Too Many Books

Speaking Softly: On ‘Quiet,’ by Susan Cain

During my brief and infrequent stints in an office environment, the one criticism consistently lobbed at me by managers and superiors was my perceived unwillingness to engage with people, to favor email over face-to-face communication, for vocalizing my ideas in the casual debriefing we would have after meetings. I was told, explicitly and implicitly, that my preferred method of conducting myself was something I needed to “get over,” and with no small amount of time and difficulty, I did to an extent. But the second my boss presented me with a request for information from somewhere in the company I’d never dealt with before, I would sit at my desk and have to psych myself up for something as simple as an email, then pore over every word, read the thing out loud to ensure the information was related clearly, then get irritated when my carefully constructed email would snag a two-line reply.

How lovely, then, to come across a book arguing that not only is it okay to be how I am, sometimes it’s even preferable.

Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking isn’t a 300-page excuse for the introverted to retreatfurther into themselves, rather it’s an indictment of a certain type of Western worldview that puts a premium on the dynamic, go-getter extroverted types at the expense of the more reserved among us who would prefer to make decisions more slowly.  Cain travels everywhere from the Harvard Business School to Cupertino, California to an Anthony Robbins Seminar, marveling at how sharp the dichotomy is between introverts and extroverts really is, and how painful the struggle is for introverts trying to fake it in a world that doesn’t value them or what they can contribute [like the guy at the Harvard Business School who pulls great grades but feels he’s wasting his education because he can’t muster the energy to attend the multiple social outings he was expected to attend every week].

The worlds of business and education come under the harshest scrutiny from Cain, with their unrelenting emphasis on forced collaborations that sometimes do more to stifle innovation than encourage it.  I mean, I was a low rung on the ladder when I was in the office, my busiest day might have involved three meetings at the most.  That’s still at least three hours of the day that I’m not working, at least not under my definition of the word.  I can only imagine what it’s like for people who are actually busy there.

But, the book doesn’t let introverts off the hook, examining the ways in which they can stretch themselves into pretend extroverts to better make their way in the world. It can be done, but it’s important to note, and the book does so frequently, that it really only works when introverts believe fully and passionately about the things they are stretching themselves for: I was able to finally start speaking up in meetings because I fully cared about the ideas we were sharing; I can talk to someone I’ve never met at the bookstore for fifteen minutes or more because I’m passionate about books and reading and want to help a stranger in their reading experience.

While I adored the book, I found I enjoyed it the most when I was able to most recognize my experience in it; when Cain wrote about things like the science of introversion and extroversion or how to encourage introverted kids [subjects I agree the book needed to address] I found myself skimming ahead.

All told, Quiet was a fantastic read, and pretty mandatory for anyone who’s ever been made to feel like there’s something wrong with them because their idea of an amazing Friday night involves a pizza and a movie at home more than a house party crammed with people.

For the interested but lazy, check out Cain’s 16-point ‘Quiet Manifesto,’ [taken from her website] as well as her recent TED Talk on the subject.

1. There’s a word for “people who are in their heads too much”: thinkers.

2. Our culture rightly admires risk-takers, but we need our “heed-takers” more than ever.

3. Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.

4. Texting is popular because in an overly extroverted society, everyone craves asynchronyous, non-F2F communication.

5. We teach kids in group classrooms not because this is the best way to learn but because it’s cost-efficient, and what else would we do with the children while all the grown-ups are at work? If your child prefers to work autonomously and socialize one-on-one, there’s nothing wrong with her; she just happens not to fit the model.

6. The next generation of quiet kids can and should be raised to know their own strength.

7. Sometimes it helps to be a pretend-extrovert. There’s always time to be quiet later.

8. But in the long run, staying true to your temperament is the key to finding work you love and work that matters.

9. Everyone shines, given the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight, for others, a lamplit desk.

10. Rule of thumb for networking events: one genuine new relationship is worth a fistful of business cards.

11. It’s OK to cross the street to avoid making small talk.

12. “Quiet leadership” is not an oxymoron.

13. The universal longing for heaven is not about immortality so much as the wish for a world in which everyone is always kind.

14. If the task of the first half of life is to put yourself out there, the task of the second half is to make sense of where you’ve been.

15. Love is essential, gregariousness is optional.

16. “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” – Gandhi

The Hypebeast Dayplanner

This week sucks. Not for what it has, but for what it’s lacking.

See friends, for months now, I’ve had my eye on the week of October 16, since it seems like everything I like is becoming available after that date. Many of these things are long awaited and much hyped.  Can they possibly survive the weight of expectation?  Let’s investigate.

Country Living

October 16: The Walking Dead, Season 2 Premiere
Partly on account of the woman I live with, partly due to my own fandom, I’ve seen all six episodes of AMC’s zombie apocalypse drama about five times already.  To say we’re both excited for Sunday is putting it mildly.  Do not call, do not text, do not tweet, do not knock on our door.  We will not respond.

But are we just setting ourselves up for disappointment?  The show’s already lost original showrunner Frank Darabont under cloudy circumstances [rumours range from being unaccustomed to the grind of weekly TV to budget disputes with the network], and I have my own concerns that a full slate of 13 episodes will likely lead to a bit of bloat and sag around the middle of the season. That said, though, I sat down this weekend and watched Torn Apart, a six episode webseries that explains the origins of Bicycle Girl, the legless zombie from the pilot, and was immediately on board again.
Hype Level: 8/10
Letdown Odds: 35%, likely to ebb and flow as the season progresses.

October 18: Batman: Arkham City releases for the XBox 360 and PS3
2009’s Batman: Arkham Asylum was not only one of that year’s best games, it was one of my all time favourites and hands down the best Batman game ever.  This is because developers Rocksteady realized what everyone before them seemed to have missed:

He’s fucking Batman!

Ten thousand nerd boners.

How many times have you played a Batman game and ended up getting killed by some mook with a machine gun.  Would never happen, he’s fucking Batman.  He should have that guy knocked unconscious five different ways before the bad guy even thinks to pull the trigger.  This is what Rocksteady realized, so they streamlined the fighting system into the most beautifully elegant combo system I’ve ever played.  When you enter a room surrounded by goons, severely outnumbered, it’s never a matter of if you’ll whoop everyone’s ass, but how awesomely you’ll do it.  You can do it clumsily, taking the odd punch now and then, or you can eliminate everyone in a seamless combo of limb-breakings and reversals.  Either way, you’ll win the fight, which you should, because you’re fucking Batman!

Add to that a the killer stealth elements, a story written by Animated Series scribe Paul Dini and voice acting by the iconic Batman/Joker pair of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, and you get a fanboy’s dream.

Arkham City reassembles all of those elements and throws in some Assassin’s Creed-style open world gameplay and sidemissions, a stellar cast of villains only hinted at in the first game, Catwoman as a playable character out of the box, Nightwing and Red Robin as DLC, as well as skins to make Batman look like his Bruce Timm design, and I am willing to just hand over my wallet to Rocksteady now, they can just charge me as new things become available.  They will own me.
Hype Level: 10/10
Letdown Odds: 5% [Unless the first batch of discs are defective, that’s the only way I can see it falling short].

October 18: Beats, Rhymes And Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest releases on DVD and BluRay
Double whammy on the 18th as my favourite hip-hop flick of all time gets a home release.  I’ve sung the praises of the film previously here, and the DVD is sure to remedy some of my previous criticisms like the skimming over of the group’s later career and including the footage of people who were there at the time, instead of people who grew up as fans.  But there’s only so much space on a DVD, and I’m sure to be let down by what footage is still missing, even though the film itself will be as fun and entertaining as it was the two times I saw it in the theatre.

Hype Level: 6/10
Letdown Odds: 84%

October 19: A Commemoration of Some Sort
That we don’t need to talk about here. I imagine there will be considerable time spent pondering my own mortality and the grim spectre of death. I am sure to be disappointed, but that will have everything to do with me.

Hype Level: 3/10
Letdown Odds: 92% [less with the day, and more with myself. Ah-bah-dum, pssssh!]

944 pages of awesome.

October 24-25: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami and Steve Jobs: A Biography by Walter Isaacson both release.
I’ve been a Murakami fan since way back. I actually can’t remember the first book of his I read, it might have been Norwegian Wood.  I just remember I bought it because I was in the middle of my Japan-o-philia and finding any novels by Japanese authors at the Windsor Chapters guaranteed I was going to buy it.  But I’ve never understood why everyone else seemed to like him so much.  I call it the ‘Tragically Hip Paradox,” where a performer or author achieves baffling mainstream success. Like the Tragically Hip.  I still have no idea why they’re Canada’s National Band.  If any of the guys in the leather-strap MUSKOKA hats can explain to me what the lyrics to ‘Poets‘ means, I’d be delighted to hear it.

Similarly, I find it hard to believe that all the people I see picking up Murakami’s novels are really on board with the talking cats and well sitting and vanishing elephants. I delight in such weirdness, I’m just surprised to see so many other readers are on board with it.  At any rate, 1Q84 looks to be a return to the epic weirdness of earlier works like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Hard-Boiled Wonderland & The End of the World, after the pleasant but muddled After Dark.  And if the recent excerpt in the New Yorker is any indication, cats a’plenty

The Isaacson book is tragically timely, coming as it does on the heels of Jobs’s death, but for the nerd contingent and the Cult of Mac, it’ll be a fascinating look into the man whose demons and passions sculpted how many of us connect with the people in our lives.  Written with Jobs’s cooperation and assembled from over fifty interviews with him, he still never looked to censor what any competitors or employees might have had to say about his behaviour as a businessman and a boss, which could be notoriously surly and totalitarian, but the people who change the world usually are.
Hype Level: 6/10 [Murakami]; 8/10 [Isaacson]
Letdown Odds: 46% [Murakami]; 28% [Isaacson]

Look at that mess, people!  Have you seen so much awesome packed into nine days?!  The only down side is I won’t have any time to enjoy half of it, since I’ll be in an XBox stupor playing Arkham City until Christmas.

The PFG Book Club: The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

It's the end of the world. How do you feel?

After reading Tom Perrotta’s “Little Children,” a couple of years back, I promptly threw a Staff Pick sticker on it and probably hand sold 20 copies of it over the next six months [you owe me a beer, Perrotta].  I have yet to read the book that came after it [The Abstinence Teacher], but his most recent offering shot to the top of my queue based on the uniqueness of its premise.  Well, unique for him anyway.

On October 14, three years before the events of the novel, millions of people disappear from the face of the earth. Poof! Gone. No explanation, they just…aren’t there anymore.  The media calls it the Sudden Departure. Perrotta has always been a writer concerned with how people relate to each other. In The Leftovers, he zeroes in on the residents of Mapleton, a small American city, specifically  the Garvey family.  All of the Garveys react to the disappearances in a different way: son Tom vanishes after dropping out of college and falling in with a self-styled spiritual healer named Holy Wayne; mother Laurie abandons her family and joins the Guilty Remnant, a cult whose members take a vow of silence and wander the streets in all white robes, smoking cigarettes and surveying the other citizens of Mapleton to make sure they never forget the Sudden Departure, and remember it could just as easily happen again.  Father [and Mapleton mayor] Kevin and daughter Jill are left behind, pun intended, to try to figure out how to live in a world where people can disappear on you just as easily when they’re still on the planet.

Perrotta’s strength has always lied with his gift for character.  Even bit players who wander the streets of Mapleton pop off the page, like the Evangelical Minister who can’t believe he wasn’t among the departed after devoting his life to God.  He wanders the streets of Mapleton distributing a tabloid newsletter disparaging the reputations of the missing as adulterers or thieves. And it always feels real, it always makes perfect sense that these people would react that way.  As a reader, you understand why Laurie would walk out on her family to join the Guilty Remnant, you feel how difficult the decision is for her, and empathize with her struggle to reconcile with what the ultimate goals of the group are revealed to be.  If I had one gripe, it’s only that I found Tom’s story to be the weakest narratively.  His road trip across America with one of Holy Wayne’s child brides after his arrest on sex charges is well written, but serves more as a plot lever to get pulled so other things can happen to more interesting characters.

This is no Cormac McCarthy-esque apocalypse, no rotisserie babies here. In his version of the apocalypse, society doesn’t collapse, even if people do.  Perrotta’s one of the soundest craftsmen I’ve ever read [a long-held belief], his sentences flow with such a restrained, natural ease, he never feels the need to intentionally wow a reader. Yet then you come across one of his similes or metaphors that reveal just how good he is.

I’m making a big deal out of this book because I’m afraid it’ll dip under the radar if I don’t. The publishing publicity machine can be such a cyclone of teen dystopia and pop poli-sci that when a book comes out that’s just a great, solidly written, thoughtful and entertaining novel comes out, it can totally be lost in the noise.  Two months, it’s shuffled off the new release tables in the bookstores never to be seen again.  With word that HBO’s developing The Leftovers as a series, that seems less likely, but I still  plan on fighting for this book with everyone I speak to. It’s just that good.  Read it now so you can brag when the show hits.

The PFG Book Club: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I was in need of nutrition, friends.  I’d been blazing through a stack of intellectual candy, enjoyable books by authors like Joe Hill, graphic novels, rereading favourite short stories…fun, but not exactly brainbusting.  I needed vegetables, I needed a big, fat, IMPORTANT book, so I pulled down the copy of Roberto Bolano’s 2666 I’d been keeping for such a moment and cracked the spine.

I used to make a joke that the year I read Atlas Shrugged was the worst summer of my life.  I think Bolano might have taken the torch. At least I finished Ayn Rand.

I’d like to say I made a valiant effort, but I can’t.  I hid from that book for a solid two weeks after Amalfitano started ruminating on geometry and even after I made a concerted attempt towards reading it on the streetcar, in waiting rooms at the doctor’s office, on the toilet, I’d only advanced 25 pages, it was time to go.  It’s sitting on my shelf now, my bookmark still in it, I’m sure if I ever pick it up again, I will have zero problem picking up the plot again, since Bolano didn’t seem to care about one in the first place.  Frankly, I’m still a little worried by my experience with the book, but that’s a topic for another time.

Social skills need not apply.

When I tossed Roberto aside, I needed to a palate cleanser, a literary sorbet.  Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One seemed custom-made for it.  It succeeded in every way in that respect.  Also like a sorbet, once it was removed from the table, I’d already forgotten it and was thinking of the next course. Food metaphors!

Ready Player One is a dystopian novel like you kids all love these days.  Humanity at large, having all but destroyed the planet, spends most of their time in the OASIS, a massive online virtual experience, a sort of World of Warcraft/Second Life hybrid:  players can go on quests for loot and experience points or they can live, work and go to school in the simulation.  Many do both.  When OASIS creator James Halliday dies, his will reveals that ownership of the company that controls the OASIS and Halliday’s immense fortunes will be left to the first person who can find an easter egg he’s hidden somewhere in the simulation.  To find the egg involves finding three keys to pass through three gates.  

Battle lines are quickly drawn between the Egg Hunters [“Gunters”] who are out not only for their own profit, but to keep control of the OASIS from falling into the hands of global telecom conglomerate Innovative Online Industries [nicknamed “The Sixers” because their employees’ avatars don’t have names, just six-digit numbers that start with 6], who wants to control the OASIS so they can properly monetize it, since Halliday demanded the simulation be free to access.  

The catch, because there had to be one:  the keys and gates leading to the egg are all hidden behind puzzles tied to Halliday’s greatest love — the pop culture of the 1980s. For five years, no one makes any headway, no names appear on the scoreboard that emerges on Halliday’s website after his death.  Until a poverty-stricken, third level high school student named Wade Watts [aka ‘Parzival’] finds the first key and the chase is on.  Gunter and Sixer alike immerse themselves in every facet of 80’s culture, analyzing every line of ‘Anorak’s Almanac,’ a collection of Halliday’s rambling essays on pop culture, named after his OASIS avatar.

And this is where Ready Player One shines.  The players looking for the egg become as obssessed with late 20th Century geekery as Halliday was. References fly throughout the novel: movies like Ladyhawke, WarGames and Ghostbusters; the music of Rush and Duran Duran; tabletop Dungeons & Dragons; text-based computer games like Zork; Japanese giant robot shows of the 1970s, Cline keeps all his geek bases covered.  Coming across a reference to one of your own personal beloved relics [for me it was Cowboy Bebop] is like getting a knowing wink from the author himself, and makes reading the book a pleasure.

Sadly, not much else about the book inspires similar levels of excitement.  It would be unfair to say the characters are paper thin, since most of them end up having at least one feature that keeps them from being completely cardboard.  The dialogue is downright dreadful at times: an early scene between Parzival, his best friend Aech and a rival gunter read like it was written by someone who watched hours of after-school specials to try and approximate how the kids would talk.  Action sequences frequently suffer from clumsy prose. To wit, this description of a narrow escape:

As my ship blasted skyward, I began to take heavy fire from several directions. But I was lucky. My ship was fast, and my shields were top-of-the-line, so they managed to hold up long enough for me to reach orbit.

Well that’s good.

I’m being mean now, and I don’t want to give the impression that the book isn’t worth reading, because it absolutely is.  But when I see headlines heralding it as the best science-fiction novel someone’s read in a decade?! Hooker, is you serious?! It’s a fun trifle, but it ain’t the best anything anyone’s read in a decade.  And frankly, that sort of hype is doing the book a disservice, because it doesn’t live up to it.  It can’t, and it’s not fair to expect it to. 

If you remember coding in BASIC and LOGO, if you ever played an Intellivision, if you know what a Kikaider is, you’ll find a lot to enjoy about the book, just don’t let the hyperbole of other reviewers gas you up too much.  Ready Player One was the fun, breezy read I needed it to be, and not much else.

The PFG Book Club: Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman

It’s a strange process, the zigs and zags that can make a reader pick up a book.  Case in point:  a recent story in The New Yorker name-checked a book called ‘The Art of Political Murder’ by Francisco Goldman.  So I recognized the name when I spotted the book on one of the new release table in the store.  The jacket description was the money shot for me.

‘Say Her Name,’ while classified as a novel and using literary techniques, tells the true story of Francisco Goldman’s courtship and marriage to the much younger essayist Aura Estrada, and her accidental drowning death in 2007 while vacationing in Mexico, an accident Estrada’s mother and uncle wholly blame Goldman for.  So not only must Goldman contend with the depths of his own loss, but the with the guilt from his in-laws’ hatred.

Confession time, friends:  I love dead spouse stories.  While I typically vomit at the trauma-porn stylings of Cathy Glass or Dave Pelzer, something about widows and widowers always draw me in.  I don’t know what it is, maybe I’m trying to prepare for the worst, but I’ll always give them a read, from Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking to Rob Sheffield’s Love is a Mixtape.  The form would seem to dictate the author take one of two approaches: testify their own love for the deceased, or convince the reader to love them as much as the writer did.  The latter approach rarely works, which is unfortunately the one Goldman takes.

His love for Estrada cannot be argued; it is clear how much she meant to him, how essential she was/is in his life. And if the book were about 150 pages shorter, it could have been perfect, but Goldman wants to recreate her, to make me and you and everyone who reads the book love him as much as he does, and does her a great disservice in the process.

He makes her into an irritating manic pixie dream girl. Goldman wants us to find Estrada’s insecurities over her developing writing career endearing, but I found it hard to connect with the hardships of a woman who not only studies her PhD at Columbia, but starts MFA studies at another institution and gets to flit between Mexico and Brooklyn. Well, poor her.  Goldman also wants us to be charmed by her eccentricities, the way she mocks his age, the jeans-under-dress fashion decisions, the Hello Kitty toaster…. perhaps I’m just a soulless asshole [distinct possibility], but the portrait Goldman paints of Estrada seems eerily similar to all the post-grad English majors I’ve ever known, who’ve had their heads pushed completely up their own asses by the isolation of academic life. It’s not anyone I would choose to spend any time with at this stage in my life.

And it’s unfortunate, because Goldman does offer a moving portrayal of his grief, and the difficulty of battling with his mother-in-law on everything from evicting him from an apartment in Mexico, to her withholding Estrada’s remains from Goldman. I was particularly moved by his descriptions of using Aura’s toiletries, his reluctance to use her shampoo, of eroding what’s left behind of her, of his fascination by the grooves her fingers left in her jar of body scrub, these are all truly touching.

But ultimately, it’s not enough to save the book.  What could have been an incredibly powerful essay or shorter work sags and bloats as a 320 page novelized recollection.  If Goldman had kept Estrada more to himself, the book would have succeeded for me.  Instead, I was slogging through the last half of the book, waiting for her to die, and ashamed of myself for wishing it.

The PFG Book Club: Please Look After Mom

This is not the sort of book I read, and I’d be lying if I said the Korean name on the cover didn’t play a part in getting me to crack the spine; I tend to give passes to stories I think are lame when they come from Asian countries, it’s just where my own cultural preferences lie.  Even still the story, about a family dealing with the disappearance of their mother in a Seoul subway station, would normally have been a little too ‘old lady book club’ for me.  But one detail of the plot, a minor point highlighted on the jacket description, pulled me in:  as the family gathers to make missing person flyers to distribute, the missing mother’s children realize they have no recent photos of her.  How heartbreaking is that?

So that little detail got me in the door, since so much of my own [never finished] creative work is concerned with our inability to ever really know another person, and whether that deficiency is really a deficiency at all, or instead an impossible standard we’ve all been convinced to aspire to?  PLAM deals with these concerns by the shovelful, as the other family members look back on their relationship with their mother/wife, re-examining shared moments under the colored light cast by her absence.

Shin’s big gamble with the book is her narrative technique, primarily telling the story through second-person voice [when your mother disappeared, you stood outside the station and handed out flyers with your brother and his wife]. It’s a risky move, creative writing teachers usually brandish flaming swords to discourage students from using due to the difficulty in maintaining consistency, but Shin keeps it engaging about 75 per cent of the time.

But 75 per cent is not 100 per cent [I rock math!] and unfortunately the book suffers from its shifting perspectives.  Similar to Egan’s ‘Visit From the Goon Squad,’ the problem with the shifting voices is if you like one narrator, you might not ever hear them again.  This isn’t as much of a deficiency in PLAM as in ‘Goon Squad,’ only because none of the narrators are that exceptional: I probably preferred the writer daughter to the oldest son, but neither of them are exactly vivd or colorful, a fact I might attribute to the somewhat flat prose of Asian authors when translated to English.

PLAM isn’t a bad book, by any means, but I think it might have more to say about the mother/daughter relationship than the mother/son.  Ultimately, it’s a book about the moment when children start to see their parents as individuals, something other than ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad.’  It’s a story worth telling, but I think it would have resonated better with me in a story written by an native English speaker. There were many times, moments related to Korean holidays or family memorial altars, where the significance just whooshed past my head, and despite it’s book club-friendly subject matter, I can see it being a hard sell to those members of my clientele.  The prose lacks the florid prose that typically fills such books.  And that’s a shame, since I think there’s a lot that crowd could get out of it, but they’re a stubborn bunch in my experience.

All in all, the book’s a fine introduction to a new voice from a place we don’t hear very much from in North America, and the push the book seems to be getting would suggest Kyung-Sook Shin is an author we’ll be hearing from for a few more books yet.

On Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!

Much less fun than image suggests.

Some books arrive in a hurricane of hype, and once you read it, you understand why. Other books arrive in a similar tsunami and you either have to concede that the book’s unworthy of such praise, or acknowledge that you just might not be smart enough.

Franzen’s Freedom is the former type. Karen Russell’s Swamplandia! is decidedly in the latter camp, I just can’t figure out which reason why. A promising premise ultimately crumbled for me under the weight of overwriting and a frustrating narrator [SPOILERS AHEAD].


Male Stupidity, and Other Stories

The Thing That Should Not Be

I’ve been meaning to take opinions on this for a while.

Pictured at right are my bookshelves. Until recently, the titles were spined alphabetically, with occasional diversions for nonfiction or art books.  This was long a point of contention for my Lady, who deemed it, ‘Too much to look at,’ a sentiment that didn’t, and still doesn’t, make much sense to me.

So a couple of weeks ago, I let her have her way, reorganizing and displaying the books in a fashion that suited her fancy, and that’s what she decided on.

Now, she has pointed out that we own these books, we are not trying to sell them, so they don’t need to adhere to retail standards, and I acknowledge that.  It does not change the fact that this goes against everything I believe in media organization.  I know it gives us more space, which allows for the addition of more books, and this is never bad.  It allows us to display photographs, which is something I’m pleased we’re finally remedying, I know all these things.  I also know I spent five minutes trying to find a short story collection by Charles Baxter today because I didn’t know where in the ‘short story area’ it had worked itself to.

What say you?  Do you prefer your media meticulously alphabetized, Rob Gordon-like? Or are you taken by my Lady’s more free-flowing, intuitive system?

Finally, my linkfarming bears crops!

Nice to see I’m not the only person who takes issue with the memoir boom [certainly a problematic quibble for a blogger to have]: The New York Times bemoans the age of oversharing and offers four maxims to remedy it.

Start the clock now: Murakami’s new novel IQ84 will be out in one thousand page volume on October 25.  Oh dear God, yes.

Is writing the cure for anxiety, or its cause? The New Yorker investigates.

The Literary SMH of the Week award goes to Yann Martel, who after four years will stop sending books to Canadian PM Stephen Harper in an attempt to further engage Harper in the arts. Martel says he wants to focus on his own affairs. Which, funny enough, is my main reason for not reading Beatrice & Virgil. *ba-dum, psssh*

That’s as good a note as any to go to bed on.