Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Friday Quick Takes

Somehow, a fractured existence seems to lead to lots of post stubs, so I'll jump on Jen's bandwagon and do a quick takes to round out the week.

-- 1 --
Last year, I was in the middle of assuming a new job within the company I worked for, and so despite an odd yearning to take National Novel Writing Month (nor NaNoWriMo) as an excuse to get back into writing, I decided, "There's no time. Next year." Well, here's this year, and I'd driving back and forth between Cincinnati and Columbus several times a week while starting a new job. Humph.

Some day...

-- 2 --
Speaking of NaNoWriMo, I'm always up for a good piece of curmudgeonry, so I had to click on this piece entitled "Better yet, DON'T write that novel". The authors contention: When many first time novels see a print run of only a few thousand and only sell a few hundred copies, it's not the production of more novels that needs to be encouraged but rather readership.

As I was reading this it was striking me that part of the problem is that the market for novels is essentially national. Novels are published nationally and all the first time writers are struggling for attention from the same limited number of reviewers at the same limited number of magazines, and hoping that people in virtually identical Borders and Barnes & Nobles across the country will happen to pick up their work. Wouldn't it be easier on authors if readership was local? If readers tended to keep up with the small pool of local novelists, and then the best novelists from outside their region?

Then it struck me this is pretty much how blogging works -- though few people blog fiction. Blogging creates virtual neighborhoods and makes it fulfilling to have a couple hundred readers interested in your own corner of the world. I know a few bloggers who post fiction, but I wonder why more writers don't take this approach. Perhaps because it's hard to monetize? (Not like novel writing leads to profit for most anyway...)

-- 3 --
It had always struck me that the single people I knew ate surprising amounts of take-out and prepared food. If there's no one jumping all over you when you get home, wouldn't you be more inclined to cook up fun dishes for your own enjoyment?

Well, trying the experiment, not so much. It's far less enticing to cook from scratch when there's no one to cook for and no one to talk to while cooking. I still mostly shun take out but I seem to have fallen into meals that work like this:

Dump frozen garlic-potato wedges and frozen green beans in a pyrex bowl. Put sausage on top. Place in oven. Open beer.

Dump frozen artichoke hearts, frozen green beans and frozen potato wedges in pyrex bowl. Put frozen battered shrimp on top. Place in oven. Open beer.

Dump half bag of salad in huge bowl. Sprinkle with dressing. Grab a piece of cheese to cut up as a "side dish". Open wine.

Open can of soup. Dump in bowl. Heat up frozen mini-baguette. Open beer.

Note the frequency of the words "dump" and "frozen" in these recipes... It's not so much that I'm short of time, nor even that baking frozen stuff like this in the oven is actually much faster to prepare than a lot of the sort of recipes we normally make at home. It's just that the idea of preparing food in solitude seems bleak rather than homey. And eating the same left-overs for the next 2-3 days looms rather darkly as well. It's hard (at least for me) too cook in small quantities.

-- 4 --
Of course, if I don't like living alone, MrsDarwin has been having the much rougher time of it all. One of the older girls explained the evening like this to me the other night.

"Jack was so bad today. He was just crazy. He got in trouble, like, twelve times. Or maybe it was fifteen. He got into markers. And he colored on himself. And he dumped a pot of peas on the floor. And he spilled lemonade. And he threw the block of cheese in the spaghetti sauce. And he would NOT take a nap."

She paused, overwhelmed by the catalog of her brother's crimes.

"Have you been a good big sister and helped Mommy keep Jack out of trouble?" I asked. "Do you stop him when you see him getting into things?"

"Welllllllllll," she drew the word out as if this would make up for lack of truth. "Sometimes I do."

-- 5 --
Watching the election results come in, I'd found myself thinking, "I sure feel validated in choosing to move to Ohio over California."

Others had, it seems, been thinking equally and oppositely. A die-hard progressive friend posted the Facebook the next day, in response to someone's post on the elections, "I sure am glad I live in Portland, OR."

I wonder to what extent this kind of ideological sorting has increased -- especially among those of the upper part of the middle class who have often go to college in parts of the country far from where they grew up and then have national options as they look for jobs. Certainly, I've felt more at home in Texas and now Ohio than I do now back in my native Los Angeles.

-- 6 --
I've had a lot of time to listen to books or lectures on tape over the last few weeks, due to large amounts of time spent on I-71 between Columbus and Cincinnati. One of the things I've revisited is the original BBC radio dramatization of The Lord of the Rings

If, like me, you've come to cringe at the dialogue in Peter Jackson's movie adaptations (even though some of the visuals remain incredible) now that the first blush has worn off the movie adaptations, these are seriously worth a try. Although at ~13 hours, there is a lot of shortening in this adaptation, it keeps a lot more of Tolkien's verbal style in the dialogue and narration. And it's got some great voice actors, including Ian Holm as Frodo. (Of course, there's nostalgia in these for me as well. I listed to these again and again on cassette tape when I was a kid.)

-- 7 --
Speaking of listening to things... Anyone out there use Audible or similar subscription audio-book services? Is it in fact a cheaper way to get audiobooks? (And if it's something popular, not subject to the vicissitudes of a city library system with an addiction to reservation lines.) Feedback?


Jenny said...

Cracker Barrel used to have a selection of audio books that were rented out. It was primarily aimed at truckers. You rent a book at one restaurant and return it at another. I'm not sure if the program still exists or if it is cheap or anything else about it. But may be worth looking into it.

Big Tex said...

Regarding your menu... I didn't notice dump and frozen as much as I noticed "Open Beer." Priorities.

Re: the elections... I'm a political fish out of water up in WA... like you were in your native CA.

Julie D. said...

Have you tried LibriVox ( It's free and although the readers are all volunteers you can find some crackerjack narrators. Here's a list of some of my favorites.

rhinemouse said...

I think the whole point of NaNoWriMo is that there is never enough time, and you just do it anyway.

Though I am a spoiled, single twentysomething, so what do I know?

(I haven't met my word goal for today, that's what I know.)

Anonymous said...

I've used Audible off and on. I like it, but I generally am not listening to one or more audiobooks a month, so I usually end up canceling after a few months then working through my backlog.

Kel said...

As long as you're not TOO picky about the quality of the readers and recording, I'd recommend

It's a user-driven site where people record, and then can download for free, public domain works. The collection's grown quite a bit, and lots of them are really good. Good way to catch up on the classics, and it's FREE!

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

Since I'm cooking for one now I can really empathize with #3, especially on days when I get home from work at 7:00 p.m. Not only is cooking for one bleak, but the dishwashing is almost as much as cooking for a family. There may be fewer plates, but the number of pots, pans, cutting boards, etc. is the same. So it hardly seems worth it for one.

I eat a lot of sandwiches and frozen veggies these days. And cottage cheese.

Unknown said...

I tried out for a while since it is free. They've got a lot of good content, but much more mediocre and sub-par content. I started listening to The Count of Monte Cristo from librivox and the narrator would change every few chapters which made it very hard to listen to. But as Julie D mentioned in her list, there were a few great readers like Chip and Lizzy Driver. But the bad readers, who either had no emotion or seemed to barely speak the language, made it more of a chore to listen to.

Anyway, I then found out that the Cincinnati library is part of the Ohio E-book project where you can download free audiobooks:

You have to use third party software and I think you can only listen to some books for a few weeks at a time before checking them out again. But I believe there is a client for your iPad and out of copyright works, like the Count of Monte Cristo, have no such limits. The version they have is top notch read by John Lee my new favorite voice actor.

Enbrethiliel said...


On #2: I came across the same article today, linked by a woman who writes novels but is yet to be published. She did quite a rant on it!

But like you, Darwin, I confess that curmudgeonry appeals to me more than it repels me; and as someone who has produced hardly any fiction for the past ten years, I'm not in a position to take the article personally. In fact, I've wondered on my own whether we have too many novels. While wandering the bigger chain bookstores, I ponder how many of the recently published titles have a shot at being someone's favourite book. And that's why I'm in no rush to write my fiction: when so many good books have already been written, I don't see the point in producing any more.

(Notice the way I assume my book is going to be good? LOL!)

I like your analysis that the problem is that all these books are competing in a huge national (You might want to amend that to read "international") market. So many times, I've read a book that received a huge amount of buzz, only to be disappointed at how lowest-common-denominator it was. Well, what else to expect?