Author Archives: Mike

Book of Today: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

RunningToday is National Running Day — so why not stay at home on your ass and read Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running?

At under-200 pages, it’s hardly the, uh, marathon of 1Q84 or The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

- Michael Moats

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Did You Hear? Be a Rainbow in Someone Else’s Cloud


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“Be a blessing to somebody.” -Maya Angelou, 1928 – 2014

- Michael Moats

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WHAT TO READ: Chipotle Cups?

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Before there were smartphones and iPads, we used to read cereal boxes while we were eating — and we loved it.

This, I assume, is the driving principle behind a bunch of new paper products at your local Chipotle, which will feature short pieces by authors including Michael Lewis, Toni Morrison and George Saunders. The idea is the spawn of Jonathan Safran Foer who “was sitting at a Chipotle one day, when he realized that he had nothing to do while noshing on his burrito. He had neglected to bring a book or magazine, and he didn’t yet own a smartphone. ‘I really just wanted to die with frustration.'”

Out of this horrible experience was born the idea for something interesting on the cups. And rather than proposing that the next edition of McSweeney’s be published as a sleeve of paper cups, Safran Foer emailed Steve Ells, Chipotle’s CEO. Read the full history here.

I wish I could say something smart-alecky about this like it’s a dumb idea, but it’s actually a really cool idea.  And this is not the first cool, quick art that Chipotle has been party to.

Go stuff your face and stuff your brain at the same time.

- Michael Moats

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WHAT TO READ: Marilynne Robinson Says Great Things

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Marilynne Robinson is one of the few voices of true wisdom around today. She recently shared some thoughts on Christian fear, modern life and more with Religion News Service. You can read the full interview at Huffington Post, but here are some highlights…

On same-sex relationships:

There has never been a period in world history where same-sex relationships were more routine and normal than in Hellenistic culture at the time of Christ. Does Jesus ever mention the issue?  …if you choose to value one or two verses in Leviticus over the enormous, passionate calls for social justice that you find right through the Old Testament, that’s primitive.”

On “religious controversies”:

I wish I could go to the Supreme Court every time I saw somebody trying to cut food stamps, or pre-K, or any of these other things. These people that are so attentive to babies that don’t exist yet, and so negligent of babies that need help. It’s part of the narrowing of the culture, so that only certain things are considered to be religious controversies. It’s a religious controversy, to me, that we would think of cutting back on help for the poor.”

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America’s Ten Favorite Books are Better Than You Expected

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Among the embarrassing surveys of how few Americans can find Ukraine on a map and/or the dismal polls of people who believe the Senate should be controlled by Republicans, this week saw the release of a cultural indicator that actually bears good news.

Tuesday, Harris Interactive published the results of a poll asking Americans which books they love most. The survey — which last ran in 2008 — revealed that The Bible, by God, was America’s favorite. No surprises there, as other studies have clearly shown that Americans largely identify as Christian. The good book maintained the #1 spot it held in 2008, while Gone With the Wind also kept its ranking, coming in again at #2. The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter collections (each counted as one book, which is not altogether sporting, if you ask me) traded positions in the #3 and #4 spots, with Potter taking higher honors this year. Other books that appeared on the 2008 list did not fare as well — which is actually the best part. A number of blockbuster novels on the previous list were replaced by a handful of American classics.

Perhaps most interesting is the way the changes from ’08 to now sync up oddly well with the typical evolution of many American readers.

In 2008 we read like eager young adolescents, just starting to take on “big” books (as in 300+ pages, ostensibly written for adults) and devouring anything that caught our interest. This explains our 2008 affinity for Stephen King’s The Stand (#5); the Dan Brown books (Da Vinci Code #6 and Angels and Demons #8); and of course, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, a hallmark of enthusiastic youngsters and Congressional staffers discovering the nascent thrill of thinking that they are thinking for themselves.

In 2014, we stepped up our game. We are now reading like older, slightly more sophisticated adolescents.  The Stand has been displaced by To Kill a Mockingbird in the #5 spot, followed by #6 Moby Dick, #7 The Catcher in the Rye, #8 Little Women, #9 The Grapes of Wrath and #10 The Great Gatsby.

This trend indicates that, in the last six years, our nation must have felt the influence of a really important English or Drama teacher, someone who helped us figure out a lot of stuff we were going through recently and who we’re never going to forget. If the trend holds, we should all be getting into experimental fiction and Annie Dillard by 2020.

Whatever the case may be, we should all just be happy that Atlas Shrugged has fallen off the list. For those of you who think that’s bad, well, the last poll was taken in 2008. You know whose fault this is: 

- Michael Moats

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A Light Breeze of Winter

TheWindsofWinter

So maybe this week was not the best week to talk smack about fantasy novels being serialized online.

Yesterday, George R.R. Martin released a chapter of the next installment in the Song of Ice and Fire series (or the Game of Thrones books, if you’re not being a jerk about it). The next book, The Winds of Winter, is due out God-knows-when, but for now, stop working and read this chapter, titled “Mercy.” Heads up: You should probably be ready for any spoilers it might contain. This is your official warning.

Finally, it looks like winter is coming — in a good way. Hopefully it won’t take too long.

For now, we’re re-posting this important message:

- Michael Moats

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Technology is Making Poetry Awesome Again

Despite what Wattpad is doing to the novel, a new program called RapPad has given everyone an excuse to read poetry.

RapPad was designed to help aspiring rappers write the hottest computer generated rhymes. Over at Mental Floss, linguist Arika Okrent recently used the “Generate Line” function to combine famous opening lines with existing rap lyrics. For example:  Continue reading

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Technology is Destroying the Novel Again

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Yesterday, the New York Times ran a piece about a storytelling app called Wattpad and the growing popularity of online, serialized novels. The lead example is a work called After that has built an audience of one million readers for its frequent installments — which are read on smart phones.

As a blog and a so-called “micro press,” we at Fiction Advocate are not automatically averse to new ways of advocating for fiction. And yet, all of us here are also notoriously over 30, and can remember when books were only read on paper. For us, 2014 is most notable as the 20th anniversary of The Western Canon (as the Times also pointed out this weekend). Thus, we tend to react to things like Wattpad with mild terror and stern disapproval.  

But rather than putting on my angry Andy Rooney eyebrows and harrumphing, I’ll just let the evidence speak for itself. Here are a few key sections from the Times story:

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