18 May 2019

Titles and Entitling

Now All We Need is a Title
André Bernard
WW Norton, 1994
127 pp.

Subtitled "Famous Book Titles and How They Got That Way", this is an entertaining little book full of anecdotes about the process of titling a book. There is no narrative as such, just vignettes organized by the authors' names plus some lists of thematically-related titles, such as "numbers in titles" or "planets and moons in titles". Scattered throughout are black-and-white illustrations which appear to be from very old books and bookplates.

Some stories are told by the authors themselves or their editors, a few are quotations from a book wherein the character talks about creating a title. I found many interesting titbits, like the fact that E.E. Cummings published a book in 1930 with no title at all, and Fitzgerald's working title for "The Great Gatsby" was the amazingly clunky "Trimalchio in West Egg"!

In the only known instance of a book's title predicting its fate, the first printing of John Steinbeck's 'The Wayward Bus' was destroyed when the truck transporting the books from the bindery crashed in flames. The truck had been hit by a "wayward" bus that had been traveling down the wrong side of the road. p. 106

It was Lewis Carroll who came up with the idea of putting the title on the dust jacket, and his 'The Hunting of the Snark' was the first book to be published with a printed jacket in 1876.

If you love books and the stories behind them, this is the book for you. The format makes it perfect for dipping into at odd times, when your current read (or life) is getting a bit heavy.

Trimalchio is a character in the 1st century AD Roman work of fiction "Satyricon" by Petronius. He is an arrogant former slave who has become quite wealthy by tactics that most would find distasteful. -Wikipedia

13 May 2019

How to Introvert

Introvert Doodles: An Illustrated Look at Introvert Life in an Extrovert World
Maureen "Marzi" Wilson
Adams Media, 2016

This is a quirky little cartoon book that is a lot of fun and I even learned something from Marzi. In between introverts and extroverts there are ambiverts, who have attributes of both other types. Cool, 'cause that's me! I enjoy people in limited amounts.

Meet Marzi. She's an introvert who often finds herself in awkward situations. Marzi used to feel strange about her introverted tendencies. Not anymore! Now she knows that there are tons of introverts out there just like her--introverts who enjoy peace and quiet, need time alone to recharge their battery, and who prefer staying in with their pet and a good book to awkward social interactions. -Back Cover


The drawing style is simple. Some cartoons have lots of text; some only a little bit. Some are very funny; some quite sad. And scattered within the frames is plenty of social wisdom.


Marzi has a website IntrovertDoodles, a popular Instagram site @IntrovertDoodles and a Twitter account @IntrovertDoodle. She has also written three other books:
  • "Kind of Coping: An Illustrated Look at Life with Anxiety"
  • "The Introvert Activity Book: Draw It, Make It, Write It (Because You'd Never Say It Out Loud)"
  • "The Little Book of Big Feelings: An Illustrated Exploration of Life's Many Emotions" (Nov. 2019)

03 May 2019

Bout of Books Read-a-thon 25


I’m joining the 25th edition of #boutofbooks! It's my fourth Bout of Books and I'm looking forward to a week of reading, reading, reading! Why not join us?

Here's the scoop on Bout of Books:

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly Rubidoux Apple. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01 am Monday, May 13th and runs through Sunday, May 19th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, Twitter chats, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 25 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

I have 2 books to finish, and 3 others waiting in the wings when I do:

Books to finish:

    "The Bridge of San Luis Rey", Thorton Wilder
    "Shakespeare is Hard But So Is Life", Fintan O'Toole

Books to start:

    "The Prodigal Tongue", Lynne Murphy
    "Essential Encounter", Therese Kuoh-Moukoury
    "Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Parliament", Paul Gallico

Onwards and Upwards, Readers!

28 April 2019

Vonnegut on Wealth Inequality

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
Kurt Vonnegut
Dial Press, 1965
275 pages

Another book read for #1965Club. Thanks to Kaggsy and Simon for hosting! I read some Vonnegut back in the 60s and 70s, during and after college, and I remember liking his offbeat vision of the world, especially in light of the large anti-war protests going on then at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Recently I started thinking about reading more of his novels and was pleased to find one from 1965 for the club reading week.


The story centers around Eliot Rosewater, a very wealthy man, and how he handles the funds of his family's tax-sheltering foundation. There's not much to the plot. The book is more about the various characters in the Rosewater family, past and present, plus the impoverished citizens of Rosewater County, Indiana, which is pretty much owned by the family, lock, stock, and barrel.

Eliot, who may or may not be insane for most of the book, gives a lot of philosophical musings/speeches about wealth in America and the plight of the poor. The whole story is farcical, satiric, a bit slapstick, take your pick of adjectives. I found it overblown and too snarky for my taste, and therefore more tedious than funny. It's not that I don't agree with Eliot, I just don't like the tone.

I think it's terrible the way people don't share things in this country. I think it's a heartless government that will let one baby be born owning a big piece of the country, the way I was born, and let another baby be born without owning anything. The least a government could do, it seems to me, is to divide things up fairly among the babies - Eliot Rosewater, page 121

Fifty-four years after Vonnegut wrote it, the book seems extremely relevant to today's world, where wealth inequality is a hot topic for the country. A publisher should re-issue it with a foreword by some current politician, scholar, or activist.

27 April 2019

#1965 Club: A Classic Police Procedural Novel

Roseanna: a Martin Beck Mystery
Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö
Pantheon Books, 1967 translation by Lois Roth
Swedish original "Roseanna: roman om ett brott", 1965
212 pp.

Mysteries have never been at the top of my reading list. I do like the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series by Canadian author Louise Penny, and when I'm not in the mood for more serious Literature, I have a few cozy mystery series on tap. (Hello, Amelia Peabody!) I think the common thread here is that I like mysteries without a lot of blood and gore, graphic violence, serial killers, or misogynistic violence.

But I needed books for the #1965Club and quickly. So I followed the hashtag and found a few blogs with lists of books published in 1965. One review that caught my eye was for a Swedish police procedural called "Roseanna". As it didn't seem too bloody or dark, I got the Kindle version and plunged into 1960s Sweden.


I really enjoyed this story. The main character is First Detective Inspector Martin Beck of the Swedish National Police, Homicide Bureau. He seems like a very ordinary person, although "There were people who thought that he was the country's most capable examining officer." As such he was called out to a small town where dredging of the navigation channel near the locks had scooped up a naked female body.

The emphasis is on the police procedures as they attempt to solve the murder of the unknown woman, which eventually takes them over six months, all in a rather short book. The language is quite plain, without long passages of description. Conversations between the policemen often consist of short phrases or single words, a very realistic depiction of co-workers communicating. The inevitable government bureaucracy gets in the way. The story is about determined, even obsessed policemen working a difficult case, no heroes in sight. This is most assuredly not an action novel!

Ten books - Ten letters in the character's name

"Roseanna" is the first of 10 Martin Beck mysteries by Sjöwall and Wahlöö, often considered the "godparents of Nordic Noir". The series has greatly influenced writers in Sweden and around the world, especially for police procedural mysteries. Check out the web sites below for more information about the authors and Nordic Noir.

Further Reading

"The couple who invented Nordic Noir"
Maj Sjöwall and her late partner paved the way for Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbø. Jake Kerridge meets her

"The queen of crime"
When Maj Sjöwall and her partner Per Wahlöö started writing the Martin Beck detective series in Sweden in the 60s, they little realised that it would change the way we think about policemen for ever

"Nordic Noir: Consider this home base for all things Scandinavian crime fiction."