Introducing The Essential (And a few great links)

by Patrick on May 21, 2009

If you’ll permit me a moment of self-promotion, we have launched a new email newsletter called THE ESSENTIAL.  Here’s the pitch:  once a month (and only once, we swear) you’ll get a beautifully designed, curated list of the best new literary novels and non-fiction.  Each book will be accompanied by a thoughtful, insightful review by one of our booksellers.  We will try to find those books you might otherwise have missed (debut novels, small press titles) but if one of the so-called “big books” of the season catches our eye, you’ll hear about that, too.

If you’re interested in signing up for THE ESSENTIAL, shoot me an email at pbrown at vromansbookstore dot com.

Thanks for sitting through that blatant ad (Though, if you like this blog, the chances are you will love THE ESSENTIAL).  Now, I reward you with some great links.

  • I’ll preface this by saying I haven’t read Mark Helprin’s new book Digital Barbarism, but I have read this incredible (and incredibly long) Lawrence Lessig review of it on The Huffington Post.  And now, I don’t know that I will.  “The people Helprin criticizes are “gullible idiots” (66); they represent “a vast reservoir of hostile inanity” (88); they write “subliterate blogs” (127) — unless it is a wiki that they write, in which case they “write the way Popeye speaks, though with less polish” (65); they come from a culture that produces “mouth-breathing morons in backwards baseball caps” (57); they are “basically stupid [people] with an advanced degree” (44).” None of this is really new, though, right?  People have been calling blogs subliterate since the first one went up.  Maybe we can put the “subliterate” argument to bed.  Has Mr. Helprin read The Elegant Variation?
  • I knew somebody would do this:  Read Infinite Jest this summer and join others doing the same at Infinite Summer.  “A thousand pages1 ÷ 93 days = 75 pages a week. No sweat.”  (Via The Morning News)
  • Jack Kerouac played a version of fantasy baseball that involved creating fictional players, monitoring their stats, and even writing a newsletter about their exploits:  “By 1946, when Kerouac was 24, he had devised a set of cards with precise verbal descriptions of various outcomes (“slow roller to ss,” for example), depending on the skill levels of the pitcher and batter. The game could be played using cards alone, but Mr. Gewirtz thinks that more often Kerouac determined the result of a pitch by tossing some sort of projectile at a diagramed chart on the wall. In 1956 he switched to a new set of cards, which used hieroglyphic symbols instead of descriptions. Carefully preserved inside plastic folders at the library, they now look as mysterious as runes.”  This actually sounds like an early version of Strat-o-matic Baseball.  Now I can tell my wife, “See, honey, Jack Kerouac would’ve cared about whether Matt Garza gets the win or not.”  (Via