Wednesday, November 28, 2007

TIME's People of the Year?

I'll never say that Stephen King is a great "writer," but he is really becoming one of my favorite interview subjects. (And I'll say he's a very entertaining storyteller.) This recent item in TIME is yet another example of why I enjoy listening to him.

He starts off asking about TIME's person of the year, and he suggests Britney Spears (Be warned, it's that image, but it's within the context of the King interview) and Lindsay Lohan should be awarded the honor. Yes, he's serious. But not because he thinks highly of them.

Britney Spears is just trailer trash. That's all. I mean, I don't mean to be pejorative. But you observe her behavior for the past five years and you say, "Here's a lady who can't take care of her kids, she can't take care of herself, she has no retirement fund, everything that she gets runs right through her hands." And yet, you know and I know that if you go to those sites that tell you what the most blogged-about things on the Internet are, it's Britney, it's Lindsay.

His point is a valid one. Sure, there are lots of intelligent Americans who don't give a crap about these imbeciles who are famous for being famous. But we don't do enough to drown them out. As King notes, is anyone paying attention to what's going on in Pakistan? This is an enormous country with millions of people, many of whom are impoverished, and it is on the brink of a coup. The country has nuclear weapons, and regardless of what some might think of Musharraf, he's an ally. Not only that, but the prime minister he ousted years ago and who is trying to get back into power is a nut job who saber-rattled with India.

Stephen King is many things, some good, some not so attractive, but I like listening to him or reading one of his interviews. He's always interesting, always thoughtful, and always entertaining. I can't say that about pop icons. Keep your voice strong, Mr. King.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Why Do You Read?

I just noticed this article, which appeared over the Thanksgiving weekend in the New York Times. It asks a fundamental question: Why do we read?

I'm rarely without a book or other reading material at my disposal, though I'm not so addicted that I'll read the shampoo bottle every morning.

Anyone who's visited The Elephant's Bookshelf knows that I have eclectic reading tastes. But what about you out there? What do you like to read and why? Cammy? Frank? Care to start us off?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Book stores

I'm a baseball fan -- born and bred. I've seen a game at nearly every National League town and several American League cities, too. But I have another hobby/passion. Books. I've always written and read, but it's nice to spend some quality alone time in a book store, amid the scents of ink, leather, and paper.

The other day, the New York Times ran a travel story for literature buffs. I haven't been too even a small sampling of the stores outside of New York city. But I now have a new goal: to visit the most interesting independent book stores in each city I visit while away on business. Of course, if there's a baseball game in town, I might have to go to the stadium first, but I could handle this.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Lannan Literary Prize Winners

This week, the Lannan Foundation announced its annual awards and fellowships. Impressive stuff, as usual, and once again I didn't know any of the writers. Mind you, this says more about the me than about the writers, I suspect. They're doing what they need to do: they write, they publish, they probably speak or teach or both. In short, they're known -- just not by me. So join me as I take a look at their backgrounds.

A.L. Kennedy is a Scottish writer who's written several novels, gathered some of her short stories into a few books, and written some nonfiction books as well. What frightens me is she's only a few years older than I am.

Susan Straight (pictured above) lives out in California, and from the interviews I've read of her, including this item from the UC-Riverside press department, she sounds interesting. She studied with James Baldwin, which may have contributed to her perspective on race relations. I may need to read some of her work.

Mike Davis is the nonfiction award winner. I can picture him being one of those prickly reporters who is a pain in the ass but gets the story and gets it right. Journalism is one of the last places where that can still work.

All these folks won $150,000 for the awards. Not a bad prize, by any stretch.

Anne Stevenson was even more fortunate, but she had to wait a lifetime for the $200,000 Lifetime Achievement Award. An American expat living in Britain, she's been writing poetry forever. I think I've read a few of them, but I'm not certain.

The thing I like most about the Lannan Prizes, however, is not the succulent prize money. Rather, it's the anonymity behind them. The right people need to know who you are in order to even be considered. Work hard, write well, who knows who may one day receive one of the most prestigious literary prizes in the English-speaking world?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

NaNo WriMo: This Is Fun!

Before I go too far, I was looking for an image to depict juvenile aliens, and when I found the one I finally selected, I couldn't help but laugh. Every once in a while, the world needs a little PG-13 in an otherwise family-friendly site.

Anyway, back to my point: While I'm nowhere near the pace I need to reach my goal of 50,000 words, I'm enjoying the story I've created for my NaNo WriMo entry. It's a quasi-science fiction work. I won't go into too much detail here, but I'm writing about alien abductions (no, I've never experienced one, thank God) and college. And it's chock full of goofy stuff and oddball characters, which is as I like it. I generally write serious stuff in which some characters might have a good sense of humor, but I've been reading a lot of Christopher Moore the past year or so, and I'm really enjoying the funny, irreverent way he can tell a story. This is my homage to Christopher Moore.

Hopefully, some of my fellow writers will visit. Stop for a moment and sip from your coffee cup (or mine). Talk some trash, spin a yarn, or cast aspersions. I won't judge.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Hello NaNo WriMo

As you can see from the yum-yum yellow banner on the left-hand side, I've ventured into NaNo WriMo Land. They only require 50,000 words -- not 90,000 -- so it's not quite as rigorous as I'd feared. (I should have known better; my 282-page novel clocks in at around 95,000 words. I guess this novella would clock in around 120-125 pages.)

To any of the writers from the competition coming by to visit (and anyone else for that matter), welcome! I hope we can develop a little conversation and dialogue here. Think of the Bookshelf as a place to rest your pint glass that doesn't require coasters. Scotch drinkers welcome too. Sorry, no smoking.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

JoinMe for NaNo WriMo?

I'm thinking about doing it this year, writing a novel in a month. Since my first has taken several years, the prospect of writing one in a month amuses me. If I do it (and I'll decide today), it would be a more breezy, possibly humorous piece. Ninety thousand words? That's a good goal for a novel. But I don't think it's possible to actually write anything other than a first draft in that time. Perhaps we'll see. Anyone care to join me?

Books I Haven't Read

I'm pleased to find that Slate is focusing on books this week. I've not had a chance to get too deep into their articles, but that's appropos, given the focus of the first article I clicked on: the best books you haven't read...

For me? Well, there are so many. Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, Finnegan's Wake by James Joyce, most of the Harry Potter series.

I'll add another post later to expand on this, but I invite you all, dear readers, to indicate which "great" book you regret not having read -- or perhaps you don't regret it. Perhaps you're proud of it, the way some people swear off exercise or enjoy blowing cigar smoke in the face of others.

All are welcome.