books

The 2009 Public Interest Environmental Law Conference features a lot o' speakers and panels (various of us are popping in and out, and Camilla's there for the duration). One of the speakers, on Sunday at 12:15 pm in the EMU Ballroom, is Riki Ott.


Ott tells the story of the legal fight against Exxon in her new book, Not One Drop. She's a marine biologist and thought about making a living as a commercial fisher, but then ... well, we know what happened in March, 1989.

If you don't, here's a CBS story not only on the spill but on the massive economic devastation in the fishing community, and on the shock of the Supreme Court June, 2008, ruling that basically told Exxon "Whatever. That was then, and why should you have to pay for what you let happen?"

Just in case you missed the info? Exxon made more than $45 billion in profits in 2008.

I'm pretty sure Riki Ott is still fighting. I can't go hear her on Sunday, but I hope some of y'all can. The publisher produced a pretty compelling trailer for the book, which I've embedded here.

I have an ungodly plethora (by which I mean "an overflowing Stickie on my desktop") of links to articles about this, that and the other thing about how hard the economy is hitting (book) publishing. This particular piece, though, caught my eye; maybe it was the first-person perspective, maybe the resigned yet not hopeless tone. Regardless, maybe you'll find it interesting too. It's from the London Review of Books, and is by one Colin Robertson. This paragraph in particular is lovely — what he says isn't new, but it's so nicely put:

Perhaps the problem has to do with more than just the way in which words are transmitted. People bowl alone, shop online, abandon cinemas for DVDs, and chat to each other electronically rather than go to a bar. In an increasingly self-centred society a premium is placed on being heard rather than listening, being seen rather than watching, and on being read rather than reading.

Read the rest here.


Last week, I reviewed former EW editor and local(ish) author Debra Gwartney's Live Through This in the paper. (I linked to Powell's there, but I'm PRETTY sure the book's available at the UO Bookstore, Smith Family or J. Michael's too.)

On an old blog post, "C. Nelson" disagreed with my review (and accused me of not reading the book).

I did read the book, C. Nelson and others, but I'd be happy for you to share your own reviews* in the comment section!

*Thoughtful reviews of the book welcome, spam or obvious PR deleted, and abuse of other commenters, the author or the reviewer also probably deleted unless it's so brilliantly written that I can't resist leaving it up.

The week of Winter Reading, you could give us the whole paper and we'd still want more space. And, for that matter, more time; it's the time needed to read, consider and review that keeps Winter Reading somewhat under control.

But there are always more books that look nifty. For the past two years, I've had room in the Procrastinators' Gift Guide to list some of those cool-looking books — generally the ones I haven't read — as some additional book-gift suggestions. This year, I ran out of space — and now I'm pretty much out of time, too. But the stacks are still here, and hey, even if you don't need to buy more books for others, maybe you'll need some reading for yourself once the holidays are over. Or you'll have gift cards to use. Or whatever. It's not like you need an excuse to buy books.

Here, then, are a few of the semi-themed piles that have been sitting on my desk for several weeks:

Books for Film Geeks
• The grandpappy of this stack is David Thompson's "Have You Seen..." A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films. It's hefty but not dense; each film gets one two-column page of history, context and commentary. The few writeups I've read so far give the impression that these almost serve better as afterwords than introductions — the context of having seen the film makes Thompson's take just that much more interesting. David Gilmour's The Film Club is less about film than it is about the process of watching a child become an adult, but Gilmour's premise — that he let his son drop out of high school if he agreed to watch three movies a week — is fascinating for a film buff all the same. And The B List: The National Society of Film Critics on the Low-Budget Beauties, Genre-Bending Mavericks, and Cult Classics We Love offers both an interesting list of writers (including Roger Ebert, Kenneth Turan, Stephanie Zacharek and — for those who like tormenting themselves — Peter Travers) and an odd list of films. Are Reservoir Dogs and Croupier B movies? Most of those films included, however, seem to pretty neatly fit the bill: Carrie 2: The Rage, anyone?


Books for Snobs
• Are you or do you know someone who only wants the very best? There's always Best Music Writing 2008 — this year guest-edited by Nelson George — or Best Food Writing 2008 or any number of other best books, like Best Places Portland. It's kind of overwhelming how many best books there are. Also, it's kind of a bummer that Rob Harvilla's awesome "Hot Hot Heat" only turns up in Best Music Writing 2008 in the list of other notable music writing of 2007, because it's wicked funny. Maybe the graphics kept it out of the book.


Books for People Who Like Pretty New Editions & Compilations
• I'm totally drawn to these pretty, pretty George Orwell compilations, All Art is Propaganda: Critical Essays and Facing Unpleasant Facts: Narrative Essays. Weirdly, though, the images on both Amazon.com and Powells.com aren't images of the books I'm presently holding. Huh. Well, anyway, the new edition and translation ("based on the restored text") of Kafka's Amerika is nothing to shake a stick at. And Kingsley Amis' Everyday Drinking is so charming, a colleague already stole my copy.

... to be continued ... maybe.

I've been saving links for nearly two weeks now for this post — since December 3, when the publishing industry, by all accounts, imploded. Dramatically.

I suppose that for some people, considering the fate of the publishing houses, most of which are in New York, seem monolithic and don't generally rate everyday discussion, seems slightly ... esoteric? Pointless, when so much else is going wrong? Old-fashioned, when there's print on demand and plenty of small presses? But I believe in publishing in a way that I don't believe in, say, major record labels or monstrous (in size, not necessarily mentality) Hollywood studios. This is due to two things: One, I've always been a reader. I'm an only child who would get up before my parents, get down a packet of graham crackers and curl up with Tintin books as soon as I could read. I put (made up) Dewey decimal numbers on my books with masking tape and read Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain too many times. And two, I used to work in publishing. I'm attached to what goes on there, both as a book-lover of the highest degree and as someone who used to be in the system. I'm particularly concerned about what goes on in the world of kids' and young adult books — a smaller, more specific world that's hurting in its own way.

So it's been difficult, to say the least, to take in what's happened recently. A rundown of some lowlights: Read more. Please.

Don't love Nintendo? Love books? What if they crossbred? In the UK, people will soon be able to read classics on the Nintendo DS. COOL.

Nintendo, the Japanese video games has announced a deal with the publisher HarperCollins to make the classics available to read on its DS games consoles.

The unlikely partnership means that the names of computer game characters such as Donkey Kong and Mario will sit alongside the likes of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters on the hand-held gadgets.

The 100 Classic Book Collection will cost about £20 and will be available initially only in Britain. However, if the collaboration is a success, Nintendo may expand the range of books available.

I'm a hopeless Nintendo girl who's always one console behind — still replaying Twilight Princess on my GameCube 'cause I'm too broke to bother trying to search out a Wii — but this, should it make its way to our shores, is just one more reason to covet a DS. As well as a Wii, of course. I want to play that weird game that's always advertised before movies. The one with the insane rabbits. That you play with your butt. Yep.

Is it possible there's anyone still unaware of the Twilight Phenomenon? Y'know, that in which legions of screaming fans (mostly female and of all ages) go batshit crazy for Stephenie Meyer's overwritten supernatural romance about a girl who's totally hot but doesn't know it who falls for the hottest guy EVAR — and finds out he's a vampire? Maybe there is. I'm skeptical. I'm also, clearly, not a big fan, though I will freely admit that I tore through the first book and only afterward felt a little dirty about it. Watching the internet fandom explode when the series' fourth book, Breaking Dawn, came out this summer did make for hours of fun, though. As would reading the mountains of fanfiction, if I could bring myself to do so. (I don't really begrudge anyone their fandom ... I just hope they move on to better books when they're done with it. Also, this stuff is just too easy to mock.)

But now, in a mere month, we'll be given Twilight, the movie. And, somewhat perversely, I'm looking forward to it — and not just because it stars the very pretty Cedric Diggory Robert Pattinson, though that doesn't hurt (nor do his bemused comments about the screaming fandom. Oh, RPattz! How charmingly naive you are!). It just looks so ... indulgent? Goofy? Modestly epic? I'm not quite sure. It comes to us from Catherine Hardwicke, who made the praised-by-many, hated-by-me Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown and The Nativity Story, which, hey, it's OK if that's not ringing any bells, because almost no one saw it.

So ANYWAY (tm Klosterman), what put all this in my head was the email that arrived today bearing the tracklisting for (and a link to a stream of) the Twilight soundtrack. Which, well, huh. This is a little wacky. My first impressions are as follows. And when I say first, I mean I'm typing while I listen. Here goes...

Goodness. First it's the Oregon Book Awards, then it's the Booker Prize. Shortlists for both arrived today; in the words of Bookslut, "Tonight, fans of world literature symbolically lock Salman Rushdie back in a closet and inwardly dread the prospect of working through 5,000 pages of something called 'The Northern Clemency'."

Booker Shortlist
Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger
Sebastian Barry, The Secret Scripture
Amitav Ghosh, Sea of Poppies
Linda Grant, The Clothes on Their Backs
Philip Hensher, The Northern Clemency
Steve Toltz, A Fraction of the Whole

Oregon Book Awards Finalists make for a long list; see the whole thing here. But special congrats to the locals: Ehud Havazelet (Corvallis), a fiction finalist for Bearing the Body; Lauren Kessler, a creative nonfiction finalist for Dancing with Rose: Finding Life in the Land of Alzheimer's; and Cynthia Rylant, a double finalist in children's literature for Alligator Boy and Puppies and Piggies.

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