Saturday, August 30, 2014

And then there's this: How stories live and die in viral culture by Bill Wasik {Clare Kitt, Massey Library)

Bill Wasik takes on a wild digital journey, beginning right from the early days of the internet culture that we now experience on a daily basis. The information highway which envelops us, through twitter, facebook, email, online newspapers, blogs and more and more apps which connect us to each other in different ways, is evolving in ever new and exciting ways.

He was there in the early days of the internet and decided to try an experiment.He sent out emails to friends and acquaintances asking them to meet at a prearranged location. They would meet, outside a store or inside a mall, and do nothing. Just meet and stand silently; and then they would disperse. He was fascinated by human behaviour and looking at how humans imitate the laws of nature.
In this case he was investigating how we can be manipulated to do things together, in ever larger groups.

He called them 'Flash Mobs'.

He is a now a senior editor at Harper's magazine and writes about culture, politics and media.As the interweb becomes more and more pervasive in our lives he and others are still studying the science behind the spread of Youtube sensations and stories. He touches on memes, which are a variant on genes, but of the viral information variety, not medical.

It could be a very stuffy and hard-to-digest book. Certainly I find many writers about the internet, technology and information science go off into a realm that is beyond my technical capabilities. But he keeps it fresh, showing us through his history with the subject, and if it does get a bit bogged down in parts with techno-stuff you can always skip those bits, as I did.

Title: And then there's this: How stories live and die in viral culture.
Author: Bill Wasik
ISBN: 9780670020843
Published: 2009
Publisher: New York, Viking.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Stoner: a novel by John Williams [Suneeta, Highland Park Library]

William Stoner. A less likely hero would be hard to find. Born poor, in 1891, on a small farm in the American Midwest, he is sent to the state university to study agriculture. Instead he falls in love with English Literature and from then on lives the life of a scholar, teaching at the same institution until his death.

Good things do happen to Stoner, but they are always accompanied by disappointment. He marries into a “proper” family, but knows within a month that his marriage is a failure. He is estranged from his daughter by his unstable and highly-strung wife and while he loves his work and his students, his career is thwarted. He finds new love with a younger instructor, but this experience too ends under the threat of scandal.

By no means is this a grim novel. It is in fact, a beautifully written and deeply moving story – one that offers glimpses into the workings of the heart and an understanding of life.

Stoner was first published in 1965 and quite unexpectedly, became a best-seller, almost 50 years later. Its revival was in some ways sparked off by the popularity of its French translation. The Guardian hailed it as “the must read novel of 2013” and the New Yorker called it “the greatest American novel you’ve never heard of”. I think that the author John Williams said it best, when he described the book as being “substantially good”.  One that that stays with you long after you’ve read it.

Author: Williams, John
ISBN:    9780099561545                            
Published: 2013
Publisher: Allen Lane

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Vorrh by B Catling [Kelly, Central Library]


Sometimes you just want a big, crazy, twisted word to throw around. Especially when you have just read something that is big and crazy and twisted. 

The free online dictionary tells me that phantasmagoria means: 1a. A fantastic sequence of haphazardly associated imagery as seen in the dreams or fever. b. A constantly changing scene composed of numerous elements. 2. Fantastic imagery as represented in art

That will do nicely for The Vorrah. Big and crazy and twisted it is, also; weird, sexy (wildly), violent (extremely), haunted, maudlin, intense, upsetting, long, savage, and, maybe, a little confounding.

The Vorrh consists of numerous strands of story, the fictional dovetailed with the historic; a Cyclops discovers the world he has been hidden from, photographer Eadweard Muybridge pursues an unobtainable truth, two hunters stalk one another across an awesome landscape, French surrealist Raymond Roussel explores an imagined Africa, a women struggles to understand a strange new world and a stranger lover.

The Vorrh is not a two pages before bedtime, comfy read. It will not sooth you and pat your knee and say everything is alright. From it’s strange mesmerising cover through to the final page The Vorrh will wrestle with you and slap you around and whisper peculiar secrets in your ear. It’s all for your own good. You will emerge from The Vorrh’s pages with an altered consciousness and a more expansive view of the world.

Title: The Vorrh
Author: B Catling 
ISBN: 9780957142718 (pbk)
Publisher: Croydon : Honest
Year: 2012
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Whisper By Chris Struyk-Bonn [Hannah, East Coast Bays Library]

"Whisper" by Chris Struyk-Bonn is the story of a 16 year old girl named Whisper with a deformity; a cleft palate. She is a "reject" and lives with other "rejects" who have been ostracised by society. Whisper and the other "rejects" may live in the forest away from their blood family, but they have become their own family.

The book follows Whisper's journey when she hears that her mother, who used to visit her only once a year on her birthday, has died. From this point, Whisper's life changes and she is taken away from her family in the forest to live with her blood family. Just when Whisper thinks society will never accept her, a stranger changes her life and gives her hope.

I enjoyed this book and the way it described a world that openly rejected people with physical "deformities". Whisper was a strong character who often surprised me with her decisions. The idea that family is not about blood but about love, support, and those who can be depended on was reinforced throughout the book.

Title: Whisper
Author: Chris Struyk-Bonn
ISBN:9781459804753 and 1459804759
Published: 2014
Publisher: Victoria, British Columbia: Orca Book Publishers

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Bad machinery. [Vol. 1], The case of the team spirit [graphic novel] by John Allison [Anita, Blockhouse Bay Library]



September is comic book month, so here is a good one for you all to enjoy. . .  Bad machinery. [Vol. 1], The case of the team spirit [graphic novel] / by John Allison ; edited by James Lucas Jones & Jill Beaton ; designed by Keith Wood & Jason Storey.

This graphic novel made me laugh and want to share it with everybody. Don't get put off that this book lives in the teen area, or that it is about six adolescent kids in their first year at High School. It is well plotted, the dialogue is just spot-on and it is also superbly drawn in a simple graphic style, (the artist gets the facial expressions and body language beautifully). This is a large beautifully produced book which does justice to the full coloured panels of artwork, a real pleasure to read through.

Set in Tackleford, England, this first book follows three girls who want to help a mysterious old immigrant woman to keep her home, while three boys investigate the apparent curse on the football stadium. What I like is that you get a look at the characters in their family settings, as well as with each other. Plenty of sardonic banter and snarkiness makes me wonder how much the author hangs out around this age group of kids. The adults in this comic are also not just portrayed as a backdrop to the kids either, they have their moments too, as this bit of advice from Amy , (a hip young wife of one of their teachers) show: "Tattoos are a big decision Mildred. If you want to see what you'll look like with one when you're old . . . make your gran get it first."

This is the first book, and if you like this there is a sequel to it in the library. Check out  Bad machinery. [Vol. 2], The case of the good boy. This was originally published as a serialized webcomic, so if you are really enjoying this comic then you can check out the website here:

Title: Bad machinery. [Vol. 1], The case of the team spirit [graphic novel] 
Author: John Allison
ISBN: 9781620100844 (pbk)
Published: 2013
Publisher: Portland, Or. : Oni,
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