Archive for holidays

The Book Booth: Another Odds and Ends Edition



The Book Booth is a weekly feature at The Political Carnival, relating news, notes, and reflections from the world of books and publishing. SeattleDan, along with his wife, SeattleTammy, are operators of both an on-line bookstore, as well a brick and mortar in small town Washington State. Both have been in the book business since shortly after the Creation, or close to 6000 years now.

It is that time of year when it is quiet in the world of books. Publishers are gearing up for their Spring releases, and booksellers catch their collective breaths after what one hopes was a busy holiday season. But there is always some news and interesting tidbits to share.

For those of us recovering from perhaps too much holiday cheer comes the good news that reading helps your brain functions in all sorts of good ways.

If you haven't finished welcoming in the New Year, or want some of the hair of the dog, Flavorwire has these suggestions from literature that you may want to try.

I'd recommend drinking at home. The humiliation of drinking at a bar when you're involved in books could end up looking like this.

We have some good news for writers who would like to use Sherlock Holmes in your narratives. Sherlock, Doctor Watson and all those characters from Arthur Conan Doyle are now in the public domain.

Then there are writers who suffer from writers block or need to think some aspects of their works-in-progress through and end up doodling. Among these writers are those given to self-portraiture. Brainpickings offers some examples here.

Oh, the trials and tribulations of working in a bookstore. Author and bookseller Susan Coll had this funny piece in the Washington Post and it reminded me of the days when I'd be asked for a book by a customer who neither knew the title or the author, but could tell me it was yellow; or the elderly lady who wanted me to shape the gift wrap ribbon into a cute dog.

Places and homes often function as characters in fiction. Manderlay. Wuthering Heights. Shortlist came up with this very useful floor plan guide for some of the more classic homes in literature.

Before we bid 2013 a fond adieu, ABEBooks handy review of the past year, complete with dust jacket art.

Often lost in the shuffle of the books published during the course of the year are those works translated into English. Juan Vidal shared three such works at NPR that look terrific and worth your time pursuing.

And finally at NPR station KUOW in Seattle comes these recommendations from librarian extraordinaire Nancy Pearl. From her short list here, I sought out Kevin Jackson's Constellation of Genius: 1922 Modernism Year One and so far, it is a great read and literary history.

Have a most pleasant weekend. Enjoy some fine books and let us know what books you are enjoying!


The Book Booth: New Years Edition



The Book Booth is a weekly feature at The Political Carnival, relating news, notes, and reflections from the world of books and publishing. SeattleDan, along with his wife, SeattleTammy, are operators of both an on-line bookstore, as well a brick and mortar in small town Washington State. Both have been in the book business since shortly after the Creation, or close to 6000 years now.

A premature Happy New Years to everyone! I'm hoping the next year is one we will all remember fondly at its end and that among your resolutions is to read More Books!

While I don't expect perfection for the coming year, and think perfection might kill us all, Gabe Habash of Publishers Weekly continues his search for the perfect literary sentence. If not perfect, these examples he found are pretty darn good.

Over at Flavorwire Alison Natasi chose her favorite literary catch phrases. And not all of them come from the Bard!

Book covers are where the fine arts meet the written word. They are designed to make you buy a book for its cover and Lincoln Michel at Buzzfeed found some outstanding ones for the past year.

Seattle Tammy found this site with vintage posters promoting our libraries. Just some really fine art.

Where and when we should talk to strangers is always an awkward situation. I find I will talk more readily to someone I don't know if the comment I want to make is about books. Again from Buzzfeed, here are some acceptable places to strike up a conversation. Especially the airport security line, where silence is the norm for fear of saying the wrong thing.

Serendipitous finds like the one recently made at the Cleveland Library are very cool indeed. Only 6000 copies of Dickens' A Christmas Carol were originally printed. And the Cleveland collection has one!

I suppose we all know the Tolstoy quote that opens Anna Karenina.
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Over at HuffPo they found some truly spooky families from literature that may make you feel grateful that you have the family you do have.

On the brighter side, novelist Anakana Schofield described some more upbeat characters from contemporary novelists. I'd include the irrepressible Mr. Micawber from David Copperfield.

Here's the kind of year-end book list I like. Just books that these New York Times book reviewers liked and recommend.

Finally, among your other resolutions for 2014, I hope that not only do you read more books, you will shop for them at your local independent bookseller. Emma Cueto at Bustle gives you plenty of good reasons why you should. H/T to my old friend Ted Lucia for finding this.

Happy New Year everyone. Be safe, read more and tell us what books you've got going right now.


Outbreak of Virgin Births -- God Loves North Carolina


birth of Christ

Christmas time is a peaceful time, when we're not fighting the war on Christmas. It's a time to reflect back on the true meaning of the holiday. We talk of the miracle of Christmas. "Wake up Jesus. It's your birthday. Come and celebrate. It's your birthday."

Yes, it's the miracle of the Lord's entry into our world in that small manger in Bethlehem. December 25, not sure of the biblical year because in school we had B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini which is Medieval Latin, translated as In the year of the Lord). Truthfully, I thought AD stood for After Death, so we'll leave the definition to the Latins linguists, the calendar to the Romans, and Christ to the rest of us.

What is really important is the meaning of the holiday, celebrating the Jesus birth as a miracle. Yet perhaps a bit more attention should be placed on another date: The Annunciation of the Lord, which celebrates Jesus’s entry into Mary’s womb. The celebration of that consummation is on March 25—nine months before Xmas. That, my friends is the beginning of the true miracle -- especially if we're going to buy into the immaculate conception theory.

C'mon, you don't think that's the miracle here? Most women are capable of having a child. Not all can do it the Holy Ghost way.

There may be more than one, though. In actuality, there's a few more virgin births than you might think.

DAILY BEAST reports:

The first woman who immaculately conceived in biblical times was not Mary, the mother of Jesus; rather it was her mother, Anne, wife of Joachim, who produced Mary immaculately so that Mary would in turn herself be a sin-free mother when the time came for her virgin pregnancy and the subsequent delivery of Jesus.

Pope Pius IX, in 1854, had declared that the Immaculate Conception of Mary within Anne’s womb was dogma—i.e., a non-negotiable price of admission to the Roman Catholic faith. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which occurs in early December, celebrates this miraculous non-coital event.

So, if Pope Pius IX is to be believed (and I don't want to go on record as rebuking the word of a pope), Mary's mother Anne gave birth to the first immaculate child. Oh, and in the interest of fair and balanced reporting, this was after Anne had one child the old fashioned way. So not being a virgin, Anne would certainly know if she had been "shtupped" or not for Mother Mary's conception. She says she wasn't and if Joachim believed her, why shouldn't I?

Putting aside Anne's celibacy practices, and the same with her daughter Mary's, it's interesting that in contemporary times, just like with Jesus himself, there's been a resurrection. Lately there's been a rash of virgin births. Oh, you hadn't heard?

Yes, there has been an outbreak of these miraculous events. Does that make all of these children, sons and daughters of God? Boy, that Lord, he sure does get around lately. Ladies, you better sleep with your legs crossed, according to Todd Akin.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina have found that immaculate conceptions, of a type, appear to be much more commonplace than biology would have predicted. Using a very large data set of 7,870 once-teenage young women who were followed prospectively for 14 years, they found that 45 women, or .5 percent of the 5,340 women who became pregnant during the study period, reported that they were still virgins at the time of their pregnancy. Call it the Mary Syndrome.

Whoa-sy doasy. That sure takes the miracle out of Christmas, don't you think? And it also calls into question how many more of these virgin births have been going unreported over the past 2000+ years.

I don't want to throw cold water on a wonderful holiday, but maybe this is something Fox News can wrap itself around after the holiday, when the Phil Roberston, Duck Dynasty brouhaha dies down. I'd sure love to hear their take on the red state of North Carolina's research on virgin births. I wonder how the Tar Heel Tea Party will spin this one? Will their new state slogan be "Visit North Carolina a virgin, go home a mother."

In the meantime, don't give up on enjoying Christmas. It is a special holiday -- just maybe not a special as you might have been led to believe. Okay, yes it is. A birthday's always special. Stay safe and be healthy.

Follow me on Twitter: @linzack


Bonus Cartoons of the Day- Happy Holidays from the 113th Congress



Mike Luckovich

Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

John Cole


Jimmy Margulies


The Book Booth: The Political Yule Edition


The Book Booth is a weekly feature at The Political Carnival, relating news, notes, and reflections from the world of books and publishing. SeattleDan, along with his wife, SeattleTammy, are operators of both an on-line bookstore, as well a brick and mortar in small town Washington State. Both have been in the book business since shortly after the Creation, or close to 6000 years now.

A Happy Solstice/Yule to all of you. I hope it is turning into a great season for everyone and that all are enjoying some holiday cheer.

It seems that the world of literature has rallied against our surveillance masters. You know the ones; the ones that think that whatever you put on the internets is worth their time to read. Over 500 authors, even those with conservative political views, have condemned this oversight and have called on the United Nations to work on a digital bill of rights. The Guardian had the story.

This past year really has not seen much in the way of justice for the prisoners at Guantanamo. And as DangerousMinds tells us, what literature that they are allowed to read seems random. And what they are not allowed to read, even more random.

Probably Portland Oregon's most famed living author is Ursula LeGuin. She has tackled many issues with vision and clarity in her fiction. Well, she has finally been interviewed by The Paris Review. An overview of that interview can be found here.

I have seen it argued that our contemporary writers shy away from the political. One writer at Alternet, in a post that seems to be no longer available, wondered why no American writer has reflected why we are now perpetually at war. However, Tim Kreider at the New Yorker says the political is alive in the writings of Kim Stanley Robinson, and we are better off for him doing so.

Of course many writers have written about both the political and the environment. JRR Tolkien was no exception and the folks at Climate Watch via Scientific American give you the report on what Middle Earth resembled back in the days of yore.

For those of you looking for progressive fiction and non-fiction books, Alyssa Rosenberg at ThinkProgress offers her selections of the best (and a couple of the worst) books of 2013 here.

A part of the great culture wars we have experienced for what seems to be ages now is the attitudes we hold toward sexuality. Thus it may have always been so, as Peter Brown's review of Kyle Harper's From Shame to Sin:The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity argues.

As much as I would have liked to tell you this past year about the withering of Amazon, no such luck. But before our beloved publishing industry withers itself, it should look into how it bolsters and fosters one company's hegemony. Again, from the Guardian.

So many titles get published each year, and so many fall through the cracks. As luck would have it, the good folks at Indie Reader have put together a fine list of books you probably have not heard of that you may just love to peruse.

Charles Dickens may dominate Christmas writing. But Jason Diamond at Flavorwire has found a few other passages that evoke this time of year by some other pretty good writers.

Those of you who may have read my posts at the General's and/or here at The Political Carnival know that I hold Dickens in high esteem as a novelist and social commenter and that each year I post a link to that section of A Christmas Carol where the spirit of Christmas Present reveals the waifs Ignorance and Want to Scrooge. I would be remiss to not do so this year.

A Merry Christmas to all of you celebrating this coming week and a joyous season to you all. Keep reading and let us know what titles are intriguing you now.


The Book Booth: Tis the Season Edition



The Book Booth is a weekly feature at The Political Carnival, relating news, notes, and reflections from the world of books and publishing. SeattleDan, along with his wife, SeattleTammy, are operators of both an on-line bookstore, as well a brick and mortar in small town Washington State. Both have been in the book business since shortly after the Creation, or close to 6000 years now.

Here's hoping everyone is enjoying the Season and that you are not in too frenetic a mode. The country seems to have been in the midst of a cold snap and we even had our dusting of snow earlier in the week, which always makes life interesting in our little town.

Last week we featured some Best Of lists and this week we have even more. First, NPR has a list of more than 200 titles. It is a good list. Click on the covers and get a brief summary.

C. Max Magee over at The Millions has a long list of authors and bloggers describing their past year in reading. I'm sure you'll find some books of interest and some you may have missed while perusing.

And Kit Steinkeiner at Book Riot also had four titles she felt were both neglected or overlooked this year.

PublishersWeekly asked ten authors to name their favorite book of the year. I would have to whole-heartedly agree with James McBride's pick of John LeCarre's A Delicate Truth. The rest you can read here.

ABEBooks had a list of what were deemed to be the top 50 historical fiction titles.
Again, there is a great array of cover art. But, as with any list of this kind, there are many omissions. America's pre-eminent historical novelist, Gore Vidal, is completely unmentioned. The comments have several other authors, including Patrick O'Brian.

Back in the day, before he'd pissed off most of his friends, Truman Capote threw a huge party called The Black and White Ball. I remember it because as a young teen, I saw the photo spread of the event in Life Magazine. In any event, Jason Diamond at Flavorwire has the story.

Capote was, of course, famous for his literary feuds, of which, he conducted many. Fortunately the tradition of the feud continues and the New Yorker reviews this years here.

One of the most important "disputes" that resonate today would be the one between Plato and Aristotle. Arthur Herman has recently written a book on the topic and wrote this short essay for Publishers Weekly. Where do you stand? I am now and will remain a confirmed follower of Aristotle.

On a higher note, Paddy found this article detailing a public art project coming to London next summer. Isn't it great when money is spent like this?

And in honor of the 100th anniversary of its founding, the Department of Labor is seeking title submissions of books that shaped our country and its labor force. BoingBoing had the story which has a link where you can submit your ideas.

In the good news for us department, SeattleTammy and I now will have Obamacare, beginning at the start of the year. Thank you, Obama! We will be able to take care of some nagging medical problems, including the lingering one with my right eye. So I could empathize with Charles McGrath's article at the New York Times about his year as judge for the National Book Awards.

Have a great and warm weekend, folks. When out and about, take your time and be sure to let us know what you're currently reading.


It's Official -- Jesus And Santa Claus Are White


Jesus Santa Claus

Fox News would never steer us wrong. To go along with that gold standard, one of Fox's premier personalities (What, you didn't expect me to call her a journalist, did you?) has declared, without any room for doubt, that these two historical figures, Santa Claus and Jesus of Nazareth were White. Period. End of discussion. Here's Megyn Kelly and her panel to set us all straight.

This entire conversation is based on an article by Aisha Harris in In that piece, Harris suggests that other races could represent Jolly ol' Santa, or maybe even a penguin. Despite Megyn K's assertion to the contrary, Santa isn't real and therefore he doesn't have to actually be White. He could be Asian. He could be Black. He could be... well, even a penguin. That way the racial stigma of Santa wouldn't be ingrained in children of other races, thinking Santa isn't really for them.

Now the argument against all of this by Megyn Kelly and her Fox panel is demonstrative of their shallow thinking. Start first with Santa. According to Kelly, he was real. Sorry Megyn. Santa is a legend. Now historians over the years have said that he was based on a real character - Saint Nicholas. Underline the word 'based,' not he really was Santa Claus. Santa is about as real as Sherlock Holmes or James Bond.

Wikipedia does a pretty good job of giving the genesis of today's legend of Santa Claus:

The modern figure of Santa Claus is derived from the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas, which, in turn, was part of its basis in hagiographical tales concerning the historical figure of Christian bishop and gift giver Saint Nicholas. During the Christianization of Germanic Europe, this figure may have absorbed elements of the god Odin, who was associated with the Germanic pagan midwinter event of Yule and led the Wild Hunt, a ghostly procession through the sky. Over time, traits of this character and the British folklore character Father Christmas merged to form the modern Santa Claus known today.

So if this iconic character is nothing more than legend, why can't he be of another nationality? What harm does that do? Why doe's Megan feel she must promote racial stereotyping UNLESS she herself is racist?

Now for the suggestion by Aisha Harris in her piece that perhaps an answer to the racial issue is to turn Santa into a character that is animal like -- in this case a penguin. That's crazy. We all know that can't be, because as the crack Fox experts pointed out a penguin can't carry all those gifts. C'mon. Let's get real here.

Okay, a penguin can't carry all those gifts but white Santa can? What rationale can you be using to draw that conclusion? And say, how big is that sleigh that he can stow all those gifts? And how strong is that team of flying reindeer led by Rudolf the Red Nose wonder? That sleigh must be much bigger than even Noah's Ark to carry all those toys. That's a lot for 8 reindeer to pull through the sky. I hope Santa's careful who's roof he parks it on because something that size would surely crush my house, and most of my neighborhood.

Let's get real here. Santa is a fictional character and should be treated as fun -- not discriminatory. And he belongs to the imaginations of all people, not just White people. He could be any race, color, nationality or animal species. Who cares just so long as he brings you the gifts you wanted for your holiday.

Black Jesus

Now moving onto Meagan's other low wattage statement of fact-- Jesus is White? Really? Unlike Santa, Jesus most likely did exist as one person. But look at where he came from? Asia. Yes, Bethlehem is in what is modern day Israel and Israel is technically Asia. Now the inhabitants of that region, from the statues and paintings that still remain indicate the Pharaohs  and his/her followers had African features -- dark skin, larger lips, and bone structure. One thing none of the artifacts indicate is that any of the people of that time, born in that region, have the more modern-day, typical White features, unless they were the Romans. I don't think anyone's claiming Jesus was the love child of Mary and one of the invading troops.

I'm not sure where Meagan went to school, how much anthropology she knows of that era, but it's evident that she's not correct, once again.

So let's stop the stereotyping and the stigmatizing of iconic people, real or fictional, to suit just one self-serving purpose. Leave Jesus and Santa Claus alone. It's what they represent, not the pictures of who they may be that matters. Megyn and panel, try checking your bigotry at the door before you come on camera next time.

You really owe the world an apology. And in the spirit of Jesus and Santa, we're most likely to grant it.