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July 14, 2007


The Globe and Mail extols the virtues of literary fiction.

So it's surely no coincidence that my passion for literary fiction began, somewhere in my early teens, with the dawning realization that I was a flawed creature, no longer the golden hero of my childhood dreams. With my own heart already beating at cross-purposes, I read to have my emerging view of the world, and my shaky place in it, validated. Peers and parents seemed to take a dim view of this interest: “Always with your head in a book. You're anti-social.” Actually, I was trying to be pro-social; I was reading to feel less weird, to see my anxieties reflected in other “characters,” to enjoy that delicious “shock of recognition.” Even then, the paradox seemed clear: Reading is a solitary activity that makes me feel less alone. I wasn't escaping from life, but escaping into life, or into a sense of it that more truly echoed my own.

The Guardian's music blog examines the yearly quandary judges for the Mercury prize face (the award's shortlist is announced Tuesday).

So what - if anything - can be done to improve it, to somehow win it a place in the nation's heart? Perhaps they should ignore the charges of tokenism and go back to the days when the shortlist was eclectic: whichever way you slice it, and whoever actually won it, a list of records that includes Sir Peter Maxwell-Davis, Underworld, Black Grape, Norma Waterson and Mark "Return of the Mack" Morrison has got to be more interesting than a list of albums on which Thom Yorke's The Eraser counts as pretty much the most left-field choice.

Southern Shelter is sharing two Jason Isbell performances from last week.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette lists five "notable honky tonk romances."

The Guardian reviews Jonathan Lethem's latest novel, You Don't Love Me Yet.

Lethem is too interesting a writer for there not to be good moments here and there, and his main points are interesting and subtle: about authenticity and creative authorship, about there never being such a thing as a sole author, about how art emerges from a community of thought rather than an individual vision. But, surprisingly in a novel by an author whose work is usually so vivid, the characters here aren't believable, even within a slightly dreamlike context, and the writing has gone strangely off-key.

Stylus lists the top 10 vocal sound effects.

The Guardian's books blog wonders why authors must be tied to their ethnicity.

Minnesota Public Radio's the Current features an in-studio performance by the Redwalls.

BBC News reports that a new study finds that people are reading more today than they did in the 1970s (12 minutes a day versus 7 minutes a day, on average).

NPR's Day to Day examines the music genre (wizard rock) the Harry Potter series has spawned.

Oregon Public Broadcasting offers an in-studio performance by singer-songwriter Laura Veirs.

see also:

this week's CD releases


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