Sunday, August 11, 2013

Bibliophile: Force of Habit and Death by Chocolate at Lakehead University

“A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

 This is Bibliophile.

All right, the blogging's fallen off a bit this week. I blame the economy. Don't worry, the Bibliophile will put things back on track. This week, we're going to look at what new books are available at Lakehead University, after the break.
Lakehead has a lovely new books page, which allows searching for specific locations' new books received between one and four weeks' ago; it's basically identical to UWaterloo's, when it's up and running. In the past week, we have 295 new books....But most of that is E-Government Document collection books, which are really boring, so we're going to expand the search.
Power of habit : why we do what we do and how to change / Duhigg, Charles. Feb 2012.
 Duhigg argues that while patterns make and shape our behavior, they can be transformed to our advantage. He's taking a pop science approach, by studying people with effective habits, and getting the opinion of neuroscientists to explain exactly how those habits shape our brains. "The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, raising exceptional children, becoming more productive, building revolutionary companies and social movements, and achieving success is understanding how habits work." I imagine a lot of it boils down to "do successful things over and over gain, seeing how that's what habits are. The book seems fairly simply, honestly; I'm highlighting it largely because I've become increasingly aware of how much of my own behavior is determined by habit. It's not always a simple matter to determine whether one habit is effective or not. We don't just do something because we're used to it, we do it because it fulfills some deep-seated need. And modifying it can cause unintended consequences. I'd give an example, but that's a little personal for a Bibliophile entry. Just take my word for it. Some habits can spiral out of control. Like writing a weekly internet blog post, for example. 402 pages, Random House,  pricing not available as title is not currently available for purchase. That's weird, considering they were advertising the kindle version. It's not like they run out of digital copies. Must be a distribution rights thing? H.

Sex and death in eighteenth-century literature / edited by Jolene Zigarovich. Aug 2012.
The subject of this anthology seems pretty self-explanatory. From what I know about the rake-hero plays, the sex part comes up pretty frequently in the eighteenth century. And death too, I guess. Part I is "Marriage and Grave Plots," with Anolik on marriage and motherhood in the 18th century gothic novel; Blackwell on sex and death in circulation novels; Zigarovich on necophilia in Richardson's Clarissa (I don't remember that, but a lot of the 18th century novel blend together for me); and Nichols on visuals in mid 18th century dissection atlases. Part II is Sexual and Mortal Fantasies, with Steinstrager on Pope's materialism and sexual fantasy in "Eloisa to Abelard"; Black's essay on sex and secrets in Haywood's Love in Excess, Novak on sex, madness and suicide in Croft's Love and Madness; and Ellison on sex and execution in James Boswell's writing. Part III is Gothic Difference, with Miller on Necrophilia and medicine in Lewis' The Monk; Mathison on sex, death, and gothic disharmony in 18th c Scotland; Haggerty on hypertheatricality and sexual excess on the Gothic Stage; and McCormick on sex, sodomy, and death sentences in the long 18th century. I can't ssay I'm familiar with any of the authors, but that's a good sized anthology, and a good range of topics. Published by Routledge; $93.09 for the Kindle version (!) and $97.99(!) for the Hardcover.328 pages.
Human face of big data / created by Rick Smolan and Jennifer Erwitt. Nov 2012.
It's an anthology collecting essays and photograph sets depicting the advantages and disadvantages of big data. And apparently, the two credited creators are known for this sort of coffee table book. Previous, related books by them incude The Power to Heal, One Digital Day, Blue Planet Run, and 24 Hours in Cyberspace.  This particular book has ten essays. Unfortunately, they tend to go for catchy names rather than descriptions: The Sentient Sensor Mesh, Our Data Ourselves, Quantifying Myself; Citizen Science. I'll highlight this one: Dark Data, by Marc Goodman, of the Future Crime Institute. More than just a Tom Cruise vehicle, they're a group that studies and predicts the effect new technology will have on crime and the criminal justice system. Their areas of interest include virtual world crime, mixed reality crime, MMORPG crime, nanotechnology crime, AI crime, and bio/genome crime. I imagine it still feels a little like sci-fi LARPing at times, but I suppose it's nice to have sometone thinking about these things. The book costs $34.29 to buy, $29.00 to rent. (And the fact that we've reached the point where renting textbooks is a thing shows how broken the university education system is in terms of being affordable to the average student. 224 pages, and published by Against All Odds Production. H.

Memory and history : understanding memory as source and subject / edited by Joan Tumblety. May 2013.
Rather than a philosophical approach, (which would also be very interesting), Tumblety's book looks at history and memory from a practical standpoint, examining how engaging with memory helps and hinders the efforts of creating and curating historical accounts.  Part 1 is working with oral testimony, with essays on the practice of oral history; using a single oral history narrative; and collective memory in Holocaust and Stolen Generation trials. Part II is memorialization and commeration, with essays on the creation and destruction of inscribed monuments in Classical Athens; visual cultures and art collections in Japan; contested polemical reactions to legal purge of collaborators in 1944-1954 France; and photography in the museum. Part II is between individual and collective memory, and has essays on German war veterans and contested accounts of the Great War; suburbia, autobiographical fiction, and minority narratives; migrants and silent archives; material culture and palimpsest memory. It seems from that list, then, that the book is a mix between applied practice and practical considerations. It looks very interesting, if you're curious about how that sort of historical practice works.  Published by Routledge; part of the Guides to Using Historical Sources series. $109.25 hardcover, $32.64 for the paperback. 240 pages.H.
 Squire / Tamora Pierce. Oct 2011 (Not the original publishing date for the series)
A fiction entry. I have a fond spot for Tamora Pierce; I did my MA thesis on the didactic content of her books. I like them mostly because they have engaging characters, and she doesn't use the excuse of a fantasy world to omit presenting positive portrayals of women, race, sexual orientation, or anything else of a similar nature. They're a little simplistic plot-wise in comparison to, say, a George R. R. Martin book, but they're still engaging in their own right, and don't dumb themselves down for the reader. Squire is a book from The Protector of the Small series, the third. And it's Pierce's third series set in this fantasy universe. This set of four is where Pierce really gets into her feminist message, through a protagonist (Keladry of Mindelan) who is trying to show that women can be knights and equal to men. By this point in the series, Kel has received the respect of some of her peers and superiors, and she's building to the final test to be a knight. Personally, I prefer the more magic-oriented Circle of Friends series that Pierce also wrote, but this is a fun set of books too. I remember reading them when Twilight was in production and being disappointed that one series depicting such an annoying protagonist (in my opinion, at least) was gaining such prestige, when a series that featured dozens of varied and positive role models was relegated to the sides. So it goes. The book is 432 pages, published by Bluefire, and costs $8.09 for the paperback, or $26.95 for the audio edition. H.
New digital scholar : exploring and enriching the research and writing practices of NextGen students / edited by Randall McClure and James P. Purdy. Feb 2013.
 The idea here is that "NextGen" students face new challenges when writing researching and writing, and the responsible educator needs to be aware how to best address these challenges. I'm certainly not going to disagree that there's a lot of room for more approaches to education than the essay-writing model that's currently the norm, and that the standardized testing format isn't the best way to assess learning either. The book studies the practices of library science professionals, writing teachers, and higher education administrators, and what they think works in the current educational field. (Also: is NextGen still how we're referring to the current batch? It feels a little like a previous-gen term, by now.) 400 pages, published by Information Today Inc. I  can't find a table of contents, but the authos describe the book as having four parts, the first containing NextGen students and their engagement with digital technology for research-writing in theory, and part two looking at what happens in practice. Part Three provides a variety of pedagogical approaches, and Part four offers institutional approaches. The book is 400 pages, published by Information Today Inc, and costs $58.20 for the hardcover.H.
Margaret Atwood and the labour of literary celebrity / Lorraine York. 2013.
 Lorraine York considers everyone working behind Margaret Atwood to "promote and maintain her celebrity status." And as such, she enters into a larger discussion in terms of how the career of famous writers are managed and maintained, and the tension between the demands of creativity and the give-and-take nature of a business. It would be interesting to contrast this behavior with comic book writer/artists, or actors who tour the fan circuit; in general, both have lower profiles than Atwood, yet both are more in the eye of those that are their fans. And York certainly picked the right topic for her work; I can't think of another Canadian writer with a profile that comes close to matching Atwood. York seems to be balancing a line between pointing out how artifical this construct has to be, and how Atwood needs to keep everyone at a distance to preserve its status. As someone who literally couldn't pay an agent to look at his manuscript, I don't have a lot of sympathy for Atwood's success, but I'll admit, it would be fascinating to use this book as a lenses to look at how high intellectual property is manufactured and maintained. H

And that's what's new and interesting at Lakehead in the past two weeks. Here's a few from the back catalog that I didn't have room for originally: 

From June 2nd:
Little star : a novel / John Ajvide Lindqvist ; translated by Marlaine Delargy.  1st U.S. ed.   New York : Thomas Dunne Books, 2012.
The description calls Lindqvist the heir apparent to Stephen King (sorry Joe Hill), and calls the book a modern-day Carrie for the age of internet bullies. (And it mentions Stephen King one more time elsewhere. Subtle, description.) The plot seems to be that a man finds a baby in the woods, and he and his wife raise her in their basement, as you do. Their son Jerry whisks the girl away to Stockholm, and enters her in a singing competition. And another girl sees it, and some sort of murderous duo emerges. I do like the idea of using something more modern like a singing competition as the stage for a horror story; I'm surprised Black Mirror hasn't done an episode on singing competitions yet, though I suppose "15 Million Merits" is basically the same thing. I have no idea why I chose this book any more. It sounds perfectly readable, but it's not really a genre I'm that interested in. Still, I hear if you like Stephen King... 544 pages. $20.89 for the hardcover. H.

July 14th:
 Trash animals : how we live with nature's filthy, feral, invasive, and unwanted species / Kelsi Nagy and Phillip David Johnson II, editors foreword by Randy Malamud.  April 2013.
I had a student write an essay this term on how people should be more accepting of eating dog meat. Honestly, I think he had a good point; there's no real reason for us to choose some animals as pets and some as food besides cultural upraising. (But then again, that's my vegetarian propaganda talking.) This book is about the animals we don't like, the trash species that we deem unwanted, invasive, or worthless, as a way of getting into how humans view the natural world. .The book has five sections, and each chapter is devoted to different animals. The Symbolic Trash Animal has chapters on the Ring-Billed Gull in Toronto; the Wolf; and the Mormon Cricket. Section II, the Native Trash Animal, has chapters on the coyote, the prairie dog, and the packrat. Section III has Canada and the Flying Carp; Avicultural hegemony; and fly-fishing and carp. Section IV has a chapter on animals in Detroit; garbage birds in Kach'i; and "flying rats," aka pigeons. And section V has essays on cats and birds; the bullhead catfish; the grasshopper; and rats and mice. I like the idea of this collection--I would have liked to see some chapters on reptiles and amphibians, though. It seems a shame to include birds, mammals, and fish then miss out on snakes and frogs. 320 pages, U of Minnesota P, $17.38 paperback.H.

Hershey : farsighted confectioner, famous chocolate, fine community.   S. Hinkle.

 I was hoping from the title that it would turn out that Hershey was essentially the same as Henry Ford, but on a smaller scale, and he spent his life wondering why he had to be the number 2 manufacturer/social engineer. But it's hard to turn up any information on this one. It was originally published in 1964, and, as far as I can see, hasn't been republished since. It's also 24 pages long, which suggests it's perhaps not the greatest authority on its subject. And published by the Newcomen Society of the United States, which is a group that lasted from 1923 to 2007, dedicated to the preservation and protection of the American free enterprise system. Well, I guess it outlasted the communists. And they spread the word about Hershey. Rest easy, Necomens everywhere.H.

 August 5th: Carleton U
Cultural passions : fans, aesthetes and tarot readers /Elizabeth Wilson. Aug 2013.
I think I picked this one because the title did such a poor job of suggesting what this book would be about. What binds these three groups? Wilson explores how people make emotional commitments to performances, books, objects, and rituals, and how that commitment challenges the pleasure of the aesthetic. And her subject matter includes Marcel Proust, tarot readings, and urban planning, among many others. The question is why pleasure is suspect even in a consumer society that depends on its pursuit. There is a fear of elitism, yet the fans of mass culture are held in contempt. And through such, she raises questions about marginal cultural experiences. I'm not sure I agree with the statement that mass culture is held in contempt--or rather, only certain mass cultures are kept in contempt. (And likewise, only certain elitism brands are held in contempt. Being able to play classical music is impressive. Being someone who says they prefer classical music to rock is pretentious.) I don't think most sports fans are held in contempt, provided they cling to a popular, well-televised sport that is enjoyed locally. As long as something is regarded as appropriately masculine, and appropriately mainstream, it's okay to consume as a mass cultural product. But as soon as it's feminine, like say, Twilight, a backlash starts. But then again, I would agree that there's a strain of puritanism behind it all--there's a sense in almost any culture that deviating too far from the norm is weird. And in extreme cases, morally wrong, and punishable, depending on how great the deviance and what the norm is. The book sounds a little scattered, but also like it's a reasonably engaging cultural studies critique.  The book is 240 pages, and published by I. B. Tauris. It's $77.14 for the hardcover, and $24.04 for the paperback.H.

Kith : the riddle of the childscape /Jay Griffiths.  May 2013.
This is another one I picked for the title's mystery. What's a childscape, and what does it have to do with kith?
Griffiths looks at communities all over the world, from West Papua to the Arctic and Britain, and asks why we have the most consumerist period in history, but our children are denied space, time, and deep play. She argues that there's a quest nature to childhood, and a rite of passage through the natural world which is being neglected. I'm guessing that with the mention of play, she's not talking about videogames. But I suppose she has a point; while I was a latchkey kid to a certain extent, I know there are now kids whose lives are measured by the schedule.  I'm a little skeptical of the book, since my understanding of history is that childhood being a time of play and adventure and so forth is a relatively new invention. (Or am I thinking of the teenager?) But Griffiths is a pretty acknowledged nonfiction writer, with previous books on the cultural understanding of time, and a personal engagement with nature. Amazon does not currently have any copies of this book, but you can buy a used one for about $35, or so they claim.Published by Hamish Hamilton, and length is apparently unknown. H.
That's it for this round. See you next week.

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