Books in General

Saturated: The Allure and Science of Color

26 May 2018

From The Wall Street Journal:

‘Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment,” Monet once lamented, while Georgia O’Keeffe noted, “I found I could say things with colors that I couldn’t say in any other way—things that I had no words for.” Decades later, Steve Jobs sounded a different note, saying, regarding Apple’s candy-colored iMacs, “For most consumers, color is more important than megahertz, gigabytes, and other gibberish associated with buying a typical PC.”

Such is the poetry and the power of color. Color pervades our lives, and yet we probably think little about its many facets, which also include theory, history, utility and mystery.

. . . .

All of those aspects are on view at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, in “Saturated: The Allure and Science of Color,” which explores how we perceive and use color. As visitors climb a staircase to the exhibit—which is drawn from printed materials that belong to the Smithsonian Libraries and design objects that belong to the Cooper Hewitt—they should grasp with a glance the first principle, that color is simply light in different wave lengths, via “Peony” (2014), designed by Karel Martens. As light cast by the chandelier above changes shades, so too does the appearance of this wall hanging, with colors shifting in intensity. Digitally printed, “Peony” consists of thousands of multicolored pixels, imprinted with differing designs and arranged by an algorithm to form the flower.

“Saturated” then takes visitors through “seven phases of color”—a reference to the seven hues Aristotle cited in his color spectrum in the fourth century B.C.

. . . .

Color’s mysterious properties, like iridescence, fluorescence and optical illusions, are still being explored and exploited. As Josef Albers wrote in his seminal book, “Interaction of Color” (1963)—a copy of which is on view—“In order to use color effectively it is necessary to recognize that color deceives continually.” The exhibition offers such examples as a Tiffany Peacock Vase (c. 1901) and a 19th-century Indian fabric woven with beetle wing casings for iridescence, as well as 21st-century Nike running shoes in fluorescent green.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

Indie authors are confronted by color decisions when they choose covers for their books. Most of those covers will, of course, be viewed through a computer monitor against the white background of Amazon.

Here’s a photo PG took a few weeks ago that he enjoyed for its quiet colors.

Condemn the Writer, Not the Writing

25 May 2018

From The National Review:

Recent allegations of sexist misconduct against author Junot Díaz have reignited an old debate: Should we engage the work of artists whose personal conduct or belief systems are reprehensible? At the Washington Post, Sandra Beasly has weighed in on this question; she wonders whether she should “continue to teach the work of people we now suspect of behaving unethically or abusively.” Her answer to the question is nuanced, so I won’t attempt a brief and therefore unsatisfactory summary.

My response, though, is an unequivocal yes: We should read the books of flawed writers who produce great art.

. . . .

Between artists and the art they produce should be erected a large and nearly impenetrable wall. An author’s personal misconduct should not distract us from questions of literary merit — and neither should the sorts of obscenities that appear within the books themselves. When a novelist writes, he creates a voice, the voice of a narrator who does not exist in the real world. Such a voice must be judged on its own; it must be separated from its authorial creator and be given the freedom to explore even the more monstrous aspects of the human experience.

This insight about separating author from narrator seems to have been forgotten in much of the conversation surrounding Díaz. One writer called his books “sexist and regressive,” suggesting that we should refrain from reading that which our culture has deemed verboten. Having read most of Díaz’s fiction, I can confirm that there is certainly a great amount of misogyny depicted. That does not mean that his oeuvre as such encourages sexism, any more than Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn serves as an apologia for slavery, any more than James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room endorses homophobia, or any more than Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon promotes segregation. Twain, Baldwin, and Morrison are masters of their craft, able to depict bigotry and intolerance in all their vile and irrational glory; the same is true of Díaz. We shouldn’t condemn authors for portraying the truth of life’s brutalities.

Feminist literary critic Roxanne Gay reviewed Díaz’s This Is How You Lose Her back in 2012. She got it exactly right: “The influence of [sexism] is plainly apparent throughout This Is How You Lose Her. Women are their bodies and what they can offer men. They are pulled apart for Yunior’s [the protagonist’s] sexual amusement. There’s nothing wrong with that, the fact that Yunior is a misogynist of the highest order . . . that none of the men in this book are very good to women. This is fiction and if people cannot be flawed in fiction there’s no place left for us to be human (emphasis mine).

. . . .

Dickens was a writer who cared deeply about the poor of England but was simultaneously contemptuous of the Indian victims of British imperialism. What are we to do with him? Should we read him because of his sympathy for the poor or dismiss him because of his racism? Neither, I argue; instead we should read him because he is a monumental figure in the history of British writing. And, of course, we can read him even as we keep in mind that he was a complex human, capable at the same time of making abominable moral judgments and of producing lasting works of fiction.

Link to the rest at The National Review

PG will note that he does not always agree with the content of everything he posts about on TPV.

The OP is not the first to raise the question of whether we must expose ourselves to evil in order to gain an understanding of evil. As with many questions of this type, PG believes the answer is yes and no.

In some cases, exposure can be beneficial to our understanding. Reading Mein Kampf, The Communist Manifesto and the writings of Mao Zedong underpinning Land Reform, The Great Leap Forward and The Cultural Revolution may be examples of such beneficial exposure and increases our understanding without negative side-effects.

On the other hand, direct exposure to hard-core and child pornography and snuff films may be examples of exposure that doesn’t really help to increase our understanding of these evils and may have continuing detrimental effects.


GDPR Privacy Notification

24 May 2018

This is a GDPR notification.

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Good day dear beloved 

21 May 2018

PG hasn’t received a classic scam email in a long time (not that he’s looking for more).

Good day dear beloved

It’s a pleasure meeting you today, how is everything with you, hope all is well with you my name Mrs. Mary Athorga Kumba i am a widow in my husband blessed memory by name late Dr.Jame Athorga Kumba Who was the Executive Director of Finance with my country oil company,

He was assassinated along side with two of my beloved son, Our family house was burnt down by the militants During the last crisis in my country,

I Actually in search of an honest and reliable person who will help me to relocate, for a better life, i have chosen to contact you after my prayers, My proposal to you is about transaction of US$9.5 Million (Nine Million Five hundred thousand US Dollars) which I inherited from my late husband to you country i have all the legal document about the money and the transaction is legal please get back to me for more details:

I am now Waiting for your response: E-mail:

Yours Mary

A Royal Wedding

19 May 2018

For an American, weddings of British Royalty seem like a good show.

America really has nothing like a Royal wedding. Ornate carriages drawn by perfectly matched horses. All sorts of colorful uniforms with long pedigrees, including the one the groom wears. A ceremony in one of England’s ancient magnificent churches.

PG can’t think of any sort of analog in American culture. The Rose Parade with the Ohio State University marching band and a fly-over by the Blue Angels might be visually and audibly impressive, but doesn’t have the dignified weight of ages behind it.

PG sends best wishes to all visitors from Britain and hopes the long succession of royal pageantry will continue into the future and the individuals who happen to be royalty will carry it forward with dignity and grace.

We shopped at Barnes & Noble and saw a key shortcoming that’s holding it back in its battle against Amazon

19 May 2018

From Business Insider:

Barnes & Noble is struggling to keep up with Amazon.

The bookstore giant, which has more than 630 locations in the United States, is losing steam in its competition with Amazon. And, some analysts say, its failure to adapt to changing shopping habits could be to blame.

“People may drop in for a browse but they won’t make a dedicated trip to a bookstore,” GlobalDataRetail analyst Neil Saunders told The Guardian. “They don’t have the need and they don’t have the time. The way people shop changed, and that’s been detrimental for Barnes & Noble.”

Barnes & Noble has tried to combat people’s shifting attitudes towards shopping by creating a great in-store experience, but in doing so, they seem to have become more like libraries than bookstores. People come to browse books, study, have a cup of coffee, and meet up with their friends — not necessarily to buy books.

In the past five years, Barnes & Noble has lost more than $1 billion in value. It cut 1,800 full-time jobs earlier this year.

Link to the rest at Business Insider which includes lots of photos and thanks to Dave for the tip.

The author of the OP visited the Barnes & Noble store on Union Square, a busy area in Manhattan near Greenwich Village. The author reports a lot of people in the store reading books, but few buying anything other than at the cafe.

What Exactly is a Cozy Mystery?

18 May 2018

From Publishers Weekly:

An amateur sleuth, an unsuspecting victim, a quirky supporting cast, and trail of clues and red herrings are the main ingredients of a cozy mystery. The term “cozy” was coined in the late 20th century, and in the late 1990s, when I was in high school, I was reading and loving cozies before I knew that was what they were called. I fell in love with the small town stories in which an average person, like me, could solve a crime and bring justice to a family after a murder. The cozy lesson is an average person can make a difference. It doesn’t matter if the protagonist is a knitter, a librarian, or a gardener—that person can solve a murder. The hero archetype of the average person rising to the challenge in extraordinary circumstances has been a theme in literature since ancient times. Think David and Goliath or The Hunger Games. It comes as no surprise that the theme remains popular.

The theme of the common man in extreme circumstances continues into the villain of cozy. Rarely is the culprit an evil person. Instead, he or she is a person pushed to his or her limits, a person who believes that his or her only escape from the current circumstances is to take another life. It’s a bad choice, of course. It is the wrong choice, in fact. The protagonist’s quest for justice proves how bad and wrong that choice is. A cozy—and all mystery—is an examination of what will drive a person to the brink where murder could possibly seem like a good idea.

But there is more to a cozy than the average person taking on a big challenge. In a cozy, it is not that person alone who fights the battle for justice. Many times, the protagonist is surrounded by a group of family and friends, who are cheering her on to solve the crime. Those supporting characters both help and hinder the protagonist, and it is a story about a community banding together for what is right. Cozy readers feel like they are on that team along with the main character and her friends.

And then there is the idea of fair play in a cozy. The clues and red herrings are put out there for the readers to digest and decipher as they read the story. Mystery readers are smart people: they are puzzle solvers and inquisitive, and they like their sleuths to be the same. In other subgenres of mystery and suspense, the reader might already know who the killer is from the very beginning. In a cozy, the reader has the opportunity to solve the murder right along with the main character. As such, the readers believe they can solve the crime, too. The very best cozies are the ones in which the reader thinks she has solved the crime, finds out that she is wrong at the end of the book, but feels satisfied with the just conclusion because it is a surprise, but more importantly because the plot makes sense.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG hadn’t checked on the mystery categories on Amazon lately. When he did, he discovered more than one cozy mystery listing.

Cozy Mystery

Cozy Culinary Mystery

Cozy Animal Mystery

Cozy Crafts & Hobbies Mystery

Cozy mystery readers seem to enjoy titles with a pun.


Another One Bites the Crust by H.Y. Hanna

Gone Gull by Donna Andrews

A Crime of Passion Fruit by Ellie Alexander

Yews with Caution by Kate Collins


A Room with a Brew by Joyce Tremel

A Disturbance in the Force

18 May 2018

PG will be operating on a different blogging schedule today.

Nothing bad, just a change in plans for the day.

Elmore Leonard’s Gritty Westerns

16 May 2018

From CrimeReads:

On a night in April 1957, the lean Western movie star Randolph Scott attended the Detroit premiere of his new film, The Tall T, based on a story by the bespectacled, crew-cutted young advertising man who stood beside him for a picture. Scott told the reporter from the Detroit Free Press that Elmore Leonard’s future looked promising if he could keep turning out stories “with a straight line and a small cast.” It was wisdom Leonard had already grasped, writing at his living room table each day from 5:00 am until he left for work at Detroit’s Campbell-Ewald agency, where he continued scribbling on a yellow pad hidden in his office drawer. While the top of his desk was given over to paperwork for the Chevrolet account, inside that drawer was a shimmery Apacheria of his imagination: parched southwestern landscapes thinly peopled with vaqueros or stagecoach drivers, raiding parties and cavalry units, dancehall girls and faro dealers, weary lawmen and bickering outlaws. Although Leonard would end up with “the Dickens of Detroit” on his headstone, at this point his literary focus was a long way from his own time and place.

Much of his best Western work is collected in a new Library of America volume, Elmore Leonard: Westerns (April), edited by the film critic Terrence Rafferty, who has provided a useful chronology of Leonard’s long career. The book includes half his Western novels and a strong sampling of the stories, from his first published, “Trail of the Apache,” to the famous “3:10 to Yuma” and later “The Tonto Woman.” (For a full sense of Leonard’s evolution, also seek out the 2004 book, The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard). Even if cowboy literature, with its creaking leather and ringing spurs, is not your usual thing, these novels and stories herald the crime-writer he became. Crooks are crooks; mainly the landscape changed. As Greg Sutter, editor of the Complete Western Stories, explains, it was in writing his early tales about Apaches, Cavalry, and rustlers that Leonard developed his fondness for characters who were “good, bad, and really bad.” That formula would see him through, whether in Apache Junction, a Detroit alley, or the Everglades.

. . . .

Often a mysterious woman turns up in Leonard’s Western stories who has been abducted and returned to life among the whites, or a man who was born Mexican but passes for Apache. Leonard likes outsiders, people brushed with otherness, or in the case of returned captives, double outsiders. In the novel Hombre, a recently liberated young settler woman shares the same tense stagecoach with other Anglo passengers and a Mexican-born man dressed like a Chiricahua. A white couple on the stage demand the man ride up top, and one of them can’t keep from asking the young woman about her time with the Indians, “Did they mess with you?”

What happens when captives return to their “own” people interests Leonard again and again, as in “The Tonto Woman,” where a wife lives in a cabin alone, banished by her rancher husband for the tatoo’d evidence of her Indian experience. Leonard favored Arizona and New Mexico for the region’s intersection of Apache and Mexican and Anglo cultures.

Link to the rest at CrimeReads

Tom Wolfe

15 May 2018

As many visitors to TPV already know, author Tom Wolfe has died.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Tom Wolfe, the best-selling alchemist of fiction and nonfiction who wrote “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” “The Right Stuff” and countless other novels and works of journalism, died of pneumonia in a New York hospital Monday, said his longtime agent Lynn Nesbit. He was 88 years old.

Mr. Wolfe was a creator of New Journalism, a bracing watershed in immersive reporting and visceral writing that removed the authorial distance and plunged readers into situations such as the early years of America’s space program.

In “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” he cast a scorching lens on the mores of New York City’s philanthropists during the flush years of the 1980s. A number of years later, his novel “A Man in Full” examined race relations and swashbuckling property developers in the South.

Mr. Wolfe’s scalding humor and creative language introduced into the lexicon expressions such as “Radical Chic” (when describing Leonard Bernstein mingling with activists in his Manhattan apartment) and “social x-ray” (a term for the Upper East Side hostesses whose anorexic frames masked social ambitions executed with Samson-level strength.)

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

Here are a few quotes. Some are from Wolfe himself, others are statements his characters have made in his books.

I do novels a bit backward. I look for a situation, a milieu first, and then I wait to see who walks into it.

. . . .

I went to see the Beatles last month… And I heard 20,000 girls screaming together at the Beatles… and I couldn’t hear what they were screaming, either… But you don’t have to… They’re screaming Me! Me! Me! Me!… I’m Me!… That’s the cry of the ego, and that’s the cry of this rally!… Me! Me! Me! Me!… And that’s why wars get fought… ego… because enough people want to scream Pay attention to Me… Yep, you’re playing their game.

. . . .

I didn’t know what in the hell it was all about. Sometimes he spoke cryptically, in aphorisms. I told him I had heard he didn’t intend to do any more writing. Why? I said.

“I’d rather be a lightning rod than a seismograph,” he said.

. . . .

Sherman made the terrible discovery that men make about their fathers sooner or later… that the man before him was not an aging father but a boy, a boy much like himself, a boy who grew up and had a child of his own and, as best he could, out of a sense of duty and, perhaps love, adopted a role called Being a Father so that his child would have something mythical and infinitely important: a Protector, who would keep a lid on all the chaotic and catastrophic possibilities of life.

. . . .

He sounded like Jean-François Revel, a French socialist writer who talks about one of the great unexplained phenomena of modern astronomy: namely, that the dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe.

. . . .

Everything was becoming allegorical, understood by the group mind, and especially this: “You’re either on the bus … or off the bus.”

. . . .

Las Vegas is the only town in the world whose skyline is made up neither of buildings, like New York, nor of trees, like Wilbraham, Massachusetts, but signs.

. . . .

My entire career, in fiction or nonfiction, I have reported and written about people who are not like me.

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