the book monster

The Book Monster #18

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I took my wife on a date to see the movie “Austenland” at the dollar theater at the Gateway Mall on Thursday (I wasn’t quite sure what to expect). The movie is about a Jane-Austen-obsessed woman (played by Keri Russell) attending a Jane-Austen-themed resort where women pay big money to experience what it’s like to be in a Jane-Austenish romance with gentlemanly actors (no touching!). I LOLed throughout the movie and I was pleasantly surprised by this chick-flick. Russell’s rendition of “Hot in Here,” by the rapper Nelly, was fantastic too. Jane Seymour, Bret McKenzie and Jennifer Coolidge also starred. I haven’t read any of Jane Austen’s work. Even after seeing this movie I can’t say I have any desire to read Jane Austen’s novels. There is no appeal. However, there is a chance I’ll try Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith’s “Pride and Prejudice with Zombies.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36nk3NEyCLU

A note: For the time being, The Book Monster is going bi-weekly!.

An observation: I have been drinking a ridiculous amount of tea lately. Yogi brand Echinacea Immune Support tea is delicious, it has a hint of mint among other natural flavors, and is perfect for sipping while reading on a dreary day during fall or winter.

Book news:

Infomercial pitchman Kevin Trudeau was found guilty of Criminal Contempt for making false claims about his book, “The Weightloss Cure “They” Don’t Want You to Know About.” National Public Radio reported, “In a series of infomercials, Trudeau claimed the book revealed a “miracle substance” discovered in the 1950s and kept secret by food companies and the government that allows people to eat anything, not exercise and not gain weight.” According to NPR, Trudeau violated a 2004 court order that prohibited him from making false claims in his book.

The Los Angeles Times reported that in Lafourche Parish, La. voters decided to continue to fund the library over diverting funds to the jail. Parish Council Chair Lindel Toups said libraries have too much money than blasted libraries for the activities taking place inside such as, “teaching Mexicans to speak English.”

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Mark Twain didn’t want his autobiography published until 100 years after his death.

The second volume of Mark Twain’s Autobiography was released. Ben Tarnoff’s review in The New Yorker is fantastic: “When Mark Twain opened his mouth, strange things came tumbling out. Things like hoaxes, jokes, yarns, obscenities, and non sequiturs. He had a drawl—his “slow talk,” his mother called it—that made his sentences long and sinuous. One reporter described it as a “little buzz-saw slowly grinding inside a corpse.” Others thought that he sounded drunk.” 

DarkmansWhat I’ve been reading:

Nicola Barker’s “Darkmans” is a mixed bag. This borderline-experimental book was hilarious but I felt it was too long (838 pages). I was underwhelmed by the ending of the book too (I think I missed something and I may go back through and skim over certain key points in the book and then finish the last chapter). During my reading of this book I moved from New Mexico back to Oregon and I was sidetracked by travel, friends, family, and other books (this may have to do with the underwhelming ending too). Set in England, the book follows an eclectic cast of characters (Barker’s character development was fantastic) through a series of strange events, some more exciting than others, as history subtly lurks in the shadows and pushes some characters to madness.

I’m a sucker for nostalgia. Earlier this year I nabbed “Winnie the Pooh” from my parents house in Beaverton and this last week I started reading it. Author A.A. Milne wrote the Pooh books at the request of the adult non-fictionalized version of Christopher Robin, Milne’s son. The books are a result of Milne telling stories to his son.  After WinnieThePoohreading the first two chapters of the book I realized this book should have an alternate title: “Winnie the Pooh, or A.A. Milne is Clever.”  Clever indeed, and I chuckle just thinking about the antics of Pooh and friends. The simple nature of the characters results in a lot of well-intentioned bad ideas that are enacted by this cast of Christopher Robin’s stuffed animals. I wouldn’t recommend this book to everybody, but if you like to laugh and you don’t mind reading a book geared towards children, read it.

Other things I’ve been reading:

• Neil Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book.”

• Selections from Mas Udi’s “The Meadows of Gold.”

• “Bears: A Brief History,” by Bernd Brunner.

• The May 2013 issue of Outside magazine.

• The Mountains of Madness, by H.P. Lovecraft.

• A couple poems from the Winter 2013 issue of “The Gettysburg Review.

Don’t forget to share this column with your friends who love to read. Also, I’d love to hear from you if you have any comments, requests, rants, praises, or two-sentence book reviews or anything else that has to do with books and literature. Hell, if you send me an e-mail you could end up in the column: [email protected]

 

The Book Monster #17 (Relaunch)

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October 30, 2013 

After a 10 month hiatus, I am relaunching my column “The Book Monster.” 

For those who have never visited my column before I would like to welcome you and invite you to keep coming back. I also invite you to read some of my old columns. The Book Monster discusses books, publishing news, authors, literature in pop culture, and anything else that has to do with books. Feel free to comment with Facebook. I would also love to hear from my readers whether you have questions, comments, etc. You can contact me by e-mail (the box with the “e” inside, below my bio) or via Twitter (the box with the “T” inside).

To my readers both faithful and intermittent I apologize for the abrupt death of the column in December; my career took me elsewhere.

Goth, vamps, and Edgar Allan Poe teamed up to save the world from emo kids last week on South Park.
Goth, vamps, and Edgar Allan Poe teamed up to save the world from emo kids last week on South Park.

This being the eve of Halloween I feel inclined to touch upon Edgar Allan Poe, father of the horror genre, who appeared last week “South Park” as the original goth. During the episode titled “Goth Kids 3,” Poe accused the goth kids of South Park Elementary of being poseurs. South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone never fail in their ability to polk fun at anything and everyone, and their portrayal of Poe was hilarious. 

Poe’s masterpiece “The Raven” may be his best poem, and Christopher Walken’s reading of the poem is excellent. Enjoy:

CoralineThis past weekend I read Neil Gaiman’s “Coraline.” I heard the Tim Burton adaptation of the book was terrible and I have never seen it. The New York Times Book Review dubbed “Coraline,” “One of the most frightening books ever written.” With a review like that I couldn’t resist reading it. “Coraline” follows in the tradition of C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia” in that Coraline finds a door in her home that leads to another world, only this is a world where everything is a sinister replica of the real world. Quality of plot and quality of writing made it easy for me to overlook the fact that the book is written at an elementary reading level. I wish I could’ve read “Coraline” when I was a Goosebumps obsessed third grader, but I still loved the book as an adult. This book wasn’t the most frightening I’ve read, but as far as children’s literature goes this book takes the cake.

Technology has changed the face of the publishing industry and online literary journals are popping all over the internet and the best thing about them is they are free. Wig Leaf publishes fiction under 1,000 words a handful of times every month, although I have not figured out their publishing frequency. I cannot vouch for all the fiction that is published on the site, but I have come across a few great stories at Wig Leaf. Finding a short story worth reading only takes a little bit of searching on this site.

 

 

 

The Book Monster Vol. 16

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SONY DSCOn my way to Fred Meyer to buy some eggs I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Reading is Sexy,” and I couldn’t agree more; people who read are beautiful.

Glad to see the Mayans weren’t right, and the world didn’t end on the 21st of December. I was a little worried until I read this NASA-created webpage answering some questions about the supposed end of the world, but seriously, I laughed while reading this page.

Adventures in the Rocky MountainsOregon Quarterly, the University of Oregon’s official magazine, published an article titled “Doomsday or Deliverance”. It was written by my Magazine Writing instructor at the U of O, Alice Tallmadge (she interviews another professor of mine, Dan Wojcik {folklore department}, about the apocalypse). This is by far the best writing about the 2012-end-of-the-world hype we’ve been hearing about for the last couple years.

Gift Guide Part 2: Christmas can be stressful because the economy is in the dumps and if you’re like me there are some people in your life you’re really want to buy gifts for. Don’t fret, Dover Thrift Editions can save Christmas. DTE’s are cheap paperback books priced as low as $1.25. To gift your friends and family without breaking your budget or using a credit card, give your co-workers, friends, and family a DTE. You can’t find any contemporary books in DTE format, but old books are easy to find.

colby_buzzellWhether or not you agree with the politics of The Iraq War, it would behoove you to read Colby Buzzell’s “My War: Killing Time in Iraq”. The book is a result of an infantryman’s journals and blog that he kept while he was in Iraq (the blog eventually drew fire from the head honchos in Iraq, and after that Buzzell had to clear his writing with his Platoon Leaders before posting on his blog). What makes this book so great is Buzzell’s candid writing, which is blended with humor, and the cold-steel reality of being in a combat; nothing is sugar coated. In fact the author writes about how when he was in Iraq he got numerous email’s complaining about the offensive language on his blog. To them, all he had to offer was more explicit language. The Iraq War was one of the ongoing events that defined the last decade. If you want to understand it you need to read this book.

One of the reasons I enjoy reading older memoirs so much is that it gives the reader a view of how things once were through the lens of a living person (they were living when they wrote it anyway). Adventures in the Rocky Mountains is a collection of Isabella Bird’s correspondence during her travels through the mountainous-western states in the 1870’s. Bird’s writing is descriptive, concise, and telling. If you’re wondering how an adventurous women of the 19th-century fairs when a bear scares the daylights out of her horse, read it.

Look for the exciting conclusion of The Book Monster’s Holiday Gift Guide next week, and don’t forget to share The Book Monster with your friends and anybody else who loves reading.

The Book Monster Vol. 15

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Christmas is upon us! So The Book Monster is beginning it’s holiday gift guide with stocking stuffers. Stocking stuffers need to be compact, thoughtful, and inexpensive. “The History of Farting” by Benjamin Bart is perfect for everyone’s stocking. I also recommend pistachios be put in your loved one’s stockings because they’re fun to eat while you read.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey hits theaters on Thursday at midnight. I’m not a huge fan of books being turned into movies because 19 out of 20 times the movie is terrible, but Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy was exceptional. So yes, I plan on attending the midnight showing. I have a feeling I will be binging on J.R.R. Tolkien books for the next month afterwards.

I would also like to remind my readers not to sit in the same spot on the couch too long, too often. I did a lot more reading this past week than normal, and I noticed my couch cushion was flat. It’s important to rotate your seating while reading.

Bruce Holland Rogers sells a subscription of 36 pieces of short-short stories, which are received via email, for $10 a year. Not only is this guy an innovator in the publishing industry, but he lives in Eugene.  Next week EDN’s Ryan Beltram will be interviewing Rogers, so keep an eye out for the story next week. Bruce Holland Rogers story Dinosaur can be read online, and it’s awesome.

If you’re looking for more winter reading check out Bill Watterson’s “Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Snow Goons.” In this book of comic strips Calvin and Hobbes fight against evil snowmen when their Winter Wonderland turns on them. Of all the Calvin and Hobbes books out there I think this one showcases Bill Watterson’s creative genius as an artist better than any of the others. The Snow Goons artwork is slightly morbid, it’s humorous, and it’s beautiful in it’s own way too.

A few years ago while working at a shoe store in the Valley River Center I was talking about books with a co-worker. He told me “The Stand” was the best of any Stephen King book he had read, which were many. So this fall I took the plunge and read “The Stand,” and I loved it. Because it has 1141 pages it took me a while to get through it. The book is about the apocalyptic events that follow a devastating super-flu, and the ordinary people who band together to fight the evil powers that arise from the ashes of civilization. I wouldn’t say it’s my personal favorite of Stephen King’s works, but it was still a great book worth reading. There is even a beautifully written Christmas scene in the book that I was not expecting to come across. It should be noted that there are two versions of this book. It was first published in 1978, and in 1990 it was re-released in it’s complete and uncut format, which is the version I read. There was also a TV movie made by ABC that was horrible (no I didn’t watch it, but I’ve heard nothing good about it).