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The Art of Reading, Reduced to a Gimmicky Stunt

“Independent bookstores across the country are invited to take part in a unique reading experience this coming October,” according to a press release that showed up in the inbox this morning. “Booksellers will host 24-hour reading marathons in their stores, designed to highlight the importance of reading to our culture, as well as create an opportunity for booklovers to tackle the next book on their to-read pile.”

Yes, because nothing shows us the power of a good book to change our consciousness like having people sit staring at pages until their eyes go bleary, and we retain so much of what we read when we haven’t gotten enough sleep. I mean, I’m all for “promot[ing] and foster[ing] the love of reading,” but I’m not sure that reducing reading to the level of goldfish swallowing or telephone-booth-stuffing is the way to go here.

(Also, a technical question: Will audiobook listening count?)

Running Through the World, Dancing in Rhythmic Measures

Technically, this isn’t a book trailer, just a video with a song that has lyrics adapted from a poem by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. But I’m a sucker for stuff like “Where the Hell Is Matt?“, and I think it’ll brighten up your Tuesday afternoon, too.

Besides, if this guy doesn’t get a book deal at some point, I’m going to be sorely disappointed. Look, he’s even keeping a journal. If some guy can get a book deal for visiting at least one bowling alley in all fifty states, surely one of you editors can find a place for Matt at the table.

UnBeige: Half Off Fancy Art Books!

reading time.jpgOver at UnBeige, mediabistro.com’s design blog, Stephanie Murg provides savvy readers with a head start on Taschen‘s annual price-slashing weekend, taking place at its three retail outlets in New York and Los Angeles (and three others in Europe). If you like coffee table books that skew towards the edgy, they promise “thousands of slightly damaged and display copies.. at bargain basement prices,” with discounts of 50 to 75 percent. No word on just how wide a range of the inventory is included in the mix, so you’ll just have to show up and take your chances…

President Bush Prefers Books To Network TV

NY Times bookblogger Dwight Garner picks up on George W. Bush’s cue from an interview last week, as the president explains, “I seriously don’t watch TV. You know, I watch sports, but I’d much rather read books. And I do. I read a lot.” Garner wonders, “We know what Barack Obama has been reading lately. Do we know what’s been on Bush’s reading list?”

Well, we may not have the most recent updates, but in the summer of 2006, U.S. News & World Report published a lengthy presidential reading list that famously (and to the delight of W-mockers worldwide) included Camus’s The Stranger, along with biographies of Mao, Abraham Lincoln, Robert Oppenheimer, Roberto Clemente, and Babe Ruth, plus Geraldine Brooks‘s Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women. If I had to make a guess, from the current NYT hardcover nonfiction bestseller list, I’d expect him to be reading Patrick Buchanan‘s Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War or Mark Bowden‘s The Best Game Ever, but it’d be awfully nice to think he might be reading Ori and Rom Brafman‘s Sway, all about “the deep-seated forces that influence behavior and cause people to make irrational choices.”

Want 600 SF eBooks for Free? Become an Astronaut

Baen Books reports that it’s making its entire offering of ebooks at the Webscriptions site available to astronauts stationed on the International Space Station, free of charge. According to Baen publisher Toni Weisskopf, recently released NASA documents showed that ISS crewmembers were already big fans of several authors published by the science-fiction imprint, including Lois McMaster Bujold, David Weber and John Ringo, so she offered the agency a free pass to Webscriptions, and got a prompt acceptance.

Obama’s Building Up His Foreign Policy Assets

barack-obama-reading.jpg

The marketing folks at W.W. Norton are pretty excited today, after presidential candidate (and bestselling author) Barack Obama was photographed by NY Times shutterbug Doug Mills will a copy of Fareed Zakaria‘s latest book, The Post-American World.

What books would you put on Sen. Obama’s reading list?

FishbowlLA: Feminist Handbook Undercut By Racist Artwork

jungle-out-there-insideart.jpgTina Dupuy at mediabistro.com’s FishbowlLA tracks the angry Amazon.com customer reviews for Amanda Marcotte‘s It’s a Jungle Out There, a self-described “feminist survival guide to politically ihospitable environments.” The problem lies in the artwork lifted from a 1950s comic book that introduces each chapter, which features a blonde jungle beauty rescuing a not-so-great white hunter from hostile savages. “I find it laughable that the author even attempted to discuss racism when the illustrations in the book were completely racist in themselves,” ran a typical complaint.

The Amazon reviews were spillover from a controversy that’d been brewing on the blogosphere around the same time, which Marcotte’s book viewed by some as just the latest evidence of an alleged problem relating to women of color on the part of Seal Press, the indie publisher behind the book. As it happens, the issue has been largely resolved: Marcotte apologized, saying, “I didn’t pick the offensive imagery in my book, but I should have caught it sooner than now. I didn’t and there’s no excuse.” She further promised the artwork will be removed from future printings, and Seal says they’re already going back to the printers, as well as seeking out training in racial sensitivity to avoid similar missteps in the future.

Fox News Tackles Literature: Class Act as Always

Remember the time Fox News pissed on Kurt Vonnegut‘s grave? The network upheld its belles lettres legacy the other night as Greg Gutfeld and his Red Eye cohorts branded Stephen King “partially brain-dead” and “a raging alcoholic,” along with cracking jokes about running him over in a van, because they didn’t like the way he phrased his exhortation to teens to read more:

Granted: “If you can read, you can walk into a job later on; if you can’t, then you’ve got the Army, Iraq, I don’t know, something like that” isn’t the best possible endorsement for literacy—frankly, as the son of Vietnam-era Marines, I find it more than a little offensive—and the initial framing of the discussion, where Fox commentator Mike Baker dismisses the remark as “leftist elitist crap,” is coarse but not entirely out of bounds—but the conversation quickly moves away from King’s political stance and his alleged lack of patriotism to roughly three minutes of speculation about whether that infamous car accident left him with permanent brain damage. But let’s face it: People who sit there asking “wasn’t there some NFL player who went into the army, too?” aren’t exactly in a position to question anybody else’s grasp of current events. (Although maybe, he added sarcastically, Fox just doesn’t like their talent to bring up Pat Tillman on air because his example raises too many awkward questions about the way the war’s been fought.)

As Tina Dupuy of FishbowlLA comments, “A writer—telling kids to read—what a loser. It’s the best nerd bashing-geek punching prom ever!”

From Politics, It Was an Easy Step to Book Trailers

Personally, I think the whole “I’m [YOUR NAME HERE] and I approve this” YouTube joke has run its course, but this fake campaign ad for the paperback release of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict is still moderately amusing.

My favorite is still the attack ad against Immanuel Kant, though. Well, maybe the one attacking Thomas Jefferson.

Perhaps The Easiest Blind Item Yet

Keith Josef Adkins wants to tell you about his stint as “a disgruntled assistant to a top notch writer,” who he’ll only describe as “a woman, African-American, lived in California and the musical predecessor to Rock-n-Roll was the muse that made her pen go buck-wild and win a few top-notch awards.”

Oh, come on, Keith. That’s not even trying to obscure this beloved author’s identity. Anyway, here’s the story:

“The real doozy was the time she reprimanded me in front of a group of grad students for sabotaging her career. I was given the responsibility of removing an overabundance of praise from a story by a student of color. Her rationale: she didn’t want the other students to think she was playing favorites based on ethnicity. Well, apparently I screwed up. During a group reading, another student noticed an area on the story where things looked smudged. My employer was livid. In front of everyone, I was accused of setting her up to fail. For trying to destroy the career of an African-American writer.”

There’s also an anecdote about how he started a fire in her kitchen, but that’s not nearly as dramatic.

UPDATE: I’ve been informed that I fell for an obvious (though perhaps not fully intentional) misdirect, and that it’s probably not who I thought it was. On the other hand, the answer is still up for grabs…

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