Say, aren’t books just wondrous data strings?

May 28th, 2011 by Zirk van den Berg § 0 comments § permalink

A book is a string of words, and reading is the experience of that data stream. For centuries, we wrote and read on paper. Then, somewhere in the 1980s, we started writing on screens. But we still read on paper for a decade or two. This is now changing with ebooks. » Read the rest of this entry «

Is the clock ticking for the second-hand bookshop?

May 26th, 2011 by Zirk van den Berg § 2 comments § permalink

It’s not the demise of bookshops I fear in this age of Amazon and e-books. It’s the demise of second-hand bookshops.

Maybe it’s because I’m incurably cheap by nature – I bought way more books second hand than new. Or perhaps because one such bookshop was a comfort and beacon throughout my teens.

If this were the whole story, then logically, I guess, I’d have to have even more concern » Read the rest of this entry «

Crime writer Elmore Leonard’s best book isn’t a crime book

May 19th, 2011 by Zirk van den Berg § 0 comments § permalink

To some, Elmore Leonard is famous for writing Get Shorty. To others, he’s the cool crime writer who leaves out the parts readers usually skip. Some may even remember him for his early Westerns like Hombre. Not many will equate his name with a book that is neither Western nor crime story.

It is called » Read the rest of this entry «

Five American crime writers to read before someone bashes your head in

May 13th, 2011 by Zirk van den Berg § 1 comment § permalink

You can start with Edgar Allan Poe if you like, but for me the story of American crime writing starts with Dashiell Hammett, who laid the egg that became the hard-boiled detective. Also he has such a dashing name, was by all accounts a noble (though often drunk) man and partner to Lillian Hellman. All good things.

Despite his historical importance, Hammett doesn’t make this list, I’m afraid. We’ll start with his first great disciple instead, the man who put crime back on the streets where it belongs, » Read the rest of this entry «

Kurt Vonnegut and the tribe of 50

May 10th, 2011 by Zirk van den Berg § 0 comments § permalink

On rereading Kurt Vonnegut’s Bluebeard, I discovered that an idea I had thought of as my own for many years turned out to be one of his. My apologies.

The idea is this: In primitive tribes of 50 or so people, if you were the best dancer, storyteller, painter or whatever in the group, that would be your role. However, in the modern world, mass media make it possible for people to see paintings, stories, dances, etc. by people who aren’t just the most talented out of 50, but » Read the rest of this entry «

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