Anxious Mo-Fo

An anxious m*********** from Seattle

Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Charles Xavier Vseslav, a.k.a Charles Kinbote, is actually Charles Francis Xavier, a.k.a Professor X

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IT’S SO SIMPLE.

Written by JPP

August 28, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Posted in Books

The thing about reading Pale Fire

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… is this terrible dread that you will find out you are Kinbote.

Written by JPP

August 26, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Posted in Books, Nabokov

Today in bad writing

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“The fact is,’’ [Sylvia A.] Earle writes, busily mixing metaphors, “that our actions relative to the natural living world, land, air, and sea, have taken us to a precipice, a tipping point, a crossroads with ourselves in the crosshairs, the ones responsible for the fix we’re in.’’

From Anthony Doerr’s review of Earle’s book, The World is Blue.

Written by JPP

September 21, 2009 at 9:10 am

Posted in Books

2666, laugh riot

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There’s something of a sad joke near the beginning of 2666: Morini, one of the four critics in the first chapter, “The Part About the Critics”, is found reading a cookbook by the poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. The same joke is told at the very end of the book, when Archimboldi meets a descendant of Fürst Pückler, a writer and botanist remembered now for his delicious ice cream.

Morini, reading Sor Juana’s cookbook, is approached by a man who used to work at a business which makes mugs with slogans. He quit his job when pictures–first black and white, then color–were added to the mugs. He tells his now-former manager, “That the bloody mugs didn’t bother me before and now they’re destroying me inside.”

To be a poet remembered for your cooking, or a travel writer remembered for your ice cream, is funny and sad enough; to be crushed by your work is even sadder, and even funnier. I suppose that being remembered for nothing at all, or to be crushed by your work and continue anyway, would be sadder and funnier still.

Written by JPP

September 20, 2009 at 11:04 am

Posted in Books, Roberto Bolaño

No longer reading Gibbon on my iPod

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I did manage to read about two hundred sixty pages, and it wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t really great either. Having a gigantic set of books fit in your pocket is nice, but if your main goal is not portability, a nice large set of hardbound books is preferable.

The used copy I found yesterday was treated very nicely by its previous owner, who put a library-style plastic cover on each of the dust jackets, and put a list of Roman emperors and the years of their reigns in the back of Volume I. Unlike the version on my iPod, the books have beautiful illustrations: maps, and Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s etchings. Unlike the version on my iPod, the books are designed, with beautiful and legible typesetting with nice wide margins, pretty initial capitals, and footnotes placed in the margins.

The books are also physical objects, which my six-year-old daughter is able to stack on each other and leaf through to find pretty pictures. Weightlessness is nice, but weight can be too.

Written by JPP

September 20, 2009 at 9:01 am

Posted in Books

Books for children about ancient Egypt

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I love David Macaulay’s book about how the pyramids were built. The illustrations are wonderful, and it makes plain what a massive (and massively useless) undertaking it was to build the damn things. However, I should mention that it has not sustained my (six-year-old) daughter’s interest long enough for me to read the whole thing to her.

Similarly, I love David Weitzman’s The Pharaoh’s Boat which, like Macaulay’s book, has beautiful illustrations and shows how clever the ancient Egyptians were. And, like Macaulay’s book, I like it much more than my daughter does.

We both like The Star-Bearer, which is a picture book (with very pretty pictures) retelling an ancient Egyptian creation myth. We also like Gerald McDermott’s Voyage of Osiris, which retells a myth of Osiris: how he was imprisoned and then murdered by Set, how he was reassembled, and how he became the ruler of the Underworld. I’ve left out a link because it appears to be out of print, and there’s not much on it online.

My daughter loves You Wouldn’t Want to Be Cleopatra! much more than I do–she asked me to read it to her five days in a row, to my sorrow. It certainly holds a child’s attention: there’s strangling, seasickness, beheading, poisoning, stabbing, and sibling rivalry (including an illustration showing Cleopatra’s brother taunting her with, “Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah, I’m Pharaoh”). If you’ve ever been to one of the Grossology exhibits at your local science center, you’ve got an idea of the kind of book this is.

I can tell you which books my daughter enjoyed, but someone else will have to tell you how true to the facts or the source material they are, because I have no idea.

Update: I completely forgot The Usborne Encyclopedia of the Ancient World, which has a long section on ancient Egypt, and which both my daughter and I love.

Written by JPP

September 13, 2009 at 11:35 am

Posted in Books

I wonder if anyone else has a stack of unfinished books that actually shrinks

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Because mine grows, grows, and grows.

Written by JPP

August 20, 2009 at 8:07 pm

Posted in Books

Reading Gibbon on an iPod

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As it turns out, it’s less unpleasant than you might think. The application I’m using to read it, Eucalyptus, has reasonably good typography, and does a number of things to fake reading an actual book–including a mesmerizing page-turning animation which, after using it for months, I can’t stop playing with. It doesn’t do a number of things it should do, like providing a mechanism for searching in the book you’re reading, or allowing you to add your own bookmarks. It costs about ten dollars, which seems like a lot until you use Stanza or the iPhone Kindle reader.

The typography isn’t perfect, but it’s miles ahead of what you get with the other readers. Unlike the other readers I mentioned (and unlike the web browser you’re using to read this with), Eucalyptus hyphenates, which, sadly, is something of a rarity with digital text. Any typesetting system for print which did not hyphenate would be considered a toy, but, for some reason, if the text is displayed onscreen it’s considered perfectly excusable to leave that out. Even twenty years later.

The iPod Touch has a reasonably high-resolution screen, it fits in my pocket, and, because I already owned it, the only cost was the ten dollars for the reader software–which, as it turns out, is cheaper than buying Gibbon in hardcover.

Written by JPP

August 17, 2009 at 7:50 pm

Posted in Books

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George Chapman’s Iliad

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Starts off with a bang:

Achilles’ banefull wrath resound, O Goddesse, that imposed
Infinite sorrowes on the Greekes, and many brave soules losd
From breasts Heroique–sent them farre, to that invisible cave
That no light comforts; and their lims to dogs and vultures gave.
To all which Jove’s will gave effect; from whom first strife begunne
Betwixt Atrides, king of men, and Thetis’ godlike Sonne.

I found a used copy for four dollars. I guess I can thank most of you for not reading poetry: if you did, it probably would have cost me more.

Update Jan. 4th, 2010: It is not available on Gutenberg, but there is a somewhat lame Google Books version online.

Written by JPP

August 16, 2009 at 8:17 pm

Posted in Books, Poetry

The part about the crimes

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As I make my way through the fourth chapter of 2666, “The Part About the Crimes”, I’m reminded again that the crimes are not over.

Written by JPP

August 10, 2009 at 7:23 pm

Posted in Books, Roberto Bolaño