Archive for literature

The Book Booth: Valentine's 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.


As I learned earlier this week, Valentine was sainted in AD 496 by
Pope Gelasius 1. Virtually nothing is known of him, other than he was
martyred on February 14 in 314. But somehow, that seems appropriate,
for who does know the mysteries of love?

Literature is replete with the stuff of love. Flavorwire had its top
25 great love affairs
. Be sure to check out number 8, which has the
Alan Ladd movie tie-in cover art for The Great Gatsby. If that doesn't
make you want to read it, I don't know what will.

Of course, nothing says I Love You like having it eternally etched
into your skin. BuzzFeed featured some "epic" literary tattoos here.

And book lovers suffer more than the world can understand. HuffPo

featured eleven "conundrums" that only we are aware of.

Not all love affairs endure. In fact, some writers are bold enough to
avenge themselves through their writings. MentalFloss shared some of
these misguided relationships here.

For whatever reason, love has often been linked to war. I suppose it
shouldn't be remarkable, if we remember the Greek god of war Ares was
the brother of the goddess of love, Aphrodite. In any event,
Publishers Weekly recently discussed ten of the best contemporary war
novels here.

If you are between books and wondering what to read, you might want to
check out Kim Stanley Robinson's discussion of three science fiction
novels with modernist overtones

Or if you are feeling more ambitious, one the librarians from the New
York Public Library offered up 25 books that changed the world. A
list, by the way, not everyone loved; check out the comments below the article.

A new offering in historical fiction comes from the author of
Fatherland, Robert Harris, who has just had published his take on the
affair Dreyfus, An Officer and a Spy. The Wall Street Journal examined
it here.

There has been something of a dust up this week when Penguin Books
India has decided to pulp religious historian Wendy Doniger's The
Hindus: An Alternate History. Doniger has long been a professor at the
University of Chicago and is well respected in the field. Of course,
she's none too happy. Story here.

Penguin Books India defended their decision here.

Finally, I wanted to share this very insightful essay from George
Packer in the New Yorker on the history of Amazon and its impact on
books and book selling. If you read no other links from today's post,
read this one.

I hope everyone enjoyed their Valentines Day with someone or something
you love. And I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that Monday is
Presidents Day. Ah, I remember the days when we got two days off from
school for both Washington and Lincoln's birthdays. Those days are
long gone. I shall spend Monday contemplating the presidential term of
the long-neglected William Henry Harrison.

Let us know what books you're enjoying this long weekend!


New Poe Poem Found And Read Into Congressional Record


Edgar Allen Poe

I am a bit old school in some areas, especially the arts. I enjoy all kinds of mediums, paint, charcoal, pastels, oils, water colors, stone. I'm especially fond of newer formats -- electronics and innovated creations like holograms and multi-dimensional light imagery. But there is one form of artistic expression where I can lose myself for hours, even days. It's plain old literature.

I read all kinds, from trashy dime story detective novels to considered works of art. I like science fiction as well as historical drama. Young adult fare to epic sweeping romances. Now I'll even let you in on a secret. I also appreciate poetry.

Yes, poetry. Whether an occasional revisit of Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare or the more epic sweeps of Homer's The Iliad or The Odyssey. Narrative or rhyming, poetry means a lot to me.

Recently I heard rumor a long lost poem by Edgar Allan Poe was found and it would be read on the floor on the U.S. Congress. I had read The Raven, Annabelle Lee and others by the master of the macabre but this "new" work wasn't one of the famous -- It was called, Just The Way It Is.

I knew of Poe as such a visionary -- his horrifying, dark imagery. Leonore and The Conqueror Worm.  How excited I was when I heard that a newly discovered work by the master of macabre was going to be read aloud in the Capitol Building, I rushed to listen to it on C-Span1.

Imagine, a lost poem by Poe? Does it get much better that this? By the way, it's rumored to be his last work. Knowing that he died a mysterious death, some say madness, others poisoning, others, that he was killed to keep some secret from being revealed. He was a cryptographer. Maybe this poem would shed some light onto his final demise. Maybe you can find a clue among his last words.

It came on two pages,
It has withstood the ages.
The word "shall,'' is only 10 times mentioned,
But enough to get one's attention.
No taxes did this law raise,
To this day it continues to create much praise;
Two great religions does it claim,
The "Law of the Ten Commandments'' is its name.
A current writing, 1,990 pages long,
Has a socialist philosophy that is all wrong;
Difficult for the people to understand,
And troubling what big government doth demand.
Over 3,445 "shalls'' it does loudly shout,
New massive taxes does it proudly tout;
Written in secret by the bureaucrats,
For exclusive use of the taxacrats.
The Congressional bill called "Health Care Reform,"
Is illusionary, the authors are still ill-informed;
Government ought not take over America's health biz.
And that's just the way it is."

That's it? That piece of drivel is the missing work of one of the literary greats?

Wow. Okay, Pit and the Pendulum and The Telltale Heart it ain't. Actually it ain't even good. It's crap. But I could discount that because, well, Edgar was ill in his final years. Whatever illness he was suffering from, must have been really severe.

Wait a minute. Hold on. Oh no...

I hope you won't be too pissed off at me.

Ted Poe

This poem was written by Poe all right -- but the wrong Poe. This piece of drivel was written and delivered by House Representative Ted Poe (R-Tex.).  No wonder it sucks. Rep. Poe is a Tea Party ally of Rafael Ted Cruz. I hear they're such tight BFF's that Senator Raffy Cruz took the nickname 'Ted' from him, his literary hero.

And this whole speech is about healthcare. The Affordable Care Act. Obamacare.

Okay. Now it all makes sense. Sorry if I confused you. When I heard a poem by Poe was going to be read into the official Congressional record, you could see how I could make that mistake.

Roseanne Roseannadanna

In the words of Roseanne Roseannadanna, "Never mind."


Have Zombies Eaten Fox News TV Doctor's Brain?


walking dead

Dr. Manny Alvarez, Fox News in-house physician and frequent medical expert for the gab fest called Fox News, thinks that Walking Dead, the AMC hit series, is actually bad for you. Yup, those deteriorated, puss-festering, voracious flesh eating walkers are hurting culture right now. Hey, if some undead creature was coming to eat me, I'd be alarmed too. But doctor, doctor...

Oh, please. For years, Zombies and undead have been part of literature, films and folklore. It goes back hundreds of years, and I think it's safe to say, the number of sightings of real undead creatures is limited. And the number of attacks on humans is even less. Maybe even zero.

So why the alarm? Well, the good -- or sell-out Dr. Manny Alvarez -- wrote in a Fox News column that with American society's obsession with "The Walking Dead" and the inevitable zombie apocalypse, our focus is being pulled  away from "music, education, science or the classics."

I see. Music, education, science and the classics are imperiled. That's a worthy alarm bell to ring. But where's the nexus between Zombies and the imminent harm our American society is facing?

Music: The Zombies are an English rock band, formed in 1962. The group scored British and American hits in 1964 with "She's Not There." Hmm. 1962 is only 50 years ago. We didn't seem to be harmed by them or their song. And just two years ago, Creepshow gave us this music classic:

Education: Dr. Mayim Biyali, (yes Blossom on TV but now a real life PhD in neuroscience) works with a group called STEM:  science, technology, engineering, and math. They teach middle school and high school students. WIRED reports:


The program uses models of zombie outbreaks loaded onto TI graphing calculators, computers, or iPads to demonstrate everything from brain damage (natch) to the patterns in which disease spreads. It’s brilliant, really. Students, inundated by walkers from World War Z to The Walking Dead, already understand the basics of zombie behavior, which provides a gruesome yet entertaining mnemonic device for understanding much more complex ideas.

Science: "Zombie science is a reality. Huffpo reported on it back in February of this year:

zombie cell

Researchers in New Mexico say they've created zombie cells -- near-perfect replicas of mammalian cells that can perform many of the same functions despite the fact that they're not actually alive. But instead of pursuing and eating people as sci-fi zombies often do, these experimental cells may someday do our bidding -- finding use in commercial applications ranging from sensors to catalysts to fuel cells.

The Classics: Well, we have so many to chose from. Authors through the years including Mary Shelly, H.P. Lovecraft, S.D. Perry, Stephen King. Where would we be without film classics like Dawn of the Dead or the shining jewel, Night of the Living Dead.

night of the living dead

Bottom line, Dr. Outoftouch Alvarez, the undead have been with us for centuries and they will be for many more to come. Their "existance" whether real or imagined is not hurting society. If anything, it's giving us and our imaginations ways to imagine how we can make a better life for those of us who are still living. Care to join us?


Bard-on Me Boys, Is That The William Shakespeare Choo-choo?



Ah, Shakespeare. Required reading in almost every middle school and high school. From the most popular like Hamlet, King Lear and Macbeth to the lesser know works like Measure for Measure, Cymbeline, and All Is True, the Bard sure had a way with words. He knew how to twist a phrase. He was a true craftsman and humorist. Today he might have been called Louie C.K. Shakespeare or Jerry Seinspearfeld.

Keeping that in mind, I'm going to share some insights into his cleverness which you may or may not have been aware of. Sure, you've probably read these words before and scratched your head and asked, "What the hell does that mean?" Now you're going to know, because I'm beginning a periodic series revealing the truth behind the Bard. The wisdom behind William. The poop behind the poet.

Hold onto your bonnets. This guy would be considered a "Blue" comic by today's standards. What he got away with might shock you.

Today's excerpt comes from Romeo and Juliet, the star-crossed lovers.

Romeo and Juliet

At the beginning of Romeo and Juliet, before things got hot and heavy, we learn Romeo's sex life is barren. While he laments this fact, his motor-mouthed friend, Mercutio, shares this timeless bit of wisdom:

If love be blind, love cannot hit the mark.
Now will he sit under a medlar tree
And wish his mistress were that kind of fruit
As maids call medlars when they laugh alone.
O Romeo, that she were! Oh, that she were
An open arse, and thou a poperin pear

Mercutio is talking about a medlar fruit, which was colloquially referred to as an "open arse," for reasons that are never really explained. However, there is no such thing as a poperin pear -- it's another old-time play on words. Separate  the word, "poperin" into its three syllables and you get an Elizabethan penis euphemism -- "pop 'er in."

Yep. Mercutio is saying, "What you need, my friend, is a chick who does anal."

Well, go entertain your literary friends with this installment.  There are more to come.  Bill Shakespeare wasn't just a one-trick pony or one hit wonder.  He had a lot of double-entendres up the other side of his poperin pear.


Art and Literature (and Europe!) Potpourri on TPC


Hi, everyone - my name is Lucian Dixon (@lwdgrfx on Twitter) lwdgrfx Lucian Dixonand I am The Political Carnival's web designer.  Neither Paddy nor Laffy are able to post with their regular frequency at the moment, so you'll see posts from me and other guest commenters somewhat more often than usual. My posts will mostly focus on art and literature and/or Europe (though not exclusively).

A quote on art and politics from John Adams, our second US president:

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.


R.I.P. Ray Bradbury, Author of Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles


One of my first heroes. I remember obsessively reading each and every one of his books, going down a check list I had made and bugging the librarian to hurry up and get the ones that branch didn't have. Then waiting for the little postcard in the mail that said it was finally in!

Ray Bradbury — author of The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked this Way Comes, and many more literary classics — died this morning in Los Angeles, at the age of 91.

We've got confirmation from the family as well as his biographer, Sam Weller.

His grandson, Danny Karapetian, shared these words with io9 about his grandfather's passing: "If I had to make any statement, it would be how much I love and miss him, and I look forward to hearing everyone's memories about him. He influenced so many artists, writers, teachers, scientists, and it's always really touching and comforting to hear their stories. Your stories. His legacy lives on in his monumental body of books, film, television and theater, but more importantly, in the minds and hearts of anyone who read him, because to read him was to know him. He was the biggest kid I know."

His grandson added=

If you're looking for any single passage to remember him by, I just picked up my copy of The Illustrated Man, my favorite of his books. The introduction is entitled "Dancing, So As Not to Be Dead," and there are some great lines about death. My favorite:

"My tunes and numbers are here. They have filled my years, the years when I refused to die. And in order to do that I wrote, I wrote, I wrote, at noon or 3:00 A.M.

So as not to be dead."


The Book Booth: Valentine's Day 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.

This week marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens. In my callow youth, and among my graduate student English major friends, it was easy enough to dismiss Dickens as sentimental and maudlin. I think we missed the point. Dickens was an astute observer of his times, and had a generous heart. May we have such writers again, that can stir our imaginations and change our views. The Guardian has lots of articles commemorating Mr. Dickens life here.

And while we're at it, who is your favorite Dickens character? So many to choose from. Madame DeFarge might be mine. Or Sidney Carton, both from A Tale of Two Cities. Here's a portfolio of others to choose from.

And speaking of compelling characters, Little Brown announced a new series of "autobiographical" novels from the one and only Lemony Snicket. The first is due out in October, just in time for Halloween. From our friends at Publishers Weekly:

Amazon remains the bugaboo for independent booksellers. It seems it is also the arch enemy of the big box stores as well. As I've noted, Amazon is going into the publishing business, and Barnes and Noble has said it will not carry titles from Bezosland. The New York Times had a small article about the bruhaha here:

I do feel bad for Nancy Pearl, who is a very nice person. But I am surprised by her saying she was surprised by the reaction of the bookselling community over her inking a deal with Amazon.

In the world of books and movies, HBO is producing a film about the relationship of Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn, who became third Papa wife. From the clip, the story is centered around the Spanish Civil War, from which Hemingway wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and his play, The Fifth Column. The film is directed by Phil Kauffman, whose work I've enjoyed in the past, including his adaptation of The Right Stuff. Here's the trailer.

I've been hearing a lot of buzz about the forthcoming release of Disney's John Carter of Mars movie. People wander into the store, looking for the series and other books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I, for one, retain much affection for Burroughs. Not only did I attend junior high school in the LA suburb named for his most famous creation, Tarzan, but as a boy, once I had exhausted the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series, I turned my attention to Lord Greystoke and read those novels as well. Enjoy the preview for John Carter.

We don't have a cat at our bookstore, though we share our home with three of them. I've always been of two minds about bookstore cats. On the one hand, they are damn cute, and some people enjoy them. On the other hand, there are people with severe cat dander allergies, and I wouldn't want a customer to be suffer while browsing. In any case, here's one person's list of felines at home in bookstores.

A big smooch to everyone on this Valentine's Day! What's on your nightstand?