Book Heaven

Where the world of books and life intersect

Location: South Amboy, New Jersey

I am deeply involved in trying to solve the discrepancy between being interested in zen and trying to acquire all the things I've been accumulating

Monday, May 16, 2005

All The News That Fits (Part 2)

Before I could finish Thursday's New York Times I was waylaid by an article on the front page of Saturday's paper (no I haven't even cracked Friday's paper yet). If you never read more than the first few paragraphs of this article (which seemed a bit out of place on the front page of the main section), you might rush right out to protest this latest outrage. In an article entitled College Libraries Set Aside Books In a Digital Age, Ralph Blumenthal goes on to tell of how the University of Texas at Austin is scattering their 90,000 volume library not to the wind but to other university collections. If you are a patient sort and continued on to page A10 before lighting your torch, you might have been a bit relieved to learn that the unwanted books were actually being placed in other divisions of the university's library system, "one of the nation's largest, home to some 8 million volumes and growing by 100,000 a year". Still, the idea of a library's books being replaced by a "24 hour electronic information commons" is a bit unsettling. Also a bit unsettling in a totally different way is the thought that they're adding 100, 000 books a year. Why that's 400 books a day (a business day anyway)! Now that's a hard one to grasp.

I'm not sure why I read the Elmore Leonard piece since I have avoided so many articles about him thinking they were just more of the same. There's not too much new ground broken here either except that we learn that there is only one person left locally who can repair Mr. Leonard's trusty old I.B.M. Selectric when he pounds it into submission. "He says he can live on $6,000 a year. He lives in a trailer park." One gets the impression that if pressed Mr. Leonard could also live on $6,000 a year, and repair typewriters in a trailer park. Certainly one of the least pretentious writers it is still a little unsettling to learn that a guy who writes his novels out on a pad before typing them, actually has a researcher. The highlight of this article was the disclosure that Mr. Leonard thought his latest work, The Hot Kid, came in a bit short at 280 pages. "I thought it should be longer than 280," he said, sitting in one of the chairs in front of his desk. "So I said reset it with one or two lines less per page and make it work. And it came out to 312." Now that's genius!

A marked contrast to the Leonard piece was a feature in the House and Home section about Caleb Carr. Entitled Rebuilding the Past In Words and Wood, it told of how Carr had purchased a 1,400 acre parcel of land adjoining his grandmother's property in a rural area 180 miles north of New York, and upon which he had constructed a house "so historically accurate, so in harmony with its surroundings, that it would seem to have been there for 200 years." Only slightly jarring is a satellite dish attached to the porch but Carr never intended the house to be a spare creation and the one interior view reveals it to be spectacular while still in keeping with its style. The article also features a nice little cover illustration of Carr's latest effort, The Italian Secretary, a Sherlock Holmes mystery that was commissioned by the Doyle estate and is of course a must read. It comes as little surprise that Mr. Carr considers himself "a dark person" (not that there's anything wrong with that), but I was surprised to learn that Mr. Carr's body keels to the right a bit because of a botched surgery.

Lots of good stuff in these Times pieces and well worth searching out on their website if you don't get the actual paper itself. I will refrain from commenting on the last interesting article though. Podcasting is obviously the devil's work (would the iPod be his spawn or his spoor?) and is best not discussed, at least not until I get hooked on it!

P.S. After checking my trusty Merriam-Webster, I note that one of the definitions of spoor is:
"droppings, especially of a wild animal." I guess that spoor might best describe some of these Podcasts themselves


Blogger Bill said...

Leonard has had a researcher for a long time. I can see that he's learned a lesson from Robert B. Parker about how to write longer novels.

As a UT grad, I was shocked to read about the library. I'm so old that I was a student there when it was built. It's the place where Erle Stanley Gardner's study has been reconstructed. The study's well worth a visit, though by now it might be just a hologram.

5:04 AM  

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