Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Links & Reviews

Since I didn't get this posted on Sunday:

- Columbia University has joined the Google Books Project, and will allow the search giant to scan selected out-of-copyright books from its collections. "Among the hundreds of collections that are being considered for digitization are areas in which Columbia has particularly strong holdings, for instance architecture from the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library; political science, sociology, and environmental science from the Lehman Social Sciences Library; Area Studies collections of history and literature materials from Eastern Europe, Central and South Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin and South America; or East Asian languages and history from the C. V. Starr East Asian Library." (h/t RBN)

- Homer Noble Farm in Ripton, VT, a house once occupied by Robert Frost and now owned by Middlebury College, was vandalized last Friday during what police are calling an "underage drinking party." "The intruders broke a window to get into the two-story wood frame building - a furnished residence open in the summer - before destroying tables and chairs, pictures, windows, light fixtures and dishes. Wicker furniture and dressers were smashed and thrown into a fireplace and burned, apparently to provide heat in the unheated building. ... The vandals vomited in the living room and discharged two fire extinguishers inside the building." No arrests have been made, but police say "they've tracked down some partygoers." Track them down, arrest them and throw the book at them, I say. (h/t Joyce)

- Michael at Book Patrol takes a year-end look at the three major book-networking sites, noting that Goodreads recently got a cash infusion of around $750,000 from some Internet gurus and wondering whether Shelfari can recover from their ill-advised spamming and astroturfing campaigns. He has some predictions for 2008, as well. I have been and will continue to be a LibraryThing fan so I can't pretend to be an objective observer of the debate.

- Richard Cox reviews and critiques Mark Y. Herring’s Fool’s Gold: Why the Internet Is No Substitute for a Library and Lucien X. Polastron's Books on Fire: The Destruction of Libraries Throughout History. He makes good points about each, and I recommend this post highly.

- Scott Brown notes the top ten auctions of printed items for 2007; the top 50 will appear in the March/April issue of FB&C. This year's top sale was of course that of the Magna Carta ($21 million); the second-place finisher was J.K. Rowling's Tales of Beedle the Bard ($4 million). Seven of the top ten made more than $1 million.

- Nick Basbanes' new book, Editions & Impressions (a collection of his essays) is now available in deluxe, numbered and trade editions from FB&C. You can also get the trade edition from Amazon.

- Salt Lake Underground profiles bookseller Ken Sanders, headlining it as "Ken Sanders: Pimp of the Printed Word" (and yes, the article does feature a photo of Ken in, er, pimp garb). It's a good article, and Ken's one of the nicest guys in the business (except when he's dealing with book thieves, and then all bets are off). (h/t Book Patrol)

- Garry Wills has an essay in the latest NYRB, "Romney and JFK: The Difference." He notes that the problems Kennedy faced down were political, while those Romney faces are theological. "Kennedy had to convince people that he would not let the Vatican push him around. Romney has let evangelicals know that he would let them push him around." More: "The Constitution never mentions God, but Romney has tried to sneak Him in when making this historically indefensible claim: 'Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.... Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.' He thus failed to state a fundamental democratic premise: that religious freedom should by definition include the freedom not to believe in a religion. ... Has Romney been able to 'do a Kennedy,' as his speech was billed in the press? Far from it. Kennedy was on the side of the future. He defied the Vatican's ban on American-style democracy, which was rescinded in the Second Vatican Council, convened after his election. Romney - looking to the past, and specifically to the current Bush administration's position - kowtowed to the religious right. Saying that he opposes religious tests, he passed that one." Pretty much what I said about Romney's recent religion speech, actually.

- On NPR, Maud Newton spoke recently about the books she thinks were most overlooked in 2007.


- In the Boston Globe, Michael Astor reviews Michael Pollan's newest offering, In Defense of Food. Pollan also spoke about the new book on NPR recently. He told them the entire book - which has been described as a sort of eating advice manual - can be summed up in seven words: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

- In the NYTimes, Jeremy McCarter reviews the two recent books on Arthur Conan Doyle: Andrew Lycett's The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes and the letter collection edited by Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower and Charles Foley. Of the latter, McCarter writes "Marketing concerns presumably steered them away from a fitter if less salable title - like, say, A Massive Document Dump for the Conan Doyle Completist."

- Also in the NYTimes, Lorraine Adams reviews Arturo Perez-Reverte's latest novel to be released on this side of the pond, The Painter of Battles. She did not enjoy it.