Category Archives: Bibliomania

Bibliomaniac’s Guide to Reading

Some days, it seems like reading is a lost art. Sure, we read text messages and Tweets and even Japanese cell phone novels; we read on the iPhone and the Kindle and maybe even the headlines at NYTimes.com, but when was the last time you sat down with a serious work of literary fiction or long-form journalism and actually finished it? Whose was the last biography you read? The last book of essays? The last contender for Great American Novel?

The sad fact is, in the first quarter of 2009, one out of every seven books sold in the United States was by Stephanie Meyer, of Twilight fame.  The very existence of Dan Brown in the cannon should be enough to make writers, would be writers, and lit nerds alike throw down their swords and give up the fight. I’m not against popular literature–far from it–but wasn’t there a time in the not so distant past where we made a distinction between pop and pulp, where writers like Mark Twain,  Judy Blume and Kurt Vonnegut wrote blockbuster bestsellers that didn’t suck (and that’s just the Americans). Sure, good writers are still out there ( and G-d willing, always will be) but their market is ever-shrinking. The reason? Readers have forgotten how to read.

Sure, the internet has a hand in it, but so does the proliferation of the automobile, the explosion of television, the sub-/exurb and the increasing demands of modern life. Now that you’re un- (or under) employed (or, conversely, now that you’re maximally stressed trying to scrimp around the edges and make ends meet in a fantastically bad economy), here’s 7 tips to help you relearn reading.

1) Break it up: The number one reason non-readers don’t read is that reading is boring. Yes, I admit it, even I get bored with books. That’s why I read across platforms (to borrow terminology). A typical month includes daily internet news, two weekly magazines, one or two novels, a collection of short stories or essays and a biography or non-fiction book. That’s a lot, but even beginners can mix and match to match their ability, taste and appetite. For more clues on how to do it, keep reading…

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Filed under 3rd World Imagineering, Bibliomania, it's a small world, nanowrimo08, The Liberal Media

Daily Oddities, June 9th/10th

We’re starting this round of Daily Oddities with something everybody wants–a job! Today’s odd job listings include counting bees in New York City and catelouging controlled substances for the NYPD. Awesome much?

Now that you’re gainfully employed, lets take a quick gander around the globe.

GLOBE: Things are getting ridiculous in Russia, where the racing collapse of the post-Soviet economy (again) is producing the largest anti-Putin uprising ever, as even Russians admit Medvyedev has nothing to do with it. In other news, is this the fattest crime reporter you’ve ever seen? Is Moscow the best place ever to major in police blotter?

In India, small time farmers may soon be eligible for micro-insurance policies protecting against climate change. After much whining in at the UN, Sri Lanka has some revised numbers of this year’s war dead (cue streamers). It’s a lite news week for Mexico, where only one horrific, deadly event seems to be capturing headlines. Finally, even more  weirdness emerges on the Cuba front: today, we learn that a US couple in their 70s has been spying on the US for Havana for the past  several decades, before they were duped by American intelligence with Cuban cigars. Really? Continue reading

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Roma vs. Gypsy: NYT Copy Fail

(VIDEO AFTER THE JUMP!!!)

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3rdWorldImagineer is back today with another instalment of ‘why language matters’. For the record, I am not a PC fascist, but I do think it’s critical to examine how we talk about certain subjects, particularly ones gaining steam in the media. Hence, my semi-annual beef with the AP Stylebook.

For the uninitiated, the AP Stylebook is the vanguard of American newswriting style. Most publications write their own additions, but few deviate markedly from the BOOK.  Hence, the press dictates everything from what to capitalize to which country/city/state name is preferred (as in Mumbai/Bombay, Burma/Myanmar) and is NOTORIOUSLY adverse to change. In the words of TJK, one of the book’s overlords, “we don’t want to have to change it back.” 

The stylebook’s aim is a noble one: to take the world’s most widely spoken and written language–the lingua franca for news–and standardize it. Doing so requires a certain degree of rigidity, but sometimes conservative (and condecending) attitudes about the intelligence and adaptibility of readers block changes that are long overdue. Case in Point: Roma vs. Gypsy

The Roma, once called Gypsies (gitano or tzigan in most Euro languages),  are Europe’s largest ethnic minority. I had written a whole graph about it, but suffice it to say, their various plights in the post-Soviet era make them probably the unluckiest ethnic minority in the world right now (trust me, nobody knows how to brutalize like the Euros). To quote the Guardian:

The evictions underline the plight of Europe’s 8 million Roma as the continent’s most downtrodden minority. Subject to entrenched harassment, discrimination, and ghettoisation, the Roma are liberty’s losers in the transformation wrought by recent free elections and free markets

Given all that, you’d be forgiven for asking what’s  in a name. 

Unfortunately, there’s a lot. 

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the things i like to write about (are weird)

From time to time, when I am writing, I have this thought—which I occasionally post on FB:

“sometimes i sit down and i write some shit and i think, holy mother of G-d i am a sick, terrible person. at least i’m thin”

Usually in those exact words . Anyone who knows me knows that i write a lot (despite not having posted here in about a week—srry!), both for a living/school and in my free time. It’s like that quote from Karn’s piece about cigarette smoking in NYC—”I won’t be able to quit. It comes from inside me”

I’ve gotta tell you, the shit i write for work is bad enough (Tamil Tigers, stabbings, rape/murder and a measles epidemic, and that’s just this week), but in spite of or because of this, the shit i write after work is even worse. Sometimes I read through what I’ve written for the night and then i think, motherfucker, i need some valium or a quarter of a xanax or something. Because of course I’m really not writing about these things—I’m writing about a doomed love affair and a laundromat chain and some IED taxi cabs—and yet they come out of me. Which is why if the Kindle ever generates a tag-cloud for fiction, I’ll have to throw myself from the Verrazano Bridge.

Observe

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The Reimagineers, Chapter 11: Sept. 7th, The Coney Island Apocalypse

I’m already several chapters past this, but it felt like a good time to share. Cuz I FELT LIKE IT, motherfuckers

CHAPTER 11: SEPT. 7TH, 2008—THE CONEY ISLAND APOCALYPSE:
Look up.
There in the sky, ten thousand feet straight up from here, a four-and-a-half year old refugee with thick plastic glasses will see his first American seagull. He will press his nose to the glass, watching an almost imperceptibly small white figure soar and dive towards the red metal arms that reach endlessly up out of Brooklyn. If the Rx is good he may see the lean stripe of yellow beaches, punctuated here by the Steeplechase Pier jutting half a mile into the Atlantic, and behind it, Deno’s Wonderwheel (and almost certainly the projects beyond). As the plane circles terrifyingly earthward, he will squeeze his eyes shut and dream that unspeakable secret dream, a Made-in-China Yankees cap—preemptively bought—clutched in his sticky brown fingers.

If you, like us, naturalized through JFK instead of Ellis Island, then Coney Island’s Eiffel Tower was almost 100% absolutely the first American thing you saw. The French should errect a new goddamn plaque.

Every summer we return here, spilling out of Ocean Parkway and West 8th Street and Stillwell Avenue, Bangladeshi and Dominican and Cantonese alike; blacks from the West 27th Towers, from Coney and Flatbush and Bushwick; the Russians from their garish pink condos and their bungalows in Brighton; the Persians from the newly redoubled single-family’s in Gravesend, Mexicans and Chinese from the cluttered 5-family brownstones in Sunset Park; the Lubavich and the Islanders from the squat apartment houses of Crown Heights, and the hipsters, like some 11th plague, from the $2,000 a month one bedrooms of Williamsburg, their Canons trained on us like M-16s.

Last week, Astroland Amusements and the developers who own their concrete reached an impasse. Starting tomorrow, the poured plastic wildlife, the space needle and the haunted house and King Neptune water flume will be all leveled, auctioned and removed.
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The Reimagineers, Chapter 10—The Cyclone Cycle

In life, Mr. Mohammad had been 5’3”, though death, he was 5 inches even. Mr. Ajaz had been taller, almost 5’7”, with vehement mustaches and a wife who washed cotton shalwarz and kurta pajamas and yellowing undershirts ($3 the pack on Kings Highway) every Tuesday and Sunday afternoon at the Tel Aviv Coin-Op on CI Avenue, both of which survived him. Both Messrs. had lived in Karachi for two-dozen-years before that dream tore into their hearts, burrowing between the left and right ventricle, the longing to emigrate like a piece of fine silver wire threaded between the fibers that tugs, feather-light, at the mortification of la vida cotidiana. A wire whose far end is tethered to the Made-in-India manhole covers of New York, the city that will do and make and be everything, where the Crown Vic yellows and boxy Islamic centers of moldering brick replaced the dust and turrets and the goat curry that describe post-card Karachi.
Or at least, that’s how I imagine it.
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Colombian Imagineering

“Stealing books is a crime but not a sin”
-Gabriel Garcia Marquez

There’s just something about poor war-torn Colombia and books. If you don’t think so, check out the New York Times slideshow on rural Colombia’s Biblioburro—that’s library donkey, for those not in the know—a team of one teacher and two donkeys who routinely travel to the most dangerous and conflict-ravaged regions of the country to bring children the light of literacy. On a donkey. When Luis Soriano dies and G-d asks him, what did you do for the world, he an say, look gue, I hauled 4,800 books through a war-zone on donkeys oh-so-preciously named for the alphabet. To children. What the hell did you do?

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