Lori's Book Nook

Archive for the ‘Cultural History’ Category

Ernie Cline is the Numero Uno geek on the Internet…or at least the one who has carved out his niche of geekdom, and becoming successful for actually being a geek.

Spoken word…a screenplay actually produced (that would be the Star Wars homage, Fanboys), and now a novel — Ready Player One:

an homage to 80s geekdom

Simply put, the novel is a distopic look at our world in a possible near future, where all energy is focused on one enormous simulation game…which is, for various reasons, absolutely replete with 80s pop culture references and recreations. Did I mention it features video games? And it has references to absolutely everything and anything that was popular in a pretty limited time frame…

Not enough for you? The audio book, which I am in the midst of right now, is read by Mr. Wil Weaton!

And it’s a good yarn! Thanks, Ernie!


Where do you pile your books? My hubby and I have piles on our bedside tables mostly, then some in the living room, the kitchen, the dining room…and they all live in the basement library/movie/party room (technically the ‘family room’).

The other day I was tidying the bedroom, and emptied the already-read and not-going-to-get-read-soon books off the two bedside tables:

Putting books away...

Then, I pulled books from the living room and kitchen to complete the tidy:

More books being put away..

This post for your voyeuristic enjoyment.

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Are you a book lover? A bibliophile? Do you get no greater joy out of life than browsing a used bookstore? Do your knees get weak at the thought of a library book sale?

Have you been to Paris yet?

The Parisiens know books, appreciate books. You’ve probably seen the pictures of the book stalls that line the Seine, in their ubiquitous green carts. These are les bouquinistes, the legendary booksellers of Paris:

They are part of the Paris legend. 217 booksellers spread out their 900 stands along the capital’s 11 quays, which represent a three kilometer walk. The onlookers pass by their sides, rummage through the famous green boxes, buy a book here and there, a poster, a vintage print. But who are these men and women who brave the wind, the cold and the rain? Winter is here, but they are still at the task. Enter into the biggest outdoor bookstore.

The quote above is a translation of an audio piece from La Guinguette — a very good online French journal. I want to put a plug in for them, as they have great products, and the audio is free to listen to. (You can download it if you subscribe.)

This article is a great example. this is not French for the beginner, instead it is the French as it is spoken in the streets. Read this article in the English translation, but also play it, to get the ambient sound of the Paris streets as bouquinistes are interviewed at their stalls.

I can almost picture where each stall is, as it’s described in the article. On our honeymoon, we rented an apartment next to the Seine, on the rive gauche, with green stalls outside our door…

And the French are wonderfully book mad. Here’s a picture of me paying 2 euro for a book at a vending machine:

Another way to access books!

Another way to access books!

I’m in the middle of two books, and suddenly I feel like I’m reading one of those artsy-fartsy double features at your local, non-mainstream movie house. You know the ones, where there is a connection between the films, and it is your job as the audience to find it.

The most obscure one I ever came across was where the only link was an ice cream cone in each film. The most delightful was Robert LePage’s Le Confessional (1995) shown with Hitchcock’s I Confess (1953).

So, back to books.

I’m reading two books right now:

While both books are utterly different in plot, character, setting, and genre they have in common a wonderful bookyness to them…they are both a literary soup of references that verge on the border of being overwhelming, but instead are almost inspiring in their bibliophilia.

Two different books, two utterly different characters, but both texts are littered with pop culture:

Eco, being a semiologist, does not really surprise us in this. His other books have been thick with historical references, illuminating his amazing well-readness. This time however, it is a plot point, as our protagonist is an older man suffering from amnesia who uses the books of his lifetime to rebuild his lifeline. The references this time are both classical and current, albeit the focus of the current is on Italian modern history and corresponding pop culture.

Pessl, a young woman writing her first novel, holds her own in general bookyness in comparison to the towering Eco. The character, Blue van der Meer, is not quite 18 but is an astoundingly well-read genius, being the daughter of a rather eccentric, nomadic, genius professor father. As she navigates the teen hell of a yet another new school, her every thought is a literary or pop culture reference, at times against her will. Despite how ponderous that sounds, it is a delightful read, and un-put-down-able once you really get rolling.

I need more books of this genre (is it a meta- or sub-genre?). Any suggestions?

As you may know, I have a weakness for cultural histories — “See the history of the world through this odd angle!”

So, the other day, when I was browsing the local 2ndhand bookstore, I happened upon a brilliant addition to my library — The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance by Henry Petroksi. ‘Tis a delightful romp through the history of such an amazingly simple, obvious thing (at least to us today), in the hopes that the mysteries of engineering become clearer:

“If we can capture the essence of engineers and engineering through the most elementary and least abstract of examples, then we can more easily get to the heart of the matter when confronted with something so large and unfamiliar that we can barely conceive of what it really looks like, let alone hold it in our hands and think about it.”

I have only just begun Chapter 5, Of Traditions and Transitions, the start of which should give you a more fanciful sample of Petroksi approachable academic, sometimes poetic style:

“The history of the pencil, when it has been written down at all, is full of erasures and revisions.”

Accurate, and cute.

To my delight, he’s written more, including an upcoming book (due in October of this year), entitled, simply enough: The Toothpick How can one resist!?!

It’s on the wishlist.

It’s hard to believe, but yes, there are books I don’t want. True crime, boat repair, anything by Ann Coulter…

Here’s a list of the World’s Oddest Book Titles. Most of them I don’t want, but some would be interesting conversation pieces:

HISTORY: Learn about events that have shaped our world.
The Social History of the Machine Gun; 1975
Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun; 1995.
1587. A Year of No Importance; n.d.
Highlights in the History of Concrete; 1998

I like history, but I think I’ll pass on these.

Did you know that we (not le gorille) are the chimp’s closest cousin on the hominid family tree? It’s a fascinating idea…and one of the questions that Jared Diamond’s The Third Chimpanzee is based on: If we are so similar, DNA-wise, what constituted the changes that created us — innovative, artistic, destructive humans?

So far it’s fascinating, somewhat eye-opening, and worth reading. And worth discussing — it’s the latest book for the BookTalk.org crew. We’re getting into it, and while still early in the quarter, some insightful comments have already been made (unfortunately, not necessarily by me!).

Read along with us!

Book Discussion Pages

Here on the Book Nook you can discuss: The Fifth Business by Robertson Davies, as well as the next two books in the Deptford Trilogy, The Manticore and World of Wonders, and if that's not enough for you, see what's up on the forums at BookTalk.org!