Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

Tag: books (page 2 of 2)

Just read a post by Jane over at dearauthor.com: “Books as a Business”. It’s a mostly good article with some interesting analysis, though I would change the title, at least; books are what we read, while publishing is a business.

Which aligns with my previous couple of posts, staying on the theme of writing as creative endeavor and publishing as business endeavor. The other day, I was chided on Twitter by dietpopstar for using the word “monetizing” with regard to writing, and who told me I’d “lost my way” as I’m supposed to be “a fucking artist,” and such considerations were “vulgar.” She’s arguably right about my using the word “monetize,” I admit; I probably should have chosen a different word or phrase, like maybe “I gotsta get myself paid, too, yo.” Which, at least, is funnier.

And that’s the trouble with blogging. Not the funnier part. The part about having to get paid.

Continue reading

Some new changes to coincide with all the other ones going around. Trying out a new theme, most obviously.

Also: Entrekin in the World replaces the old Reviews page. I like it so far but will probably tweak it as I go. It’s something I had included as an album on MySpace and was trying to figure out how to integrate it here. From the get-go, I’d asked people to photograph themselves with the book; Los Angeles Times best selling author Brad Listi was the very first.

Since leaving MySpace and switching computers, I’ve misplaced a couple that I’d really like to include. So if you don’t see yourself there and you’ve got one you wouldn’t mind my putting up, send it to me via willentrekin at yahoo dot com.

Please. That’d be rad.

I left comments open over there, too. So if you’d like to put your own review there, be my guest. Especially if you, you know, liked it.

Finally, I mentioned I’d considered removing the collection from Lulu. I looked into hosting the file here, because I still like having it as a free .pdf, along with the “singles.” Problem is, the process of doing so is not nearly so straightforward as Lulu’s system, nor does it seem to track downloads/sales so well. Part of the reason I’d considered removing the book was its ‘community,’ but then again I wonder if those problems aren’t actually a function of the self-publishing community and not necessarily Lulu’s. Regardless, I’ve decided to continue using their printing services as the tool I had meant it to be, and I feel okay leaving it up.

Plus, the downloads just keep coming in, and, well, the whole point was to share it. I’d feel bad keeping the book from someone who wanted to read it.

I’d say to bear in mind that I’m still working out kinks all over the place, but I’ve realized that part of the interesting thing about blogs and the Internet (and, it seems, life in general lately) is that: well, yeah. It’s all evolution all the time, really.

Caught via Hugo-award winning and NYT bestselling author John Scalzi (and congrats on both counts there), the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Gordon Van Gelder, posts about the fate of short fiction online and asks for comments and feedback from readers regarding it.

His basic premise is the fear that if you start giving stuff away, no one will pay for it. Not just in the case of a specific author but rather in the case of publishing overall; if magazines start allowing readers to read online and for free the stories they print, no one will want to buy stories anymore. Which strikes me as quite a slippery slope of an argument, and I worry he’ll lose control of his toboggan.

I tend to understand his fears, though, I think, because really, it makes a lot of sense. I’ll note that since I started offering Entrekin as a free download, the downloads have shot way up though the sales have remained pretty steady. But it also makes sense in other ways.

I’ve been neglecting my other two blogs lately (writing and prepping for teaching tend to make me laser-focus), but had I been keeping up, I would have pointed to Tor.com, the new website of science fiction/fantasy publisher TOR books. So far, I’m quite stunned by its execution; in range and scope, I think it’s rather amazing, and exactly the sort of things publishers need to be doing more often. Free stories. Free novels, even. Forums for readers. Reading is not just about words on a page; it’s about community and culture, and in one fell swoop, Tor has realized the combination of the two. It’s damned near perfect, and I can only imagine it will get better.

When Tor.com posted Scalzi’s short story, “After the Coup”, the story managed nearly 50,000 hits in two weeks, a number that is, approximately, equal to the number of subscribers to three of the biggest science fiction/fantasy magazines combined. When Van Gelder pointed out that all those subscribers pay, whereas TOR.com readers are getting a freebie, Scalzi apparently responded he was “comparing eyeballs to eyeballs.”

Which puts it pretty well, I think. Because in neither case is either number a certain count of readers. One might hope, I guess, that a subscriber would read an entire magazine, but I don’t think I ever have; every magazine I’ve ever subscribed to, there’s usually one article each issue that’s a stinker.

In fact, Tor.com’s implementation seems like the perfect execution in an online world: a publisher gets behind an author, and gets first-look rights at what that author creates, which it can post on its website for an industry-standard fee. Readers can view it free, authors get paid, and publishers get free marketing (New! Exclusive Junot Diaz story! Only at Riverhead.com!).

Used to be that publication made sense, if solely for purposes of distribution; there was no way to get a lot of books to a lot of people without having the kind of operation only a major publisher could implement. Nowadays, though, sites like this seem to indicate that nearly 1.5 billion people in the world have Internet access, whereas something like 90% of books sell fewer than 1000 copies. Which seems to me to indicate that there’s a giant disconnect between content creation and content distribution, if only because so many Internet users read. Blogs, e-mail, news . . . it’s really just a giant database full of information and content.

I’ve read Seth Godin claim that books are really just souvenirs, and I’m not entirely sure about that one way or the other, but I do think that magazines and newspapers well could be. They are holders of information, but certainly no longer the best method of delivery of that information. I’d say I’m reasonably informed about global news, but I literally cannot remember the last time I actually even saw a newspaper, much less picked one up or read one.

Van Gelder notes:

So I started to wonder: has short fiction been devalued by the fact that so many places offer it for free online nowadays?

But when was the value of any fiction ever determined by the price people are willing to pay? All of Shakespeare’s work is public domain and available free, online, and what’s more, no one has to pay to produce or perform any of it.

What I think Van Gelder really means, though, is that we may be coming to a point where writers no longer need a short fiction marketplace (and I realize this is another slope of the slippery type, but still). In Japan last year, 5 of the 10 bestselling novels were distributed neither online nor by book but rather to readers’ cell phones. No mistake, the industry as a whole is changing markedly, and I think most professionals within it will learn to adapt to new ways of doing the business of getting good content to interested consumers, which is really basically all publishing actually is, anyway.

Personally, I’m still mainly surprised that The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction still only accepts queries by traditional mail. No electronic submissions.

I mean, seriously, what’s up with that?

(though they do accept payment for sample issues through PayPal. Interesting that)

The Bulwer-Lytton prize, named after the author who first set down “It was a dark and stormy night,” is a parody award given to bad writing.

This year’s “winners” have been announced.

Thing is, I’d totally read a novel that began:

Mike Hummer had been a private detective so long he could remember Preparation A, his hair reminded everyone of a rat who’d bitten into an electrical cord, but he could still run faster than greased owl snot when he was on a bad guy’s trail, and they said his friskings were a lot like getting a vasectomy at Sears.

Because, seriously, a Sears vasectomy is the sort of imagery that would keep me going at least 50 more pages.

In fact, I kinda think the only bad thing about that entry is the comma splice after “Preparation A.”

More winners:

2008 Results.

I hadn’t planned to blog today, but earlier today, Chartroose pinged my “Batman Noir” post to tangent from as she wrote about Christian Bale and American Psycho, and now, in the truest spirit of Internet meta, I ping back to her in response, because I started to write a comment I realized might as well have been a blog on its own.

To sum up, while she was not a big fan of either the book or the movie, Chartroose seems to appreciate the book for what it is: a non-comedic satire. She mentions the outcry that occurred when the book was first published, then her own reaction to it:

I read until the wee hours of the morning and finished it the next evening. I decided the novel was total trash and stuck in my bookcase, thinking I would probably end up throwing it away later on. Disposal of the novel never happened though, in fact, over the next several days I found myself pulling it off the shelf and rereading entire passages just to make sure that I was recalling them correctly. I had American Psycho on the brain, and it was not an enjoyable experience. Even though it was creeping me out, I just couldn’t get it out of my head. It was the most disturbing book I had ever read.

She goes on to make some extraordinarily cogent points re: sociopathy and . . . oh, hell. Did you read it? You totally should. It’s totally worth it. In fact, here’s that link again, because otherwise I’m going to have to quote her penultimate paragraph, anyway.

Okay. So.

I can’t say that I loved American Psycho; like Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream, it’s not an experience you can really love–it’s bleak and disturbing and kind of even hurts as you read it, so it’s not really something to love.

But good?

Yes, I think so.

I never heard the media outcry over the novel; I was a sophomore in college in 1997 by the time a buddy of mine read it and recommended it to me. And perhaps that’s very crucial; sophomore is Latin for “fool,” or thereabouts, if I’m not mistaken, and where I was in life at that time might have been instrumental in my reading of Ellis’ novel. To wit: back then, I was struggling with my identity. I’d just left my bucolic South Jersey hometown for Jersey City to attend a small Jesuit college that was, ultimately, a seminal experience in my life even though it wasn’t exactly the prototypical college experience. When most of my friends at other institutions were getting their bang on every bit as much as they were getting their book on, I had buried my head in credits and writing (back then I had just completed the first draft of my first novel, which clocked in at nearly half a million words, not one of which was actually really worth anything). I was struggling with identity to the point that I was even questioning my own name; my given name is William, and every man I know with the same name had become “Bill” by high school, and so I did, too. Until well into college, when I just wasn’t sure what I wanted people to call me anymore.

And finally, I was a nearly twenty-year-old dude, which meant I felt like society had certain expectations of me that I was meant to fulfill. Except I had absolutely no idea how to actually be a guy, and so I sought advice from the only resource readily available: Men’s Health. Not to mention Esquire and GQ. Every man depicted in the pages of those magazines seemed to be the ur-man, not just the uber-man but in fact the sort of prototype on whom the entire idea of masculinity is based. Washboard abs, Colgate teeth, well groomed hair, chiseled biceps, perfect jeans, tailored suit . . . you get the idea.

The perfect ideal of masculinity.

That was the mindset I had when I came to Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho, and for that reason, it was the perfect book at the perfect time in my life. Not only did I feel like I got it, and what he was trying to do, but I felt too as though he had captured precisely the perfectly incredible absurdity of pretty much everything I was experiencing at the time. One device Ellis makes frequent use of in the novel is the extraordinary attention to detail the protagonist, Patrick Bateman, pays to the wardrobe and effects of those around him; anyone who’s ever read Esquire has encountered precisely the same thing. The ten best face washes. The thirteen best new colognes of the season. The four most realistic-looking fake tans.

And no woman can tell me such is relegated to the pages of men’s magazines. Cosmo does it constantly–this season’s hottest shades of lipstick! Next season’s hippest designer!

When I read American Psycho, I read it as a pretty much brilliant critique of precisely that aspect of our culture. Chartroose mentions:

American Psycho is trying to tell us that capitalism is as violent and merciless as Patrick Bateman, and Bateman’s disregard for women as anything but body parts to be abused and discarded is a mirror reflection of modern society’s objectification of women.

But I think it’s more than that; it’s not modern society’s objectification of women but rather our culture’s collective objectification of ourselves. Bateman doesn’t merely objectify women; he objectifies everyone, which is why every new character is described not in terms of a quality or a smile or a trait but rather in terms of the suit he wears or, famously, the business card he carries or, even more famously, the music he likes. When Bateman enjoys something, like Phil Collins’ “Su-su-sudio,” he does so not because he actually likes the music but rather because it is something everyone else seems to enjoy. He uses a Sony Walkman and wears headphones quite often, and when he listens to Whitney Houston, it’s not because he wants to dance with somebody but rather because he wants people to think he wants to. If Bateman objectifies everyone, it is because he feels himself an object; his lack of empathy comes not from his detachment from other people’s feelings but rather from the fact that he has none of his own. His clothes, his beauty regimen, his workouts; he’s not improving himself so much as improving the way the world sees him, and trying all the time to be a more beautiful object to those who view him.

I think it’s a rather brilliant critique, obviously, and I think it ultimately springs from the same sorts of disillusionment as inspired Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club:

Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.

Patrick Bateman is the reason Fight Club exists; he is a rockstar, basically, and he doesn’t chase cars and clothes because he already owns them. He has achieved everything society has told him he should want but still feels he has no purpose or place. He kills people, but mostly he understands that “On a long-enough timeline, the survival rate drops to zero” for everyone.

“Shut up! Our fathers were our models for God. If our fathers bailed, what does that tell you about God?”
“No, no, I… don’t…”
“Listen to me! You have to consider the possibility that God does not like you. He never wanted you. In all probability, he hates you. This is not the worst thing that can happen.”

Patrick Bateman has achieved, as both a man and a person, pretty much everything society expects of him, or is on his way to. Society has convinced him that, if he does so, he will be happy, but that happiness . . .

Where is it?

Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.

Precisely.

Willy Wonka promised that the man who got everything he ever wanted lived happily ever after, but Jagger got it arguably more right; happiness isn’t getting what you want but rather in getting what you need and understanding why you needed it in the first place.

I read somewhere, I believe, that something like three of the top five bestselling novels in Japan last year were published via cell phones. Interesting, in its way; the idea seems popular, and I’m all for getting new readers and new books to those new readers any way possible. But I wonder a bit about the content. I try not to judge such things, because it makes me feel like a pompous douchebag, but I worry that the kind of novels that lend themselves to being read serially via cellphone are the kind of novels, say, Tila Tequila might write (if you don’t know who she is, count yourself lucky).

Amusingly, though, I caught a feature in the latest issue of Esquire–great works of literature as text messages.

Click the image below to visit the slideshow:

I had some ideas for others:

Macbeth: “I can haz crown? Out damn spot!”

American Gods: Meet new godz. Same as old onez.

Old Man’s War: “I fite everything! My DAN makes me teh wassum!!11”

Hamlet: 2 b or not? Not.

Will Shetterly is a writer who often concerns his blog toward social issues; lately, he’s been writing about consumption. What he and his wife eat, which brings his writing close to home, I think, but also in a more general sense, with links to energy consumption, smaller houses, and social justice. It’s worth poking around just for the ways he can make you think, but his post yesterday (in combination with another) really got me thinking. It concerns a ‘subversive fairy tale,’ as well as discussion of an article concerning American consumption versus French consumption.

I found myself smiling knowingly at this article. One of my favorite restaurants in Hollywood was the Maggiano’s at the Grove, where I used to eat dinner with a friend on a monthly or so basis. I always noticed that at Maggiano’s; their portions are huge. No, bigger than that. Seriously, keep going. We’d always go home with leftovers.

I’d often think it silly, until I remember we tried a different Italian restaurant whose portions were more normal-sized. And you know what? I looked at my plate of gnocchi and thought “That’s it?”

It wasn’t because I wanted there to be more, actually. It was because the latter place was more expensive than Maggiano’s, and I felt like I was getting ripped off. Because, of course, I could get twice the amount of food for about the same price elsewhere. Nevermind that I didn’t need all that food in the first place.

Back when I was in college, I was a big fan of Edward Burns, and I read a magazine article about him right around the time Saving Private Ryan came out. Burns had just gotten a first-look deal with Dreamworks with his scripts, and he was producing, directing, writing, and starring in basically his own movies (like The Brothers McMullen and She’s the One). He mentioned, in the article, that he’d begun to worry about the new pressure and that his career could go, really, anywhere, and when the future is that wide open and filled with that much possibility, it’s a little scary to consider also all the ways it could go wrong. But he spoke to Tom Hanks about the issue on the set of Ryan, and Hanks gave him some pithy advice:

“You know, Eddy, a man can only eat so well.”

(of course, this is The Da Vinci Code Tom Hanks. Who probably eats really, really well)

And finally, I was also reading Jonathan Carroll’s site the other day. Carroll is one of my favorite writers, and in his blog, he made the following observation:

Isn’t it interesting how many of us will spend a lot of money on clothes (or for that matter, other valued possessions) we rarely use– that beautiful cocktail dress or sharp looking shirt. But in our every day, we much prefer to wear clothes that are years old, beat up, and probably cost little when we bought them. Yes, the comfort factor plays heavily into this, but recently when I came home wearing a very nice suit and tie and couldn’t WAIT to tear them off and change into some old jeans and a ten year old sweatshirt, I suddenly thought something’s odd about this. An expensive suit, or a fountain pen you only use to write your name occasionally, a new car you’re often worried about driving because someone might scratch it, the crazy-expensive shoes you never wear in bad weather, the fabulously delicate silk lingerie you haven’t worn since buying it six months ago… the list is surprisingly long. In other words for many, we continue to pay lots of money for things that make us uncomfortable, worried, wary or worse.

I guess I’ve just been thinking about this a lot in the past month; packing up all your worldly possessions to move a thousand miles away forces you to confront just how many worldly possessions you’ve actually got, and makes me consider how many I actually frickin’ need. I have no less than 11 boxes of books at this point, most of them shoved up against the wall and none of them really unpacked; books are great and all, certainly, but do I really need eleven boxes of them? I’ve got both a suitcase and a laundry bag full of clothing, and that’s not even to mention the blazers on the hangars.

But on the other hand, I use my stuff. Many of those books I bought for research, or to support the writers who wrote them (there are books by both Shetterly and Carroll in those boxes). Many again are signed (my copy of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods was the first one signed on the American Gods tour, which I think is pretty rad). And my clothes . . . I don’t suffer from Carroll’s affliction; I often look forward to occasions when I can wear my suit, or dress up a bit.

In the next few weeks, however, my goal is to cull down a little bit, at least. Separate out at least two boxes of books I can sell, and set aside some clothes for a GoodWill or something.

It’d be nice to come to a point where I could fit everything I need into my car, but then I realize, it’s not so much about how much shit I’ve got but rather how I think about that shit, and the word need. I’m one of those people who believes we need books and art and music in our lives, but there is a difference between sustenance and consumption, and I’d like to find some balance between the two.

By the way, here’s an Amazon search for Jonathan Carroll, and here’s one for Will Shetterly, as well as Shetterly’s Lulu store.

Will Shetterly, whom I’ve mentioned before, wrote a novel called Dogland, semi-autobiographical in nature, about growing up at an amusement park. He’s posted the first chapter of a memoir, A Boy in Dogland, here.

You should check it out. It’s good.

Not long ago, for my business course, I had to do some market research for ‘competitive’ projects; books or other media that were somewhat like mine but not so much. Acknowledging there’s anything out there remotely similar is difficult; whoever wants to admit that their stories aren’t actually unique? One’s first instinct, often, is to point out differences; no, that’s not at all like what I did. My characters are like this. Etc.

While browsing through time travel fiction on Amazon, though, I encountered a novel called Discipline, by Paco Ahlgren I’ll admit I clicked through, at first, based on its cover; it really is a good-looking book, with a well designed (if rather vague, now that I think about it) cover. Its description mentioned quantum mechanics, time travel, and Buddhism, and I was all kinds of like “Sold.” It also mentioned chess, which is up there with golf in terms of activities I just don’t get, but I figured, hey, I’ll give it a go anyway.

The novel follows Jasper Cole as he learns about some unique abilities he has. It’s approximately like The Matrix, story-wise, except without the Matrix thing itself, which I liked; Ahlgren sets everything pretty much here and now, and its ‘fantasy’ elements can be explained away to quantum physics/mechanics. Uncertainty principles and the like.

This is an idea I’ve been fascinated with; the question of reality, and what it means. There are places where philosophy and quantum physics supercollide, and this novel is sort of about them.

It’s not perfect. There are some long sections of pretty much completely expository dialogue, where one character explains something to another pretty much for the sake of the reader. Cole, too, comes off like a whiny little bitch sometimes because his mentors feel, at moments, that he is not yet ready for new concepts, which would be fine except one gets the impression Ahlgren is simply holding his cards just yet, which makes Cole reader-proxy. It clunks down at times, and it neither starts nor ends well; I get the sense it’s because it’s the first in a planned series, but still it could have satisfied more.

At the same time I ordered Alhgren’s, I ordered Caprice Crane’s new book, Forget About It. The premise is rather awesome; a girl with a life she doesn’t much like gets into an accident, so she fakes amnesia for a ‘do-over.’ I was a huge fan of Crane’s first novel, Stupid and Contagious, with which this new one shared its wit and charm.

It isn’t quite without its problems, either; for a do-over, its protagonist, Jordan, starts down pretty much the same path she’d led before. She’s a bit of a pushover (which is part of the premise), but she also seems like she tries her best to avoid every confrontation she could have with people. Which is true to life, certainly, but novels aren’t life.

Overall, I enjoyed it for what it was; light and fun, with some romance and plenty of humor.

So what was the last good book you read? I’m looking for suggestions for my next read.

And by the way, A couple new photos (again of fountains) over at Imagery.

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