Sunday Links for February 12, 2012

Jeff VanderMeer lists his dozen best books of 2011. Yes, the “best” lists continue to come. You could spend all of 2012 just reading the best books of 2011! (I’m doing a lot of that myself.) The best part is that most of the books are now out in paperback, so you can snatch up a copy more inexpensively than you could when they first came out.

Jedediah Berry writes about recent mysteries of note, including those nominated for this year’s Hammett Prize.

Now here’s an award I haven’t heard of before: The Kitschies. I’m starting to think I really need to read Kameron Hurley’s novel, God's War. But hey, look at this, I already have Infidel on my shelf, and it looks like the story starts here! Ah.

In recent years, I’ve become much more conscious of who published the book I’m currently enjoying. Publishers seem to have taken on more personality even as they’ve diminished in independence, it seems to me; or it could be that I’ve just started noticing that they have personalities because of my reviewing work. I pretty much agree with Adventures Fantastic in this ranking of publishers you should be reading. In fact, Pyr, which is the first of the blog’s list, was the first publisher about which I said that I look for their imprint as an indicator of quality. Long-time readers of this blog know that I also have a fierce respect for smaller publishers like Golden Gryphon, PS Publishing and Subterranean, which all publish beautiful, collectible books. Keep an eye on who publishes what you read, and see if you don’t find you’ve got a favorite publisher or two. You might be surprised.

Sort of along those same lines is this list of the best publishers to work for. I believe this is discussing places to actually be employed by, rather than the best companies to serve as your publisher if you’re an author, though I note that the publisher of my husband’s most successful book, Cengage, is number six on the list. In one of my alternative lives, I work in the publishing industry, so this is fun to look at and dream.

Here’s something I could really get behind: bundling different version of the same book in a single sale. If I could get an ebook along with my hardcover, for instance, I wouldn’t have to worry that the latest Stephen King is going to hurt my wrists; I could have my cake and eat it too, more or less, having that pristine hardcover on the shelf while I read the Kindle edition. It would also allow my husband and me to read the book together, which would be way cool. (We’re certainly not going to buy two copies of the book for that purpose alone.)

Hardly a day goes by in the last few years when I don’t wonder where I’m going to find the time to read all these lovely books with which I’ve surround myself. John Connolly talks about unread books and growing older in a way I can surely appreciate.

Michael Cisco interviews Franz Kafka from beyond the grave at Weird Fiction Review. I guess the “weirdness” of this online journal isn’t limited to the fiction!

Marcus Geduld discusses whether Stephen King should get more credit. I’m not sure how you get “more credit” than a National Book Award. I mean, does Stephen King really care that Harold Bloom doesn’t much care for his work? If I were King, I’d be happy that literary critics like me find his work exceptional. One thing I’ve noticed about King’s writing is that he observes the minutiae of everyday life intensely, highlighting the things you do all the time but never talk about with anyone. King talks about those things. The shock of recognition of someone who really knows what it is to be human is something few authors seem to be able to convey in as straightforward a way as King can. Hmm. I’m starting to think that that book I’ve been thinking about, the critical assessment of King’s work, really could stand to get written.

If King does chafe at his lack of respect among hoity-toity literary critics, he can take comfort in the fact that The Great Gatsby has 94 one-star reviews on Amazon. And nearly 29,000 on GoodReads. How do we judge literary greatness? What are the criteria? And how do you tell who is right? In this day and age, with hot and cold running reviews (as the article puts it), literary opinion feels much more fluid than it used to.

In an excellent post appear on Charlie Stross’s blog, Catherynne Valente writes about the difference between science fiction and fantasy. She says, basically, something I’ve thought for a long time: there is no real difference. They are both Story. They are (barely) different ways of talking about what’s really important. It’s an excellent essay. And the comments are thoughtful and clear, definitely worth reading. David Brin responds on his own blog, following up at the same time on an essay he wrote last year. Thoughtful reading, all the way around.

NPR does a wonderful interview with poet Donald Hall, largely about growing old. If I feel the effects of aging now, when I’m a spry 55, how will I feel when I’m 82, as Hall is? He talks about looking at older people when he was “a young man, like 60,” and how he seems to disappear as he grows older – something women start to experience much sooner, I think, because I’m pretty much invisible right now. It’s interesting to have a poet’s insight on the question.

Bookstores should have cats. Maybe Barnes & Noble will survive longer if they start taking this dictum to heart.

Where to start?

You covered a lot of interesting topics in this week's post!

Valente sure gives a lot to think about. The difference between sci fi and fantasy has been something I've been actively thinking about lately. I tend to lean toward fantasy in terms of my genre reading but lately I've noticed that my definition of fantasy is so accommodating that many hardcore sci fi writers get included. I love Michael Swanwick. He swears he writes sci fi; I think it's all fantasy, rather fairy tales about mechanical dragons and such. I'm sure you're much the same, if what I'm reading is good, I don't honestly care too much about genre.

"How do we judge literary greatness?" There is an essay there that needs to be written.

"The critical assessment of King’s work" that is a serious undertaking!

No to the cats. My allergies aside, please; no.

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