An Article and Contest

** I feel like I should start this post with warning that some people may find the material in this post offensive, I don’t think it is but I know that some people are very sensitive about this issue. So, you’ve been warned. **

Those Germans’ are at it again, this time it’s a little more controversial than last time (I’m talking about the article I wrote about a few days ago about printing Wikipedia). This time is academics wanting to get their hands on a book that has been banned in the country so that they can publish it with notes. What I’m talking about is Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. I came across this article on CNN’s website, here is a link to the full article.

To sum it up, for those of you not keen on clicking on the link to read the whole story, a group of academics in Germany would like to get their hands on a copy of Hitler’s controversial book so they can make notes throughout and print the book German. The reason this is even an issue is because the book is banned in the country and any copy that is in existence in the country is heavily controlled. Apparently a Polish website was selling the book in German and came across some resistance, significant resistance, from the German government. The reason they want to make these notes is to deter the hate groups that are around in Germany from using the book as a justification for their views.

A couple of points came up in this article that I just didn’t know:

  1. German’s are not allowed to own a copy of the book, they are also not allowed to sell or buy it.
  2. The ban has been in effect since World War II
  3. Copyrights for the book laps in 2015, they want to publish this volume before that date.
  4. The book was given as gifts to newlyweds, and newborn children once Hitler took power.

I didn’t know these things, and was a little surprised to find some of it out, particularly the fact that there is a total ban on the book in German. The article raised some issues while I was reading. That’s the purpose of this post.

The first point I want to make is that I have never read this book but I would like to read it. I’ve seen copies here in Korea so it is accessible, but then again Korea has a chain of bars called “Hitler Bar”…I kid you not! But there are some places that will not even sell the book for example Canada’s largest book chain Indigo Chapters, they will not sell the book in their stores or online. The decision was made because they didn’t want to offend anyone. The book isn’t for everyone but I think the book holds a place in the halls of history. I would think, keep in mind I haven’t read it, that it would be the equivalent, in the world of historians (I also love history), of a minor work of the Bronte sisters or Austin or even Dickens. It’s for this reason that I want to read the book, and I want to read it even though it comes in at 700 pages.

This causes me to question what role does censorship have in something like this? We can ban something like Mein Kampf because of the writer and the content, it can cause friction amongst the general public. I can understand that we would want to curb this, but lets put this into context.

I don’t want to belittle the atrocities that were done by Hitler’s Germany, because it’s horrible and not something we should forget or talk about lightly. There were many people killed in horribly ways, and tortured just because of their race, skin colour, and sexuality. And that is horrible. [Before I make the my next comment I have to make this statement and I want it to be clear…I AM A CHRISTIAN] Take into consideration now the roll the Bible has played in the mass slaughter of non-Christians throughout history. Then think about how people are using the book to justify tormenting people because of some choices they have made. I would guess that if we were add up all those inhumane acts the number would be exponential when compared to the numbers the Nazis genocide. So, if Mein Kampf is being banned for that reason should the Bible not also be banned? I’m not suggesting that we ban the Bible just trying to put everything into context.

Secondly, I’m a little confused as to why this edition needs to be completed before the 2015 date in which the book becomes public domain in Germany. The copyright laws in Germany state, according to the CNN article, that a work becomes public domain 40 years after the death of the author. Are they thinking that the ban that is on the book would be lifted and they wouldn’t be able to have control over the book that they do now on this date? I’m just unsure why the rush to beat this date.

I also wonder why the rest of the world has such easy access to the book when the German people don’t have access to it. I’m not thinking that this is a book that should be in every household but I do think it should be available like any other book to people that want to read it. Notes, comments and the like can be copious in anything but people are still going to interpret it the way they want. I’m just confused by the whole issue I guess.

This probably isn’t very coherent but I thought I really want to put this out there for people to talk about. What do you think about the banning of books, and particular the works of Hitler? And the ever popular question of censorship, what roll should it play in the availability of literature? My thoughts on this would be people like this (see the video below) should be banned from opening their mouths ever because they don’t have anything useful to contribute to the world at large, but I think we can all learn something from Mein Kampf, if it’s just to know more about what the man was thinking and finding a greater reason for why he did the things he did.

What are your thoughts on these things?

Contest!

I’m thinking of making these types of posts a regular feature here on That’s the Book! But I don’t know what to call it. That’s where you come in. I would like to have a title for these particular features. And I’m not at a stage right now that I can be creative enough to create a title for this. I’m not sure what the prize will be yet but I’ll be giving something away, it will be book related.

I’d also like to know if a feature like this is of interest to you or not. Any information I can get on this topic would be great. If you’re interested or not all interested in my rambles on book related news I’d like to hear it. The posts will be on a news item or perhaps a post that I read on another blog. They will be items that caused to me think and hopefully cause you to think as well and create some great discussion.

Finally, I would really like to make this more of a discussion based feature. So, I would also be interested to know if you would like to rebut what I have to say or post on the same topic on your blog? I would like to have one person each time that would take the time to read what I have or not read what I have written and comment on the same article as me. I would give a link to your site at the top and bottom of my post for readers to go to your site to see what you have to say on the topic. If I don’t get any responses to this I’ll know that this isn’t a great idea. If you would like to email me, instead of posting a comment here you can do so at thatsthebook (at) gmail (dot) com.

I look forward to all your feedback on this. And I’ll be sure to let you know what the winner will receive in the near future. And obviously the will be the one that comes up with a title that I really like.

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The Canadian Book Challenge – Yukon Territory

For my seventh book in The Canadian Book Challenge I remained in the north. When I saw this book I couldn’t resist getting a copy for myself. This was a book that helped to propel me back to my childhood, a trip I would take every time the opportunity arises. Robert W. Service’s collection of poetry Best Tales of the Yukon was everything I had hoped. The only part that was lacking were the more than amazing illustrations I grew up with when I either read or had read too the infamous The Cremation of Sam McGee by Ted Harrison.

Unlike the last book of poetry I read, coincidentally for this very challenge, Unsettled I loved Service’s work. His poetry is what many people think of when they think of poetry. It’s a little longer than some poems, but not at the length that would make me call it epic. After reading one you feel compelled to move on the next.

There is nothing negative I could say about this collection of Service’s work unless you want to include my lament for the absence of Harrison’s art work. It’s hard to removed those beautiful images from my memory when I hear The Cremation of Sam McGree, along with the images the first few lines from the poem are pulled to the fore of my thoughts:

There are strange things done in the midnight sun

By the men who mail for gold;

The Arctic trails have their secret tales

That would make your blood run cold;

The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,

But the queerest they ever did see

Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge

I cremated Sam McGee.

I can already see those haunting images of the northern lights. Even as I write these words I was compelled to go back and read The Cremation of Sam McGee in its entirety. If for nothing else Best Tales of the Yukon is worth reading because of The Cremation of Sam McGee.

I must admit that I haven’t read much of Service’s work so I’m ex-static that I found this collection. I think that’s because the only Canadian poets I can recall having a significant interaction with would be Margaret Atwood *shudder* and Al Purdy. Service is definitely heads over these two. The poems have me yearning for the gold rush up in the Yukon, and I’ve had no experiences with prospecting or mining for gold let alone being around for the Yukon Gold Rush.

It’s been great reading these books from Canada, the country I long for. It’s been a while since I’ve been in Canada and reading these tend to help relieve the homesickness that well in me from time to time. There are still another six books I need to read for this challenge that is quickly drawing to an end. I guess I should push on and get these books finished. This has been a wonderful challenge thus far and I’m excited about what the other provinces and the Northwest Territories have to offer. Back to the bookshelf for some more reading.

One! Hundred! Demons! – Graphic Novels Challenge

It feels like it’s been a really long time since I wrote a review for the Graphic Novels Challenge, and now that I finished two books for this challenge on the weekend I thought I should maybe remedy that. And here it is, my forth review for the challenge. This time around I’ll be reviewing One! Hundred! Demons! by Lynda Barry. This is the only graphic novel that I’ve read or will read for this challenge that is in full colour. This is also the second graphic novel written by a woman, the first was Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Allison Bechdel. Many of the novels I selected for this challenge, interestingly enough, are biographical and this one is no exception.

Lynda Berry seems like quite the character, I don’t know her personally but I did listen to an interview of her shortly after I finished this book and she seems like someone I know. And let me tell the person she reminded me of is rather…umm…what’s the word I want to use…different?!?! But definitely someone I think I could be friends with, I think she would be a riot to hang out with. In the interview she was talking about this very book, One! Hundred! Demons! It was kind of interesting to hear a little more about the stories she told in this book. I guess I should explain One! Hundred! Demons! a little before I ramble on much more.

This graphic novel would best be described a collection of essays about Barry’s experiences, often growing up as an outsider. These essays are reminiscent of those by David Sedaris, with a slightly different type of wit. The book, from my understanding, came about while performing a painting exercise of the same title. Each chapter deals with a different demon (and no there aren’t one hundred chapters, she was selective in what she shared in this collection). There were two that particularly stick out; the first, “Head Lice and My Worst Boyfriend” in which Barry discusses her childhood discussions about lice (particularly the relationship between skin tone and lice colouring). The second, “The Aswang” which was about a mythical creature that was a dog by day (with hind legs longer than it’s fore legs) and would turn into a woman at dark that could break in two at the hip. Barry’s grandmother would often talk about the dreaded Aswang to torment her daughter (Barry’s mother).

I haven’t read anything else by Lynda Barry but this book has definitely peeked my interest. If I were to ever come across another book by her I would get it. I guess, that would mean I really enjoyed the novel. It was worth the read for the laughs that are present though-out the book. There were also some moments in the book that Barry reaches out to people from her past, even one she never met.

The pictures are done using the art of Asian painting techniques. It’s got the look of water colours, only a little brighter, in her story telling. The chapter titles are a collection various medium pulled together which force your eyes to linger a little longer. There is so much to absorb in these chapter titles, and you get some idea of they are like with the cover art. To conclude the book Barry guides the reads with a “how to” on how to use Asian-style brushwork to create your own demons.

There is one aspect of this book that irritated me to no end. I’m sure it’s not something that bothers most people but this almost prevented me from even wanting to read it. That being the constant switching from printing to cursive while Lynda Barry wrote. I’m not sure why this is done or if this done only in the book. It’s usually change for one or two words, and these words don’t seem to be for emphasis but maybe I’m missing something there.

I must say that I’m glad it didn’t stop me from reading this book. It was entertaining and worth the read.
Like most graphic novels this is a very quick read, but it seemed to have gone quicker than most. I think that is do to the wonderful story telling of Barry. Go out and find a copy of this book and devour it, maybe even create a demon or two or one hundred while you’re at it!

Weekly Geeks #1 – Greetings

Hello to all of you Weekly Geeks folks!

The idea of Weekly Geeks was concocted by Dewey over at The Hidden Side of a Leaf.  The premise is that a new topic will be posted every Saturday and those participating will discuss the topic given, or do the suggestion for the week.  It’s a great idea to get fresh and interesting ideas onto our blogs that, let’s face it, can get stale from time to time.  I know that my blog can be rather boring and I find I’m always in need of new ideas.  So, I thought why not join the meme?

This week, what a great idea for the first Weekly Geeks by the way, was to find five new sites, post a comment (who doesn’t love comments on their blog?), and then write about the sites you’ve visited.  I just finished popping in to all the bloggers participate in Weekly Geeks, and there were a lot of sites I haven’t visited yet.  But there were five that really caught my interest, and these are the five I’m going to talk about and leave a comment on their sites when I’m done this post.

  1. things mean a lot by Nymeth.  I was struck immediately upon arrival on this page by the images of fairies and what seems to be a fascination with mythology (please correct me if I’m wrong).  The posts drew me right into the review she was writing and that can be difficult to do.  I’ll be sure to visit again!
  2. SomeReads by Somer.  The simple design on this blog was invigorating and I couldn’t help but read the first post, a review of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, this is a book I haven’t picked up yet but would like to, especially after reading the Mr. Punch graphic novel he wrote.
  3. Bold. Blue. Adventure. by Kim L.  I actually don’t think this is my first visit to this site, I think I stumbled across it via another blog earlier this week.  This time around I took a little more looking at blog and think I would enjoy regular visits to the site.  I’m looking forward to future reviews by Kim L.
  4. The Armenian Odar Reads is written by a Dutch woman living in Armenia.  It didn’t take me long to select this blog as a favorite, all it took was the tag line on her blog “I am a bookeater”.  Then I read her review of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and new this would be a great place to revisit.  I also loved the book and have read three books in the series already.
  5. Books, Memes, and Musings by BookGal.  The point of interest on this site was that BookGal would comment on the “Strengths of” and “Weaknesses of” each book she reviewed.  So, if you don’t want to read a synopsis of the book you can jump right into the good and bad of it.

I’m really excited to have found these new blogs and each of them will be added to my blogroll.  This first Weekly Geeks was great and I’m looking forward to what is in store for us next week.  It’ll be great to have more visitors here and I look forward to meeting new bloggers.

Well, it’s off to leave these bloggers a comment, let them know that I enjoy their blog!

Wikipedia in Book Form?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock on a planet in an alternate universe you’ve probably heard of, in not repeatedly used, Wikipedia. The online “encyclopedia” has become as common place as Google, we just run there to find something out. The information may not be very accurate but that doesn’t seem to phase the average “webizen” (someone that spends too much time on the Internet – I include myself in this). While doing my usual trawling on the Internet I came across an article at CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) about a German publisher that is compiling a “best of” hard copy of the German Wikipedia. You can read the whole article here.

Needless to say, I found this article rather interesting. The debate about how useful Wikipedia is has been raging for quite some time now, and there doesn’t seem to be an end insight. My personal take on the debate is that Wikipedia is a great platform to begin research but is far from the last place you should look. I do usually use the site (and must admit I have an annoying tune that goes with my trip to the site). But this made me wonder if Wikipedia has a home on the bookshelves on the non-cyber world.

The publisher (Bertelsmann AG) has a team of editors working on the tome to ensure it is accurate, which is a huge difference from what happens on the web-page. This gives some validity to the book form but I think it also takes away from what Wikipedia is. A book form also takes away other obvious features found on the site, and they are mentioned in the article so I wont go into it. So, I wonder should it be publish under the Wikipedia title or should it maybe take on another title? I also wonder how many of my readers would be interested in owning a copy of an English Wikipedia in book form? I’m not sure I would say no, but I also wouldn’t be quick to say I would jump at the chance to have a copy.

There is something rather intriguing about Wikipedia in both web form and book form. It’s hard to point out what it is exactly that draws me to the site, I think it’s the idea of the world working together to form a huge database of knowledge. The German edition of the book is going to be a collection of the entries that were most searched, which adds a third, fourth, fifth, eightieth layer of interest in the book. It’s like having a time capsule of information at the fore of today’s minds…makes me want a copy more now that I think of it. It’s definitely an interesting idea and I’m sure publishers world wide are going to be keeping a record on the sales to see if this is a band wagon they should be jumping on.

Are they looking at making this a yearly publication or is just a passing fad? Is Wikipedia here to stay in many forms? Some we may have yet to encounter? Just something to think about.

Booking Through Thursday #7

Do your reading habits change in the Spring? Do you read gardening books? Even if you don’t have a garden? More light fiction than during the Winter? Less? Travel books? Light paperbacks you can stick in a knapsack?

Or do you pretty much read the same kinds of things in the Spring as you do the rest of the year?

My habits tend not to change with the turning of the seasons. Well, I guess that’s not the whole truth. If I can find a nice park bench or shade tree I will tend to sit there and do my reading outside.

I tend to go in cycles with my reading. Once I get bogged down with reading many heavy novels I’ll pick up something light when I need it. I have a tendency to crave a novel with substance and don’t typically read, what people call, light. I only go to those novels when I feel a slightly overwhelmed by the other material I’ve read. I’ve started to pick up some more non-fiction lately and I’m enjoying it but I cannot only read that (although I’ll in spurts where that’s all I want), I’ve also picked up a couple of young adult novels. I find it rather odd that I picked up these young adult novels because I skipped right past this section when I was that age and went right into the adult novels. I guess it’s just one of those things that will come in due course.

So, long story short I don’t change according to the season. I read whatever the mood strikes at the time.

Punch from Gaiman and McKean

I’m really glad that I came across The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean at What the Book? Unfortunately, it was like many graphic novels in this country (South Korea), and many other books, wrapped up in cellophane so you cannot skim the pages.  But the images on the covers were enough to compel me to scoop with one up without a second thought.  And am I ecstatic that I did.

Gaiman, the author of the Sandman graphic novels and other novels including Startdust and Good Omen with Terry Pratchett really out did himself with this tale.  Now, before I go much further I must admit that I find the story of Punch and Judy quite disturbing but I’m drawn to it, I find it utterly fascinating – I cannot get enough.  Gaiman intertwines the story of Punch with that of a *ugh* coming of age story.  I must also confess I hate coming of age stories, there is something so trite about them that makes it difficult to control my gag reflexes.  But, and let me tell you this is a huge but, Neil Gaiman has out done himself on this one.

Not only is the story of Mr. Punch’s murder spree told with all the darkest possible with but the story of the boy and the elderly characters that surround him when he is shipped off the live with his grandparents prior to the birth of his sister because of the childhood disease he has contracted is equally captivating.  Every word leads to the needs making it very difficult to put the book down.  I always was found wanting more, even at the end.

More than Gaiman’s words Dave McKean transported us to the past and the Punch and Judy tent of yore brilliantly using various mediums.  The words could be ignored, and I often found I was forgetting them while consuming this book, because of the eye candy provided by McKean.  There are so many nuances in the images that I found I dwelt on a page for much longer than I normally would reading a graphic novel.  I choice of Punch doll used for the book was perfect, he was so creepy and yet I couldn’t take my eyes off him or the other characters in the puppet show.

The various moods were present in both image and word.  As soon as the page was turned you knew you were in for a feast!  Although you wanted Gaiman’s words to propel you forward, and they did, McKean’s images forced you to pause.  These forces worked so well together that I didn’t notice they were so different until after I completed the book and began reflecting on readability of it.

To date this is the best graphic novel I have read.  I would definitely recommend it and the recommendation is even greater for any fan of Gaiman or Punch and Judy.  Run to your nearest bookshop and grab a copy.  What the Book has not disappointed yet again!  I hope their graphic novel section continues to grow and I find more gems like this one.

Listening to Books

I know there are generally two sides to the books on tape debate.  There are those people that accept the idea unconditionally and then you have the other side that have no room for people that listen to books on tape.  I’m still not sure when I fall into this debate, I’ve listened to books on tape and have even downloaded a few books to listen to on my iPod.

I’ve heard of a book group that wanted to kick an individual out of their group because they found out that she was listening to the books rather than reading them like the rest of the group.  I’m not convinced that this the best approach to the subject.  There is more to the debate than just the validity of the book on tape as an acceptable way to intake books.  I think I would take issue that is the only way a person interacted with books.

I know for myself that I wouldn’t want to only listen to books because there is something great about having that book in you hand and your eyes glide across the page, consuming the story the way it was meant to have been devoured.  But on the flip side I think the book on tape can be an art form of its own.  It’s wonderful to sit back and have someone read a book to you.  It was one thing that I loved growing up, having an adult read a story to me.  It’s also one of the many things I love to do with my nieces and nephew when I’m at home with them.

My first encounter with books on tape was when I was attending a class at the University of Manitoba and had to commute an hour both ways from Winkler.  I enjoy listening to the radio and music but after sometime I needed to change my listening habits.  So, I picked up a copy of A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway and started to listen to that.  It was great to be able to hear the book while driving, it felt like I was accomplishing two tasks at once.  After this I would often get a book or two on tape to listen to while I travelled.

One other aspect of the book on tape issue that I don’t think comes up very often is the idea that some works of literature were meant to read aloud.  Many of the books that we consider classics were written for an evening with the family.  Where one family member would read the tales to the rest of the clan.  This tradition of reading as a family has all but vanished (I don’t know of any families that do this anymore – except parents reading a bedtime story to their children prior to bed).  This would mean that we, as readers, are loosing something when we just pick up a Dickens, Austen, or Bronte and peruse the pages ourselves.  They were written to be enjoyed by an attentive listening audience.

So, I decided a few months ago that I would begin listening to some of the earlier works of literature on tape, or bringing it up more to the modern age I would listen to an MP3 on my iPod.  I downloaded a few literary works and sifted through to decide which one I would listen to first.  I chose The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, I selected this book because I had the novel sitting on my shelf for quite sometime and haven’t got to reading it yet.  I thought why not start with this one.  And I did.  Just this past week I finished listening to The Scarlet Letter.

Now there were issues on the technical side of things because the voice was computer generated and was just a collection of syllables that were prerecorded and cut and pasted together.  That made it difficult listening at times but wasn’t enough to prevent me from completing the task at hand.  I would often listen on walk to and from work and it was a nice way to spend my morning walk and helped me to get rid of many of the stresses from the day.

I’m glad I did this and I think I will listen to some more classics this way.  I’m not going to abandon the book to pursue the whole listening thing.  I just think both have their respected places and I will enjoy both for what they have to give to me.  This will not be the only way I’ll enjoy the classics because I have Pride and Prejudice sitting on my shelf calling me, and making me feel guilty for not having read anything by Jane Austen yet.  There is also something to be said about reading the classics as they are presented to us today.

I would be interested to know what the readers of That’s the Book! think of the whole book on tape debate.  And whether or not you sit down and read a book aloud with the family.  It’s something I’d like to do when I have a family of my own.

A review of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne will be appear on That’s the Book at a later date.

Flash to the Past

Here is my first post for The Pulitzer Project and the book I read, The Known World, is the first of a couple of books I’ll be reading for Bookleaves that are winners of this prestigious prize. Edward P. Jones won the Pulitzer for this novel back in 2004, I must say I haven’t been too keenly aware of these winners but for the most part I’ve at least heard of the books that have one. The Known World is a novel I haven’t heard of until Liz mentioned it for a book club selection.

After getting a hold of the book I was really cautious because of the subject matter and it’s one of those books that just looks like it’ll be a difficult ready. I mentioned in a previous post that I was expecting this to be a challenging book but once I got going on it I was surprised. I found that I really enjoyed reading the book and wanted to read more. I was a little disappointed when it came to an end because I wanted more. There were a few shocking moments in the novel as well, and I always love a book or film that jolt me every once in a while.

The first instance I was a little overcome by the book was the constant use of the word “slave” and the big “N” word. My University training really instilled in me the importance of inclusive language and to be very aware of the words that I use. So, I really have gotten used to not having words like that around me. When they were said the first couple times I was able to look past it but when they kept coming up it was difficult to just keep going. I found it a little over used at first but then the frequency of the word declined as the book progressed…or was it that I just became accustomed to the words? I must say that I understand that the vocabulary comes from the time frame of the book (mid to late 1800’s). It was because of this that I was able to continue reading the book, if it was gratuitous use of the word – just used for shock value – I wouldn’t have been able to finish the book.

I had an encounter with language issues in University when I directed A Man for All Seasons. I was approached by one the then three presidents questioning why I didn’t remove the curs words from the script (I attended Canadian Mennonite University). I explained that I understood why some of the more conservative supporters of the school would take issue with this but I feel the language wasn’t gratutious and that it is also important to hold true to the playwrights words. So, I’ve been confronted by the issue of the power words can have. There are times I can over look it (I’m not sure that’s the right phrase to use) but there are also times the language is used to add shock to the work and that I generally don’t accept.

The second point that surprised me, and this maybe even more than the first point, was the frank discussion of freed African-American’s owning slaves. I’m sure it happened but I’ve never been confronted with this fact before and all I could think was, “Why would someone that has been freed want to put another person through the same trials and tribulations they had to?” I’m not really sure how to answer that question, and I’m still taking sometime to process it.

I can easily see why some people could have difficulty enjoying, or even getting into, the novel. But I would also encourage anyone that picks up the book to really push through the first few chapters. It gives an interesting perspective to years prior to the civil war. The slave trade was a business like any other, it’s difficult to even put those words on the screen, and The Known World gives a glimps into the business like you wouldn’t have seen before. It should be a rather lively discussion tomorrow at the book club meeting.

I would be interested to hear what others have to say about this book, if you’ve read it or tried to read it. I’d also like to hear if there are any books you’ve read that gave you an awakening of some kind, made you really think or brought a point to a subject you never thought of before.