james c cobb

Book Nerd: Library Chicken Weekly Scoreboard (6.20.17)

Welcome to the weekly round-up of what the BookNerd is reading and how many points I scored (or lost) in Library Chicken.  To recap, you get a point for returning a library book that you’ve read, you lose a point for returning a book unread, and while returning a book past the due date is technically legal, you do lose half a point. If you want to play along, leave your score in the comments!

Welcome to the weekly round-up of what the BookNerd is reading and how many points I scored (or lost) in Library Chicken.  To recap, you get a point for returning a library book that you’ve read, you lose a point for returning a book unread, and while returning a book past the due date is technically legal, you do lose half a point. If you want to play along, leave your score in the comments!

IT’S ELECTION DAY! Today is the runoff in the congressional election in Georgia’s 6th District. I care quite a bit about the election outcome, but no matter what happens I’m ready to celebrate two things: (1) no more political ads! (at least for a little while), and (2) I can park at my library again now that early voting is finished!


Version Control by Dexter Palmer

Palmer, author of The Dream of Perpetual Motion, is back with a novel, set in a not-so-great near-future, about a time travel machine, or as the physicists involved would put it, a ‘causality violation device.’ (Which still sounds pretty cool and/or terrifying, in my opinion.)  It’s also about relationships and family and tragedy, and how we cope with all of the above. I don’t want to spill any spoilers because it’s good and you should go read it, but I will say that a major plot point involves an accident caused by self-driving cars and user error and now I’m totally freaked out about self-driving cars so thanks a lot, Mr. Palmer.
(LC Score: +1)


Roses and Rot by Kat Howard

In this retelling of Tam Lin, two sisters, a ballerina and a writer, attend a prestigious artists’ retreat (in part to escape their abusive mother) and soon discover that All Is Not As It Seems. They have to decide exactly what they are willing to give up for their art, or for each other. (As a bonus, this reminded me that it’s time for one of my periodic re-readings of Pamela Dean’s awesome Tam Lin, set on a college campus in the 1970’s.)  
(LC Score: +1)


The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen, translated by Lola M. Rogers

Have you been thinking to yourself that you really don’t read enough Finnish novels? And that you’d especially like to read one about a mysterious writers’ group created by a world-renowned children’s author who may or may not be entirely human and who has definitely disappeared under bizarre circumstances?  OF COURSE YOU WOULD.  This novel, by an award-winning Finnish science fiction and fantasy author, has been described as Twin Peaks meets The Secret History meets the Moomins, and if you can resist that you’re made of stronger stuff than I.  My only complaint is that this appears to be the only one of Jaaskelainen’s works available in English--and Duolingo doesn’t have a Finnish option.
(LC Score: +1)


Dial H Vol. 1: Into You written by China Mieville, art by Mateus Santolouco

Lumberjanes Vol. 4: Out of Time and Lumberjanes Vol. 5: Band Together written by Noelle Stevenson and Shannon Watters, art by Brooke Allen

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 5: Like I’m the Only Squirrel in the World written by Ryan North, art by Erica Henderson

This Week in Comics: One of the great things about modern comics is the crossover of authors from the literary world to the comics world and vice versa. In Dial H, weird and wonderful fantasy author China Mieville reboots an obscure DC title about a magical phone dial that can temporarily turn the user into a random superhero—sometimes not so “super” and not so much “hero”.  The resulting book is definitely weird—perhaps not one of my favorites, but worth a read just to encounter “heroes” like Captain Lachrymose, Iron Snail, and Boy Chimney.  Plus: the Lumberjanes learn more about their camp history and rock out with mermaids, and Squirrel Girl vacations in Canada!  
(LC Score: +2, Lumberjanes borrowed from daughter)


Away Down South: A History of Southern Identity by James C. Cobb

Redefining Southern Culture: Mind and Identity in the Modern South by James C. Cobb

The Brown Decision, Jim Crow & Southern Identity by James C. Cobb

Even though I’ve lived in metro Atlanta since I was 17, I’m married to a (mostly) Southerner, and my children are all native Southerners, I’ve never felt much like a Southerner myself. What does being a Southerner even mean in the 21st century? Professor Cobb’s books and essays go a long way toward explaining what “being a Southerner” has meant over the years and how it’s changed now that the South is no longer defined only by white supremacy and opposing anything deemed “Yankee”. Away Down South (an expansion of the essays collected in Redefining Southern Culture) is a fascinating read that does a good job of walking the line between dense scholarly tome and pop-history for non-academics. The Brown Decision, a lecture published for the fiftieth anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, revisits the legacy of that decision, illuminating some of the arguments that have arisen in academia (that I was unaware of) over whether segregation would have ultimately faded away even without intervention and the possible negative effects of Brown.  (Professor Cobb is definitely in the pro-Brown camp.)
(LC Score: +3)


Death’s End by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu

Okay, so after reading The Three-Body Problem I put the second and third books in the trilogy on the hold list, but I didn’t know that the third book, Death’s End, was still a two-week no-renewals check-out and really there’s no way I could get to it in time so it’s totally not my fault.  RETURNED UNREAD.
(LC Score: -1)


Library Chicken Score for 6/20/17: 7  
Running Score: 57


On the to-read/still-reading stack for next week:

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi (I LOVED Oyeyemi’s White is for Witching and Mr. Fox)

Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner (Amy says that if I’m going to read about Southern stuff I have to read some Faulkner so <sigh> okay here I go I guess)

Farthing by Jo Walton (post-WWII alternate history from the author of Among Others)

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott (why, yes, this is relevant to my interests)

Book Nerd: Library Chicken Weekly Scoreboard (4.14.17)

Here’s your (new!) weekly round-up of what the BookNerd is reading and how many points I scored (or lost) in Library Chicken.&nbsp;

Here’s your (new!) weekly round-up of what the BookNerd is reading and how many points I scored (or lost) in Library Chicken. To recap, you get a point for returning a library book that you’ve read, you lose a point for returning a book unread, and while returning a book past the due date is technically legal, you do lose half a point. If you want to play along, leave your score in the comments!

The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft edited by Leslie Klinger

I’ve watched television and movies inspired by Lovecraft’s tales, played board games based on his works, and read countless novels and short stories set in the world he created, but I’ve read very little by the man himself, which is embarrassing given my self-proclaimed status as a hard-core bookish sf/fantasy nerd. This beautiful oversized volume collects 22 of Lovecraft’s Arkham Cycle stories, with extensive annotations by Klinger and a short biographical preface. (Spoiler: Lovecraft was super racist!) Lovecraft definitely has a specific (and repetitive) style — narrators share events almost TOO TERRIBLE TO RELATE involving INDESCRIBABLY HORRIFIC TENTACLED ENTITIES the mere mention of which MAY DRIVE YOU MAD — and may not be for everyone, but this is a great introduction to his work, definitely worth passing along to any teens or adults who may have a Cthulu t-shirt or two but have never gotten around to reading the original. (LC Score: +1)


The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

As a fan of Victorian novels, I can’t tell you how many characters I’ve watched gracefully waste away after being stricken with consumption. And there are times (especially after a not-so-successful day of homeschooling) where being an invalid on top of a mountain somewhere, breathing the crisp fresh air while a handsome young orderly adjusts my lap blanket before wheeling me to another part of the meadow, sounds pretty awesome. Except, of course, for the whole coughing up blood and dying part. Mann’s famous (and famously long) German novel, set just before the Great War, describes the kind of sanatorium I’ve always imagined myself in and the people that inhabit it more or less permanently. I enjoyed this novel, though I only understood about 80% of it, not including the almost-entirely-in-French chapter that my translation (by H.T. Lowe-Porter) didn’t bother to translate to English and which I didn’t understand t al, forcing me to spend quite a bit of time arguing with Google Translate before discovering a more recent and more friendly edition (by John E. Woods) online. (NOTE: For the past few weeks, I’ve been reading this book alternately with the Lovecraft collection and they went surprisingly well together. I have no idea what that means.) (LC Score: +1)


Mrs. Pollifax and the Second Thief by Dorothy Gilman

This 10th entry in the Mrs. Pollifax spy series — think Miss Marple, CIA agent — has, as usual, a faintly ridiculous plot (set in Sicily this time around), but makes a delightful change from tentacled monsters and German consumptives. (LC Score: +1)





The Rose-Garden Husband by Margaret Widdemer

I think I picked this up based on Amy’s recommendation — and it is indeed a charming little romance, once you get past the racism, which is still kind of charming. (At least compared to Lovecraft.) (LC Score: 0, read on Kindle)




The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell

Russell, burnt out from her high-powered London life, moves to Denmark after her husband gets a job at Lego. This is the memoir of her “Danish happiness project”, investigating the claim that Danes are the world’s happiest people and trying to figure out why. I’ve had this book on hold since I read a similar travel memoir — The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia by Michael Booth — but apparently the idea of moving to Denmark strikes a nerve with my fellow metro Atlantans, because I had to wait months for it to become available. I was reminded of the very similar (but non-Danish) The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and of the two Scandinavian memoirs I think I preferred the Booth book, but it’s still an entertaining read. It left me with NO desire to move to Denmark, however. (LC Score: +1⁄2, loses half a point because I returned it overdue)


Constance Fenimore Woolson: Portrait of a Lady Novelist by Anne Boyd Rioux

I love a literary biography, especially of a female writer, but it’s unusual for me to read one about an author I’ve never heard of or read before. Woolson is primarily known today for her close friendship with Henry James, but in her time she achieved both popular success and critical acclaim. While the reviews of the day hailed her as a permanent addition to the American literary canon, my library doesn’t even have copies of all her major works, though it carries several biographies that (no doubt) emphasize her relationship with James and her death by probable suicide in Venice, proving that fame is fleeting but gossip is forever. (LC Score: +1)


Georgia Odyssey: A Short History of the State by James C. Cobb

I grew up in Florida, so while I learned how to pronounce Ponce de Leon correctly (hint to fellow Atlantans: ‘ponts-dee-lee-on’ is not the usual way to say the name of that street downtown where the Kripsy Kreme is located), I don’t know much about Georgia history. As I’m going to be teaching a class on the history of my adopted state in the fall, I’ve started reading up and have learned that most of Georgia history can be subtitled “Don’t Be Bringin’ Any of That Yankee Nonsense Down Here.” After reading a couple of volumes heavy on cotton crop statistics and making my way through all 1,037 pages of Gone With the Wind, it was wonderful to discover this lively and surprisingly entertaining history by native Georgian and UGA professor James Cobb. At just under 200 pages, it lives up to its title’s promise, but Cobb packs a lot in there. (LC Score: +1)

Library Chicken Score for 4/14/17: 5 1⁄2


On the to-read stack for next week:

Fanny Kemble’s Civil Wars: The Story of America’s Most Unlikely Abolitionist by Catherine Clinton (for the Georgia class)

Quite a Year for Plums by Bailey White (reread for the Georgia class)

Fanny Burney: A Biography by Claire Harman (because it’s the week of Fanny, I guess?)

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie (because I’m gonna need some space opera after spending all that time in Georgia)