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Moving Out

March 22, 2010

As previously mentioned, this blog is moving on. The new address is iantthomas.com and that’s where this blog is moving.

The title of the new blog, Imagine Community, is bound to change quickly. At the moment, I can’t seem to break away from stealing phrases from brilliant theorists. Surely I’ll break myself of that someday.

See you at the new site.

Packing Up

March 15, 2010
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In the next few days I’ll be moving this blog to an eponymous site. It won’t be a huge change, especially at first, but I imagine bookmarks, RSS readers, and links will need to be switched. That is, if you want to keep reading this.

With the move, I’m going to change the name of this blog, give the good Dr. Bloom a break. Since I picked The Anxiety of Influence rather at random when I started this  blog, I want to put a bit more thought into this change. I’m soliciting suggestions for a change from you, if you’d be so kind as to give them.

Within the next few days, I’ll post a link to the new site and see what happens with the switchover. See you there.

Necessary Silence

March 4, 2010
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The virtue of silence is a topic I keep stumbling on in recent readings. This is primarily written to share these two quotes:

Many’s the man lost much just because he missed a perfect opportunity to say nothing.

from “Foster” by Claire Keegan

Il a manqué une occasion de se taire. (He missed an opportunity to keep his mouth shut.)

from “My Untranslatable Novel” by Vanina Marsot

The Trouble With Amazon

February 22, 2010

Admittedly, I buy almost all of my books from Amazon.com. Their low prices combined with quick shipping, great review features, and their handy Wish List make book shopping from my desk easy, fast, and–most importantly for me–reasonably affordable. Rarely, unless it’s the new DeLillo novel, will I buy a book new. For the most part, good quality used books can be purchased through Amazon’s site from other vendors that also benefit from Amazon’s ubiquity in the book market. With that, I border-line covet the Kindle (but I’m resisting for now) and am curious what the company will unveil next.

All this having been said, I feel guilty for always shopping there first. Adam Robinson, of HTMLGIANT, recently posted an article discussing the questionable practices of Amazon, especially regarding small press, independent book publishers and authors. Calling themselves “the internet literature magazine blog of the future,” HTMLGIANT is a great source for information about e-lit and independent publishers in a market that is more and more difficult for small literary outfits. It is a shame that it takes articles such as this to remind me of the effect corporate monoliths like Amazon.com (or Walmart) have on local, independent markets. C. Wess Daniels, at Gathering In Light, was discussing this around Christmas and his well written thoughts can be read here: Let’s Have an Amazon.com-Free Christmas This Year.

Robinson highlights that the deep discounts offered by Amazon are not a product of a fantastically efficient business model that cuts costs that others can’t, but instead it is taken from the authors and publishers and the loss if further exacerbated by forcing small  publishers to incur four separate shipping costs because Amazon demands that publishing houses fulfill obligations in many different warehouses for Amazon. In the end, though, most authors want to see their books on the digital shelves of Amazon’s great house of books because that’s where people (including me) look first so they are willing to put up with razor-thin margins for the exposure.

I wish I could say I will change this Amazon.com habit, but until someone starts paying me handsomely to sit and read I am forced to shop on a strict budget and Amazon is the best place to get that done. As a small contribution, though, I have begun linking to Powell’s, instead of Amazon when discussing texts on this blog. It’s not much but since I’ve never been an Amazon affiliate, nor do I have enough readers to make that even the slightest bit profitable, it’s a small change that can rest my guilty soul a bit when I consider the effect Amazon is having on the publishing market and independent bookshops that are closing left and right. Support your local bookshops however you can and, more importantly, read!

Romancing the Letter

February 5, 2010

I recently had a conversation with a friend about the romance of letter writing. He is a Eudora Welty scholar and has spent countless hours poring over archives of her correspondence in Mississippi. He remarked how her letters, even though she sent at least one a day, seemed so carefully crafted. On the contrary, he noted how we so casually toss off e-mails with little thought or planning. We both recognized the romance behind letter writing though we’re both, supposedly, digital natives.

Don DeLillo, who still writes on the manual typewriter he bought second-hand in 1975 does not much care for e-mail. Responding to the question whether he uses e-mail he said:

I do not. I think email encourages communication that wouldn’t otherwise take place. It may require a response that I may not be willing to execute.

Much has been written, no doubt, on the often too-terse use of e-mail (including this recent article from The Book Bench), but one shouldn’t too hastily write it off an emotionless communication tool. As Halford notes in the linked article, many cube-dwellers use constant net-based communication throughout their workdays to facilitate better relationships with their friends and family.

The talk of e-mail v. letter writing quickly wandered to a discussion of the digitization of literary archives. Is there a more romantic ideal than a literature scholar devoting hours to scrutinize stacks and boxes of paper to discover the one key document for her argument? It is certain that the romantic notion of archive searching is diminished by the use of digitized keyword searches, but the product of the searcher is undoubtedly be richer.

For me, the ideal of dusting through musty-sweet stacks of letters and scribbled notes is lovely, but I’ll give that up for universal availability and ease any day. The more open and free information available the better for everyone.

Today in Literature

February 3, 2010

3 February 1947: New York City based author Paul Auster was born in Newark, NJ. Auster, who is good friends with Don DeLillo, has been actively publishing fiction since the late 1980s and has contributed essays, many translations from and into French, and non-fiction writings during his career.

In one of his most frequently taught novels, City of Glass, Auster–through his character named Paul Auster–posits that Cervantes was the first to try his hand at meta-narrative with Don Quixote. But that’s for another time. City of Glass has been made into a wonderful graphic novel that is a fairly soft entry into the world of graphic novels, if one is so inclined.

Of his profession, Auster said:

Becoming a writer is not a ‘career decision’ like becoming a doctor or a policeman. You don’t choose it so much as get chosen, and once you accept the fact that you’re not fit for anything else, you have to be prepared to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days.

Happy birthday, Mr. Auster.

Thesis Progression

February 2, 2010

Here’s a snapshot of the first paragraph of my final thesis chapter in my preferred font. My thesis committee may object, but that’s only because it’s illegible.

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