Wednesday, 9 February 2011

some fun posts around the book blog world: cover art, libraries, mysteries and stealing the TARDIS

Memory at Stella Matutina has a fabulous post - Bibliophiles Steal a TARDIS.  She asks if you could travel through Time and Space to an author in the past, what would you tell them?  She has made it more interesting by imagining you give them a suggestion that leads to their greatest works.  I picked Shakespeare and imagined I would go back in time and encourage a poetless playwright to try his hand at the sonnet......Memory did pick Jane Austen, so I joined her on that one, since I could never resist getting a chance to meet one of my very favourite authors.  Who would you go to?  Let Memory know!  PS I would have to bring my daughter along, you will have to read my comment at Memory's post to find out why......

Ana at things mean alot has a thoughtful post on libraries:  Books Are So Cheap!  Who needs Libraries?.  Because a couple of you, my Gentle readers, left comments on my recent book library post about the fees different libraries are charging just to request a book, I have been thinking about the differences in library systems (having lived in England for a year), and why libraries are important.  Ana's post is interesting. Do you use the library?  Do you buy books second-hand?  Weigh in on the debate at Ana's post. Let her know what you think.  I left a lengthy comment and still didn't run out of things to say.  I think libraries are so important to the health of a community as well as a city and a country.  It's a place for people of any background to gather to learn, to share, to explore all the sum of knowledge their library contains, and has access to.  They frequently offer classes to help the disadvantaged learn how to write resumes, job-seek, type, use computers, and in our case here in Ottawa, the Ottawa Public Library also has frequent guest writers speaking out on various topics, from investing money to bird-watching, depending on how local/Canadian the writer is, and their recent book topic.  And it's free.  So anyone can attend.  It's that freedom that I think is so very important, and I don't like that libraries are so often the target of budget-conscious city councils.  Most especially (and this comes up over and over from Ana's commenters as well) the library is a place for children to explore the world of books and read far more widely than their parents, no matter how much money they make, can give them.  I certainly used the library from a young age, and read so many books that we didn't have at home.  I read the ones at home too.  The library offered so much choice and variety, I could try anything I wanted and learn whatever I wanted.  It's like a tiny slice of heaven for book-lovers, and I don't think of it as a pleasure or frivolous.  It is far more important than that.  What do you think?  Let her know.

Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise ( I love this blog name!) has a fun post: When did you begin reading Crime fiction?.  You will have to go there to see what my answer is, and please let her know.  I will say that I began early, and it was among the very first kind of books I read, and I have never really looked back, although fantasy is my next favourite genre. I thought I read them equally until I began keeping a books read journal in the 1990s, and realized that I read more mystery than fantasy at about a 2:1 ratio.  That was quite shocking at first, since I was spending my time at the local fantasy store, going to science fiction conventions, and immersing myself in fantasy reading.  To know that I naturally read mystery more than anything else - once I got over that surprise, I began, in the past several years, letting myself read and discover all the mysteries out there that I didn't know about before.  It wasn't that I wasn't reading mysteries during my fantasy years, it was that I wasn't thinking about how much I enjoyed them consciously.  Once I understood my reading history and how far back it stretched, I realized I had my home in mysteries early on.  I also let myself read as many mysteries as I want to, instead of thinking I should be reading more classics, or biographies, or whatever.  I am of course free to read what I want to!  but sometimes we put barriers on ourselves about what we can read, for various reasons, and I always thought I should be a widely-read reader, rather than reading for love. I'm not sure if it's time, or my health concerns, but something changed in my late 30's, and I decided to read what I loved, and much more of it.  No one is judging me for what I read, except me!

The funny thing is, now that I'm reading for love, I've discovered other books in other genres that I do love - Mary Oliver, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Jasper Fforde,  as well as many, many wonderful what do you love to read?  And if you do read mysteries, let Kerrie know when you began.

For those of you who do read mysteries, Peter over at Detectives Beyond Borders has a fun post:  The BBC Gets It Wrong on Hard-Boiled Fiction.  Did Hemingway publish the first hard-boiled detective story, or was it Hammett?  The critic at the BBC asserted it was Hemingway.  I would have said Dashiell Hammett, myself.  I did a History of Mystery Novels in university (now long ago!) and I am sitting here trying to remember:  we covered Philip Marlowe and Raymond Chandler, and Dashiell Hammett, but I don't believe Ernest Hemingway even came up in this course.  We were studying who was important in the development of the mystery novel, not just big names who wrote mystery fiction.  I think that might be where the BBC critic got mixed up.  It also depends on your definition of hard-boiled fiction - hard-boiled I think of as pertaining to detectives and a certain world-weary way of looking at the world and crime.  Hemingway certainly wrote in this manner - world-weariness -  for much of his fiction, but not in crime terms.  It's interesting that I can read hard-boiled detective fiction, but I can't read Hemingway with much enjoyment.  What do you think?  Let Peter know, they have a very interesting debate going in the comments on this post.

Amy at My Friend Amy has a very fun post in "A Cover Trend I Enjoy.'  Now, I don't read many romances unless there is a mystery or fantasy element to it, but I do admit that I like looking at the covers of historical romances. I like the pretty gowns too, dresses that only socialites and princesses wear today.  However, this post title got me to thinking about trends in book covers.  I have to admit I am a sucker for photographed covers - I almost always pick the book up to admire! like this one purchased last month:
as well as artistic rendered covers, such as this one on the latest book by Rosy Thornton:
Looking closely at them, I can see right away that as is usual for me now, there are no people.  Isn't this interesting?  I don't like people in my photographs, only in art.  I really like both of these covers, too.  I am thrilled to finally have a copy of The Tapestry of Love - the author asked if I would like a copy to review, and I said yes because I've seen her book around on the blogs and I fell in love with both the story idea as well as the cover (and haven't seen a copy in paperback over here yet).  **I generally don't accept copies to review from anyone. I'm not interested in arcs since I worked in bookstores before, and I'm not interested in being the first to read a book.  It's just how I am, these days.  So I did caution the author that I have to be in the mood for a romance, but this cover is so irresistible and the premise - a middle-aged woman  after a divorce begins life anew  in France, opening her own business, and well frankly, most of my daydreams are about escaping (with my family!) to anywhere that isn't in a city these days, so I'm finding I want to read the book now. So I said yes.  It arrived today and I opened it up, all excited.  This lovely cover is now mine!!!!  and as soon as I read the story I will let you know how it is. Stay tuned. 
*****Edited to add later same night:  OMG!  Look at these book covers that I found over at Jane's blog, Reading, Writing, Working, Playing, in her post: My Penguin Classics.....All Mine!  These are beautiful, gorgeous, fabulous, wonderful covers.  I want these books!  So I went to Penguin to check them out, at the Penguin Classic Deluxe Editions, which these editions turn out to be part of.  I love the covers by Ruben Toledo.  So I went to Penguin Canada, where our Classic Deluxe Editions are listed here.  I am so happy they are available here!  Sometimes there is a problem with the Penguin copyright, so I have some books to look for now.   I did find something else totally new:  the Penguin Classics RED editions, which are the same price as other Penguin editions, but 50% of the cost goes directly to fund Aids recovery.  Not research, but medicine for a person.  The art is very different, but it's also very cool (except for Dracula, I'm still figuring that one out.)  Did I say I am lured by cover art?  Hmmm, I think I have to admit that yes, it does it's job very well (when it's well done).  And I don't mind! 

And that's what got me thinking from the book blog world today.  Have any posts inspired you?


Peter Rozovsky said...

I'd have thought that a university course might have been especially eager to claim respectable antecdedents such as Hemingway for crime fiction. Or perhaps the clipped, hard-boiled style had not gained respectability back when you were in school.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Susan said...

Hi Peter: lol! I think if he had been the father of the hard-boiled mystery series, truly, then of course he would have been included. Even if he had written the first hard-boiled story, unless it made an impact on future writers, then it doesn't shape the literature. And I wasn't in school that long ago! I graduated in 1991, so hard-boiled detective novels had long been in style - though they tend to come and go as fashionable in mystery trends, I find. Like I said, we did cover Hammett and Chandler. I do not recall Hemingway mentioned anywhere, so I'm going to check my mystery history sources to see. I find it interesting that the BBC critic was trying to make the claim for literary importance by using Hemingway, when I think he made the opposite point because Hemingway only wrote one story in the genre!

That's not to say that Hemingway's style didn't influence writers - he did, enormously. I rather think though that he influenced what literature could be in that spared-down, macho-influenced style that is similar to hard-boiled fiction.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Even if "The Killers" had come before the Continental Op stories rather than four years after the first of them, calling Hemingway the father of hard-boiled crime based on a single story would be a dubious proposition.

I found the suggestion that Hammett might have influenced Hemingway interesting, if only for its novelty.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Susan said...

Peter: I know! Is there a copy of the BBC report we can read, to know if he expands on this idea? It puzzles me that this kind of claim could be made, it's kind of ridiculous - and yet, it really speaks to how genre fiction is still sidelined by 'literature' because no one 'important' in the development of the novel wrote mystery regularly. Maybe he was trying to show that Hemingway thought it important enough to write it, though I still think Hemingway might have just been experimenting - it's the fact that he wrote only one short hard-boiled story that gives away that he wasn't interested in this type.

I think that mysteries are going to outlast much of what passes as today's literature, that one hundred years from now we will still be reading Agatha, Sherlock, Chandler, Rankin, etc (and possibly Hemingway), but not much of the books of this time. That mysteries are much more important as social commentary than anyone realizes, that the approach to dealing with society's issues under the guise of mysteries has an appeal that will last. What do you think?

Susan said...

PS I should say Hemingway only wrote one hard-boiled mystery story, since he definitely wrote lots of hardboiled fiction! just not with a mystery element, or detective as you say in your comments on your blog.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, I'm not sure we'll be reading Rankin in 100 years, but he has enough readers now.

I know of no transcript of the BBC program, so you'll just have to listen. I'd be mildly curious about how much of what Sutherland said was edited out. I'd want to give him the chance to explain himself before I declare that he doesn't know what he's talking about.

Kerrie said...

An enjoyable post Susan. It always wonderful to discover someone who knows exactly what you mean! Happy reading. (I love the photo of your books)

Nymeth said...

Thank you for including my post, Susan! You know I agree with you so much. I wonder how much of the attitude of the library naysayers has to do with the fact that, in addition to not knowing what ELSE libraries do, they see reading as an indulgence for those with too much time on their hands. It goes back to those "I don't know how you have time to read so much" debates we have also gone over in the blogging world again and again...

Kailana said...

Great post, Susan!!

Peter Rozovsky said...

At least in American cities, lots of relatively poor people use libraries -- people who might not have Internet service at home or who might have few options for safe, stimulating places to go.

Poor people have little money or political influence, so libraries make easy political targets for budget-cutters.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Robin McCormack said...

Great post, Susan. I'd have to say your post inspired me today. So many neat bloggers and all those books. Book heaven. I love the pictures of the covers. I'm more prone to go with something arty than a real person on the cover. More intriguing. Off to check the posts you mentioned.

Susan said...

Peter: I know, I'd like to know what was edited out for Sutherland too.

So, since you think Ian Rankin won't be read in 100 years, who in mysteries do you think will be read in 100 years? This might make a good post, too :-)

as for libraries, it's the same way here - many users are the poor and disadvantaged, though many many users are also well-off. I agree about the political power, absolutely. I don't see why though that our cities see libraries as a social service, instead of serving vital needs in the community. It goes to Nymeth's point in her comment to me that people who don't read assume that it's a luxury of time to read. I think it's a choice to read for pleasure, but being able to read is a necessity.

Kerrie: thank you! It is wonderful, and one of the things I love about the internet, is that it allows us to find people who do share common interests, ideas, and to exchange them too. Being understood is such a pleasure, isn't it? :-)

Susan said...

Nymeth: I think that's at the heart of the current library discussions in England: that it's an indulgence to read, not a necessity. I think making time is a personal choice (hence all those debates) but for me reading is necessary, the step below eating and sleeping and drinking! lol I will always believe that being able to read is necessary for everyone, and since our education system no longer ensures people are literate when they leave school, then we need places like libraries for all the reasons in your post, and mine, and others.
You did spark a good debate with your post, you know! I really hope that enough people fight back in England to begin to save some of the libraries threatened with closure.

Robin: what did you think of the arty covers Penguin has? I found some at a bookstore yesterday, now that I've held the books and seen the covers in real life, I really like them! I might have to get the collection, just for the enjoyment of the covers! I'm glad you enjoyed my post so much. Thank you!