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Jump or Go Down with the Ship? Abandoning Books is Not for Me May 6, 2010

Posted by dataduchess in reading, Uncategorized.
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I’d like to state that I always finish books I start, even the bad ones- but with 1 observation, 1 exception and 1 caveat to the rule. First, the observation, and this is merely a personal fact about myself: I read slowly. I read lots, I enjoy reading and will read just about anything – I’m just not fast about it.

Borrowed under Creative Commons from kwerfeldein's flickr stream

The reason I point out this observation about myself is to explain the exception to my above-stated rule of always finishing books, which is I rarely finished the books assigned in high school. Part of me wishes I could claim, I was a rebel and no one was going to tell me what to read (a statement I have in fact made) but the truth is I often liked the assigned books; I just didn’t read fast enough to finish the assigned chapters every night. Soon I was giving up on that book and starting the next assigned novel, and just never looked back. Some of them I plan to pick up again someday though.

Which brings me to the caveat: sometimes it takes a really long time for me to finish a book, and I might read another 1, 2, or 12 books in between. Remember my review of Crossworld? It took me something like 5 years to get through that book! There are several books I have started, and will ultimately finish, but for some reason or another they’ve been put on hiatus. One is Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. A lovely book with such real passion, but I just can’t read more than a few pages at a time. I don’t even know what it is about it that makes me have to put it down, but I just can’t bring myself to get to the end. I wonder if subconsciously I don’t want to know how it ends… (don’t tell me!)

Aside from high school and the books on hiatus, for some reason I am compelled to finish books. Generally, there are very few books I dislike enough to abandon completely, but it does happen once in awhile that a book just doesn’t hook me. But even those I usually try to get through. I just need to know how they end. For what its worth, I’m not suggesting this is a good quality about me – it’s just the way I am.

What about you, readers? How much time do you invest in a book you aren’t enjoying before you give it up? Do you have a set number of pages you always read before deciding to continue? Do you finish every book you start, no matter how terrible?

For more opinions check out this recent bit from NPR or this bit from a Contemporary Literature Blog.

Can a book written by committee be any good? My sources point to Yes! March 26, 2010

Posted by dataduchess in reading.
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Over at NPR’s All Things Considered is a piece about a newly released Thriller that was written by 22 writers. The novel, Watchlist is the result of collaboration of some of the best authors of modern thrillers, including Jeffrey Deaver and Lee Child. It started with a character created by Deaver, and then the story was passed from author to author, each adding a chapter and moving the story forward or in a new direction. It sounds like a project that can go either disastrously wrong, turn our incredibly brilliant. I haven’t read it, so I can’t say yet whether the collaboration was a success – but I’m certainly intrigued enough to check it out.

Spring 2666 Update March 2, 2010

Posted by dataduchess in 2666.
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It’s been awhile since I mentioned our 2666 Group Read, so I thought it was about time to post an update. Today begins Week 6, so we are a little more than a third of the way through the book. Due to the significant (an understatement) storms and power outages we experienced last week, this is the first time I have finished a section well before the Monday deadline. Instead of reading the book this morning to finish the section (this week we finished The Part About Fate), I have the opportunity to reflect on what I have read, and to absorb some of the really insightful posts other readers have been putting on their blogs.

Although I have been mostly enjoying reading 2666 as a group so far (the group aspect has kept me motivated to push through some slow parts) one feeling I had not anticipated was how much I feel like I am missing from the reading. Some of the other readers are making some truly wonderful connections between history, symbolism and metaphors and themes – and I’m still just reading a story. I take things at face value, as they are written, and if the allusion isn’t glaring, I just move past it. In The Part About Fate, we have a whole section about a character that is obviously based on a real-life figure. I knew enough to recognize that, but that’s where my thinking stops, and I just read the words for what they say. Other readers in the group read have put the words in context as though they were said by the real-life figure, and by adding his life experience to the written words, there is another level to the meaning, another (hidden) message from the author, another theme to be discussed.

I liked reading most of the assigned books in High School English class. I hated English class. That’s kind of how I feel now. At least now, I don’t have to come up with these theories on my own. I can just read for the pleasure of the story, and then check the blogs to see what I’m missing.

Lots of good stuff collected here, the main site for the Group Read:
Las obras de Roberto Bolaño

Other insights:
Infinite Zombies
Naptime Writing

Vook: Passing Fad or Wave of the Future? February 10, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Technology can do anything.
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I’ve been hearing about vooks for a few months now and had decided that they were about as enduring and useful as tongue piercing. But now that Anne Rice, the consummate vampire author (although perhaps not a prestigious literary writer is certainly prolific and influential), has adopted the technology, I decided to give vooks a second glance. What exactly are vooks? They’re a combination of book, video, and that unstoppable contagion–social media. Their introductory video perhaps describes it best.

Rice has decided to adapt “The Master of Rambling Gate,” a 1984 story published in Redbook magazine into a vook. The obscurity of the title should be enough to keep you wary. Who else has made vooks? Not many. In fact, there are only 12 vooks in all (so far) which makes me wonder why I keep hearing about them.  At first I swore off vooks as another sign of the world catering to (and thus fortifying) our need for dazzle, glitter, and bombardment of our senses.  Vooks seem like just another nail in the ADHD coffin, allowing us to switch to video when our wandering minds can longer handle the strain of actually (gasp!) reading text.  But, I do think there is a place in this world for vooks after all – in the realm of personal fitness, cooking, and any other hands-on experience. This kind of integration makes sense to me. As for the rest, I’ll keep my novels on one shelf and my DVD’s on another. What do you think?

Is reading a social or solitary experience? January 27, 2010

Posted by dataduchess in 2666, reading.
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This article from the New York Times last weekend includes a quote from none other than Matthew Bucher, organizer of the Spring 2666 group read of Roberto Bolano’s novel 2666 (which just started – there’s still time to catch up!). He said that he still reads, at night, at home and on his own, but the discussion of what he read the next day only enhances his experience.

I feel the same way – audiobooks notwithstanding (they have their own place) I don’t want to read in a group; I read by myself. However the article includes quotes from other readers who indicate they are somehow disappointed to know that anyone has ever read the same book as them. They feel that the world of the novel is their own secret place, and for someone else to read the book is like an unwelcome intruder in that world.

While I have felt connected to some of my favorite books, even so much so with some of my favorites as to imagine they went on without me everytime I put them down, I have never felt the imaginary world to be mine exclusively. Rather, when I found a particularly special world, I was (am still) eager to share that world with friends who I know would also appreciate it. (Just ask any of the individuals I continually press my latest reads upon.)

So what do you think? Solitary or Social Activity? Do you like to share books?

Move Over Dewey! Here Comes the Library Dogs! January 14, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Uncategorized.
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Ever since I saw a picture of a cute black lab hanging outside of my local public library I became interested in the phenomena of children reading to dogs. (I even looked into getting my two over-excited labs trained for just such a program and if you are interested you should check out therapyanimals.org’s page on Reading Education Assistance Dogs aka READ.) While I excitedly told my friends and family about this great library program and was always greeted with smiles, someone did finally ask “just how does having a dog present help with reading skills?”. To be honest, I didn’t have a clue. Kids love dogs so they might jump at the opportunity to read to them–that was my only response. So it was with great excitement that I read this post by the Book Patrol blog on just such programs.

From Alice Jamieson's Flickr Stream, Creative Commons Licensed

The post entitled, “These Libraries Are Going to the Dogs,” cites empirical evidence that “the program has been so successful in improving reading scores that it has spread nationwide, over 2,300 dog and trainer teams are now helping reluctant readers become book lovers, according to a 2009 ABC News story.”

The reasons are numerous:
1. Children who are embarrassed by their reading skills do not feel embarrassed in front of dogs.
2. “The dogs are patient, nonjudgmental, and can even be trained to be encouraging.”
3. Reading becomes more like a reward or a game than homework.
4. Homeless children, crippled by stress, make time to read to the dogs.
5. Children choose what they want to read rather than be held to specific books.

Read the whole post here!

The Future of Reading AND Publishing; and music? October 30, 2009

Posted by pupfiction in Uncategorized.
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LibraryJournal.com, the online companion to the eponymous periodical read by all types of librarians nationwide, has just posted an article entitled “The Future of Reading”. This article is important for anyone interested in emerging technologies, business, and information. This article is great because it points to a number of new (or increasingly popular) trends in reading: e-books, graphic novels, kindles, audiobooks, even cellphone novels. While many believe that librarians are luddites, clinging to their dusty out-of-print books and handwritten card catalogs (we are not), this article shows that libraries and librarians are willing (and enthusiastically willing!) to change and meet the needs of today’s “reader”, whatever that may mean.

While this is a comprehensive article from the librarians’ point of view, it doesn’t take into account what publishers and authors might be concerned with and that’s the illegal proliferation of their work online. One author has circumvented this process and made much of his work available for free online: the award-winning Cory Doctorow. His site, craphound.com, provides free downloadable versions of many of his works including the well-reviewed Little Brother, “a daring gesture,” which the New York Times book review notes, “hasn’t hurt its print sales in the least”.

Doctorow’s move reminds me of Radiohead’s unprecedented release of their most recent album, In Rainbows (2007), in digital format for whatever price the consumer was willing to pay. When the actual album was finally released in “hard copy” (aka CD), it topped both the UK Album Chart and the US Billboard 200.

What do these counter-intuitive occurrences mean? I think it means people will still pay for things worth paying for. What do you think?