Sunday, November 28, 2010

Book Review Blog Carnival and an Experiment

The 57th Book Review Blog Carnival has been published at Reading, Reading & Life.

Be sure to stop by and see what the book review blogging crowd has been reading lately.

Book Review Blog Carnival Meme

I'm going to try a little experiment today and I hope you will join in. If you write book reviews on your own blog and didn't get a chance to participate in this week's carnival, or even if you did, take part in this Book Review Meme.

All you need to do is copy the code in the text box below, go to your own blog, choose edit posts and choose a book review - the latest one you wrote or one that you particularly like - and paste the code in at the bottom.

Then come back here and fill out this Mister Linky form, putting the URL to your post in the appropriate field. This will give your review a link from here and will link back, both to this page and to today's carnival from your blog.

This post is closed for new entries.

1. Necromancy Never Pays
2. The Life O' Reilly
3. Everything I Never Wanted toBe
4. Man of la Book - Book Review: Deeper than the Dead by Tami Hoag
5. SenoraG -The Lancaster Rule

Friday, November 26, 2010

Memeing Like Crazy

The Blue Bookcase memes have brought me so many new readers I just can't resist trying this one from Crazy for Books, too.

Book Blogger Hop

I'm studying up on the Mister Linky code right now. There may be a similar meme on this blog soon, as well. Stay tuned.

Edited to add: Crazy for Books asks "What's Your Favorite Book Cover?" To which I answer, you can't judge a book by it's cover.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Another Blue Bookcase Meme

Literary Blog Hop

At this rate I'll never get another book read. This week The Blue Bookcase asks "What makes a contemporary novel a classic?
Discuss a book which you think fits the category of ‘modern classics’ and explain why."

Well I disagree. There are some contemporary books which are destined to become classic. The problem is in identifying which ones they are. A classic, in my opinion, is a book that has stood the test of time and is still read and still has relevance after the passage of decades or even centuries. People are not very good at predicting this and experts will disagree about which books those future classics are.

I would say that Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood is a candidate because of the universality of it's apocalyptic theme and it's use of language and character. Someone else might think not and give cogent reasons for that opinion. In 100 years we'll know.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Is There Such A Thing As Literary Non Fiction?

A Literary Blog Hop post courtesy of The Blue Bookcase

Literary Blog Hop
The Blue Bookcase hosts a weekly "Literary Blog Hop," asking bloggers to answer a question of a literary nature on their literary blogs. Today's question is a no brainer: "Is there such a thing as literary non fiction.

Let's consider some examples. This week the first volume of the Autobiography of Mark Twain was published by the University of California. One might question how much of any autobiography is really non fiction but this is surely a work of literary value. My copy is on order. Look for a review on this blog soon.

I recently reviewed Paul Theroux's Ghost Train to the Eastern Star. I wouldn't claim that my review is timeless prose, but I have high hopes for Theroux. He may make it as a writer some day. I'm not just saying this because his parents lived down the street from me when I was a lad.

Now let's take a look at John McPhee. After discovering The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed back in the dark ages of my youth, my next McPhee book was Oranges. Here is a man who captures the readers imagination, not just writing about a commercially failed amazing feat of engineering, but writing about agriculture, geology, long haul trucking and migratory fish. McPhee is a literary craftsman of the highest order.

What makes a book "literary" anyhow? I know it when I see it, yet can't define it. I don't think there is a genre that could not contain some work worthy of the name. Fantasy novels might not be considered literary, but what about The Lord of the Rings? Illustrated children's books? The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren or The Night Before Christmas. Graphic novels? Now there you've got me.

Perhaps you could suggest a graphic novel that you consider to be "literary." Leave a comment if you have a suggestion.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ghost Train to the Eastern Star

Paul Theroux

Reading A Dead Hand got me interested in taking another look at Paul Theroux's travel writing so I picked up this one, which was published in 2008. Theroux retraces his steps, as well as he can, of the trip he took for The Great Railway Bazaar, published in 1978. Theroux's itinerary took him by train from London, through the chunnell, across France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria to Istambul. From there he went across Turkey, Gergia and Azerbaijan to Baku, on the Caspian Sea. In '78 he could go to Afghanistan and Iran. This time he had to detour through Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to Tashkent in Kazakhstan, where he hopped a plane to Amihar on the border of Pakistan and India. Turkmenistan gave Theroux ample opportunity to exercise his inner curmudgeon. His description of the gold statues of Turkmenistan's leader "Turkmenbashi" and the empty luxury apartments overlooking streets full of homeless Turkmen are priceless. His actual trip must have taken place before the death of the Turkmen president for life, in December of 2006.

The second leg of the journey takes him through India and Sri Lanka before jumping to Rangoon and visiting all of southeast Asia - Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand Laos and Vietman. He found Vietnm to be a very pleasant and well run country. None of the Vietnamese he met seemed to be angry at the United States for bombing them back to the stone age in the 60's and '70s. He even got a ride with a couple of former Viet Kong. Nice guys from his account.

Once again he took a flight from Kunming, in southern China to Tokyo, where he visited a pornography superstore in the company of a famous Japanese novelist.  Theroux travels all over Japan by bullet train, which he finds much nicer than the trains in Romania or Uzbekistan.

The return trip was on the trans Siberia Railway. Theroux's view of Russia by rail is nostalgic for the good old Soviet days. He dedicates several pages to his visit to the city of Perm, which he was not allowed in on his first trip. The Permians he meets are proud of the famous writers and scientists that were imprisoned there by Stalin.

Theroux revels in the discomforts of travel by train through the third world. I'd like to read his take on Amtrack some time.

Keywords: travel writing, Paul Theroux, Asia, memoir