Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Round-Up

Laura again, folks. Enjoy! —E

Way back last week I threw down a gauntlet and asked for all of your entries to Amishtakes, an Amish vampire fiction contest—and did you ever deliver. After painstakingly parsing textual nuances and quantifying the salability of your submissions on the organ black market, I have chosen a winner.

Sean Ferrell’s novel beings, “Jebediah, Lord of the Night, spying the townsfolk walking toward him with grim determination set above their mustacheless beards and below their bonnets, hissed, ‘To my wagon, and away!’”

So congratulations, Sean—you are clearly a handsome devil and must charm the pants off of all of the ladies and/or gentlemen, depending on your preference. And serious props to all participants—choosing a winner may have been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, and I wholeheartedly encourage you late joiners to read through all of the entries. Fully letting the wide response go to my head, there’s a Hitler romance contest in the last paragraph (the word "contest" is in bold, if you don't feel like reading all the way through. I'll understand).

If you click on nothing else (but I hope you clicked on many things), check out Lifehacker’s bookworm guide to everything, and the 10 days in Google Books game, which is supposed to convince you that copyrights schmopyrights, Google Books is fun!

As we all remember, last week Amazon got all that flack for removing books from Kindles. This week, they just can’t win. Again. There’s an Amazon phishing fraud running around, their North America media sales are flat, and they’re being sued in Germany for selling books that deny the Holocaust. To top it all off, Nicholson Baker slams the Kindle 2 in his New Yorker review (and it turns out some people like their Kindles because they are “creeped out” by library books. What if a child with sticky fingers touched a book? What if poor people got their poor germs all over things I want to read? For those of you in search of a margin muse without actually using the same books as other people, someone created a feature that lets multiple people write in the e-margins of a book, so you can get that sticky fingers, poor people feel without leaving your protective antibacterial bubble).

Given all this, it’s a good thing Amazon has no e-competition for e-books. Except for that whole Barnes & Nobles e-book software thing. And the B&N partnering with PlasticLogic (a company in the process of putting out an e-reader, and partnered with AT&T’s 3G network) thing. And the free wifi in all Barnes & Nobles stores thing. And the B&N reader topping Amazon in the Apple App Store thing. But other than that, seriously, no competition.

Sony is planning on launching a reader with wifi, and Apple is once again going to blow our minds by coming out with a tablet-type-computer in September that can be used as an e-reader, and that is basically a giant iPod Touch. You go, Apple, continually churning out really similar products with slight tweaks that we all keep buying. Seriously—how do they do this? I know I should be scornful but it just all looks so sleek...

Never one to be left behind, Borders is cornering the e-book market by…expanding its in-store teen section? With graphic novels and manga? Way to keep up with the times. I’m oddly comforted by the Borders ban on employee blogging—it proves that the corporate office has at least heard of the internet.

In this new teen section at Borders you’ll probably find racy novels written by high school teachers for their students, to encourage them to read (“reading” is what the kids are calling it these days. Just FYI), as well as the new teen version of The Secret. I think the secret might be keeping sexy novels you wrote for your students off the internet. Talk to your Harry Potter rabbi about how this makes you feel, and he’ll set you right with some choice bon mots about Dumbledore and self respect.

This week in children’s books has been rough, especially for The Giving Tree, as it apparently enforces bad morals. And be careful of those racist children’s classics. That’s right. All of them. Racist. Despite it all, kids want to be read more stories at bedtime, those cute ragamuffins.

I’m not going to link to the new clips for the new Twilight movie, because, well, I just don’t care. But I will link to this featurette about Where the Wild Things Are, and bounce around excitedly.

I’m not alone in the Twilight burnout—Jeff Cohen hates the current iteration of the vampire, saying the chaste yet sexy, bloodless vampire is like the hooker with a heart of gold: a fantasy. Ok, well, any kind of vampire is a fantasy, but I get his point. I’m a little torn, though, because without Twilight we would not get this joy of joys:
Can you resist the allure of Edward’s myriad charms—his ochre eyes and tousled hair, the cadence of his speech, his chiseled alabaster skin, and his gratuitous charm?

Yes, my friends, it’s a Twilight SAT prep book! You can use it to help you understand these Twilight tattoos. And never worry, tattooed literary elitists—there’s a venue for your twee hipster e e cummings tattoos as well (or you can cover them up by dressing like a foppish Oscar Wilde).

Don DeLillo's Cosmopolis is being turned into a movie, and will probably be very post-modern. Just like the review a DeLillo character wrote about a David Foster Wallace novel (…which no one noticed). Top off this post-modern moment by reading about the oh-so-meta novels within novels and best novels about novelists.

As I close, I would like to share with you some of my likes and dislikes. So likes: Aldous Huxley on beach reads, and Ben & Jerry’s library flavors. Dislikes: Hitler. But if you’re a fan, or if you just have a spare ₤20,000 lying around, you can own a signed copy of Mein Kampf, inscribed:
Herrn Johann Georg Maurer. In memory of our time together in prison in Landsberg. Cordially dedicated by Adolf Hitler. Christmas 1925.

Maurer and Hitler: a great love story, or the greatest love story? So the contest: write the best first lines of a Hitler romance novel, which you should leave in the comments. Please aim for charmingly hilarious, not emotionally scarring, for my sake. The winner will be featured next time, here on “Who is this Laura person and why can’t she focus on book sales?”


  1. I'm so thrilled and excited to have won your Amish Vampire novel contest that I may actually convert to Amishism (easier than converting to Vampiranity). Let me know if you want to read the rest of the novel (I misunderstood the rules of the contest and continued to write an entire novel; it's roughly 450 pages).

  2. Yay, I also blogged about novels-within-novels based on that NYT article! I'm topical!

    I can see the concern with The Giving Tree, but it's NOTHING compared with I Love You Forever. Check out Babble's Helicopter Parent's Reading List (it's the last one on the list) and you'll see what I mean.

    Congrats, Sean! And remember, each Amish Vampire sequel has to be longer than the previous book...

  3. "Please, my dearest? Just for me?" The annoyingly skinny blonde and blue eyed Aryan tugged on Adolf's sleeve. She claimed to be Aryan, but so did anyone else trying to get on his good side. Still, she was beautiful.
    "Not here. Not now." He said firmly, trying his best to scowl as a general walked by.
    "C'mon! Please? You look so cute when you do it!" A slight shade of pink shaded his cheeks, but no one noticed. There was not enough blood circulating to his head for him to truly blush.
    Rolling his eyes in acquiescence, he scrunched up his mouth, squeezed his eyes shut, and wiggled his little mustache back and forth at her.
    She burst out laughing and then said the dreaded nickname he knew would come:
    "Oh, you're such a Nazi muffin!" He started to think that perhaps this whole girlfriend public relations thing would have to go.

    Ack. This was really hard. How can I write humor about Hitler? It just doesn't jive well in my mind. Looking forward to seeing how everyone else treats this subject.

  4. Congratulations, Sean! I'll be looking forward to reading your entire delightful, romantic, suspensful, and above all chaste Amish Vampire novel!

    And the children's books...good grief. Why can't we give the little whippersnappers some credit? I remember being very bothered by The Giving Tree as a seven year old because the take away message for me was that boy should have been kinder to his tree. Dangerous and subversive, clearly.

    And racism? When I read the Bobbsey twins at age six I KNEW something was amiss with Sam and Dinah, the happy black couple who was delighted with their life of servitude to the Bobbsey family. Kids aren't dumb, especially ones who read. Maybe if you're worried about what your kids are reading you should try something like, I don't know, talking to them about it.

  5. Love the links! A Harry Potter rabbi and Oscar Wilde. You've made my Friday :)

  6. Not a contest entry, but detected some anti-Amish sentiment in your reference to Sean charming the pants off the ladies. This being an Amish themed contest I am sure you meant to say charm the pants/dresses off the ladies.

    Now, Adolf Hitler, charismatic creature that he was surely charmed the pants off of Herr Maurer.

  7. An eReader that is basically a giant iPod Touch? That might indeed be the tweak that wins me over to both iPods and eReaders. I was thinking just the other day that an eReader would have to have web browsing capability to really take off, at least for me.

    Now if only the thing weren't priced way out of my ballpark. With Apple, that's a safe assumption.

  8. Sean, you rock star, you! Can I get all 450 pages on my Kindle?

    Here's my entry:

    “Ooh, la la,” purred Eva Braun. “Your techniques improve with each new gas chamber you erect!”

    “I love when you say, ‘erect’, my lovely Eva. It makes my toy soldier stand at full attention!”

    He buried his head in her neck. Their romantic banter reminded Eva of when they first courted, walking through the gardens at Magdeburg. Of course, that was before her beloved’s soldiers torched the place, but memories are special – they linger forever. Just like this beautiful romance would, she had no doubt.

    "Adolph," she whispered. "Your toy soldier lights my world on fire. Now I know how the flowers in the Magdeburg Gardens felt. Lucky flowers!"

  9. Huzzah Laura to another procrastination inspiring filled post! When will we see a full time blog with posts like these? No disregard to Eric of course, we just want more! Link junkies unite!

  10. Can't ... post ... contest ... entry. Laughing ... too much ... at other ones.


  11. Holding his copy of Mein Kampf, Maurer opened the cover to read the inscription, "Herrn Johann Georg Maurer. In memory of our time together in prison in Landsberg. Cordially dedicated by Adolf Hitler. Christmas 1925." The message was subtle, Maurer closed his eyes, hugged the book to his chest and whispered, "Mein pookie."

  12. He'd had designs on her since architecture school.

    Is it surprising, then, that as he watched his beloved ascend his Berchestgaden, the movement of her lederhausen teasing him from afar as she strode his majestic mountain, he felt a sudden swelling? It seemed to Adolph that his head might explode from the convulsive spasms of pride he felt as he watched her--the sweat on her lip visible now, her small gasps audible--climb higher and higher.

    "I have out-speered Speer," he declared to the playful ravens circling overhead. "Soon, I shall out-bore Bormann."

    His trim mustache twitched.

    "And as for Goehring..."

  13. Brittany's post! Brittany's post!


  14. "Mein pookie" ROTF!!!!

    I agree with Anon ... definitely Brittany's

  15. Sean--

    That kind of dedication is what makes you a champion. And as China Mieville said, "Just because someone comes up with a project is no reason they should be the one to follow through with it." You can be the Moses of the Amishtakes world, and lead us through the desert Amish vampires. We also have a first apostle--anyone want to be our Amishtakes rabbi, and a liaison with the temple of Harry Potter?

    But when your Amish vampire fiction takes off big, I expect to get a nod in the acknowledgments, and a cameo in the movie version (actually, this goes for the rest of you too!).

    Alissa--I sincerely apologize to any Amish men and/or women I offended with my pro-pants slant. Thank you for keeping me honest.

    And thanks, SM Schmidt, for the love! But if I blogged daily, what would happen to all of Eric's traffic? I know people only put up with his "sales information" for me.

  16. Johann Georg knew that things would never be the same again, after that fateful christmas eve of 1925. They had warmed each other in the long cold winter night, but in the morning his Adolf was gone. In his place on the ruffled sheets remained only the slightest trace of his lingering manly scent and his book, as a last memento of his poor and hurt manliness.

  17. I love DebraLSchubert's entry, "lucky flowers", too funny!!

  18. This is quite possibly the best round-up mine eyes (and not mein kampf) have ever read. I laughed, I cried, I shuddered at the TWILIGHT tattoos. Laura, you ROCK.

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