Sunday Links, June 23, 2013
The nominees for the British Fantasy Awards have been announced. I find I’m curious about Lou Morgan’s Blood and Feathers, though I also must note that I really enjoyed Graham Joyce’s Some Kind of Fairy Tale — which has been double-nominated, for best fantasy and for best horror, which seems like quite a feat to me. Fortunately, it looks like all of the books nominated for the best in both categories are available here in the United States.
Neil Gaiman’s new book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, came out this week. It’s a fairly slim volume, though, so you might read it and find you immediately want something more that’s just as enjoyable. GeekoSystem can help with 10 good suggestions, though I find myself somewhat perplexed that they suggest you start Philip Pullman’s wonderful fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials, with the second novel. I’d go right to the beginning with The Golden Compass — and it’s definitely a trilogy you shouldn’t miss.
You’d probably expect National Public Radio to have a different definition of “summer reading” than most do, and you’d be right: here is Nancy Pearl’s list of books you might have missed that make excellent fodder for keeping your mind active this summer. I’m intrigued by Timothy Hallinan’s Crashed, which sounds like a nice twist on the typical thriller.
It’s not easy to teach writing; the teaching depends so much on the doing, and the typical student who wants to do as little as possible isn’t going to learn to write. It takes lots of hours and lots of words. One teacher has taken to teaching with the help of the New Yorker caption contest, the one in which readers are presented with a drawing and asked to come up with a comic caption. It’s a contest that even the late, great Roger Ebert won only once. “Good writing comes from good sentences,” says Cody Walker, who teaches at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I’d add that good sentences aren’t necessarily easy to come by; they usually show up only in revision.
One of the things that goes with writing is writer’s block. It’s real, says Judith Tarr, who has struggled with it over the years despite publishing book after book after book.
“Some people cut themselves, some do drugs. I try to understand physics. Cosmology, to be precise,” says Peter Birkenhead at the beginning of a fascinating article about reading popular science books. I still remember attempting to read Dennis Overbye’s Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos and realizing, after a bit, that while I knew all the words on the page I’d just read eight times, I couldn’t make head or tails of the manner in which they were arranged. Like Birkenhead, I wind up picking up a novel. Not that there’s anything wrong with novels, mind you.
I still don’t understand why, in the 21st century, we still have to worry about sexism in publishing and reviewing, but the fact is that we do. Women just don’t get reviewed as often as men; nor do they get asked to write reviews as often. Kathryn Heyman just terminated her subscription to the London Review of Books in protest of the fact that only about 20% of the books reviewed are by women. She took the further step of advising LRB of the reasons for her decision, and got in return a letter that is so useless as to not be worth the paper it’s written on. This isn’t hard, people: if you want to review more books by women, review more books by women. It’s that simple. Some folks, of course, deny that there’s any bias against women in publishing, but they’re wrong, as S.E. Smith explains at some length and with lots of examples. It is well past time to fix this.
Buzzfeed says it’s offering a list of disappointing facts about books, but what the list is really about is disappointing facts about reading, and the lack thereof. The moral of the story: go buy someone you love a book, and persuade them to read it. It might change his or her life.