American book prize

To all authorities of the blogosphere (i.e. anyone reading this). Mapletree7 over at Book of the Day needs your vote for the "best work of American literature published in the past 25 years".

Mapletree is not happy with the New York Times list , and notes that the judges are "old media", not bloggers, so she wants our views so she can make her own list. I was amazed to see that I have actually read the winner (Beloved). I did not like it as much as my favourite, which is listed in the comments on Mapletree’s posting (I am not going to say what it is: a cunning wheeze to encourage you to go over there and vote yourself).

Of the three runners up (they cheat, one is a series), I have read one, by John Updike (the first Rabbit book), which I really didn’t like. From the next 10, I have not read any, although I note there is one by a similar author to Updike (in my opinion), Richard Ford — after struggling through the self-pitying ego trip of the Sportswriter I promised myself that I would never make myself read another by him. Also there are several by Philip Roth — I have read Portnoy’s Complaint but that really was enough. What is it with these guys and their all-mod-cons angsty navel-gazing that is so fascinating?  These days, they can always go and rent the DVD of American Beauty, of course.

You can’t get any futher down the list without all that registering for the New York Times stuff, so I won’t bother. Probably Catch 22 is on there, and probably some Vonnegut. I hope that The World According to Garp is included, that would be my second choice (John Irving). Willam Wharton (Dad, Birdy, A Midnight Clear) would also figure. I did enjoy Bright Lights, Big City, by Jay McInerny also — but it is pretty light so may not "count".

Please go on over to Book of the Day and register the Blogger vote. Look forward to the verdict.

What’s in a blog title?

A couple of weeks ago, the Inner Minx posted a piece, "nom de blog" — read it if you haven’t, it is very funny (is milkman humour local to Britain or does it travel?). I’ve been meaning for a while to write about titles of blogs, which in some cases are the same as the blogger’s name — Skint Writer and Tribe’s Blog — but not always. So here goes.

The titles I like best are those that are both meaningful and witty (usually via a pun). A perfect example is Content Matters , Barry Graubart’s "occasional ruminations on the convergence of content and technology". So the blog discusses "things to do with technological products loosely related to publishing", but also gives a clear message: "what is important is the information". Barry’s recent posting on the future of magazines is a good example of the perspective you can expect from his blog.

Other favourite blogs in this category, which I shall call meaningful double entendre, are The Shifted Librarian, Going Underground, Books, Inq. and  Reel Fanatic. The Inner Minx herself can be counted among these: wit, self-expression, creativity and naughtiness are neatly encapsulated in her blog title.

Some blog titles just come on out with it and say what the blog is about, no messing. Ian Hocking’s This Writing Life is about him: his book writing and his life. There you go. Let’s call this the wysiwyg (what you see is what you get) category of blog title. Some other titles from among my top blogs are: Creating Passionate Users, Amy on the Web, (double plug coming up) Skint Writer, Evil Editor, Reading Middlemarch, Grumpy old Bookman.

Then there is the brand category, which I call the type of blog where the blogger’s name is also the blog title. Sometimes the person’s name is perfect for the purpose, for example deblog (Debra Hamel) or Vitriolica’s Webb’s ite (the Webb sisters, whose wonderful url is Others in this category are Keris Stainton, Niall Kennedy, John Barlow and so on. (This posting is exhausting, putting in all these links, it is almost as bad as moving house your blog.) For brand blogs, you have to know who the person is to know what their blog is about. OK if you are J. K. Rowling, but……can backfire. Steve Clackson uses a variant by calling his blog Sand Storm, the title of his novel. Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail is coming out soon as a book — but which tail is wagging which dog in his case?

Plain obscure, or do I mean random? My favourite among these (I think, blog titlers are a very inventive species!) is qwghlm, whose subtitle is "because all the other domain names were taken". others are: Chicken Yoghurt, MetaxuCafe, New Tammany College, Infoneognostic. Many of these names do have meaning once you visit or get to know the blog better, but you wouldn’t know the meaning without knowing the blog. Actually, I think I will call these cognoscenti blogs, becuase their titles have meaning to a small group of people, or maybe only one person (Petrona is Petrona becuase I wanted to call her Petronus, the alter ego from Harry Potter, but the name was taken, so I feminised it — now who would know that apart from me?).

I have got very tired of linking, so I am going to list a few more blog titles that I think really do work, but not link them because it is such a s–l–o–w process. If you want to visit the blogs, which I recommend if you haven’t seen them already, they are all linked in Petrona 2 (my bloglines subscription list) over to the left and down a bit.

Action Potential (blog of Nature Neuroscience)

Information wants to be Free (blog of library web pioneer Meredith Farkas)

Micropersuasion (Steve Rubel, needs no introduction)


Nascent (Nature Publishing Group new technology blog)

The Daily Transcript (Alex Palazzo, cell biologist — transcript, geddit?)

Retired Ramblings of Tony Hatfield

Weblog Wannabe

Bibliophile Bullpen

Crime Fiction Dossier

Language Log

Contemporary Nomad

(that’s enough blogs, ed.)

Lives of books, and humour

A few postings that have interested me, and which I haven’t had time to write about since moving Petrona and dealing with all the accumulated emails.

  • On the Big Bad Book Blog (the commaless blog), there is an article on the secret life of books, which details the process (and times) between a book being finished by the author, and actually appearing on the shelves. Here’s the bottom line:


Three months to a year—Book production, including cover design, illustration, compliance, indexing, interior page design, composition and editing

Six to ten weeks—Printing

Two to three weeks*—From printer to first destination

Two to three weeks*—From fulfillment center to wholesaler or retailer

*Includes transit time and time for receiving into recipient’s system


  • John Baker on his consistently interesting blog provides a table (from Fowler) on humour — types of humour, its motive, province, method and, crucially, audience. The sardonic is for an audience of oneself, it turns out, irony for an inner circle, satire for the self-satisfied and invective for the public. I wonder if this travels? Humour is so different even among English-speaking peoples. How often does one read or hear about an American who does not "get" a style of British humour, or vice versa? I will certainly remember in future to limit any cynical comments to the respectable, as advised by Fowler. Thank you, John.
  • Yet another addition this week to my rss reader is a new blog Inside Google Book Search — or perhaps I should write new-ish blog, as it is now 3 days old which is old in the blog world, yes? I liked this analogy, in the inaugural post: "Last year a computer programmer named Luca Mori stumbled upon ancient ruins in the town of Sorbolo, Italy. These ruins lay buried for centuries until a Google Earth satellite photo revealed mysterious rectangular shadows in the landscape — shadows that Mori, an archeology enthusiast, was able to identify as a Roman villa. The villa was there all along — but it took the right person with the right search tool to find it." The post continues the theme of serendipitous discovery: "Here you’ll find members of our team sharing thoughts, tips and the occasional announcement about Book Search. We intend for this to be a place not only for Book Search enthusiasts, but also book lovers of every stripe. We’ll be highlighting cool books we’ve found, discoveries you’ve made, big thoughts about the future of book search and more."