Litlets

March 7, 2011

Book Review: A Salute to Spanish Poetry, by John Howard Reid

Filed under: books,Poetry,Reviews — crcb @ 9:06 pm
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A Salute to Spanish Poetry: 100 Masterpieces from Spain & Latin America, rendered into English verse by John Howard Reid. Lulu, 2010.

Reid includes a large and diverse group of poets here — 57, if I count correctly. I got that figure by paging through the biographical section, which is called an “index,” but isn’t. There is no table of contents. The usual suspects appear — Jimenez, Lorca, Anonymous — but there are also some surprises, like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

I don’t read Spanish, and in any case the Spanish originals aren’t included in this book, so I can’t address the linguistic accuracy of Reid’s translations, or compare the form of the translation with that of the original. The translations flow well enough, except when they’re interrupted by explanatory notes that should be moved to the foot of the page, as in Julio Herrera y Reissig’s “Home from the Fields.” Mostly, any one translation by itself seems fine, if a bit stereotypically “Spanish poetry.” Some are formally adventurous. But take them together, and they all sound as if they were written by the same person — probably beside a fountain at twilight, the air fragrant with blossoms and filled with the sounds of cicadas and plaintive guitars. Is there really that little difference, in the original, between the voices of Machado and Mistral?

The book includes black-and-white photos of cliched Spanish scenery which add little.

Note: I received this book free for review purposes, but received no other compensation for this review. Surprised?

HarperCollins vs Libraries: 2 quick links

Filed under: books,e-books — crcb @ 12:04 am
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As you may know, HarperCollins is instituting a loan cap on libraries for e-book titles: 26 checkouts, and they have to “buy” a “new copy.” Libraries are not thrilled by this, nor are library users (who, I imagine. form a large segment of the publisher’s customer base).

Martin Taylor gives HarperCollins kudos, saying “librarians must change old thinking.” This is ironic, since it’s HarperCollins who insists that librarians pretend ebooks are physical books. First they had to play “we only have one copy,” and now they must make believe that copy is wearing out. Who’s refusing to recognize reality here?

For a radically different take, see Justin Hoenke’s post on Tame the Web. His proposal (though he modestly points out he’s not the first) is to transform libraries into resource centers for communities to create their own content.

Both authors want libraries to change. Justin’s proposal is more in touch with the new facts of digital content. I’m with Justin, count me in.

 

February 11, 2011

Maddeningly Poe

Filed under: books,General,reading,Writing — crcb @ 6:58 am
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It’s tempting to dismiss Edgar Allan Poe: his theories were humbug, he did so much wrong, and what he did right, he made look easy. But we still read him. His images and lines often echo through my head.

Similar statements could be made about the melodramatic Dickens, the modifier-intoxicated H.P. Lovecraft. But Poe, Dickens and Lovecraft are not just read; they are loved. Many of their contemporaries who were (by every rule book) better writers, who did not regularly commit the most wretched of prose crimes — those upstanding literary citizens are gone, or at best embalmed in academic dissertations. Poe, Dickens and Lovecraft refuse to stay in the Hell their crimes against style deserve. They walk among us.

Moral: It’s more important to do some things right than to do nothing wrong.

 

January 12, 2011

LotRIoT: Librivox

Filed under: books,e-books,Links,LotRIoT — crcb @ 10:00 pm
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Link of the Random Interval of Time (LotRIoT): librivox.org.

LibriVox is the go-to site for free, public-domain audio books (and shorter works). I’ve been listening to a selection of poetry on my daily commute: Blake, Dickinson, Shakespeare and others.

The readers are volunteers, and my gratitude to them is tremendous, but they vary in competence. Some read mechanically; some in sing-song; some melodramatically; and some with the right amount of expression, but with odd choices in emphasis and phrasing. (I have a theory about this last group: I believe they are good prose readers, who give too much semantic weight to line endings when it comes to verse.) Not a few, however, get it just right. What’s more, many of the offerings on LibriVox — especially the shorter ones — are provided in multiple versions with different readers, so you can choose the one you like best. (I suggest someone with a cockney accent, when possible, for Blake’s poems.)

LibriVox provides audio files in mp3 and ogg vorbis formats, and links to text versions of the works. The site can be hard to browse, just because of the sheer number of files in their catalog. Since all offerings are public domain (as are the performances), new works are scarce. With the wealth of classics at your earbuds, though, that’s hardly a problem worth whining about.

 

November 7, 2010

Book Review: Brewing Fine Fiction

Filed under: books,e-books,Fiction,reading,Reviews,What I'm Reading — crcb @ 10:18 pm
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Brewing Fine Fiction: Advice for Writers from the Authors at Book View Cafe (http://bookviewcafe.com/)
edited by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff and Pati Nagle

Brewing Fine Fiction is a collection of fiction-writing articles by many authors. I read the ebook version, but it is also available as a printed book. (Disclaimer: I received this book for free through LibraryThing. Reviewing the book, whether positively or negatively, makes it more likely that I will receive other books in the future. I am receiving no other compensation for this review.)

The articles in BFF are primarily about genre fiction, mostly of the fantastic variety (fantasy and science fiction), but most would be just as relevant to mainstream fiction. Authors ranges from the famous (Ursula K. Le Guin) to the less well known, at least to me (Chris Dolley). The book is arranged into five categories: The Basics, Craft, Research, Marketing Your Work and The Writer’s Life.

I find little to take issue with in this collection. The distinction between The Basics and Craft escapes me; I can see any article in either section being put in the other. A couple of pieces made me wonder whether the editors were padding the book out to a contractually determined page count. For instance, “How to Escape from the Slushpile,” by Madeleine E. Robins, has the virtue of brevity (about 500 words), but makes only two points: follow standard submission and formatting procedures, and write a good book. Any writer who finds this helpful isn’t ready for most of the other articles gathered in BFF.

But the bulk of the articles are far better than this, and any fiction writer would find much in here to like and use. Standouts for me include Sherwood Smith’s “Sweating the Little Stuff” and Judith Tarr’s “The Alien in the Pasture: A Brief Disquisition on Horses for Writers.” The latter should be required reading for any writer of swords-and-sorcery fantasy, or westerns. (I’ve been guilty of treating horses as grass-fueled motorcycles in some of my attempts at fiction.)

One of the nice little features of this book is the use of literary quotations between articles, for reinforcement or counterpoint.

Overall, Brewing Fine Fiction is a worthwhile addition to any fiction writer’s reference collection. I know there are some articles I’ll be going back to multiple times.

August 29, 2010

Looking at the Gnostics from an era of wizardry

I’ve been reading The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Gnostic Gospels, by J. Michael Matkin. I admire some things about the Gnostics, such as their poetic take on interpreting scripture and their DIY attitude towards mythology. Their view of creation as a mistake, though… not so much. But rejection of the world might have been an easier sell to people with harder lives than mine. I have it pretty good, compared not only to many of my contemporaries, but to most people (including the rich) throughout human history. Certainly I take for granted gadgets that would have been the most astonishing magic anytime before the last few centuries. Just the ability to conjure up music anytime I want puts me miles ahead of Hermes Trismegistus.

July 29, 2010

Random link: E-books article drinking game, from Bookavore

Filed under: books,e-books,Links,reading — crcb @ 1:18 am
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Haven’t seen this one done before. I suppose it takes a nerdy, yet boozy, audience to appreciate:

http://bookavore.tumblr.com/post/871178080/e-books-article-drinking-game

July 27, 2010

Algernon Blackwood’s A Prisoner in Fairyland

Super-librarian Nancy Pearl’s Rule of 50 states that you should give a book 50 pages to draw you in. If it hasn’t done so by then, abandon it. Since e-reader pages are so short, I gave Blackwood’s A Prisoner in Fairyland twice that. I shouldn’t have.

There’s entirely too much starlight and magic. I assume from the “prisoner” of the title that there will be evil and conflict, but there’s little sign of that yet. Trainloads of wistfulness and innocence, though. People who think children are innocent have forgotten their own childhoods. If they have children of their own, they must be very inattentive parents. Depravity is natural; virtue is learned.

It’s books like this that give fantasy fiction a bad name.

July 18, 2010

Container and contained: thoughts about books and ebooks

Filed under: books,reading — crcb @ 11:57 pm
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I read the following in Jeff Gomez’s Print is Dead: Books in Our Digital Age: ” I am who I am because of books, because of the words that others and I discovered between the hardback and paperback covers of worn and dog-eared novels.”

Now, Gomez’s book is no luddite screed, but I have heard similar statements from those who view ebooks with horror, when they can bear to look at them at all. I imagine like laments greeted the first appearance of paperbacks. Many who had grown up with hardback books probably considered these newcomers frauds, cheap pretenders to respectability.

Gomez’s hyperbolic title notwithstanding, printed books aren’t going away. Hardbacks didn’t vanish. They have their advantages in durability and mystique. Even now, any tome with claims to substance or scholarship must first appear in hardback (as Print is Dead did).

I love paperbacks, and still recall the sometimes brittle, faded or taped-up covers of many childhood and adolescent reads. My daughter might someday have fond memories of a scratched and scuffed e-reader, when prices drop enough for her to have one. But for her, for me, for any lover of reading, the physical object held in the hand is secondary: it’s the words that transport us out of our own physical containers that we truly cherish.

February 10, 2010

A few sources for free ebooks

Filed under: books,Links,reading — crcb @ 6:59 am
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I’m assuming everyone already knows about Gutenberg and Bartleby.

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