Just so that I don’t forget, here are the books I managed to read during the whirlwind break between semesters that passed as a “vacation”:
1) Michael Cunningham’s Specimen Days: A Novel. This is a book that makes you long to re-read Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, I’ll tell you what. Three separate novellas–each about New York, each about different protagonists who encounter Whitman and/or his text in some way–work to embody Cunningham’s own brand of lyricism (see The Hours). The connections among the three component tales belie MC’s nod to Modernism, methinks. Names and places and events are rearranged and replayed, leitmotif-style, across the novel. Someone, somewhere, is going to talk about this book as a post-9/11 piece. The argument is there to be made, but I’m not sure what it buys you.
2) Tristan Egolf’s Kornwolf. Now THIS is a vacation read. It may be the case that you can tell what kind of reader you are by how you react to this abbreviated plot description: Werewolf melodrama in Amish country. Either it works for you or it doesn’t, eh? Funny stuff, from start to finish. Perhaps most notably, the running joke in the novel is that each member of the community who sees the werewolf mentions the same identifying feature: his resemblance to Richard Nixon. Hee.
The more solemn footnote to this novel is the bewildering author biography. Egolf’s dates are listed as 1971-2005, with no explanation as to his untimely death. The Guardian UK posts this obituary, with a bit more information. This, finally, is a better picture of the writer himself.
3) I’m still working on Henry Jenkins’ Convergence Culture, which takes up a critique of contemporary life by mapping interactions with technology and new media. This is a barnstormer, really; each chapter is devoted to describing the ways that individuals are adapting to their increasing involvement with media. The first chapter, for example, looks at an online group devoted to “spoiling” Survivor, the series. The ways in which these netizens are able to derive, share, and use information is simply stunning–as is the ways in which networks are going to have to begin adapting to this kind of response. I’ll hold off on any more reviewing, as I’m not finished with the book, and I’d like to think more intensively about the implications of the other chapters (particularly the movement of narrative into transmedia experiences). Stay tuned!
I had the great pleasure to see Jenkins give a talk at a tech conference in the fall, which I attended with Kate L. You can also see a link to his blog off to your right.
4) This is how you know it’s vacation: I spent a significant amount of time with this book. Please let it be the case that things like the heroin-like Sudoku will indeed reduce my chances of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Otherwise, it will be a complete waste of time.