Monday, February 21, 2011

February's Compendium of Literary Links

This month's edition of literary links is a bit eclectic: We'll attempt to debunk the idea that reading is overrated, we'll give you a new reading-related social network to check out, and we just might get you laid. Intrigued? Good! Then, without further ado, here's the cream of the crop from around the literary world this month.

1. Reading Is Overrated — A more accurate headline for this Guardian op/ed piece would be "Famous Quotes About Reading Are Overrated." But the Guardian is nothing if not sensational, right? (Sarcasm oozing from that last sentence.) Still, the article's an interesting read, as the author pokes subtle fun at long-held truisms by such quotable, notable readers as Francis Bacon ("Reading maketh a full man.") and CS Lewis ("We read to know we are not alone."). The author closes by making the fairly obvious assertion that reading isn't always a good thing. And then he admits that his real issue is simply with the overwrought hyperbole with which book lovers defend books. So, don't get all freaked out by the screamer of a headline, as Guardian no doubt is hoping you will. Ironic, no?

2. To Blurb or Not To Blurb — Novelist Bill Morris faced an ethical dilemma. A friend asked him to blurb his new book, and he didn't want to. Certainly, that's about as common in the publishing world as people making fun of James Frey, but in this Millions piece, Morris discussing his thought process, gives a wonderful, comprehensive overview of all things blurb-related, and attempts to explain if he (and publishers) think readers really pick books based on blurbs. This topic is one to which I've given a lot of thought since my own attempt to examine blurbs, and this piece is the best thing I've ever seen written on the topic.

3. 15 Things Kurt Vonnegut Said Better Than Anyone Else Ever Has or Will — I'm sure our friend from #1 who hates book-related exaggeration will take issue with this headline for this collection of Vonnegut quotes, but screw him: The headline's legitimate, in my view. My favorite of the list is "Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God." So it goes. Which is your favorite?

4. 30 Literary Quotes That Just Might Get You Laid — And while we're on the quotes kick, here's a link that made the rounds around Valentine's Day. My favorite this time comes to us from Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask: “Stuff me in a tutu and let’s screen experimental videos all day.” That couldn't not work, right?! My favorite romantic quote of all time, though, comes from Nicole Krauss' The History of Love: "Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering." What's yours?

5. Nurture Your Books — Just what you need, right: Another social networking site! But if you've been by the Ning Book Blogs site recently, you know it's sort of turned into....well, I'll be nice....something a literary book blogger/reader might not be quite interested in anymore. Nurture Your Books is brand new — it grew out of the Bloggers Unite group on Goodreads. And I think this one has potential. And, speaking of Goodreads, I'm making a better effort to keep my page updated, so if you're there, please "friend" me.


  1. Oh goodness! Those 30 Literary Quotes-about the only way I could see them working is if the woman said "Alright! I'll give in if you just stop with these appallingly bad quotes!"

  2. Thanks for all the links. Yes, I agree Ning had turned into something else. It was such a great idea to start with but now it does not have much to offer serious readers. I will be sure to check out Nurture my Books.

  3. Great links! I have never been one to get into book social networking sites, but I'll have to check out the one you list.

  4. Ugh! That Guardian article is atrocious. Ok, I'm biased - I like quotes about reading and books. But even with my bias, I'm willing to accept that SOME of his chosen quotes are overstatement. Then take, for example, the CS Lewis quote ("We read to know we are not alone.") The Guardian author argues that therefore illiterates are alone, but that's not at all what Lewis said. He isn't saying that reading is the only way not to be alone, but that a desire not to be alone is why we read. At least that's how I take it. And that, to me, is the biggest problem with the entire article: one-sentence snippets cannot be quoted with one absolute meaning. They have no context, no background. How can we say absolutely that they are wrong, then?

    Ok, rant over.