Sunday, May 30, 2010

Odds and Book Ends (May 31-June 6)

Odds and Book Ends features activities and events in the area related to libraries, books and authors. Send your events to, and check back to The Book Club every week for upcoming events and activities at your local library.

Award-winning poetry and prose from Geauga Park District's 15th annual Nature Writer’s contest will be presented at a "coffee house" event from 7 to 10 p.m. June 4 at The West Woods Nature Center, 9465 Kinsman Road (Route 87) Russell Township.
The free event is open to the public.
For more information, call Geauga Park District at 440-286-9516 or 800-536-4006 or visit

Friends of the Kirtland Public Library will host a book sale 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 5 in the "Book Cellar" at the library. The price of books will be $2 per bag. For details call 440-256-READ.

--Cheryl Sadler

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Inaugural NBA Book Draft

Welcome to the 2010 NBA Book Draft where we suggest the book that can most help each team. (This idea is so shamelessly stolen from FreeDarko, I should have to pay royalties.)

1. Washington Wizards — Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Raskolnikov’s fruitless search for rationality in society might help Flip Saunders in his fruitless search for rationality while coaching Gilbert Arenas.
At 484 pages, Crime and Punishment would be the second biggest Russian in the league after Mikhail Prokhorov.

2. Philadelphia 76ers — Common Sense Economics: What Everyone Should Know About Wealth and Prosperity by James D. Gwartney
This passage from the introductory paragraph explains why the Sixers’ Ownership made this pick for GM Ed Stefanski, instead of letting Stefanski make the pick himself:
“What you want are the insights into economics that really matter — those that will help you make better personal choices and enhance your understanding of our complex world.”

3. New Jersey Nets — The Bible
The only thing that can help them now that they have almost no chance of landing John Wall or Evan Turner.
The Nets may also select the Qu’ran, Torah, I Ching or Rza’s Tao of Wu.

4. Minnesota Timberwolves — Cien Años de Soledad by Gabriel García Márquez
Notice they got the Spanish translation, and they won’t have the English translation for another five years.

5. Sacramento Kings — The Once and Future King by T.H. White
More of a symbolic choice for the Kings, who we believe are trending in the right direction.
We don’t seriously think Donté Greene would steal Tyreke Evans’s woman and ruin his kingdom. Right?

6. Golden State Warriors — The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
The Warriors have a high draft pick, new logo and, likely, a new owner soon. They also have the option to shed many of their players this offseason. If there were ever a team hoping for a change, it’s the Warriors.

7. Detroit Pistons — The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
The Pistons will regain their lost swagger with this promising prospect. They terrorized the east for almost a decade with a steelo that was “too black, too strong.”
Brother Malcolm may not be able to bring back Rasheed Wallace’s sagging love handles or Chauncey Billups, but he can restore the soul power and pride that fueled their dominance.

8. Los Angeles Clippers — The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois
Not for the entire organization, just Donald Sterling.

9. Utah Jazz — Rabbit, Run by John Updike
It’s a cautionary tale. Never trust a man who cheats on his wife, because he’ll do the same thing to his mistress.
Carlos Boozer broke the heart of an entire city when he bailed on the Cavaliers. Did the Jazz really think he would treat them any different?
And Boozer may not have literally raped the Jazz like Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom did to Ruth, but emotionally...

10. Indiana Pacers — My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson
For a team greatly in need of something fun and playful, as well as needing to embrace its own shadows of the past. And, sorry, Gordon, Hayward, Murphy, Dunleavy, Hansbrough, Foster, and McRoberts already more than fill their quota.

11. New Orleans Hornets — Animal Farm by George Orwell
Chris Paul needs to be careful. We know what happened when Boxer broke his leg.

12. Memphis Grizzlies — Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
Every draft, a team takes a big book too early.
Meet this year’s Hasheem Thabeet.
There’s no denying that Rainbow’s upside. Richard Lacayo, a scout for Time Magazine, called it “so crazily, scarily, sumptuously readable that you hate to put it aside even as the last paragraph thunders down on your head.”
But Rainbow lacks the athleticism to support its 700-page frame and constant digressions.

13. Toronto Raptors — He’s Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt
Because we already used our Rabbit, Run joke on the Jazz; and we’d rather compare Boozer to an emotionally arrested, former basketball star than Bosh.

14. Houston Rockets — Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity by Michael Lewis
Wunderkind Daryl Morey looks for guidance from an old friend as he goes through an Asian Currency Crisis of his own.

15. Milwaukee Bucks — The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper
The Bucks surprised a lot of people this season. They will not have the same opportunity next year. They will have a target between their antlers and need to be ready for it.
(Obviously, The Deerslayer is a symbolic choice and the team would not benefit from actually reading the book. Fact: no one has ever benefitted from reading Deerslayer.)

16. Chicago Bulls — Shooting Stars by Buzz Bissinger and LeBron James
Blatant pandering.

17. Miami Heat — Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
If they re-sign Dwyane Wade but don’t add anyone of import, they should focus on Purgatorio. If they can pair Wade with another superstar, Paradiso. If they lose Wade, Inferno.

18. Boston Celtics — The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
The actors and “actresses” of the Celtics would enjoy Wilde’s farce. It’s about a group of men who are pretending to be earnest; but, most of the time, they aren’t.

19. San Antonio Spurs — Logan’s Run by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson
If only so Tim Duncan will understand why the crystal in his right palm has turned black.

20. Oklahoma City Thunder — Sleepless in Seattle by Nora Ephron
Yeah, we went there.

21. Portland Trail Blazers — The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer.
Because there is no Mailer novel entitled The Naked and the Perpetually Injured.

22. Atlanta Hawks — Portrait of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Because the Hawks are another year older and another year uglier, even if nobody sees it.

23. Orlando Magic — The Little Black Book of Style by Nina Garcia
Ownership has some subtle suggestions for Stan Van Gundy on his current wardrobe.
Garcia offers tips on how and when to wear an outfit, occasion-appropriate wear, advice on how to combine colors and textures, and inspiration on how to achieve your own signature look.
Hopefully, this “signature look” will no longer be a combination of “Boogie Nights” and “My Cousin Vinny.”

24. Charlotte Bobcats — Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Okonkwo struggled for years to attain respectability, but it all dissolved quickly.
Larry Brown is leaving. Stephen Jackson isn’t going to get any better.
All is not lost but the village is in trouble.

25. Denver Nuggets — No joke. We hope George Karl gets well soon.

26. Phoenix Suns — A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
Hawking can teach the Suns that there are only two ways for a sun to end — a supernova that can be seen for light years or a black hole, the greatest concentration of gravity in the universe.

27. Dallas Mavericks — The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Cuban is Gatsby, Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood are Tom and Daisy, and money still can’t buy happiness.

28. Los Angeles Lakers — The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Some consider this book a classic, even Hemingway’s finest work. We consider this an excellent example of what happens when you give a fisher too much playing time.

29. New York Knicks — God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
Let them pray as much as they want. LeBron is not going to New York

30. Cleveland Cavaliers — Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
More specifically, he shrugged during Game 5 of the Celtics series.

-Jason Lea & Kyle Jones

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mockingbird turns 50

The News-Herald's outdoors and environmental guru Jeff Frischkorn keeps me supplied with educational reading material.

While I subscribe to Glamour and Allure and Marie Claire, he brings me his copies of National Geographic and Smithsonian.

So it was that I happened upon a fascinating article on Harper Lee on the occasion of the 50th (!?) anniversary of the publication of "To Kill a Mockingbird."

It tops a list of the best books of the 1960s. A decade that yielded a lot of my favorites. And a lot of books that happen to be on the list of choices my daughter brought home for summer reading, too.

Mockingbird is proof that a good story and exceptional writing are timeless.

Think I'll put it on my summer reading list!

- Tricia Ambrose

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A love story to start the summer reading season

Now that the weather's turning warmer (almost too warm if you ask me!,) I'm really jonesing for those lazy summer afternoons relaxing in the backyard with a cool beverage and a delicious read.

I've been watching all the notices of summer reading programs at area libraries that fellow blogger Cheryl Sadler has been rounding up in the weekly Odds and Book Ends listings and trying to plan how many of them I can delude myself into thinking I'll join.

Even though my submission is never picked, I enjoy filling out the slips of paper listing the books I've read. Perhaps it's just my competitive nature, but I don't necessarily want to win the gift basket (though that would be nice), I just want to read the most books.

Luckily my mother and sisters (some of whom belong to actual book clubs where people gather in person and discuss works!!) are always feeding me a steady stream of books I have to read. Also luckily, I read pretty quickly.

"These is my Words" was one such recommendation; I can't remember from whom. Subtitled "The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 Arizona Territories," Nancy E. Turner's book follows Sarah from her youth through much of her adulthood.

It's a rough life.

I enjoyed watching the relationship between Sarah and Jack develop over the years, and as a love story I thought the novel was a welcome diversion.

But the characters were a little too stereotypical to elevate the novel in my mind. Sarah is, of course, a crack shot, an independent and strong woman and self-educated. She whips up soap with some found perfume, and voila, she's a successful businesswoman. And does Jack have a flaw? Can this man be human?

I did not find it to be the gem that the Omaha World-Herald touted. But if you're looking for an entertaining love story, it just might fill the bill.

- Tricia Ambrose

Labels: ,

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mark Twain: Still Crazy After All These Years

Thomas Sowell said there were only two ways to tell the truth, anonymously or posthumously.

Never one for anonymity, Mark Twain chose the latter.

When Twain died he left behind a 5,000-page, unedited autobiography and a note saying it was not to be published for at least a century after his death.

Twain died in 1910. That means the seventh seal will be cracking soon. The first volume of an eventual trilogy will be released by the University of California, Berkeley, where the grail is vaulted.

I will be reading this autobiography, all of it. My self-inflicted limit on book length be damned.

Twain was known for his candor in life. Can you imagine what thoughts he needed to let stew for a century before they could be served?

While the salacious details of his relationship with former secretary Isabel Van Kleek Lyon may interest others, I just want to read about Twain being Twain. I want to know what quips, tidbits and quotable blog fodder he ensconced in this autobiography.

On an unrelated note, Stephen Fry will judge the Guardian Hay festival’s Twitter competition.

While I still have some misgivings toward Twitter (how it’s used, not the platform itself), I think a Twitter competition is positively democratic.

In the words of festival director Peter Florence, “It’s a little jolly and a leveller. We can all write tweets but not all of us can write poems or novels.”

Nominations for the most beautiful tweet must be posted @hayfestival. The winner will be announced June 6.

I will be nominating something from @FEMINISTHULK.

Finally, Christopher Hitchens answers the Proust Questionnaire.

-Jason Lea,

Labels: , ,

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Odds and Book Ends (May 24-May 30)

Odds and Book Ends features activities and events in the area related to libraries, books and authors. Send your events to, and check back to The Book Club every week for upcoming events and activities at your local library.

The Geauga County National Alliance on Mental Illness Family Support Group will take place at 7 p.m. May 25 at Middlefield Public Library.
The intent of the meeting is to provide information, understanding and support for those whose lives have been touched by mental illness.
Individuals who have a family member, loved one or child diagnosed with a mental illness, or have a mental illness, are invited to attend.
Registration is not necessary and the program is free.
For details, call the Mental Health Association at 440-285-3945.

Dr. Philip Skerry, author of the book, "Psycho in the Shower," will discuss the infamous shower scene in the classic Alfred Hitchcock film, "Psycho," at 6 p.m. May 26 at Willoughby Hills Public Library.
Skerry has examined the debate that has swirled around the scene for 50 years, and where it fit in the social and cultural landscape of the time.
Books will be available for sale. The library is at 35400 Chardon Road.
For information or reservations, call 440-942-3362.

A violin performance by Justin Curry will be at 3 p.m. May 27 at Madison Public Library, 6111 Middle Ridge Road, Madison.
Justin, 17, is raising funds for his 10-month study abroad in Japan with Flags International exchange program.
For details call 440-428-2189.

Geauga 9-12 Patriots will host an evening with Constitution Party candidate for state attorney general, Robert Owens, from 6 to 7:45 p.m. May 27 at Burton Library, 14588 W. Park St.
Owens will discuss the topic "Why the values of the Ohio Constitution have been forgotten, and how to restore them."
For details, call Jean Coe at 440-313-8864.

--Cheryl Sadler

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Video killed, then marketed, the book

No essays today.
Barely any words, at all.
Blog of videos.

The Melville House hosts its first annual Moby Awards tonight. (Yes, I know, technically something cannot be “annual” until it happens for two consecutive years; but that’s how they billed it, as the “first annual.” Next year, Melville House should call it the second inaugural Moby Awards.)

The awards recognize the best book trailers. The categories are best low budget/indie, best big budget, best performance by an author, best cameo in a book trailer (if Zach Galifinakis doesn’t win for his performance in Lowboy, I’m calling shenanigans), and least likely trailer to sell the book.

For your viewing pleasure, I have imbedded a few of the trailers.

I Lego N.Y.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

The aforementioned Lowboy

Now, two completely unrelated book videos:

Brontë Sisters Power Dolls

Finally, Bill Murray reads poetry to construction workers

-Jason Lea,

Labels: ,

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Using Judd Apatow to Analyze Gao Xingjian

The problem with criticizing a Nobel laureate is I don’t have a leg on which to stand.

So I can say that Gao Xingjian’s Soul Mountain frustrates me and that he mires his immense talent in selfish nihilism. I can say that he needs a stronger conclusion than, “I don’t know anything, but nature is nice.”

And he can say, “I’m a Nobel laureate, and you’re a book blogger for a suburban Ohio newspaper.”

And he wins.

I feel trepidation criticizing Xingjian because there are portions of Soul Mountain I admittedly did not follow.

When he says, “To exist and yet not to be perceived is the same as not to exist,” I want to say, “No, to not exist is the same as to not exist.”

In fact, that’s peek-a-boo logic. The baby doesn’t perceive something, so it must not exist.

But, then, I have a moment of uncertainty. Xingjian has the Nobel Prize for literature. Maybe I’m overreacting or missing the point. Maybe I'm stupid. Maybe to be unperceived is to not exist.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I should introduce Xingjian and Soul Mountain before I criticize it.

Xingjian, as you may have heard, won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2000. He enjoyed some popularity in China but ran afoul of the government. He eventually moved to France and criticized his homeland’s government. It responded by banning all of his work.

Before leaving for Europe, Xingjian was diagnosed with lung cancer, the disease that killed his father, and told he was going to die. He didn’t die. He didn’t even have cancer. The doctor misdiagnosed him.

With a new lease on life, Xingjian spent 10 months traveling along the Yangtze River. He, then, used that experience to write Soul Mountain.

If you want a pop-culture point of reference, Xingjian is Adam Sandler in Funny People.

Soul Mountain is an autobiography-novel-travel writing… actually, it would be easier to let Xingjian explain. In one chapter, he argues with himself over whether Soul Mountain is a novel.

“You’ve slapped together travel notes, moralistic ramblings, feelings, notes, jottings, untheoretical discussions, unfable-like fables, copied out some folk songs, added some legend-like nonsense of your own invention, and are calling it fiction!” he shouts at himself.

And that’s a fair description of Soul Mountain. It doesn’t have a plot, per se, or characters, unless you count Xingjian. There is also a “you,” making this the rare novel that’s written partly in second person. Xingjian also writes about a “he” and “she,” but all the characters are shades of Xingjian.

So what is there? No plot, no characters. What’s left? Well, there’s a theme.

After Xingjian’s death sentence was annulled, he searches for a purpose. (The Adam Sandler/Funny People analogy still holds.) He goes on a mission to find life—real life, which is “not the same as manifestations of life.”

He does this by wandering and meeting people, recording conversations and listening to folk songs. He also spends a lot of time as far away from cities as possible. The farther from civilization he is, the better his writing.

“Lush white flowers are scattered beneath the bush… This is pristine natural beauty. It is irrepressible, seeks no reward, and is without goal, a beauty derived neither from symbolism nor metaphor and needing neither analogies nor associations.”

That last paragraph also describes most of Xingjian’s prose. Despite the 500-page count and its unconventionality, Xingjian is unpretentious. He wants to tell a story.
To paraphrase him, he is interested in “the superb purity of the story.”

But what is the story? I’ve already told you there’s no plot. At most, Soul Mountain is a series of connected vignettes, and some of the connections are tenuous.

If I had to guess (and this is a guess,) I’d say Soul Mountain is a story about a man who is told he must keep living. He must answer the question, “What next?”

Fall in love? Connect with old friends? Make amends for past wrongs? Travel the country? Write a masterpiece?

Well, he does most of those things but fails to derive any deeper truth from it. Having looked into the abyss, he’s concluded that most things are meaningless.

“I have long tired of the struggles of the human world,” he writes.

He rejects the notion that his stories have any moral responsibility:

You’re a writer.
So what if I am a writer?
You’re the conscience of society, you must speak for the people!
Stop joking, I say.

I realize that some stories are just stories. Twain even warned us that those looking for a moral in Huck Finn would be shot. But I would hope that Xingjian would have more to say after receiving a reprieve from death and traveling the country.

Instead, he only seems interested in language for the sake of language.

"You have only the desire to narrate, to use a language transcending cause and effect, or logic. People have spoken so much nonsense, so why shouldn’t you say more."

But even that mission eludes him.

“In the end all you can achieve are memories, hazy, intangible, dreamlike memories which are impossible to articulate. When you try to relate them, there are only sentences, the dregs left from the filter of linguistic structures.”

Despite Xingjian’s experiences and travels, at the end of Soul Mountain, he declares:

While pretending to understand, I still don’t understand.
The fact of the matter is I comprehend nothing. I understand nothing.
This is how it is.

So I guess Xingjian is Adam Sandler from Funny People. He almost died and still didn’t learn anything.

Jason Lea,

P.S. Xingjian also finds time to weigh in on the relevance of poetry.

“I lost my poetic sensibility a long time ago and can’t write poetry. In any event I doubt that the present is an age for poetry. It seems that everything to be sung or shouted has already been sung or shouted.”

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hitting It Two Times

Today, I want to revisit some topics.

First, people are still asking if poetry matters. (Yeah, we've done this before.)

Gregory Cowles of The New York Times doesn’t offer any new thoughts — (no, poetry no longer matters; no, it is not the audience’s fault; poetry has become insular and will not matter again until it speaks to the public) — but he answers in such a way as not to make my teeth grate, which is an accomplishment.

Second, remember Michelle Kerns’s book review cliché bingo? Well, Flavorwire created a version for music reviews.

Third, Paul Edwards wrote a book titled How to Rap. I reviewed it.

Now, Edwards has posted an uncut interview with Kool G Rap that he did as research for the book.

I enjoy reading about artists’ creative processes. It doesn’t matter if that artist is G Rap or Victor Hugo.

Fourth, The New Yorker has published the best explanation I’ve seen on the state of the publishing industry thus far. One of the most insightful thoughts comes from Russ Grandinetti, the vice-president in charge of Kindle Content. From The New Yorker:

"In Grandinetti’s view, book publishers—like executives in other media—are making the same mistake the railroad companies made more than a century ago: thinking they were in the train business rather than the transportation business. To thrive, he believes, publishers have to reimagine the book as multimedia entertainment."

But here’s the most telling fact:

"In reality the profits earned by the relatively small percentage of authors whose books make money essentially go to subsidizing less commercially successful writers. The system is inefficient, but it supports a class of professional writers, which might not otherwise exist."

In other words, Dan Brown, Stephenie Meyer and J.K. Rowling are probably funding some of your favorite, current authors. We should be grateful.

Jason Lea,

P.S. Thank you, Seth, for The New Yorker link. Lebron still isn't going to the Knicks.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Odds and Book Ends (May 17-23)

Odds and Book Ends features activities and events in the area related to libraries, books and authors. Send your events to, and check back to The Book Club every week for upcoming events and activities at your local library.

Morley Library, 184 Phelps St., Painesville will host a literary reading at 7 p.m. May 18 by poet, oral memoirist, publisher and traveler Michael Czarnecki. This event will be part of a 28-day journey Czarnecki is taking along U.S. Route 20, the longest road in America. This will be one of 21 scheduled programs over the four weeks he will be on the road.
Beginning almost 14 years after the first trip along U.S. Route 20 he made, the author will again travel from Boston to Newport, Oregon, on America’s longest road.

The Madison Library Summer Reading Book Sale will be 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. May 20 and May 21, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 22.
The Saturday special will be a bag of books for $1. Friends Preview Night will be 5:30 to 7 p.m. May 19; memberships may be purchased at the door. For details call 440-428-2189.

Works by Hunter-Harrison Art will be displayed at the Kirtland Public Library this spring, with an opening reception 2 to 4 p.m. May 23. Hunter-Harrison Art is the creation of Barbara and Clarence May, who reside in Chardon and Cape Coral, Fla.
Clarence May works in acrylics. He has a background in graphic art and a studio in Euclid. Barbara is a watercolorist and has trained with George Zetzer in Cleveland and Dianna Wellman in Florida. Barbara is a retired educator.
Hunter-Harrison Art subjects include scenes from nature and local landscapes. Much of the artists' work is done in plein-air, an impressionist style.
The work will be on display in the Friends Gallery in the Deloris C. Parsons Community Room at the library during regular library hours.
Kirtland Public Library is at 9267 Chillicothe Road in Kirtland. Call the library at 440-256-READ for additional information.

--Cheryl Sadler

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, May 14, 2010

Real Blogga Quotes

I was going to prepare this awesome post about inappropriate book covers; but I'm in a Cavs-induced stupor and don't feel like it.

Hopefully, I'll feel better by Monday. In the meantime, enjoy some storytelling advice from the masters:

Most editors are failed writers — but so are most writers.
-T.S. Eliot

There is no such thing as pure fact, innocent of interpretation. Behind every fact presented to the world — by a teacher, a writer, anyone — is a judgment. The judgment that has been made is that this fact is important, and that other facts, omitted, are not important.
-Rhoden Howard Zinn

It’s impossible to say a thing exactly the way it was, because what you say can never be exact, you always have to leave something out, there are too many parts, sides, crosscurrents, nuances; too many gestures, which could mean this or that, too many shapes which can never be fully described, too many flavors in the air or on the tongue, half-colors, too many.
-Margaret Atwood

In ancient times a story could end only in two ways: having passed all the tests, the hero and the heroine are married, or else they died. The ultimate meaning to which all stories refer has two faces: the continuity of life, the inevitability of death.
-Italo Calvino

When you create characters and a storyscape that occupy somebody else’s imagination, you lose the sole authority to determine how that work resounds in others’ dreams.
-Makal Gilmore

The recent school of novel writers forget in their insistence on life, and nothing but life, in a plain slice, that a story must be worth the telling, that a good deal of life is not worth any such thing, and that they must not occupy the reader’s time with what he can get at first hand anywhere around him.
-Thomas Hardy

Words, like eyeglasses, blur everything that they do not make more clear.
-Joseph Joubert

Overcertified adjectives are the mark of most best-seller writing.
-Norman Mailer

A good writer is basically a story-teller, not a scholar or a redeemer of mankind.
-Isaac Bashevis Singer

I am to give my readers not the best absolutely but the best I have.
-C.S. Lewis

-Jason Lea,


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cover contest and other things

A few things...

Thing #1: HTMLGIANT is soliciting blurbs for books that don’t exist.

That sounds more confusing than it is. Let me try to explain.

Ben Segal and Erinrose Mager are compiling a book. The book will be a series of blurbs describing other books that don’t exist. If I’m understanding correctly (never a safe bet), it’s pretty similar to what Steve Hely did for The Believer.

Deadline for the submissions are July 15. Follow the link for details.

Thing #2: I love me some Ralph Ellison, but I’m siding with Troy Patterson. There is no way I’m reading Three Days Before the Shooting.

First, I have a fairly strict 600-page cap on novels I read. I’ve broken it once or twice, usually for a Russian author; but I lack the attention span to harpoon Ellison’s 1,100-page leviathan. (I just checked. My copy of Invisible Man is 608 pages, so I guess I snapped my cap for Ellison once already.)

Second, if I’m understanding correctly (see above), this is basically Juneteenth: The Extended Edition. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t wish Juneteenth had another 700 pages.

Thing #3: The Guardian has a piece on how publishers change a book’s cover in different countries. The article piqued my interest on the subject without satiating it.

I wanted to know how US covers differ from their European counterparts. This quote is as close as I got to an explanation:

“The US, meanwhile, tends to signpost its literary fiction more than the UK.”

New game — I want to see which of our two readers can find the most wildly inappropriate book cover. Not “inappropriate” as in pornographic or violent, but inappropriate as in the cover has nothing to do with the book’s contents.

Winner can negotiate his or her own prize. (I have shelves filled with books I’ll never read again, and I’m willing to pay shipping.) E-mail submissions to me.

-Jason Lea,

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Where are they now?

One of the staples of the newspaper business is the "where are they now" story.

People really do wonder whatever happened to those folks who made headlines for one reason or another.

We all get curious about our former classmates and colleagues. Typing in names from my high school and college days is one of my favorite things to do on Facebook and LinkedIn! Of course, then I'm disappointed when they, like me, have no photo.

But did you ever wonder what would happen to your favorite characters from literature?

Entire novels have been written to answer such questions (see "Mrs. de Winter" or "Scarlett"). They generally fall short of the original work.

But a little speculation is always fun.

Check out these possibilities.

A few of my own thoughts:

Harold (He of Purple Crayon fame): Drew himself a wonderful life for his wife Violet and their daughter Lilac.

Robert Langdon: After solving so many international intrigues, Langdon moved to a deserted island in the South Pacific. These days he can be overheard muttering symbolism, schmybolism.

Edward Cullen: Has gone vegetarian.

- Tricia Ambrose

Monday, May 10, 2010

Dissecting Clichés

I was less than my prolific self last week.

I would have written more, but it’s poor form to blog from someone’s murder trial.

But I’m back and so is Michelle Kerns. If you don’t remember Kerns, she is the woman analyzing literary critics’ dependence upon clichés.

Her analysis (and accompanying graphs) are many positive things — fascinating, insightful and accessible. Unfortunately, those words are clichés, so I’ll just post a link instead of trying to describe it.

Of the publications she is following, Entertainment Weekly packs the highest percentage of clichés into their critiques. (Smart money bets EW remain the frontrunner through the entirety of Kerns’s experiment.) They averaged 1.1 cliché per 100 words. Time Out New York and Publishers Weekly trailed at .93 and .92 Kerns, respectively.

Yes, “Kerns” are the metric measurement for clichés per 100 words in a book review.

Kerns — the writer, not the unit of measurement — specifically picks on alliterations in her dissection of April’s reviews. Some of the alliterations, like “parboiled profundities,” I found clever. Some are admittedly pretentious, for example, “craziness crazily” and “This promising premise begins on promising premises.”

Elsewhere, Elisa Bassist asks, Have I Earned these Clichés? She writes about why she writes and comes up with, “It’s the closest definition I have of living.” Yes, she notes that her conclusion is a cliché. That’s why she gives her essay that title.

It’s much better than I’m making it sound, though I disagree with some of Bassist’s points. She describes writing as a “social act.” I would argue that it’s the opposite. Reading might be a social act; but writing, almost always, is done alone and for your own sake. If someone else reads a personal meaning into your own writing — wonderful! — but writing is a selfish process. It’s about you, even when it isn’t. (And, now, I have added my cliché to the stack.)

Bassist seems to acknowledge this when she quotes Jim Harrison.

“A writer [is] a small god who has forty acres as a birthright on which to reinvent the world.”

Two final notes — first, Elisa Gabbert has fun with Venn diagrams.

She says that most people separate “women poets” from “poets.” How can anyone divide the two? Whether right or wrong, I identify femininity with poetry. Most of the women I know are poets. Many just don’t bother to write it down.

Lastly, we finally have an e-reader that I would consider buying. The Kobo reader, from Borders, will cost $149 and come stocked with 100 classics, according to the Associated Post. That’s $1.50 per classic. Sure, I probably have most of these unidentified classics on my bookshelf already. (Whether I’ve read them or not is a different issue.) But it still sells for $100 less than competing e-readers.

-Jason Lea,

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Odds and Book Ends (May 10-16)

Odds and Book Ends features activities and events in the area related to libraries, books and authors. Send your events to, and check back to The Book Club every week for upcoming events and activities at your local library.

The history of Hopkins Airport will be presented at 3 p.m. May 12 at the Gates Mills Branch of Cuyahoga County Library.
Dr. Edward J. Pershey, Western Reserve Historical Society vice president of special projects, will be the featured speaker.
Admission is free and open to the public.

Mentor Public Library, 8215 Mentor Ave., presents Dave Schwensen, author of "The Beatles In Cleveland: Memories, Facts & Photos About The Notorious 1964 & 1966 Concerts," 7 p.m. May 12. Call 440-255-8811.

"Harry Potter Fair on the Square" will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. May 15 on Chardon Square in Chardon.
The event, hosted by Chardon Library, will include games and activities to celebrate Harry Potter.
For details, call the library at 440-285-7601.

--Cheryl Sadler

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

American Gods and Grading Moose

My apologies to both of my loyal readers. I have been covering a murder trial this week and that leaves little time for book blogging.

Allow me to catch up. The One Book, One Twitter experiment kicked off today. It’s a worldwide book club that uses Twitter. Readers voted on the inaugural novel and selected Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

Gaiman had mixed feelings about the honor. He wrote on his blog:

As an author, I'm half-pleased and half-not, mostly because American Gods is such a divisive sort of book. Some people love it, some sort of like it, and some people hate it. (As contrasted with, say, The Graveyard Book, which some people love, some like, and a statistically insignificant number of people hate.) It's not a book I'd hand out to everyone, because the people who don't know anything about what I've written and who hate it -- who might have loved Stardust, or Neverwhere, or The Graveyard Book or Sandman -- probably won't go and look any further.

The #1b1t people have already run into an early problem with spoilers. I also suspect it will be difficult to have any meaningful conversation when all comments are limited to 140 characters and thousands of people are participating.

Still, though, it’s a noble idea.

The Animal Review guys got a book deal; and I suspect it will be my favorite blog-turned-book since Stuff White People Like. If you don’t know the Animal Review’s shtick, Jacob Lentz and Steve Nash — no, not that Steve Nash — grade animals on ridiculous, arbitrary criteria.

Here’s an excerpt from their entry on moose (which Lentz/Nash gave a “B”):

The main thing to know about moose is that they are enormous. More pointedly, owning one as a pet is a decision almost bound to bring a lifetime of regret. It will most certainly cause family conflict, and in all likelihood your friends will stop coming over. Plus your neighbors will gossip. You may end up on the news. And there are at least even odds that your chandelier will need frequent repairing.

Finally, Daniel Nester gives you 13 mistakes to avoid while writing, editing and promoting your book. (Suggestion #8: Don’t take reviews too seriously, good or bad. This especially applies to all the depressed or neurotic people out there; which, if you’re a writer, you most likely are.)

-Jason Lea,

Labels: , ,

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Post about Hip-Hop -- Act Accordingly

If you can’t tell from my unnecessary Wu-Tang Clan references, my goal is to turn The News-Herald Book Club into the definitive literature blog for hip-hop heads.

I’ve quoted The Rza’s Tao of Wu and reviewed Adam Bradley’s Book of Rhymes, which explains how MCs use poetic techniques when writing their lyrics.

Now, I add Paul Edwards’s How to Rap: The Art and Science of the Hip-Hop MC to the reading list for the studious hip-hopper.

How to Rap is (as the title implies) a book that suggests ways aspiring MCs can hone their craft. What makes it interesting is Edwards doesn’t give his own advice. Instead, he’s interviewed more than 100 artists and compiled their suggestions.

I’ve read a lot of books about writing—Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White’s The Elements of Style, Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction, Stephen King’s On Writing and Barbara Drake’s Writing Poetry, among others—and none of them allow the masters of the field to speak for themselves. The closest literary equivalent I could think of is Frank Conroy’s The Eleventh Draft, which invited authors like Doris Grumbach and Barry Hannah to discuss their creative process. (This Guardian article also does something similar.)

Edwards has a master’s degree in postmodernism, literature and contemporary culture from the University of London. His interviews cover all facets of U.S. hip-hop. He talks to lyrical godfathers Kool G Rap (who writes the foreword) and Big Daddy Kane, multiplatinum artists and Nelly, and underground wunderkinds Royce Da 5’9’’, Crooked I and Pharoahe Monch.

If you don’t know who any of those people are, you probably won’t care about How to Rap.

That’s one of the few knocks I have on Edwards’s book. If you don’t care about hip-hop as a fan, it has nothing for you. But if you have even a passing interest in the genre’s creative process, it would be worth cracking the cover.

However, many rappers—like athletes—have learned to speak almost exclusively in clichés. For example, several of the interviewees stress how you need to write music the listener can “feel.”

Well, duh. But how?

Fortunately, some give very specific advice that all writers, not just MCs or songwriters, would be wise to follow.

“Try to elevate your mind, no matter how that may be. For some people it could be reading books, for other people it could be meditating, for other people it could be being hands-on with whatever they want to learn about,” Crooked I recommends.

My favorite suggestion comes from RBX: “Practice, practice, [expletive deleted] practice, practice, practice, and practice, then you go practice some more.”

-Jason Lea,

Labels: , ,

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Odds and Book Ends (May 3-9)

Book ends features activities and events in the area related to libraries, books and authors. Send your events to, and check back to The Book Club every week for upcoming events and activities at your local library.

The program "Herbs as Presented by Lady Catherine of Lovain, 1429" will take place at 7 p.m. May 4 at Chardon Library on Chardon Square.
Kathleen Gips, proprietor of Village Herb Shop in Chagrin Falls, will present the program while in full medieval costume and character.
For details, call the library at 440-285-7601.

A "New To You ... Understanding Medicare" program will take place at 2 p.m. May 4 at Mentor Public Library, 8215 Mentor Ave., Mentor.
Alyea Barajas, the Lake County coordinator for the Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program, will be the featured speaker.
The presentation is a combined lecture/overview and interactive question and answer session geared for those ages 64 and over who will be eligible for Medicare.
The event is free and open to the public.
To register, call 440-255-8811, ext. 217; for more details, e-mail Grace Peterson at

Children entering kindergarten this fall are invited to the Kindergarten Kickoff from 10 to 11 a.m. May 6 at Perry Public Library.
It will feature a story program about starting kindergarten while parents will learn about what they can do at home to make sure their child has the skills to be successful.
This program is only for children scheduled to start kindergarten in the fall of 2010.
Each child must be accompanied by an adult.
Space is limited so register by phone at 440-259-3300 or online at

Joseph-Beth Booksellers, 24519 Cedar Road, Lyndhurst, presents signings by Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, "Mike and Mike's Rules for Sports and Life," 7 p.m. May 6. Call 216-691-7000.

A bus trip to tour Case Western Reserve University’s Dittrick Medical History Center will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 8.
The event will be hosted by the Chardon Library.
For details, call the library at 440-285-7601.

--Cheryl Sadler

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Local libraries get national recognition

Staff Writer Nick Carrabine wrote an article for Saturday's News-Herald about Hennen’s American Public Library Ratings, which rank libraries based on circulation, staffing, materials, reference service and funding levels per population. Perhaps unsurprisingly, five libraries from our area received recognition. Find out which of our libraries ranked highly here. (Hint: One of them has a levy on the May 4 ballot.)

Congratulations to the libraries for their outstanding work!

--Cheryl Sadler

Labels: ,