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whole foods1Austin, Texas: June 19, 2017 -- In a surprise move today, Whole Foods and Amazon announced the takeover of LitLovers.

The acquisition came only days after the organic food chain was bought by Amazon.

"LitLovers fits perfectly in our shopping cart," said Biff Jezos, founder and head of Amazon. "After buying The Washington Post, then Whole Foods, it makes strategic sense." 

Wall Street positively crowed. "It's the ideal combination of vertical integration and economies of scale," said Janie Diamond, head of P.J. Morgan.

When asked if it was a friendly or hostile takeover, Molly Lundquist of LitLovers said, "Biff Jeszos and I are great friends. We both know what its like to start your own business. Besides, there's nothing hostile about $3.5 billion in the bank."

Alongside books, LitLovers will be adding a new line of pre-cut fruits and vegetables. "We've known for a long time that reading leads to weight gain," Ms. Lundquist said. "I've got some first hand knowledge of that."

"Now we're offering a chance to replace those bags of chips and pints of ice cream with healthy foods. It's a winning synergy."


Sarabelle Korteks, special to City Examiner
and LitLovers




goth gothic1aWhat's an ancient German tribe have in common with medieval church architecture?

And what do flying buttresses have to do with horror fiction?

Finally, what's any of it got to do with black lipstick and body piercing?

Goth. Gothic. What do those terms mean, and how are they related? So let's find out.

The 1st piece of the puzzle starts with the GOTHS, a Germanic tribe mentioned by the Greeks way back in the 4th century B.C. We know them, of course, as the group that sacked Rome 700 years later, in 410 A.D.

For the 2nd clue, skip ahead to the 11th and 12th centuries, long after the fall of Rome, when a new form of architecture — featuring pointed arches, vaulted ceilings, and flying buttresses — sprung up in Western Europe. That design led to the great medieval castles and cathedrals.

goth gothic1bAlthough today we refer to the style as GOTHIC, at the time it was called "French Work" because of its origin in France.

But now jump to 1453 and the fall of the eastern remnant of the Roman Empire to the Ottomans. Driven out by the collapse of Constantinople, Greek scholars fled to the West, carrying with them the writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans.

Widely read throughout Europe, the classical writings were a revelation, sparking a rebirth — which we now call the Renaissance — in all branches of culture, including architecture. The classical Greco-Roman style, with its columns and domes and elegant proportions, became the fashion.

What about those glorious cathedrals and castles? Not so glorious. Seen as old and fusty, they came to be associated with a dark, barbarous past. From "barbarous" it was a short leap in imagination and linguistics to the "barbarians" who destroyed the classical world of Rome — the Goths. So that's how we got to GOTHIC architecture.

goth gothic2The 3rd clue takes us to 1764, when Horace Walpole published The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story. The novel — set in a dark, foreboding castle, complete with dungeons, secret pathways, mysterious supernatural elements, and a damsel in distress — was wildly successful, spawning an all new horror genre.

Over the years, similar types of works followed: Frankenstein, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Dracula, Fall of the House of Usher, and Phantom of the Opera are among the best known. All feature dark eerie settings — sinister castles, abbeys, monasteries, or old manses — that brought to mind the heavy, medieval architecture by then known as Gothic. And so we arrive at the GOTHIC novel.

Gradually, the emphasis of Gothic fiction shifted away from the dreary settings to the creatures at the heart of the stories — monsters, ghosts, ghouls, and vampires — or to the dark, brooding, sometimes villainous, human characters.

The 4th and final piece of the puzzle came in 1979, the year the post-punk band Bauhaus released "Bela Lugoi's Dead." The song refers to the 1931 film Dracula and its Hungarian star, Bela Lugosi. Bauhaus and other post-punk bands are credited with inspiring an underground cultural aesthetic — black clothing, nails, lips, and eyeliner — reminiscent of Gothic fiction. It's GOTH, man.

So here we are: we've gone from the GOTHS to GOTHIC to GOTHIC to GOTH. And it took only 2,300 years.

NEXT UP? We'll talk about the Gothic novel in the 21st Century. Stay tuned.




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FICTION IS A MAGIC TRICK of sorts. But at its best it doesn’t just conjure up an imaginary world; it makes the real one disappear, it makes the author disappear. Only a book can do this — let you lose yourself so completely. So, if you can, forget about everything else. Just be there with the book.

Jami Attenberg, Author of All Grown Up
Interview, NY Times Book Review, March 26, 2017

And in the other corner . . .

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A GREAT OBSTACLE to good education is the inordinate passion prevalent for novels, and the time lost in that reading which should be instructively employed. When this poison infects the mind, …[t]he result is a bloated imagination, sickly judgment and disgust towards all the real businesses of life.

Thomas Jefferson 
Letter to Nathaniel Burwell, March 14, 1818

 

 

sad books3New York, NY: If you like your books upbeat, you're in luck. After contentious debate within the ranks, American publishers say they will no longer publish depressing books.

"Given current anxieties over everything from global politics to the migratory Texas fire ant, we cannot pile more misery on our readership," said C.P. Snow, C.E.O. of the A.P.A.

Authors disagree. "We need our readers to feel miserable now more than ever," author Ann Patchup said.

"They need to learn empathy, and the only way is by subjecting them to thoroughly depressing fiction," she added. "Personally, I promise to do more for the effort."

Ms. Patchup was joined in her remarks by fellow author, Filup Roth. "Suffering brings enlightenment," he intoned. "I generally go for sex in my books, but suffering gets you there, too."

Authors, however, may be bucking the wishes of their most ardent fans. While on book tour, many find themselves confronted by angry readers, waving books and demanding an end to the crush of dreary novels that have recently crowded the market.

Even reviewers, usually strong proponents of bleak literature, have joined the nay-sayers. Said Shelley Byron of The Daily News, "I've run out of words for sad—you've got dreary, dark, depressing, doleful, dismal—I've used them all. Pretty soon all you're left with is 'down-in the dumps.'"

The online community has weighed in, as well. Molly Lundquist of LitLovers asked, "Can you think of any other consumer product specifically designed to make its users miserable? Other than treadmills, of course not."


Fronta Loeb, special to City Examiner and LitLovers.



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Have you noticed
the number of absent mothers at the heart of new novels lately? So far I count SEVEN—in the first quarter of this year alone—and surely there are more.

1/10  The Sleepwalker
1/31 I Liked My Life
1/ 7 Swimming Lessons
1/ 7 Universal Harvester
3/ 7 Rabbit Cake
3/ 7 Close Enough to Touch
3/28 Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

Then there are last year's books, as well as those over the past several years—most famously, Where'd You Go, Bernadette. We can even go back to the early-aughts.

The missing mothers in these stories take off…or wander off…or die…or are killed…or kill themselves. Sometimes it happens before the novel opens, sometimes within the pages.

Whenever or however they disappear, fictional moms leave heartbreak and loneliness in their wake—a grief so profound it shapes a character's motivations and actions throughout the novel.

It is an age-old literary trope, which authors use to set their protagonists on the path of the Hero's Journey—a quest for self-discovery, belonging, and self-acceptance.

One of the best missing mother novels? Dickens' David Copperfield—the mother of all missing mother stories.

By the way...I've written on a this subject a number of years ago. See Lost Mothers—Why authors bump off moms.

reinvent novelRachel Cusk, wants to reinvent the novel, at least according to the New York Times Book Review.* Just writing that makes me break into a sweat. Why do we have to reinvent the novel?

Okay, I get it. It's not unlike composers wondering where to take symphonic music after Beethoven. Ludwig pretty much said it all.

Poor Johannes Brahms: when folks heard his first symphony, they went, "OMG...it's Beethoven's 10th!" Or so the story goes.

After 200+ years of the novel as art form, it's understandable that authors might want to try something different.

Perhaps you've noticed the trend toward SHIFTING POINTS OF VIEW, different characters taking turns at the helm…

. . . surely you've noticed the frequent use of SHIFTING TIME FRAMES, the lack of straightforward chronology…

. . . or maybe you've noticed the use of ALTERNATIVE TEXTS: news clips, diary entries, handwritten letters, scholarly papers, emails, even PowerPoint…

. . . how about the use of ALTERNATE REALITIES?


Sometimes it's hard
to tell exactly where you are...or what character you're following—one of the criticisms leveled at Paul Auster's otherwise highly touted new book 4321. Other times, all this narrative disruption can make it hard to engage with the characters.

Yet we know people see and experience life differently. And that is precisely what the new fiction is trying to get at—to point out that the human condition isn't monolithic, that there is more than one way of seeing a particular event.

"Roshoman effect" — it even has a name: from the 1950 Japenese movie by Akira Kurosawa. The film is considered a classic because of its novel use of varied perspectives — "novel" 70 years ago, not so much now. Anyway, Faulkner got there 20 years before Kurosawa did with As I Lay Dying. And Joyce got there even earlier with Ulysses (a book only academics can read).

Still, don't you miss the comfort of a single narrator? I do. I have a yen for that 19th-century style of writing in which someone steps onto your front porch, claims a seat, and tells you a grand story.

I hate being old-fashioned and curmudgeonly. But I'm weary of the fact that EVERY new book I pick up messes with point of view and chronology. Friends, I just had to get that off my chest.

* New York Times Book Review, January 29, 2017, cover review of Rachel Cusk's Transit.



criminal librarians3Ha! And you thought librarians were goody-two-shoes. Well, here's a TRUE CRIME story that'll make your toes curl.

The AP reported that the county library in Sorrento, Florida, was caught red-handed in a devilishly clever SCAM. Over the course of nine months some 2,000 books had been checked out by a fake card holder.

Now THAT is registration fraud; it's the real thing. But get this: the books were always returned. Within an hour. Undamaged.

The Big Reader was Chuck Finley, except Chuck Finley doesn't exist (at least with an East Lake Library card). It turns out two librarians had dummied up an ID and used it to check out books, dozens at a time—everything from John Steinbeck's Cannery Row to Why Do My Ears Pop, a children's book by Ann Fullick.

It was all for a good cause—to save them from the chopping block because books that haven't been checked out for a period of time are removed from the county system. So the two librarians took it upon themselves to save as many as they could.

Until someone ratted them out. What a kill joy.

But who's the bad guy here—the fink or the perps? Bleed though our hearts may, it's hard to say. With some 300,000 titles published a year by major U.S. houses (50,000+ for fiction alone), libraries face a serious shortage of space. Budgets aren't the only thing being squeezed…so are books on shelves.

Still, how can we NOT relate to these two benighted—or beknighted—souls, so enamored of books that they can't bear to have them tossed in the dust bin of history? (Btw, I've no idea what's become of our librarians—to say nothing of all the BOOKS.)

A humorous yet sad tale.


moon-lib-book-bundles2So imagine: you're walking into one of your local library branches, as I was recently, and you find right in front of you a sumptuous table, positively laden with tote bags—each of them charmingly tagged by theme and filled with used books.

For $10 any Book Bundle could be yours. Patrons get the books (from 4 to 6), AND they get the tote bag. It's enchanting.


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Government Clamps Down on Long Book Titles
ryan-schumer


Charges of Blatant Overreach

Dec. 12, 2016: Washington, DC— In a rare show of bi-partisanship, Congress cried foul today when the Department of Homeland Security moved to put an end to excessively long book titles.

"It's a case of blatant government overreach," said Ron Paul Ryan, House Speaker. In a joint press conference held in the Capitol Rotunda, Shuck Chumer, Senate Minority Leader, concurred.

Vulnerable to hacking
But security officials say they worry that lengthy titles "could possibly" contain encrypted U.S. intelligence messages, making them vulnerable to its enemies.

"We know for a fact that Russia has the capability of hacking into these things and gaining access to the nation's top secrets," said F.B.I. Director Robert Combover.

Disturbing trend
"Some titles are 30 words in length—and they're getting longer by the year," he said. "It's a disturbing trend, and no one knows what's behind it."

Mr. Combover gave as an example Margot Lee Shetterly's Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of The Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped America Whoop the Soviet's Ass and Win the Space Race All the While Raising Their Children and Struggling Against Racism and the Man.

Buried code
"We have reason to believe there's a piece of code buried in that title," he said.

"Why else would anyone write like that?"

Other examples include the new biography by Julia Baird—Victoria: The Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Became Queen at Eighteen, Loved Sex, Had Nine Children and a Fussy Husband, Yet Still Found Time to Rule Over a Vast (and Yet to Crumble) World Empire.

Confusing
Lengthy titles have dismayed those in the book business, though for different reasons.

"Long titles confuse young people. They read the titles and think they've read the book," said Steve Holt of Steve Holt, Steve Holt, Inc.

"Titles are longer than Twitter posts," he said, "and that's a problem."



Fronta Loeb, special to The Daily News and LitLovers.

girl with ladderScroll down to our previous post about the hundreds of Girl Titles in the publishing world. Book after book with "girl" in the title.

I griped about the use of the "g" word as a throw-back to the bad old days when women were easily dismissed and occupied lower rungs on the cultural ladder.

But, hey! Girl Titles sell books—The Girl in the Dragon Tattoo series started it all in 2005. Then came Gone Girl and Girl on the Train.

Now it's a trend, and publishers want in on it—so they're busy RENAMING OLD TITLES, hoping to breathe new life into older books. Take a look ...


New Girly-Girl Titles
For Old Books


Remarkable Creatures
by Tracy Chevalier
Girls Who Dug Rocks

Little Women
by Louisa May Alcott
Little Girls

The Age of Innocence
by Edith Wharton
Girls Wearing Corsets

My Beloved World
by Sonia Sotomayor
The Girl Who Made It to the Supreme Court

Where'd You Go Bernadette
by Maria Semple
The Girl Who Left Her Daughter (But Kept in Touch)

Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins
The Girl Who Runs with Arrows and Other Sharp Objects

Wild
by Cheryl Strayed
The Girl Who Went for a Walk and Then Felt Better

Lean In
by Sheryl Sandberg
The Girl Who Kicked Corporate Butt

Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
The Girl with Prejudice & the Man with Pride, or Vice Versa

Obsessive Genius: The Inner Life of Marie Curie
by Barbara Goldsmith
Hey, Girl—You're the Bomb

I Am Malala
by Malala Yousafzai
The Girl Who'd Better Win the Nobel Prize

The Invention of Wings
by Sue Monk Kid
The Girl Who Owned a Slave Who Was Also a Girl

Flight Behavior
by Barbara Kingsolver
Climate Change Girl

The Signature of All Things
by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Girl Who Watched Fungus Grow and Became Famous

The Woman in Cabin 10
by Ruth Ware
The Girl in Cabin 10



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