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Book News for Wednesday, November 21, 2007

  • Turkey Hunt: Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan hasn't even published his memoir yet — What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and What's Wrong With Washington comes out in April — but an excerpt he released reveals some titillating tidbits of scandalous skullduggery:

    The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.

    There was one problem. It was not true.

    I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President's chief of staff, and the President himself.

    News reports are flooding in that outraged citizens have taken to the streets and are rioting outside the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. As the Secret Service struggled to hustle President Bush past the rain of flaming molotov cocktails and wadded-up American flags, the FBI stopped him and placed him under arrest for openly conspiring to deceive the American public. When everyone else in the administration was led out of the White House in handcuffs, deafening cheers erupted from sea to shining sea and a new era of freedom dawned across this great land of —

    Oops. Wrong country, wrong century.

    What I meant to say is, Americans of all stripes read this story and silently nodded at their computer screens before flipping to YouTube to watch that "Chocolate Rain" kid belt one out.

  • Costa Doing Business: The Costa Book Awards finalists.

    I failed to make the list yet again. Just like Charlie Brown with Lucy holding the football...

  • House of Murmurs: An Edith Wharton letter, newly uncovered, appears to shed some light on the question of how Lily Bart meets her end in The House of Mirth.

    To wit: did she die of a drug overdose or by her own hand?

    No, it's not exactly like finding the Titanic, but in the literary world you take whatever you get and blow it up into big news. Now, who's buying drinks?

  • Kindle Dances Into the Fire: More reactions to Amazon's Kindle eBook reader.

    CNN: "The real reason I can't recommend the Kindle is the battery issue. It's quite possible that Amazon could apply some simple fix, like a software upgrade, because the battery life is much shorter than its components seem to warrant. If not, we'll have to wait for the next attempt at making a great e-book reader. Like a great white whale of the electronics world, it seems ever elusive."

    Forbes.com: "Kindle's flaws add up to a device that's as expensive as an iPhone, with far fewer uses, and a clunky design that seems aimed at the gadget illiterate."

    CNet: "[T]he Kindle is a very promising gadget that offers the potential to revolutionize how we read books and periodicals — but I just don't see myself buying one (and I read about two books a month)."

    (Additionally, CNet has a side-by-side comparison of the Kindle and the Sony Reader.)

    The New York Times: "At $400, Amazon’s Kindle seems rather expensive. The books may be cheap, but you would have to read well over 40 of them before you began to save any money. And really, who reads 40 books a year? Or even in two years?"

    The Oxford University Press blog: "The risk here isn’t just to Amazon. If Kindle fails, the ebook is over, the theory of the 'iPod model' is wrong for eBooks, and publishing must face the reality that consumers just don’t want to read immersive content on electronic screens of any sort… but let’s not rain on this glorious parade just yet. I think Kindle and the inevitable rivals it will spawn are here to stay. The ebook is dead, long live the ebook!"

    SmugBlog: "I love the device, I love the Kindle Store interface, I just wish the selection was better. I believe it’ll be a permanent resident in my laptop bag, going everywhere I go, but it looks like I’ll still be forced to lug around some dead trees."

    TechCrunch: "The Kindle is definitely a step forward in the e-book category. But don’t expect it to fly off the shelves this Christmas....You can be sure that there will be more Kindles to come, and this first attempt will soon look as quaint as the first, bulky iPod."

    Boing Boing: "Here's the biggest mystery of the Internetiverse for me today: why is it that Amazon...always makes a complete balls-up hash out of digital delivery of goods? You'd think that they'd be the smartest people around when it comes to using the Internet to sell you stuff you want, but as soon as that stuff is digital, they go from customer-driven angels to grabby, EULA-toting horrors."

    My grandfather: "Hey! This calculator don't work right! Stupid hunk of junk."

  • I'm off tomorrow (like you'd be reading this anyway!), so have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

÷ ÷ ÷

Brockman is the head writer for the daily Book News posts on the Powells.com blog. In his free time he's hard at work on his fictional memoir, which changes titles daily.

The views and commentary posted by Brockman are entirely his own, and are not representative of the whole of Powell's Books, its employees, or any sane human being.


Books mentioned in this post

  1. What Happened: Inside the Bush White... Sale Hardcover $1.00
  2. The House of Mirth (Modern Library) Used Trade Paper $5.95



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