Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Free Reads!

First up is Machine of Death, an anthology of speculative short stories all based around the question: what if there was a machine that could accurately predict your cause of death? The resulting stories are hilarious, touching, disturbing, and not surprisingly, philosophical.

Yes, the book inspired by the above Dinosaur Comic is philosophical.

Also, you can read the entire thing for FREE right here! Looks like the internet is good for something, right?

My fav stories from the collection are "Flaming Marshmallow", "Torn Apart and Devoured by Lions", "Almond", "Not Waving But Drowning", "Prison Knife Fight", "While Trying to Save Another", and "Heat Death of the Universe". All of the titles are predicted deaths. Death by flaming marshmallow sounds like an interesting way to kick the bucket. And death by bucket kicking would just be ironic.

Here are some passages:
From "Almond", by John Chernega:
I'm a little intrigued by the idea that someone in town knows he is going to die. The rest of us are going on with our lives, worrying about paying bills or finding a good school system for the kids, but this one guy is nervously eyeing the mixed nuts aisle in the grocery store, or whatever. He's got that little insight that no one in town (except me) knows about. I'm Alfred to his Batman, except I don't know what's on his card. Just that he knows what's on his card. Unfortunately, I can't think of anyone in comics who knows that someone has a secret identity, but doesn't know what it is.

From "While Trying to Save Another", by Dalisa Chaponda:
"I don't believe in fate, God or anything. It's all random. Sure, the Death Machine can punch a hole through time and can predict the result of the randomness. That doesn't make it any less random."

From "Miscarriage", by James L. Sutter:
The city is beautiful at night. Long after the sun goes down, when the last rays have left the horizon scorched and aching, the buildings show their true shapes, silhouettes against the black with lights that twinkle orange and red. These are not the buildings, not anymore--rather, they're the buildings' ideas of themselves, the barest sketches. The burned-in after-image of a skyline put to bed.

With the fall of dusk, things simultaneously expand and contract. The streets open up, and familiar drivers can run like rabbits in warren, every turn practiced a thousand times and unimpeded by hesitant outsiders. It's a delicate dance. The people thin out, and suddenly the extra interactions--the vacant smiles and nods that mean nothing--are stripped out as well, and every meeting becomes one of significance. You see only who you want to see, and if you see someone else, it's because you wanted to see them and just didn't know it. Or they wanted to see you.

From "Heat Death of the Universe", by James Foreman:
Too much order is worse than too much chaos. We evolved in chaos. We survived chaos. Life thrives in chaos.

From "Cassandra", by T.J. Radcliffe:
"...knowledge can't be created out of nothing, and in this case the price of knowing one thing is the inability to do anything about it."

But most hilariously (if that's not a word, it is now), an organized internet campaign on October 26th managed to skyrocket Machine of Death to the #1 position on Amazon, beating out Glenn Beck's new POS. And of course Beck was furious. Har! This is what he had to say about it on his show:
And then, the #1 book - TODAY, at least - is Machine of Death. And it's a - collected stories about, you know, people who know how they're gonna die. Haowww!

So you have DEATH - I know it's called Life, but what a life it is, really! It's a culture of death! OR, 'How do we restore ourselves?'

These are the - this is the left, I think, speaking. This is the left. You want to talk about where we're headed? We're headed towards a culture of death. A culture that, um, celebrates the things that have destroyed us. Not that the Rolling Stones have destroyed us - I mean, you can't always get what you want. You know what I'm saying? Brown sugar. I have no idea what that means.

I have no idea what Gleen Beck means. I don't think anyone does. But he speaks loudly so whatever he's saying must be true, right?


I wrote it in large capital letters, so it must be true.

In other free literature news, you can read a poetry chapbook by Steve Roggenbuck entitled i am like october when i am dead for free right here.

Here are some of my fav poems:
i dont care about reading a poem

who do you think i am, robert frost?

i have never been in the woods and i hate walking

i have two sunflowers wilting on my bookshelf

thats it

thats all

the poem is done, get out

if you call me, i wont answer

i am sitting under the moon inside of a wheelbarrow

And that is all for Free Literature day here at Virtual Margin.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

No Quotes!

Not in this post anyway. Just bookish news and way too many videos.

So, author Rebecca Skloot was at my alma mater last night, giving a lecture on her book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Which is an excellent read. One of those books that you try to recommend to people, and the conversation goes like this:

"So what's it about?"
"Medical ethics and microbiology."

But being the kind of non-fiction that it is, there's nothing too quotable about it. Thus the no quotes.

Anyway, I got to go to her lecture and have my copy of the book signed. So I have my first autographed book ever! Woo! The local news channel did a story on her appearance:

And here's a video of the author when she was on the Colbert Report:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Rebecca Skloot
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionMarch to Keep Fear Alive

But being back on my old stomping grounds (I don't remember too much stomping, more like zombie-walking between classes...), I had to visit the library. Oh, library. I spent more time in you than in my dorm room. And I had to visit section PR4169...yep, that's right, the Bronte section. Where I spent my entire senior year.

And then...I awoke this morning to find this waiting for me!

Joy of joys! Another film adaptation of my favorite novel! Not that I had a problem with the last (oh my word, was it really made 14 years ago?), but I'm always open to different takes on the story. Not with Wuthering Heights, though. They always screw that one up. Don't get me started. You'll open up a can of literary nerdom that can never be closed.

March 2011, eh? Okay. I'll try my best to stay alive until then. I'll take a short hiatus on skydiving and shark wrestling.

The Bell Jar

Another book scratched off my "things I should have read in high school or college but somehow didn't" list. The Bell Jar probably wasn't the greatest thing to read after all the seriousness and suicide-talk in Richard Yates. But sometimes you get stuck in a theme and all the books you pick off the shelf seem to reflect one another. I started to pick up Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted a few days ago, but stopped myself. What is it about fall and winter that makes you want to read depressing material? Why are all the Oscar pictures shown in the dead of winter instead of the summer? You'd think we would try cheering ourselves up in bleak weather by watching/reading a bunch of fluff, and save the drama for the beach. Maybe I should read another of those zombie/classic lit mash-ups to lighten the mood.

From the The Bell Jar:

...I imagined Buddy saying, "Do you know what a poem is, Esther?"
"No, what?" I would say.

"A piece of dust."

Then just as he was smiling and starting to look proud, I would say, "So are the cadavers you cut up. So are the people you think you're curing. They're dust as dust as dust. I reckon a good poem lasts a whole lot longer than a hundred of those people put together."

And of course Buddy wouldn't have any answer to that, because what I said was true. People were made of nothing so much as dust, and I couldn't see that doctoring all that dust was a bit better than writing poems people would remember and repeat to themselves when they were unhappy or sick or couldn't sleep.

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story.

From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out.

I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

And I'm not sure why I like the passage below so much. Maybe because I could see it sitting completely by itself, without the context of the rest of the novel, and still making sense. Or maybe it's because I love the phrase "silver and full of nothing".

"I'm so glad they're going to die."

Hilda arched her cat-limbs in a yawn, buried her head in her arms on the conference table and went back to sleep. A wisp of bilious green straw perched on her brow like a tropical bird.

Bile green. They were promoting it for fall, only Hilda, as usual, was half a year ahead of time. Bile green with black, bile green with white, bile green with nile green, its kissing cousin.

Fashion blurbs, silver and full of nothing, sent up their fishy bubbles in my brain. They surfaced with a hollow pop.

I'm so glad they're going to die.