Friday, August 12, 2011

Thanksgiving in August

I was originally going to title this post, "How Writing is Like a Dog Pissing on Your Floor." (Guess who's caring for a friend's no-longer-puppy, not-quite-adult dog this weekend? Thankfully she goes on pee pads and not carpet.)

Two dogs is a team. Three dogs is a whirlwind.

I was then going to title it "Comcast is More Evil than Your Evilest Villain." (This might be related to the fact that my internet has been down for much of the day, and that I had rush over to the library to beat a noon deadline for work. August is not a month suited for rushing...)

But then I remembered my recent post about finding the good in August. And I've already used up my monthly quota for times stealing Whitman's "I contain multitudes" to excuse contradicting myself. So I exhaled and thought of nobler things.

Since there's Christmas in July, I thought, why not Thanksgiving in August? I then congratulated myself for my sunny disposition.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Biggest Surprises On NPR's Top 100 SF Novels List?

These types of rankings tend to be either boringly predictable or intentionally provocative to the point of straining credibility. This NPR list falls into the former category, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

I don't think any of the top ten will surprise people, though it may be a bit premature to elevate American Gods to this level. Including an ongoing series in the top five also seems questionable, but I admittedly haven't read it, so maybe it doesn't need an ending to merit inclusion.

The biggest surprise for me was #11, which I'll discuss after listing the top 10. Note also that:
there are no young adult or horror books on this list... we're saving those genres for summers yet to come.
The Top 11: 
(links are Amazon affiliate links)

1. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
2. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
3. Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
4. The Dune Chronicles - Frank Herbert
5. A Song of Fire and Ice Series - George R.R. Martin
6. 1984 - George Orwell
7. Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
8. The Foundation Trilogy - Isaac Asimov
9. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
10. American Gods - Neil Gaiman

And the surprise...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

When the Old Feels Newer than the New

Quote of the day from Domey Malasarn at The Literary Lab:
When I read classic literature, I'm almost always surprised by how unusual those books are. I go in expecting some sort of conservative, traditional work only to find that the classic writers typically use many more techniques than I do.
I've experienced the same with Citizen Kane, Shakespeare, The Iliad, Robert Musil, Wuthering Heights, Moby Dick, among others.

Achilles and Hector
Old works carry more than just historical interest. I return to them because of their unique strangeness. Great works surprise even on re-reads. Perhaps they surprise even more on re-reads.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

And You Think Writers Get No Respect?

Barchusen Laboratory
From a recent New York Times article, "Group Calls for Scientists to Engage the Body Public":
When asked to name a scientist, Americans are stumped. In one recent survey, the top choice, at 47 percent, was Einstein, who has been dead since 1955, and the next, at 23 percent, was “I don’t know.” In another survey, only 4 percent of respondents could name a living scientist.
In American public life, researchers are largely absent.
when researchers enter the political arena, “the scientific establishment holds that against a scientist to some extent,” Dr. Holt, the New Jersey congressman, said in a telephone interview.
One of science's strengths is that it doesn't emphasize the individual practitioner and doesn't rely on hero worship, like many sectors of entertainment, mass culture and politics.

More from the article:
Alan I. Leshner, a psychologist who heads the American Association for the Advancement of Science... recalled learning as a young scientist in the 1960s that people who engaged in issues outside the lab “were wasting time and a sellout.” Young researchers today want their work to be “relevant, useful and used,” he said, but “they still get that message from their mentors.”
Do scientists, like writers these days, need to engage publicly to keep from being marginalized? Or will these efforts just lead to bad science?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Bad Writing, Good Caffeine, Better Reading, Deep Thinking, Odd Viewing, Chaotic Begging

Bad Writing

Why Trying to Learn Clear Writing in College is Like Trying to Learn Sobriety in a Bar

The title gives a good idea of what the article is about. Not a satire


Good Caffeine

Make mine a triple...

We're all masters of selection bias.


Better Reading

Jide Adebayo-Begun on reading (choice excerpts below)
All sorts of books appeal to me provided they are beautifully written. I have a catholic taste regarding books, and I will happily read anything from literary fiction to any other genre. But that said, I particularly enjoy books that define reality for me in unique and original ways.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cluttered Desks and Cool Grotesques (Or: Stuff I've Been Reading)

A little traveling, a little reading, a lot of sweating, time escaping -- a typical August week, if such a thing exists.

The List

1. Flannery O'Connor : Collected Works - I discussed Flannery O'Connor in this post on Tuesday. This Library of America edition provides a bit of everything: novels, letters, essays, short stories. Read the comments to the post for more praise of O'Connor's work.

2. The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption - Jim Gorant. I'm reading a dog book a week as one of my summer projects, which may grow into a fall project. I've never been an Eagles fan; that will not change this season. The Eagles did very well in free agency. This did not make me happy.

3. Divergent - Veronica Roth. Blog readers urged me to read this one, so I'm reading it. For more YA talk, see Friday's post (and the lively discussion section).
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