Thursday, August 25, 2011

#297. Reading List: John Adams - Party of One


Chip Kidd's The Learners turned out to be surprisingly good, even if it did read like a movie that might've been released at the time the book was set. I made a lot of enemies in college writing classes identitying the source of their writing styles, which invariably had more to do with screen material than the printed page...

Anyway, next on the Reading List: John Adams: Party of One by James Grant, not one of the better-known Adams biographies, but one of the happy discoveries in the Borders bargain section from some years ago (of course, every Borders store is now a bargain section, given the ongoing liquidation process). I will fully admit that I've found more satisfaction in bargain hunting at Barnes & Noble than I did at Borders, where I've worked for the past five years. B&N used to have a better literature section, but apparently that was an easy thing to slim down in recent years (will only hurt you in the long run, Barnes, baby). Borders has better supported the late Roberto Bolano (author of the great 2666), which is a distinction I am quite proud of, not to mention Javier Marias (the Your Face Tomorrow trilogy), though not quite to the same degree. Anyway, Adams has been a favorite of mine since I started learning more about him in college, including his defense of the guilty British party in the "Boston Massacre." I've taken to reading these books on my long walks to work, which has been working surprisingly well.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

#296. Reading List: The Learners


The Reading List continues:

The Learners by Chip Kidd. Honestly, I don't know about this one. The acclaimed graphic designer is obviously not as well known as a writer, but this is his second book. At the time I bought it, I almost picked up his first book, Cheese Monkeys. Now I'm kind of glad I didn't, because what I've read so far is fairly amateurish, at least in style. I have faith it'll get better. We'll see.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, meanwhile, really was a pleasure to read. Seth Grahame-Smith really seems to have understood Austen's social commentary (which is one of the reasons I'll trust this mash-up, but not the legions that followed), the prejudices, as it were, of high society that were not only ridiculous, but hard to navigate for young lovers. The zombies are slipped in as just another layer of how these uppercrusters compete, with the Bennets "only" receiving their formal training in China, rather than Japan, where of course one would have preferred to go, given adequate funds. Otehr than the infrequent zombie mayhem, though, it's pretty much exactly Austen's original book, which I read in college, but that was maybe a decade ago at this point, so I would probably have to read it again today to see just how much fiddling Grahame-Smith actually did. I stand by my assertion that at least this mash-up was brilliant, a suspicion I've held since i first saw it (before *ahem* the craze began).

My idea for a mash-up? The Great Gatsby and Gargoyles. Feel free to pay me to do it.

Monday, August 01, 2011

#295. Reading List: Pride & Prejudice & Zombies


Next on the Reading List:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, the first of a series of literary mash-ups that might be one of the cleverest ways modern publishing has found to trick readers into rediscovering the classics. Where teachers and reading guides and websites can certainly tell you what these books originally accomplished, representing them in new and interesting ways is a step in expanding the current horizons of those who can't help but giggle at the otherwise absurd proposition set before them. That is to say, aside from the fact that P&P&Z quickly led to an avalanche of curiously derivative knockoffs, thereby potentially weakening its impact, there's much to say about the unexpected twist our increasingly irreverent world has now afforded jaded readers, like Mystery Science Theater 3000 but with a less cynical outlook (seriously, this show became popular by filming wisecracks to old movies?).

In other other words, it's a fun diversion at the very least, and an odd twist on the latest trend in the List.

Speaking of which, Looking Backward was certainly interesting to a point, but Bellamy was obviously not much of a literary talent. He spends most of the book cataloguing in precise detail a future reality he doesn't in the end explore all that much. It's like watching C-SPAN, I guess, or a talking head documentary, for those who can't stand watching just watching people talk. There's a good reason this book was basically forgotten. It had good intentions, but even its ideas of good ideas sound ridiculous, even a decade after the year it became clear Bellamy's predictions - or hopes - obviously didn't come true. Did anyone seriously order a sequel to the Gilded Age? If anything, someone could write a literary mash-up of this one, make it suck less, and hopefully inspire everyone all over again...


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