Saturday, August 27, 2005

(only tangentially book-related) 

Registering for gifts is an awkward thing for me.

I have trouble asking for favors. Heck, I have trouble asking directions, lest I inconvenience the person I'm asking. So asking for presents seems way over the top.

Besides, I have everything I need to live comfortably. Sure, I'd like to have that beautiful comforter and sheets set I've been coveting for...oh...four years now. But I don't need it. I don't need a coffee maker. I don't need a big mixing bowl. I can buy myself a muffin tray.

But the flip side is that there's a lot of stuff that a finished household has that my fiance and I don't. Like several sets of matching dishes. Like placemats. Like new towels. And there's stuff I want but would never buy myself. And since the people I invite to my wedding will probably want to give me something, I'd prefer it to be something I'd like or that I'd actually use. So, I registered.

(and now the book part) - Since Amazon.com has a wedding registry, I've registered there. There are coffee table books on my registry, big books of maritime paintings that I would never buy myself but want desperately.

I have my fingers crossed.

(Disclaimer: if you know me and were not intending to buy me something, DON'T. I really don't want anyone to feel obligated to buy me ANYTHING. You know what I'd like most? Seriously, a letter. A long letter, telling me about your year, your marriage, sharing advice, telling me stories about my family, remembrances of our times together, whatever you want to share. Yes, it'll take time, but no money. That's what I'd like.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Best - Party Theme - Ever 

I'm getting married soon (to someone who claims to have nightmares about being crushed by my towering, overflowing bookcases. They do kind of loom over the bed, but in a protective, tree-like way, not a precarious, rock-sculpture sort of way. Still, he has a good case (pun unintended). I DO need a library).

His mother came up with the idea of a literary bridal shower. Everyone was to bring me a book.

Since this shower was only with his family, she also suggested a theme: everyone should bring either their favorite book or a book dear to them that they want to share with me, maybe so I can get to know them better or maybe because it has marriage advice they found valuable.

It was great. Not only did I get books, mostly by authors I didn't know of, I got to know my soon-to-be family a bit better. His family is full of readers, geeks, PhDs, economists, computer scientists, and amateur astronomers, and they loved the idea and the books I got, which I left out to be pored over the rest of the time I was there.

Best shower theme ever.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A national decline in literary reading - and I'm part of the problem 

A recent NEA survey (.pdf only) revealed horrifying results – at least to those who read headlines. Less than half of all Americans read literature! Reading declined since 1982! Only a quarter of Hispanics read literature! People who read literature do more charity work that those who don’t!

But look closer – see how they define “literature” and “literary reading.” Literature is “novels, short stories, plays, and poetry,” with no distinction made between genres. The books cannot have been read for school or work. The survey does not take into account work hours, another factor that affects charity time. But most offensive is the idea that non-literary readers are alliterate and must be saved, through laws, interventions, or book sales.

I am not a "literary reader" because I rarely read fiction. I prefer Herodotus to Grisham. My preference for John Keegan over Danielle Steele contributes to the downfall of literacy in America. Is it a crime that I read Ernest Hemingway’s nonfiction as raptly as his fiction? That I find the Naval Institute’s Press histories more enthralling than Harlequin Romance historical novels? That I know more about the struggles to found the US Navy and Marines than I do about Harry Potter’s struggles at Hogworth school? That the last translation of the Iliad I read was a prose translation, not poetry?

And the survey completely discounts internet reading. I’ve only read Thomas Paine on my computer. You know, the founding father who wrote, “These are the days that try men’s souls,” and talked about “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot,” a phrase that inspired the name of the Winter Soldier hearings? Paine wrote about his journeys with General Washington in a language that is breathtaking and vivid, even today. Look at the iambic rhythm of that first line – “These are the days that try men’s souls.” Oh, but this is non-fiction. And I read it on a computer. It doesn’t count. There have to be methodological problems in a survey that counts me as alliterate.

But does it matter that the NEA thinks I’m alliterate and uneducated? No, but I wish they’d be quiet about it and stop demanding more of my tax money. I’m saving up for Will Durant’s history of civilization series.

Monday, August 08, 2005


You can't have much of a book blog without talking about Harry Potter. So I guess I'll say a few words.

I started the first book, thought it wasn't worth my time, and never picked it up again. Later, because a housemate left the 4th book on the coffee table, I read the end. The writing was unimpressive. The characters were interesting, the drama seemed interesting, but there was not enough meat there to hold my attention again.

Bottom line - with so much writing out there, and given my limited lifespan, I don't wantto spend it reading Harry Potter. Nothing against those who like him, it's just not for me.

Besides, the genre's almost the opposite of what I like. I tend to prefer non-fiction, history or essay. I don't like fantasy. I don't like magic.

From what I've read, the Harry Potter books are some of the best of their genre. For better or worse, I don't read that genre. So I won't read Harry Potter.

Monday, August 01, 2005

MilBlog tangent 

Remember 1st Lt. Brian Chontosh of the Marines? He kicked serious butt in an ambush on his Marines in Iraq. He killed at least 20 and wounded as many.

He just got the Navy Cross.

Why don't we hear more about the bravery of our troops? Why do we just get body count reports?

A long, drawn out tribute with pictures:

"...But that's probably not how he would tell it. He would probably merely say that his Marines were in trouble, and he got them out of trouble. Ooh-rah, and drive on."

Hat tip: My Pet Jawa.

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