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My Kindle Blig
Reading Pixels
my personal reading log

Though I may advertantly link this thing, please realize it is my personal book report page. Written and often rewritten to remind
me how I felt at various stages of reading differnt books, on my Kindle, on pages in paper books, audio CDs and online.

by J R Compton

17 - May 6 2011

I've just finished listening to a marvelous audio of The Magician's Elephant. Quick, in three CD disks and thoroughly well characterized. I grabbed it at the library thinking it might be more interesting than another detective novel but keep me thinking linearly, so as to not interfere with driving and keep me awake. Ended up only listening to the first disk on the trip, then finding excuses to go somewhere in The Slider to hear the rest of it. Almost a children's story, with all the voices and characters, but none are cardboard. Lots of character depth in the time it spends. Amazing. Wonderful.

Still whisking through Richard Phillips' Kindle version of The Second Ship (The Rho Agenda: Book One). Except for some cussing and mild allusions to sex, it, too, sounds like it might be written for kids. But there's no hint of literary value here. Just a good story, mostly about teenagers. Intelligent science fiction, but a bit hackneyed and cliche oriented. Could have been better written, but only if it's for adults. I'm enjoying it for the story, but I long for literary instead of ordinary descriptions and prose with a little reach. Probably should note that it was only 99 cents, so I never expected even this good a read. I seriously doubt I'll sign up for any more, though.

I no longer even bother to pretend I'll ever finish Treasure Island. What was once fascinating, is now drudge. I will take up last year's Gardner Dozios The Year's Best Science Fiction and Harlan Ellison's The Beast That Shouted Love at the World, but I have not been tempted back into Kevin Kelly's What Technology Wants. Once a writer starts along an illogical premise, I don't see much reason to follow him down a garden path.

I look forward to delving back into Lewis Shiner — I have two stories already loaded. Still read John Donne sometimes. Walt Whitman is good but the Kindle implementation of Leaves of Grass is dreadful (There seems to be no way to give me long lines as long lines) so why bother? I'm still plodding through long-form nonfiction, and I probably need to scoop up more of those fascinating essays online.

I will probably never finish Donald Barthelme's The Sentence. Raymond Chandler's The Lady in the Lake was less thoroughly satisfying than The Long Goodbye, but with two in that rapid succession I am seeing into his formula. I'll probably explore other mystery writers before I do more of him. I need to finish The Second Ship, so I can delve into Dashiel Hammet's The Maltese Falcon.

16 - April 11 2011

Eventually, I'll go back to Kevin Kelly's What Technology Wants, but not for awhile. This evening I started Raymond Chandler's The Lady in the Lake, which I already like very much. But, like I almost never just do one thing at a time, I almost never just read one book at a time. I've still got going everything I've talked about down this page except the ones I've deleted from my Kindle, and because they're gone, I can't list them.

I bought Guy Kawasaki's Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions because I have read others of his books, decades ago, and taken their heed, as I hope to take this one's. It's about, as Guy's books usually are, evangelism. This time how to use popular online media to sell an idea. I have a couple ideas that need selling, and I've been offput by Facebook, Twitter and those others, but I can't stay off them, I'll need to embrace all that, and this may be a way to learn to accept it.

I've been reading through and refilling my Kindle with essays for more than a month, and loving reading those that way. I look forward to long waits at the VA Hospital, so I can read more, uninterrupted.

I haven't ever got all the way through Barthelme's The Sentence. It'll take a dedicated but smallish chunk of time. A hospital waiting room may be the perfect place. Among that much random idiocy, a sentence that long will fit right in.

The interview with Gay Talese was outstanding, and inspirational.

And I still have plenty more stories in both Gardner Dozios' The Year's Best Science Fiction and Harlan Ellison's The Beast That Shouted Love to the World. There's still an off-chance I might go back to Treasure Island, but I wouldn't bet on it.

15 - March 13 2011

I am 59% of the way through Garrison Keillor's My Above Average Stroke, reading about him remembering all the women he'd ever been naked with, one of the many categories of things he still remembers vividly, even after his stroke. I didn't think about sex when I was having my almost-a-stroke a couple years ago. I think his was much more fun than mine. I remember waking up in the ER talking with Anna and Christopher about chrono-synclastic infidelium, Kurt Vonnegut, I think, 's term for non-sequential existence. Anna made a video of the conversation then it got lost online. I'd love to have that back, but I remember it well. One of those magic moments.

Or was that the one at the VA …?

The Garrison Keillor story is one of those I copied from a page on Give Me Something to Read. Being able to quickly copy text from a web page, then paste it into a document saved as Text-Only, then reading it on my Kindle is righteous use of the technology. Perfect. And free.

I keep trying to read What Technology Wants, but the author has made up so many stories that he's going to base his theis upon — if he ever gets there — that I already don't believe it, and I doubt I'll want to read that, either. I was either right to procrastinate buying the silly thing, or I am wrong about ignoring it till I am likewise bored with everything else I have to read and will have to.

Reading Kevin Kelly on this subject is akin to … I keep trying to remember this exended metaphor, then I cannot, and I stop thinking about it for awhile, then I think it, complete with a mild understanding of the metaphor again, until I get to a computer keyboard, then I forget it. I don't think this has anything to do with having not quite had a stroke or two.

Other long-form writing I now have on my Kindle waiting my patience includes an Unpublished Interview with Hunter S. Thompson, who, the only time I ever saw him, in the mid 70s in Austin, Texas, looked exactly like he had in Doonbury for many years already. I look forward to being bored enough to plough through it.

Donald Barthelme's The Sentence, which comrpises a number of pages, but only one, extended sentence, also bekons. Something called How the Internet Gets Inside Us, and another called How We Know by Freeman Dyson, the Interview with Gay Talese was superb; it spoke to me as a journalist and writer. The Blind Man Who Taught Himself to See …

The Interview with David Foster Wallace was fascinating. I may read it a couple more times. It's not terribly long, but it is terribly rambling and fabulously interesting, like one of the best conversations of my life, like talking with my friend Ken Shaddock. A prize.

I also have Raymond Chandler's The Lady in the Lake, which I know for certain that once I start it, I will not be able to put it down, so I haven't started yet.

A couple other, shorter stories by Lewis Shiner, Brujo and Deep Without Pity. I'm saving them. His Black & White was amazing, fabulous, a murder mystery and sociology and …

I still have Gardner Dozios' The Year's Best Science Fiction: 27th Annual Collection, which I'm only 16% of the way through. 29% more of The Beast That Shouted Love at the World. And Treasure Island, well, it's still in there, too.

14 - March 9 2011

Went to the library twice today. First time I found an audio book called The Sorcerer's Daughter, I think (surely not the one by Nora Roberts). A woman making all men's voices, gruff like pirates, and I could not get into it, and after awhile, didn't want to. I took it back and picked two other audiobooks. The one I've listened to most, at home, is The Road by Cormac McCarthy, performed by Tom Stechschulte, who is doing a marvelous job of giving life to a man who is sufferring from the first affects of something corroding his lungs — spraying the snow red with blood coughing when the boy isn't looking — and his son in a post apocalyptic tale.

Beautiful wording, sympathetic to both in a scary world as they're making their way south through a world gone a little crazy but it's the cold that's worrying them now. They're avoiding other people and have just passed a man who had been hit by lighting, and they couldn't do anything for him. Just barely surviving themselves, heading toward the warmth.

And that's just the first of six disks in this unabridged book. This is good.

I finally finished former Dallasite, now long-time Austinite Lewis Shiner's Black & White I downloaded from his site and did my best to pull apart words stuck together and gobbledygook masquerading as text till I didn't care anymore. Read it like fire through the woods, racing to find out what next. I've got a couple more of his stories in better typographical shape than that novel was, but I was looking for something by someone else in between.

The latter part of last week into the weekend I listened to Sea Change, a Jesse Stone mystery by Robert B. Parker that I'm pretty sure I saw either on TV or from Netflix. Every time the hero spoke, I heard Tom Selleck's voice and cadence. Soothing, gentle, sure. Or at least learning. I like the quiet-spoken detective chief of Police in Paradise, Massachusettes, and eventually I'll either read or listen to or watch, maybe in various combinations all of the made-for-TV movies from Parker's books.

I held another audiobook of Parker's other, Spenser series in my hand today, but I keep looking for books and authors that appeal more than having the same experience over and again.

I read McCarthy's All The Pretty Horses for a book club more than a decade ago, back when I had difficulty seeing the words in printed books, although I'd heard audiobooks by then and was regularly renting from a store in North Dallas. I still remember having Jeremy Irons reading Lolita in my ear. I have the DVD but don't play it often. I pretty much know it by heart.

I've often considered buying into the online audiobook rental thing that I could download MP3s of, but the library is free, and if I screw up and get the wrong one, I can just take it back and try again.

I can't remember what they other book I got today is. I liked it, didn't think I'd start The Road this soon, but I like to have one at home and one in the car. Never been a problem keeping them apart. Or confusing them with one of the movies I'm watching slowly. Like Dogtooth that I watch a little of most days, then stick it back in my Netflix box till I think I can stand a little more. I'd like to get to the end of that one. Luckily Netflix lets me keep them long as I want.

 

13

And then I discovered I could take text offline and put it on my Kindle. Easy to copy text with all the credits from Longform.org or Give Me Something to Read.com. Just swipe through the text, copy, then paste it into a text-only app or one that saves as text-only. Only text-only apps get rid of all the junk we usually don't see in our [un text-only] text documents that readily and annoyingly shows up when those are ported to a Kindle.

The easiest way to plough through all that visual crap is to paste the text from an HTML or other document into a text-only app. I use Bean on my iMac. It offers the possibility of saving as .txt, which is what I want. Even then, it warns me every time, that that may not be what I really wanted — even if, for this specific purpose, that's exactly what I want, and I get the opportunity to do it "anyway." In kind of an end-around opportunity to actually get what I want, not what they think I really want.

Sometimes I can save text from a PDF, but PDFs of books and poems and seems like everything else, are littered with page numbers, page headings, directional quotes, half-quotes, ñ, ç é and various other trouble-making characters that show on Kindles' screens as gobbledygook. And make reading difficult.

For Longform and Give Me Something to Read, copying text is simplicity itself. Copying text from HTML on Lewis Shiner's Fiction Liberation Front is just as easy, but not all his stories are available as HTML. The longer ones are only available as Info (which is essentially hype about those books, not the books themselves) and PDFs, which are their own kind of hell.

Some PDFs will allow themselves to be saved as text. Sometimes. But those are littered with all the complications listed above. PDFs on the big Kindle DX may actually be possible and readable. But on my little 6-inch diagonal Kindle 3G screen, PDFs are useless, because I cannot read that small. The reason I got a Kindle is so I can make the type bigger and easier to read.

PDFs fight that legibility every inch of the way. I already hated PDFs before I got my Kindle. I like them even less now.


I'm still listening to William Gibson's Spook Country and still loving the language but not quite getting all the story lines or who is who, and I always wonder what they look like, although I'm sure WG has told me several times already.

On the Kindle, I'm madly reading (page-turner style) Lewis Shiner's Black & White novel, converted from his FLF pages. It took hours to remove most (no way I'll ever get it all) of the idiot PDF junk strewn all through the book. I keep a list of acronyms that have all be lower-cased than need to be Search & Replaced through the whole book, dna, ncc, ncaa, radio station call letters, words with unfamiliar letters, as above, etc. etc. on almost every page of the book. I kept thinking I should have to put some work into getting a novel for free. If Shiner's books were available for Kindle, It'd probably be worth my while just to buy them for Kindle.

But that'd be too easy.

12

After six more episodes of Studio 60 online, I settled back into my Kindle but just could not face another short story or novel or anything else made up. I love short story collections, but I want to read them one at a time with a lot of space in between. Going from reading one short story to another then back to yet another collection was doing me in. And I've been getting my daily novel fix from audio Spook Country, but didn't want to stop reading just because of all that logic.

So I settled down and bought Kevin Kelly's What Technology Wants, which I wanted to read until he sent me a "personal note" because I'm a regular reader of Cool Tools, his online version of Whole Earth Catalog, which he edited before he edited Wired (back when it was still good). For awhile I didn't care, but I've been needing something nonfiction, and since I started wanting to read it soon as I heard about it till his spam at me, I thought about it some more, then finally broke down and downloaded it a few minutes ago.

I read a few paragraphs, and will read many, many more later, but I just had to tell you, dear diary, before I got on with it.

11

It's not pixels, but I free-rented from the library a CD audio book of William Gibson's Spook Country, which I bought in book form last September, but never could get into. I love his soaring high-tech language and dense metaphors, so I've been listening to each CD twice. Both times for my love of the sound of his language, always hoping a bit of the meaning would settle in, and I'd understand what the heck was going on.

Despite the stop-and-go way of driving and sometimes stopping mid-sentence, I seem to be getting the story — part of which involves some temporal, location-specific high-tech art forms, and although I'm still having trouble figuring whom all is who, I'm beginning to understand it on several levels and layers, which has always fascinated me about how Gibson's work is layered together.

Since college at the U of Dallas in Irving, I've often had difficulty differentiating characters in some books, though usually I just plough on through, and I get enough out of it in the that some momentary character confusion hardly matters. So nice to have the nice narrator read this one to me twice. My love of language is fed, even nurtured by Gibson's words and the ways he strings them together.

So far, I've read Burning Chrome, Neuromancer, most of Idoru and all of Pattern Recognition, and all the way back into time to his short story, Dogfight as collected in Gardner Dozois' annual The Year's Best Science Fiction in 1986, and probably won't stop after this one, although now on I may seek well audio or Kindle versions. And of course I've seen the movie made from his Johnny Mnemonic.

10

I suspect the intimacy and easy view from the Kindle is not as well suited to poetry as it should be. Kindle's way of justifying every piece of text that begins to reach toward the right margin is especially annoying. I had hoped there'd be a setting where I could get ragged right (like this page's text is set, unless you've set it otherwise). Justified on the left — it lines up. Then loosely ragged on the right.

Oh, it would be great if poetry were easily accessible and readily formattable, but it is instead a mess. Type too small or lacking linespacing. I want major linespacing when I read poems. Kindle might do that, but most of the form poems come from the internet won't. Damn.

I was reading Walt Whitman this week, and his long lines are generally rendered in an off-putting variety of fully justified text columns which huge gaping white "river" running through the middle of them. Makes it very difficult to read and ugly to look at. I used to support myself as a typesetter, so I may be more sensitive to this than mere mortals, but it bugs the hell out of me.

Probably are ways around these issues, but I don't know them. There's still lots to learn about my Kindle. Cameras and phones and MP3 players are jailbreaked or hacked. I wonder if anybody's done that for the Kindle yet.

So I googed "Hacking the Kindle" and got so many results I only know to start at the top.

Meanwhile, PoemHunter.com may be the best place to read poems in pixels, though there are not many new ones there.

9

I am scrounging around for something riveting to add to my mix of last year's best sci-fi short stories, Harlan Ellison's short stories from decades ago, Treasure Island and, oh, there must be something else on the list already. I need fresh meat.

So I picked up the heavy tome of Lewis Shiner's Collected Stories (2009) as I went by the stack it was in and walked it to, wherever I went. Got it in my hand. It's a book. Made of thin slices of wood. Essentially a wood book. Full of tree-killer pages. Probably a good book, too. Not sure why. Maybe I needed to heft a book. Then I started thinking about a Kindle version of Shiner's work.

Yup. I had the book I'd paid too much for in my hands but I wanted the Kindle version, so I could make the type bigger and more to my liking. When I got back to my computer, I Googled Lewis Shiner, found a Kindle version of a short story, I guessed, by him for $8 on Amazon. That seemed steep, so I kept looking, found the same story for free on Fiction Liberation Front, which I hadn't known about before.

Fiction Liberation Front is all Lewis Shiner, where more of his work than I'd seen in one place (except maybe that big white book that I've misplaced now), are available

It had several obvious typing errors, but it was a good story for free. $8 would be a little rich. Apparently Shiner has his own copyrights, and his publisher has theirs, and they're charging way too much for his stories and old books, and he's giving them away free. Bravo.

All for the price of a little web searching.

8

I didn't want to stop reading. I was not ready for it to be at an end. But it was, so I had to stop reading. I'm still thinking about reading one of Douglas Adams' completed Wholistic Detective Agency novels again, and I was thinking just that thought as the book I was actually reading suddenly veered from a wild, crazed Rhinocerous in all of the wrong places to an obituary as if the writer had died moments after writing what I'd just been reading.

And he had. He was my hero, too. I've been missing Douglas Adams since I heard he was dead, and I still do. I wish he'd at least have finished this Dirk Gently novel and started another one.

I wish I hadn't already read his Last Chance to See and all those other strange funny books, and I wish I knew how Salmon of Doubt really ended in his mind. Info that never got put into ink on paper or pixels on my Kindle screen. Blast.

 

I have learned lately how to enlarge the individual pages of the ungainly PDF version of Dylan Thomas' poetry that I downloaded from somewhere. I have always hated PDFs, and I still do. Enlarging one of those damned portable fdocument files on a Kindle is a continuing pain in the butt.

Worse, I apparently do not appreciate Dylan Thomas' poetry nearly as much as I thought I did. His short short poetry is lovely, succinct and magical. His longer stuff loses me in the first couple of stanzas. I need to find someone's poetry that still moves me. I stumbled over my Norton's book of English Literature that I studied a thousand years ago at UD in the last six months, but I don't know where it is now.

It would be nice to turn pages if its type weren't so tiny and close together. I want to hit the Aa button and make the type bigger, but it never works with wood books (paper from trees).

There must be someone out there whose poetry still speaks to me. Wonder who it will be.

7

I finished The Long Goodbye in a swell of excitement. Great story, outstandingly put together, good characters and characterizations and plenty of plot to plow through it all and, ultimately, tie it all together. I will read more Raymond Chandler, but not for awhile. I need to rest up some first.

I'm back reading the Dirk Gently Detective Agency story I so thoroughly put down here before I started reading it. I like it. It has all the quirk and fanciful yet inevitable logic I loved in Douglas Adams' first two DGDA books. I am joyed to be reading it, and I look forward to each new chapter.

I know a time will come when it will become somewhat more challenging and obfuscatory as the various editors' hands become more visible and Doug Adam's mind less so, but I'm taking the chapters with some breathing room now. Living the odd bits of life in the betweens. It was snowing when I filled my outgoing mailbox with outgoing mail very early this morning when I could not get to sleep.

Then was cold. I was comfortable in shorts and a T-shirt, and I enjoyed being really really cold out there doing that. I am enjoying the cold much less now in jeans, only one pair of Diabetisox and two shirts, but there is some mild thrill still in having almost everything outside be white again. But I don't want it to hang around as long as it did last time. And I do not want to be on Facebook as long as I was last time in snowed and froze over.

Even if it gives me more time to read.

6

Oooof. Raymond Chandler is a shredder. Page-turner, too. But he's a sure operator. Smooth when he needs to, but tough and smart and emotional. His words fly off the page and into my mind. I am not wanting to put it down, but it's grinding me through. I sometimes think movies and TV shows do something underhanded to get me to breathe hard and heart pound. Had to stop watching 24 for that, despite its obvious other failings. But Chandler does it, too. With just words and meanings and pacings and  Whatever else he's got in there.

I know he's affecting my thinking and my writing, too. Eventually, I'll turn to Hemingway to haul my sentences back from compound complex mush to sharp, smart and short. A very good thing.

Some of Harlan Ellison shreds. Every other page of The Long Goodbye does.

I had almost let me get seduced by the possibility of a good mystery, then suddenly I have the best. Couple times in my movie reviews I've said I'd been movied. With Chandler I'm shredded.

5

I have been repeatedly blown away by short stories from Harlan Ellison in his The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World. I am shocked and amazed how good a writer he is/was. Douglas Adams is fun and funny and occasionally brilliant. Harlan Ellison makes a game of it. He's wicked startling, shocking, mind-bogglingly good. I've been hoping to find someone doing New writing. Experimental. Experiential. Something to knock my socks off. He is it, and this stuff is from the Pliocene — 1957 through 1969.

I'd hoped to Kindle a collection of Dylan Thomas poems, but after struggling with what I could download in PDF that won't allow enlarging enough to actually read the words, I settled for his work on PoemHunter.com, which works fine but on my Mac not my Kindle, blast it. I am once again at long last in love with this Dylan (from whom little Bobby Zimmerman stole his first name to use as his last, and became even more famous).

Dylan Thomas poems are the best in the English language I thought in college and still, though my poetry education largely stopped back then, mayhaps to begin again now. Bout time.

The Complete Poems of John Donne from the Kindle store are badly formatted with his long, sinuous lines often chopped to smithereens, and gaping spaces left in their stead. It's so painful reading, I want to learn how to edit pages to rectify this silly situation. It's hardly worth $4 to have paid some rube to do this to one of my all-time fave poets. There are online instances of John Donne Poetry I could simply download and reformat slightly in html, and I'd like to but my gowsh what tedium.

I will learn to prepare text for Kindle. That's inevitable. I've started with my own poetry (online, not on Kindle) but it is such a mess so far, I don't want to show it to anyone. Pagination matters, and there should at least be a line space before a new poem, but this book has none, even though there's apparently easy HTML code to do that. Maybe eventually I'll do a Kindle blog of Art Here Lately without the color pictures, since it's a strictly gray-scale device so far.

Another major disappointment is The Complete Mark Twain Collection, even if it only cost $1.79. There's just too much of it. Nice, I suppose, to have a genuine, workable Table of Contents, but I have not yet found anything worth pursuing, and I used to love the works that filtered down to an avid twelve-year-old reader that many years ago. Beyond Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn and his N-word friend.

I guess I should Netflix Hal Holbrook's Mark Twain Tonight and Ken Burns (with all his goofy zooming and panning of old, still photographs) PBS series to recapture the Twain I thought I knew.

I still slosh through Treasure Island sometimes, but it has not much of the glory of the early pages left. Not sure if it's me or Robert Louis Stevenson. Maybe my wallet is wider than my reading gullet can hold, but I want more to engage my mind like Donne, Dylan and Ellison seem to do so easily.

All I have left of The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time is the Dirk Gently mess. Several writers rewriting a novel based on Douglas Adams fragments has been too dense a notion to face up to yet. Too much like the idiot editors of The Autobiography of Mark Twain crowing how good a job they did (but didn't).

Meanwhile, I am considering buying Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye. I downloaded a sample to see if I like it as much as I think I will. Kinda like standing in the bookstore and speed-reading the first few chapters. I was told I should start with something earlier in Chandler's detective's novels and do his books chronologically, but I wanted to start with the best, and Amazon readers say this is it.

Chandler is a class act. His prose flows like polished glass. Plenty description and enough action, reaction and emotion to keep me at it. Easy reading with strong style that doesn't trip over itself, and I already want to know what happens next. I'll read free till the sample's end, then buy the book. It'll be a treat.

I generally like short stories best, but his chapters read like short stories on steroids and slide by fast. I'm already enjoying this ride.

When I am in the mood for something solid and longish like in magazines when I used to read those, I still dabble in shorter than novels longform nonfiction on Longform.org and Give Me Something To Read, and I am fascinated by spelunking through new understandings of our collective gray matter in Jonah Lehrer's The Frontal Cortex blog now on Wired that I've been following off and on for more than a year.

Fascinating stuff, but I read it on my Mac, not Kindle.

4

I recently heard of artist friends of friends who bought a device vaguely similar to my Kindle. Only, because they do not own or operate personal computers, they have to go to the bookstore each time they want to buy a new book.

That seems to take much of the value out of having such a device. When I want a new book — and I got some just yesterday, I click the Menu button, go to The Kindle Store (not even really online, just on my Kindle) and find something I'd researched and download it immediately.

Not to my computer but to my Kindle, because it's the 3G model that does not require any sort of subscription or anything else. it just works (somehow connected to the aether. I don't try to understand how. I just accept it. I do not own a cell phone or a walky-talky). I suspect the folks who bought the device they have to take to a bookstore don't know about the Kindle 3G, but I understand they do know about books. Seems awfully strange.

Both that people put up with a device they have to take to a bookstore — I mean why not just get a book while you're there and leave the device. And that they put up with such a cockamamie device. But also that they do not have a computer. These are intelligent people who are rather cut off from the world, except when they take their reading device to the book store. People who would greatly benefit being connected to most of the known world via their computer. If they had one.

(I understand that I and my 89-year-old mother are among only 35% of us older than 65 who have personal computers.) I've had one since 1980 when I bought my Commodore VIC-20. In 1984 I jumped from my Kaypro to a Mac, and I've been here since.

The books I got yester include The Complete Poems of John Donne, $4; The Complete Mark Twain Collection (over 300 works with an active table of contents), $1.79; and The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World, a short story collection by Harlan Ellison, $7.99. So for the princely sum of $13.77 I got [over] 316 stories.

I wonder how much it would cost those people at their friendly, local bookstore?

I'm back to Treasure Island and enjoying it immensely again. But my main book is Douglas Adams' The Salmon of Doubt, which is at the moment, much more entertaining than Treasure Island. I've dabbled in Mark Twain's treasure also, but I haven't found anything to sink my teeth into. Yet.

I showed my Kindle to my friend Alex, and historian that he is, he was fascinated by the photographs in The Autobiography of Mark Twain. I suspect he would like the Twain Autobiography far better than I do.

I have not gone back to The Imperfectionists — I think I'm finished with that one. I'd give it three and a half stars, not four and certainly not five.

Nor the Gardner Dozois This Year's Best Science Fiction, but I undoubtedly will. I have begun exploring John Donne also, and once I get used to his language again, I expect a rollicking good time there. I haven't revisited The Jungle Book in awhile. And though I have opened the opening board on my Scrabble game, I have not moved a tile. I think I should attempt to play the actual game first. Anna has one, but she's so good I rarely have a chance.

It seems that about four books is as many as I can juggle in my mind at one time, but I always know where they are, and where I am in them. So everything is copacetic.

3

I miss actual books, because with those chunky things, I can always tell how many more pages my short story has to go in my short story collection. On my Kindle, I can tell what percentage I am through the entire book or how far I've read since I started reading this time, but never how long or many pages till the end of a short story or chapter.

I miss actual books to lay down spread-eagle on the nearest clear horizontal surface when I am interrupted mid-sentence, mid-page, mid-chapter or just mid-book. I like folding back the top corner of pages. I like scrawling in the margins. I like that books are not thin and sharp, so I can grab them any old where to drag them to the next room where there might be a more comfortable chair.

I don't miss having to find a chunky space to store them, where I might be able to find them again in the foreseeable future. I don't miss having to read tiny, close-spaced lines of tiny, close-spaced letters. No book I ever owned had a handle, but I want a handle on my Kindle, because I cart it around all the time, and it's not comfortable spread-eagling my arthritic fingers to carry that thin, sharp thing.

I was a huge fan of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and especially of Douglas Adam's Dirk Gently holistic detective stories. I even read his Last Chance to See about traveling the world to see the last living instance of several strange species of biological entities, so I'm pleased pink to be reading his The Salmon of Doubt including a bunch of essays, short-shorts, introductions and other stuff apparently written by him — and no doubt some editors — posthumously. I am joyously looking forward to the rebuilt last Dirk Gently novella.

Unfortunately, when I read a writer with that obvious a style, I tend to think and talk like that for awhile. I caught myself in it on my latest Bird Journal, and I may be doing it again here now. Which is why I, as an art critic, don't read other art critics, except the occasional Charles Dee Mitchell, whose style is so natural I don't see anything him about it (while, of course, being altogether him-ish in every way) and Dave Hickey, who owes me money, but I still almost enjoy reading his stories, even if I don't subscribe to Art in America anymore, although I still enjoy looking at the art in its ads on a newsstand on those few occasions when I'm at one.

Every other art writer either affects my writing style, or I subliminally acquire their opinions, which is even more dangerous than trying to be funny like no one else but Douglas Adams could.

Meanwhile, I keep procrastinating buying What Technology Wants, which I think I want to read. Probably I should download a sample via the Kindle selly thingy. I'm also contemplating buying a book of Harlan Ellison short stories. We'll see where either endeavor gets me.

I finished The Imperfectionists, and it was, once I figured out what I was reading, a joy. I may yet go back and reread the parts where I was so totally confused during — because I hadn't then figured out that the novel was written one chapter per character, not in any chronological order. So how Last Century of me to expect chronology.
 

I adore the fact that I am at last writing something that almost no one ever also reads. What freedom!
 

2

I've done hardly anything the last couple weeks. The first couple weeks of this new year. Except take pictures of birds. And read. I did write one review. I speck I'll be writing more. But I'm more excited about my reading. And the birds.

After being thoroughly confused about the main book I'm still reading — The Imperfectionist, I reread the whole of the review that set me onto it. It mentions that each chapter is a different person on the staff of the newspaper, the novel is about. Oh. That makes sense. Wish I'd figured that out while I was reading them.

Since then, I've enjoyed reading it. Before that it had become drudge. Yesterday and again today, I read chapters that were chilling. I'd have to go back and reread that silly review to learn if the reviewer warned me about that. A real chill. Down to my bones. Been a long time since a book affected me like that.

I like it.

I'm still trudging through Treasure Island. Not as much fun as at the beginning. Not bad, just tedious until they again begin doing something. They're getting the ship ready to go find the treasure. I keep at it, hoping for excitement.

I haven't gone back to The Jungle Book in a while, either. I finally started that short story in Doziois' The Year's Best Science Fiction tome, was briefly excited by its semi-experimental manners, then got bored again. I don't know the Kindle well enough to find my way back to a story I've passed up, so I'm not passing it up.

And am stuck there. With pages and a real book, I'd just mark it and go on. With my unknowledge of Kindle, I'm stuck.

I'm replodding through the Kindle handbook. Learning bits and pieces. I may need a video.

I also desperately need a handle for the thing. I've tried googling "handle for kindle" and got instead books with handle in the title and one person on a forum site who desperately wants a handle, too. But it didn't say how to join it, so I could add my need for such, also.

Instead of the handle I wanted, I bought a small case from Amazon Basics, that was a third or less the price of any other case. Holds my Kindle and other stuff I cart around from place to place. Almost perfect. The Kindle pocket holds it tight and securely and is padded. The big pocket could use partitions, but I doubt any other user would want the partitions I want. For just over ten bucks, though, it's great.

For awhile, I carried it room to room in the case. Now I'm back to hand-carrying it from room to room. I am thinking of wire around the device, covered with blue painter's tape, with a small cardboard roll handle. I made a bubble-wrap pack for it with a really too-big and klutzy handle, but couldn't figure an easy way to clasp it shut and open. So I hand carry it.

Ideally, the handle would fold in a special way to become a stand, so I could prop it up anywhere and read, at any angle. Usually, I hand hold it. But that gets tiresome. It's really too thin to be comfortable. Sometimes I put it on the couch beside me and read. When I'm in my office I prop it over the keyboard, stopping it from sliding with a small screwdriver held in place with, you guessed it, blue painter's tape. It's the best stand I have yet.
 

1

Anna gave me a Kindle for Christmas. The one I wanted — 3G. I've downloaded a few books and am reading them alternately and interspersedly.

My big mistake so far was Volume I of The Autobiography of Mark Twain, which is mostly a bunch of academics telling us how proud they are that they've finally got Mr. Clemmon's story straight, just like he always wanted it.

Except, of course, they don't have it any straighter than any of the editors who've preceded them. Most of the book is them braying about their tremendous accomplishment. 270 pages of a much larger tome are the actual autobiography, which is disorganized and a mess.

I was excited by the possibility of learning more about my hero, whom I've been reading or reading about for six decades. My favorite journalism quote is by him. I remember well works of his I have read and seen played out in countless movies and TV shows. I remember lying stomach-down on the floor of one of our houses when I was growing up eagerly reading up his stories.

I thought the Autobiography would be wonderful, but it is not. It's a bore. I will re-attempt it, as I often re-attempt books, but at the moment I consider downloading it and sogging through all that academic bullshit a major waste of my time. I have finally, at long last, found where the auto bio begins, and that was major enough an accomplishment not to have to go back to for awhile. But I will.
 

This is a blig, because it's not really a blog, and I have no idea what a blig is. It's not in my dictionary.

When I got the mess by Sam Clemmons, I also, on what I then thought was a lark, downloaded a free version of Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book, which I loved when I first read it early in my college career, and I am loving again now. Free because its copyright has long since expired.
 

I also downloaded Treasure Island, and I will report my progress with that classic here later when I start it. I also downloaded Sun Tzu's The Art of War, which I've barely cracked or scrolled. Yet.


I am also reading, one story per day, Gardner Doziois' The Year's Best Science Fiction collection of short stories. I have about two dozen tomes of previous years' volumes filling way too much of my bookshelves already, so I was eager to have it paperless and inkless in hi-def pixels. I am savoring that fine book, and loving most minutes of it.


I am also reading The Imperfections: A Novel. I think I found it on a top ten of the year list someplace. Sounded good. I thought I should read something contemporary that's not sci-fi. I'm through the first chapter, and I'm warming to it.

I just looked it up to discover who wrote it. I can't close the book and look at the cover or mess around in previous pages or just look at the binding. And I am startled by the cover, which I do not recognize. I am only now exploring this Rachman person. I like what I am listening to. I'm glad I did not research it well before dithering back and forth then finally downloading it, like most of my book-buying and all of my other book downloaing.

I suspect I will get well into it. So far, it's about a has-been journalist, with which, though I continue to publish pretty much on my own, though with great community support, I can readily identify.
 

For months unto years I dithered about buying into Audible.com's book plan. I used to enjoy checking out books from the library, but their tastes and my tastes are not coincident. They are heavy into politics and detective novels, which I have enjoyed but am not mostly bored with. I took all the ones I had back the other day, before beginning my Kindle adventure.

For several years I could not read books. Something to do with my vision. Audible books from a local store and the library pulled me through. Having Jeremy Irons read (superbly) Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita to me was exquisite, and I have enjoyed many other books as well.

But joining Audible dot com loomed expensive. I probably could afford it, I just did not want to. I wanted to read. And since Kindle allows me to make the type large enough and legible, why not.


If I could have remembered John Donne's name I probably would already have downloaded a book of his poetry, which I loved at the University of Dallas when I ended up — after six intervening ones — an English major. Now I've finally remembered his name and delved into the Kindle Store a bit, I don't know where to start. But I suspect I will.
 

I also need to track down Lawrence Ferlinghetti though I don't see much in Kindle. Many more names will recur now I've begun down this path again.


Many things that Kindle can do I have yet to explore. I began confused and dumbfounded and generally pissed. But though it's not as intuitive as a Macintosh of any size, it is growing on me, and I in it. I've even begun instructing my mother on hers of the same model as mine.

I told her which one to get. The one I was getting. I believe she reads a lot more than I do, so I know she'll get a lot out of it, once she gets into it. She, too, is used to The Macintosh Way, and having to figure diddly little stuff out is a nuisance. But we shall.

 

since January 3 2011