The Tournament is over. A winner has emerged victorious in The Tournament of Books. And I’m reading the winner now. Hooray!
Everyone seems to have forgotten about Amazon’s similar purchases of Shelfari and LibraryThing. In 2008.
Video: Junot Diaz on the Colbert Report. Yeah, man.
Create your own family coat of arms – Game of Thrones-style
This week Meg and I discuss a book that is NOT by Rick Riordan. Instead we dive into the mysterious world of Lemony Snicket’s new series All the Wrong Questions. The first book in the series, Who Could that be At this Hour?, is good fun. The illustrations are pretty great, too.
Salon: My Amazon bestseller made me nothing – a grim look at the economics of writing
Jimmy Fallon (video): Don’t read these books
Video: Explain Like I’m Five discusses Frederich Nietzsche and existentialism. With five-year olds.
T-shirt: The book was better
Alternadad author Neal Pollack talks to the Onion A/V club about his troubles with making a living writing
This week Meg talks about Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. We also talk briefly about its successor in the series, Peter and the Shadow Thieves. She couldn’t put one of them down, and couldn’t keep the other one in her hands. Find out more on the podcast…
Book Time with Meg
Episode 30 and 30.5
Peter and the Starcatchers
Above from: The Pulp-o-mizer
Cool idea: the underground library
Believer Magazine announces the finalists for its annual book award. This is always a good source for off=the-beaten-path books.
Goodreads finds that trusted friends are still the top source of book recommendations – based on the two books they asked about, anyway.
I’m using this web site now: Coffitivity – ambient “coffee shop” sound to plug into for enhanced creativity
Would the author be better off had they left the “By the New York Times bestselling author of Go the F**k to Sleep” off the front cover? Time will tell. Rage is Back by Adam Mansbach arrived on the scene at an opportune time. I’ve been reading, with relish, the Hip-Hop Family Tree comics by Ed Piskor over at Boing Boing. The comics are focused squarely on the hip hop/graffiti golden era. It has this panel on the bottom of each episode, which bears a certain resemblance to Rage’s cover:
I’ve also been completely taken with the audacity of this amazing piece that went up in a quiet, forgotten corner of downtown Atlanta:
Just look at that! Anyway, I was primed to read a novel that featured graffiti artists from back in the day is what I’m saying.
So, yeah, back to the book. Rage is Back takes place in the present and is related to us by our teenage narrator, Dondi, the half-black/half-Jewish son of once famous graffiti taggers. Dondi kicks off his story by jumping right into the narrative :
When Ambassador Dengue Fever told me that Billy wasn’t dead after all but half alive and back in town, skulking through the Transit System’s blackened veins feral and broken and scrawling weird mambo-jahambo on the walls with chalk— chalk! as if spray paint never existed— I pretty much just shrugged a whatever shrug and kept on selling hydroponic sinsemilla to stainless steel refrigerator owners living in neighborhoods that had just been invented, and hoping Karen would let me back in the apartment soon, me being her son and all, even if I had been expelled from fucking Whoopty Whoo Ivy League We’s A Comin’ Academy on account of some Upper Eastside whiteboys’ inability to keep my botanical enterprises, of which they were the major beneficiaries, on the low.
And we’re off…!
The “Rage” in the title is Dondi’s father (Billy) who disappeared after things went down back in the day but has suddenly reappeared. Billy has been in the jungles of South America learning mysticism from shamans. He brings an element of magic realism to the story. Oh, you have a problem with that? Dondi is ready for you:
If you’re already frowning and thinking I’m an unreliable narrator, or going “oh goody, I love magical realism,” then you should cut your losses and go read Tuesdays with Morrie, before I get to the really wild shit later on. Skepticism is an admirable trait, but so is asking yourself if you’re really such a fucking Master of the Universe that things might not be happening beneath the surface of your world right now without you knowing.
Really, I could listen to Dondi’s interior dialogue all day long. The story unfolds as Dondi slowly gets to know and understand the father that abandoned him as a child, and we learn just why Rage is back. And he is angry.
I really enjoyed my time with Rage is Back. This book isn’t for everyone, clearly. If you’re a fan of old school hip hop (which gets name checked regularly) or urban art, you should check it out. If Dondi’s unique worldview, as expressed here in brief quotes, appeals to you – pick it up. Ok, one more:
Freeloading is exhausting. All conversation, no alone-time, and for the only child of a single mother like your boy here, solitude is the base of the mental health food pyramid, the grain-and-bread group of not losing my shit rather than the occasional, Chili Cheese Frito-esque indulgence some people seem to find it. When I do get some quiet, it’s in the dead-sober middle of the day, when regular citizens are out getting paid or educated, and I fritter it away shaking my fool head at the parade of unsound ideas and irresponsible people I’ve spent my life in thrall to— a great word, thrall; sounds like a monster’s gullet— while normal kids were busy soaking up all types of valuable knowledge from their square-ass parents.
The annual tournament of books begins today with a pre-tournament play-in round. Which of these Cinderalla teams will make it off the bubble tot he big dance? Check out today’s action, and then check out the amazing brackets.
Today’s round includes three books about the Iraq war reviewed by a combat veteran. It doesn’t play out the way you would think, but the only book of the three that I read advances to the tourney. Huzzah!
In this episode we discuss what seems like our one millionth Rick Riordan novel. The Throne of Fire is the second book in the Kane Chronicles series – but who can keep up. We may have run out of things to discuss about Rick Riordan books as this is our silliest episode by far.
Book Time with Meg
The Throne of Fire
Oops. Another slack week here at BGB. We have a queue of about 100 posts waiting to be written. Perhaps, soon, they will be. *sigh* Here are your Friday links:
Pulp! The Classics (as long as you’re re-imagining book covers…)
Unfortunately, says Cory Doctorow, they don’t seem to know what open-source and DRM mean.
Speaking of Doctorow, he gets a surprise glowing book review from THE MAN
Whale Words: an analysis of word usage in Moby Dick
Scholastic unveils the first of new covers for the paperback version of the Harry Potter series. The artist selected for the job is Kazu Kibuishi, author and artist of the Amulet series, which we love. Behold:
Some enterprising young person who reads a lot decided to paint this across three buildings in a forgotten corner of downtown Atlanta. I have no idea what it means exactly, but I love it. Extra points for the upside down history book.
Big Publishing unveils a new site Bookish for discovering new books. That they publish.
Amazon patents a system of digital book lending. Interesting.
Interesting: “Moby Dick is one of my favorite books, but let’s face it — it’s a hot mess,” says Evison. “If I had software that said, ‘Look, maybe this four-page essay on scrimshaw isn’t gonna fly with your 28 to 40 male [demographic],’ what would we have lost with that? Sometimes, you know, it’s just got to be a little bit of a dictatorship.”
Need some non-fiction? Check out this list of 102 spectacular non-fiction stories from 2012
Great moments in grammar pedantry: on splitting infinitives
Since my area of interest leans toward multi-cultural, people find all sorts of books for me. My mom picked up Honky by Dalton Conley at a garage sale and I’m happy she did.
Honky is a compilation of Mr. Conley’s early memories living in New York public housing as the only white kid. His earliest memory is from when he was about three years old. He wanted a sibling so badly he ran up to a little black girl and insisted on taking her back home with him, to be his sister. Having a white boy try to “kidnap” her daughter didn’t go over well with the girl’s mother.
How Mr. Conley’s family ended up in public housing is important to point out. His parents were artists and their parents offered to help them in order to get them into an upper scale neighborhood. They weren’t interested in taking the help and thought it would be good for the family to live in this public housing community as the only white family amongst mostly black and hispanic people. They could never have guessed how it would affect their son.
While her son attends the the tough, local elementary school, Mr. Conley’s mother realizes that this public school isn’t the best option for her son and “works the system” in order to get him into a better school. Having always been the only “white” kid in school, Dalton had several keen observations upon entering his new “whiter” school. He was confused by Orzan, the Turkish boy, who was outspoken about his differences and was still comfortable with himself:
Orzan, by contrast, seemed to carry the make of foreignness with him through the halls of P.S. 41. It wasn’t about race, for he appeared as white as anyone else. It might have been about ethnicity, since his name certainly set him off form the rest of us. But the major division between Ozan and everyone else was of his own making: his political opinions, almost as a rule, diverged from those of the rest of class.
In contrast to Orzan, Dalton had defined himself as a minority white kid and was surprised when he wasn’t the minority any longer:
Suddenly, being white was no longer the marker that set me off from everybody else, that defined who I was. Being a honky may have made me twitch back at the Mini School, but it also gave me a certain freedom to act however I wanted, since people’s reactions never reflected anything about me in particular but could always be brushed off as a racial thing.
When young Mr. Conley and his new upper middle class friend accidentally start a fire in that friend’s apartment, he is stunned that nothing happens to them. The father doesn’t beat his son and the authorities don’t press the issue. He knows this would not have been the case in his ‘hood. He realizes soon enough that the inequalities of being poor just isn’t a money issue:
Not only does the government deprive low-income families of the opportunity to take care of their own kids and their own mistakes, it actively goes after them in the form of drug raids, weapons sweeps and other such policy initiatives. I learned this a few years later, when one of my neighbors was busted in a drug raid. Because he had recently turned eighteen, he was tried as an adult …and given twenty five years of hard time…..I remember Marc as the kid who used to pump me up with confidence, telling me that because I batted left handed I had a chance to be like the greatest homerun sluggers of all time.
I feel sorry for little Mr. Conley, everything in his life is about race and fitting in. He admits that later in life, he became a bit OCD and to this day has to do things in pairs. Reading Honky reminded me of I’m Down by Mishna Wolff. Ms. Wolff talked a lot about race and fitting in, but her issue really was her absent parents and her need for love from them. Mr. Conley’s early life is similar. He never understood why his sister never had problems fitting in regardless of race. Obviously, she didn’t use race as her stumbling block. Mr. Conley needed his parents to help him sort this out, but similar to Ms. Wolff, they were busy with their own lives and trying to survive as artists.
I understand that many kids have a desire to “fit in” and will do what they can to do feel accepted, but I’ve always believed that you need to be yourself – be a good person and the friend situation will work itself out. Fortunately, for my mixed-race daughter, she seems to already understand this at eight years old. She ‘gets’ that she will have friends based on similar interests and personalities, not race. Fitting in and friendship do not have to be about race unless you make it that way. Unfortunately for Mr. Conley, his parents couldn’t help him with this.