Regardless of how optimistic GoodReads claim that being incorporated into Amazon will help grow the site and invest more in the things that the members care about, I look at this sale with much dismay. Let’s be honest here, the scope of Amazon and GoodReads are completely different. Amazon cares only about sales. GoodReads is a user-generated platform functioning as a book recommendation engine. GoodReads is social media for book lovers so the reviews posted there could be more honest and commendable. Whereas Amazon controls and censors what books you can purchase and their feedback. GoodReads CEO Otis Chandler said the site will remain “an independently controlled subsidiary of Amazon” and noted it will keep “full control of editorial content and the recommendations.” Okay, but they skirt the subject regarding intellectual property. When you submit a review to the Amazon site, it becomes Amazon’s property–their corporate asset. I won’t be surprised if the reviews would be cross-posted on Amazon. Based on Amazon terms, reviews will be censored, altered, edited, or removed without notice, just like what happened to my review of a GLBT fiction 9 years ago. As for the Kindle users, they are most likely be able to integrate that device with their Goodreads accounts. To make a long story short, why should a greedy corporation care about what you read? This is devastating news for readers and authors because Amazon, which has already acquired Shelfari in 2008, is forming a hegemony that boxes readers into a corner. With bookstores closing, Internet sites have become critical places for informing readers about books they might be interested in. This deal further consolidates Amazon’s power to determine which authors get exposure for their work. I am sick to the stomach that Amazon claims itself to be the best place to buy books–and thus making it the perfect place to discuss them. That could be true if you’re into the popular crap and bestsellers.
No, I did not drink the cool-aid, but this book (the trilogy) has electrified women across the country, who have spread the word like gospel on Facebook pages, at school functions and in spin classes. It sets the women in my office abuzz (I’m the only man in the office). My interns pore over it as soon as they are on break. At lunch in the pantry conversation would nudge to the terrain of this book. I heard buzz about how unbelievable the story is but at the same time it is addictive. Like for many of the bestsellers, my curiosity of Fifty Shades of Grey limits to pretty much what the blurb conveys. I have no desire to peruse it. Fifty Shades of Grey and the two other titles in the series were written by a British author named E L James, a former television executive who began the trilogy by posting fan fiction online. The books, which were released in the last year, center on the lives (and affection for whips, chains and handcuffs) of Christian Grey, a rich, handsome tycoon, and Anastasia Steele, an innocent college student, who enter into a dominant-submissive relationship.
My interns confirm that the people (themselves included) who are reading this are not only people who read romance. It’s gone much broader than that. It’s flat erotica—graphic, heavy-breathing erotica. Online reviewers have criticized the author for her plodding prose. Some even go as far as calling the novel written by a teenager. Even my boss read it but she concluded that if you take out the parts where the female character is blushing or chewing her lips, the book will be down to about 50 pages. Almost on every single page, there is a whole section devoted to her blushing, chewing her lips or wondering “gosh” about something or another. I think the book will only get bigger in terms of its success. What I found fascinating is that there are all these motivated, smart, educated women saying this was the greatest thing they’ve ever read for a long time. The last great hype I read was The Devil Wears Prada, and i read it after I saw the movie with Meryl Streep. Soft porn or no, I do have to give the author the credit, for she has written something that gales up a storm of discussion all over since Pride and Prejudice.
Occupy Cal protesters have called for a strike and day of action today, with a noon gathering and teach-outs–classes taught outside–on Sproul Plaza (the administrative building). After lunch a rally ended in a march to downtown Berkeley. At around 3, while on break and reading Wallace Stegner on the glade, I heard the gun-shot report at Haas School of Business on the southeastern side of campus. Following the shooting, we were advised to get off work early. The general assembly and encampment that protesters originally called for at 5pm is most likely to be cancelled. Earlier campus administrators have said it is prohibited anyway. In my office underground, it has been an uneventful day with the usual workload–processing requests from faculty members, evaluating book collection. Students file in and out of study hall at the library. Demonstrations are scheduled for today and tomorrow to coincide with the Nov. 16-17 meeting in San Francisco of the UC Board of Regents, which calls for yet another fee hike next fall after a cumulative 32% increase in fees over the past three years, but the meeting was canceled yesterday because they had received information about the possibility of violence and vandalism. As for the shooting, a staff member at Haas reported sight of the suspect armed with a gun to the police, who responded immediately. The suspect entered a computer room, where police followed him and asked him to put up his hands. The suspect then pulled out the gun, and police shot him. The police remain on the scene, and the victim is en route to the hospital. No other injuries have been reported, and there is no indication of other shooters. We were advised to leave work early because police have to patrol the entire campus to ensure safety of staff and students, and to evaluate whether they should close the campus tomorrow.
Books deserve respect. Handling library books with care is a civil responsibility. It irks me whenever I see people tug books off the shelf by the upper lip of their binding, which is the number one cause of broken spines in hardbacks, I want to scream at them. Library should educate the public by posting signs with hints on handling books. Repairing a book with broken/loose spine is just as costly as replacing it—if the book is still in print. To minimize the risk of damage, try this: Push in the books on each side of the volume you want, then pull it out by grasping both sides of its spine. You’ll also know where to return it. Look for the two books that are pushed out of place.
Inside a book from the Paris haul, I found a slip inserted in a turn-of-the-century volume that reminds reader of the proper etiquette in handling a book. It bears a thoughtful message:
From Modern Bookbinding:
Hold the book with its back on a smooth or covered table; let the front board down, then the other, holding the leaves in one hand while you open a few leaves at the back, then a few at the front, and so on, alternately opening back and front, gently pressing open the sections till you reach the center of the volume. Do this two or three times and you will obtain the best results. Open the volume violently or carelessly in any one place and you will likely break the back and cause a start in the leaves. Never force the back of the book.
and a funny anecdote:
“A connoisseur many years ago, an excellent customer of mine, who thought he knew perfectly how to handle books, came into my office when I had an expensive binding just brought from the bindery ready to be sent home; he, before my dyes, took hold of the volume and tightly holding the leaves in each hand, instead of allowing them free play, violently opened it in the center and exclaimed: ‘How beautifully your bindings open!’ I almost fainted. He had broken the back of the volume and it had to be rebound.”
Have you read this article about judge withdrawing over Philip Roth’s International Booker win? I find it outrageous. Author and publisher Carmen Callil, whom I have previously never heard of, withdrew from the judge panel over its decision to honor the American author.
The matter turned ugly and scandalous following these comments of Ms. Callil. “I don’t rate him as a writer at all. I made it clear that I wouldn’t have put him on the longlist, so I was amazed when he stayed there. He was the only one I didn’t admire – all the others were fine,” said Callil, who will explain why she believes Roth is not a worthy winner in an outspoken column in the Guardian Review on Saturday 21 May.
It’s verbal assault. Callil sounds very parochial to me. She simply doesn’t like what Philip Roth writes about. Although not every novel by Roth is great, he’s a competent and brilliant author. I can’t judge a judge on her artistic or creative opinions–for opinions are what they are, subjective. Callil has every right to find Philip Roth’s novels terrible. But I do object, very strongly, to a rather naive and simplistic remark she made about his work: ‘he goes on and on and on about the same subject in almost every single book.’ Since when was a writer returning to the same subject deemed a bad thing? Think Toni Morrison. I have to categorize this post under “madness.”
I enjoy going to the local library. My branch has a special LGBT collection that represents the neighborhood’s demographic and relevant. What used to be comfort and shared silence in an institution of knowledge is no more. Burst in shortly after the library opens is a bevy of
SUVs strollers in which sit little human beings that make all kind of noises. The kids, some are toddlers, have barely developed speech, let alone the ability to read. With their nannies chasing after them, these kids roam around the library, screaming to the extent that the sound waves undulate across the building to reach the reading room. I understand the library’s need to integrate the interests of community and foster an atmosphere of an converging ground. The nursery rhyme session is going overboard because some of the behaviors (or the lack of discipline on the part of parents and nannies) breach the library’s code of conduct made known to generations of readers. Silence is golden. Silence is prerequisite to a pleasant library experience in an atmosphere conducive to study, reading and appropriate use of materials and services. I even refrain the use of cellphone within the library lest to breach the silence. Maybe the times are really changing that these values are no longer appreciated. I remember being told when I was a first grader that I should make every effort to preserve that enormous, almost staid, silence that prevailed the library as soon as I walked through the threshold. Gone is time when the purpose of library was primarily on books, as more patrons come to the library to use computers to access the internet (don’t get me started about racy and pornographic materials some of the users are accessing). I still believe that certain ground rules are timeless and therefore should be enforced regardless of the advent of time. How would kids know the proper manner to behave if they are not educated? On a few occasions I even sighted consumption of snacks on the premise. Library is not your living room.
This article is so funny. The reality is: when patrons don’t know the name of the author, let alone the title, even the mighty search engine of the online bookstore cannot help. I’m not saying browsers at the local bookstores are stupid (because I’m one myself). The truth is: those savvy folks (that means they are readers themselves, but not taking another job) behind information desk actually listen to all the crazy questions and requests and are still able to nail that book about the lady who baked some scones this morning on Today’s Show. A big toast to the indie bookstores. They exist for a very valid reason: to make the lives of readers better. Miss Swan (from MadTV) would be surprised she’s not alone on this one. “Madame, what does the book look like?” “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I will tell you evey-ting. It looks like a book.” “What kind of book?” “It’s blue…”
On the eve of the 9th anniversary of the September 11 attack, Reverend Terry Jones, who got his 15 minutes of fame, called off the burning of the Quran. It’s all but a scam. The story of how one lone idiot and cult leader held the media hostage and forced some of this nation’s most powerful people to their knees to fitfully beg an end to his wackdoodlery is an extraordinary one. Not only that this anti-Muslim propaganda is a fear-based campaign ruse, what shocks me the most is that the media is complicit in it. The reverend essentially has blackmailed some of the most important people in America, with the assistance of the media. All of this finally culminated with yesterday’s press conference—which is really shame on ABC and some of the New York City stations to even report on it, where Terry Jones lied and said that the Park51 community center was going to move, thanks to him. President Obama now has to announce that it’s wrong to burn Quran. The White House is embarrassed to be caught between two loyalties. The war against terrorism and the defense of religious freedom. Now the people behind Park51 are on the hook for stopping this Quran burning, and all of the negative external impact it may have. Maybe the reverend is a fan of William Faulkner. It’s a modern media retelling of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, in which a gang of Islamaphobes, cast in the role of Addie Bundren, bamboozle the media into carrying their coffin full of malevolence on a journey of pure debasement. Faulkner might be intimidating, but he’s certainly not outdated!
In keeping with the sentiment of yesterday’s post, I’ll discuss distractions, disturbance, and annoying behavior in the libraries and at the bookstores. I remember when I was a little boy that bookstores, although not exactly a hallowed place of learning like the library, there was something sacred about the space contained within their walls. Upon walking in the bookstore, there exists instantly an air of literary dignity and quietness, an unspoken expectation that visitors are to be keeping in flow with that order. But not anymore—especially at the chains, where patrons are actually encouraged to do anything but reading.
1. Talking on the cell phone. This drives fellow patrons absolutely bonkers. It’s worse than just chatting away to your friends in person, as somebody can come along and shush you—a phone call, however, somehow has inviolate protection that nobody wishes to compromise. You can speak a lot longer, and a lot louder, before another patron or staff member will voice their opinion of you.
2. Aimlessly parading through the aisles (usually talking on the cell phone). These people come in all colors, nationalities, genders, and sexual orientation—but usually not readers. They tread the aisles of the bookstores as if they are in the mall or on the streets. Occasionally they would pull out a random book off the shelves with the free hand (not holding the phone) because that hand’s got nothing to do. Look, I don’t want to know about your mani-pedi or the latest gadgets, or what happens in Jersey Shore.
3. Leave books everywhere at the cafe. And I mean everywhere. This is usually the case in Borders and Barnes & Noble. Go grab, say, ten books from the shelves and a stack of magazines from the racks, and then sit down as though they’re about to start reading them. Then, without warning, get up and leave them there. Not only will they irritate others looking to use that space, but the poor clerks who have to clean up after you.
4. Hogging the shelves for way too long. Each patron should have the equal opportunity to access the shelves. Recently I have had the mishap to find, out of all the places within a category section, few people always hog the shelves. When you have found the book, please, step back and maintain a passable distance from the shelves so other patrons can see the titles. Isn’t this common sense?
5. Eating. If you’re going to have a burrito, inhale it before touching any of the books. We have become used to the idea that libraries and bookstores of all kinds are adding on coffee shops and the like, and no longer necessarily barring food and drink being brought in. This increasing linkage between food and libraries/bookstores really annoys me. Where there is food, then rats, mice, cockroaches, and silverfish may follow. These pests can literally chew up books. Spills cause permanent stains, and moisture on coated (shiny) pages can cause them to stick together irreparably. One wet book can introduce mold into an entire collection, and the clean-up costs can be horrendous.
6. Child play. Rowdy, out-of-control, and insubordinate behavior has been a concern during summer. Parents should curb their kids and keep them within sight and in check at all times. Just because you’re within the walls of a bookstore you cannot let them run berserk. I was horrified to see kids climbing the bookshelves and running up and down the escalator. By the way, can parents keep the ginormous SUV strollers out of the way?