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Sunday Links, October 27, 2013

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The LuminariesThe winner of the Man Booker Prize has been announced: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, who was only 25 years old when she wrote the book.

I’ve been a mystery reader for a long time, so I’m a bit dismayed to find that I haven’t read any of Thomas H. Cook’s ten best mystery novels. I do own at least three of them, but I don’t think you get any points for that! Time for some Wilkie Collins, I think.

Raymond ChandlerSpeaking of mysteries, mystery writer Raymond Chandler didn’t think much of science fiction. His parody is hilarious. I wonder, though, what he would think of the far more sophisticated science fiction being written today.

A self-published novelist publishing so-called “explicit romance” is really writing pornography, so far as I can tell from this article in Salon. And she makes $500,000 a year doing it. Salon seems to be more or less approving of this trend in “women’s fiction” — another “so-called” genre, in my estimation — but I find it rather appalling. Am I a snob, or does this really seem to indicate that literature is going to hell in a handbasket?

And on the topic of reading books written by women: Liz Bourke writes about her slow conversion to reading primarily women writers. She didn’t set out to stop reading books by men, but as her reading made the shift, book by book, she found herself enjoying what she was reading, and feeling like she would have missed a lot of good work had she not taken this course. It’s a tempting prospect for me, I have to say, for despite my longstanding feminism (I was a feminist at the age of 14, in 1970, in an exurb of Chicago; it didn’t make me lots of friends), I find I tend to read more books by men than by women. It really would take a deliberate effort to make the change — but maybe I should.

Neil GaimanNeil Gaiman has some thoughts on why reading, daydreaming, and libraries are critical to our future. Gaiman’s lecture was delivered to The Reading Agency, a charity that promotes reading, for its annual talk on libraries and reading, and was reprinted in The Guardian. In one passage that I particularly appreciated, Gaiman notes that reading and the use of the imagination are so linked to innovation and invention that China has removed its restrictions on the publishing of science fiction and fantasy:

I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed?

It’s simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.

Yes! That’s what I’ve been saying for years.

I continue to keep an eye out for interesting small presses, because I think that’s where a lot of the excitement in publishing is happening today. The Millions offers a look at Curbside Splendor. Its publishing list looks promising, and who could dislike a publisher that has an intimate relationship with a bar?

Ray Bradbury suggests that making lists can be an excellent spur to the imagination. It’s a means of brain storming, though he does not call it that; just let your mind do some free association and see what you come up with. Care to give it a try? I think I will.

VoltaireAuthors are expected to come up with the right thing for any occasion. But for their last words? That’s a tough one. But I think Voltaire might win the prize for wittiest.

BuzzFeed offers 22 things that belong in every bookworm’s home. Lots of neat stuff here, like the “READ” bookcases that top the list. But surely you couldn’t fit everything in one house?

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