Brandywine Books
Saturday, June 28, 2003
Dana Gioia Felt Duty to Serve
The White House had to asked poet Dana Gioia twice to consider taking the chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. The first time he refused, preferring not to put his artistic career on hold. But the second time, he said, “if I was being drafted as a private in the culture wars, asked to serve my nation, I should do so." A June 22 article in the Newark, NJ, Star-Ledger describes the work he has before him. Gioia made a stir some years ago with the title essay of this worthwhile book, Can Poetry Matter?

What Are You Reading?
Bloggers read and write about the books they read often, so Erik Benson of wrote a script to search the list of updated blogs at for links to and compile that list into a type of top books list. Benson writes his own blog at

Looking to Read a Great Book Next?
This week’s World Magazine offers a top 50 list of great Western Literature, books “that will stretch your mind, equip you for intellectual combat in the world, and even strengthen your faith. While our list overlaps in part the typical ‘Great Books’ canon, many such lists are drawn up as a secular humanist scripture. This list is different in that these books are not only great but good.” You may need to register to read this article. Sign up yourself for email benefits with that site, or use Brandywine Books login for occasional access (Username: brandybuck; Password: hobbit).
Friday, June 27, 2003
More on the LNN, Liberal News Network
Here's this column from Samantha Spivack in the San Francisco Examiner. The gist: People don't want to listen to negative news and complaining all of the time. There's more that the LNN would offer than negativity, but the lion's share may be just that.
Thursday, June 26, 2003
Libraries Filter Books. Why Not the Net?
Apparently whenever Congress or a group of parents urge a library to censor something, many loud voices complain about freedom of speech. But as the Chief Justice argued in the Supreme Court’s majority opinion supporting a library filter, librarians already select a limited number of books for their collections, choosing against many books and periodicals for many reasons. Internet access can be filtered in the same way without endangering our national freedoms. The point mentioned by some opponents of filtering is that pornography should be acceptable, so don’t keep it out of the public library. The louder argument says filters are clumsy and block even Dick Armey’s website at various times.

That hasn’t been my experience. I’ve used Internet filtering for a few years and have rarely had problems; but even when, a photographic community which hosts many amateur and professional photographs (even nudes), is occasionally blocked by my filter, I know how to get around it easily, if I think I should. Librarians should have the same options. They can build an exemption list, when good websites come up which are blocked for whatever reason. And why should they put up with this hassle? Because even legal pornography is harmful to individuals and their communities. That’s the message of the Child Protection Act. Congress may say that children must be protected from perversion of all kinds, but adults need protection too.
Monday, June 23, 2003
Liberals Want News Reporting to be More Liberal
The author of What liberal media? spoke at a workshop called “Reversing the Right's Hold on the Media” that conservatives dominate the media and are a “steamroller” of liberal arguments. The workshop was part of a three-day conference on making America more liberal. Eric Alterman, who doesn’t seem to think the New York Times and the Washington Post are truly liberal anymore, claims that conservative propaganda is everywhere, feeding passionate activists around the clock. Liberals have good arguments, he says, but they need to figure out how to communicate them and do it like the conservatives are doing it. The Washington Times quoted CNN commentator Paul Begala, saying “When you don't have a White House, you don't have that bully pulpit. Our last president was a talented communicator.” Maybe that and the fear liberals may have over the appearance of losing various issues throughout the country is the reason some are calling for a full-fledged liberal news channel. Apparently, CNN isn’t good enough.

If Alterman believes most liberal media leaders have become centrists, then the liberalism he endorses must be a bizarre variety. The kind that encourages feeding infants nutritionless vegan diets. The kind that believes two football fields of rainforest are destroyed every second, which would mow it all down in about 30 years. The kind that would praise CNN’s Eason Jordan for his righteousness in reporting what he could about Saddam (which was nothing substantial) while his Baghdad office remained open.

I hope I haven’t listed mainstream liberal beliefs, but I really suspect that if Alterman and those in this CNS news article were able to design a 24-hour liberal news station, it would make CNN’s discretions of bias appear like innocent mistakes. The LNN, liberal news network, would qualify all references to George W. Bush’s presidency with words like “alleged,” they would often remind their viewers of his “stolen” election. If Sidney Blumenthal or Robert Reich claimed things happened without proof or with official records to the contrary, LNN would report their testimony as fact. Conservative guests would be attacked, not interviewed; liberal guests would be worshipped. Hopefully, we’ll never get the chance to learn whether my hypothetical rings the stake; but if we do, it will be an ear-n-eye full.

Amazon Rank Reprisal
If you read my Saturday report on the rank of Mrs. Clinton's memoirs, let me update you. Earlier today, I noticed her book ranking 6 or higher with Ann Coulter's book, Treason, in 9th place. Now, 11:00 p.m. Monday, Treason is #8, Living History #9. A far better use of mindshare will be length of time on the bestseller lists.
Saturday, June 21, 2003
Oprah’s Book Club Returns with Steinbeck’s East of Eden
Oprah has encouraged the sale of thousands of books with her book club recommendations, even those of authors who could care less (Jonathan Franzen reportedly said that he didn’t want Oprah’s book club sticker on the cover of his novel, The Corrections). Over a year ago, she stopped that advice because she felt there wasn’t enough good material out there; but this Wednesday, she reinstated the club by recommending John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. The book, available in trade paperback under the Penguin Classics label, “jumped from #2,356,000 to #113 at” according Publisher’s Weekly. Penguin plans to print 600,000.

Yes, 600,000 more of Clinton’s memoirs too, please
Simon & Schuster reports estimated sales of Mrs. Clinton’s memoirs, Living History, at 600,000 in the first week, 200,000 on the first day. It now plans to print 1.6 million copies in all. Living History is naturally the top best seller in nonfiction this week, but with these report being only estimates, the real numbers coming later, it remains to be seen if a million more readers will want their own new copies.

Is it the best or fastest selling nonfiction book ever? talked to Rush Limbaugh about the numbers on his bestselling nonfiction works, the result being “Let’s wait and see the hard numbers.” Limbaugh claims his second book, See I Told You So, sold 2 million copies in eight weeks, which he says is the record for nonfiction sales. Living History reportedly holds the record for nonfiction sales at Barnes & Noble, which is 40,000 in 24 hours. The claim Limbaugh is challenging comes from Simon & Schuster itself based the estimated sales described above.

If ratings mean anything, Living History is #10 at publication (East of Eden is #3, Ann Coulter’s soon-to-be-released book blasting liberal practices, Treason, is #4. Five other places, including #1, are taken by Harry Potter).

If you’re wanting an autographed copy, buy the book at retail and find a book-signing near you. Don’t look on where copies are being auctioned at a ridiculous $90 and up. Though if owning the autographed memoirs of a First Lady is your goal, take comfort in the thought that Barbara Bush has a new book, Reflections, coming in October. I mean, if you don’t plan to read the book, who cares which First Lady wrote it, and maybe Mrs. Bush will have book-signings too.

If you’re still looking for a book review on Living History, here are a couple good ones.
Saturday, June 14, 2003
New biography on Jane Kenyon
In Volume 61 of the Mars Hill Audio Journal, Host Ken Myers talks to Biographer John Timmerman about his 2002 book on the late Poet Jane Kenyon (no link to an article; to hear this interview, you must order a CD of the journal). It’s a short, pleasant interview, a good introduction to Kenyon, if you don’t know her. She is the author of such poems as can be read here.

Though she apparently wrote often on sad themes or deep struggle, her poem called “Happiness” says,
“There's just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.”

For another example, she wrote in “Notes from the Other Side,” that in death “God, as promised, proves to be mercy clothed in light.”

In the interview, Timmerman describes how he came to the idea of a book on Kenyon, feedback from her husband, Donald Hall, and her detailed revising process for each poem.

Ursula Le Guin: Three fantasy and science-fiction books new to New Zealand
The New Zealand Herald published a combination review of three books by Ursula Le Guin which were recently released in that country. Reviewer David Larsen writes, “Let's not mince words: these books are extraordinary,” referring to two Earthsea books and the short story collection, The Birthday of the World.

Le Guin has given her name to an imaginative fiction contest from Rosebud magazine. The contest is held every two years, has a $10-15 entry fee, and rewards $1000 to first place. Unpublished stories under 3500 words in fantasy, horror, mystery and science fiction genres, though the editors declare their interest in genre-transcending stories as well. “Imaginative” is the key word.

Headline Cliche: Wild About Harry
Yes, Harry Potter is a wonderful bookseller. His books fly off the shelf like, um, magic. And when this type of thing happens, publishers urge authors to write companion books, like The Hidden Key to Harry Potter, The Science of Harry Potter, and Sticks and Stones: The Troublesome Success of Children's Literature From Slovenly Peter to Harry Potter. Now, I want to know why a person would take the time to read a book on why his children shouldn’t read the Potter series when he could borrow one of the books from the library and read it himself. But most of the companion books are not anti-Potter, so a second question comes to mind. How many readers will be the excited fans who will read another book about what they’ve read in Rowling’s books? Maybe there are several, with lots of money. I tend to agree with Haslet, quoted in Dehn’s article, "’There is better literature written that would be a better Harry Potter follow-up than just more hype about Harry,’ said Chauni Haslet, owner of All For Kids Books & Music.”

New James Mystery Coming to US in November
P. D. James has written a new mystery with Adam Dalgliesh called The Murder Room, released in the United Kingdom next month from Faber and Faber. It will be available in the United States in November from Knoft. The synopsis from goes “A small, private museum on the edge of Hampstead Heath has been inherited by three siblings, all of whom are required by the family trust to sign any new lease. Without the new lease the museum will have to close. One brother, Neville Dupayne, is adamant he won't sign. And then the housekeeper, Mrs Tally Clutton, discovers Neville's body in his still blazing car... “

Have you read James’ Original Sin? Here is a BBC Book Club interview with James about that interesting, though moderately paced, mystery. If you haven’t read this book, you may not want to listen to the full interview. It contains a brief plot discussion, describes the ending, and will remove most of the unknowns from the story. Not all, but most.
Saturday, June 07, 2003
What was I saying about positive book reviews?
Anyway, about Mrs. Clinton’s memoirs, Living History, I must say that I’m disappointed that the AP released some parts about Monica. I fear that it will taint the results of my personal prediction for the book’s success, by which I mean, failure. Simon & Schuster clearly believe Clinton’s thoughts will sell very well, perhaps like recent nonfiction bestsellers like Bias, John Adams, and Slander. But personally, being the inexperienced amateur that I am, I think Living History will fail to meet those expectations. The woman who complained of a “vast right wing conspiracy” attempting to tarnish the otherwise sterling character of former President Clinton hasn’t changed in the last few years. She still plans to further her political career, possibly running for the White House in 2008. She continues to follow a liberal politician’s pattern for spin and denial, which she had entering the White House, and the book will be the same kind of spin. She says, “This is a story about an extraordinary time in my life and the life of our country. I touch on the good times, the not-so-good times and try to explain what that experience was like for me.” It may sound callous, but I honestly believe she will be trying to explain what she wants voters to think about it, not what it was truly like.

Also, I’m disappointed with the unplanned excerpt release, because I wonder if that small bit is the most interesting thing in the whole 500+ page book. Will people be buying the book in order to read about the scandals? If so, those readers should wait a few weeks in order to hear the whole thing in the news for free.

Here’s a breakdown of related books selling on (Saturday morning, 6/7):
Living History ranks 2
Blumenthal’s The Clinton Wars, 57
Alterman’s What Liberal Media? 434
Conason’s Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth, (to be released September 2003) 612
Moore’s Stupid White Men, 71
Patterson’s Dereliction of Duty, 26
Queen Noor’s Leap of Faith, 42
Coulter’s Treason, (to be released June 2003) 52

Oh, Don’t Be Cruel, and Eat Your Ham.
In a lengthy review of Matthew Scully’s book, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy, Richard John Neuhaus writes that “The best part of the book … is his contention that the morality of the humane treatment of animals rests not … on animals being equal to human beings but precisely on their being unequal and therefore so very dependent and vulnerable.” This, he believes, is well demonstrated and well argued from the author writing with “an expressly Christian and conservative” viewpoint. But Neuhaus doesn’t fully endorse Scully’s conclusions. Is it wrong for animals to be raised for food no matter how well they are treated? Is it immoral to eat meat at all? No, he says, in part because the argument against cruelty cannot be won by anthropomorphisizing animals, or even vegetables, in order to imagine their pain and suffering. “I am inclined to doubt that pigs or chickens or, for that matter, mosquitoes have a life plan that anybody is frustrating,” Neuhaus admits. “If we stopped eating meat, entire species would quickly become extinct. For instance, almost nobody raises pigs for the pleasure of their company.”
Still, even if we disagree over the morality of meat consumption, Scully makes good arguments against the current state of animals being bred for food. These should be carefully considered by those open to changing their practices, especially Christians involved in the food industry.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003
Iraqi Blogger Salam Pax Writes for Guardian
One of the most famous Iraqi's in very modern history has begun a bi-weekly or fortnightly column for British newspaper, The Guardian, today. Salam Pax of Baghdad, who writes the blog "Where is Raed?", was offered a writing job almost as soon as he was found in the war-torn city. If you haven't heard of Pax, Peter Maass writes a nice, personal story about him for Slate, Monday June 2. As for his first article, it's got wit and honest perspective on the remarkable things happening in Baghdad today. He says the electric utility employees are getting better, fairer pay, "and as if by magic the electricity workers try a bit harder and the situation gets better." Iraqi's are worried most about their security, but more stores are open and more people are milling around. Printing newspapers, if you can call what they print news, have become a new hobby for many city folk, and many still have loud complaints about the uprooting of their lives. Hopefully, they will be alive for their children to thank when the country stabilizes and civilians act more civil to each other.
Anagram Novel Delivers Cyberterrorism Story and Contest
Last year, Author Bill Neugent penned a clever suspense tale on cyberterrorism and hid within it a secret message with an announcement to find another hidden message in order to win $1000. The book has sold well, but the contest is still open and you can enter by reading his website, if you'd rather avoid the book, No Outward Sign. Did someone say books aren't interactive?

BookExpo Emphasizes Budget Concerns
If you looked for news on the BookExpo of America in L.A. last weekend, then you probably saw this AP article from Hillel Italie (which is a great name, IMHO). In case you didn't, the gist of the article is that publishers are looking to cut costs. You may have noticed that book sales are down in general? It's true, and because publishers can't mimic some government leaders and raise the price of books in order to raise their revenue, they must cut their costs, lower their prices, and hope to sell more books with more profit than they would at higher prices. (That's supply-side economics.) So, publishers are planning to produce more paperback originals, skipping the hardback edition at first. Bob Miller of Hyperion Books said, "A lot of writers are very attached to hardcovers because they find them more substantial. But more and more of them understand our reasoning. If you're looking to reach a wider audience, and want people to sample a new author, you have to be open to something different.'' Meaning, don't insist on your new novel in hardback when releasing it in paperback could mean more readers.

Here's another line that jumps out at me. "Book people remain liberal at heart." Really? I'm gladly concede that most of the folks at the BookExpo were liberal, but book people in general? I'll let it go this time.
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