5 Books As Shitty Internet Headlines

Every day we are barraged with content, and headlines that beg us to read or watch something. Facebook’s news feed is full of these little stories, and to get our attention the headlines are becoming increasingly harder not to click. The sole purpose is to get you to click the headline and go over to the site, so they can show bigger visitor numbers to companies in order to sell more ads. (This by the way, is how the internet works, and why news sites are full of celebrity gossip).

I decided to turn this weapon against the destroyers of modern culture. I will use these powers to try to entice people to read more. Here are some of my favorite books, along with the shitty internet headline you can use to get your less-cultured friends to check them out.

A Boy Goes Down With a Ship Full of Animals. What Happens Next Will Leave You Speechless.

Life of Pi book cover

Hold On To Your Man With This One Weird Tip

Gone Girl cover

Find Out What Caused This One Guy to Spontaneously Combust

Bleak House

12 Amazing Things That Prove You Need Feminism In Your Life

handmaids tale

Find Out Which Outrageous Forgotten God Describes YOU Best

american_godsonHBO

On Books, for Adults and Children

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I am a few pages away from the end of Neil Gaiman’s latest book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and I just wanted to share a quote on books from it, a little gem hidden in the wild tangle that this book is.

I liked myths They weren’t adult stories and they weren’t childrens stories. They were better than that. They just were.
Adult stories never made sense, and they were so slow to start. They made me feel like there were secrets. Masonic, mythic secrets, to adulthood. Why didn’t adults want to read about Narnia, about secret islands and smugglers and dangerous fairies?

I just wanted to tell the boy in the book that we do, we do, we really do!

As much as I like some of the little gems Gaiman has hidden here and there in the book, I am liking the book less than I thought I would. Not just because it got recommendations from people who’s opinion I value, but because it’s Neil Gaiman! For me, it seems like he’s just phoning this one in. A boy accidentally releases a spirit and has to be helped. I guess the thing is that our protagonist just doesn’t do very much himself, he is as much a part of the audience as we are. And that just doesn’t fly.

It’s cute and well written, but it just does not grab me, at all. It is supposed to be a book for adults, but it certainly feels like YA, through and through.

7 Great Book Dedications

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Dedication are the little things at the front of many books that we skip over to get to the first chapter. Small and overlooked, the dedication is often the author’s way of getting in a “Hi mom!” before the book starts.

gatsby

Most of the dedications one finds in books are of the sort we find in The Great Gatsby, where the author dedicates the book to a loved one, in this case his wife:

Once Again
To Zelda

And after reading dedication after dedication that just says: “To [name] with love,” one starts to skip them. In fact, I don’t remember even seeing a dedication for a very long time. It took the dedication in Stories, a collection of hard-to-categorize short stories edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio to make me want to check out more (scroll down for the Stories dedication).

Here are seven fun dedications I found in the books within reach on my shelf. Feel free to add some great ones in the comments.

1. Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things:

For Harlan Ellison and Ray Bradbury, and for the late Robert Sheckley, masters of their craft.

2. Stephen King, IT:


This book is gratefully dedicated to my children. My mother and my wife taught me how to be a man. My children taught me to be free.

NAOMI RACHEL KING, at fourteen;

JOSEPH HILLSTROM KING, at twelve;

OWEN PHILIP KING, at seven.

Kids, fiction is the truth inside the lie, and the truth of this fiction is simple enough: the magic exists.

3. Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency:

to my mother, who liked the bit about the horse.

4. George R. R. Martin, A Storm of Swords:

for Phyllis, who made me put the dragons in.

Millions of readers and fans of the HBO show are thankful, Phyllis. Maybe we should get together and send her a card. Just a thought.

5. Dark Destiny, edited by Edward E. Kramer:

This book is dedicated to Robert Bloch, grandmaster of darkness. May the blood drawn from your typewriter’s keys sustain us always.

6. Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio, Stories:

For all the storytellers and tale spinners who entertained the public and kept themselves alive, for Alexandre Dumas and Charles Dickens, for Mark Twain and Baroness Orczy and the rest, and most of all, for Scheherazade, who was the storyteller and the story told.

7. Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys:

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You know how it is. You pick up a book, flip to the dedication, and find that, once again, the author has dedicated a book to someone else and not to you.

Not this time.

Because we haven’t yet met/have only a glancing acquaintance/are just crazy about each other/haven’t seen each other in much too long/are in some way related/will never meet, but will, I trust, despite that, always think fondly of each other….

This one’s for you.

With you know what, and you probably know why.

* This post originally appeared on BookRiot, one of my weekly posts there. BookRiot is the top editorially independent book site online, by the way.

The Best Writing of The Week | Harlan Ellison

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Neil Gaiman told me to read Harlan Ellison, and if Mr. Gaiman says something, I obey. (This is also why I read Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell)

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I come relatively late to Harlan Ellison but am not sorry for it; I’m glad there’s something this good out there still left for me to read for the first time.

I recently bought an Ellison short story collection called Harlan 101, Encountering EllisonIt has 22 short stories and seven essays on the art of writing, written in a way that makes you feel like Ellison is sitting on your couch, talking to you. The book is good, and totally worth the hefty price tag ($39.99 softcover). And I had to add international shipping to that.

This week’s finest writing is a description of a character from one of the stories, Pretty Maggie Moneyeys, where Ellison describes what many, lesser, writers would simply say was a “beautiful woman”. Behold a master at work:

Long legs, trim and coltish; hips a trifle large, the kind that promote that specific thought in men, about getting their hands around them; belly flat, isometrics; waist cut to the bone, a waist that works in any style from dirndl to disco slacks; no breasts – all nipple, but no breast, like an expensive whore (the way O’Hara pinned it) – and no padding…forget the cans, baby, there’s other, more important action; smooth, Michelangelo-sculpted neck, a pillar, proud; and all that face.
Outthrust chin, perhaps a tot too much belligerence, but if you’d walloped as many gropers, you too, sweetheart; narrow mouth, petulant lower lip, nice to chew on, a lower lip as though filled with honey, bursting, ready for things to happen; a nose that threw the right sort of shadow, flaring nostrils, the acceptable words – aquiline, patrician, classic, allathat; cheekbones as stark and promontory as a spit of land after ten years of open ocean; cheekbones holding darkness like narrow shadows, sooty beneath the taut-fleshed bone-structure; amazing cheekbones, the whole face, really; an ancient kingdom’s uptilted eyes, the touch of the Cherokee, eyes that looked out at you, as you looked in at them, like someone peering out of the keyhole as you peered in; actually, dirty eyes, they said you can get it.Harlan Ellison

I really very much recommend Harlan Ellison. Start with Deathbird Stories.

Of Writerly Doubts

George R R Martin

Self-doubt is the lead weighing down the writer’s running shoes.

And the thing is, every writer has moments of self-doubt, even the great ones, the ones that have made it into the mainstream, the ones that sell millions and have tv shows made after their books.

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Here is a quote from George R. R. Martin, from early in his career:

Neither story sold its first time out. Or its second. Or its third. My other ‘summer stories’ were getting bounced around as well, but it was the rejections for ‘Mistfall’ and ‘Loneliness’ that hurt the most. These were strong stories, I was convinced, the best work I was capable of. If the editors did not want them, maybe I did not understand what makes a good story after all… or maybe my best work was just not good enough. It was a dark day each time one of these two came straggling home, and a dark night of doubt the followed.

As I write this I’m waiting to hear from a magazine regarding one of my stories, after having it rejected by two big markets. And I think exactly the same thing Martin thought, way back when he was starting out. Perhaps I needn’t worry.

It helps me to know that other writers have self-doubt. I remember reading Neil Gaiman say that when he was starting out he expected someone to come knocking on his door to tell him to quit writing and get a proper job (I’m glad he didn’t).

So… self doubt. Do you have it and how do you deal with it?

The Secrets That Dwell in the Back of Dark Books

From Hell cover

I’m reading a dark, dark book, and in the back I found a dark, dark secret.

From Hell cover

I tend to read books completely; the preface, the introduction, the dedication and all appendices and epilogues. Doing this just paid off.

Alan Moore’s From Hell is a dense and dark book about the possible story behind Jack the Ripper. It has a great many characters that really existed, though much of their words and actions in the book are fiction (based on fact). Many of these characters I don’t know, but there is a very helpful appendix at the back, with lengthy annotations on the characters and places that are seen on each and every page of the graphic novel itself.

It is there I found something that really interested me, where Alan Moore is explaining page 2 of From Hell:

Page 2
William Withey Gull was born in Colchester on 31 December 1816. His family moved to Thorpe-Le Soken in the early 1820’s. Details of Gull’s early life, including his initial interest in the sea, his oft-noted resemblance to Napoleon, and his father’s death from cholera are drawn from William Withey Gull, A Biographical Sketch, by Gull’s son-in-law Theodore Dyke Acland (Adlard & Son, 1896). This book is available at the British Library, and in this instance the necessary locating and photocopying was performed by Neil Gaiman, to whom many thanks.

So yeah…. Neil Gaiman ran to the library to make photocopies for Alan Moore when he was researching From HellI wish Neil Gaiman was around to run errands for me.

7 Book Photos

I recently bought an iPad, and it lets me take photos of stuff and share right away. I understand people do this with food and children.

Not me. You see, I’m a book person and so I take photos of books.

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This is my recent loot from Barnes & Noble.

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The Cover of the excellent Something Wicked This Way Comes.

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A passage from The Twelve.

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I met Neil Gaiman once, and he signed a book for me. 

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 I also met Michael Ondaatje once, and he signed a book. My favorite book (one of them, at least). I was so in awe of him when I met him that I could hardly talk to him.

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The cover of my Everyman’s Library edition of Heart of Darkness 

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Drood. Excellent cover, great book.

This concludes my photopost. Now have a great day.

Með stjörnur í augunum

Twitter er yndislegt fyrirbæri.

Ég byrjaði að nota Twitter fyrir vinnuna, en bjó mér þó líka til aðgang sjálfur sem lá að mest óhreyfður. Hægt og rólega hef ég þó verið að “fylgja” fleirum. Twitter virkar þannig að það geta allir “fylgt” þér, þ.e. séð allt sem þú skrifar, ólikt Facebook þar sem maður þarf að samþykkja alla. Maður getur líka talað við alla á Twitter, en þó er mjög mismunandi hversu duglegt fólk er að svara. Þetta virkar þannig að maður setur einfaldlega @ fyrir framan nafn einhvers, og þá sér viðkomandi að verið er að tala við hann.

Hvað mína notkun varðar, þá reyni ég að fylgja og tala við aðra sem eru í rithöfunda/bóka pælingum, hvort sem það er fólk í sjálfsútgáfu, bókaforlög eða frægir rithöfundar. Á Twitter tala ég nær eingöngu á ensku, enda eru flestir þar enskumælandi.

Og þá komum við að titli færslunnar. Mér hefur nefninlega tekist að ná sambandi við einn og annan ansi þekktan í bókmenntaheiminum, þá sem ég tel vera “stjörnur”.

Hérna eru 5 þekktar rithöfundar sem hafa svarað mér á Twitter:

Byrjum á Brian Aldiss.

Brian Aldiss

Bókin sem ég er að tala um er Penguin Classics útgáfan af War of the Worlds, eftir H. G. Wells.

Næst er það Lauren Beukes, höfundur bókarinnar Zoo City.

Lauren Beukes

Brandon Sanderson, sá sem tók að sér Wheel of Time seríuna eftir andlát Roberts Jordan.

Brandon Sanderson

Margaret Atwood, líklega merkilegasti rithöfundurinn á þessum lista:

Margaret Atwood

She is among the most-honoured authors of fiction in recent history; she is a winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and Prince of Asturias award for Literature, has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times, winning once, and has been a finalist for the Governor General’s Award seven times, winning twice.

Síðan er sá sem mér finnst persónlega merkilegastur, þ.e. mesta stjarnan í mínum augum. 

Neil Gaiman

Þarna er Neil Gaiman að segja “Hi” við mig, Margaret Atwood og Salman Rushdie. Þetta er einhver merkilegasti félagsskapur sem ég get hugsað mér.