I am in debt to bookstores. It is only $100, but still... it's quite a lot when it turns out the books were overpraised by reviewers.
So I crossly read the news today instead of book reviews.
And suddenly I was reading about the National Debt, which I understood COMPLETELY after reading a couple of articles.
And then I decided to write a column about the National Debt. Because who is better qualified than someone who has spent a couple of hours reading about it online?
Then I read about something more interesting.
Do you know about Strike Debt, an Occupy Wall Street movement? It is a national movement to eradicate debt. Recently the group spent $500 to buy $14,000 worth of distressed debts and pardon the debtors.
On Nov. 15, Strike Debt will hold a telethon, Rolling Jubilee, to raise $50,000 to buy and forgive $1 million of debt.
David Rees, one of the organizers, explains at his blog, How to Sharpen Pencils:
As a test run, we spent $500, which bought $14,000 of distressed debt. We then ERASED THAT DEBT. (If you’re a debt broker, once you own someone’s debt you can do whatever you want with it — traditionally, you hound debtors to their grave trying to collect. We’re playing a different game. A MORE AWESOME GAME.)Very interesting.
Since I am giving up reading book reviews in favor of news, you wonder: WHAT IF A CRITIC CATCHES ME AT MY WEBSITE?
And will I be bored reading news?
THE HALFWAY POINT
I try, as you know, to finish a couple of new books a month, but sometimes I surrender.
John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar is a post-modern award-winning science fiction classic, published in 1968, and the future eerily resembles 2012. The structure is fascinating, broken up into disjointed sections, with titles like "context (0), context (1), and "the happening world." The chapters consist of disconnected ads and background, with bits of a narrative about a corporate vp's discovery that something stinks at his company, his roommate's guilt that he was recruited as a spy as a graduate student, and quite a lot about the unmined riches in an obscure country in Africa.
I'm on a break from it, but it has more to say than some literary fiction.
Ann Patchett's State of Wonder. It's Joseph Conrad for Girls, a fast-paced novel about the mysterious death of a researcher in the Amazon jungle, a scientist from Minnesota inexplicably sent to investigate, and doctors in the jungle studying women in a remote tribe who are still fertile at 70. Oh, God!
It's fun to read, but...ridiculous. I gave it up at the halfway point.
Lynne Sharon Schwartz's Two Part Invention. It's a story of plagiarism, music-style. Based on the story of Joyce Hatto and her husband William Barrington-Coupe, a recording engineer who snitched musical phrases from other artists and synced them into his wife's recordings, the novel is a sympathetic take on the couple's strange enterprise, with names and details changed, and their emotional life explored. The characters don't quite come to life for me, the writing is flat, and I invested enough time...well, you've heard it before. I have very much enjoyed many of Schwartz's other books.
Stay tuned for a occasional column on "the fiscal cliff," and much more on books.