Anders Monsen

Lost worlds and ports of call

Month: February 2013 (page 1 of 3)

Comic books and propaganda

Greg Beato at reason has an article on how government turned comic books into propaganda. The campaign against comic books and their subsequent regulation through the comic book code killed off a large number of titles, mostly on hype and scare tactics. The power of comic books was recognized by the government, who ran cartoons and comic strips in the midst of World War II.


Shippey reviews Doctorow’s Homeland

Homeland is Cory Doctorow’s sequel to Little Brother, and book that won the Prometheus Award a few years ago. Tom Shippey at the Wall Street Journal reviews Homeland, which sounds like a mix of dystopian fiction and idealist politics. It’s high on my list of books to read this year, though.

Literary podcasts

The Hays Festival has launched free podcasts with talks by noted literary giants.

In a free weekly podcast which you can subscribe to using iTunes you can listen to some stirring past talks. The first 23 will include writers Seamus Heaney, Don DeLillo, Margaret Atwood, Harold Pinter, Nadime Gordimer and Ted Hughes.

When technology eats your library

I don’t a Kindle, and still read books the old fashioned way. Perhaps this is why, when a bug can destroy your entire eBook library. Some day I will stop buying paper books, and I can turn my selves into kindling, but I’m not quite there yet.

Libertarian fiction site

A site with brief reviews of libertarian-minded novels, grouped by theme. Some great ideas for reading here, with lots of room for additional books.

The Human Front

Learned today that Ken MacLeod’s novella, The Human Front will appear as a paperback on April 1st. The book includes an interview with MacLeod, as well as two essays on his social philosophy. I’m not sure if the interview and essays appeared in his collection from NESFA, Giant Lizards from Another Star, but the novella is there, as well as poems and other stories, essays and much more.

Kipling poems discovered

It’s amazing how scholars are unearthing long lost literary items. In this case it’s 50 poems by Rudyard Kipling (colonial apologist, natch), found while renovating a Manhattan house and elsewhere.

Kipling, like many humans, had his flaws, opinions that changed over time. Once pro-war, he turned bitterly anti-war after the death of his son in 1915.

“His texts have never properly been studied but things are starting to change,” said Pinney. “There is a treasure trove of uncollected, unpublished and unidentified work out there. I discovered another unrecorded item only recently and that sort of thing will keep happening. It is a tremendously exciting time for scholars and for fans of Kipling.”

 A three volume edition of his poems is due to appear in March, the first ever complete edition of his verse.

The Office of Mercy

From NPR, a review of Ariel Djanikian’s debut novel, The Office of Mercy, published on February 21 2013.

The government in question here is America-Five, one of a series of heavily guarded, technologically advanced communities that were founded after a worldwide disaster essentially destroyed most of civilization. America-Five is an attempt at a utopia; its scientists are at work on making humans immortal, and its citizens have only occasional attacks from tribes of people from “the Outside” to fear.

The young Natasha is assigned to work in the Office of Mercy, which is in charge of killing all the Outsiders it can find. Like everyone in America-Five, she’s been taught this is a necessary act of kindness. But when she’s sent Outside on a mission, she meets members of the Pine tribe, and starts to question the humanity of the government’s constant “sweeps.”

Amazon’s description has this fascinating paragraph:

The Office of Mercy is speculative fiction at its best with a deeply imagined, lush world, high-stakes adventure, and romance that will thrill fans of Suzanne Collins, Margaret Atwood, Justin Cronin, and Kazuo Ishiguro.


Zeuglodon review

Zeuglodon is James P. Blaylock’s sort of indirect sequel to his 1984 novel, The Digging Leviathan, published by Subterranean Press in a limited and trade edition. The book is sold out, but if readers are lucky a trade/paperback publisher will pick up the book as a young adult novel and gain Blaylock the audience that the book deserves.

Zeuglodon follows the rich tradition of books by writers like Enid Blyton and her Famous Five books, Arthur Ransome‘s Swallows and Amazons novels, and other tales about kids who experience adventure, not to mention the various books that Blaylock acknowledges ih his brief preface. While The Digging Leviathan included a pair of teenagers in the supporting cast, that book focused mainly on the adult perspective. The narrator in Zeuglodon is young Kathleen Perkins, or Perkins as she generally is called in the book. Though nearly 12 years old, she seems wise for her years, and considers herself a cryptozoologist. Her cousins, Brendan and Perry (though very likely a coincidence, the names threw me for a loop as I kept thinking of the Dead Can Dance co-founder Brendan Perry throughout the novel), are a year younger and older, respectively.

Officially parent-less, they live with an uncle (Hedgepeth) who provides them with a unique education and lets them roam more or less freely. This benign neglect raises the ire of their busybody Aunt Ricketts, who believes children should attend school and not run around cliffs and beaches. She hires a certain Ms. Peckworthy, a “member of a very troublesome do-gooder society” to try to prove that the dangerous actions of the children makes their uncle an unquitable guardian, and thus they can be taken away and “raised properly.” At the same time they run into another person with strange intentions, whom they nickname Lord Wheyface the Creeper, or just “the Creeper” from his appearance. The Creeper is after something that their uncle takes care of, artifacts owned by Basil Peach and the Peach family, who featured in The DIgging Leviathan. Hedgepeth and his friends deduce that behind the Creeper stands Dr. Hilario Frosticos, the nemesis in The Digging Leviathan, who seems like a modern echo of Dr. Ignacio Narbondo, noted antagonist of Blaylock’s many Langdon St. Ives stories.

With the added ingredients of Ms. Peckworthy and the Creeper, the lives of the three kids and their uncle spins and accelerates toward something new. Toss in the arrival of Lala Peach, the young daughter of Basil Peach, and the adventure shifts from a sea-side California town to the Lake District in the UK, a confrontation with Frosticos, and the dreamworld of the Peach family that become all to real for those who visit it. Hedgepeth and crew assist valiantly, but the kids form the core of this novel.

Subtitled “The True Adventures of Kathleen Perkins, Cryptozoologist”, Blaylock’s novel hits the perfect tune as a young adult adventure. There’s no magic or boarding school hijinks, although there is magic in Blaylock’s words and wonderful narrative tone and humor. A mainstream paperback publisher needs to pick up this book and get more copies into the hands of young readers. That said, Zeuglodon is a book anyone can enjoy, and the 200 odd pages whizzed past almost too quickly. Hopefully there will be more tales from Ms. Perkins and her crew.

When is non-fiction actually fiction?

How much of Truman Capote’s non-fiction classic, In Cold Blood, is not true? A recent Wall Street Journal article brings to light material that contradicts certain aspects of the story in terms of the timeline.

Recently several classic works of non-fiction have been exposed as containing small or very large amounts of fiction. First, John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley was examined with a critical investigative eye and found to contain vastly fictionalized accounts. The recent re-publication acknowledge this, and the book really ca be seen more as a work of fiction. Then, recently an investigation into the famous Kitty Genovese slaying in New York uncovered potential errors. This time the published made no changes or disclaimers. There are other similar incidents of non-fiction accounts later debunked, but few as memorable as these.

If the Kansas material become available to scholars, will it result in changes to future editions of In Cold Blood, possibly a mention in an introduction? The book is compellingly written, a masterpiece in prose and style. The movie, stark and brutal. The story? Maybe not exactly 100% true. The truth is, every work of non-fiction contains choices made for dramatic reasons. Truth may be stranger than fiction, but sometimes the narrative doesn’t always flow as quickly and smoothly downhill as the writer wants, and small or big changes are made. In Steinbeck’s case no one questioned his story, possibly because he was driving solo across the country and no one bothered to verify his facts. In Capote’s case, other motives were at play. And the Kitty Genovese story made for powerful copy about callous New Yorkers, emblematic of the cold city.

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