Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Stranger by Albert Camus

I last read this book in high school, not only to satisfy my curiosity about the author but also because of the song Killing An Arab by The Cure. How cool that the music I was now listening to was also so damned literate! I must be cool, too. That last point is debatable. Should we actually debate it with anyone who knew me then, I'm sure I would be pronounced decidedly not cool. Anyway, let's just say, I was wearing a lot of black turtlenecks (and let's face it, black turtlenecks weren't exactly plentiful in the fine haberdasheries of small town Western Pennsylvania so obviously, I was quite committed), smoking cigarettes, listening to sad music by sad musicians, reading sad books by sad authors and lamenting. Lots of lamenting, as memory serves and the age requires. Plus, the first line of the book,"Mother died today", was right in my sweet spot.

Despite being in my 40's, I remembered the book well and found it much the same--pointlessness celebrated. Sort of like the French New Wave actors like Jean Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon, all black & white and smoking cigarettes and making love and drinking wine and living for today because there is no tomorrow. And the boredom. The main character, Meursault is exquisitely bored with everything--his friends, his job, his mother's recent death and I'm certain that appealed to my teenage self. What's funny is now I find his boredom boring.
The book wasn't boring. It was Meursault's attitude which I found boring in the "goodness, we've done boring to death already, haven't we?"

Oddly, I found The Stranger to be much funnier than I remembered. In fact, I was laughing throughout; laughter I'm unsure was intended by the author and was most certainly lost on me as a sensitive 16 year-old.

However you choose to approach it, The Stranger is a must-read. It was a ground-breaking work from a school of thought that is part of literature and part of history. Camus was a fine writer and was leading a charge that was tremendously influential. If you had to read it for school or haven't read it since your own black turtlenecked days, you are heartily encouraged to pick it up again and spend another jaunty, lighthearted day at the beach with Meursault.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Sherman Alexie and the Kindle Fistfight in Blogosphere

In a May 31, New York Times piece about Book Expo, Sherman Alexie railed against e-readers, in general, and the Amazon Kindle, in particular, calling it "elitist." This naturally caused quite a kerfuffle on many industry blogs and all over Twitter.

The article below by Ed Champion allows Alexie to go into detail and, not surprisingly, he doesn't back down. He raises some good points even though I find parts of his argument rather unrealistic. Still, it's not
like Alexie doesn't give good quote or fails to offer up some thoughtful opinions.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Post book show buzz

Though I wasn't at BookExpoAmerica, the big book industry trade show this year, here are a couple of good articles about the show, the first from Publishers Weekly, giving a heads up on some of the big books for the fall.
From the look of things, I think this is the biggest fall I've seen in a number of years and considering the economy and the state of the book industry, it's a damn good sign. There are books by some big hitters like William Trevor, Margaret Atwood, Barbara Kingsolver and Nicholson Baker. Oh, and some guy named Dan Brown. (Dan Brown? Never heard of him.)

As you might imagine, I'm psyched about the new Sherman Alexie, the long-awaited next book from Audrey Niffenegger, and new novels by Richard Russo and Jonathan Lethem.

This second piece from the Washington Post, is more a look at where things stand right now within the industry. While some say the book biz is as cold as a corpse, I'd say it's closer to tepid. Still, it appears the future is now and the industry might finally be ready to admit it and, more importantly, act on it.