Talking About Books . . .


Books (in many different forms) have been around for a long time, but there may never have been a book about books quite like the one written by Keith Houston.  An article in The Dallas Daily News will convince any book lover that his/her library will be incomplete without The Book.  My copy, incidentally, is on its way.

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 What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions is a strange but fascinating book that answers questions about subjects that most people wouldn’t even think about.  What would happen if the earth suddenly stopped rotating, but the wind didn’t?  If each of us had only one “soul mate” on this planet, what are the chances that we could find him or her?  If everyone on earth pointed a laser pointer at a dark area on the moon, would that area light up?  The book’s author, Randall Munroe, was trained as a physicist, but he couldn’t control his desire to think about questions like those above, so he spends his time considering (and writing about) scientific questions mostly submitted by others.  He mixes his responses with a generous helping of interesting background information that keeps the reader from becoming bored with the often-strange questions.  NPR interviewed him and you can hear that interview here.  You can also find out more about Munroe’s obsession at his website, xkcd.  Don’t miss the What If? section.

On that website Munroe informs us that xkcd is, “not actually an acronym. It’s just a word with no phonetic pronunciation — a treasured and carefully-guarded point in the space of four-character strings.”

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 Flavorwire lists 10 Guinness Book of Records world records associated with books.  Click on the right-pointing arrow in the box just below the first paragraph to get started.

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Here’s a sentence that I want you to read carefully: Santa Claus is an old, jolly, large man.  Do the descriptive adjectives seem out of place?  Most people would say they are, simply because we have learned that the sequencing of adjectives should follow a certain rule – a rule that we couldn’t define if we had to.   In his book The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase, author Mark Forsyth (who also wrote Etymologicon) gives us the rule which you can study here.

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 Shortly before F. Scott Fitzgerald died in 1940 he completed a short story collection.  Due to the content of the stories he determined that they would have to undergo heavy editing before they could be released, so he set them aside.  Finally, the collection is about to be published.

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The Broadway musical, like jazz, is a musical art form that was developed here in the United States.  Normally a musical is described by naming its composer and lyricist – Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady and Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate are examples.  Seldom is the author of the “book” – the person who creates the story that links the musical numbers together – even mentioned.  A few years ago The Library of America set about rectifying this oversight of an essential partner in a musical’s creation by publishing the books for 16 essential Broadway musicals.  The project was the brainchild of Laurence Maslon.  Robert Gottlieb discusses the musicals in a Wall Street Journal article, and in a Slate article Maslon tells us why he chose the musicals that are included.

I hosted a public radio program which featured Broadway and movie music for many years, so I found these articles to be quite interesting.  If nothing else, I hope you will be enticed to explore this wonderful art form through revivals or the movies that were made of most of them.

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 A Book TV interview with Ron Charles of the Washington Post give us an insider’s view of the world of book reviews.

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