It’s a late post tonight, so here’s a three-fer.

There are a few songs that I know of that have been inspired by Crash by J.G. Ballard, a book I have not read … yet. But I want to read some Ballard, and considering these are three songs I’ve long loved, there must be something in there for me.

“Miss the Girl,” The Creatures:

“Warm Leatherette,” The Normal (this version from the movie based on the book):

“Cars,” Gary Numan:

OK, I’m going to start a new installment: Music Monday. Once a week, I’ll share a song/video that was inspired by a book or writer. Song writers tend to be readers, and you’ll often find their loves and inspirations peeking through their songs.

I’m starting with a song inspired by one of my long-time favorite books: The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles. (Check out the review by none other than Tennessee Williams in that link!) The Police recorded Tea in Sahara, inspired by a story told within the book itself. It’s a bit moody, just like most of the books I enjoy.



I have this bad habit of not reading interesting articles at the time I’m in the magazine but instead ripping them out to come back to later. What this really means is that I now have enough pages of articles to catch up that they are essentially several books in and of themselves. Despite my best intentions, I never really get around to reading those interesting things. Fortunately I find them still interesting even a year or two later; I know, because I’m now making myself dig through those folders and read the articles at last. This also means that I’m not really reading any of my books right now, because I’m dedicating myself to these old articles.


At the moment I’m reading an old New Yorker piece called “Books Will Endure, but Will Publishers?” If you’re a reader, a writer, or in publishing, you’re familiar with this concern. “For the past year … we’ve been hearing that new digital technology will make books obsolete,” James Surowiecki comments. “Bookstores will become miniature ghost towns, and the big publishers, with their stiff-necked fixation on ‘the book,’ will dry up and blow away.”

This outlook fascinates me because this article is actually from the June 19 & 26, 2000, issue. The digital piece that had everyone concerned about the future of books Stephen King’s downloadable novella. I remember e-book devices from that time, or at least one. My boss had one, to test as a publisher, and it seemed clunky and not very slick. But this article could see that, in the very near future, the technology would get better and that publishing would need to learn to transform itself to embrace the technology, that many authors might not even need publishers to release their books, that indie publishers could thrive on these changes.

It’s a little funny to look back over the past dozen years since this article was written and see their praise of texts that could be downloaded onto your computer for reading—or even your Palm Pilot—when we avid readers carry infinitely more portable and convenient iPads and devoted e-reader devices. But this article saw the future pretty clearly—that people would be interested in print and digital together and that digital reading could open up new opportunities for authors and publishers. Twelve years later, we are in that world – an even better version of that world … and it’s pretty awesome.

Your Next Read?

February 5, 2013 // Web Reading

Where do you get your next read?

Please don’t say the customers-who-bought recommendations via the A-word.

I used to rely on reviews in Publishers Weekly, courtesy of my company’s subscription. For my job, I subscribe to a lot of publishing feeds that point me in good directions. I am also a big fan of browsing bookstore tables to see what jumps out at me. Though I like to give recommendations to friends, I am not a fan of taking recommendations—or worse, taking a loaned copy—from friends. Taking a beloved book from a friend’s hand carries with it quite a bit of obligation—to love the book as much as they do, to read it in a timely fashion. Sometimes it works out for the best, though.

Now it seems like there are more and more sites that help you find a recommendation based on what you like to read.

Our friend, Librarian Amy, shared What Should I Read Next? This site bases its search on a database of its users’ reading lists. When I entered The Secret History by Donna Tartt, it took me to a longish list of books which included near the top an old favorite: Spies by Michael Frayn. But I don’t really see a lot of similarities between the two. Except for “children” and secrets. Searching on John Connolly’s Book of Lost Things, I fail to see the connection between him and Kinky Friedman. So I’m thinking this search is truly just “people who read this also read this.” You have the option to purchase a title here, but it takes you to the A-word. compares itself to’s service in that it is “home of the Book Genome Project,” using “computer-based analysis of written DNA” to help you find books. From what I can tell, this means that it looks at even potentially minor elements of a book and matches it with those same elements in other books. The Great Gatsby, for instance, is distilled to Expressions of Emotion, Suburban Living, Automobiles & Vehicles, and Celebration/Parties, to name a few. It’s hard for me to think of a book like this in these elemental terms. Ditto with Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, which shows Nonverbal Communication, Vehicles/Rural Travel, Physical Injury/Exertion, among others. (And guess who has a book that shares this DNA: Nora Roberts. Really?)

Today’s launch of offers yet another Recommendations feature. So far, I’ve had some interesting success with the results. Syndrome E by Franck Thilliez pointed me to Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons, which I am intrigued by and added it to my TBR list. Me and the Devil by Nick Tosches pointed me to Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis (already read and a little traumatized by), The Little Friend by Donna Tartt (which I’m sorry to say I gave up on when reading a few years back), Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson (read), and Art & Lies by Jeanette Winterson, whom I adore. I consider these results successful. It’s nice too that they offer the chance to read a sample, although I’ve noted a couple search results where the author listed wasn’t correct, despite the correct cover displaying.

And you can place an order through the site…and it doesn’t go through the A-word.

Addictions – Part 2

January 28, 2013 // Book Reviews

Karr-Lit-AudioIn Lit, Mary Karr takes us through the journey of her alcoholism. While she and Clegg share the fact that they inhabit literary circles (Karr is a poet and writer), that is about all these two memoirs have in common. Karr is a woman who one would think might “know better” than to lose herself in alcohol. Growing up with a mother who seemed alternately dangerous (butcher knife!) to downright flaky and sauced, not to mention her drinking father, she seemed to know what she didn’t want to be.

Unlike Portrait, where we are immersed almost entirely in Clegg’s world and its deterioration, Karr shares the personalities of family, the atmosphere of environment, her role as wife and mother and struggling poet. She’s very up front with helping us get to know her as a person and the experiences and people that shaped her.

And whereas Portrait shared an addiction that carried him away, Lit shows Karr’s constant struggle to reign herself in. She knows she doesn’t want to be this way, but she can’t stop, though she keeps making herself promises to do just that.

Karr has a lot of responsibilities—her work, her role as primary caregiver, wife in a struggling marriage—and she wears herself out seeing to all of them. Her need to drink lurks through it all. She gets to her job at the college hungover daily it seems, she fears throwing up in front of the other mothers at the daycare center in the morning, she hides bottles around the house. She’ll have what she says is her last drink one night, but in the morning when she finds the glass with a bit still in it, her mind reasons that she might as well drink it, as it would be a waste to throw it away. She is aware of her “bad behavior” but a drink just helps too much.

Karr too reaches her limit, and when she has an accident in which she believed she was about to die and leave her young son motherless, she has her “moment of clarity.” Though Clegg has another book on his recovery (Ninety Days, which I’ve not read), Karr takes us along on her cynical journey to sobriety too.

She reluctantly begins to attend AA meetings though she claims she doesn’t “get it.” She forms the bonds she needs to with the people who can defend her against herself, but, a lifelong atheist, she just can’t put her mind around the thought of a “higher power” that the others rely on and give credit to. But as she makes herself break down her walls and start to give thanks and to ask for help, to whatever her yet unidentifiable higher power is, she begins to notice the funny ways it seems to help.

In many ways, Lit is just as much a journey of Karr finding religion as it is her finding sobriety. But she is in no ways overpowering or preachy as she does it. Despite the heaviness of the topics (alcoholism, a damaged marriage, recovery), Karr maintains a good sense of humor and a sarcastic tone, helping to really see her at her best and not just judging her at her worst.