Sunday, March 9, 2014

Reading Envy 003: 3 of 5 Stars

On our third episode, we were joined by Julie Davis, referred to fondly on this podcast as Sister Julie Loquacious (gold star if you catch the reference).  Julie has a multi-faceted internet presence indeed!  Scott knew about her several years ago from her blog, The Happy Catholic, and then she showed up on an episode of SFF Audio.  They started their own podcast, A Good Story is Hard to Find, where they examine film, television, and books through a Catholic lens.  Two Catholic lenses.  Julie also records books you should know about on Forgotten Classics.  She is always reading a wide variety of books, so we were very happy to have her as our second guest! 

Julie whittled down her list to three titles she has been reading recently:

Jenny selected three from her last month, okay five:

Scott expounds on his three selections, and on the self-publishing world:

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  1. Andy Weir, author of the Martian, wanted to give away the book for free, but Amazon made him charge 99 cents. He also claims to have done zero publicity for it except putting it on his webpage.

  2. Nice discussion!

    I find from comments I hear from independent authors is that the publishers really want specific stories that follow specific formulas. Sort of like all the young adult dystopian fiction with a teenage girl main character in some sort of a love triangle with the personality of a paper bag.

    If it wasn't for self-publishing stuff like Wool might have never come out at all. But then neither would Fifty Shades of Grey... I think I just destroyed my own point.

    Bone Dance sounds interesting. I'll have to look into that one.

  3. Hi Gang, I just wanted to say that I just started listening and love the podcast. I'm picking up book suggestions like crazy and I like what you have to say about the books. If you could kindly add links in the blog posts to stuff that you talk about in the episode it would save me panic attacks of trying to remember stuff until I get where I am going and find a pen. I still don't know the name of the short story about the couple who share a capsule in the future due to overcrowding....

    1. Hi Kristie, thanks so much for listening. We are happy to have you along! I will try to do better at providing links from now on (even episode 4 has a couple but not for everything). Is the story you mention from this episode? I will try to find it for you!

  4. Julie may have remembered the title, she brought it up (as a ss that was similar to Positron). Thanks!

    1. Julie is looking for it! Thanks for helping us narrow it down.

  5. Ah, what a rich, fun podcast.
    First thoughts:

    Thank you for recommending S. It sounds a lot like Mark Danielewski's House of Leaves, or Barbara Hodgson's Lives of Shadows: multiple strands, multimedia, included artifacts. Or Griffin and Sabine.

    Frances and Bernard: sounds like a fine novel, especially since O'Connor and Lowell are favorites of mine.
    Have you looked into 18th-century novels for epistolary materials? There are some awesome epistolary tales. Samuel Richardson really is the ace here, including Pamela and the longest novel in English, Clarissa.

    Kudos, Scott, for trying out Pynchon!
    As postmodern: there's a huge emphasis on style and surface, as opposed to character development or, as you say, plot. Fragmentation and randomness are there, partly as a reflection of our times. Here's a nice primer on some features:
    Some classic Pynchon elements:
    -crazy names
    -some astonishing paragraphs
    -breaking into song
    -paranoia (I've seen post horn graffiti in the world!)
    -obscure references (check this out:
    My favorite scene is when Oedipa wanders into a Jacobean revenge tragedy, which Pynchon makes up brilliantly.
    Bonus points: the movie Buckaroo Banzai references this book.

    1. Oooh thanks I'll look into the 18th-centuryers. :)

    2. Hi Bryan!

      I'm ready to try another postmodern book. Where to next?

    3. Oh, a bunch of choices.

      Mark Danielewski, House of Leaves. A rich, crazed, multimedia haunted house + scary movie novel, it plays all kinds of games with us, from page design to typeface to acrostics and... go grab a copy and see.

      Paul Auster, _City of Glass_. It's a mystery novel, kind of, because then it breaks apart. Dreamlike, hard to stop reading.

      Italo Calvino, _If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler_. It's a second-person novel, but it's also about novels, because each chapter - ah,you'll see. (I also like his _Invisible Cities_, which is about storytelling and fantasy)

      Tim O'Brien, _The Things They Carried_. One of the great works of war fiction, vet O'Brien's book is a kind of short story collection about trying to make a story about the experience of war. The stories intersect with each other in multiple ways, commenting on memory and narrative. Shoot, just read this one.

      Toni Morrison, Beloved. A powerful examination of how people leave slavery, told as a haunted house novel, this is one killer book.

      People cite Vladimir Nabokov's _Pale Fire_ as postmodern, mostly because of the metafictional games. It's amazing (and appears in my favorite X-Files episode).

      People also cite Richard Powers as a PM author. I strongly recommend _Galatea 2.0_ and _Plowing the Dark_, as both are sf-related, being about technologies (AI and virtual reality, respectively). He's a gorgeous writer, who knows tech like no other mainstream author.

      The novel I see most commonly cited and taught as postmodern is Don DeLillo's _White Noise_. I like it very much. It's about a man and his complex family dealing with modern life. You get PM tropes like fragmentation, simulation, surface winning over depth. It's also hilarious, if you like satire.

      I hope that's not too daunting.
      (For me, postmodern is often a lot of fun. It broke all kinds of rules and expectations when it appeared, and shook up a lot of people)

  6. Thank you for the Bone Dance recc, Julie. I'm looking forward to it.

    Can't wait to look into the Atwood serial.
    Quick question: is that group spelled "Consilience"? This might be the reference:
    Serial: reminds me of that quote from Wilkie Collins, one of Dickens' contemporaries. Asked how he succeeded in serial fiction, he answered that it was how he treated the audience: "Make 'em worry. Make 'em weep. Make 'em wait."

    The Loon sounds good to me as a horror fan.
    Self-publishing: one element of this is that traditional publishing is having a crisis right now. Book sales aren't good, and marketing has shifted almost entirely to A-list authors. So it's harder to get published that way; publishers are much more conservative.
    Unusual titles, like Wool or Daniel Suarez' brilliant Daemon, can find an audience through self-pub.
    Sifting through titles: social media helps in this, as Julie (I think) said. We're getting used to microaudiences and niches.


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