Saturday, April 17, 2010

The most stolen library books

The Scotsman says that "JACQUELINE Wilson has overtaken Harry Potter author JK Rowling as the writer whose books are most stolen from Scotland's libraries." JK Rowling only comes in at No.6, just step one ahead of Edid Blyton. A rather steep fall in just one year. A total of 129,450 books have disappeared from the shelves.

The report sys that "Thieves have instead been taking work by the likes of children's author Wilson, American thriller writer James Patterson and romance novelist Nora Roberts."


1. Jacqueline Wilson
2. SQA school books
3. James Patterson
4. Francesca Simon
5. Nora Roberts
6. JK Rowling
7. Enid Blyton
8. Julia Donaldson
9. Matt Groening
10. Jodi Picoult
11. Stephen King
12. Stephenie Meyer
13. Irvine Welsh
14. Ian Rankin
15.Roald Dahl

The Scotsman

Neuri lit crit

Or, scanning brains to determine why we like to read.

A Guardian report says: "'Neuro lit crit' is the study of how great writing affects the hard wiring inside our heads. But can we decode the artistic impulse?"

"It is the cutting edge of literary studies, a rapidly expanding field that is blending scientific processes with the study of literature and other forms of fiction. Some have dubbed it "the science of reading" and it is shaking up the one of the most esoteric and sometimes impenetrable corners of academia. Forget structuralism or even post-structuralist deconstructionism. "Neuro lit crit" is where it's at."

Or, as the colonel said to the caterpillar: "Hurrmph."

According to the story, 12 students in New England, belonging to a group called the Yale-Haskins Teagle Collegium, headed by Yale literature professor Michael Holquist will, later this year, be given a series of specially designed texts to read. They will then be loaded into a hospital MRI machine and have their brains scanned and mapped to determine their neurological responses.

But do neurological responses of the brain of people who read Marcel Proust, Henry James or Virginia Woolf differ from those who read only newspapers or Harry Potter books? Is there a Darwinian dimension to literature? Did evolution influence literature or did literature influence evolution? "It is hard to interpret fiction without an evolutionary view," says Professor Jonathan Gottschall of Washington and Jefferson College, Pennsylvania.

The Yale-Haskins Teagle Collegium certainly thinks so. Professor Richard Wise, a neuroscientist at Imperial College London says,"Reading is a very hard-wired thing in our brains. There are brain cells that respond to reading and we can study them."

The Guardian

Monday, April 05, 2010

Treasure Island -- the sequel

When I was a child one of my 'favouritest' books was Treasure Island. Perhaps it was that book more than almost any other that convinced me how enjoyable reading could be. As much as I liked Huck Finn, it was all that swashbuckling, drama, danger, hidden treasures and pirates that had my adrenalin flowing. Oh yes, and Long John Silver who is the pirate we have come to compare all other pirates with since. (Come to think of it, the Pirates of the Caribbean series were so lame in comparison -- almost like candy floss.)

News now has it that a "... sequel to the adventure story Treasure Island is being written by the former Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion." Sorry about this, but I am really not excited. Why would Andrew Motion even think of writing a sequel to a masterpiece? Maybe they are paying him a lot of money, but does he really need the bread that much, even if it is one of his favourite books and that he wants to create a tale "packed with its own adventure, excitement and pathos"?

Maybe, just maybe, there are some things that should be just left alone.

Robert Louis Stevenson originally wrote his tale of pirates for his stepson in 1883.

BBC news

Pop-up books go 3-D

A Reuters report says that the pop-up book is so passe. Excuse me? Apparently, South Korean scientists have developed 3-D technology for books that makes characters literally leap off the page. What? Is it on a screen? Does one have to view it through 3-D glasses? Goodness, what is happening to the world?

I have always loved good pop-up books. Even pop-up greeting cards. Maybe it is the engineer in me, but the sheer imagination behind some of these pop-ups boggles the mind. Are we going to lose all that for some 3-D computer simulation? I haven't felt so sad for a long time, not even at the possible demise of the physical book (which, of course, is not going to happen).

But 3-D animation is different. It will kill the art of pop-ups, just like the electronic calculator killed the slide-rule. (How many people know what a slide-rule is? What if you are told that the Empire State Building was designed entirely using one of those? Maybe, even the pyramids were designed with them.)

The repost says: "At South Korea's Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology, researchers used 3-D technology to animate two children's books of Korean folk tales, complete with writhing dragons and heroes bounding over mountains."

Frankly, one cannot understand why they bother. With the release of the iPad, even that will become passe very soon. So, let us enjoy the paper pop-ups for a while more, please.