London Box # 2, What We’re Doing on the Internet, & R.E.M.’s Shiny Happy People

There’s a gap between the author and the reader, and a gap between the author and the book….The author is still there, the reader is still there, but the thing in the middle is starting to break”–Approximately what John Lanchester said on the LRB panel, “The Author in the Age of the Internet,” April 2010


The London Box # 2

The London Box # 2 arrived.

It is smaller than the first London box.

Yes, a box of books from Skoob.

Virago fans will be interested to learn that I purchased Nina Bawden’s The Birds on the Trees, Zoe Fairbairns’ Stand We at Last, Aileen La Tourette’s Cry Wolf, and Dora Russell’s The Tamarisk Tree Vol. 1 and 3 (I missed Vol. 2, or perhaps they didn’t have it).  Though I am not as mad as some of you about Viragos, I had  never seen any of these in the U.S.

And Skoob also sent me a free tote bag.

It wasn’t until I saw the bag that I realized Skoob is Books written backwards.

It was a lovely spring day, much warmer than it has been, and though it isn’t green yet, it is a relief to go outside without the wind nearly blowing you down. When I returned from a bike ride, I found the box. I was relieved that my husband didn’t lecture me about it.   Often there is a Lucy–Ricky Ricardo thing going on, where I throw my Amazon box in the dryer so he  won’t know I’ve bought books.  And usually I turn the dryer on so he won’t be suspicious–no, I made that part up.   Books mysteriously leave the house–when I’m done with them I often give them to the Planned Parenthood sale–and new books come in.  My theory is that since the books always occupy the same space, he doesn’t realize they’re new.

Lucy and Ricky Ricardo

Lucy and Ricky Ricardo

He understands that my trip to London was partly about going to bookstores. Just think:  20 years ago we didn’t have to go to London to buy books.  We were still able to go to 10 or 12 independent bookstores even in our small city.  Then it all began to change, and as  I have mentioned, the chain bookstores are the only ones left here, except for a tiny bookstore that I regard as a club for preppy women.  (I’m preppy myself, but I can never find anything I want there.)

I consider myself a friend of the book.  A very good friend of the book.  But mostly of older books.

I read widely in the canon in my teens and twenties, and then, after I started freelancing,  I read mostly contemporary fiction for 20 years.  And then I spent a decade reading scarcely any of it.  Now I’m trying to fit in at least one new book a month.

PANEL ON THE INTERNET.  I listened at the LRB site to two parts of a panel discussion held in 2010, The Author in the Age of the Internet.  The writers are very positive, very careful about what they say.  Nobody rants.  The critic James Wood likes the diary form of blogs,  Colm Toibin thinks blogs are like Jonathan Swift’s pamphlets, Mary Kay Wilmers, a former editor of the LRB, has nothing against them, and Lanchester, a critic and novelist, likes video games.

Are they being polite, or do they mean what they say?  I can’t read the British…

They talked about changes in format and text, and said chain bookstores were responsible for some of this.  Lanchester mentioned David Foster Wallace, and how his books became shorter and more accessible after the publication of Infinite Jest (1996).  Since I’ve never read anything by David Foster Wallace, I can’t chime in here.

And for me, I love the internet, I hate the internet.  Mostly I love it.  Remember when I was cyber-addicted last fall and hated Twitter so much?  Well, Twitter is by far the stupidest feature I have yet seen. (I deleted my account.)  My cyber-addiction just ended one day, and my life went back to normal, just like that.  No idea why it started or why it ended.

Anyway, let me end this with a video of R.E.M.’s rehearsal of “Shiny Happy People.”  They sing it with unsmiling faces, with a sense of irony, and, after all, isn’t that all we get of happiness?  A rehearsal?  This is much better than the official video, where they’re smiling, laughing, and not seeming like R.E.M. at all.

To Fellow Bloggers: Achilles’ Heel

You’ve written your own directions
And whistled the rules of change.”
–R.E.M., “All the Way to Reno (You’re Gonna Be a Star)”

Fortuna (goddess of fortune, luck, chance)

Fortuna (goddess of fortune, luck, chance)

All the way to Reno.

We “challenged the laws of chance.


“You’re gonna be a star”

No, we’re not!

“You’re gonna be anonymous”

I made up that line.

Your achilles heel
Is a tendenc
To dream

Love the tendenc/tendons pun.  It might be a typo, though.

I’m postmodern-ing the song.