May 27, 2009

Book: The Sequel

It's amazing how a good idea can turn bad so quickly when the general idiotic public is involved. Perseus Book Group had a brilliant idea: collect suggestions for the first line of a sequel to a famous (or not-so-famous) work. So fine, maybe not up there with the cure for cancer, but a pretty good literary exercise, right?

Why is it, then, that the most moronic suggestions have been made for what otherwise should have brought out some of the most inspired first-liners in novel-writing history?

Gems such as:

... Well, fuck this! —From The Lord of the Rings: The Retirement of the King (sequel to The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien)

I mean, really? That's worth printing? What, was it based on its originality?


"Tom, darling, I think it's time we replaced that bug zapper on the dock," said Daisy as she langorously stretched out on the divan. "Someone might find that green light distracting." —From The Banal Buchanans (sequel to The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald)



HappyMeals are all alike; each unhappy meal is unhappy in its own way. —From Anna McKarenina (sequel to Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy)


These are just a few examples from the soon-to-be-published masterpiece collection (available sometime in June 2009). You can check out other submissions at the official BOOK: The Sequel website.

According to Shelf Awareness,
Submissions have come from all over the U.S., as well as England, the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, Madagascar and New Zealand.

Most popular authors:
  1. Jane Austen
  2. Charles Dickens
  3. George Orwell
  4. William Shakespeare
  5. F. Scott Fitzgerald
  6. Herman Melville
  7. Ayn Rand
  8. J.K. Rowling
  9. Franz Kafka
  10. Margaret Mitchell

Most popular works:

  1. Pride and Prejudice
  2. The Bible
  3. The Great Gatsby
  4. Moby-Dick
  5. 1984
  6. Harry Potter
  7. A Tale of Two Cities
  8. Metamorphosis
  9. Gone with the Wind
  10. Atlas Shrugged
When ranting about this to my co-worker, she was reading some of the submissions over my shoulder and was laughing over many of them. I just want to put this disclaimer in that it's possible I'm ranting preemptively, have broken my funny bone, lost my sense of humor, am too highbrow or too sensitive to appreciate the nuanced suggestions this project is collecting. It's quite possible you will find them hilarious. I guess my overall point is that I wanted to read the type of sentence that would actually make someone writing whatever sequel it is worthwhile. Instead, it's a little bit too much amateur comedy hour at the local townie bar for me.

Of course, notice I haven't offered up my own first-liner suggestion. Hypocritical? Probably. But since I'm actually writing a novel, though not a sequel to anything, I'll save my first-liners; you can read them when I'm published.

Word of the Day

Second word I've consciously added to my vocabulary - one I probably should have known a long time ago:

(Not to be confused with the obscure, one-record-producing, acoustic folk rock band from Colorado by this name; nor is it to be confused with one of the lost songs by The Monkees, also by this name. What is it with bad music and this word? I think it deserves a cooler reference/association. Sorry if I've just offended any Monkees fans.)

The word was first discovered (by me) in a Gina Barreca column in the passage:
"Propinquity is a poor basis for life-long passion. Just because you brush up against somebody in the dark a few times doesn't mean you have to vow to love them forever." Well said, Gina, well said.

Definition: 1. nearness in place, proximity (, 2. kinship (American Heritage Dictionary, 3. one of the main factors leading to interpersonal attraction (

According to wikipedia, the propinquity effect is the tendency for people to form friendships or romantic relationships with those whom they encounter often.

There's an actual term for that? I thought that was called "smart livin'". Or maybe, "how real life works for those who are not agoraphobic". Apparently "propinquity effect" is the more technical description. Mental note.

May 26, 2009

Ode to the sensual book

An article was recently published in The Guardian I thought you all would enjoy reading. It's a wonderful ode to the book and the indie bookstore. Mostly about the book, though, and how it's a complete sensory and sensual pleasure. Check it out here.

May 22, 2009

Lumberjack to lingerie

I'd like to discuss the versatile nature of the suspender.

*Disclaimer: because I'm not British, when I say suspender, I'm referring to the elasticized pieces of material that connect to the waistband of pants, criss-cross in the back, and attach again to the waistband in front. I am not speaking about a garter belt, though I suppose that might deserve its own post at some point, too.

How did such an innocuous clothing accessory as the suspender gain such a multifaceted personality?

When you consider suspenders started off as merely a way to hold up pants before the evermore practical belt was invented...

(which, apparently, wasn't until around WWI)

...made a reappearance as an accessory to the popular punk, tight jeans and white tee look...

...and now have morphed into something pseudo-sexy when worn by cute girls over a beater, some slutty shirt, or nothing at all, that's really quite a journey for the simple suspender to have made.

There's a certain appealing sexiness to them, when worn the right way. (No? Just me?) As in, non-lumberjack style, though I may have worn them in that way at least once myself, sadly only partially ironically. And, no, I don't find Larry King in suspenders sexy. Or Larry King sexy at all.

This picture is what started me on my recent suspender musings. I know, there's not even a display of skin, but it was something about the way the suspenders peek out and the hint of tie, and let's face it, this could probably be either a man or a woman, which is kind of sexy in itself.

This is all simply to say, don't forget the suspenders when you're rifling through your closet making the winter to spring to summer switch. I suspect they can add quite the punch to an otherwise seasoned outfit. And for all those considering a summer outdoor wedding, let's not forget we do live in farm country - suspenders on groomsmen, a must.

May 9, 2009

Book Review: Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
9780385342308, $23

Intriguing cover. Interesting premise. Snotty British accents. Child narrator interested in chemistry and the properties of poison. Murder over stamp collecting.

It all sounds like it would lead to a rompy, well-written, literary, murder mystery of a novel doesn't it? And it almost does, with the slight exception that (to me, my own opinion here) it's just pretentious and aware of itself enough that I kept getting pulled out of the story, had to put the book down, go away for a while, and in the end it took me about 2 months to finish! But, for all of those readers out there who enjoy a book about the English countryside, and all manner of things relating to people in the English countryside - nosy neighbors, privileged family with land but no money, boarding school chums, custard pie - this is the perfect read.

Flavia De Luce could easily be the criminal mastermind of post-World War II Britain, despite being only 11 year's old. She's fascinated by all things chemistry, but especially the chemical properties of poisons. When a red-headed midnight visitor to her father is discovered dead in the cucumber patch below her bedroom window, Falvia sets out to solve the mystery of the stranger's death - partially to prove her father's innocence (he's been charged with the murder), and partially because she's fixated on the mysterious death and wants to unearth the chemical properties that might have caused it. Despite of (or with the help of?) the Inspector in charge of the investigation, Flavia manages to make her way around the English countryside with the help of her trusty bicycle Gladys. Searching people's rooms, breaking into the library archives, investigating her father's old boarding school, no place is off-limits to the insatiable curiousity of Flavia. And wouldn't you know it - by the end, murder solved.