Tag Archives: Literature

A Book Club Walks Into a Bar

13 Aug
Book and Wine by QuinnDombrowski

Photo credit to QuinnDombrowski

Have you ever had a moment where you’ve thought, “I’ve found my people?”  That was me, Friday night, at the Booker T. Cleveland Society for the Learned, which might be one of the world’s coolest book clubs.  Meeting monthly in bars, the society’s rules are simple and basically boil down to, you must bring a book and swap that book before the night is out.

The group is pretty self-selecting.  Mainly young professionals.  Dorky enough to want to go to a book club.  Outgoing enough to talk to strangers in bars.  Snobby enough that they will judge your book, and you, by its cover, thank you very much.  So, clearly, I fit right in. Continue reading

An Angel On My Left Side and a Tech Nerd On My Right

18 Jun

Or, I Stole a Book

ebook reading by TheCreativePenn

Photo credit to TheCreativePenn

Oh, the twisty world of the internet, where a few clicks can take you somewhere you never intended to go…

The other day, I learned that Deadlocked, the new Sookie Stackhouse novel, had recently been published.  I love the books in that series, low brow and trashy as they are.  Reading them is the equivalent of having wine and chicken fingers for dinner.  Delicious, comforting, terrible for you, and not something that you’d generally like to advertize about yourself.  They’re a Southern, sexed-up Buffy, with an even greater wink at the audience. Continue reading

Could you break Harry Potter’s spine?

15 May

Wizard of Oz - Dorothy and Apple Tree

Would you destroy your physical book to get an ebook in return?

The other day, I was going on about the triumph of the digital form and how we should all give up or paper.  And then I got an e-mail about 1dollarscanAnd it seemed like the universe going, “Yeah, how do you like them apples?”

1dollarscan is a tech company out of Japan that does just what its name implies – scans and digitizes text, at a rate of $1 per 100 pages.  You send them your books and they scan them and turn them into ebooks, optimized for viewing on the device of your choice.  Sounds pretty great, right?  Continue reading

Sharing Scribblings in the Digital Margins

30 Oct
#360 perhaps you do not need to write all over library books by romana klee

Photo credit to romana klee

I’ve had a hard time getting excited about things recently, but was lucky enough to stumble across Findings and its gotten my head buzzing.

The newest advancement in digital, literary culture, Findings is a website/app/digital service/what have you that allows you to share your margin notes with others across the community of readers, opening up the potential for reading to be a more dynamic and engaging experience that ever before.

WritingEven since reading Good Omens, I’ve been interested in the possibility of interactive marginalia.  In the story, a family passes a book down through the generations, each scribbling his own notes in the margins, often having contentious discussion of particular passages that last for generations.  (Yes, I recognize that that’s a very selective telling of Good Omens, but I thought it’d take too long to explain angels, demons, and the new four horsemen of the apocalypse.)

Although it’s always seemed like marginalia was a conversation, it never truly was, it was always uni-directional.  The first person that reads a book writes something and the next is left to either ignore the comment or reply to it.  (I guess the first person could then read it again and they could go back and forth ad nauseum, but books that are worth that level of attention are rare, indeed.)  So, with marginalia, as it currently stands, there’s no true back and forth; there’s acting and reacting.  But, Findings allows us to all have our own clean draft to respond to, and then the ability to selectively turn on (and off) others’ comments.

As a society, we talk about where were you at certain moments, at those historical moments that so define our collective psyche (9/11, the moon landing, the fall of the Berlin Wall), that the divide our lives into before and afters.  But, I’d argue that there are moments in books that can be those defining moments in our lives, too.  Especially those pivotal moments in the the bildugnsromans that we read as teenagers.  The stories of growing up that are part of every high school English curriculum.  How did you feel when they murdered Piggy?  Or when George killed Lenny?  When you first read The Lottery and realized what exactly the “prize” was?   Or when Boo saved Scout?  (Personally, I was really confused on that one and had to read it over a few times before I could get passed my initial reaction: Why is she dressed as meat?)  For readers, those are defining moments, but we analyze them after the fact, in a generalized way.  Respond to the events of Chapter 5.  What was the central theme of the novel?  Was this novel romantic, realistic, or naturalistic?  Discuss.

Marginalia by serikotik1970

Photo credit to serikotik1970

I want to have conversations with people’s real honest reactions, not those that they prepare for a teacher after the fact.  I want to get to know my friends (and thoughtful strangers) through their books and through their notes.  I want to read their scribbling in the digital margins.  I’ve written that I worry that the move from paper to digital paper will fundamentally change the way that we read, that sometime tactile and beautiful will be lost.  I still fear for the loss or musty paper and old fashioned type faces, for judging a book by its weight as well as its cover, but maybe well gain something wonderful in the move to ebooks, too.  Maybe books will become vehicles for true multi-directional communication.  Just think of the possibilities for choose your own adventure books…

Questions of the day: What book moments stand out in your life?  Do you write in your books?  And why is Scout dressed as meat?


MaggieCakes is a blog about social media, marketing, culture, and what’s new on the internet written by me, Maggie O’Toole.  Every day (okay, I try for every day) I comb blogs and news outlets for the news about internet culture and social media to bring them to you (with my commentary, of course) here on MaggieCakes. Find anything interesting in the worlds of culture or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at 2maggieotoole@gmail.com.

In defense of genre fiction

23 Apr

Although it's a few years old, Finanical Times' "The Information: Genre fiction sales" does a good job explaining how genre fits into the wider world of book sales.

Recently, the BBC featured a program that covered the place of fiction in contemporary society, focusing largely on “contemporary fiction” or “literately fiction” – you know, fancy fiction, what you read in high school English classes and what book snobs read forever, the books that you’re happy to display on your shelves so that someone might mistake you for cultured.  And, this rubbed authors of “genre” or “popular” fiction (the people who write all the other fiction: sci-fi, fantasy, horror, etc.) the wrong way.  They felt that the omission of their books (which constitute a very large percentage of books sold and read every year) was purposeful.  Because something as auspicious as the BBC wouldn’t talk about the fact that people like to read books with spaceships and elves and other cool stuff…  (For more on this, read Genre authors attack “sneering” WBN coverage.)

Author Stephen Hunt organized 89 genre authors to sign a letter in protest of this omission.  On his blog, he explained the importance of genre fiction.

Imagine a world where those in charge of broadcast programming have decided that polo, show jumping and grouse shooting are the only sports considered decent to be aired on TV and radio. You open the sports pages of newspapers to find page-after-page of coverage of how many birds a group of investment bankers have blasted into feathers over the glorious twelfth. No football. No cricket. No car racing. No rugby. Continue reading

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