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November 08, 2015

Sunday Morning Book Thread 11-08-2015: What Goes Around [OregonMuse]


Amazon brick and mortar - 550.jpg
The First Amazon Brick And Mortar Store - Seattle, WA


Good morning to all of you morons and moronettes and bartenders everywhere and all the ships at sea. Welcome to AoSHQ's stately, prestigious, internationally acclaimed and high-class Sunday Morning Book Thread. The Sunday Morning Book Thread is the only AoSHQ thread that is so hoity-toity, pants are required. Or kilts. Also, assless chaps don't count. Serious you guys. Kilts are OK, though. But not tutus. Unless you're a girl.


Book buying habits; I can afford to live without food and save the money to a book.
--Lailah Gifty Akita


Amazon Goes Retro

After practically driving brick-and-mortar bookstores out of business entirely, Amazon has decided to open one itself:

The store, called Amazon Books, looks a lot like bookstores that populate malls across the country. Its wood shelves are stocked with 5,000 to 6,000 titles, best-sellers as well as Amazon.com customer favorites.

So what's the competitive edge Amazon thinks it has over the other B&M bookstores in Seattle? I mean, other than its name?

Amazon is betting that the troves of data it generates from shopping patterns on its website will give it advantages in its retail location that other bookstores can’t match. It will use data to pick titles that will most appeal to Seattle shoppers.

How is that going to work?

The company will stock best-sellers, of course. But it will also include books that get the highest ratings from its customers, including little-known titles. The store will also include such categories as “Most Wished-For Cookbooks.” Another section features “Award Winners, 4.5 Stars & Above, Age 6-12.”

So they'll offer titles like this:

Amazon’s customers help select books for the store in other ways as well. The new store includes, for example, “Bald, Fat & Crazy: How I Beat Cancer While Pregnant with One Daughter and Adopting Another” by Stephanie Hosford, a title that ranks 622,923 in books sold on Amazon. But those who have read it seem to love it. The book has a 5-star rating from all 56 customers who have reviewed it on the site.

So Amazon is basically crowd-sourcing its marketing to determine how best to utilize what is physical bookstores' most precious commodity, shelf space.

There's also this:

Amazon will charge the same price for books in the store as it does online.

So clever marketing + yuge price breaks = bookstore success. Or, at least it does on paper. Or, it could be that it will fail because B&M bookstores are already past the point of recovery, in no small part due to Amazon. So what goes around comes around: perhaps Amazon now, after routing the physical bookstores, has insured its own defeat.

Thanks to moron commenter 'JTB' for tipping me to this.


Bloat

And speaking of Amazon, So why are Kindle books getting so damned bloated? Like, for example, this book here. According to Amazon, it's 260 pages long, and weighs in at a whopping 4MB. I glanced through the sample chapter, and I didn't see any maps or fancy graphics that might bloat it out. I find it hard to believe that Amazon's DRM overhead on .azw files has to be that extensive, but maybe it does.

And I don't know when I'll be buying my next device, but when I do, I think I want one with an 8-inch screen and 32GB storage. I'll need 32GB to handle all the bloated, DRM-encrusted books I'd like to buy.



american manhood -new.jpg
The Two Americas


Be A Man

Heavy Lifting: Grow Up, Get a Job, Raise a Family, and Other Manly Advice by NRO's Jim Geraghty and and radio talk-show host Cam Edwards.

Remember the way things used to be?

Once upon a time, men in their twenties looked forward to settling down and having children.

Of course, those days are long gone:

Today, most young men seem infected by a widespread Peter Pan syndrome. Unwilling to give up the freedom to sleep late, play video games, dress like a slob, and play the field, today’s men wallow in an extended adolescence, ostensibly unaware that they’re setting themselves up for a depressing, lonely existence.

Right, and that's the thing: all these pajama boys are doing is setting themselves up to be dysfunctional. In engineering terms, they're operating the machine outside of design spec, so sooner or later, it's going to fail. They'll be depressed, miserable and purposeless.

I realize that not all millennials are like this. Chances are, if you're reading this blog, you're not, and if you have any millennial offspring, they're not, either. But evidently, there's enough of them out there so that the Obama administration "message" experts thought they could reach them by using Pajama Boy in one of their Obamacare ads.

The sort of lifestyle advocated here ("grow up, get a job, raise a family") used to come naturally. It's just what people did. But having to come up with a book-length encouragement of it, however laudatory, just seems weird, like having to explain to someone how to breathe. Even calling it a 'lifestyle' is weird. It used to be just called 'life'.


*Hic!*

What's not to love about a book with the title Drinking In America? I mean, other than the fact that the Kindle edition is priced at $14.99? Subtitled "Our Secret History", Susan Cheever's book makes it sound like America is a drunk who denies being a drunk and then after he is done in by his liver turning into a charcoal briquette, his surviving relatives clean out his room and find 675 ValuRite empties stashed in the closet and under the bed.

Perhaps she's right:

Some nations drink more than we do, some drink less, but no other nation has been the drunkest in the world as America was in the 1830s only to outlaw drinking entirely a hundred years later.

I remember in the early days of the internetz reading an article about how the cargo manifests of 17th century ships showed a prodigious amount of hold space taken up by various forms of alcohol, notably rum and ale. Someone else noted that this was to be expected because back in those days, you couldn't trust that the water was clean enough to drink. The I heard that that was a myth. So I don't know. But I find it easy to believe that America collectively has quite a two-faced view of booze and drinking, and both are interwoven throughout our nation's history and character.

Here's an excerpt of Cheever's book, that discusses the great, drunk American writers of the 20th century:

“The presence of the disease in so many of our notable writers surely makes it appear that alcoholism is the American writer’s disease,” writes Tom Dardis in his book on the subject, The Thirsty Muse. Famously in the 1950s Sinclair Lewis angrily asked a reporter, “Can you name five writers since Poe who did not die of drinking?” Or as another casualty of alcoholism, the poet John Berryman, put it, “Something has been said for sobriety, but very little.”

On the other hand, as this review in the Washington Free Beacon points out, America wouldn't be America without booze:

[T]here are crucial moments in American history Cheever attributes to our need for drink. The Mayflower landed in Cape Cod because the ship ran out of beer. The instigators of the Boston Tea Party got carried away after spending too much time at the Green Dragon tavern. Johnny Appleseed was beloved by settlers because the seeds he scattered resulted in sour apples—ideal for making hard cider. A more sober officer would not have sent his beleaguered troops back into battle the way Ulysses S. Grant did at Shiloh...On the other hand...Gen. George Custer was not a drinker.

John Boehner could not be reached for comment.


Man Bites Dog

Mrs. Muse and I are enjoying a TV series called The Last Ship. The storyline concerns the crew of a USN destroyer that is in the Artic regions when a virus breaks out and devastates the rest of the world. They're up there in the north with a virulogist who had advanced warning of the outbreak and who is desperately working on a vaccine. The show is mostly well-scripted and suspenseful, but aside from that, it is one of the most overtly conservative television shows we have ever seen. For example, terrorists are shown not as pitiable and sympathetic losers of life's lottery, but as psychotic thugs who you should never negotiate with, but should rather shoot on sight or have ordnance dropped on. And prayer. In the 4 episodes we've seen so far, 3 had either prayers or a strong statement of faith in God from one of the crew members. Another one showed that men and women serving in close ship quarters is basically a bad idea, because they might fall in love which would endanger discipline in combat situations.

And as you might guess, TLS is very, very pro-military. And, as an added conservative bonus, Adam Baldwin plays of the lead roles.

The main flaw I've seen in TLS is that the villains we've seen so far have been cartoonish, almost like undercard WWE heels. But my objection here is a small one. Sometimes you just need to see a bad guy get his ass shot off.

So I just happened to notice in the credits that this TV series is based on a novel by the same name, The Last Ship, by William Brinkley. So I checked it out on Amazon and the reviews are surprisingly negative. As we know, Amazon reviews tend to be inflated positive, but with TLS, the 382 reviews are distributed fairly evenly across the board. Brinkley's ponderous writing style appears to be the main complaint of the negative reviewers.

Also, the TV changed things around quite a bit. In the novel, the ship has escaped a nuclear holocaust, not a viral outbreak. And the book is all about the captain, his thoughts, feelings, and reactions to situation, but the perspective of the TV series is a bit more broad. And I have no idea whether the book is as conservative as the series, I'm guessing not, because I don't see the reviewers mentioning it, either pro or con. And explicit sex scenes. Apparently, the book has a number of these which (mercifully) we haven't seen so far on the show.

We've all heard of Hollywood acquiring the rights to a book and then ruining it. Well, this looks like the opposite has happened, that HW has taken a book and actually made it better.


What Morons Are Reading

Thanks to commenter 'The Great White Snark' for alerting me to what is probably the ultimate alt-history novel that wasn't intended as an alt-history novel, but that's pretty much what it is. Ladies and gentlemen, 'rons and 'ettes, I give you author Eric Rauchway and his unique fantasy vision, The Money Makers: How Roosevelt and Keynes Ended the Depression, Defeated Fascism, and Secured a Prosperous Peace.

I'd like to see this as a Hugo award nominee from the Sad Puppies next year.


___________

Moron commenter 'MTF' passes along this interesting WSJ piece about the various non-English translation of Alice In Wonderland. There's an exhibition, "Alice in a World of Wonderlands: The Translations of Lewis Carroll's Masterpiece", at New York City's Grolier Club ("America's oldest (1884) society for book lovers & graphic arts fans, offering displays & events"):

Its curator, Jon A. Lindseth, has been collecting translations just as the original Alice— Alice Liddell Hargreaves—did in her adulthood, gathering accounts of her adventures in Brazilian Portuguese, Catalan, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Pitman Shorthand, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian, Spanish and Swedish.

But Mr. Lindseth has gone even further, displaying translations into languages no one speaks (Middle English) or cares about (Esperanto) or whose very existence is startling (Marathi, the language of Mumbai)

I can't think of a book more locked into its time period than AiW, so I wonder how much of the Victorian-era puns, references, and cultural assumptions actually gets preserved. I have a copy of The Annotated Alice by Martin Gardner, one of the world's foremost Carroll experts (yes, he's one of the "top men") that explains these things that would not be known to a modern audience.

But, it cannot be denied that Alice has near-universal appeal. There's probably something about going down the rabbit hole to discover a strange new world that strikes some primal chord in all of us.


Books By Morons

'Ette in good standing Sgt. Mom will soon have a new book out.
Sunset and Steel Rails is up for pre-order on Kindle and is also available at Barnes and Noble:

On a mild spring morning in 1884, just short of her 21st birthday, the ordered and respectable life of Sophia Brewer fell apart...Sophia – abandoned by fiancée, friends and family, threatened by unwilling confinement to the insane asylum – had only one chance at escape and survival...working for the Fred Harvey Company as a waitress in a railroad restaurant concession...But even out in the West, there are still decades-old scandalous family secrets … secrets and events which might still threaten Sophia Brewer and the man who means to court her, and give her the life that she had once expected.

Release date is this Tuesday, November 10th.


___________

Markham Pyle, who runs Bapton Books, a small but independent imprint in the UK (for "sound, solid works, fiction and nonfiction"), e-mailed me a couple of weeks ago to let me know of the completion of Bapton's latest book, a novel he describes as "the Conservative riposte to JKR's Casual Vacancy".

And if you're like me, you've just asked yourself, what is he talking about?

After she finished the Harry Potter books, author J.K Rowling published a novel geared toward an adult audience. Casual Vacancy was published in 2012, and received mixed reviews. Here's a plot outline, from Amazon:

When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the town’s council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

Kind of like that, but in a mirror universe, The Evensong series (Being Tales from Beechbourne, Chickmarsh, & the Woolfonts) goes like this:

In this, the complete edition of the work (also published in two parts), the Woolfonts rally ’round in a time of crisis: of flood and spate, a council housing scheme (His Grace Has A Plan to save the situation: one involving old soldiers), and an unexpected death. Teddy – newly a councillor, and newly put in a bind by colleagues – and Edmond, with his activism, are in a jam apiece; The Breener is in a mostly happy daze; the duke, after a tragic loss, is ill, as is the Rector, owing to stress; Sher Mirza, equally plagued by well-meaning neighbours, is at his wits’ end. Of course, this is the Woolfonts: everything will come right on the night. It’s the getting there is dicey.

Evensong Book One
Book Two
Evensong Omnibus


___________

Don't forget the AoSHQ reading group on Goodreads. It's meant to support horde writers and to talk about the great books that come up on the book thread. It's called AoSHQ Moron Horde and the link to it is here: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/175335-aoshq-moron-horde.

___________

So that's all for this week. As always, book thread tips, suggestions, bribes, rumors, threats, and insults may be sent to OregonMuse, Proprietor, AoSHQ Book Thread, at the book thread e-mail address: aoshqbookthread, followed by the 'at' sign, and then 'G' mail, and then dot cee oh emm.

What have you all been reading this week? Hopefully something good, because, as you all know, life is too short to be reading lousy books.

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