1. Random House, trying something new, is giving away free PDF copies of Charles Bock’s acclaimed novel Beautiful Children. Like every other blogger who has talked about this, I think Random House is doing a very good thing (The Millions blog even asked them to explain why they’re doing it). Bud Parr says the future is here. This latest e-book experiment brings us closer than the Kindle does, at least.
Okay, but what about the book itself? Jeff Bryant loves it, but I’m standing here waiting for it to grab me, and I’m just not grabbed. My first impressions weren’t good, not because the book has been over-hyped but because the “Dirty Vegas” setting feels to me like a cliche. I had the same problem, unfortunately, with another clearly worthy and well-written new novel, The Delivery Man by Joe McGinniss Jr. I guess you could say that James McManus’ Positively Fifth Street filled me with enough “Dirty Vegas” to last a decade. Opening the new PDF, Bock’s heavy, mannered narrative just doesn’t pull me in:
They chatter and jibe, passing pitchers of soda, reaching for slices with favorite toppings. Chins shine with grease.
It’s hard to say what makes us like or not like a book. I guess I don’t enjoy reading about people who can’t eat pizza without making a mess.
2. The vibrant Carolyn Kellogg will be covering literary Los Angeles at the L.A. Times’ blog, Jacket Copy.
3. Okay, so sometimes I’m wrong. And when I’m wrong, I’ll admit it. I said that literary commentators shouldn’t underestimate the Quill awards, which celebrated the book business with a more populist/commercial sensibility than the National Book Awards. I still say the Quills could have grown into a success in a few years, and I liked the idea of a higher-profile and less “literary” books award, but founding sponsor Reed Business Information is being sold by parent company Reed Elsevier, and that’s the end of the Quills. Now I feel stupid for watching that entire terrible telecast last year. Hey, I once went to a USFL game too.
4. Do critics damn Chinua Achebe with faint praise?
5. Garfield minus Garfield is your daily dose of Dada.
6. It’s not getting as much attention as the Beautiful Children giveaway, but Random House is also moving beyond DRM for audiobooks. Good moves.
8. I don’t share much of a world view with Mr. “God And Man At Yale”, but, what the hell, farewell to William F. Buckley.
9. I’ve got the new Nicholson Baker book, Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization, and I’m very excited about this fact.