Links: Book Blogger Con, Being Wrong, Chick Lit Dies Again

Links of interest:

Ana of Things Mean A Lot on Being Wrong:

What occasionally does worry me are all the other things that inevitably come up in the process of talking about books. A book review is seldom only about the book in question – it’s also a piece of writing that requires the reader to engage with and position him or herself before a number of themes and ideas. In the process of doing this, I have often betrayed my ignorance, said thoughtless or insensitive things, been hasty or unfair, and so on and so forth. The existence of this blog means that anyone can access an old post of mine and think that it’s an accurate and up-to-date reflection of my thinking – which is a scary thing.


Liz at Something More on Reading (About) Bodies: Links on the Body, Feminism, Romance. Liz reflects a bit on the Awl article (Maria Bustillos’ Romance Novels: The Last Great Bastion of Underground Writing) that was making the rounds last week. Don’t miss the comments.


This is Your Brain in Love, via Open Culture. A short video from Stanford documenting people, aged 10 to 75, thinking about their loved ones while spending a few minutes in an fMRI machine.


The Decline of Chick Lit from the U-T San Diego. Many anecdotes like this one:

San Diego author Whitney Lyles, who wrote five chick-lit titles, says she doesn’t think the genre is dead, but “it has a serious hangover.” In 2003, her first book, “Always the Bridesmaid,” had three editors vying for publishing rights. Today’s market is quite different. Her publisher declined her last chick-lit proposal, so she has moved on to writing young adult novels.

Interesting responses, including this one from Karla Brady:

Chick lit is not dead. It’s called romantic comedy. It’s called funny women’s fiction. It’s called contemporary romance. It just isn’t called chick lit anymore–except by those of us who still see no shame in the term. And it still sells…and I know this because my debut novel The Bum Magnet–which I originally self published and S&S picked it up and published it last year–would certainly be characterized as chick lit if it were published ten years ago. It’s sold as a contemporary romance–even though it’s more about the character’s personal journey to find her own personal truth than romance.

For more on Chick Lit, see The Guardian’s The Only Thing Wrong with Chick Lit is the Name (warning: this is an article that may set you off).


The Wonderful and Terrible Habit of Buying New Books, at PW. All of you who are slightly guilty about your TBR pile, read it for this line:

A library of mostly unread books is far more inspiring than a library of books already read.


I’ve never read crime fiction writer Jo Nesbo, but I enjoyed this interview in The Millions:

RB: Besides gruesome deaths, what would define and distinguish Scandinavian crime literature? As opposed to American?

JN: Hopefully, Scandinavian crime has — the quality is good. You do have bad Scandinavian crime lit — but I think what separates it from not only American, but the rest of Europe also, is there is a tradition stemming from the ’70s that it was OK to write crime literature. It was prestigious. Sjöwall and Wahlöö sort of moved the crime novel from the kiosks into the bookstores, meaning that young talented writers would use the crime novel as vehicles for their storytelling talents. And so you have had good crime novelists, good writers, who would, from time to time, write so-called serious literature and almost all the well-known, established serious writers in Scandinavia have at one time written a crime novel. It’s sort of a thing that you do. You must have a go at genre.


This article made me nervous about Pinterest and copyright infringement:

A year ago, I thought pins fell under Fair Use, but now…I don’t know. Where’s the FAQ section for this? The Etiquette page says nothing about asking permission to post. (Though it does say original sources are “always preferable to a secondary source such as Google Image Search” – Really? )

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the rights, license, consent or release for 98% of what I’ve pinned, thinking that what I was doing was OK. I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong, only I don’t know if I am and could use some clarification.

Pinterest tells us to pin with abandon but clearly states that they are not responsible if images that shouldn’t be there are. They simply provide the hypothetical push pins.

I actually deleted my Pinterest account, but mostly because it was just hanging there doing nothing.


Some interesting writing about romance by male writers who don’t write romance:

Romance as the Emotional B-Plot in Speculative Fiction, via @merrianow:

In realistic literary fiction, love is often the central pillar of the story. Conflict is internally generated by the characters, and with its emotional highs and lows, love is an effective source of both conflict and pathos. In speculative fiction, however, we have much wider options for generating conflict: the fate of the universe can and often does hang in the balance. And with tremendous adventure, danger, and excitement it’s tempting to quote Short-round and say “No time for Love, Doctor Jones!” but as Indy shows us: there is always time for love, even if it’s just a side plot.

That’s because when it is shunted into a story’s side plot, the romance can then buttress the story’s entire emotional journey.

And What Do Jane Austen and Contemporary Romance Have in Common? (Via @meganf) (this one may well annoy):

Likewise, contemporary romance — particularly some of its more seamy sides — have become cliches for the entire genre.

Which is why Historical Romance seems like a far distant relative to its contemporary counterparts.

So while I totally agree with Jody that romances are a valid and important form of literature, the Pride and Prejudices of the world are as far removed from dime-store romances as The Haunting of Hill House is from Hostel.

Erotica has done to Romance what Splatter has done to Horror… made it difficult for a writer to avoid being stereotyped.

As you can see, there are problems.


I was going to link to a lame NYT story about airplane fiction, because this is a book blog, but, you know what? I’d rather share an absolutely incredible, mindblowing story of a kidney transplant chain:

What made the domino chain of 60 operations possible was the willingness of a Good Samaritan, Mr. Ruzzamenti, to give the initial kidney, expecting nothing in return. Its momentum was then fueled by a mix of selflessness and self-interest among donors who gave a kidney to a stranger after learning they could not donate to a loved one because of incompatible blood types or antibodies. Their loved ones, in turn, were offered compatible kidneys as part of the exchange.

Chain 124, as it was labeled by the nonprofit National Kidney Registry, required lockstep coordination over four months among 17 hospitals in 11 states. It was born of innovations in computer matching, surgical technique and organ shipping, as well as the determination of a Long Island businessman named Garet Hil, who was inspired by his own daughter’s illness to supercharge the notion of “paying it forward.”


And in case you’re curious, this is exactly how I feel about the NYT piece:

Apparently they are because there are already 50 glowing comments.


BEA Bloggers Con update:

Jennifer Weiner will be the keynote speaker at this year’s BEA Bloggers Conference. I have no objections to having an author keynote an event for book bloggers, as long as that author is supportive of book bloggers, but which I mostly mean, doesn’t go after negative reviewers. Weiner’s willingness to get into public scrapes (Franzenfreude, #Fridayreads) will likely translate into an exciting talk.

My sources tell me that select book bloggers (BEA Online Focus Group) have been invited to an online chat this Friday afternoon with the BEA organizers to offer feedback on the event. I’m glad BEA is seeking input from bloggers about a blogger event.


A terrific article on audiobooks at n+1:

The possibility of reading while also doing something else produces one of the stranger phenomenological characteristics of audio book reading: you can have a whole set of unrelated and real (if only partially attended) experiences while simultaneously experiencing a book. You live in two worlds at once.


What we do genuinely disdain is a third thing—that third category of art and culture that the critic Dwight Macdonald described as the middlebrow. Middlebrow art, for Macdonald, came between kitsch (which Macdonald called “lowbrow”) and avant-garde (which he called “highbrow”); it is art that tries too hard and ends up being too easy. It tries to make everyone cultured. It does not discriminate. It is vulgar because it reaches beyond its station. It’s for people who want to read the complete works of Balzac even though they also have to cook dinner.

This, I think, is our real problem with audio books…


This is the last week before our two week spring break, and it’s a busy one. As per usual, my children are on break while we are not. Grrrrr. So there’s the nanny scramble. For years, my department has enjoyed having the teaching abilities of a very special adjunct, who was just named our university system’s chancellor, so we are trying to get those vital courses covered for next year, and thinking about what his absence may mean long term for our program. I’m grading, grading, grading, as is typical mid-semester. And, horrors!, the ethics committee has been “discovered” by the quality committee at the hospital, which means I am working on a report. One of many, I am guessing.

In good news, my older son was chosen for the state’s Olympic Development team, and we will be heading to New Jersey in June for that.

I’ve been struggling to read fiction lately, but I’m still hoping to write some reviews this week on books I’ve read in the last month.

Happy week!

13 responses

  1. Big Jo Nesbø fan over here. I read that interview a few days ago when someone sent me the link. I’ve read better. Heh but that’s me. Pinterest sounds like trouble and I’ve seen some of my reviews show up there (no issue over that last part). As for the PW article, I am comforted by the fact that I have a lot of books unread. It’s nice.


  2. @Jessica: It’s called copy/paste. LOL. Now my secret is out. Google search and his name comes up with that ‘o’ you’re looking for. There’s a way to do it on your computer but it takes too long. You’d have to locate special characters list and copy/paste.


  3. A perfect way for a man to attract women is to say he reads romance novels. He uses that pick up line in a bar and women will be swarming around him.

    Hopefully the BEA online focus group an work out the kinks from last year’s BBC. I’m so excited for BEA and the blogger con this year.


  4. Thanks for the link! It’s a perfect circle, since I linked to you and your wonderful commenters in that post.

    I loved the audiobook piece. Private, silent reading is really pretty new in the history of narratives, so the disdain for it is kind of odd. Even in the 19th century when print was widely available, people often gathered as a family to read aloud the latest number of a serial Dickens novel, for example. At the same time, I know I avoid the highbrow in my audiobook choices, because prose style is often a really important part of literary fiction, and I feel I miss too much. Maybe not because I’m listening, but because I listen while doing something else. If I’m listening to a mystery or romance, the story carries me through even if I’m only paying partial attention. If I’m listening to, say Middlemarch or a Richard Ford novel which is very stream-of-consciousness, I feel I miss too much. But then, I can’t read those books at times when I’m tired or otherwise don’t have full attention, either.

    I also loved the piece on being wrong. I like to toss big ideas into a blog post and see what sticks, but once it’s out there in writing, it’s hard not to feel defensive about it. And of course I’m trained to argue in defense of my ideas. I aspire to being more open-minded and less defensive about my wrongness or changing opinions. After all, having a lot of my preconceptions dramatically revised is one of the things I’ve loved about discovering the romance blogosphere.

    And congrats to your son! I hope it’s a wonderful experience.


  5. That NYT article is just ridiculous – “I was stuck in an airport and found out that genre books have actual words in them! And they’re entertaining! Please don’t take away my serious reader card, I promise to only read serious fantasy and well-known mystery/thriller writers.” Shocking, that bestselling authors sell books because they are enjoyable.

    At which point all the commenters chime in but nobody admits to reading a romance (thought at least someone mentioned Evanovich).

    I hope the Olympic development program will be a great experience for your son!


  6. I liked that post on being wrong. I’ve been blogging since ’07 and my views and understanding has changed over the years. With my m/f, m/m review blog, I’d say mostly the things I stated I didn’t like or wouldn’t read were BDSM, spanking or other things like that. But having read so many books with those things included, if I were to write those reviews or blog posts over, they would have a different perspective.

    Particularly, I feel uncomfortable about some blog posts I’ve done on my f/f blog. I do feel my openness towards the lesbian community has changed and I feel that some of my older posts look rather straight privileged. I have thought about deleting them. But there’s also a part of me that wants to keep them up and take whatever criticism someone wants to say about them including that I’m an ignorant turd. Part of growth is taking responsibility for oneself even if it’s something from the past.

    It’s uncomfortable, and yet, I like to see how my feelings and viewpoints have changed and I want others to see that I’m not a perfect person but that I’m willing to open up and look at different points of view.


  7. I read the article on audio books because I am a huge fan of them. It came as a real shock to discover that some people consider that listening to a book read aloud by another person is in some way inferior to reading it yourself, a less genuine or valuable experience. I had never heard that point of view.

    Maybe I should think about it for longer, and not simply reject it. But I just don’t agree. I can understand the argument that a film or TV adaptation of a book is different and cannot replace the original words written by the author. I have always hated abridged books and refuse to read or listen to them, considering it vital that the author’s words should be read in full, exactly as written. But I don’t accept that hearing those exact words instead of seeing them as letters on a page or screen is lesser (except perhaps in those very rare instances where the positioning of the words, or sentences, or chapters, itself conveys a message).

    Ironically, I find that I read more carefully by audio than by visual – I can’t skim or skip through passages of description, or fail to let each word register, as I sometimes do when holding a book – in my eagerness to find out what’s going to happen. So, I find that the audio book experience can be superior rather than inferior, in that I hear everything the author wanted the reader to experience, including the tempo of the narrative. I also tend to remember books in more detail if I’ve listened to them.

    I think back to the times before electric lighting, when it was common for one person to read alound to the rest of the family in the evening. Many of the classics were probably written with this in mind. And surely it is a test of good writing to see if it can be read aloud? I can’t have been the only student who used to check the flow and force of an essay by reading it out, to check for unclear punctuation or inadvertent repetition or too many parentheses. Maybe I was!


  8. I do try careful about the pins I post on Pinterest. One of my personal fave sites for inspiration is Deviantart, but many of those images are for sale so if a pin is from Devianart, I don’t repin it unless I look at the page first-if it’s something they’ve set up for download or if their page makes it clear they are okay with people using their art, I’ll repin. But if they are selling their stuff, I don’t repin. It’s gotten to the point that’s such a work to check that that I don’t often repin anything from deviantart. I also keep a notice up that I will remove anything that an owner doesn’t want up and I try to be careful about what I use. I’ve also gone back and deleted pins from images that say ‘uploaded by user’ that look like professional images they downloaded or saved from a website-if it’s not crediting the source, there’s a problem. I don’t know if it covers everything, though… :o/


  9. @Shiloh Walker:

    I follow not-for-profit social media blogs and they make the point that “

    By sharing the information and giving credit to the source where you found the link, you build relationships and a network”

    (Beth Kanter

    Maybe the question with pinterest isn’t so much about what you can and can’t pin but what you use it for? What value does it add to you and your life? I write these queries with genuine interest as I collect stuff all the time and have folders with images I can’t use publically because I don’t know where they came from but I saved because they interested me.


  10. Merrian,I actually find it very useful for writing. I’m visual. Things I see, images of people, settings, etc they just inspire and I’ve seen no less than five different images that have inspired stories.

    But I’m getting concerned about some of the TOS with pinterest.



  11. @Shiloh Walker: That makes real sense to me as I sit surrounded by things pinned to the corkboard walls of my computer desk and code my work files with pictures on the front. I would like an equivalent of the pinning software that can be used privately. I would be really interested in that. So we both value the visual organising of pinterest but don’t need it to be a networking tool….

    I have also since seen a blog post that flowed through my twitterstream that says the pinterest TOS give them ownership of any images that are pinned! Eek!


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