?” I said, “No,” because it was easier than explaining that literary fiction is just another genre, not God’s Library. The people who say, “I write for the canon” have forgotten or never knew that the canon doesn’t read. People read. Fiction is not beautiful writing although that’s wonderful; fiction is storytelling. It’s putting narrative on the page that moves and transforms people, and because there are many, many different kinds of people in the world, there are many, many different kinds of fiction.
Kindle 3 reviews are popping up. Here’s Sandy at All About Romance with a very concise review and Jane of Dear Author getting her geek on with not just a detailed K3 review, but a second review dedicated to the Kindle cover with integrated light. I love my Kindle, and am so spoiled by the comfort and feel of reading on it that I will not read paper unless there is no alternative.
The Fall Quarterly Conversation is out, and it reviews two books I intend to read:
1. J. M. Coetzee and Ethics: Philosophical Perspectives on Literature edited by Peter Singer and Anton Leist.
2. The Novel: An Alternate History Beginnings to 1600 by Stephen Moore.
Moore’s analysis of so many previously unheard of (to me) early novels, carried out over nearly 700 pages, collapses the centuries between this or that novel—such that the books written about are simultaneously of our time and the time of their creation—and dismantles the long-taught divisions of genre. We see that the history of the novel that older British critics (and critics from other countries who followed them) came up with is mistaken. The hoary tale that the novel began with Defoe, Swift and Richardson, going on to Austen, Dickens, George Eliot, and so on, is a fabrication that has robbed us of experiencing, or even knowing about, a wider world of literature than English fiction, and a considerably older heritage of the novel than previously posited.
Author Pam Rosenthal has posted a discussion of the paper she gave at IASPR this summer, The Queer Theory of Eve Sedgwick at the Edges of the Popular Romance Genre.
For fun, When a Book Makes Sweet Sweet Sex to a Computer, The resulting Offspring is a Blog. A short funny video on “what is a book”.
Another funny link, from Media Bistro, Roald Dahl’s report cards, now appended to the end of a newly released Penguin edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. My favorite: “This boy is an indolent and illiterate member of the class.”
2. Blogger Fragmentation
One of my favorite blogs, The Reading Experience, is kaput. But Daniel Green’s comment about what he plans to do next gave me pause:
Maintaining a single blog no longer seems to me an adequate way to cover all of the subjects, and address the various audiences engaged by those subjects, that interest me as a critic, although I continue to find the medium itself entirely adequate for writing about literary subjects. I hope not to fragment my attention so thoroughly that readers find the multi-blog approach incoherent, and I certainly do not intend to burden readers’ attention with posts in competition with each other, but the old practice of alternating briefer commentary with longer reviews and essays with shout-outs to other blogs has come to seem counterproductive.
I have noticed this fragmentation happening in Romanceland. Keishon started a mystery blog. KMont started a food blog, as did bloggers from Dear Author and Smart Bitches. In a slightly different case, some bloggers, like Katiebabs and MagdalenB, have started professional blogs/websites for their author identities. And in the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I have five blogs — one for my cv, one for bioethics, one for my course in ethics, one for my kids, and this one — most of which are skeletal at best.
Is this the way it is going? Are we at the end of the multipurpose blog? Is the occasional blogging detour no longer legit? What do you think?
There’s lots going on but the two main things are (1) my kitchen is being redone, beginning Wednesday. Floors, cabinets, lighting fixtures. appliances, even a fancy dancy desk/bar/book shelf thingy. We are major trend buckers in not having hard wood, but rather, ceramic tile installed. We thought it would be fun to see how many seconds it would take in winter for our bare toes to freeze to the floor.
Our house is an open floor plan — and by that I mean, it was built in 1930 like all the other houses in Bangor (referred to as “the Bangor box”), but in 1958, someone decided to knock down all the first floor interior walls, leaving only a chimney in the middle. So, you have to walk through the kitchen to get to any other room. Needless to say, I am terrified. Luckily, my mother lives up the street, so we won’t starve.
And (2) The blog redesign looks like it is finally going to happen. I don’t know how this will affect things for readers, but I apologize in advance if there are any problems.
On the Blog this week:
Post: “We are all mean girls now”
Review: Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood
Post: On Historical accuracy
Review: (mother and son joint review) The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
Review: The Dragon’s Bride by Jo Beverley and/or Match Me If You Can, Susan Elizabeth Phillips