Saturday, December 4, 2010

And a Ho Ho Ho!

I would like to follow John Gilstrap’s heartwarming blog (you wear that tux quite well, my friend) with a comment or two about gift giving, or to be more specific, giving books, in all of the permutations in which they are available in this Christmas season 2010. The planets aligned and it struck me, once again, that we live in a wondrous age. So many choices that it might drive a person mad. But what a way to go.

I have just finished reading Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1. It is the first of three planned volumes, the complete work presented as Samuel Clemens intended, right down to his request --- nay, demand! --- that it not see the light of day until one hundred years after his death. Dribs and drabs of it have been published before now but this is the mac daddy, right here. It is sharp, nasty, clever, astute, prescient --- Clemens predicted the e-book, believe it or not --- and really, really funny. There is a good laugh every paragraph or two. The folks at the U. of C. at Berkeley did a remarkable job of putting this together, especially when you consider that it was compiled from several feet of handwritten notes, transcriptions, and the like. Some reproductions of Clemens’ handwritten passages are included, and I assure you that if I had been assigned the task of herding this particular gang of cats I would be in a quiet room sipping tranquilizers and listening to Michael Hedges CDs until the end of my days. It is available for free online at www.marktwainproject.org, and in an ebook version, but hunt down a hardcover version and gift it to a bibliophile. This is a work that is meant, was born, to be held in hand (well, hands, actually,) and read the old-fashioned way.

You can gift ebooks now, in some formats, and a couple of interesting works which are ebook-only appeared this week. Marcus Wynne, long a favorite of the intelligence community which he has been a part of, has returned after too long an absence with a new stand-alone thriller entitled WITH A VENGEANCE. Wynne is painfully aware of the way in which the world works, away from the theories and hypothetical and think tanks. Marcus deals with front lines, hand to hand with the terrorists in the trenches; WITH A VENGEANCE will put you on the edge of your seat and keep you there for several hours. Some of those who read this book, pre-publication, said it was too powerful, too frightening, for the reading public. I read it two years ago and have never forgotten it, particularly the first third of it. Anyone you gift this work to will either love you forever or never forgive you. Or both.

Dave Zeltserman is one of those thriller and noir crime writers who has slowly but steadily moved from the “critically acclaimed” list the “must-read” list of mystery and thriller fans. His literary thriller The Caretaker of Lorne Field transcended genres, and will undoubtedly receive several “best of” nominations when the various and sundry literary awards start to rev up next year. Zeltserman has a new, ebook only work just out entitled Vampire Crimes, in which he cuts across genres yet again, a crime tale of the undead in which Natural Born Killers meets Near Dawn. Don’t give this one to your niece with all of the Twilight posters in her room. You could give it to her dad, however.

One of the most interesting projects of all that came across my desk last week, however, wasn’t an ebook or a hardcover, but an audio book by Jim Fusilli. It has been far too long since I’ve seen a book-length work from Fusilli, and Narrows Gate is book length, but not available as a book. It is an original work commissioned for audio by audible.com, the first to my knowledge by a single author (The Chopin Manuscript, of course, was an collaboration of many). It is part novel, part performance piece; I remember when radio dramas were still available, and if they were still in existence, they might sound something like this dark and gritty mob tale set on the mean streets of Hoboken, New Jersey in the 1940s. I don’t normally listen to audio books as I can read faster than I can listen, but this is worth making the exception for; and if you have someone who loves crime novels and audio books, they will be in your debt if you present them with this.

Your turn now. What are you giving, book-wise? And what do you wish to receive?

4 comments:

  1. Great critiques, Joe. I would also recommend Jim Fusilli's book. I have all of his books in 1st edition signed hardcovers, except this latest one. He couldn't sign the audio book.

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  2. We just received, as a gift, a "coffee table" book of Norman Rockwell prints, with accompanying stories. Is that the kind of book that will remain? Or will they make a coffee table Kindle?

    Maybe Apple already did with the iPad...

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  3. Obviously there are some books that will never be the same without paper and inks, the same way screens will never be able to replace oils and canvas or other artistic mediums. You can look at a picture of a work of art, but it is nothing like the experience of seeing the original.

    That said, if the originals are photoshop images, the screen is the primary medium and serves it just fine.

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  4. That Twain autobiography sounds good. I'll have to put that on my wish list.

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