Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Oyster Is Totally the Netflix of Books, Don't Listen to the Haters

Despite articles like the Wall Street Journal's Why the Public Library Beats Amazon and IBT's Why Oyster Isn't 'The Netflix of Books', I am here to say that I am TOTALLY FOND OF OYSTER even though I had doubts. Serious doubts. Like why should I pay $10 a month when I have a billion books on my shelf I haven't read and can get eBooks from the library? GOOD QUESTION, ME.

Regarding the WSJ article (which focuses on Amazon, but why would you use them -- they are AMAZON), when it says "libraries, at least for now, have one killer feature that the others don't: e-books you actually want to read" my response is...what?

I am a serial skimmer of my library's eBook availability list, and keep in mind this is the Chicago Public Library, not something ridiculous like Skokie (SKOKIE BURN), and anything in the realm of 'oh right, I've been wanting to read that' is unavailable and will not BE available for weeks-to-months because other people have holds. You get the book for three weeks as an eBook, and then poof, gone. Go to the back of the line again if you weren't done and then try to remember what was happening months later when you get it again.

And regarding Oyster's selection versus "e-books you actually want to read," I mean...maybe my tastes are weird (say nothing), but here're some books on Oyster that were pretty easy to find. Due to Oyster's kind of funky set-up, I'm sure there are untapped mines of authors I haven't found on there yet (they have 500,000 books), but here:

Excellent things that are on Oyster

Rosemary's Baby, Ira Levin
The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston 

so much Agatha Christie
The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury
The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls
Transgender 101, Nicholas Teich
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
Catch-22, Joseph Heller

The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits, Emma Donoghue
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Sherman Alexie
Native Son, Richard Wright

Philippa Gregory if you're into that sort of thing
The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt
so much Diana Wynne Jones
so much Gail Carson Levine

What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, Daniel Pool
Shakespeare, Bill Bryson
Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry
Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter
all the C.S. Lewis
Wildwood, Colin Meloy
Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher
How to Be a Woman, Caitlin Moran
Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
The Cider House Rules, John Irving
The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield

As is the case with Netflix, most of the fun is finding new things and adding them to your Reading List. And they stay there! To be opened whensoever you choose. I would've taken away points up until a couple weeks ago, because they had no web reader, which meant I could only read the books on my phone, which just...does not happen often, but then they ADDED a web reader. So now Oyster gets all the points.

I'm not sure why with the advent of eReaders and subscription book services, people think The Library or Published Books are going to disappear. I've had two eReaders, and I read on my computer and my phone, and I still buy print books. People don't just entirely switch over to one format. DVDs are basically done, but you never pulled a DVD out of your bag on the subway and saw someone else's pleased expression because they liked that movie too and BRIEFLY FELT KINSHIP WITH HUMANITY. If someone across from me on the El is reading, I am delighted and try to see what book it is (I'm also ashamed because there is a 90% chance I am playing Candy Crush on my phone). If someone across from me is blasting music -- EVEN IF IT IS MUSIC I OTHERWISE LIKE -- I am completely irritated with that person.

yes, you.

So. You should probs check out Oyster. Where can you do that? BOOM right here. You are welcome, Internet. You are welcome.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Game of Thrones has ruined talking about the onset of cold weather

I believe last week is the first week I've never updated? I think? So here's some stuff to make up for that:

That was cool, right? Yeah, totally. So my life has become an ever-whirling maelstrom of chaos and busyness and yesterday I almost wept with gratitude because I had time to do laundry and take the clothes off the back of my chair. Most of the busyness that has pushed me over the top is entirely my own doing and I deserve no -- NO SYMPATHY. But friendship is what makes us human. No, that's not even true, because check out how sorry this raccoon is that he hurt his cat friend:

But as is sometimes the case in life, I also had stopped reading ennnnnntirely and only sort of kind of started again Saturday night when I finally finished Caitlin Moran's How to Build a Girl, which I will properly review and link up to the ever delightful Emily's blog since she hosted the readalong for it. Oh right, I also haven't looked at blogs in a week since many of them were talking about the end of How to Build a Girl and I did not want to be SPOILED.

Literary/bookness was not entirely neglected though...ok, I just spent ten minutes trying to think of ways literary/bookness was not entirely neglected, which makes me think it was completely. I did, however, watch some episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.


And I've mainly been singing...a lot. As I do that. Oh! And going to the RenFair in Kenosha, Wisconsin. I don't know about the RenFair in your area, but ours is kickass, and I was with a four year old who wanted NOTHING MORE THAN TO RIDE PONIES, which betters the RenFair experience so long as you are not trying to eat chili and cheese curly fries while she is asking, as those two activities do not go together. 

How are we all feeling about the oncoming fall? I realize it's the whitest thing ever, but I am legit excited about pumpkin spice lattes I AM SORRY I DID NOT THINK I WOULD BECOME THIS PERSON. I'm also excited because colder temperatures mean the grisly death of all fruit flies, and I've never truly understood psychopathic genocidal feelings until fruit flies descended upon my apartment. I did not think I could yell "YOU DICK" at a being smaller than one's smallest toenail, but oh, the many times that has now happened. The worst thing is, I usually yell it because the fly decides NOT to let me murder it. "STAY STILL WHILE I SMUSH YOU, FLY." But it is having none of it.

Anyone at all involved with the Midwest knows that last winter was so cold that only deep, entrenched laziness could keep us all here instead of executing a mass migration to New Mexico. But here we all here. Slowly becoming more and more terrified as the weather turns brisk. Delighting in fall with its profusion of stylish jackets but fearing the subsequent weatherman warnings that if you go outside for more than ten minutes, you will just be dead.

Oh, how I would like to finish you, Storm of Swords. And The Paying Guests. And that J.K. Rowling book from two years ago. GOALS FOR THE FALL. Along with killing every fruit fly that darkens my door. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Book of Genesis Pt 2: This is harder to summarize than I originally thought

So if you'll remember from the other day, Jacob stole his twin Esau's birthright, which means he gets all the firstborn son stuff. Not cool, Jacob. In the second half of Genesis, their father Isaac (son of Abraham, let's keep this patriarchy line straight) does THE SAME THING HIS DAD DID and when he's in a foreign country with his wife, he's like "Oh, that's my sister," and the king's like "Oh, your sister's pretty attractive" and then he sees "Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah" and is like "Wtf why did you say she was your sister??" I don't get why this is a repeated story in Genesis, but it seems really important to them. Maybe it was really, really funny back then -- I don't know what senses of humor were like 3000 years ago.

they wouldn't even get the Oprah bee gif, guys

So then it's time for Jacob to for-real steal Esau's inheritance, and it's messed up because Isaac's like "I'm dying. Esau, go hunt something and then make me awesome food with it and I'll give you my blessing" (which is like...a thing in the culture that is important). So Esau goes out to hunt, but their MUTUAL MOTHER Rebekah overhears this, says to Jacob, "Hey, go get two goats from the herd and I'll make some goat stew for your dad, and you can steal your brother's inheritance."


I and this lady judge you 3000 years in the future

Then Jacob says "Oh, but Esau's really hairy and I'm not and what if Dad grabs my hand" and she's like "Cover yourself in goatskins PROBLEM SOLVED" and this works.

So Esau comes back and is like "HEY GUYS, I'm back" and Isaac the Dad is real upset and says "Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing" and Esau says "He took my birthright and now he's taken my blessing!", so....I guess those're two different things.

Esau RIGHTFULLY wants to kill Jacob, because Jacob is an asshole, so Rebekah sends Jacob to her brother Laban by saying to Isaac in a totally understated way "I'm disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living."

Jacob falls in love with his cousin Rachel, who at least isn't his sister, and his uncle says "You can marry her if you work for me for seven years." And Jacob says ok. Then Laban gives him Leah, daughter with weak eyes (teller of the story, this is not nice) and Jacob sleeps with her and then realizes THE NEXT MORNING it's not Rachel, which TBH makes me think he maybe doesn't deserve Rachel. But then Laban's like "Ok, work for me for seven more years and you can marry Rachel." So he does.

God feels bad for Leah, so she gets to have four sons and Rachel gets none and this has never been more appropriate:

Then Leah has two more sons and a daughter, and finally Rachel has a son and his name is Joseph and OF COURSE HE'S THE FAVORITE patriarchs you are not being cool at all; Leah gave you a bunch of kids, sir, and you suck. Also, read Genesis 30:14-16, because it's my new favorite thing in the Bible; it involves bartering love plants for sex.

Jacob continues to be tricksy, and Rachel steals her father's household gods for some reason (she wants them? that's probably why — Rachel sucks) and won't get up when he wants to search her tent because she says she has her period. Ahahahaha. Then Jacob finds out Esau's coming and he sends him a bunch of goats as a peace offering; LITERALLY wrestles with God (sure); and then Esau's really nice to him even though Jacob totally doesn't deserve it because Jacob is terrible and we should all throw oranges at him.

So. The next part extra-sucks, and look, I don't know the desert situation in that area at the time, but I guess there were a lot of rulers or kings or something, and Jacob and his wives and sons and daughter and many sheep were wandering around, and I guess the daughter (Dinah) was like "I'll go visit with the women around here; that sounds totally safe" and so she's wandering around chatting, and then the local ruler's son sees her, "violates" her, and then is like "Oh hey, Jacob, I wanna marry her, so it's totally okay that I did this thing." And his dad the local ruler tries to calm everybody down, 'cause oh shit and so forth. 

Her eleven brothers are obviously PISSED, and they concoct this weirdass scheme where alllll the guys in the area have to get circumcised before the ruler's son can marry their sister. They say fine, so all the guys did it, then, while every dude was incapacitated, because ow, two of the sons took swords and stabbed eeeeevery guy. Then they took all their stuff. Then Jacob was pissed, because everyone was gonna attack them. Then Rachel dies (which I DO NOT MOURN) and we get to Joseph, who I have to do another post about because he's chapters 37-50 of Genesis, which is a lot for one guy, and he's got a fancy coat, so. He's got that going on.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Chicago Women in Publishing Host Trivia and I Giggle All the Way Through It

I AM SLIGHTLY TIPSY but here is a vague approximation of the evening I have just partaken of:

1. Delightful friend Katie-Anne asks if I wish to attend the Chicago Women in Publishing event in lieu of her, as she is bizzay.

2. I say yes, because it is literary trivia and I am competitive as haylle.

3. Other delightful friend Julie attends with me, as I refuse to be a trivia team of one.

TURNS OUT ladies in publishing know how to party. By which I mean one girl and I kept giving each other the finger and then laughing really hard and also sharing which Harry Potter house we were in. She is a Slytherin but we're gonna work it out. We're gonna work it out.

This helped

Our team was The Fighting Mongooses, only POSSIBLY bested by City of the Big Shoulderpads. Or maybe that other one that won that I can't remember. Julie? Something about reading? No idea. ANYWAY. Our name was because of Futurama, which is the best team name source possible. Julie suggested "The Way We Quiz Now" as a play on Trollope's The Way We Live Now, which is BRILLIANT but would not have been appreciated.


Our quizmaster said our team name should be Bossy and then changed it to Attitude, because SOMEONE was a little pantsy (new word, just thought it up, not changing it) about knowing how many children Elizabeth and Robert Browning had. Also we were one of TWO (out of like six) teams that knew the answer to which Murakami novel was so popular that five percent of Japan bought it. Know why I knew it? BECAUSE WE READ THAT SUCKER RIGHT HERE. And I did NOT like it. But someone mentioned that fact and it stayed, so suck it, people who said Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and 1Q84

Know what two questions we got wrong on the written portion? The ones whose answers were Nicholas Sparks and Sex and the City. I AM COMFORTABLE WITH THAT. We bombed this though:

*mutters about YA*

I talked with Slytherin girl after, while representing Hufflepuff House. Julie's a Ravenclaw and we rounded up a Gryffindor, so it was a rich night of companionship and camaraderie indeed. HARRY POTTER UNITES ALL. Also I took all the pens the end.

The First Half of Genesis: Creation, Flood, Fire, Salt, Circumcision.

Genesis is the book of the Bible for the lazy man. It's the first one, and it has some of the best stories, so they're most of the ones that've gotten bandied about in popular culture for centuries. But there're 50 chapters in Genesis, so it's a bit long, and not everything became famous and I AM HERE TO HELP.

Genesis obvs starts with the creation of the universe. BOOM. Made. But there are two creation stories (oops) in Genesis 1 and 2, so first you have the big one where it talks about seven days, and where it's like LIGHT. WATER. LAND. PLANTS. STARS. BIRDS AND FISH THINGS. OTHER ANIMALS. MAN. NAP TIME.

That's the order of stuff.

But then the second creation story's just like "There was NOTHING except a bunch of dirt. Then some water. Then God made man out of the dirt and put him in this big perfect garden that you can never go back to sorry."

With Adam and Eve, the special things people usually point out are 1) No mention is made of an apple, so the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil could have been like a kiwi or something, 2) The serpent is never SAID to be Satan, 3) God made Eve from Adam's rib, so from his side, so equality, etc etc.

After their son Cain killed his brother Abel, Cain went to the land of Nod. WHO LIVES IN NOD? Ok, anyway.

Then Noah happens. Everyone knows Noah. And we've talked about this, but this is where they talk about the Nephilim who APPARENTLY were like, half-angel/half-men dudes, and "the heroes of old, men of renown." Which I take to mean that some of these stories we have of badass people ACTUALLY HAPPENED. So exciting. Much joy. Anyway. Everyone on earth sucks, so God's gonna destroy it with a flood, "for the earth is filled with violence because of them," but He's NOT GONNA DESTROY NOAH because Noah's cool.

Then after the flood, God tells Noah "I will NEVER destroy the earth again with a flood, and my promise to you is this rainbow." But then the gays took that.

damnit, you guys, that's supposed to keep up from
all drowning

What people don't talk about is the afterstory of Noah, which is when Noah drinks a bunch of wine and passes out naked in his tent, then his youngest son Ham walks in and then tells his older brothers their dad is drunk and naked in a tent, and Noah's like "Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers," which seems kinda shitty, Noah, and THIS IS PART OF WHAT PEOPLE USED TO JUSTIFY SLAVERY. Because Ham, Shem and Japheth were Noah's sons, and crazy people say Ham was the father of the African race and BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

Genesis also has the Tower of Babel, which is one of my favorite stories because language is the bomb (said it, not taking it back), and then the story of ABRAHAM, who's mainly famous because of almost sacrificing his son right before God said "Wait jk" and because he's seen as a patriarch by Judaism, Islam and Christianity, which is COOL because God was all "Abraham, I know you're really old and have no kids, but one day your descendants will outnumber the stars in the sky." God's new covenant for this is not a rainbow but circumcision ahahahaha sorry guys.

H.O.O.P. was not around yet

Also, Abraham did some sketchy stuff like go to Egypt and tell Pharaoh Abraham's wife was his sister and then Pharaoh was hitting on the wife (...or maybe sleeping with her? probably) and God was smiting Pharaoh's household and Pharaoh was like "Abraham, wtf? Why didn't you just say she was your wife?" And Abraham was like "SORRY" and then they left Egypt.

Abraham does some pretty badass bargaining with God in Genesis 18 to try to save Sodom, but then in chapter 19 it gets destroyed anyway, because the inhabitants decide they want to rape some angels (this is where we get the word sodomy, and this is part of why some people decided homosexuality is against the Bible -- because dudes 4000 years ago wanted to rape angels). Then Abraham's cousin Lot escapes Sodom, but Lot's wife looks back and becomes a pillar of salt which is SO WEIRD BUT OKAY.

Then's Lot's daughters sleep with him so his line can continue. #thebible

In chapter 25 (the halfway point), Abraham's son Isaac's wife Rebekah has twins, Jacob and Esau, and Jacob is a DICK, but we're supposed to root for him. Esau's a hunter and not the brightest, but Jacob likes sitting around with his mom, so his mom's all about Jacob, and one day Esau comes back from hunting and is like "JACOB. You have stew and I really want some 'cause I've been hunting to provide sustenance for our tribe" and Jacob's like "Oh, you want some of this stew right here? How about you sell me your birthright since you were born first and get all of dad's stuff?" And Esau says "Yeah, that sounds like a good plan."

TO BE CONTINUED. Since we haven't even gotten to Joseph and his coat everyone's all envious of.

Monday, August 4, 2014

How to Build a Girl: You fix your references and you fix them now, Moran

I'm pretty tired, 'cause I was up late trying to finally wrap up this whole season 2 of Buffy thing I've been working on for like two years. But we've got a readalong post, so that'll be happening on a minorly functioning brain. Yeah, I said "minorly," spellcheck, and you can deal.

This seems appropriate for last night AND
this book we're reading

Johanna had sex, etc etc, big moments in life, controversy because she's like 16 and these musician guys are therefore gross, but the REALLY upsetting thing to me is the NOW CONSISTENT incorrect handling of movie references.

Pop culture love is an embarrassingly large part of my life. More particularly movies because growing up in the country, we had no cable. The internet was a tiny baby that could do NOTHING. And there's only so much PBS you can watch in a day, so my siblings and I watched movies ALL THE TIME. Those things are sacred. And Star Wars -- who's not going to realize something about Star Wars is wrong? COMMUNISTS. Those're the only people. No, Leia never "got" Han to kiss her "before they swung across a chasm in a spaceship on a rope together." ARE YOU REFERRING TO THIS SCENE, CAITLIN MORAN:

Because that is Luke and Leia, and they are twins, and them kissing is gross. Also Leia was never seriously invested in that relationship even when she didn't know Luke was her brother because it was about Han IT'S ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT HAN.

But maybe you were thinking of the other Star Wars "let's swing across a ship on a rope" scene. 


The other time this pop culture incorrectness occurs is the line  "You know—like the giant baby in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids." 

NO. That is Honey, I Blew Up the Kid, and it was a terrible movie.

THIS BOOK CONTINUES TO BE GOOD EVERYONE HAVE A LOVELY WEEK Emily our delightful host's blog is here.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Edan Lepucki's California: Small community, dark secrets, yes yes, BUT ALSO a foreboding sense of one's own vulnerability in the face of chaos

I don't know how to hold books for pictures.

I posted a blurby review of Edan Lepucki's California before I'd finished it, because that's how I do, but I have now actually finished it and attended an event of hers hosted by the excellent Chicago bookstore The Book Cellar (no, I did not get the double meaning of that name until I said it out loud, which was embarrassingly recently).

I was impressed by The Book Cellar, Edan Lepucki, and California. All of them. Let's discuss why in reverse order:

California is a book I requested from Little, Brown because I loved the cover SO MUCH and it said something about post-apocalyptic AND a small community with dark secrets. I would actually call it "semi-post-apocalyptic," but the two main characters are still forced to move into the forest and pee outside and build things out of wood they've chopped themselves and go to bed when it's dark out because THERE IS NO ELECTRICITY IN THE POST-APOCALYPTIC FOREST.

The book revolves around a couple who is trying to survive the collapse of everything, and then of course the woman (Frida) gets pregnant and they have to try seek out the weird community to the east that possibly exists. THE COMMUNITY WITH DARK SECRETS (maybe).

California was eminently readable. I would never talk about the "fluidity of its prose" or "beauty of its structure" or whatever books in the Literary Fiction section get praised for, but screw those books, because this book made me think more than most of those do. Mainly about how quickly I'd die if I couldn't depend on the hard work of all those who went before me & civilized everything so I can unthinkingly lie in my bed that's not stuffed with corn husks, type on my charging laptop that connects me to the rest of the world, run my fan to stay cool, keep my lights on so I can work after dark and play Toni Braxton's "Un-Break My Heart" on a never-ending loop on my phone because Toni Braxton GETS IT.

Yeah, like I'm going through the apocalypse without this

At the Book Cellar event, Lepucki said she didn't really do research, which astonished me, because there're so many day-to-day survival things she talks about that I wouldn't have even thought of. I am 100% sure I'd die in the first few days, especially if I got cut or something. You know what I thought a lot about while reading this book? How squirrels know how to gather nuts and then store them and to stay away from like bears, but we've lost ALL that knowledge that we probably just somehow had. Why would we need instincts? WHY INDEED. Everything's been taken care of for us by millions and millions of people who died messing up and now stuff's perfected and we have no idea how to do anything for basic survival EVERYBODY PANIC.

I went to the event with my friend Julie (she mainly came because I promised we could get gelato after) and we were both mightily impressed with how Lepucki handled everything. The reading wasn't too long (authors reading from their own books is not high up on my list of Things I've Gotta See More Of) and the way she handled questions was essentially "Behold! as I deftly make your boring question not boring." Thank you, madam. And people in the audience kept the word "process" to a minimum, which is always appreciated.

Edan Lepucki looking kind of like J.K. Rowling

She said part of her thinking for the book involved the idea of what if people under pressure were petty and selfish and didn't let go of their first world problems? Which is a delightful notion, particularly if it means that in a few hundred years Q doesn't throw us in front of the Borg. (I want five points for that joke) 

She also said about the end of the book: "I thought it would be a very literary ending, nothing will be resolved -- but people are pissed at me."

In case you're worried about being maddened by the end -- I was fine with it. It did seem like a whole other story was getting set up, but I don't need actual definite closure on those characters. The story she decided to tell is there and it's page-turny, which as a hard-to-keep-interested reader, I appreciate muchly.

So lastly let's talk about The Book Cellar. I'd never been there before, which, y'know, shame on me, etc, but my indie bookstore is Open Books where everything is cheap and it's right by my apartment and the proceeds help fund literacy. Also The Book Cellar is way far out on the brown line. But I'd forGOTTEN how nice a curated store can be. The hazards of used bookstores/giant online retailers is they just have everything or a weird motley assortment. But when you go into The Book Cellar, you're immediately like, "Oh, I want to read that. And that. And that." And they have black cherry cola you can buy, so yes, I will be going back.

As for the actual book signing part of the process, not a single hard time was given for my "Can you write one of your favorite words" question, which remains my favorite thing to ask authors. WORDS ARE HOW THEY SPEND THEIR LIFE THEY THINK ABOUT THEM MORE THAN WE DO. So here you go -- nicely done, Edan Lepucki:

Everyone read California and then come talk to me about the the Spikes.