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Last Word Blog

  • OR Books to work with Evergreen Review

  • Fire at AK Press & 1984 Building, Two Dead


    DAVID DEBOLT ON MAR 21, 2015 
    SOURCE: CONTRA COSTA TIMES

    March 21--OAKLAND -- Two people are dead and dozens of people were left without a home after a fire ravaged an apartment building early Saturday in West Oakland, a fire official said.
    The two adult victims were found dead inside one unit of the building and about 30 others have been displaced, Oakland fire Battalion Chief Geoff Hunter said. The fire broke out about 3 a.m. at a former armory now divided into live/work units in two separate buildings, stretching from 669 and 671 24th St. to 674 23rd St., between San Pablo Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Hunter said.
    As the fire grew to a three-alarm blaze, it quickly spread through the roof, which the buildings share, Hunter said. Fire crews also had trouble accessing the fire, he said. Firefighters had the fire under control at 4:10 a.m.
    The brick building is home to activists and artists and to AK Press and 1984 Printing, which are both located on the first-floor, 23rd Street side of the building. Both companies suffered significant water damage to their book collections and to the businesses. Employees of AK Press and 1984 Printing were busy Saturday morning pushing water out with brooms.
    AK Press describes itself on its website as a worker-run, collectively managed, anarchist publishing and distribution company. According to its website, 1984 Printing offers offset printing and digital copier printing on recycled papers, soy-based and recycled ink and animal-free book binding.
    Jose Palafox, 41, who has lived in the building for about six years, said he was awakened by the sound of smoke alarms around 3:50 a.m. His unit was not damaged by the fire.
    "It's pretty insane, but everybody in the community is helping out," Palafox said.
    The cause of the fire is under investigation. The American Red Cross has opened an evacuation center at 3901 Broadway to help people affected by the fire.
    David DeBolt covers breaking news. Contact him at 510-208-6453. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.
    Copyright 2015 - Contra Costa Times

  • Blood Splatters Quickly by Ed Wood, reviewed by Charlie Jack Joseph Kruger


         The late Ed Wood has been done a vicious disservice by Tim Burton. Because of the (rightful) scorn of 'Plan 9 From Outer Space', the general low-brow attitude of so much of his work, and the speed with which he pushed ahead, Ed Wood has always been a target for dismissive mockery. Tim Burton's buffoonish film then added an extra level of icing to the cake. By insisting on a narrative of 'HAHA HE IS SUCH A CLOWN', Ed Wood has been left as a point of comedy for college-educated elite film snobs. I have always felt though, that Ed Wood is more than that. Ed Wood was a dreamer. A flawed, and sometimes destructive dreamer, but always and chiefly, a dreamer.


         As a general fan and defender of low culture, I have found myself pushing the Ed Wood boulder up the hill quite a few times, knowing that when I wake up, I will just have to do it all again. Many of (all, really) Ed Wood's films are horribly flawed. Sloppy writing, hasty changes, low budgets, poor tools... so on and so forth. But there is passion in them (other than the later sleaze porno films, but that is a different talk for a different time!) and there is honesty. Which, really, is more than I can say for Tim Burton. If you wanna make it personal.

         In this collection, 'Blood Splatters Quickly', a solid collection of Ed Wood's short fiction is bound together. These stories range from pulpy 'women in danger' to sado-sexual screeds all the way around to creepy cautionary tales.       And to be frank, I love them all. As a long time reader and lover of pulp mags, dime novels, detective/western/horror/scifi throw-away stories, this collection feels right at home for me. Sure, there are awkward moments, flawed elements, but really, these are honest stories, stories that convey something bigger and more truthful than any 'airplane books' ever strive to. These stories paint a picture of a desperate artist. A creator who just wanted to find the right way to be open. To tell the truth. To be real.

         These arent Fitzgerald stories. They arent perfect. They arent even amazing, really. But they are fun. And more over, they are perfect little brass coated lead pills of honesty and passion from a person who has been shit on and denigrated his whole life.

         Ed Wood was a true outsider. A rebel and a firebrand. And these stories of his show why. They arent the overblown impressions and jokes about him that have become his pop-culture-chosen face... they are the Ed Wood that low culture fans have always known was there. The Ed Wood worth defending. The Ed Wood the hipster literati have tried to wash out of the artistic consciousness of our time. This collection is the Ed Wood we need.  

    reviewed by Charlie Jack Joseph Kruger

  • Bowie by Critchley

        reviewed by Charlie Jack Joseph Kruger

         There are few figures in the halls of art history who command such a strong and passionate response as David Bowie. There have always been other artists who have spoken to the outsiders, to the aliens, and there have always been artists who have transformed and morphed through time with ease and poise, but none have ever done it quite like Bowie has. From balladeer to alien to duke, to monster, to warrior, to neo-classicist, Bowie has not just wiggled and writhed into a million new masks and shells, but he has managed to maintain an integrity and an honesty that is not only unquestionable, but almost unbelievable.


         In this short book, Simon Critchley explores the identity and honesty of such an artistic chameleon. By tying in his own personal development, and the stages of his life, the author is able to create a very human scale to measure Bowie's extra-human changes and path.

         I was deeply impressed with Critchley's ability to weave Bowie's lyrics into the narrative with apparent ease. Jumping from era to era to illustrate points of change, I feel that Critchley worked out a lot of wrinkles in the fabric of his argument painstakingly.

         Now, while I don't wholly agree with all the points in this book (to quote Bowie himself, "Fuck you, I like Tin Machine") I am impressed by the devotional qualities of it. I also don't feel that this book was written to be definitive or even completely identifiable. It is about Critchley's path with Bowie. His development through and alongside the gifted artist. So obviously, all of our own paths would be different. This book isn't a roadmap, its a window... one I am quite glad to have gotten to peer into.

  • Books New from Sheppards Confidential


    NEWS

    Scotland: Ode to Generosity - Keats' tome given to art school
    The edition, from 1898, has been given to the school, which lost much of its collection in a disastrous fire last May, by the Antiquarian Booksellers Association.
      The cover design of John Keats - His Poems, gilt-tooled in Glasgow School style, was created by GSA teacher and designer, Ann Macbeth.
      The book was formally presented to GSA Librarian, Jennifer Higgins, by the President of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association, Brian Lake. Read more




    USA: Aaron-James Booksellers, Plattsworth NE to close
    For over a decade, Aaron-James Booksellers has provided the Plattsmouth area a wide selection of new and used books.
      Now, owner Jim Ball says it's time to close the page on the store, so he can spend more time with family and travel during his retirement years.
      The shop was first located in the former Dovey Buildings on Main Street in Plattsmouth. Eight years ago, Ball moved it to 420 Main. He hopes to close the store this spring. Read more



    USA: Homeland Security Investigations agents help track down rare stolen book
    A thief had stolen a rare 16th-century book from Italy. It was Marty Hamlin's job to find it, and help bring it home.
      Hamlin, a special agent in Baltimore for Homeland Security Investigations - an arm of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement - took the case in September 2013.
      Agents with an HSI office in Rome had been hot on the book's trail when it was sold by an auction house in the Italian capital. Hamlin picked up the trail, and within weeks had the book in his gloved hands.
      It turned out the rare books dealer who bought the book at the auction had sold it - to library curators at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Read more



    USA: New chapter for lost library of Lenkiewicz
    After years of legal complications, one of Robert Lenkiewicz's greatest legacies is being opened up to the public as the artist intended. Rachael Dodd discovers the Lenkiewicz Library.
      Over a span of 40 years, Robert Lenkiewicz amassed a library of some 25,000 books. Sadly, after his untimely death in 2002, a large part of the collection was auctioned to cover the artist's debts.Read more




    Scotland: Rare books by Blake, Carrol and de Sade emerge from Edinburgh collection for Surrealist display
    Rare books by William Blake, Lewis Carroll and the Marquis de Sade will go on show at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art this spring as part of a new display exploring the roots of the Surrealists.
      Surreal Roots: From William Blake to André Breton will combine 18th and 19th century publications, rarely shown to the public, with 20th century books by key surrealist figures such as Salvador Dalí.Read more



    UK: Was 1925 really the best year for literature?
    It was a very good year. Ernest Hemingway took his first literary steps with the collection of short stories In Our Time; Virginia Woolf published Mrs Dalloway; and F Scott Fitzgerald brought out The Great Gatsby. All that happened in 1925, as did the publication of Gertrude Stein's The Making of Americans, John Dos Passos's Manhattan Transfer, Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy and Sinclair Lewis's Arrowsmith.
      BBC Culture, the BBC's international arts website, has designated 1925 as the 'greatest year' in the history of literature, in a piece by author and journalist Jane Ciabattari. But how to determine something like this? This was how she did it: Read more



    UK: Partnership with Sedbergh Booktown Literacy TrustDurham University's Department of English has announced that it has agreed a formal partnership with Sedbergh Booktown Literary Trust. The aim of the partnership is to stimulate new interest in literature and generate new audiences for books, especially in the north of England. The partners will work closely together to organise a series of lively events, including lectures, writing workshops, and readings. Plans are already underway for a programme of events exploring the evolution of English poetry from Beowulf to Brigflatts. Read more



    UK: World Book Day
    (1) A boy from Manchester was excluded from taking part in World Book Day for dressing as the "Fifty Shades of Grey" character Christian Grey. Read more
    (2) World Book Day titles claimed nine of the coveted positions in the Top 10 in the most successful WBD week since 2012. A combined total of 339,133 copies of the 10 books published to celebrate the annual charity reading event (held on Thursday 5th March) registered through Nielsen BookScan in the seven days ending 7 March.




    Europe: France & Luxembourg ordered to restore VAT on e-books
    The European Court of Justice has ordered France and Luxembourg to restore their standard VAT rates on e-books in a ruling announced on 5 March. The court upheld a decision previously made by European Commission, which ruled that the two countries cannot charge the same VAT rate on e-books as physical books. Contrary to EC directives, for the last few years Luxembourg has been applying a super-reduced VAT rate of 3% on e-books and France 5.5%. The court has now ruled both countries must restore their normal VAT rates on e-books, which are 17% and 20% respectively. Read more



    UK: Jean Chesters
    Jean Chesters, partner in the firm of G.& J. Chesters of Polesworth, died on 5 March of cancer.  Geoff Chesters, aided by three long-established volunteers, will continue the business via the internet and the nine-roomed bookshop.


    UK: Bob Date
    We have learned that Bob Date of Mayland Books died on 9 March.


    UK: Tristram Hull
    Nigel Burwood's good friend and colleague, Tristram Hull, died on Sunday 8 March aged 82. He had been ill with cancer for about a year but was always in good spirits. He had a bookshop in Norwich and later ran Simon Gough Books in Holt. A great bookman and will be sadly missed by all his friends and colleagues in the trade.


    UK: Sir Terry Pratchett
    Sir Terry Pratchett, renowned fantasy author, dies aged 66. Read more

  • Sorry, Ebooks. These 9 Studies Show Why Print Is Better

    The Huffington Post  |  By

    Don't lament the lost days of cutting your fingers on pristine new novels or catching a whiff of that magical, transportive old book smell just yet! A slew of recent studies shows that print books are still popular, even among millennials. What's more: further research suggests that this trend may save demonstrably successful learning habits from certain death. Take comfort in these 9 studies that show that print books have a promising future:
    Younger people are more likely to believe that there's useful information that's only available offline. 
    While 62 percent of citizens under 30 subscribe to this belief, only 53 percent of those 30 and older agree. These findings are from a promising study released last year by Pew Research, which also found that millennials are more likely to visit their local library.

    Students are more likely to buy physical textbooks.
    A study conducted by Student Monitor and featured in The Washington Post shows that 87 percent of textbook spending for the fall 2014 semester was on print books. Of course, this could be due to professors assigning less ebooks. Which is why it's fascinating that...

    Students opt for physical copies of humanities books, even when digital versions are available for free.
    While students prefer reading digital texts for science and math classes, they like to study the humanities in print. A study conducted by the University of Washington in 2013, and quoted in The Washington Post, shows that 25 percent of humanities students bought physical versions of free ebooks.

    This isn't just true of textbooks. Teens prefer print books for personal use, too.
    Nielson BookScan numbers from 2014 revealed the main reasons why teens buy books: "I've enjoyed author's previous books" ranked No. 1, followed by "browsing in libraries" and "browsing in bookstores," which both ranked above "online bookseller websites." "In-store displays" also ranked above hearing about a book through a social network.

    Students don't connect emotionally with on-screen texts.
    A 2012 study featured in the Guardian gave half its participants a story on paper, and the other half the same story on screen. The result? iPad readers didn't feel that the story was as immersive, and therefore weren't able to connect with it on an emotional level. Further, those who read on paper were much more capable of placing the story's events in chronological order.

    ... And they comprehend less of the information presented in digital books.
    USA Today shared a 2013 study showing that students retain less when reading on a screen. The study's creator blamed this on the "flash gimmicks" embedded in many ebooks. She also suspects being able to collectively turn to the same page enhances group discussion.

    It's not just students opting for print. Parents and kids prefer to read physical books together, too.
    According to Digital Book World and literacy nonprofit Sesame Workshop, less than ten percent of kids and parents alike choose ebooks over print books. Parents say fancy features such as videos and interactive games are more of a distraction than a valued tool.

    Which makes sense, because ebooks can negatively impact your sleep.
    A few months ago, the Guardian reported on a Harvard study linking e-reading and sleep deprivation. If the ebook was "light emitting" it took participants an average of ten minutes longer to fall asleep than those who read physical books instead.

    ... And it's hard to avoid multitasking while reading digital books.
    In a blog for The Huffington Post, Naomi S. Baron wrote about the findings published in her new book, Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World. "Studies I have done with university students in several countries confirm what I bet you'll find yourself observing," she writes. "When reading either for (school) work or pleasure, the preponderance of students found it easiest to concentrate when reading in print. They also reported multitasking almost three times as much when reading onscreen as when reading in hard copy."

  • The basic plots of fiction: Professor who analysed 40,000 novels claims there are just SIX possible storylines


    Matthew Jockers used a high-tech computer system to carry out researchProgram looked at emotional journey on which novels take their readersHe said there are just two categories broken down into three sub-groups'Man on a hill' - 54 per cent of books - is a positive story with mid-way peakBut 'man in a hole' sees characters plunge into trouble and crawl out again
    PUBLISHED: 03:52 EST, 26 February 2015 | UPDATED: 09:48 EST, 26 February 2015


         With some 130 million books in existence, it's hard to fathom how the literary sphere's wealth of storylines could be boiled down into just six different categories.
         But a professor is now claiming that there are only half a dozen possible plots which any novel can follow. Matthew Jockers, from the University of Nebraska, has used a high-tech computer system to analyse more than 40,000 novels in a bid to find out the pattern behind storylines. 
    q
    7
    7
         Man in a hole: A professor has claimed that there are just six possible plots for novels - and that Moby Dick (left) and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (right) fall into the 'man in a hole' category 
    7
         This graphic shows how the James Joyce novel follows a broad journey in which it starts on a positive note, plunges, and then re-emerges with positivity: a concept 46 per cent of novels follow, research shows
         Instead of focusing on the narrative, the program, called Syuzhet, automatically studies the emotional journey on which novels take their readers.
         Mr Jockers found the emotional pattern used in novels can be broken down into just two categories, both of which are then divided into three sub-groups.
         He has labelled the two basic forms as 'man on a hill' - a mainly positive story in which there is a mid-way peak - and 'man in a hole', which tends to follow a character as they get into trouble and crawl back out again.
         According to Mr Jockers, 46 per cent of novels are made up of 'man in the hole'-style storylines, the most prominent of which is A Potrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce.
    7
         Matthew Jockers analysed 40,000 novels through a computer system and found that novels follow these two broad emotional concepts - 'man in a hole' and 'man on a hill'
         Moby Dick by Herman Melville was also put into the same category, while the analysis shows Loves Music, Loves to Dance, by Mary Higgins Clarks, follows a similar format. 
    Intensity by Dean Koontz and A Creed in Stone Creek, by Linda Lael Miller, were two examples of the 'man on a hill' format.  
         The remaining four types come from variations of those two broader categories, Mr Jockers claims.
    7
         Mr Jockers said Intensity by Dean Koontz is one of the 'man on a hill' novels, as this graphic shows
    7
         A Creed in Stone Creek, by Linda Lael Miller, is another variant of the 'man on a hill' story 
         Mr Jockers decided to create the program after attending a lecture by Kurt Vonnegut, author of Slaughter-house Five.
    Mr Vonnegut said there was no reasons why the 'simple shape of stories' could not be fed into computers. It was Mr Vonnegut who initially coined the phrases 'man in a hole' and 'man on a hill'.
         Experts have long been trying to analyse how novels are formed.
    7
         Meanwhile, Mr Jockers shows that Simple Genius by David Baldacci is a version of the 'man in a hole' story
         In 2004, Christopher Booker published The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories.
         He suggested there were seven types of tales: rags to riches; overcoming the monster; the quest; voyage and return; comedy; tragedy, and rebirth.
         In the 18th Century, Italian playwright Carlos Gozzi said there were 36 dramatic situations, which included the revolt; the enigma; madness; involuntary crimes of love; self sacrifice, and ambition.

  • The Bone Tree by Greg Iles, Reviewed by Charlie Jack Joseph Kruger

  • Meretricious

    mer·e·tri·cious
    ?mer?'triSH?s/
    adjective
    1.
    apparently attractive but having in reality no value or integrity.
    "meretricious souvenirs for the tourist trade"
    synonyms:worthlessvaluelesscheaptawdrytrashyBrummagemtasteless,kitsch, kitschy; More
    2.
    archaic
    of, relating to, or characteristic of a prostitute.

  • "Hurry it up, you Hoosier bastard! I could hang a dozen men while you're fooling around."

    Last Words of Carl Panzram, spoken to the hangman who asked if there were any Last Words he wanted to say. Panzram (1891-1930), was an American serial killer. Murdered 21 people. Executed by hanging in Leavenworth, Kansas, at age 39. The movie Killer: A Journal of Murder (1996) is based on his final years.

    __________________
    from Last Words of Notable People, compiled by William B. Brahms (New Jersey, 2010).

    original source: Bloodletters and Badmen: A Narrative Encyclopedia of American Crime from the Pilgrims to the Present by Jay Robert Nash (New York, 1973).



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