Friday Field Notes 07/18/14


Thor to become a woman. Really, Marvel?

Marja Mills has a new biography coming out:  The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee. She insists it was approved by Lee and her sister Alice. Lee insists otherwise. Given her propensity for privacy, I tend to believe her. Which, makes me sad. I understand the love of a good story; I understand the intrigue of those who tend to keep to themselves. What I do not understand, however, is how people refuse to the respect lives and requests of others, when it’s in their power to do so.
But I digress.
So without further ado, a few bookish news bits from the week . . .

Jamil Ahmad–author of The Wandering Falcon, about those living in Pakistan’s tribal badlands (a book he published at seventy-nine years of age, we might add)–has died.

James Parker and Francine Prose talk ‘the last literary taboos,’ for The New York Times Bookends. Prose suggestions, ‘there will always be taboos as long as the powerful are allowed to define what writers are forbidden to write.’ Parker argues but one taboo remains: Boringness.

The British library’s offers their giant list of digitised manuscripts.

Speaking of digitised treasures, a new web project (a collaboration between Johns Hopkins University, the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters at UCL, and the Princeton University Library) plans to analyze and make available s available the writings made in the margins of books.  According to Anthony Grafton, Professor of the department of history at Princeton, it will provide “the chance to stand by the desks of Renaissance scholars and look over their shoulders while they work at their trade. We can watch them read and respond to a vast range of books, tracing their thoughts and glimpsing the ways in which they used their scholarship to advise kings, ambassadors, and archbishops.” Intriguing, non?

Oh, and in case you haven’t heard, Thor will now officially be a woman. No, I didn’t make that up. I’m going to go ahead and add this to the list of things I most certainly do not understand.

In the Field

Friday Field Notes 071114


Ah, summer–time flit this way and that. In a couple of years, even Shakespeare will get in on the fun. Oh yes, it’s true–Shakespeare is preparing to tour the United States, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands–at least, his First folio is. The Folger Shakespeare Library intends to lend some of the copies in their care, so everyone can experience his work firsthand. Exciting, non?

In the meantime . . .

Speaking of getting up close and personal to famous authors, Bath has unveiled a waxwork of Jane Austen that is supposed to be closest representation we’ve got. Who’s to argue?

Not in the mood to read a book review? Well, you can look at a few, thanks to these illustrated book reviews.

The battled between Amazon and Hachette continues . . . though I’m not really sure that’s news.

For those of you hoping to write your own novel, but just aren’t sure how to get started–well, you can always follow J.K. Rowling, and plot your course with a hand-drawn spreadsheet.

And here’s some advice from other great writers, on kicking that pesky writer’s block.

You may have seen the hoopla surrounding the CIA’s Style Manual. My personal favorite (under “Some Helpful Precepts,” mind): Keep the language crisp and pungent; prefer the forthright to the pompous and ornate.” Who needs Strunk & White with such a gem as that?

Co-author of book on how to avoid getting gored during the annual running of the bulls, gets gored. You cannot make this stuff up. In the words of another co-author, ““We will probably need to update the book.”

The Millions gives us a look at the ‘most anticipated’ books coming out the second half of 2014. Might as well get on top of that autumn reading list.  Disclaimer: this list may be trouble if you’re on a budget or running out of shelf space.

The Guardian’s literary clock is backAnd time’s running out to fill all the slots, so see what you might add . . .

Bookish sorts

Destination Moon

It was July 7, 1907 that a baby boy was born to Rex Ivar and Bam Lyle Heinlein, in Butler, Missouri. They would name him Robert Anson—Robert Anson Heinlein.

He would grow up to become the ” dean of science fiction writers”–one of “the big three” (alongside Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke). He brought a literary flavor to science fiction; he became one of the first science fiction authors to be published in The Saturday Evening Post. He co-wrote a movie script (Destination Moon), creating many of the special effects, which went on to win an Academy award. All in all he published 32 novels, 59 short stories, and 16 short story collections. He influenced countless others.

Of course, the fellow also happened to be an Agnostic–he was no fan of organized religion. He believed in free love. Many of the themes in his work were quite controversial.

Loved by all, he was not.

Nonetheless, he sparked debate, as he sparked imagination. He introduced us to new worlds.

With that, here’s the first part of a ‘sneak peek’ of the film Destination Moon. It originally aired on KTLA sometime around 1949, it also includes an interview with Heinlein, himself. Seems a good way to celebrate his birthday, non?

In the Field

Friday Field Notes 070414

{Captain America print from Cult Poster}

To our fellow Americans, happy 4th of July! To the rest of you, well, happy July 4th!  Wherever you live, whatever you do, I hope you find a little extra time to read in the coming days. In the meantime, a few bookish items from the week . . .

Sad news for the World Book Night–it’s suspending operations due lack of funds. We can only hope the spirit of giving books will live on.

Award-winning novelist Colum McCann was hospitalized with ‘significant facial injuries’ following an assault, believed to be the resulting of an attempt to come to the aid of a woman in a dispute.

The Guardian is looking for ‘self-published masterpieces.’ Terribly nice of them to weed them out for us!

The Millions gives us a rundown of prizewinners.

Looking to get a bookish self-portrait? Well, Pierre Beteille offers a little inspiration.

Books about Town has settled in around London for the summer. I tried to find my favorite book themed bench — Around the World in 80 Days, J.M. Barrie, James Bond, Jeeves and Wooster, Paddington — nope, can’t do it.  I think they’re altogether lovely. What about you; do you have a favorite?


Summer 2014 books I can’t seem to get through

Summertime is full of reading lists–not that I’m complaining–but before I start in on those, I guiltily have a stack of books that have sat dusty, half-read on my nightstand for 6+ months or so.  I know, I know, there’s the whole contentious debate about whether or not you should walk away from books that you can’t seem to finish, but the three I’ve shared below are worth getting through.  Sometime.  Maybe.

Under the Dome by Stephen King: With every word, every sentence, every chapter, I admire his genius.  No wonder they turn all of his books into TV shows and movies–they practically write themselves.  You could very easily cast the stories yourself and just hand the actors the books to use as the script–easiest job in Hollywood.  Arguably, I think Stephen King is the most prolific writer of our time and his work just keeps getting better over time.  Oh my darling Stephen King, I do love you; but why does this book have to be as thick as a telephone book (remember those)?  I think I’m actually at the point where the TV show has moved along further than I am in your book.  And I’m halfway through!  I need to finish this one before spoilers start revealing themselves via TV commercials for the series.


A Feast for Crows (aka the 4th Game of Thrones book) by George R. R. Martin:  I find that people are typically divided in two camps on this one, either they’ve eaten up all of the GoT series as quickly as they can, or they’ve slowly lost interest during the third or fourth one despite the excitement and anticipation during the first few books of the series.  Quite frankly, the premise is getting a bit old for me.  People die, or do they?  People are lost, or are they?  People are bad, or aren’t they?  It’s all a bit much, this emotional and dramatic back-and-forth, and knowing that the series isn’t finished yet allows for multiple cycles of these ups and downs and plot twists to come.  I’m a little bit worried that by the time I get down to really finishing the books, I’ll have forgotten all the previous ones, but thank goodness for Wikipedia summaries.



The Last Lion by William Manchester and Paul Reid:  I really like this book.  Really, really like it (count them, that’s three “reallys”).  It’s the third in the trilogy biography of Winston Churchill’s life and was completed by Paul Reid, as the original biographer William Manchester died before he could finish this last one.  This veritable tome dives into Churchill’s life in detail during WWII and despite all of us knowing what ends up happening (the pitfalls of historical nonfiction), it still kept me riveted.  That is, until the Allies won the war.  The last 50 pages of this book have been sitting on a bookshelf for approximately a year waiting for me to get through.  I loved reading about Churchill: the bulldog, Churchill: the obstinate, Churchill: the master and commander throughout the war and the London Blitz.  But after that bit, the rest of the book is about Churchill: the old man with failing health and politician.  I really owe it to the novel and to history to finish this one up properly–but how/where to find the motivation?

And yourself? What books do you find yourself unable to finish?