rhythmaning: (violin)
I reckon a lot of people here read science fiction. In which case, you might be interested in a new book by a friend of mine, Al, which has been bought by Gollancz.

They say lots of nice things about it, which they would since they are going to publish it. Still, it is all pretty impressive.

(By the way, whilst this is being talked about as a "debut novel", I think that's debut as "spent many years writing stuff, getting rejected and honing my craft"!)
rhythmaning: (whisky)
[livejournal.com profile] widgetfox and I disagree about many things. But we have had one argument for as long as we have known each other, probably. It is as fundamental as "where the sun sets"; a difference which probably defines each of us: it makes me irredeemably shallow, and her delusional.

It hasn't cropped up recently (one advantage of not-being-talked-to), but once again she raised it today, on Facebook. So I decided to set out my case here.

It revolves around books. And at its simplest, the impact that book covers can have. I accept that book covers can influence my choice of books; [livejournal.com profile] widgetfox believes she is above and beyond the influence of designers, illustrators and publishers, and that their skillful manipulation of emotions and, particularly, purchasing behaviour have no effect on her. None whatsoever.

I think this is just bunkum. Even if she might choose to pretend otherwise, book covers must have some influence over her. It could be a negative one, determining her to ignore their impelling her to buy. But an effect they must have.

Worse, she is a psychologist. Her subject is about the working of the brain; and we know that the brain works in a very strange way indeed. Much of our decision making happens without us being aware of it; even when we think we make rational choices and decisions, we're usually fooling ourselves and really just going along with what our reptile-brains want to do anyway.

It is her wilful ignorance of this - her assertion that book covers make no difference to her at all - that gets me.

I think book covers can make a huge difference. When I go into a book shop - not a rare occurrence, I must say - and I'm confronted by the choice of thousands upon thousands of different books, of course the covers matter. If a book cover fails to catch my eye, I won't even be aware that I've not noticed it. If I like the illustration and the design, I might pick it up, look at the author, see what else they've written, and what the genre is (though I don't really get the idea of genre in fiction: a story is a story is a story).

If I don't pick up the book, I'm certainly not going to read the blurb on the back, the snippets of reviews (do I generally agree with the reviewer?) and the endorsements of fellow authors (do I like their work?).

It is particularly important for authors new to me. How else am I to judge whether I might like a book or not? I have nothing else to go on. The cover tells me a lot: it sends all sorts of signals. Even the publisher's imprint tells me a lot about a book.

Put simply, the cover has to attract me - and there are a huge number of ways for it to do so; but that is its job, and to pretend that it is possible to ignore all those messages is pretence.

[livejournal.com profile] widgetfox might want to believe that the art on a book jacket doesn't tell her something, that she never reads the blurb, that she doesn't look at the endorsements. Maybe she'd like to pretend she doesn't even buy books.

But I don't believe her.

Fantasy.

Apr. 10th, 2013 09:53 am
rhythmaning: (violin)
John Lanchester's article on (A) Game of Thrones in the LRB has almost convinced me I should start reading George RR Martin.I'm sure this might amuse and interest several of my friends...

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n07/john-lanchester/when-did-you-get-hooked
rhythmaning: (violin)
Much has been written about writers’ block; much less about its bastard cousin, reader’s block.

For much of the spring, I suffered from reader’s block. Earlier in the year, I had read prodigiously, ploughing through a batch of Christmas books, voraciously working through Steig Larsson’s “Millenium” trilogy (I liked the characters so much, I was very sad to finish the last book) – I read thousands and thousands of pages.

And then, with the spring, I lost my appetite for books.

I had to give up on two large, weighty paperbacks – Iain Sinclair’s “Downriver” and Luther Blissett’s “Q”. These are the kind of books I expected to enjoy – deep, complex stories. They came well reviewed by people I trust. Life is too short – and there are far too many books – to waste time reading things that I don’t think I’ll enjoy, and I reckoned these would be right up my street.

Alas, no. They are both dense works, and I struggled to wade through them. I tried long journeys; I tried rainy weekends away. In the end, the struggle was just too much, the reward not worth it.

So I read very little. Maybe it was just me, my mood or whatever else was going on at the time. But it seemed pointless to make myself finish these unwieldy volumes.

In the last month, my reading has picked up again: I have read a very interesting (but equally frustrating) analysis of post-punk pop music, Simon Reynold’s “Rip It Up And Start Again”; one of Colin Cotterill’s Laotian coroner series, “Disco for the Departed” (a charming novel, like Alexander McCall Smith with depth); and I’m now reading Gordon Burn’s novelisation of the news, “Born Yesterday” (actually, not so much of a novelisation as a discussion and discursion on the news). All entertaining, lively, and thoughtful.

I’ve no idea if I’m over my reader’s block, but at least I’m enjoying reading again!

***Addendum*** On the back of the couple of comments I've received, I can't help wondering whether my recent absence (or should that be abstinence?) - writer's block of a kind, I guess - from LJ is also coupled with my reader's block. I'll have to think about that...
rhythmaning: (violin)
Elsewhere in my little book-enclosed universe, [livejournal.com profile] frankie_ecap and [livejournal.com profile] coughingbear and, apparently, many others have been surprised by my attitude to book series.

I have just read Jasper Fforde's “The Well of Lost Plots”. I was reaing it out of sequence: I had read “The Eyre Affair” before, and picked up the Well of Lost Plots because my brother had a duplicate and I had just finished a rather hard going novel set in post-revolutionary Siberia. (If I hadn't known the author a while back – well, twenty five years ago – I might have given up.) I needed light relief, and I knew that Jasper Fforde would entertain and revive me.

I wasn't wrong. I really enjoyed the book, reading it quickly, and laughing a lot.

So [livejournal.com profile] frankie_ecap and [livejournal.com profile] coughingbear were very surprised - shocked, even - that I had no wish to immediately read the prequel and sequels to it.

There are many reasons for this. Mostly, it comes down to my liking variety, I think. I go out of my way to vary the books I read – I tend to follow a novel by a work of non-fiction and if not, I will not read a book of one genre and immediately pick up a book of the same genre: instead, I will go out of my way to read a completely different work, to mix it up, to broaden rather than limit my experience.

I think I do the same in lots of different ways: what I cook, what I watch when I go to the movies (though I now go so infrequently that it isn't really apparent), what music I will listen to both live and recorded (though this is mediated much more by mood and feeling, and what is available on the radio, too).

There is also something about not using up the resource: if I like a book or its author, I will “save” the sequel or similar work until I know I will appreciate it, a bit like building up credit to get the most out of the experience. By relishing the diversity of books, I appreciate them more.
rhythmaning: (whisky)
Whilst I am discussing life and debate with [livejournal.com profile] frankie_ecap, she has been surprised and amazed by my attitude and behaviour regarding books.

We have an ongoing discussion about the value of book covers. I often decide to buy books by authors I don't know – I like trying new things, experimenting, seeing a different view.

Thing is, when I walk into a bookshop to browse, I have no way of working out which books by new authors I will actually enjoy. There are thousands of books by thousands of authors in many, many genres, and I can't sample them all – I have no way of deciding which I might want to try.

Except their covers. Their covers are full of information: the cover illustration (might) indicate something about the content; the publisher might have a reputation; the front or back might carry reviews or testimonials by people I trust or know to distrust.

So in the absence of any other information, I will look at the cover, pick up a book, investigate it a bit... I do a bit of work, but it will be the cover that first attracts me.

The analogy I use is that of going to a party where I don't know anyone else: rather than standing dumb in the corner, I would go and talk to someone; and that someone must have something to attract me – maybe they look interesting, or they are talking animatedly or they're wearing a low-cut dress - but in the absence of other knowledge, there will be something to attract me to talk to them. Once talking – or flicking through the pages of a book I'm considering – I can reassess my original view: I'll have more information on which to form an opinion.

But first impressions do count.
rhythmaning: (violin)
The daily book on Radio 4 is the story of Jane Austen's writing, "Jane's Fame by Claire Harman - 9.45am each morning, repeated at half past midnight. You can also catch it on iPlayer.

I thought you might like to know...
rhythmaning: (cat)
I have just been watching the second episode of the BBC's story of the picture book, imaginatively called Picture Book. I didn't see the first episode, but this one I loved - starting with Alice in Wonderland, moving through the Wind in the Willows, Winnie the Pooh, the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, to Edward Ardizzone, Quintin Blake and Raymond Briggs, it was enchanting.

Somehow the BBC has decided not to create a proper website, or the BBC's search facility is so poor that I can't find it. On the other hand, the first episode is available on iplayer for another couple of weeks.

And I am about to start looking through some boxes of my own to see if I can find the sketch Blake drew for me thirty years ago. And I might find my autograph book, too...
rhythmaning: (cat)
I have just been watching the second episode of the BBC's story of the picture book, imaginatively called Picture Book. I didn't see the first episode, but this one I loved - starting with Alice in Wonderland, moving through the Wind in the Willows, Winnie the Pooh, the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, to Edward Ardizzone, Quintin Blake and Raymond Briggs, it was enchanting.

Somehow the BBC has decided not to create a proper website, or the BBC's search facility is so poor that I can't find it. On the other hand, the first episode is available on iplayer for another couple of weeks.

And I am about to start looking through some boxes of my own to see if I can find the sketch Blake drew for me thirty years ago. And I might find my autograph book, too...
rhythmaning: (cat)
From [livejournal.com profile] the_red_shoes...




rhythmaning's Dewey Decimal Section:

164 [Unassigned]

rhythmaning = 88508314947 = 885+083+149+47 = 1164


Class:
100 Philosophy & Psychology


Contains:
Books on metaphysics, logic, ethics and philosophy.



What it says about you:
You're a careful thinker, but your life can be complicated and hard for others to understand at times. You try to explain things and strive to express yourself.












Find your Dewey Decimal Section at Spacefem.com

rhythmaning: (cat)
From [livejournal.com profile] the_red_shoes...




rhythmaning's Dewey Decimal Section:

164 [Unassigned]

rhythmaning = 88508314947 = 885+083+149+47 = 1164


Class:
100 Philosophy & Psychology


Contains:
Books on metaphysics, logic, ethics and philosophy.



What it says about you:
You're a careful thinker, but your life can be complicated and hard for others to understand at times. You try to explain things and strive to express yourself.












Find your Dewey Decimal Section at Spacefem.com

rhythmaning: (cat)
De Zeen has this article on objects made out of recycled books by Laura Cahill.

Mostly vases - but also a table and a standard lamp.



(Via BoingBoing).
rhythmaning: (cat)
De Zeen has this article on objects made out of recycled books by Laura Cahill.

Mostly vases - but also a table and a standard lamp.



(Via BoingBoing).
rhythmaning: (Armed Forces)
I watched Channel 4’s documentary on the Qur’an this week – imaginatively entitled “The Qur’an” - and its daily companion pieces, “The Seven Wonders of the Muslim World”.

“The Qur’an” was a fascinating programme about something of which I knew very little (it might be fairer to say nothing); at two hours long (though I cut out the ads – so it probably came in at 105 minutes or so) it really didn’t feel like it was too long, and it was full of interesting debate – I felt it presented both sides of the story, and it explained how there were several interpretations of the Qur’an, just as there are any text, giving rise to many versions of Islam, some of which contradict each other. (How many Christian sects are there with contradictory beliefs? Just look at the Anglican Church and its current schisms.)

It was full of beautiful images – I would gladly travel to Iran just to see the glorious Iman Mosque (more pictures here) - and startling facts – the billions of dollars of oil money spent by Saudi Arabia on promoting Wahabism through the printing and distribution of the Qur’an (including their own, somewhat inflammatory, warlike interpretation of some passages).


The Imam Mosque in Isfahan, Iran. Source: Folded Bird, on flickr



Read more... )
rhythmaning: (Armed Forces)
I watched Channel 4’s documentary on the Qur’an this week – imaginatively entitled “The Qur’an” - and its daily companion pieces, “The Seven Wonders of the Muslim World”.

“The Qur’an” was a fascinating programme about something of which I knew very little (it might be fairer to say nothing); at two hours long (though I cut out the ads – so it probably came in at 105 minutes or so) it really didn’t feel like it was too long, and it was full of interesting debate – I felt it presented both sides of the story, and it explained how there were several interpretations of the Qur’an, just as there are any text, giving rise to many versions of Islam, some of which contradict each other. (How many Christian sects are there with contradictory beliefs? Just look at the Anglican Church and its current schisms.)

It was full of beautiful images – I would gladly travel to Iran just to see the glorious Iman Mosque (more pictures here) - and startling facts – the billions of dollars of oil money spent by Saudi Arabia on promoting Wahabism through the printing and distribution of the Qur’an (including their own, somewhat inflammatory, warlike interpretation of some passages).


The Imam Mosque in Isfahan, Iran. Source: Folded Bird, on flickr



Read more... )
rhythmaning: (cat)
According to Late Newsnight Review, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Booker Prize, there is a public vote on six of the best Bookers of the last forty years.

Woskar and Foxtrot "Oscar and Lucinda" is one of the choices.

Go vote.

(Actually, I can't see WHERE to vote on the website. Googling "Booker 40 public vote" gives me this link And I still can't see where to vote...) According to Martha Kearney you have until 8 July - that's Tuesday.)

OK - I FOUND IT: VOTE HERE!!!
rhythmaning: (cat)
According to Late Newsnight Review, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Booker Prize, there is a public vote on six of the best Bookers of the last forty years.

Woskar and Foxtrot "Oscar and Lucinda" is one of the choices.

Go vote.

(Actually, I can't see WHERE to vote on the website. Googling "Booker 40 public vote" gives me this link And I still can't see where to vote...) According to Martha Kearney you have until 8 July - that's Tuesday.)

OK - I FOUND IT: VOTE HERE!!!
rhythmaning: (Armed Forces)
As [livejournal.com profile] white_hart has pointed out, my review of Pride and Prejudice has been published on the blogapenguin website.

I wrote it so long ago, I had forgotten about it until the kind people at Penguin sent me an email last weekend, telling me they had finally posted it.

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