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EMT 11/29/15 [krakatoa] | Main | Football Sunday in America! - [Niedermeyer's Dead Horse]
November 29, 2015

Sunday Morning Book Thread 11-29-2015: Do It Yourself [OregonMuse]

The Last Bookstore , Los Angeles.jpg
The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles, CA.

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.

‘All words have some power. We feel it instinctively. Some, like magical spells and the true names of the gods, have a great deal. They must be treated with respect. In Klatch there is a mountain with many caves, and in those caves are entombed more than a hundred thousand old books, mostly religious, each one in a white linen shroud. That is perhaps an extreme approach, but intelligent people have always known that some words at least should be disposed of with care and respect...Enough words crammed together can affect time and space.’

--Terry Pratchett, Going Postal


Here is something new. Well, actually, it's not new, it first came out over 50 years ago.

I'm talking about the first "do it yourself" novel:

Composition No. 1 by Marc Saporta was the first-ever do-it-yourself or interactive novel. It was published in French in 1962, and an English translation followed a year later. The novel came in a box, as a set of looseleaf pages. Readers were instructed to "shuffle them like a deck of cards" before reading, so that chance would decide the order of events in the narrative.

You can actually purchase a copy of Composition No. 1 on Amazon.

In fact Saporta's novel has 150 opening paragraphs, because it consists of 150 unbound pages, printed on one side only, which the reader is meant to shuffle and read in any order.

The Guardian review describes the plot as being a bit thin:

How does the randomness work, and how does it affect our perception of the narrative? The story is a flimsy wisp of a thing, really no more than a jumble of fragments. The setting is Paris during the German occupation. The central character is little glimpsed and never named. He has a mistress called Dagmar, a depressed wife (I think) called Marianne, and a young German au pair whom he rapes during the course of the novel, before being injured in a serious car accident.

I suppose the "wispiness" is a necessity, since if too many details are locked down, that would tend to diminish the "DIY" nature of this experimental novel.

The Argentinian author Julio Cortazar did something similar with his experimental novel Hopscotch. There you have a choice of reading the chapters sequentially, or you can "hopscotch" around the chapters at random, and it should make sense either way. As one reviewer says about Hopscotch:

There is an abundance of metaphors, of connections, bridges, symbols, and artistic allusions. There are ejaculations of phrases in foreign languages and an interjection of aphorisms in verse. If history were to rewrite itself and eradicate all traces of Joyce, Hopscotch would have been the equivalent of Ulysses. The language is incredibly vivid, infinitely descriptive, colorful, sensuous, poetic, maddeningly abstract, and psychedelic.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of these experimental-type novels, but as the poet says, de gustibus non est disputandum.

But if you're craving a bit of surrealism in your life, you can do it like my brother once told me he does, on the cheap: If you have a new novel to read, start reading it chapter by chapter backwards, from the last chapter down to the first. Brother swears he gets more out of the novel that way, but I've never tried it, so I don't know. But telling the story backward is a well-known narrativt technique. I think of movies such as Memento and Betrayal as examples of this, and there are others.

Thanks to 'mindful webworker' for this tip

Yet Another E-Book Spotting Service

It's called Early Bird Books:

Each edition of Early Bird Books offers a curated list of titles across many of the genres you enjoy. For a more personalized experience, set your preferences and we’ll deliver a custom selection of ebooks based on your categories of interest!

The interface is a bit clunky, but other than that, I'm curious to see if it gives me different selections other than what I get with the daily BookBub e-mail.

And Here's Another Gimmick

In the movie Idiocracy, which is set in America 500 years in the future where continuing demographic patterns have filled the population with really stupid people. As an example of just how stupid things have become, the narrator mentions that the Oscar for Best Picture that year went to a film called 'Ass', which consisted of a movie-length shot of some guy's butt. Or maybe it was a series of butts, I forget. Point is, the audience is supposed to recognize, along with the main character, recently awoken from 500 years of frozen sleep, that something like this is way stupid.

And in one of his books where he spells out some of his future history, Robert Heinlein mentions a big prize winner during The Crazy Years is a book consisting of nothing but punctuation marks. And we, the audience, are supposed to think, that's just so stupid, how could anyone think that was good?

Well, perhaps we're not quite at that point, not yet. But I'd say that we can see it from here:

Imagine if you told someone you were going to write an entire book -- 150,000 words -- that would be one single sentence.

That's what Mathias Énard did in "Zone," which, despite its avant-garde form, has become the French novelist's best-known work. On Tuesday, Énard was awarded the Prix Goncourt, France's highest literary honor.

This sounds quite decadent, like making a horse a senator, or awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to some slacker who's never done anything constructive in his entire life. But what do I know, maybe this actually is good littrachoor.

There have been "gimmick" novels written before. Such as the 1939 novel Gadsby, that never, not once, in all of its 50,000 words, uses the letter 'e'.

Not nominated for any major prize that I know of, it Gadsby now in the public domain.

Incidentally, I don't think Heinlein went far enough describing the Crazy Years. For example, having a mentally ill man believe he is actually a woman and having the encouragement and celebration of that abnormal behavior rigorously enforced by social and cultural leaders would be beyond even his fertile imagination.

Writing Good And Writing Well

No doubt this list of 25 Books Guaranteed to Make You a Better Writer does not live up to its own hype, but there were a couple that might be of interest.

Like, for example, On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft by Stephen King because, well, Stephen King. Despite what we may think of him, his personal life or political views, the guy knows how to tell a good story, and how to tell it in such a way that causes his bank account to swell prodigiously. So I think anything he has to say about writing would be worth listening to.

And John Gardner's The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers is considered a classic in this genre:

John Gardner was almost as famous as a teacher of creative writing as he was for his own works. In this practical, instructive handbook, based on the courses and seminars that he gave, he explains, simply and cogently, the principles and techniques of good writing. Gardner’s lessons, exemplified with detailed excerpts from classic works of literature, sweep across a complete range of topics—from the nature of aesthetics to the shape of a refined sentence.

In addition to writing novels, Gardner was a professor of medieval literature and a pioneering creative writing teacher.

Another classic is Plotto: The Master Book of All Plots by William Wallace Cook, where he takes his theory, "purpose, opposed by obstacle, yields conflict" and then works it out through hundreds of diagrammed situations and scenarios:

Everyone knows the theory that there are only 36 plots from which all stories derive. But it’s time to get a little more specific. This book is essentially a magic machine, the one you’ve been waiting for: a full-service plot generator which lets you choose your own adventure via the connected plot elements of protagonist, conflict, and resolution.

This sounds like it would be a perfect choice for someone prone to writer's block.

An early edition of The Elements of Style by William Strunk is available on Kindle for FREE.

Script Writing Contest

Not sure if anyone would be interested in this, but I never know who's out there lurking, and I'm talking about aspiring writers, so with that in mind, I'm passing along this announcement that 'ette Anna Puma tipped me to: The Fourth Annual Voltage Script Writing and Illustration Contest is now open:

Voltage Inc. is happy to announce the opening of their 4th Annual International Story Writing and Illustration Contest, as of Thursday, November 19th, 2015. The annual contest is held to find new talented writers and illustrators, to collaborate with Voltage in the production of new visual romance apps. The contest consists of three categories; story writing, graphic-style illustration, and anime-style illustration, with a $5000 grand prize per category.

And not just for Japanese writers:

In recent years, Voltage has been expanding to localizing its apps into English, as well as creating English-language original visual romance apps. As such, Voltage is searching for international writers and illustrators with whom to collaborate.

I had no idea what a "visual romance app" was. But they helpfully provided an explanation:

Visual romance apps are interactive, story-based mobile apps, in which the user can be the heroine of their own romantic story. Users decide how to respond to various scenarios within the app, resulting in different romantic endings dependent on their choices.

When I first saw the words "visual romance app", I was afraid it might turn out to be a euphemism for pr0n. But since the market for these apps seems to pretty much exclusively women, I'm guessing probably not.

And $5000 ain't hay.

Books By Morons

Moron author Mark Robbins has just published his new book WE Republicans on Kindle, which would be of especial interests to you morons living in the great state of Texas. This book contains actual plans to take over the Republican Party of Texas using their rules. Now I'm not familiar with Texas politics enough to know, but I thought Texas was a pretty conservative state already. But maybe not. Mark tells me that his book

leads the reader to construct a formal tool that is used to engage Republican partisans in the Great State of Texas. The book walks the reader through designing a preamble for the Republican Party of Texas, one that candidates must address according to the rules of the Republican Party of Texas, and to enable actual physical processes that would change the way government works in Texas, then the world.

He also asks an this question:

Obama bowed to a Saudi king who probably had slaves until he was 40 (outlawed slavery in 1962) so where is the Pulitzer-worthy reporting on the slaves' opinion of the leader of the free world bowing to their previous slave master?

Well, our elite MSM journalism teams have trained and disciplined themselves for years not to even see such questions, and also, their laziness and incuriosity concerning everything relating to the background and ideology of the Slacker-in-Chief is legendary, so there's your answer to that. But let me indulge in some speculation here, if I were a foreign national who looked at America as a beacon of hope and freedom in the world, and if I saw the leader of that country kowtow obsequiously as he did to the Saudi despot, it would make me very sick at heart.


Moron commenter WannabeAnglican's novel Pilot Point has been marked down to $0.99. I first mentioned this book about a year ago:

Pilot Point is a very Texan novel...With drought, dust, cowboys, and cattle, it could be called a Western except it is set in the late 20th Century and not many get shot up.

At the same time, Pilot Point has a strong Anglican flavor, weaving The Book of Common Prayer and traditional Christian themes through the story...Not many novels have both cowboys and Anglicanism.

The sale price lasts until late Sunday night.

What Morons Are Reading

From a thread earlier this week:

56 Not the book thread but I've got to pimp another of Steven Pressfield's books, The Professional. When I first read it it was good but not my favorite of his works. It read more like a Clancy book with explaining tech detail. With the crap that's going on now in the region I realize how good it really is. Takes place 20 or so years into the future. I think he nails it on how we will be fighting in the future.

Posted by: Max Rockatansky at November 25, 2015 09:44 AM (2d71x)

Actually, I think the book he's referring to is called The Profession, which is:

Pressfield's first book set in the future, where military force is for hire everywhere. Oil companies, multinational corporations and banks employ powerful, cutting-edge mercenary armies to control global chaos and protect their riches.

Don't want to prejudice you all against Pressfield, but whenever I see the phrase "multinational corporations", I immediately think "lefty bullshit".

So I hope that's not the case here.


Not Brand Eccch: I know we have a lot of comic book and graphic novel fans on here, but have any of you morons ever heard of the superheroes Kangaroo Man, Captain Tootsie, Dr. Hormone, or The Legion of Super Pets? No, I'm not making these up, these superheroes actually existed:

222 There's a great book called The League of Regrettable Superheroes about some of the lamest heroes ever created. There are some pretty great duds in there.

Posted by: Turd Ferguson at November 25, 2015 10:57 AM (VAsIq)

The League of Regrettable Superheroes is an encyclopedia of failed superheroes. Each one is allotted one to two pages of a panel of the comic books and some of the history and backstory of each character. And not all of them failed because they were poorly conceived. Some of them just didn't sell enough copies.

Personally, I've always thought that the "Silver Surfer" was a ludicrous superhero. I remember seeing him when he first appeared, and my reaction was, like, 'Wut?'


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:


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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