Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Month In Review and of Things to Come

I liked this month. October helped remind me of all the good things that can happen in thirty-one days. The top of the list would be my announcement that I'm done with all things concerning my graduate school application. You wouldn't believe what a weight off my shoulders that is. All that is left to be done is: harness those who promised to write letters of recommendation and recover the obscene amount of money lost in applying for school and having transcripts sent here and there.

I finished up all my loose reading ends from last month which has given me a nice feeling of completion and most all of my comments regarding Edward Whittemore's Jerusalem Quartet are ready to go. Not gonna set anything aside to read for November as I'm feeling indecisive, but it's nice to not be reading a series. No matter how good an author setting or setup, series grow tiring to me at some point.

There's an interesting bit I'd like to share with the internet about literary criticism. Some odd feeling of professionalism that I don't owe the particular institution in questions is staying my hand from saying what's on my mind. We'll see if I can manage to hold out.

Hoping that I'll be successful in convincing at least one school into admitting me, I'm thirty-one days closer to not working my two crappy jobs than I was last month., and that is a very good thing.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I have a Kindle


So my friend Melanie is pretty awesome. We were talking this weekend, books came up and so did Kindle. I mentioned how I'd really like to try using one as I'm unwilling to pay the money without a demo of the product. To which she said, "Well, why don't you just take mine?" She doesn't use it as much as she thought she would and said she wouldn't miss it if I borrowed it for awhile. Pretty awesome huh?

She's hoping I'll fall in love with it and buy it from her. Because it's new and shiny and I haven't really used it yet, I'm hoping for the same thing too. It's nice to have amazing friends.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a new toy to play with.

Friday, October 22, 2010


More interesting that what I bought is what I passed over. The first thing I saw upon entering my favorite used book store was four books written by Joe Abercrombie. I've heard his name kicked around a lot and even though I've pretty much sworn off epic fantasy, if I could've picked up all the books at the used book price I would do it. I think the previous owner carelessly read each of those books no less than fifty times.

They weren't so much used, as in already read, rather worn-the-hell-out. There wasn't much holding any of those together so I passed on the lot. All in all, I didn't feel bad about leaving them there. I also passed on three books by James Barclay for the same reason. (I wouldn't be surprised if they had the same previous owner.) He's an author I'm going to give a try at some point in time even though he writes epic fantasy. I seem to come across his name mentioned in the same sentence as David Gemmell's more than any other writer so perhaps whenever I start reading his work, he'll make me remember why I first fell in love with epic fantasy.

I saw about twenty different books by Melanie Rawn; if I get back into epic fantasy, I know where to go to pick up my fix.

I ended up with some big books: only one coming in at less than four-hundred pages and rest clearing six-hundred with ease. The Pillars of the Earth by (the reportedly awesome) Ken Follett, The Magus, by (the assuredly awesome) John Fowles, The Magicians by (The aspiring awesome) Lev Grossman, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by (The Awesome) Michael Chabon, Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco, and The Mammoth Book of Merlin editied by Mike Ashley comprised my purchase. $22.99 for two hardback and four trade paper backs all in great shape; I was proud of myself.

I'm most excited about the short story collection of all things. The author line up is stellar and I curious how Michael Swanwick can manage he particular brand of absurdly awesome into the Arthurian Legend.

I bought these books knowing I own about twenty that I haven't read, but I can honestly say, everything I bought was on the list. Considering the girth of my newest acquisitions I may need to cut down on my reading expectations for next year; that and reinforce my books shelves.

Monday, October 18, 2010

People who read a lot.

A friend told me the other day that she had met someone new and that I would like him for the same reasons she did: the type of music he likes, he's well educated and very intelligent, and he reads a lot. Until this particular conversation, I never would have thought this friend would say she, 'reads a lot', and it got me thinking.

Some quick--and very unscientific--internet research tells me the average American reads between three and seven books a year. Furthermore, the reality of an American "reading a book" means reading seventy pages in and putting it down for good. I don't think I read a lot but my goal for this year is fifty books. (I'm sitting on forty-two.) This friend is the same who has three copies of books I'd recommend, all of which have been untouched to the best of my knowledge.

I have no clue what it means to 'read a lot' perhaps this guy in question does. Does it mean more than the national average assuming such a number can be pinned down? I'm pretty sure such a definition doesn't matter. I'm also sure my friend (she doesn't read my blog so I can talk about her) does not 'read a lot' by any definition.

What does it mean to 'read a lot' to you and why do you think it enhances one's character to be able to make the claim?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Subterranean Press; A Book Review.

In this series I'm going to evaluate the quality of book manufacturing from various publishers. I intend only to focus on the quality of the physical book itself. For previous comments on Easton Press, Everyman's library, Franklin Library, and what I deem "The mass market Hardback" please see the respective links.

Subterranean Press is a small independent press with a strong focus on fantasy and science fiction though they publish outside those genres. All of their books are of a 'limited edition' nature with high quality paper, sewn signatures, and no heed for the cost of ink; often printing with multiple colors. They feature small print runs; many of which are signed by the author, and create instant exclusivity. Subterranean Press publishes cloth bound and leather bound books. This review will only take the cloth bound books into account. I hope to own enough of the leather bound books to offer my comments soon.

The quality of these books are on par with those from Everyman's Library: top notch. The paper is an archival off-white, and the full cloth binding is very well done. There signatures are divisible by eight and seem to be on the large side; apparently at the discretion of the printer but have proven very durable. There standard Deluxe Hardback Editions run around twenty-five dollars and are worth the money if you are a collector, have interest in the author or have previously read the book in a different edition. The company has a very strong following that sometimes gobbles up all available copies of a book via pre-orders before it is released. This can make it difficult to 'get one's toes wet' if you aren't familiar with the author and are considering a purchase.

Collector's beware: Subterranean Press's warehouse staff seems to be nothing short of epochally terrible. It is all too often that the company newsletter announces it 'found' x number of copies of a previously sold out, out-of-print book. So if you're trying to sell them second hand for a profit I'd advise looking elsewhere. (I can admit that the preceding has nothing to do with book quality, but the frequency with which it happens and the books 'limited edition' nature makes me feel it was noteworthy.)

More than any other publisher I've come across Subterranean seems to go above and beyond when it comes to illustrations. Every one of their book covers are stunning; printed on a heavy matte photo paper to show off the commissioned artist as best they can. Many of the higher priced, signed editions will have multiple full color illustrations, all based on material from the novel, of course.

None of the Deluxe Hardback Editions I own features endpapers--which I think is a shame considering the limited edition nature of the books. The one signed author edition I do own does have endpapers and perhaps the price difference (my one signed edition is The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte listing at $125, and no I didn't pay anywhere near that for it) is the deciding factor.

My one true gripe with the quality of these books is that of every one I own there was a big glob of glue near the spine on either the tail or top edge that was so prominent and offensive to me, that it drove me to an x-acto knife, and the utmost care, to remove it. While this errant glob doesn't effect the quality, it is poor fit and finish on an otherwise excellent product.

You need to know you like the material before you buy, but should you purchase from Subterranean Press you will be assured a unique and gorgeous addition to your library.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Change in Reading Preference

I've noticed my taste in fiction has been moving away from fantasy for about two years now. While reading an article Types and Trajectories of Music Genres (completely unrelated to fiction) by Dr Jennifer Lena I think I found a reason why.

"Genres that experience the explosive growth and aesthetic dilution characteristic of an Industry-based genre tend to suffer a crisis as their many casual fans find a new focus of attention."

Perhaps it's the blogs I follow and the repetitive coverage of the same--or similar--material, but I was never a hardcore fantasy fan. Now, I've lost most all interest. Without trying to paraphrase Dr Lena's definition of "industry-based genre" I can say the crisis is mine and not the fantasy genre's.

Anyone else completely over standard fantasy fair?

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Month In Review and of Things to Come

It's over? All of September is over? Really?

As far as fun stuff goes this month was really terrible, but I did get a lot done as far as applications for school are concerned. I'm gonna try to get the application stuff done and off my plate as soon as I can so I don't have to be concerned with it any more and so I can hopefully regain part of my life back. My statement of purpose is almost done, I've taken the GRE (which I think is absurd for me to take on many levels) and I've tracked down people for letters of reference. Most importantly, I think I've narrowed down the list of schools I'm going to apply to. It will be nice to have all this stuff behind me, and hopefully I'll get in somewhere.

I didn't plan to get much reading done--well, at least not much non-academic reading done. I hit a slow spot with my first book of the month; which feels like years ago: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I hate reading people saying, "I couldn't get into this book." In my case I liked what was given right off the bat, merely I had a hard time immediately identifying anything resembling tension or conflict. Which, for me, makes for really slow reading. It was hard to put myself in the proper mindset to enjoy the book and getting to half way point was a chore, but once I was there, finishing the book was easy.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe; and Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis were simultaneously delightful and cringe inducing. The charm in children's literature is so obvious after you read enough overwrought 'literary fiction' (and I'm aware that many would say what I call overwrought is indeed, a host of complementary nonsense.) Yet, every time I came close to enjoying myself too much Lewis was there to pull a "Dumas" and completely suck me out of the story; "Now we must return to Lucy and Susan." It was a poor transition in the 19th century and it's no better now.

To elaborate on my feelings further concerning Bronte or Lewis would violate my, "No talking about dead authors of the classics" rule.

The Ammonite Violin and Others by Caitlin R. Kiernan is a collection of short stories I also have ambivalent feelings towards. Water themes seem to unite the book, and so weirdo, introspective, rambling narrators who are so esoteric as to not want me--the reader--to actually take part in their story. Many of the story's were like reading someone's diary; to indistinct for anyone who isn't the author to truly connect with and perhaps too intense a reflection on a given moment for a casual outside to intrude upon without feeling creepy; perhaps that was the point. The title story and a few others, fall outside my complaints and were the ones I enjoyed the most. As for the others, I finished each saying, "Damn, she can write, but I didn't enjoy reading that story." Kinda like how I feel about Rachel Swirsky. There will be a coming post about my perspective of modern themes in feminist literature soon. As for the Kiernan, I should also say I haven't finished it yet; I've about a third left, and if you really want to know how I feel about this work I will tell you truly: I plan to re-read it very soon.

I also didn't finish Nile Shadows by Edward Whittemore; I'm half way there... This book is a train wreck and I'll elaborate on that in my Whittemore review month in November.

Other than finishing the PhD application materials, I'm not gonna set any goals for myself this coming month. I hope to finish up the remainder reading from September, see my friends, Langston, and conquer at least three novels. Other than that, things look cloudy with a heavy chance of rum. Oh yeah, I'm also not re-reading this post with my usual eye for concision because I'm exhausted.

There's gonna be a huge creative outburst soon. I can feel it. I've been sitting on a few short stories in my mind and I'm on the cusp of being a badass slide player. Whenever I re-discover free time four stories are gonna come out in a rush, or I'll be Duane Allman.