Friday, 18 September 2015

Book Marks: Value of Books, More Book Bans, And Blogging

Has the book become "a devalued symbol of human imagination"?

An article on the cost of "free time" in modern working life got academic and writer Fiona O'Connor thinking about how the "time is money" mindset affects writing and the value of books in general.

In the contemporary market economy, invisibly-handed, brand-allied and celebrity-underpinned, how is the great novel, short story or poetry collection to be nurtured? What is the compound interest on genius for the literary canon when sales are the only justification of value?

So Into the River was banned and Penguin Random House New Zealand was disappointed by it.

"Into the River was chosen as the 2013 New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year by a respected panel of judges," it said. "The book deals with difficult issues such as bullying and racism, which are topics adolescents should be able to read about as they may well experience these issues in their own lives."

And, of course, sex. The adults supporting the ban because it's "in the public interest" that adolescents don't learn about sex and sexuality until they're 25 are deluding themselves. There are consequences in sex, regardless of how old people are when have it. Not that I'm saying "better sooner than later".

Meanwhile, a parent in Tennessee apparently confused "gynaecology with pornography" and tried to get The immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks banned, according to the author, Rebecca Skloot. Among the offending passages included a bit on how Ms Lacks discovered her cervical cancer via a self-exam.

Now, one purpose of pornography is to titillate or downright excite, and how can any description of someone discovering a cancer that way do that?

On a related note: Dav Pilkey, author of the bestselling (and most challenged) Captain Underpants series, has quietly revealed that one of his two main protagonists, Harold, grows up to marry a man.

Pilkey wrote in The Guardian:

People often ask me how I'd want to respond to those critics who would rather see my books pulled from shelves than handed to young readers. I do have an answer, and it boils down to the fact that not every book is right for every person. Some grownups are not amused by the kinds of things that make most children laugh, and so they try to stomp those things out.

I understand that people are entitled to their own opinions about books, but it should be just that: a difference of opinion. All that's required is a simple change. Instead of saying "I don't think children should read this book," just add a single word: "I don't think my children should read this book."

When it comes to books, we may not all agree on what makes for a good read – but I hope we can agree that letting children choose their own books is crucial to helping them learn to love reading.


Writer Faisal Tehrani gets the nod to fight the Home Ministry's ban on four of his novels: Sebongkah Batu di Kuala Berang published by PTS Litera Utama Sdn Bhd; Karbala, published by Abeerden Books World; and Tiga Kali Seminggu and Ingin Jadi Nasrallah, both published by Al-Ameen Serve Holdings Sdn Bhd.

Meet Seymour Britchky, the critic who time forgot:

...When food obsessives cite their heroes, they tend to invoke a particular canon: MFK Fisher and Ruth Reichl for their heady, evocative prose; Gael Greene for her saucy wit; R.W. Apple and Calvin Trillin for their bonhomous wanderings; Anthony Bourdain for his honed and hungry swagger; Jonathan Gold, because he is Jonathan freaking Gold. Britchky's people are in it for his acid tongue and gimlet eye—the way he etched a menu, a moment, a space, a feeling, an era in dining when not every plate was Instagram-ready, every interaction Yelp-able to the world. For him, every meal was personal, every review a master class in the art of food writing.

A recent book of comics started out when a young man from Kuching, Sarawak got conned.

And being a young man of his time, Goh naturally wanted to blog about this interesting life-lesson. But there was a problem: Goh couldn't possibly narrate this entire incident to his blog's readers.

"It would have been too wordy and less interesting," he recalls thinking.

That is when an ingenious idea lit up in his head: draw a four-frame comic strip about it.

Years later, Once Upon a Miao: Stories from the Other Side of Malaysia, is published. It's a pretty fine book.

Jenny "The Bloggess" Lawson has been on a roll lately. This time, on the question of whether blogging is dead:

The only thing that's dead is the possibility of making a million bucks on blogging, which honestly never existed as an attainable goal for any of us in the first place. If you're blogging to make a million dollars you should probably switch to something more lucrative, like ... I dunno ... making a sex tape.

...But here's the great thing about realizing that making a mint in blogging isn't really feasible or worthwhile ... now you're free to write whatever the shit you want to write without having to worry about brands and advertisers and alienating angry, easily-offended people who are actually really fun to alienate.

...And that's fine because every single writer writes for their own specific reason. Some of us write for a living. Some of us write for fun. Some of us write because we have no other choice because writers write always ... That is what writing is about, and blogging is just one iteration of writing. Writing never dies.

"Writing never dies." Amen.

Pynchon-style writing gives an unknown author's book a boost, thanks to speculation that said author could be Thomas Pynchon himself. As if the catchy cover and title won't. And I suppose it's been established that e-publishing is not the magic bullet some say it is.


Post a Comment

Got something to say? Great!