The Sunday Salon: Orwell Gets “Orwelled”

Found this link via Paisley and Plaid about Amazon deleting books downloaded on Kindles. Downloaded e-books bought on Kindles apparently can be remotely removed by a company without permission from the owner of the Kindle. According to the article on Slate, the Orwellian practice was used to protect intellectual property rights, and ironically one of the books deleted was Orwell’s 1984. The article talks about how dangerous such deletions are — essentially it’s corporate book banning.

Apparently,  if you buy a Kindle, you are not buying a device to download books, you’re buying a service that allows you to download books onto the device. And apparently those books can be taken away at the corporation’s discretion. Perhaps the next totalitarian state will not be a country or nation, but will come out of the corporate world. 

Clearly, if you’re buying this service, someone is monitoring your purchases. And while such a service could be an innocuous way to gather marketing information, even that is intrusive, because marketing more and more influences our tastes. And that influence is corrosive, especially to literature and art — if marketers can’t see the potential for a book to sell, whether it has literary merit or not, then the book never gets out to the public. In effect, censorship.

I hope I don’t sound like a paranoid conspiracy theorist, but it is frightening when we can’t purchase something like a book without someone looking over our shoulder to see if it’s the “right” book for us to be reading.

The Sunday Salon: Chronological Narrative and Great Page Presentation

Richard Gilbert once again has an interesting post at his blog Narrative. This one is on the New Yorker‘s practice of editing articles so they read chronologically.

The post led me to writer Dan Baum‘s site, which is nicely put together. Very clean and accessible. It seems perfect for a freelance writer.

Reading Fiction and the Craving for Creative Nonfiction in My Reading Life

When I started my 100 novels reading project three years ago, I imagined it would take less time than it has so far. Not that I’m giving up on it. To close to the end to do that.

Anyhow, the project seems to take up a inordinate amount of  my reading time, and I’ve also been mindful of the desire to read nonfiction, as I read through thousands of words in novels.

It’s not that I haven’t read nonfiction in the past few years, but most of it has been books on writing or some form of self-help. I haven’t indulged in a favorite form — creative nonfiction, literary journalism — in some time, at least a year, and I think it’s time to take a break from novels for a while and sink my teeth into some meaty nonfiction.

I think it’s interesting to follow my mind and its reading cravings. It seems to tell me exactly what I need to read, or guides me toward a specific genre or form. Does your reading mind do this? Do you find yourself reading something and realizing this book is exactly what you wanted or needed to read?

I’m going through that, actually, at the moment on my novel list, reading Harry Crews‘s novel Scar Lover. I’ve been craving Crews’s gnarled fictive universe, something that’s part Hemingway, part Faulkner with the Sex Pistols thrown in for good measure.

Booking Through Thursday: The Best So Far

Here’s this week’s Booking Through Thursday:

What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

OK, I’m making up my own rules, because I’m throwing in two books for the price of one. In the past few weeks two of the best books I’ve read are The English Major by Jim Harrison and the nonfiction book Revision by David Michael Kaplan. Harrison’s just as delicious as always, and Kaplan’s book on revision is the best I’ve ever read on the subject.

For more read my reviews here and here.

100 Novels: When It Comes to Getting Sideways, the Movie Makes the Book Palatable

Sideways
By Rex Pickett
St. Martin’s Griffin, 2004

Adapting a novel to the screen has to be a daunting task. If you take Spike Jonze’s brilliant, quirky and genuinely bizarre movie Adaptation as a guide, adapting any book to the screen — in this case Susan Orlean’s nonfiction book The Orchid Thief — is a harrowing, freaky ride.

Screenwriters must condense hundreds of pages into a visual experience that doesn’t exceed the limits of the human bladder. In doing so they risk alienating fans of the book, potentially ruining both book and movie for readers and audiences alike. Screenwriters either follow the book too closely, or they diverge so far from it, they create a new, and sometimes, unrecognizable creature.

At times, however, the adaptation goes so well a work of art gets created, something that equals, or succeeds the original piece. I’m thinking of the marvelous adaptations to the screen of No Country for Old Men and Brokeback Mountain.

Often, though, the adaptation falls short and you exit the theater, or switch off the DVD player, saying, “The book was waaaaaaaay better.” In the case of Rex Pickett’s novel Sideways, the movie adaptation doesn’t fall short at all; it turns out waaaaaaaay better than the novel.

Both the book and the movie tell the story of Miles and Jack, two buddies embarking on a madcap, weeklong wine tasting adventure into California’s Santa Ynez Valley — the last bachelor hurrah for Jack getting married at the end of the week. The mismatched pair — Miles, the lonesome loser; Jack, the good-times man everybody loves — fling themselves into wine, women and the emergency room, testing love and friendship along the way.

Essentially the book and movie are similar enough that readers won’t blow out head-scratching “huhs?” with the changes screenwriters adapted to the plot. Jack and Miles are recognizable, the plot itself, though reshaped significantly for better dramatic effect in some spots, is recognizable. What clicks in the movie and not in the book are the changes in plot that make the story itself much more plausible and less contrived than in Pickett’s novel.

The novel starts out well, opening with a frantic Miles trying to pack for the road trip, a scene that establishes Miles’s character and circumstances — he’s broke (a detriment to his oenophilia) and is taking an extravagant trip he can’t afford; and he’s banking on a last-ditch effort to publish a novel. The opening’s also well paced, getting the characters on the road, after a hilarious wine tasting episode not in the film, and establishing the characters’ motives — Miles wants to escape his dreary life, enjoy a lot of wine, and send his friend off with a bang, while Jack wants a bang or two, along with his quaff.

The novel falters, however, with several contrived plot points. There is, for instance, a strange and ludicrous boar hunt with local yokel Brad that seems pointless, other than to provide Jack with broken ribs — one of a series of injuries Jack will have to explain away to his fiancee — and a gun, for a later, overly-violent encounter with Jack’s betrayed girlfriend for the week, Terra.

And Pickett seems to think it’s implausible that Miles’s love interest Maya may actually be attracted to Miles. Disturbingly, Pickett has Jack pimp out Maya for no good reason, other than to alienate Miles, Jack and Maya, a brief alienation that gets tidied up all too well at the end of the novel when Miles and Maya trip merrily off into the sunset. The film, on the other hand, ends with Miles standing in the rain outside of Maya’s apartment — he’s betrayed her by lying about Jack’s marriage — leaving the audience and Miles wondering if Maya will answer the door.

The novel, however, isn’t horrible. There are insightful moments when Miles contemplates the nature of friendships and love. There are clearly well researched scenes about wine and wine tasting. And Pickett certainly depicst a hangover well. But, in the end, the movie cleans up the novel’s loose ends, and makes for a more satisfying experience, a good quaff, slightly fruity, with no bitter residue.

Booking Through Thursday: The Worst of the Worst

Here is this week’s Booking Through Thursday:

What’s the worst book you’ve read recently?

I was really pleased to pick up Bruce Sterling’s The Caryatids a few weeks ago at the library. I was looking forward to an escape into science fiction, along with getting a chance to read one of the founders of the cyberpunk genre.

Then disappointment set in. What starts out as an interesting story concerning world-saving clones, quickly turned into pages and pages of turgid prose about the ideas behind the novel and a lot of talking heads explaining everything. When there was action or drama, it was schlocky. There were plot threads going nowhere. And characters appearing and disappearing without rhyme or reason. So, a big Pfffft! to this novel.

It was such a bad read, it made me want to read a celebrity memoir.