What Has J Been Reading? [Diddy’s Birthday, 04 Nov 11]

“I’ll Be Waiting,” a short story in The Simple Art of Murder by Raymond Chandler.

A science piece at Reuters about the end of a 520-day isolation experiment intended to simulate the psychological pressures of a manned mission to Mars.  Best line in the story: “A previous 420-day experiment ended in drunken disaster in 2000, when two participants got into a fistfight and a third tried to forcibly kiss a female crew member.” Which one of these two experiments do you think would make a better story?

A story at Jacket Copy about right-wing terrorists taking their cues from a wannabe author’s online manuscript cum “field manual, technical manual, and call to arms.”

Les Edgerton‘s glowing review of Ed Lynskey’s Lake Charles : A Mystery Novel.  My favorite part:

It reminded me of what uber-agent Donald Maass once related to me as being one of the elements that all great books contained—a magical place. A physical place in the best novels where seminal events took place. We were talking about that at a workshop we were both appearing at a couple of years ago, and it dawned on me that he was exactly right. “Like the street in Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River,” I exclaimed. “The story begins there with the boy’s kidnapping and it comes up at crucial times and ends there—in the movie with the Sean Penn character, where he slumps to the curb when he realizes the monstrosity of his murder of that same boy now grown, years later.”

“Exactly,” Don said, and we were off to a discussion of similar mystical/mythical places in literature.

Well, add Lake Charles to that list.

The latest episode of Mark Reads The Hobbit, of course.

WORST READ OF THE DAY: A Guardian piece about how novels keep getting longer and longer.  I have never — just so you know I’m not exaggerating for effect, let me repeat, never — read a long piece of fiction that wasn’t, in essence, a much shorter piece of fiction begging for an editor with a spine.  An author who is asking me every third paragraph or second chapter to trudge through something that doesn’t need to be there is an author who is not worth my read-time.  If you’re rolling past 150,00 words without a glimmer of narrative climax on the horizon, you have (a) started your novel too late, (b) put in too much peripheral junk, or (c) fudged the climax of this novel a few thousand words back and you’re now well into the sequel.

[late entry, 11:13, yes I do read all of the above before noon]

Want to know what a poet and writer of fanciful fiction reads in his “down time”?  A Science News article about how Gaussian distributions (those which diminish asymptotically) fail to accurately predict the likelihood of extreme events in the economy, and how Pareto distributions (those which carry a long “tail”) are a better fit to actual long-term trends.  Coolest part of the article?  At the bottom, they show how bird-watching, warfare, Moby-Dick, and religious membership adhere to the same distribution.

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