Books

The philosophy of spoilers

I talked a while ago about when I realised how much more enjoyable becomes when I avoid spoilers, and the basic principle I derived from that.

Right now spoilers are a big topic, because of the Olympics.  If, like me, you’re on the East Coast, you have to wait until 8PM EDT for NBC to start their broadcast of the day’s major events.  That’s 1AM BST–in other words, it’s right when actual competition is wrapping up for the day, and it’s hours and hours after many of the events we’re most interested in have finished.  You have to wait three hours longer on the West Coast.

But while you’re waiting, lots of your friends on Twitter and Facebook already know the outcome, either because they watched it live in Europe or because they’ve gone online–maybe even to NBC’s website itself–so they don’t have to wait.  And they’re talking about it.

I’ve seen both extremes in reaction to this.  I’ve had someone in my stream declare that we need to hold our tongues even after this stuff airs on NBC, to accommodate those who are watching on DVR(!).  And I’ve had someone tell us all that you either can have Twitter, or you can not be spoilt, but that you’ve got no right to expect people online to consider others when spouting spoilers.

I think they’re both wrong.

I’ve thought about this quite a bit, and I’ve refined my position down to a basic standard:

If there’s a time we’re all supposed to gather together to watch something, I think it’s really rude to spoil it beforehand.  What this means, as far as the Olympics go, is that it’s my own responsibility to avoid what’s being said by the people I follow who are actually in Britain–they’ve all seen it live on TV (or in a few instances, in person).  But those in America, who are heading online to see it before the rest of us?  They should be taking the rest of us into consideration.  And I’m speaking here as someone who is far more interested in Team GB than Team USA, so this system leaves far more of the onus on me than it does on others.

Note that this does not mean that you can’t talk about what you know. Just have the politeness to ensure that people are able clearly to see that they’re about to read a spoiler before they read it.  Best way to do this is generally to start off with SPOILER in big, obnoxious capital letters.

For TV shows, that rule stands until the episode airs. (Yes, that includes not spoiling things that are being revealed in the adverts.) For a big movie, until it’s been in release for a week. For a book?  As long as it’s a new release (ninety days from publication), certainly, and then probably as long after that as it remains a top ten bestseller.

Note also that this is a minimum.  I for one have always tried to maintain a higher standard.  As far as movies, TV shows, books go?  I try always to include a spoiler warning in some form.  I was going on thirty the first time I saw The Third Man, and it was over sixty years after the film’s first release.  Yet somehow I’d managed never to be spoilt on one of the most famous movie twists of all time, and it was brand new to me.  If I’d known what was coming, it’s entirely possible I wouldn’t have nearly the appreciation for what’s now my all-time favourite film as I do.  But as far as sport goes?  If I’m watching a live event on TV, and I have something to say about it, I say it.

We can talk about the things that engage us.  But we don’t have to trample all over everyone else’s engagement with them to do it.

I

Two to the fifth

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  Ian, with your birthday falling on a Saturday this year, and with it being only two weeks until the end of the Premier League season, it must have been great to get to spend all morning and early afternoon watching the football.

Well, no.  Saturday was my birthday, and there was indeed lots of Premier League football on, but I didn’t watch any of it.  You see, my sister and her husband will be moving into the area this summer, which means they need to go househunting.  And since it’s tough to househunt in Northern Virginia from their current location in America’s wangFlorida, she decided to send me househunting on Saturday morning instead.  I figured that’s a small price to pay for unlimited free babysitting anytime I want.

Finding Claire a house around here has also kickstarted our own discussions about buying a house ourselves.  Lisa has been saying for years that she wanted to buy a house, but I’d pretty much come to the conclusion that what she really wanted was to complain about how she wants to buy a house.  But she insists that’s not true–so we’re about to start looking in earnest.  I told her that if we do move, though, we need to replace our standard-def television with an HD model.  Not for an improved Media Experience, but because I was looking at the twenty-pound HD TV in our bedroom, and thinking how much easier it would be to move that than it will be the eighty-pound standard-def in the living room.  I don’t ever want to have to move that thing again.

So anyway.  We spent the morning househunting, then went home so I could receive my birthday presents.  Girl got me a pair of Cookie Monster boxer shorts with COOKIE LOVER printed across my arse.  Boy got me a Star Wars-themed edition of the board game Trouble that makes R2-D2 sound effects when you pop that bubble-thing that rolls the dice for you.  And Lisa got me an HD TV.

Yup.  A high-definition television.

And the best part was that it was free because she won it in a raffle.  Last weekend, we’d had our conversation about how I want to replace the eighty-pound standard-def TV with an HD model.  On Wednesday, Lisa spent all day playing in a golf tournament for work.  At the tournament, she got raffle ticked 204, but lost it somewhere.  Then one of her colleagues found ticket 200 on the ground, and gave it to her since she’d lost her proper ticket.  And ticket 200 won the grand prize, the HD TV.  All Lisa’s friends told her she shouldn’t tell me that she didn’t pay for it, as that would make it less special or something, I guess?  Whatever–they clearly don’t know either of us at all.  It being free makes it way more special than it could have been otherwise.

So then, since I’m a dad and since someone in the household–whether me or anyone else–had received a major piece of electronics as a gift, I spent the next hour hooking it up, before it was time to miss the last Premier League match of the day so that we could go to Boy’s soccer match.  Granted, four-a-side U-6 soccer isn’t quite Premier League football, but I suppose you can’t beat a match that has twelve goals in 32 minutes of play.  (Literally can’t beat it, as it finished a 6-6 draw.)

Then we headed to Best Buy, to pick up some HDMI cables and a Blu-Ray player.  The HD TV has only one composite hookup, meaning, as I reasonably explained to Lisa, that we can’t hook both the Wii and the DVD player up to it at the same time, so we’ve replaced the DVD player with a Blu-Ray player, which we can hook up to the new TV by one of its three HDMI ports.

I got back out to the car with all that stuff and found Lisa asleep in the driver’s seat and Boy asleep behind her, so rather than wake them, I got Girl out of the car and walked with her up the road to the used bookshop.  There I discovered that they’ve eliminated their Biography section in favour of an expansion of Romance, and I picked Lisa up a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey (happy birthday to her).  Then we headed back to the car.

Where we discovered that Lisa had kept the air conditioning and the radio on the whole time she’d been asleep, so when she tried to start the car, the battery had died completely.  Lisa therefore popped the hood and stood next to the car, and, since she’s a woman, within two minutes someone had pulled up next to her asking if we needed a jump.  Actually, a startlingly good looking 25-year-old man in a gleaming silver BMW had pulled up next to her and asked if she needed a jump.

So we got the car going again, but we needed to drive around for a while rather than going home.  We therefore elected to drive down to Fredericksburg, 35 miles away; that way, we could go to either Sonic or Steak and Shake for dinner.  Actually, it was my birthday, so we stopped at both Sonic and Steak and Shake.  I also popped into the comic book shop next door to Sonic, as I always do, and looked at their selection of Doctor Who toys and t-shirts.  They had some nice stuff, as they always do, and it was exorbitantly priced, as it always is.  Particularly hard to resist was the Lego Cyberman playset, which Boy would have loved, but it was $80 for what was maybe a $30 Lego set (and that’s even accounting for the fact that Lego sets generally cost about half again what they’re worth to begin with).

And then we were home, and I was sticking HDMI cables into our new TV to connect it with the cable box and the Blu Ray player.  All in all, not the best birthday I’ve ever had, but a lively and eventful one.  And one that brought with a new HD television!  Followed by the discovery that the new HD television was free!  So in the end, I can’t complain.

I

Encyclopaedia

Encyclopaedia Britannica is ceasing publication of its print edition after a 244 year run.  Britannica’s been around longer than the Declaration of Independence, and longer than the Declaration of the Rights of Man.  And now, in its original format, it won’t be.

I’m not going to bemoan that change.  It’s a natural progression.  You don’t last 244 years without making accommodation for a changing world.  Britannica began publication in 1768 in the country from which it takes its name, but now it’s an American concern–more than that, it’s a Chicago concern.  Where was Chicago in 1768?  The encyclopaedia itself is older than the city it calls home.

I hope Britannica lasts another 244 years, if it can maintain the same mission it’s had for the last two and a half centuries, of making available to us a compilation and condensation of human knowledge, accessibly presented.  And if it does, then within a generation, no one will care that it used to be on paper, and now it’s not–anymore than Canadians walk into the Bay or Zellers and think to themselves, “Hmm, and to think, back in the seventeenth century, this is the company that was chartered by the King to administer English colonisation of northern Ontario and Quebec!”

I myself made the digital switch with Britannica about ten years ago, when Lisa bought me the complete Encyclopaedia in CD.  It was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received–but it was one of the best gifts because of the love I’ve always had for the print edition.

When I was growing up in Connecticut, we had a wonderful public library–I never realised how wonderful until we moved to Florida and the ones that replaced it proved to be … lacking.  And one of the best things about this library was its complete set of both the Britannica micropaedia and the macropaedia.

Man, that macropaedia.  So much of who I am, so much of the knowledge I love, I first found in that encyclopaedia.  I vividly remember the Graeco-Roman civilisation article being over a hundred pages long.  How many words are on a printed page of Britannica?  A thousand?  Two thousand?  Three thousand?  That article must have been as long as any novel I’d read at the time I worked my way through it.

So I don’t mourn the death of the printed edition, and I don’t complain that we’re now moving into a world where Britannica can deliver all the knowledge it’s always delivered, but paperlessly.  But I do take this opportunity to express my gratitude that I had the paper edition in my childhood, and for all the paper edition gave me.

I

Words yesterday: 2459
Words so far: 98,636

Time spent writing: 12.30-3pm
Reason for stopping: End of naptime
Darling: He couldn’t stop himself from crying out at every blow, but he was so spent now that each cry came only as a pathetic, mewling whimper.
Tyop: They went a hundred and eight degrees around the building.g
New words today: oily, paddock, jackboot
Words that boggled Word: heavybrowed, afterwards

The .epub criterion

Six months have now passed since I was able to justify purchasing a Nook with the upcoming publication of my first novel.  Or maybe it’s been longer than that–time flies, after all.  Because the truth is, I love my Nook.

I read an essay sometime back by a guy who was moving across the country, and who, now that he’s switched over to an ereader, was torn between the inconvenience of shipping all his physical books with him or simply donating them.  I can’t remember where I read it, or, obviously, I’d link to it.  My first instinct is Galleycat, except that it’s far too introspective a premise for them.  Maybe Galleycat linked to it.

And but so.  The main takeaway I got from this essay was that, as he asked his book-loving friends for their advice, he found they fell into two general categories.  There were book people, whose main interest was in the physical book, rather than its contents.  These people were horrified at the idea of ridding oneself of the physical artefacts; the argument the author quoted them as making was, “But … but … but … they’re books.

The second group were the readers, for whom the content was the thing that made books special; once that content was safely transferred onto an ereader, they were rather blasé about the fate of the hardcopy item.

I expect most people who know me would tend to assume I’d fall into the first group, whatever membership I’d also have in the second.  I’m very proud of the books I own.  I’ve got about a thousand books displayed in the room I’m sitting in as I write this (the living room), filling seven bookcases, and I probably have as many again packed up in our storage shed.

And yet, I’ve found that’s not the case.  I don’t know how I’ll deal with the need to transport physical books when we move, but most of the books I own aren’t available as ebooks and aren’t likely to so come available anytime soon.  But as far as the books I read?  I’ve pretty much completely transitioned to ebooks.

All the usual reasons.  I love the lightness and compactness of the Nook–it’s far easier to read in bed.  I love that when I braved earthquakes and tornadoes for an unscheduled trip to England, all I had to do for reading material was slip what’s essentially a second cell phone into my laptop bag.

If I buy a new book, it’s an ebook.  If it’s the next instalment in a series I began while still on physical books, I’ll usually buy the physical book as well–but it’s the e-dition that I’ll read.  And the physical books that I already own, that I finally get around to reading?  I buy the e-ditions and read those instead.

It has got to the point that if a book isn’t available in e-dition, I don’t buy it.  When I’m writing a thriller, I keep myself in the mood by reading thrillers, particularly ones written or set in the time period I’m writing about.  Before the Nook, I’d been rotating between the works of Eric Ambler, John le Carré, Alan Furst and Ian Fleming, though I’d run out of Ambler books that were still in print.  But when I switched to the Nook, I had to drop Fleming, because those aren’t yet available as ebooks.

(Neither was le Carré, though that changed over Christmas, presumably because of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.)

But I did find far more Ambler books once I’d made the switch, because a whole bunch of his books have been republished electronically that aren’t easily available in print.  I also tried to add Patricia Highsmith to my rotation, because of a dear friend who’s been pestering me for some time to read her books, but I’ve unfortunately been unable to–she has only two books in e-ditions right now (neither of which, unfortunately, are Strangers on a Train or The Talented Mr. Ripley.)

The only exceptions I’ve so far made to the no ebook, no purchase rule have been the ones I didn’t really have a choice with–research for the current book.  There were three books I find for most of my research, and none of them were available electronically.  I ordered the print editions, and I slogged through them, probably over a million words in all.  But I was damn glad when I got to go back to the Nook.

Which is what, for me, has been the great irony of this thing, though it’s probably of little interest to everyone else–that it is nonfiction, in particular, that I value reading on the Nook.  When I first considered buying an ereader, I’d thought it would become my preferred method of reading fiction, but that I’d always prefer print nonfiction.  Yet now I so much wish that I had my three research books in electronic format (particularly the six-hundred-page After the Reich by Giles McDonogh, which is packed dense with useful information), because it would make it so much easier to search out the specific passages I want to reread.

I

Words yesterday: 2573
Words total: 62,410

Time spent writing: 1pm-3pm, 10pm-11.30
Reason for stopping: end of naptime; bedtime
Darling: She swore at him, violently, in Russian–he felt certain that she had directed him to perform an act on himself either sexual or profoundly unhygienic.
Tyop: in Soviet custardy
Words that boggled Word: flatcap, unslung, other’s
New words today: horseback, carbine, vapor

Farthing

Book coverIf you only read one alternative history novel this year that takes place in a world where Britain and Nazi Germany made peace with each other, you should of course read A Traitor’s Loyalty.  (Or at Barnes and Noble.  Or on Goodreads.)  But if you read two such books?  Well, I’ve recently read one that I’d like to submit for consideration.

Farthing is a 2006 novel by Jo Walton set in a world in which Rudolf Hess made a much more successful flight to Britain in 1941, leading to a peace settlement before either the Soviet Union or USA entered the war.

Conventionally in an alternate history novel, the action focuses on the part of the world that is most drastically different from our own.  Harry Turtledove’s The Two Georges is about a world where the Americans lost the American Revolutionary War, so it takes place in North America (a British dominion), rather than in Britain or France or Senegal.  If you’re writing a Nazi-victory alternate history and you want to set it in one of the Allied countries, you have the Nazis conquer that country–like in SS-GB (set in Nazi-occupied Britain), It Happened Here (Nazi-occupied Britain), The Man in the High Castle (German- and Japanese-occupied America) or “The Last Article” (Nazi-occupied India).  If you’ve created a world where Germany has instead made peace with the Allies, who have remained democratic societies, you’re going to set it in Germany or German-occupied Europe, like in Fatherland, “Ready for the Fatherland” or my own A Traitor’s Loyalty.

But Farthing is a book where Britain made peace with the Germans, escaped defeat, preserved democracy.  In the book’s world, Nazi Germany is ruling Continental Europe, implementing the Holocaust, and fighting an endless war with Soviet Russia–but the book takes place in England.  It’s presented as a Christie-esque English country manor murder mystery, set in 1949.

And that means that the changes it presents are far more subtle and gradual than you’ll see in a standard alternate history novel–a society that, confronted with a victorious right-wing dictatorship twenty miles away across the Channel, is quite understandably drifting toward the far right itself.  Moves to turn the British class system into a legally-enshrined caste system.  The reversal of the progress made by socialism, and a regression to where socialism is once again being seen as borderline treasonous.  (In real history, 1945-1950 was the period of Britain’s first true socialist government.)

And most jarring–and most effective–to the modern reader is the anti-Semitism.  It’s a rise in cultural sentiment against Jews, a greater willingness to express anti-Semitic views openly, an amplification of the idea that it didn’t matter if they’d been born and raised in London, Jews were still foreigners.  It’s so terribly English, because (at least until the attempts of the book) it’s been accomplished without violence.  And it’s the cultural movement that has cleared the way for political leaders to begin attempting anti-Semitic political programmes.

The book, as with any book, isn’t perfect.  For a story that spends eighty per cent of its time dealing with members of the aristocracy, it’s a shame that several of the arcane complexities of the aristocratic system get fumbled.  (The author, for instance, has baronets as members of the House of Lords.)  But it’s a very different spin on Nazi victory than I’ve found before.

There are two sequels, Ha’penny and Half a Crown, which I’ll be moving onto.  I’m looking forward to them.

I

The Zero Hour
Words yesterday: 2594
Words total: 42,888

Time spent writing: 1pm-3.30; 9pm-10pm
Reason for stopping: Picking Boy up from the school bus; Lisa got home
Darling: A string of Russian obscenities unraveled off her tongue.
Words that boggled Word: stationmaster’s, submachine, snuck, railyard
New words used today: captor, inscrutable, pothole

Nothing new under the sun

The first time it happened was this summer, when I happened to catch a showing of the (great) 1940 British spy thriller Night Train to Munich on TMC.  Night Train to Munich is set in the days leading up to the outbreak of war between Britain and Germany in September 1939.  The Nazis kidnap a Czechoslovak scientist and his daughter, and to rescue them, a British secret agent (played by a strikingly young Rex Harrison) travels to Berlin, dons a Gestapo uniform and bluffs his way into Gestapo headquarters.

Of course, there’s no way I could watch that scene and not instantly draw the connection to a similar episode in A Traitor’s Loyalty, in which the protagonist, a British spy, travels to Berlin to hunt a British defector and, in order to get information, disguises himself as a Gestapo officer and enters Gestapo headquarters.

Then over the holidays, I saw Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and, as is my wont, got home from the film and immediately looked it up on Wikipedia.  And therein I discovered that, in the book on which the movie’s based, the codename that MI-6 gives to their star Soviet mole is Merlin.  In A Traitor’s Loyalty, by the by, the hero used to be MI-6’s star Nazi mole, and his codename back when he worked for MI-6 was Merlin.  (In A Traitor’s Loyalty, which takes place in a world where the Nazis defeated the Soviets, the cold war is fought between NATO and Nazi Germany rather than NATO and Soviet Russia.)

(SPOILERS FOR HAYWIRE AND A TRAITOR’S LOYALTY AHEAD)

And then yesterday I saw Haywire.  At one point, in one small moment, after the heroine has had her employers turn against her, she searches her trusty rucksack and discovers, sewn into its lining, a small black device with an antenna on one end and a blinking red light on the other.  In A Traitor’s Loyalty, when the hero realises his masters have been manipulating behind his back, he searches the car they gave him and discovers, sewn into the upholstery of the boot, a “small radio transistor with a red light blinking slowly at one end”.

(END SPOILERS)

Your first reaction when you come across stuff like this–or my first reaction, at any rate–is to wince, to think that you’re a horribly derivative writer incapable of thinking up an idea someone else hasn’t thought of, and that you’re about to be exposed as such before the world.

After a little while, though, you start getting a little bit of perspective.  You realise, first of all, that it isn’t about having every element of your story be something no one’s ever thought of before–it’s about what you do with your story elements, combining them and presenting them in a way that people still find fresh and interesting.  Harry Potter and The Da Vinci Code are both famously made up of a multiplicity of sources from elsewhere, but even those readers who could spot and tease out the inspirations for the stories’ different elements still often found reading them very enjoyable.

Downtown Abbey could be summed up without much inaccuracy as a mashup of Pride and Prejudice and Upstairs Downstairs.  That was obvious to me within its first five minutes, but not only did it not do anything to dampen my appreciation of the show, it actually added another dimension to it for me.  I got to see how Downton took the premise of a country landowner who has fathered only daughters but whose estate is entailed upon the male line and how it treated that premise–doing some things that were similar to what Jane Austen did in Pride and Prejudice and some things that were very different.

And then the second thing you have to realise is that a lot you see, you only see because you’re you–you’re the author of the work in question.  The example from Haywire is a perfect incidence of that–I’d be stunned if anyone who were to see Haywire and read A Traitor’s Loyalty noticed such a tiny coincidence.  It gets about five seconds of screen time in both works, and “secret homing device” and “a spy discovers his (or her) masters have been spying on him” are hardly such unique, distinctive tropes that your first thought when you encounter them is, “That’s just like …!”

Ditto the codename “Merlin”–it’s such a minor point in both books (so minor in Tinker Tailor that it didn’t even make it into the movie) and the contexts surrounding it are so very different that I think anyone who picked up on it would simply give me the undeserved credit of thinking I’d done it deliberately, as a respectful homage to the work of John le Carré.

(That’s if they had the chance–I confess, I did email my editor and ask him to change the codename to Lancelot.  But A Traitor’s Loyalty does still have a genuine homage to le Carré–there’s a very minor character who’s named after two characters in my favourite le Carré book, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.)

Your book is, of course, your baby, and as such, you’ve got a natural inclination to be highly sensitised to anything concerning it.  As authors we’re taught early on about having to let go of one part of that–about detaching ourselves when we receive feedback and critique.  This is another part, I think.  It’s a very human thing to draw connections and see patterns, and we’re so close to our own books that it’s inevitable for those to be what we draw the connections to.

I have a hypothesis that the reason I’ve started seeing elements of my story everywhere now is because the book is, essentially, now out of my hands–I no longer have the ability to make any significant changes to it.  In that sense, I’ve already let it go–I’ve had to.  And now I also have to let it go emotionally.

I

Quoted

I’m currently reading A Woman in Berlin, a diary kept by an anonymous Berliner as she lived through the city’s conquest and occupation by the Red Army in April through June, 1945.  There’s a lot in here to catch the attention, but one passage in particular that’s struck me:

I often find myself thinking about the fuss I used to make over the men on leave, how I pampered them, how much respect I showed them.  And some of them had come from cities like Paris or Oslo, which were farther from the front than Berlin, where we were under constant bombardment.  Or else they’d been in places where there was absolutely peace, like Prague or Luxemburg.  But even when they were coming from the front, until 1943 they always looked neat and well fed, unlike most of us today.  And they loved to tell their stories, which always involved exploits that showed them in a good light.  We, on the other hand, will have to keep politely mum; each one of us will have to act as if she in particular was spared.  Otherwise no man is going to want to touch us anymore.

I

It’s like The Club Dumas

book coverYesterday arrived my copy of Black Market, Cold War: Everyday Life in Berlin, 1946-1949 by Paul Steege. I’m in the midst of a big reading kick about that particular topic, so I’m looking forward to getting started on the book.

I worked in a bookshop.  In fact, for a solid chunk of the time I worked in a bookshop, I worked in the stock room.  So I’ve seen quite a number of printing and binding errors in my time.  Like books that have been bound upside down, that sort of thing.

I’ve never seen a binding error like this one.  Open the book to page one, everything’s fine.  Start reading.  Keeping going to page ninety, everything’s fine.  Then suddenly:

book page

Yes, starting on page 91, the whole book turns upside down. And yet the pages are still in the correct order, not reversed, which means that in order to rotate the book and keep reading, from that point forward I have to read the right-side page first, then the left-side page, then turn the pages from right to left. Here we see chapter six beginning on the left side, and chapter five ending on the right:

book page

I’ve got no issue turning a book upside down to read. The only issue here is how distracting it’s going to be going from right to left, which is to say, that’s going to be pretty distracting. But it’s an interesting enough problem that I’m inclined to hang onto the book, particularly considering that I’m far too profoundly lazy to be arsed enough to pack the book up and send it back to get it exchanged.

I

Adaptation

ETA: more books to the list, as I think of them

The other day, I got in a discussion with @S_cerevisiae on the Twitter about whether or not to show the first Harry Potter movie to a five year old. Boy has been growing intrigued by the Boy Wizard because of the massive advertising campaign for Harry Potter 8, but Lisa and I have decided not to show him the first film (yet) because, six weeks before kindergarten starts, we don’t want to show him a movie about how school is really cliquish and kids are really nasty to the kids from the other cliques.

A really good point that got made during the discussion was the idea of waiting till the kids are old enough to first read the books before seeing the films, duplicating as much as possible the experience that we who are old enough to read the books upon publication have had.

That got me thinking about other, older children’s books that have been adapted into movies, and my experience with them. There are, to be sure, a few books that I probably haven’t read because I’d already seen the movie–I’m sure I’d have read Treasure Island by now if I hadn’t watched the movie so often as a child. (Though I do recall poring over an illustrated children’s abridgement of it when I was very little.)

But very often, that’s not the way it works. I think, rather, that when we do it right, it’s the movies themselves that keep the kids coming back to the books, generation after generation. So I’ve been making a list: books I had finished by the time I finished middle school, that I had read because I saw the movie or the TV series.

The list is, I’m sure, incomplete. But it contains classics of children’s literature; it contains classics of all literature; and it contains some major twentieth century fiction. It also contains dozens of Star Trek tie in novels, which, rather than listing all individually, I’ve simply gathered under “dozens of Star Trek tie in novels”. They might not have been edifying literature, but they had me reading an hour after bedtime, the fingers of my free hand poised over the lightswitch in case I heard my parents coming upstairs and had to turn it off. And I don’t think there’s any better way to turn a child into a lifelong reader.

Swallows and Amazons
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; Prince Caspian; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Prydain books, because of The Black Cauldron
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator

The Three Musketeers, because of Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds
Ivanhoe

Shogun
Dune
I, Claudius
Jurassic Park
Dozens of Star Trek tie-in novels

I’m sure I can’t be the only one. Anyone else get led to their favourite childhood books by the movies?

I

Bye bye bye

I’m saddened by the end of Borders. I’m saddened as a lover of books. I’m saddened, as someone who’s going to have my own books on bookshop shelves within a year, that there are now one third fewer major bookshop chains in the United States. I’m saddened as a former Barnes & Noble employee at such a vivid illustration of the decline of the brick and mortar book business–though not surprised, as articles from places like Publishers Weekly had been appearing on our break room wall since at least 2003 about the precipitous state of business at Borders.

My first job in the book trade was with the Borders Group, at one of those Day By Day Calendar Company kiosks you see appearing in malls during the last quarter of every year. (Er, though I don’t know if you’ll see them appearing anymore.)

The Gainesville Borders is where I met Clark Howard.

It’s also where I bought Lisa one of her favourite presents I’ve ever got her, an omnibus edition of Harold and the Purple Crayon.

I swung on by the Livejournal community for Borders employees this morning. Amidst a lot of anger, despondence, and descriptions of atrocious behaviour by customers, I came across one post by an employee who’s putting together a farewell in-store playlist for him and his colleagues to rock out to during whatever days and weeks they have remaining. That sounded like a little fun injected into this whole thing.

So here’s my list:

“The End” by the Doors
“The Final Countdown” by Europe
“There Goes the Neighborhood” by Sheryl Crow
“Yesterday” by the Beatles
“Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac
“Secondhand News” by Fleetwood Mac
“We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister
“My Life” by Billy Joel
“School’s Out” by Alice Cooper
“Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia
“Communication Breakdown” by Led Zeppelin
“Gudbuy T’Jane” by Slade
“Those Were the Days” by Mary Hopkin
“Bad Day” by Daniel Powter
“We Gotta Get Out of the This Place” by the Animals
“Bye Bye Bye” by N*Sync

and of course

“Closing Time” by Semisonic

So what do you think? Am I missing any?

I

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