― Lemony Snicket, Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid
This is Bibliophile.
We're returning to University of British Columbia this week, the largest university in BC (apparently, population-wise; I would have assumed the biggest was Simon Fraser, so there you go).
We looked at in a previous Bibliophile post, almost a year ago. Then, there were 271 new books, a reasonable number for the middle of August (not that their new books tab is very explicit in saying how old their new books are). This time, there's 1375, which is a lot. We'll get through as many as we get through, I guess. According to the Library of Congress listings, it's philosophy first, with the Bs.
Historical redress : must we pay for the past? / Richard Vernon, 2012.
Here's starting things off contentiously. As I've mentioned in the past (probably), I come from a province with a high Aboriginal population, but my particular rural town was far away from any reservations or major Aboriginal population centers. Thus, as unfamiliarity breeds contempt as much as familiarity does, I grew up with a lot of prejudiced opinions regarding how we should or shouldn't honor the treaties made with them. Of course, there were plenty of people arguing the other side too; I raise the topic largely because it seems a bigger deal there than here in Ontario. Vernon is taking a much broader view of the topic, addressing not just Aboriginal plight, but also whether the British Museum should return the Elgin Marbles to Greece, and whether Israel should accept Germany's compensation for Nazi action. He's arguing that responsibility is not inherited; future generations shouldn't have to pay for past generations' actions. Rather, we should focus on the right of future generations to live "just lives." Yep, that's a contentious approach to that subject. On the one hand, I disagree with him--new generations do inherit from the previous ones, in the way social injustices and social norms are reproduced, so past sins, or perceived past sins, are a part of that. On the other hand, penalizing someone on a permanent basis for something they had no hand in doesn't seem particularly fair either. It's... complicated. H.
Handbook of spatial cognition / edited by David Waller and Lynn Nadel, 2012.
I've always had an interest in spatial portrayals. And by always, I mean ever since I read a few papers in game studies. I think space, almost more than anything else, is something that videogames do that makes them unique, in the way they grant their players the chance to explore and mentally map out a new, imaginary space. This book, as the "cognition" part of the title suggests, is cognitive science and psychology, which means it's way, way out of my comfort zone. The book is divided into four sections: neuroscientific dimensions of spatial cognition, online systems: Acquisition and maintenance of spatial information; offline systems: encoding, storage, and retrieval of spatial information; interpersonal dimensions of spatial cognition. Going from the titles, subjects include individual difference in spatial ability, route knowledge, cognitive maps, spatial language, and general navigation. If my expertise was in a very, very different direction, this would be useful, I think.
The narcissism epidemic : living in the age of entitlement / Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell, 2010
Judging by the cover, pricing (in that it's reasonable--$12.50 for a hardcover? My, it's like they expect real people to buy it--and Twenge's other book, Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans are More Confident Assertive, Entitled--and Miserable Than Ever Before, we're firmly in the pop psychology area. They claim that every group is being affected by this spread of narcissism, especially on the world economy stage. They're drawing on personal research, and "amusing stories of vanity gone off the tracks." The subject actually seems like it might make an interesting accompaniment to Susan Cain's Quiet : the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking, in that that both books look at the modern extroversion as something that perhaps should not be encouraged, but I'm not sure The narcissism epidemic has the same depth as that book. You have to wonder about a book on narcissism that sees no irony in stating that W. Keith Campbell, Ph.D. is "a nationally recognized expert on narcissism" and tells us that these two are both doctors about half a dozen times.
Perfect bodies : sports, medicine and immortality : ancient and modern / edited by Vivienne Lo, 2012.
I thought this was an interestingly broad set of time periods to base an anthology on. This is part of the British Museum Research Series, which I guess foregrounds its place as a British publication. The idea here is to problematize the notion of the perfect body by situating it historically. There's a heavy Chinese focus, which isn't surprising, given that's Lo's general subject area. Essay topics include animals and gaming in traditional China, Kickball in China (I'd read that), various pieces on the Olympics to go with 2012, including a history of anti-doping in the olympics, invulnerability in the context of the Chinese martial arts (another good topic), and exercise as it relates to public health.
The new generation witches : teenage witchcraft in contemporary culture / edited by Hannah E. Johnston and Peg Aloi. 2007.
Going purely from the title, I'd have expected to see a book like this in the English section rather than in philosophy and psychology. But it appears to be a more interdisciplinary approach, with a center in religion. Oh yeah--religion's traditionally had an abiding interest in witches, hasn't it? The book is divided into three parts: Histories and reflections of contemporary teenage witchcraft; Teenage Voices: Accounts from the Field, and Texts, Influences and Practices. The first section seems to be focusing on sociological-type studies; the second section is two personal accounts of being a teenage witch. There's a Sabrina joke in there. And the last section featues essays from popular media and witchcraft in England and America. H.
And we're finally done the first 50 entries. This could take a while.
From Gods to God : how the Bible debunked, suppressed, or changed ancient myths & legends / Avigdor Shinan & Yair Zakovitch ; translated by Valerie Zakovitch. 2012.
This sounds like it could be fun. Religious pop writing, but fun. Essentially, it's a book considering 30 cases of how the Bible intregrated other historically existing legends. I'm guessing the Flood is one of them--Noah and the Ark is quite close thematically to the sinking of Atlantis. Looking at the table of contents, we have eden's winged serpent; gods seducing women; manna; worshiping Golden Cows; "Jacob's In Utero Activities," Moses's African Romance; Goliath's Real Killer; Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. I notice they're sticking very closely to the Old Testament. H.
We go from religion to history to American history, because that's how the Library of Congress system works. It took me a while to find anything of interest, but I got there.
Forbidden city : the golden age of Chinese nightclubs / Trina Robbins.
It's a history of the Chinese nightlcubs that flourished in San Francisco's Chinatown from the 1930s to the 1960s. They allowed talented Asians to sing and dance professionally, though apparently they were billed in terms of their approximate Caucasians: "The Chinese Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers," "The Chinese Frank Sinatra." Robbins interviews the performers decades later, and thus preserves this small slice of history. Historic racial issues isn't really my area of interest, but if it was, this sounds like a well-researched, interesting sort of thing. Judging by some of Robbins' other books--930 matchbook advertising cuts of the twenties and thirties and
The Brinkley girls : the best of Nell Brinkley’s cartoons from 1913-1940 (which is honestly closer to said area of interest), the 30s is her area of specialty.
There are no new game studies books. This saddens me.
Blackberry : the inside story of Research in Motion / Rod McQueen. 2010.
I think they're officially called just Blackberry now; as a friend of mine pointed out, that means they've finally laid to rest all those "RIM job" jokes. "History of Canadian businesses" seems to be McQueen's niche; he also has books on Eatons, the Canadian insurance agency, and Canadian Tire, among others. H.
Ferry tales : mobility, place, and time on Canada's west coast / Phillip Vannini. 2012.
I was playing Cranium with friends last night, and one of the questions was why the bridge from PEI to the mainland is curved. Answer: to keep drivers awake. ...I'm not sure why that felt relevant, given that this is a different coast entirely. Vannini has conducted almost 400 interviews and taken over 250 ferry journeys to come to a conclusion about the role of ferry-dependence in island and coastal communities in BC; I've got relatives on Vancouver Island, so this is of interest to me. It's also the first book in a series called Innovative Ethnographies, From what I can gather from the site, that means the books take a more reflective, dramatic approach to ethnography, and there's a new media component to the books online. Future subjects for the series include teaching and learning art and media in Tanzania, and the sexual terrain of Los Angeles.
1-800-Philippines : understanding and managing the Filipino call center worker / Ma. Regina Hechanova-Alampay. I selected this one because of the subject's relevance to digital media studies, and new media studies. Despite the plethora of essays to the contrary, it's still easy to think of digital media studies purely in terms of North American utility, rather than more globally. Hechanova-Alampay did a year of sociological research in Philippine call-centers, portraying them neither as purely exploitative, nor economic boons. And apparently it's geared toward providing some pointers for managers of such centers. It might, in that consideration, be more a business book than geared toward any other sort of socio-economic theory.
Privilege : a reader / Michael S. Kimmel and Abby L. Ferber, editors.
I like readers, as a conceptual genre. They're like regular anthologies, but generally written for a slightly specialized undergraduate audience, and, unlike regular anthologies, written with breadth of discussion in mind. In other words, they're generally really long and really expensive. One of the reasons they're expensive is that they generally are composed of essays first written elsewhere, which means they need to pay to secure rights--and, as a result of the goal of depth and the essays being written elsewhere, the subject tends to be a little scattered. At 288 pages, and just over $30, this book is neither long nor expensive, and I don't appreciate the way it's contradicting my pontificating. There are 17 essays exploring aspects of privilege, in terms of race, gender, class, and sexual preference. It's divided into sections based on the type of privilege: race, sexual preference, then learning to see privilege, seeing across boundaries, and making new connection. There also seems to be some conflicting information going around; Amazon says it's 288 pages with 17 essays, but Google books claims over 400 pages, and 28 essays. It looks like the former, the second edition, is the edited, reduced version. That explains the price, I guess. And validates my original statement on readers, which is what's really important. Essays in the edited version include Woods' "Black Male Privilege," McIntosh's "White Male Privilege," bell hooks' (the big name of the book) "Class and Race: The New Black Elite," Kimmel's "Masculinity ans Homophobia," and Larew's essay on how unqualifie dkids are getting into top colleges. So there's a lot of variet on the main theme. H, in the original, unabbreviated form.
Full frontal feminism : a young woman's guide to why feminism matters / Jessica Valenti, 2007.
Judging purely from idiots on the Internet (always a sound, stable metric) there's a gap now between what feminism actually is and what a lot of people seem to think it is. The general sense seems to be that the "big" feminist goals are over, and those who still support it are being... sigh... "feminazis," a term which is still far, far divorced from any realistic or historical understanding of Nazis. In other words, in certain circles (not mine, obviously) modern feminism is regarded as something that's not necessary. And that's why books like this matter. Valenti's book is clearly geared towards a young female audience, and is written appropriately with that in mind. It's not about rehashing what's wrong with kids today (the blurb's phrasing) but how an understanding of feminism and feminist issues, from violence and reproductive rights to pop culture and relationships, matters here and now. "'Full Frontal Feminism' is sending out the message to readers - yeah, you're feminists, and that's actually pretty frigging cool." That is a sentence that strikes me as very lame and very cool at the same time, which is the best kind of cool. H.
Brutal : manhood and the exploitation of animals / Brian Luke. 2007.
I remember having a conversation with a friend a few months ago about his recently acquired cat. The conversation came to the conclusion the cat is less likely to make him attractive to women; guys owning cats is weird (which is technically a sexist construction claiming women create sexist constructions, but never mind that right now.). It's a very small case of masculinity and animals, but an accurate one: owning a dog--a certain kind of dog--is acceptably manly, but bringing home, say, a Pomeranian automatically creates gender performance expectations. All of which is, as usual, beyond the point at hand. Luke's book is on masculinity as it relates to animal sacrifice, hunting, and animal research. The hunting one particularly resonates with me. I know a lot of hunters, so I don't usually voice my opinion on the subject very vocally, but I'm also a vegetarian; the idea of turning the life and death of another creature into sport and entertainment doesn't sit well with me, on any level. And framing it as a masculine bonding exercise doesn't endear it. Like uses philosophy, empirical research and person experience to argue how these institutions don't create human flourishing, but prop up a sexist construction of manhood. The bibliography suggests it's a pretty in-depth study. H.
Show boat : performing race in an American musical / Todd Decker. 2012.
For amount, given the juxtaposition of race and boat, I thought this book on race(the competition type) in musicals, and thought, man, that's a specific topic. H.
Comics sketchbooks : the private worlds of today's most creative talents / Steven Heller. 2012.
I focus on comic book-type entries a lot; what makes this one different is that it's in the Ns rather than the Ps, which means it's not comics as literature, but comics as art. And I thought it was nice to see them getting some attention in that regard. Heller has selected this group based on their innovation and creativity with the form. And they're all sketches, so it's what the artists doodled in their spare time. The review I consulted notes that the websites of the artists involved--which includes Jim Steranko, Bill Plympton, Peter de Seve, Ann Telnaes, and Robert Crumb, among other--are on the back cover, which is nice. It's also got scans of the sketches from Chris Battle (Powderpuff Girls), Steve Brodner, Drew Friedman, and Nora Krug, among others. It's a good variety of approaches, and looks worth checking out. (And at $32.81 on Amazon, it's reasonably priced, for an art book.) Amazon reviewer notes it's a good gift for a coffee table book. Man, I wish I knew more people I buy gifts for that would accept a comic art book as a coffee table book.
Digital anthropology / edited by Heather A. Horst and Daniel Miller.
I just can't pass up the digital stuff. The blurb (by danah boyd) positions the anthology as a starting point for delving into what digital anthropology has to offer, in terms of the diversity of the area. Essays include Lane DeNicola's "Geomedia: The Reassertion of Space within Digital Culture"; Faye Binsburg's "Disability in the Digital Age"; Jelena Karanovic's "Free Software and the Politics of Sharing"; and Thomas M. Malaby's "Digital Gaming, Game Design, and its Precursors." Malaby's an interesting case in game studies; he comes at it from a religious studies perspective, and seems to be making a name for himself by sheer proliferation on the number of books he's published. H.
Western crime fiction goes East : the Russian Pinkerton craze 1907-1934 / by Boris Dralyuk. 2012.
I'm a fan of crime fiction and Russian literature; sadly, I've never had the time to develop either interest much, but I suspect if I did, I'd be really into this book.
Battle royale : the novel / Koushun Takami ; translated by Yuji Oniki.
It's not hard to see the literary heritage that the Hunger Games owes Battle Royale; both are based around contests where teenage protagonists are forced by authoritarian governments to do battle against each other to the last person standing. (And Marvel took things one step further, by starting a series about teenage superheroes doing the same thing--Avengers Arena--that, based on the covers, is basing itself pretty specifically on both books, as well as a heavy Lord of the Flies reference.) I liked Oniki's version, to be honest, although the first book in the Hunger Games series is a close second. It's not that it's particularly well written--it's melodramatic and over the top to the point of ridiculousness-but it commits full-tilt to its premise, and goes into great, excruciating detail over how the students cope with suddenly having to kill the people they've been in class with for years. I appreciate that commitment. H, but missing.
In general, U of BC has a pretty developed Asian literature collection; that makes sense, given the area's significant Asian population.
The game of probability : literature and calculation from Pascal to Kleist / Rudiger Campe ; translated by Ellwood H. Wiggins, Jr. 2012.
I keep a running list of books featuring imaginary games or mazes. This book is not on that, except for having game in the title, but I thought you should all know anyway. What the book is actually about is a study of how probability figures in literature and scientific history in the 17th and 18th century--and the cross between science and literature is also a big interest of mine, so I'm still on board. Campe argues that games of chance in this period became the model for the reintepretation of aesthetic form as verisimilitude. That's a neat idea. From the table of contents, he'll be looking at science folk including Pascal, Huygens, Leibniz, Bernnouilli, Kant, but also literary works including Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and A Journal of the Plague Year, And Fielding's Tom Jones. H.
Tales designed to thrizzle / Michael Kupperman. 2009.
Speaking of graphic novels, this one is amazing. It's essentially sketch comedy (a term which can be taken fairly literally in comic books). And it's hilarious. I can't think of another comicky-thing that's made me laugh as much as this has. H.
The Earth turned upside down / Jules Verne ; translated by Sophie Lewis. 2012
Everyone knows Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth, but what about his other Earth-centric fictions? From the Earth to the Moon was a book about the Gun Club of Baltimore using a giant cannon to send a spacecraft to the moon. In the Earth Turned Upside Down, they want to use the same cannon to tilt the earth's axis so the North Pole is moved into the tropics, in order to get to the coal resources in the Pole. I'm sure this plan would have absolutely no negative repercussions on the newly polarized regions of earth, either. Book blurb: "In spite of its disregard for anything approaching scientific plausibility, this enjoyable book has a modern resonance in a world where conserving energy is increasingly important." I think it may be overselling the value of this book, but it might make for a fun read just for the sheer absurdity of the premise.
The scream / Laurent Graff ; translated by Cheryl Robson and Claire Alejo. 2012.
Man, this sounds weird. The narrator is a man who lives on the edge of the apocalypse as a toll booth operator. A mysterious scream from nowhere is wiping out the population (of the world? of the local town? Who knows?) and fewer people are using the highway. What kind of person will be left, after the scream decimates the world? And what connection does it have to Munch's The Scream? This is just odd enough that I want to look for Laurent Graff's work, at some point.
The flying creatures of Fra Angelico / Antonio Tabucchi ; translated from the Italian by Tim Parks
Here's another unusual set, albeit less surrealism and more fantastic. It's a set of short stories by Tabucchi, usually with a bit of an otherworldly twist. The title story has Fra Angelico visited by the strange creatures that inspired his painting. Another story features imaginary letters between the King of Portugal and Goya, and the nymph Calypso to Odysseus. There's an exchange with a reader over another his books, and a piece of a novel he was originally going to call Letters to Captain Nemo. (It seems that there's a definite "letters" theme.) Looks worth checking out. At just over a hundred pages, it's pretty short, so it has the advantage of being a fast read too.
We are just past the half way point of this list. It's been four hours. This bodes poorly.
The casual vacancy / J. K. Rowling 2012.
You know, besides its general existence, I know virtually nothing about this book. I guess it goes to show how muc my head is in the game studies stuff these days. The plot, for those of you as distant from such things as myself, is that the sudden death of Barry Fairbrother creates a vacancy in the town council of tiny Pagford, which slowly unearths the town's various secrets and subfactions. I feel like this is a very specific genre of book, featuring small town doings in a black humour fashion, but I can't put a name to it. The book's gotten some 200 reviews on Amazon, and it stands at 3 stars, so there's some big division on it. I'm sure I'll read it, sooner or later--probably later, though. H.
Henry's game / David Elias. 2012.
Speaking of books with the word "game" in the title...It's a novella about Henry, a chess columnist who's trying to ignore the death of his alcoholic friend, and his wife's cancer diagnosis. A trip to Disneyland is involved. And the blurb rather hilariously says he must "learn adapt or parish" in life beyond the chess board. H.
The western light : a novel / Susan Swan.
Revolutionary leaves : the fiction of Mark Z. Danielewski / edited by Sascha Pöhlmann.
Here's the description for this one:
Mouse's world is constrained by a number of factors: her mother is
dead, her father--the admired country doctor--is emotionally distant,
her housekeeper Sal is prejudiced and narrow, and her grandmother and
aunt, Big Louie and Little Louie, the only life-affirming presences in
her life, live in another city.
Enter Gentleman John Pilkie, the
former NHL star who is transferred to the mental hospital in Madoc's
Landing, where he is to serve out his life-sentence for the murder of
his wife and daughter. John becomes a point of fascination for young
Mary, who looks to him for the attention she does not receive from her
father. He, in turn, is kind to her--but the kindness is misunderstood."
So it's the second in a series about a girl coming of age and coping with death and alienation. Perfectly fine. But I didn't realize that on a first glance--I thought it was a modern gothic romance, where Mouse was the rural small-town girl, and Gentleman John Pilkie was the brooding, dark figure, who had a strange allure. Yes, he was dangerous, but he too was helpless against--the force of their love! Seriously, imagine a retelling of Wuthering Heights with Heathcliff as a NHL player. Somebody get on this. H.
I'm much more a House of Leaves fan than, uh, anything else Danielewski has ever written, but Leaves is good stuff. This is a collection of essays coming out of an academic conference on his fiction that took place in 2011 in Munich. There's 11 essays, which is a modest yet acceptable size for an anthology. Essay topics include Whitmanian Politics, Writing in the Electronic Age, Home as Labyrinth, Metacommentary as Literay Production (I hope there's a counterargument in this one that appears only in the footnotes), modernism, ontology, technology and narrative, the experience of reading. I can't say I recognize the authors, but the subject range is nice. H.
Dune Messiah / Frank Herbert.
Never read any of the Dune books. They're regarded as pretty classic sci-fi, so I suppose I should. H.
Familiar : a novel / J. Robert Lennon.
On the way back from her annual trip to her son's grave, Elisa Brown finds herself in a different life, where her son is still alive, her marriage is stronger, her job is better. Has she entered a parallel universe, or did she have a psychotic break? I'm kind of interested in this one--partly for the premise, partly because J. Robert Lennon wrote Mailman, another compelling book about the surreal in suburban life. Although the ending of that book went a little far into the postmodern... It was actually annoying; up to that point, the book was slightly fantastic, but treated the fantastic straight--the end was a shift into a different mode entirely, and that felt unfair. Hmm. I'm not sure whether I want to read this one, now. Some day, maybe.
Special powers and abilities : poems / Raymond McDaniel. 2012.
I'm not much for poetry, but make it about superheroes, and I'll give it a shot. H.
Seeing further : the story of science, discovery & the genius of the Royal Society / edited & introduced by Bill Bryson ; contributing editor, Jon Turney. 2010.
Usually I find historical fiction tiresome, but I love history and fiction based around the Royal Society. This is a particularly eclectic anthology;Margaret Atwood writes an essay on Swift's Grand Academy, Margaret Wertheim writes on spiritual crisis in the face of Newtonian cosmology, and sci-fi writer Neal Stephenson writes on the metaphysics of the group through its history. There's also essays on Rivalries in Science, Darwin, Bacon to Bakelite, and the role of time. It looks like a fun set of readings. H.
Stiff : the curious lives of human cadavers / Mary Roach. 2003.
Cool title. We've been going at this one too long to bother with looking it up, though. Mary Roach: Author of Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, and Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex. (Coupling: I get it.) H.
And that's it for this week. I've returned to my old method of Bibliophile; rather than the 12 title, then get out of recent days, I painstakingly sorted through each of the 1375. The old method is about being thorough. It's about starting from philosophy, going through religion, edging past history, into leisure (perhaps games!), sociology, economy, justice, music, and art. Then an upswing, as we start with the digital literature and popular culture, then foreign literature, before a dip into the great field of fiction. And then there's science--always a rushed affair, since there's little of interest and less time. The old method creates a rhythm, a flow through the the great rivers of the Library of Congress, passing through the individual current and channels that make up a particular library's holdings. The old method is about painstakingly working one's way through a database, going through each item one by one, piece by piece, until it all fits together into a harmonious whole.
Man, I hate the old method. We're going back to the 12 and done next week.
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