Promises, promises

The day after I started blogging, unknown to me, the warm and generous Jenny Davidson of the admirable blog Light Reading wrote this post:

Link: Light reading: Things I really must do before I die.

In this post, she firmly comments that she is not going to run a marathon because she does not like running.

Less than a year later, she has just run a half-marathon. Congratulations to Jenny, a most lovely, interesting, literate and erudite blogger. Jenny will always be held in the highest esteem on this blog as she was the first person ever to comment on it.

OK, as she has gently reminded me, "lipstick, anyone?"

Reverse book club, cont.

Longstanding readers of Petrona may dimly recollect that back in April I posted about Book Aid International and its reverse book club.  The slogan of this wonderful organisation  is "4 books for £5 and you never receive any of them!" Instead, your monthly subscription buys books for communities where people cannot afford to buy them — not publishers’ remainders, but current titles.

Book Aid International’s December newsletter is written by Millicent Mlanga, the community librarian for Kilifi, south-east Kenya. She writes about the new library there, started in 2002, and how children love coming to the visit, particularly enjoying the "big books" supplied by Book Aid International. She also explains how books about the sustainable management of land are helping people in families devastated by famine or AIDS to learn agricultural knowledge that their parents could not pass on to them.

So, my fellow book lovers, I urge you to support this worthy organisation, to help provide books for communities like this. You can make a regular donation, send "reverse" book tokens or buy your own books through a website that will donate part of each purchase. Please find out more about Book Aid International at the organisation’s website. Thank you.

Book bloggers rule OK

I know we are all bored with the "book reviews on blogs vs publications" argument that has been rolling round everywhere for the past few days. To my mind, the argument is a straw man probably initiated to get a few names better known and/or to sell a few papers (or more accurately these days, adverts).

But in case you have missed one particular contribution, I thought I’d note that Alan Bissett has taken apart each point made by Rachel Cooke in her poorly researched anti-blogger Observer/Guardian piece (link below). On the Guardian book blog, naturally — keeping it all in the family.

Link: Guardian Unlimited: Arts blog – books: In defence of the blogerati.

Postscript. Norman Geras has written a truly excellent analysis of the issues on his blog normblog (which unfortunately does not allow comments). He writes:

"The ‘end of civilization as we know it’ comes across as a comical theme often enough. But at least where it involves an imagined catastrophe of world-historical scope, it can possess dramatic charm. In the present case, however? A snooty fear of the imminent collapse of reviewing standards? My God, my God, now that truly is belly-laugh stuff."

A sense of humour

Peter of Detectives Beyond Borders alerts us to a discussion in the Australasian Crime Fiction forum in which Karen C asks us which crime fiction authors we find funny and why. There are some interesting selections there, including mine — but unfortunately I realise now that I’ve probably broken Forum rule 101 — "read the title of the forum", as mine involve non-Australasian authors. Sorry, guys! (But I bet you travel, Debi ;-). ) Bill James is mentioned, and I’m hoping to get some of his for Christmas. (It would be a digression to say why here, so maybe I’ll post about that another time.)

My reaction to Karen’s question is that I don’t usually like books that set out to be funny, crime fiction or no. I love it when I read something that makes me laugh "in passing", as it were: the joy of discovery is part of the pleasure of it. But books that promote themselves as "crime caper with a dash of chick lit", or whatever, are not generally to my taste.

So what does make one laugh? Rest assured, I am not going to attempt to answer that philosophical question here; rather I ask it to segue into this lovely post by Scott Adams of the Dilbert Blog on "nearly funny things". Scott writes:

"The key to finding good humor fodder is that the story must be NEARLY funny without being completely funny on its own. For example, if I see a story about some spatially challenged burglar who got his head stuck in a chimney, and a stork built a nest in his ass, that’s already completely funny. There’s nothing for me to add.

What I’m looking for is a story that makes me giggle before I even know why – the potential is there but it needs some magic humor dust to make it all that it can be."

And I think that explains very well why I am not too keen on "funny books", but love it when I uncover some slightly quirky passage that makes me burst out laughing. (Scott describes how he writes humour in the rest of that post at the Dilbert blog — well worth a read.)