Thursday, October 28, 2010

Creepy real estate doesn't bring in the cash that it used to, apparently.

The house that inspired Jay Anson's "nonfiction" book The Amityville Horror: A True Story has once again been sold, this time for $200,000 less than its asking price of 1.15 million dollars. I'm not sure why anyone would be leaping to buy this horror icon (which, admittedly, now looks a lot like any other upscale Colonial) but maybe the constant gawking and the ghost-hunting geeks lurking in the bushes won't upset the new owners.

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The future of publishing?

NPR has an article up on their "All Tech Considered" site about sci-fi writer Cory Doctorow's very 21st-century take on self-publishing. Doctorow's latest book, a collection of short stories called With a Little Help, is being published (and edited!) via a variety of cobbled-together online options. Fans can read a free e-book, but they can also buy print-on-demand paper copies, they can donate directly to the author, or they can buy one of the 250 hand-sewn, limited-edition hardcovers costing $275 apiece.

Doctorow expects this experiment will net him between $70,000 and $80,000, but he's an best-selling author with a pre-established—and presumably tech-minded—audience. Something tells me this do-it-yourself approach isn't going to be catching on with other, less well-known authors just yet.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Good call, guys.

Hey, all right: according to the Associated Press, the Virginia elementary school textbook we wrote about last week that featured the inaccurate claim that thousands of black troops fought for the Confederacy will be corrected and reprinted early next year. (The publisher is offering white stickers to cover the incorrect sentence in the meanwhile.) This is particularly good news, because early information about this gaffe suggested that Virgina education officials were planning to hang onto the book, but "caution [school districts] against teaching the passage".

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Smelly and useful

Behold, dear readers, ice cream-shaped and -scented bookmarks, available at ShanaLogic:

I don't know about that $27 price tag, but the idea is... well, cute-adjacent.

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Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice: Annotation Smackdown!

A few months ago, I wrote a short post about DK Publishing's "Illustrated Classics" edition of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, calling it "not the annotated Pride and Prejudice of my dreams", but praising it for its information, art direction, and extremely reasonable price. (Powell's Books was selling it for $6.98.) Since that time, Belknap/Harvard University Press has published what does appear—at least at first glance—to be the P&P of my dreams, so today we'll be doing a little comparison shopping.

Harvard's newly-released Pride and Prejudice: An Annotated Edition was edited by Patricia Meyer Spacks, an English professor at the University of Virginia, and features a lengthy introductory essay, notes on historical context, and definitions of terms likely to be unfamiliar to modern readers. The book itself is oversized and beautiful, with a number of full-color historical illustrations. Unfortunately, it costs a staggering $35—and would have been improved by further editing.

Both editions contain inaccuracies. The DK version's note on "Courtship and Marriage" states that Mr. Collins asks Mr. Bennet's permission before proposing to Elizabeth, indicating a "slavish respect for social norms". There is little support for this in the text—while Mr. Collins has certainly discussed his plans with Mrs. Bennet ("...allow me to assure you that I have your respected mother's permission for this address"), Elizabeth's father seems surprised (and amused) by his intentions. The Harvard edition contains some fairly basic biographical errors: Jane Austen was one of eight children, not seven, and had six brothers rather than five. (Her older brother George, who may have been deaf or developmentally delayed, didn't live with the family.) The editions also periodically contradict each other. DK defines white soup as a "warming alcoholic drink, generally served at balls, made from eggs, meat stock, and sweetened wine", while Ms. Spacks describes it as "an elaborate soup based on veal stock, cream, and almonds". (The internet seems split between the two, so I'll settle for merely pointing out that they both sound revolting.)

As I am unable to recommend either book without reservations, I'm suggesting readers shop according to their intended use. If you're a hardcore Pride and Prejudice fan looking for an informative and coffee-table-worthy version of your favorite book, shell out for the Harvard edition. If you're a student in need of a useful, easy-to-handle, highly affordable copy, stick with DK Publishing. If you have the cash, buy 'em both—they're both great (if flawed), and buying them both will encourage publishers that Austen's other books need the full-fledged annotation treatment, too.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Literary casting round-up: sci-fi, fantasy, and The Great Gatsby

Lots of book-to-movie casting news coming out recently:

Leonardo DiCaprio has apparently read for the role of Jay Gatsby in the still-up-in-the-air adaptation of The Great Gatsby.

Martin Freeman (best known for his role in the British version of The Office)is set to star as Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit.

There are rumors that Colin Farrell will be starring in the remake of Total Recall, the (terrible) 1990 movie based on Philip K. Dick's story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.

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Decoratin' for the holidays

At $24 per four-foot-long strand, I'm not quite sure what one would do with this Retro Art Deco Bibliophile Garland, but I like it. Maybe if you had a very small, very oddly shaped Christmas tree...?

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Let this DIE, PLEASE.

Why, look at this! Harlequin Books (never famed for their originality) are leaping on the "Jane Austen + supernatural beings" wagon...

...a mere two years after the rest of the publishing world.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

So very, very wrong

According to the Washington Post,
"A textbook distributed to Virginia fourth-graders says that thousands of African Americans fought for the South during the Civil War--a claim rejected by most historians but often made by groups seeking to play down slavery's role as a cause of the conflict."
The author of the textbook, Joy Masoff, is a professional writer rather than a trained historian, and says she discovered this information via "Internet research". While I was naturally disturbed by this story, I was even MORE disturbed by the discovery that apparently school textbooks like this one are written by one person. This never occurred to me: I assumed textbooks were written by committee, thereby ensuring that more than one author's perspective was included.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

DonorsChoose gets $1 Million (with your help)

In honor of Donors Choose's 10th birthday, Townsend Press is donating $1 million to pay down all book donation requests to below $98. However, for the money to go through, donors like us need to finish paying the rest. Go to their website to donate if you're interested in learning more about supporting this worthy cause!

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

America's Test Kitchen tightens its belt

If you're a fan of America's Test Kitchen's line of cookbooks, they've recently released their third loose-leaf, binder-style epic. Behold:

The Healthy Family Cookbook's 800 recipes feature smaller portion sizes, fresh ingredients, and health-conscious cooking methods. Unfortunately, this shift in focus makes the ATK staff's legendary finickiness even more pronounced—their healthy chocolate chip cookie recipe, for example, requires both browning butter and carefully arranging chocolate chips atop each lump of dough.

I don't know about you, but I'd rather just eat fewer chocolate chip cookies.


RIP, comic book guy

In a horrible bit of comics news, New York police say a 77-year-old man named Homer Marciniak died of a heart attack after being beaten by thieves who had broken into his home to steal his valuable comic book collection.

Our sympathy to his family, and (not to be flippant) we hope that comic book collection was found safe and returned to Mr. Marciniak's family.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Ah, the pearl-clutching shockers of bygone generations...

The fine people at Entertainment Weekly recently put together a list of 24 Classic "Steamy" Books. The list is worth clicking through for the vintage covers alone, but some of the quotes are great, too. Wordcandy staffer Megan was named after the heroine of Steamy Book #15, Colleen McCullough's The Thorn Birds, which she's never read. (Neither have I, but my mother tells me it was my great-grandmother's favorite book, and the Wikipedia plot summary makes it look horrendously bad.) Anyway, Meg is currently on vacation, but I'm looking forward to showing her the featured McCullough quote the minute she gets back:
"Not, not tonight. On my mouth, Ralph! Kiss my mouth as if we were lovers!"

"Mary, I'm a priest! I can't!"
Heh. Yeah, Meg still hasn't forgiven me for mendaciously assuring her that Kathleen Winsor's 1944 novel Forever Amber (which was inexplicably left off EW's list) was "totally readable", but that's just too good to pass up.

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Britney wants you to READ

Flavorwire has compiled a "quick visual history" of the American Library Association's "Read" posters featuring popular musicians (at the time). I'm unclear as to why Bowie is wearing a letterman's jacket in his shot, and that picture of a patriotic-shirt-wearing Britney Spears clutching the first Harry Potter is just a treasure, but my favorite has to be the blurry glimpse of Sting sporting mom hair and dressed up in what appears to be period garb, reading Frankenstein in front of a castle.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

I'm sure this would brighten up anyone's holiday morning.

If you're a fan of those Worst-Case Scenario books, or you've got a lot of small boys to shop for, check out this deal from the Chronicle Books website: they're offering 25% off and free shipping on their The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Gross Junior Edition*, plus a free jar of slime. What more could you ask for?

*Note that this book includes a list of the "Top Ten Grossest Moments in History". That means it's educational, too!


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Eating like it's 1896

NPR has a great article up about Fannie's Last Supper, the newest book from Chris Kimball, host of PBS's America's Test Kitchen and founder of Cook's Magazine. Kimball apparently spent two years working with his staff on re-creating one epic meal: an insanely elaborate 12-course dinner based on recipes from Fannie Farmer's 1896 book The Boston Cooking School Cook-Book. In addition to the Victorian menu, Kimball's team limited themselves to Victorian cooking technology—all 12 courses were prepared on a 67-inch stove from the 1880s.

I'm a vegetarian, so it's highly unlikely I'll ever be re-creating the (undoubtedly delightful) recipe for "Lemon Jelly Made With Calf's Foot Gelatin"... but if you have any calves' feet lurking in your refrigerator, now's your chance to knock the socks off of any judgmental in-laws!


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Didn't they see King Kong?

Well, well. Further Hobbit movie news: according to the MTV Movies Blog, Peter Jackson's two-part film adaptation of the novel is going to cost a whopping $500 million on top of $100 million in legal fees, making it the most expensive film project ever.

As the post's author points out, Jackson's lower-budget projects have actually been far more profitable than his higher-budget films, so I wonder who authorized these seemingly unlimited funds. Has the global recession skipped New Zealand?

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My feelings on censorship have gone to war with my feelings on common sense.

Oh, man...

A mother of an 11-year-old girl in New Hampshire has asked that Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games be removed from the school's curriculum because of its violent subject matter. The woman sounds more than a little nuts (she wants to "[remove] this filth from the school district"), and I am highly uncomfortable with her comments about "moral lessons", but the biggest thing I took away from this article was stunned disbelief: I can't believe anyone would assign The Hunger Games as required reading for kids that young. Were they trying to get parents into a tizzy?

Look, I enjoyed reading The Hunger Games, and I'm always supportive of books that encourage kids to read for pleasure. But blindly climbing aboard the latest book craze is a lazy way to get kids excited about reading, particularly when there are so many books out there that combine entertainment with educational value. If this teacher was looking for pure readability, what about the Sisters Grimm books, or Jeff Smith's Bone series, or Suzanne Collins's earlier books, the Underland Chronicles? And if they wanted to combine entertainment with a smidgen of education, what about the 39 Clues books or Margaret Peterson Haddix's Missing series... or even Laura Ingalls Wilder? I realize it might be tougher to find class prizes at Hot Topic for these titles, but on the upside I can guarantee they will rile up far fewer crazies.


The more Crusie the merrier

So I decided to swing by and check out the "Upcoming Books" page for Jennifer Crusie (author of our current Featured Book, the excellent Maybe This Time). And while it's possible some of the books on her list won't appear for years, there are several Crusie titles worth getting excited about in the near future, including Trust Me On This, a re-issue of one of her early series romances, and four(!) books in an upcoming mystery series about a ghost writer with the improbable name of Liz Danger. I'm unclear on how the Liz Danger books will work, but seeing as two of them are being released next summer, I don't think we should expect full-length, standalone novels. However, as long as they don't charge me full-length, standalone novel prices, I totally don't care.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Want to smell tomato-soup-roast-beef-and-blueberry-pie fresh?

Of all the candy mentioned in Roald Dahl's novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Violet Beauregarde's full-course-dinner gum has always struck me as the least appealing, but apparently scientists have been hard at work making it a reality. According to the Telegraph, researchers have produced microscopic capsules that will allow timed releases of various flavors. The (non-nutritive) gum capsules could then be...
"...filled with flavouring for tomato soup that would break open on contact with saliva, while tougher capsules would contain the flavour for roast beef that would break open as the gum is chewed. A final flavour for blueberry pie could be packaged in capsules that require vigorous chewing to burst."
I actually feel a little queasy just typing that, but I'm assuming they wouldn't have put all that energy into developing this product if there wasn't a demand for it.

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Singin' in the library

Flavorwire has put together a list of ten music videos (plus one bonus clip) set in bookstores and libraries. Their choices range from Ludacris to Van Halen to She and Him, so you should brace yourself for a wide range of both song choices and librarian behaviors.

[Image credit]

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Thursday, October 07, 2010

The sweet scent of a horror-story victim

Behold, two limited-edition perfumes oils inspired by Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow:

Aren't they cute? I'm not sure I actually want to smell like a spicy pumpkin, but for a mere $12 apiece I'm mildly tempted to find out. You can buy these suckers via The Morbid the Merrier's Etsy shop.

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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Higher and higher

Salon has posted a fascinating (and quite angry) article on the rising price of new e-books. I'm not sure that two e-books costing more than their printed-and-bound equivalents qualifies as a "trend", but I always appreciate it when e-book enthusiasts acknowledge the lost financial opportunities of donating (for the tax break) or selling one's books.

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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

I do like the "Stupidity" title card, though.

Check out the upcoming, gender-swapped movie adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest:

It looks like a music video. And (it must be said) kind of a low-budget music video.


Kate Spade gets literary

If you're very, very wealthy and therefore don't mind dropping $325 on a novelty item, may I suggest these Kate Spade "Book of the Month" clutches? Sadly, they don't come with copies of the actual texts (although wouldn't that be useful?), but they do look pretty awesome, and—for once—the books she's chosen are all books I like!

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Monday, October 04, 2010

I was hoping this trend would be beyond tired by 2012.

Twentieth Century Fox has purchased the film rights for Seth Grahame-Smith's novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. (Grahame-Smith also wrote Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and is therefore the dude I hold responsible for the "classic book/famous person + monster" trend.) Details for the movie are already pouring out: it's due in 2012, it has a budget of $69 million, Grahame-Smith is doing the screenplay adaptation, and Timur Bekmambetov (of Wanted fame) will direct.

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Friday, October 01, 2010

I'm pretty sure this is contradicted by Hogwarts: A History, but...

The students of Hogwarts are embracing modern technology.

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