the contextual life

thoughts without borders

On the Shelf: Paying for Events, Funny on Twitter, and Overlooking Flaws

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I’ve just started watching Doctor Who, the new version, so I was super excited this weekend when I saw that the latest episode of ABC Radio National’s Philosopher’s Zone was an interview with Robin Bunce, a contributor to Doctor Who and Philosophy, on evil using the show’s Daleks as an example. Whether you are a fan of science fiction shows or evil, I suggest you listen to it—and then subscribe to the weekly podcast.

While discussing e-readers on episode 17 of the Bookrageous podcast, Jenn Northington asked her fellow podcasters if they saw pictures or words when they read—or at least I think it was this episode. As a lover of symbolic logic, I was so psyched when she said this and couldn’t help but give it a good amount of thought—and you should too.

Julie Bosman and Matt Richtel of the New York Times caused quite a stir in the literary community this week with their article Come Meet the Author that ran on Tuesday. In it they interview independent bookstore owners about the possibility of charging money for their events. Some events now have a ticket price, usually if the reading is held off-site in a rented space. However this brought of the question of charging for in-store events across the board. I’m sympathetic towards independent bookstores and probably wouldn’t mind some sort of exchange—a $5 entrance fee that is then put on a reusable gift card. I’m going to spend money in the store anyway, if not that night, so I don’t see much harm in it. Would you pay for author events? Under what terms?

And now onto the books of the week!

Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson
I’ve been waiting to talk about this one all week. Ten Thousand Saints was the book featured on the cover of this past week’s New York Times Sunday Book Review. I was sold on the second line of the review: “In nearly 400 pages, Henderson does not hold back once: she writes the hell out of every moment, every scene, every perspective, every fleeting impression, every impulse and desire and bit of emotional detritus. She is never ironic or underwhelmed; her preferred mode is fierce, devoted and elegiac.”

Here’s what the publisher has to say:
Adopted by a pair of diehard hippies, restless, marginal Jude Keffy-Horn spends much of his youth getting high with his best friend, Teddy, in their bucolic and deeply numbing Vermont town. But when Teddy dies of an overdose on the last day of 1987, Jude’s relationship with drugs and with his parents devolves to new extremes. Sent to live with his pot-dealing father in New York City’s East Village, Jude stumbles upon straight edge, an underground youth culture powered by the paradoxical aggression of hardcore punk and a righteous intolerance for drugs, meat, and sex. With Teddy’s half brother, Johnny, and their new friend, Eliza, Jude tries to honor Teddy’s memory through his militantly clean lifestyle. But his addiction to straight edge has its own dangerous consequences. While these teenagers battle to discover themselves, their parents struggle with this new generation’s radical reinterpretation of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll and their grown-up awareness of nature and nurture, brotherhood and loss.

I’m all about angsty, screwed up coming-of-age tales and this one sounds like a lot of fun.

Pym by Mat Johnson
Mat Johnson is highly entertaining on Twitter (@mat_johnson). For example: “In Spain, Aquaman is known as Waterhombre,” “Never did find out who let the dogs out,” and “Spent the morning at the DMV. It’s like all the sadness of a dive bar, but with no liquor and bright florescent lights.” He also participates in fun hashtags like #hiphopnovels where he offered “Last of the Puerto Ricans” and “Lord of the Fly”

I hate to admit it but the premise of his book didn’t capture my attention at first. However, people keep raving about it and he’s hysterical, so I’m willing to give it a shot.

Here’s the official summary from Mat’s site:
In PYM, recently canned professor of American literature Chris Jaynes is obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe’s strange and only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. When Jaynes discovers an old manuscript of a memoir that seems to confirm the reality of Poe’s fiction, he conspires to get to Antarctica, the setting for Poe’s book, in hopes of discovering Tsalal, the remote and mythic land of pure and utter blackness that Poe describes with horror. Jaynes imagines it to be the last untouched bastion of the African Diaspora and the key to his personal salvation.

They’re at it Again: Stories from Twenty Years of Open City
Open City is a non-profit literary magazine edited by Thomas Beller and Joanna Yas, originally founded in 1990 by Beller and Daniel Pinchbeck. It has ceased to publish in print but continues to live online. I recently picked this one up from my local indie. It was on the front table and the names on the cover were impossible to ignore. I didn’t realize how many amazing writers have contributed to Open City over the years. This collection includes writing from Jonathan Ames, Sam Lipsyte, David Foster Wallace, Richard Yates, Singrid Nunez,  Edmund White, Said Sayrafiezadeh, and Phillip Lopate.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
I’ve been reading up on science fiction for the past year and was excited to read this one in the next week or so but when I went to look for a quote from Card I came across something disconcerting. This: “Laws against homosexuals should remain on the books.” As someone with a strong moral compass in a certain direction, I’m now conflicted as to whether or not I should read this wildly popular series—not to mention pay for it. In my mind handing over money for it would be a form of condoning his opinions. It’s something I’ve thought about for a while in a larger context. In order to have heroes must we overlook flaws? Many of the Beats were horribly misogynistic yet I loved Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady while growing up and still defend my infatuation to this day. Yet I will not read Heidegger because he was an anti-Semite. I’m sure I’ll end up reading Ender’s Game—with a healthy amount of contempt for doing so. Have you ever overlooked an author’s personal flaw in order to read their book? Have you ever refused to read a book because of an author’s stance on an issue?

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Written by Gabrielle

June 24, 2011 at 6:18 am

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