Sunday, April 15, 2012

Soup and Salad: Titanic books, Reading Group Killer, Lucky Jim, the 1935 iPad, Facebook Middlemarch, Our Mutual Ads, Laura Maylene Walter Does the Time Warp

On today's menu:

1.  What books on board the Titanic might passengers have used as flotation devices?  Today, on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the ship, I examine the sea-worthiness of books like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Henry James' The AmbassadorsCheck out the complete list and the "sink or float" ratings at Book Riot.

2.  If you like to sit around and mock book clubs who take themselves too seriously, then you owe it to yourself to read The Millions' hilarious Reading Group Guide to "the new psychological thriller The Reading Group Killer" which "tells the story of a gruesome book club-turned-bloodbath when one member, after years of enjoying friendly discussion and light refreshments, transforms into a murderer."  It's a must-read....unless you're a copycat RGK, in which case it will serve as an instruction manual.

3.  If Kingsley Amis' Lucky Jim wasn't already on my longlist of "Classics I Need to Read," Luke Pearson's cover for the new Penguin edition (above) would convince me to add it.  Or, I could just read Christopher Hitchens' appreciation in a past issue of The Atlantic where he writes: "Just try to suggest a more hilarious novel from the past half century."

4.  Think Kindles, Nooks and iPads are new toys for the reader?  Hardly!  Check out the contraption from 1935 which appeared in Everday Science and Mechanics.  The magazine trumpets: "It has proved possible to photograph books, and throw them on a screen for examination, as illustrated long ago in this magazine. At the left is a device for applying this for home use and instruction; it is practically automatic."

5.  19-Century Brit Lit Humor Alert!  You must, absolutely must, check out the fake Facebook Wall for Middlemarch.  Here's a screenshot to give you a taste of the wall's flavor (click to enlarge):

6.  I'll soon be the proud owner of a Kindle with Special Offers & Sponsored Screensavers which I won in a contest sponsored by the good folks at BookPage.  I've heard some readers have objected to the presence of banner ads popping up on the Kindle's home screen, but I don't think I'll object too strongly to having my Maybelline with my Murakami.  Besides, it's nothing new.  Back in Charles Dickens' day, for instance, readers had to bear with ads while reading installments of Our Mutual Friend.  The University of California Santa Cruz has made some of those Our Mutual Friend ads available for all of us to see online.  Check out Fry's Rock Cocoa, Keating's Persian Insect Destroying Powder, and something called the Aquaject ("Useful for every variety of purpose in watering or washing flowers or trees in gardens, conservatories, orchard-houses, &c.").  My favorite is the Children's Worm Tablet.

7.  Laura Maylene Walter (Living Arrangements) recently opened her plastic "writing tub" where she'd stored drafts and story notes for years.  Cleaning out the paperwork, she says, was like going through a time warp:
I went into this expecting to simply clear out some old papers and get a little more organized. Instead, I ended up staring down the state of my writing life from 6-8 years ago. What I found is evidence of a writer who was trying really hard — attending conferences, getting critiques from writing groups (so, so many writing groups), submitting to journals, and not letting the avalanche of rejections crush her. And you know, I’m proud of that former version of myself. I hope that in another 6-8 years, I’ll be able to look back and feel the same satisfaction about what I’m working on right now.

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