Sunday, July 28, 2013

Bibliophile: Yesterday is Here Again

"A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.” --William Styron
Note: I went to make this week's Bibliophile, when I realized I never got around to posting *last* week's Bibliophile. Which, in turn, was a Bibliophile that I had never finished for the week before that. Punctuality is hard. But it makes the title I originally intended even more apropos, so it all comes out in the wash.

This week, Bibliophile is on the road once more, with a short discussion of some new books at Brock University. Brock U has a lovely new book list, conveniently sorted by call number. And we will plunge its depths. After the break.
(I'll level with you--this is actually last week's Bibliophile. I started it, but there just weren't enough hours in the day, or at least that particular day, to bring it to the end. But today, I'm stuck at home. I forgot to refill my inhaler prescription, so any activity as strenuous as leaving the house is probably beyond my ability. So we've got plenty of time to wrap things up here.)

 Bankside : London's original district of sin / David Brandon & Alan Brooke. March 2013.
Brandon and Brooke devote a book to the area of Bankside, on the south side of the Thames and demarcated by Blackfriars and Tower Bridges. It started as a Roman settlement by the London Bridge, a sort of adjunct of London that gained a reputation for disreputable entertainment, such as the Globe Theatre where Shakespeare's plays were preformed. It also had a number of brothers, taverns, and inns. Brooke and Brandon have written a few other books in the "English history with a dash of entertainment," genre, and this particular one has an informative, straightforward sort of tone to it, to judge from the first chapters. In general, the chapters seem to focus on time periods--current day, founding, etc--and types of buildings in Bankside: prisons, brothels, markets, inns, hospitals, etc. I just finished an urban fantasy book set in London--Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London--and I suppose the city's still on my mind.  I'm not sure I'd be up for a full book on the subject unless I was planning a trip to Bankside in the near future, but in little bits, I think it could be an interesting book. It's 288 pages, published by Amberley,  and costs $9.44 for the Kindle version and $25.20 for the hardcover.

The grit beneath the glitter : tales from the real Las Vegas / edited by Hal K. Rothman and Mike Davis. Mar 2002.
More romanticizing of urban areas with licentious histories!The book promises to be the first real look at the new Las Vegas from the outside, and the only way that's remotely true is if one takes a very generous interpretation of "new." But in this case, it was less the area that drew me to the book and more the anthology approach. Despite the subject matter, and the grandiose claims of the description, it's an academic collection, with five sections. First is Image and Reality, with essays on films set in Las Vegas; Nuts and Bolts, which has essays on topics such as water management, electricity, and political economies of gambling in Las Vegas; Voices, which looks at disenfranchised groups, from the Native population to the Casino Workers and those who live in Vegas; Shaping Life which seems to deal with women and race; and finally, from pariah to paradigm, considering Las Vegas in terms of Money, Sin, and the spread of casinos globally. It's one of those books that I'm not particularly interested in, but I appreciate that it has an audience. $31.95, published by U of California P, and paperback. Davis also the editor for Evil Paradises, which was a more global look at cities where neoliberal economic ideals have run rampant--I can see why he'd be interested in Las Vegas.H.

The H factor of personality : why some people are manipulative, self-entitled, materialistic, and exploitive-- and why it matters for everyone / Kibeom Lee and Michael C. Ashton. Nov 2012.
This book is obviously going to be pop psychology, but you have to appreciate the psychology in the title, the little question mark Lee and Ashton create by  resisting the urge to define "H." The book description has no such scruples. H stands for Honesty-Humility, and the authors claim that the two traits go hand in hand: the honest are the humble, and the pretentious are deceitful. That may be a little more common sense a pairing than the authors try to make it out to be. (Does that make them pretentious? I call myself "Person of Consequence"; I try to stay out of this discussion. Anyway, the book outlines how the Double H (wasn't he a WWE wrestler? No, that was Triple H.) people live, in terms of their approaches to money, power, sex, law, society, politics, religion, friends. The book also promises ways to identify people who are low in the H factor, and provide advice on how to raise your H level. But do we really value honesty and humility? Who do we think of when we think of those two traits? Religious monastic folks? Saints? We venerate them, yes, and then we go out and do whatever's necessary to get ahead. The idea of getting ahead by deliberately cultivating honesty-humility seems like you're operating at cross-purposes. 

Fantasy media in the classroom : essays on teaching with film, television, literature, graphic novels, and video games / edited by Emily Dial-Driver, Sally Emmons and Jim Ford. Feb 2012.
Now this is the kind of anthology I can get behind. If there's one thing that unifies my masters work and PhD work, it's the label of popular culture. Don't get me wrong--I love the classics, I love 18th century literature, and I love my precocious postmodern books. But at the end of a long day, the book I pull off my shelf for unwinding is going to be a fantasy book. In fact, this book probably could have been useful to me in my previous teachings of pop culture and rhetoric. The book has three sections. First is using fantasy as a lenses in traditional classes, which begins with an essay called "pop pedagogy"--fitting nicely with one of Bibilophile's favorite adjectives. The second section is using fantasy to enrich traditional classes. It's hard to gauge what's being discussed from the essay titles, but it seems like the Wizard of Oz is involved, as is post-apocalypse literature, Hobbits, and Harry Potter. And finally, section three, the larger section, is on new directions and fantasy classses, with essays on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy, Bella, and gender; sci-fi to teach political theory; and immortality incarnations, whatever that may mean. I wish I could track down an online introduction to gauge a little better what sort of works are involved--given the topic, I think that's a reasonable request--but what's here looks good. $38 paperback, #13.74 Kindle. Published by McFarland, and 270 pages. H.

We modern people : science fiction and the making of Russian modernity / Anindita Banerjee.
I picked this book mostly because I wish I had read more Stanislaw Lem. Banerjee is looking a bit before Lem's time, arguing that science fiction started in Russia in the modernity period. There's something about Russia in that period, Banerjee posits, that encouraged science fiction to appear there. In particular, the book will look at Briusov, Bogdanov, and Zamyatin, all of whom I've never heard of, to be honest. And how their work touched on scientific papers, popular science texts, advertisements, and social transformation manifestos. I have to admit, my interest is piqued; I tend to view modernism as so connected to realism that the fancies of science fiction doesn't really fit. On the other hand, fantasy and realism go together for a certain way, was movements like magic realism and Wolfe's Orlando demonstrate. And the social transformation connection, I think, offers a way these two fields could fit together. The book's probably best, though, for someone with more of a background in Russian literature than I. 230 p, published by Wesleyan, and $9.44 kindle, $17.46 paperback, $66.06 hardcover. 

Projecting tomorrow : science fiction and popular cinema / James Chapman & Nicholas J. Cull. Feb 2013.
It took me about five times reading that title before I realized that "projecting" was a pun. Chapman and Cull have assembled a history of sci-fi and cinema cross-over, from the 1930s to the present--the given list includes Things to Come, Forbidden Planet, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, and Avatar. The authors say there's "even" a sci-fi musical movie, but their count's off, because there's more than that. There's Repo: The Genetic Opera, and.... uh.... Does the Rocky Horror Picture Show count? It has aliens... for some reason... Help me out, Google. Okay: there's Sci-Fi High: The Movie Musical. Can I count Little Shop of Horrors? Well, if I do that, I might as well include Shoggoth on the Roof. But I digress. The format of the book is that each chapter focuses on a particular era, subject, and film: Wells, the Cold War, and War of the Worlds; Future Imperfect and Logan's Run; The Image as hero and Avatar. It sounds like an interesting book, as long as you're familiar with the films. The choices seem a little unfair, though--there's only two films representing any film made after 1977. $90(!) for hardcover, $19.48 for paperback. 272 pages, released by I. B. Tauris. H.

Postcolonialism and science fiction / Jessica Langer.  Jan 2012.
The last paper I wrote for a class was on postcolonialism and science fiction. Well, postcolonialism and Mass Effect, to be specific. Write what you know, etc.  The book description promises close reading, thematic studies of sci-fi and postcolonial theory, discussion of Japanese and Canadian science fiction, and the World of Warcraft. It's got a wide scope, I'll give it that. Seriously, I appreciate a study that's willing to ignore traditional medium boundaries to draw a wider net of associations. Mental note to give this one a quick look-over in person, if I ever come across a copy. It's $71.47(!) in hardcover, and $55.17(!) in Kindle.  200 pages, and published by Palgrave Macmillan. H.
Magic : a fantastic comedy / by G.K. Chesterton.
I wish I had read more Chesteron. Granted, what I have read dips so far into Christian allegory that it makes C. S. Lewis look subtle--I'm looking at you, The Man Who Was Tuesday. But there's something about his way with words that really makes his work stand out. Next time I read something of his, I'll try to remember to put some up for the Friday Quotations so you can see what I mean. This particular work is a play. Reading plays is always a bit strange for me. I can do it, anyone can do it, but it's hard to shake the feeling that this is not the right medium for the job at hand. I'm having trouble finding any description of it online, but I did find Chesterton's own review of it, which is really a reply to critics disguised as a review. This is as good example as any what Chesterton is like; he's a little pompous, but he's definitely got a way with words. This 2011 reprint is 49 pages, and can be downloaded digitally for free on Amazon, because that's what happens when a work becomes open domain and no one cares enough to give it a full release. Or so I imagine. H.

And we finish off the list with four older selections. From University of Waterloo, June 2nd:

Railsea / China Miéville.  1st ed.   New York : Del Rey/Ballantine Books, c2012.
 How many authors alive today can credibly claim they created a new subgenre? The only one that comes immediately to mind is China Mieville, whose Perdido Station ushered in what has a few different names, but is often called "weird fiction." (which means it has a direct link to H. P. Lovecraft, and a case could be made thhat Lovecraft is the true creator of the subgenre, but I think there's a distinction to be made.) In short terms, weird fiction refers to any fantasy work that shrugs off the usual trappings of fantasy--dragons, elves, dwarves, etc.--and enters a fantastic realm that's just more weird. (I did a review of a Mieville book here, and a dual review of another here, neither of which is technically weird fiction at all, belonging more closely to the sci-fi and urban fantasy groupings, respectively. )  This particular book may sound rather familiar beneath its bizarre trappings. The protagonist Sham Yes ap Soorap rides the moletrain Medes in search of  giant moles to hunt, and the ship's captain dreams of hunting the ivory-colored mole that took her arm. Yeah, that's a Moby Dick reference, all right. But knowing Mieville, there's more going on than just the reference, and it'd be worth a read to find out just what. The reprint edition is published by Del Rey, is 448 pages, and costs $13.56 for the hardcover, $9.77 for the paperback, and there is no kindle version. That's weird, but at those prices, I can't really complain. H.

That's not a feeling / Dan Josefson.   New York : Soho Press, c2012.
I chose this one for the title. You call that a feeling? That's not a feeling! THIS is a feeling! *man proceeds to tell story about his first kiss.* The plot here is that Benjamin is unceremoniously dropped off by his parents at a thereupetic boarding school, and he has to make a new life among the medicated misfits. So kind of a "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" for teenagers. It's 358 pages, published by Soho Press, and costs $11.99 for the paperback, and $0.95 for the kindle edition. It's browsing though popular fiction books that reminds you how astronomically priced our academic stuff is. H.

And from UW circa June 23rd:

Origin of feces : what excrement tells us about evolution, ecology, and a sustainable society / David Waltner-Toews.  May 2013.
Given the title, I'm disappointed Waltner-Toews didn't go full out and call it "Origin of the Feces," so we could get some real Darwinian stuff going on. But I'll take what's put in front of me. The book's description describes it as the uncensored story of feces. I was going to question exactly who has been busy trying to censor feces, but considering how many euphemisms we have for shit, I suppose that's a fair statement. The book is a cultural history for how we approach human and animal waste on an evolutionary, ecological, and cultural perspective, in terms of biodiversity, agriculture, public health, food production, and global ecosystems. The subject matter means that it's never going to be an appealing subject, but there's definitely a case to be made that it's an important one. Plus--this is a no-brainer for a bathroom reader book. And that's the straight poop. Sorry. Released by ECW Press, 232 pages, $12.24 for the Paperback, $9.99 for the Kindle. 

Streaming : movies, media, and instant access / Wheeler Winston Dixon. April 2013.
And we finish with a title that suggests subject, but not argument.If Dixon has an argument, it's that we've changed irreversibly from the film stocks of old to a new set of distribution and formatting. The book goes over what is lost and gained from the transition, especially in terms of film. A lot of films, for example, are simply not popular enough to warrant the effort to transfer them over to streaming; such films are in danger of being lost. And there's also the issue of ownership: it's easier than ever for a consumer to pull images that don't belong to them, but by the same token, it's easier for companies to take what they want from our files--apps go missing from the App store all the time, for example. And if Netflix stops distributing a particular show, there's little the consumer can do about it. It's a pop culture level book, but it looks well-researched, and informative. 184 pages, published by the UP of Kentucky, and it costs $18.51 for the paperback, $63.81 for the hardcover (it's a UP all right) and $13.46 for the kindle version.

That's it for this week. Last week?  Some week, anyway. See you next time.

Later Days.

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