Tuesday, January 1, 2008

8th Book for Harry?

Wow, this would put everyone into a tizzy.

JK Rowling drops hints of possible eighth Harry Potter book
Rowling, 42, admits she has 'weak moments' when she feels she will pen another novel about the boy wizard.

Review: - The Triumph of the Thriller, Patrick Anderson

With "The Triumph of the Thriller: How Cops, Crooks and Cannibals Captured Popular Fiction," we get a tour of crime novels starting with such pioneers as Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle right up to such modern writers as John Grisham, Sue Grafton and James Patterson.

What catches author Patrick Anderson's attention is the sheer number of crime-related thrillers now dominating our publishing marketplace.

In 1966, the Washington Post writer notes, the 10 top authors on the fiction best-seller list were Robert Crichton, Allen Drury, Jacqueline Susann, Rebecca West, Mary Renault, Edwin O'Connor, James Clavell, Bernard Malamud, Harold Robbins and Harry Mark Petrakis. He categories them as political novelists, literary writers, two "grandmasters of sex and schlock" but no crime fiction.

In 2006, the top-ten list had nine thrillers. Or,as he says, John Grisham, is the new James Michener and "The Da Vinci Code" is our "Gone with the Wind."

What to make of this? How did we move into cheap crime as our main fictional interest? Anderson has some suspects:
Corporate profits. As the book business changes from literary endeavor, corporate pressures have intensified by bottom-line demands as publishers seek out the writer who can turn out books that turn rock-solid profits.

Another is that people are more cynical these days, more open to a dark view of our society.

Fun--we like the chase, the excitement.And a whodunnit focuses on the chase, not sex, not dirty talk, both of which we can get elsewhere. (HBO's "Real Sex," anyone?) The sex that does show up in thrillers, such as "The Silence of the Lambs" is often warped and really secondary in the overall story.

I'd add the possibility that we as a society are often obsessed with crime, though I don't know if what cable "news" gives us is a reflection of our taste or is driving it, and reading crime fiction is an extension of that interest.

Aside from the cited explanation, most of Anderson's book consists of history and stories about the writers rather than explaining, at a deeper level, how we got to this point. Or, more important, how what we might expect next.

Through Anderson's work we're exposed to a lot of writers, good and bad. Sometimes the definitions of what he's writing about gets a bit muddled, so that there's little distinction between thrillers, crime novels and mysteries. So for those looking for serious literary assessments of our tastes, the book has yet to be written or, at least, isn't produced here.

He doesn't care for Tom Clancy--neither do I--spending a short chapter taking apart his rightwing politics, oversimplistic and un-nuanced approach to war and his penchant for odd time references, all wrapped in bad writing.

Anderson also tells us the story of women writers, such as Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky and Patricia Highsmith, recounting their childhoods and early days as writers.

Many others, among them Michael Connelly, Walter Mosley, George Pelecanos, get their moment here, most of the attention favorable. Specialist authors, such as lawyers, doctors, assorted gumshoes, psychologists and others are also critiqued for their work and, generally, rated well.

Anderson's book is interesting, easy to read but just comes up a bit short. I'd hoped for more explanation of the reason for, and the potential damage, of, the emphasis. But overall, it's a decent book.

Review: Falling Man, by Don DeLillo

With full awareness of the tackiness of this statement, I find "Falling Man" lands flat as a pancake.

Though we've had millions of words, pictures, blogs, movies and other media address the Sept.11 disaster, we haven't had much in the way of novels yet.

And maybe we still need some distance because Dom DeLillo doesn't quite do it here. Maybe he tried to be too clever: after all, the photo that so frightened and disturbed so many, the picture that provoked outrage when newspapers ran it, showed a man falling from the North Tower, dressed in his business clothes, seeming so ordinary, so unperturbed as he plunges head first to his death.

To choose to name his novel and build a character around the name by which that photo is best known may just be too clever by half and set up unreachable expectations for the story the novel tells even as it gets off to a decent start by describing the walk through the streets to escape the disaster.

The book tries to pull together a series of disjointed stories of that day and its aftermath, starting with Keith Neudecker, a tower survivor who, covered in blood and the whitish gray ashes of the tower's collapse, arrives at his estranged wife's apartment. He is carrying a stranger's briefcase, though he doesn't know how he obtained it. He is welcomed there, with the only question being why he turned up at her Upper East Side residence instead of somewhere else. He proceeds to recover

Perhaps we expect more of survivors, or at least their portrayal, given their heroic image. (Remember? No one was unkind that day, no one pushed others to their deaths so that they could survive, everyone was brave. Remember what we read, what we were told?)

Neudecker soon takes up in a meaningless affair with Florence, the owner of the briefcase, who also worked in the same tower, though they hadn’t known each other before the disaster.

I don’t doubt that there are walking wounded left from those days, people who experienced first hand the horror of seeing others die ugly deaths and barely escaping. In fact, I know a couple of them, people who have walked away from the fire department, for example, in total despair. There have been divorces, at least one suicide, deaths attributed to the filthy air during the cleanup and children born to fathers never known. So certainly there’s room for a character in a novel like this who is unable to reconnect with life, who is destined to drift through life without purpose, having lost that day whatever had driven them.

But this book, oh, this book doesn’t do what it could. As Neudecker gives up whatever he has left and moves on to a purposeless life playing cards in Las Vegas, we can’t help but remember that he was already living a limited life, a soon-to-be-divorced man in a virtually empty apartment. Even the card playing is a carryover but a meaningless one beyond the fact that two of the original players were killed in the towers.

There are some children, including Neudecker's, who try to make themselves safe by watching the skies for “Bill Lawton,” the misheard name they believe to be threatening. Names and other people pop up, only to drift away. But there are no people, before or after, who seem to connect with him or he with them.

And so the Falling Man, besides being a tacky recurring character who re-creates the fall using a harness, is whom? Surely not Neudecker; he’s more the Fallen Man but why, how, we don’t know and, for sure, we’re not convinced we should. And we certainly could have done without Harness Guy, who, as best I can tell, adds nothing.

Books for Youngsters

I recently stumbled across Becky's Book Reviews, where children's books and young adult literature are the main interest. Take a look.

Bhutto's Book

Release date of Bhutto's book bumped upUnited Press International - (UPI) -- Publishing giant HarperCollins said it planned to release a book by Benazir Bhutto, completed about a week before she was assassinated, ...

Bhutto's new book could be unexpected bestseller
Hindu - Chennai,IndiaHarperCollins, the publisher, on Tuesday said it had just taken delivery of the manuscript for a new book by former Pakistan premier Bhutto ...

Reading vs. the Internet

Richard J. Cox looks at the issue of the Internet and reading.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

RIP, Carol Bly

Carol Bly, Minnesota writer, essayist, dies at 77 of cancer
By Per Peterson
Beth Weatherby can’t remember the date, or even the year for that matter, but she remembers the dinner party she attended at Carol Bly’s St. Paul home a decade ago.
“It was one of the most fun evenings I’ve ever had,” said Weatherby, Southwest Minnesota State University provost/vice president for academic and student affairs. “She was so funny, and she would send, at the most surprising times, a cartoon or a line or a quick note that would have you on the floor.”
Bly, known as one of Minnesota’s most notable literary figures for her essays and strong moral voice, died Friday of ovarian cancer at the Pillars Hospice Home in Oakdale. She was 77.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Advice for Medical Writers, Maybe

This advice needs some editing. Lots of it. Be wary of sites advertising advice on writing that have seven or eight grammatical or spelling errors in the first 10 grafs. Take a look.

The many faces of writing techniques can provide numerous work at home jobs. Because of the fact that internet connections have become widely common, you can now enter a writing job without the need to get employed by a regular company. As a matter of fact, freelance medical writers are now very in demand especially for those internet businesses in line with the health care services. Online transactions and business processes are now much preferred by these companies because of the simplicity they provide for both the employer and the workers.

What is a freelance medical writer? There are many types of writer jobs that mainly provide the best opportunities for people. One of them is the type which involves the creation of articles and documents that are used for medical and health programs. As you may haven noticed, there are now companies which run primarily on data management when it comes to medical services. Some of the most common ones are medical transcription work and open online consultations. In the aspect of writing, medical and health writing careers abound and it is only a matter of time before you get yourself involved in them.

Who may apply in a medical writing career? Practically, there is no limitation as to who may do medical writing. What is more important is the capability of the person to follow simple instructions together with great sense of responsibility.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Poking Around the Records

CNET Reports on government atttempts to force Amazon to give up records.
Q&A: Amazon lawyer on feds' subpoena for 24,000 customer records
Posted by Declan McCullagh
Amazon.com won an important legal fight to preserve its customers' privacy by persuading a court to reject requests for 24,000 customer records made by federal prosecutors in Madison, Wis.

Documents in that case, in which the FBI and IRS are accusing an independent Amazon seller of skirting tax laws, came to light in the last week. But it's not the first time that police on a fishing expedition have demanded customer records from the Web's largest bookstore.