[I was cleaning off my book shelves and found a hardbound I’m definitely offering up to some school book fair. They might get a buck for it?]
By the Book. Pamela Paul, ed. (New York Times, Henry Holt, 2014). The long subtitle is “Writers on Literature and the Literary Life, from the NY Times Book Review.” First objection: most of these people aren’t writers by my definition. Lena Dunham? Not exactly a prolific writer. Neither are Colin Powell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emma Thompson, Sting, Carolyn Kennedy—you get the idea. For the most part, you have personalities where the Times has sent faux-interview-like questions about literature and the literary life like “What book would you recommend that the president read?” This is the Times doing its pseudo-intellectual masturbation in grand style. At $28, it’s a rip-off, unless you’re a one-percenter who thinks it will create some conversation sitting on your coffee table.
Among the 65 people responding, I’ve read books by only 9 of them. That sounds like I’m an illiterate clod, but remember, most of these people aren’t writers. Celebrities like Powell, Sting, and Schwarzenegger probably used ghost writers; Bryan Cranston doesn’t even have a book. The real writers in the group should feel insulted. Many are academic, or pseudo-academic types like Malcolm Caldwell, who write for other academics; many write non-fiction; and others write “literary fiction” (whatever that is, I don’t read it).
Most real authors here aren’t prolific. Joyce Carol Oates is a prolific writer, but she recommends that the president read Moby Dick. What does she want to do? Bore him to death? He’ll already be there when he leaves office and doesn’t have McConnell and Ryan to enliven his existence. Lee Child, who’s become formulaic with his Reacher novels, lauds Cruise’s portrayal of the famous stud. Huh?
I guess a third of that subtitle is real: these people are talking about reading, so maybe they all have a “literary life.” The rest is false advertising on the part of the Times. I got this book for Christmas two years ago—well-intentioned, I suppose, because I am a full-time writer. I would never have bought it otherwise, though. You shouldn’t either. And you can get 7-8 ebooks for the price of this monstrosity.
May Day Sale. It might still be going on. It’s not clear what the Amazon cut-off time is for a Kindle Countdown Sale. Mary Jo Melendez has been inviting you to that sale all week. Her stories, Muddlin’ Through and Silicon Slummin’…and Just Gettin’ By, were on sale through today, May 6, for $0.99 each; they might still be. But don’t worry: they’ll just revert to the original $2.99 price, which is still a bargain. Want more summer reading? Check out my entire catalog: here’s my Amazon page. Three more series, twenty more recent books, all save one for $3.99 or less, including my new sci-fi/fantasy novel, Rogue Planet, for $2.99. What are you waiting for?
In libris libertas (just not the Times’s)…