News Blog and Discussion - March 27th, 2011
Atlas Shrugged Part 1 premieres in movie theaters on April 15th.
Strike with John Galt!
- Will you call in in sick?
- Will you take a vacation day?
- Will you “work from home”?
- Or will you simply disappear?
If you really need to, block out the time in Outlook so you don’t get in trouble.
Join the strikers, do not go to work, and see the movie on the first day.
The movie is getting great preview buzz and critical praise. The trailers and production stills look terrific, and the big visual effects look cool.
If you are in the East Bay Area of San Francisco CA, MindPosts will be at the Cinemark Walnut Creek 14 on Friday April 15th.
Mention MindPosts.com to receive a gold (chocolate) coin.
News Blog and Discussion - March 25th, 2011
Set TiVO, gather the kids, and turn off the phone, Shark Tank is BACK! Shark Tank is a reality TV show that pushes hopeful inventors and entrepreneurs up into the deep end to convince a panel of venture capitalist business tycoons to invest in them. The new season starts Friday night, Mar 25th, on ABC TV. The American version is produced by Survivor’s Mark Burnett, based on a the UK BBC version called Dragon’s Den.
Shark Tank consists of real pitches to real investors, with real money at stake. The format of each segment is tidy: a pitch, a negotiation, and a result. Don’t let the “reality” genre put you off; is more of a game show like Survivor or The Apprentice (both Burnett shows), than trashy reality fare like Housewives and Jersey Shore. The result is smart, compelling, and fun for all.
Shark Tank is one of my favorite family shows to watch with the kids. Every scene reinforces that money must be earned, appreciated, and invested wisely. The Sharks do not invest based on need, greed, or pity. The tycoons are there to grow wealth for all parties. The kids will learn to calculate the value an entrepreneur puts on her company by figuring the investment amount and the percentage to factor the whole. Is the pitch for an idea, a product, a business, or the person’s passionate personality? And then the negotiations begin, with the Sharks sniffing and nibbling before taking a bite OR swimming away.
A great new edition to the lineup of Sharks this season is Mark Cuban, who joins the panel for a three episode stint. Cuban is a billionaire who made his fortune as a founder of Broadcast.com, which he sold to Yahoo for $6billion in 1999 at the height of the dotcom boom. He is the owner of the NBA Dallas Mavericks, and has invested in several media and entertainment companies. Mark Cuban is also a well known fan of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.
“The Fountainhead was incredibly motivating to me. It encouraged me to think as an individual, take risks to reach my goals, and responsibility for my successes and failures. I loved it”, – Mark Cuban of his favorite book.
Be sure to watch Shark Tank. It is the closest thing for kids to an MBA education.
News Blog and Discussion - March 23rd, 2011
The human ability for hope and accomplishment is boundless. These heroic traits are exemplified by strong, confident, able literary characters from Ayn Rand’s novels: Dagny Taggart, John Galt, Hank Rearden, Kira Argounova, and Howard Roark. Heroes do not pray for a solution, or wish for success, or wait for Fortune. Heroes make their Fortunes with their intelligence, confidence, and sense of life.
Now, the RAND-O-Matic is a web widget that generates quotes and affirmations inspired by Randian heroes that champion objectivist virtues of Reason, Purpose, and Self-esteem. Not everyone can build a solar rocket with a spoon, but you know who definitely can NOT? Nihilists, Socialists, Dictators, Altruists, Second-handers, and other Moochers! The RAND-O-Matic is an inspiration for all!
The Rand-o-Matic is an automatic random quote generator that produces sentences that are sometimes silly, inspiring, or controversial, but always thought provoking. Please repost/tweet the quotes, use the widget in your blog pages, and give us LIKE on Facebook.
You can get the script for the RAND-O-Matic HERE: http://labs.18int.com/randomatic/
The concept was conceived by Rick Marazzani of MindPosts as a way to motivate readers to consider the heights of possibility, and to goof a bit on Randian caricatures. It was implemented by Internet veteran (plus friend and MindPosts subscriber) Leon Atkinson, of Eighteen Intelligence. Old school DnD grognards will recognize the underlying meaning in the name of Leon’s consulting company, 18 INT. Contact Leon to consult and develop the architecture and engineering of your internet applications to achieve CRITICAL SUCCESS. (get it?)
News Blog and Discussion - March 7th, 2011
Is the penalty for jay-walking getting your @$$ kicked by a team of cops? It was in Ohio for Shad “TheBeast” Gaspard, former WWE Superstar. TMZ was there and caught the incident on tape, along with eye witnesses aghast at the Columbus PD response to an innocent, victimless crime.
One side effect of a big, corrupt octopus of a State is that every citizen is guilty of violating some laws at any time. This gives corrupt government workers the opportunity to punish anyone at will. In Shad Gaspard’s case, he was guilty of being big and black at the wrong time in the wrong place.
Check out the vid here: The exclusive TMZ footage of Shad Gaspard’s arrest
The fundamental issue here is that any relationship enforced by violence is unhealthy, be it government/citizen, parent child, or spouse/spouse. This is a big topic over at FreeDomainRadio.com. Shad found out the hard way that the Government can assert itself directly to us through violence when we least expect it.
So what victimless crimes are you perpetrating as you read this? When will a corrupt government official kick down your door and beat you, jail you (or worse!)? Do you possess a downloaded copy of a song? Left your Xmas lights up after Jan14th? Used your foot to flush a public toilet? Played dominoes on a Sunday in Alabama? You are a criminal and the punishment may be death for resisting the authorities persecuting and prosecuting you. Here is a list of silly laws from LawGuru.com
Proponents of Big Government like to tell civil libertarians how absurd they are for claiming that minor infractions can lead to severe, disproportionate penalties. Well Shad Gaspard bot beat down for jay walking. If there was not a crowd and a camera, how much worse would it have been?
News Blog and Discussion - March 6th, 2011
As our world expands, so do the visions of philosophers, poets and painters. Man’s sense of adventure and discovery, of place and purpose, ascends to the highest Romantic heights when science leads the way to the future.
This month, a NASA scientist Dr. Richard B. Hoover published a report on his discovery of fossil evidence of micro-organisms in space asteroids. Dr. Hoover is an astrobiologist at the Marshal Space Flight Center and published the article in the Journal of Cosmology. This is an interesting story for the science pages, but will have larger ramifications on art, literature and culture as our attention is expanded to the possibilities beyond our sphere.
Both the Romantic arts and the Sciences are very humanistic, secular, even atheistic. They both revolve around Man as a Hero, understanding his role in the world and taking actions with purpose. The discovery of life beyond our planet supports the view that man is at once part of nature, and apart from it. And is able to discover, understand, explore, and even to conquer wilderness, planets, and deep space.
On March 13th, 1781, William Herschel announced his discovery of a new planet, which came to be called Uranus. (side note, Herschel originally named the planet Georgium Sidus after King George). Herschel spent his life scanning the heavens for new bodies and signs of life. He was passionate about the notion of life on the Moon, and in the new worlds he discovered. William Herschel was pretty incredible as a man of science, but also for his artistic talent. He was an accomplished musician and poet. Romantic poets of his day were inspired by his discoveries.
Herschel’s discovery of a new planet rocked philosophy, art, religion, as well as science. For over 1000 years, there were only 6 planets. The systems of the world were based on this fact, and the 7th planet transformed man’s world from the ancient rigid firmament into an endless expanse populated with other worlds. Dr. Hoover’s recent announcement can have the same impact on our 21st Century worldview.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote in April 1805: In looking at objects of Nature while I am thinking, as at yonder moon dim-glimmering through the dewy window-pane, I seem rather to be seeking, as it were asking for, a symbolical language for something within me that already and for ever exists, than observing anything new. This quote is from the website Romantic Natural History which is “a website designed to survey relationships between literary works and natural history in the century before Charles Darwin”
The theme of Science and Romantic artists is central to Richard Holmes’ terrific non-fiction book Age of Wonder. Holmes weaves together history and biography of both scientists (Herschel, Davy, Banks) and of Romantic poets (Erasmus Darwin, Coleridge, Shelly). I picked this book up in an airport thinking it was just another light survey of science history. One page in and I knew it was bigger and richer than that. It is the best book I have read in a long time and has shaped my view of the interaction of art and science. Read this book. Share it with your high school age students.
On my recent trip to London and to the Natural History Museum, I called the edifices of Albertopolis “Cathedrals of Enlightenment“. There is an elegant beauty in science and arts looking to each other to help create vocabulary and metaphors for the new things each creates and discovers. I now want to return to Albertopolis to once again see the arts and sciences side by side and take them in together in a new context.
“Reality provides us with facts so romantic that imagination itself could add nothing to them.” -Jules Verne
News Blog and Discussion - February 2nd, 2011
As revolutions spread across Northern Africa and the Middle East, what songs will best foment freedom? What songs would you play if you were a rebel Pirate Radio DJ? Or if you where handing out thousands of cheap MP3 players to the crowds? (which brings up an interesting debate. Is pirate radio dead in the era of cheap USB sticks packed with songs to copy and share?)
Revolution, now and then, is a good thing, especially when dictators are deposed and freedom sweeps in. But in the recent uprisings seem to be fueled by religious fanaticism and socialist ideals. Hopefully, with the chips in the air, there is the chance that liberty will prevail.
Great philosophers from Aristotle to Jay-Z have known that music can motivate, inspire and drive emotions. Plato said it more directly: “All musical innovation is full of dangers to the whole city” (…) “one may not change the musical modes without changing, at the same time, the fundamental laws of State”” (Plato, Republic, Book III).
So what is your Revolution Radio playlist? Of course there will be lots of rock, rap, and punk. Rock and Roll creates an itch for freedom. Some tunes will overtly reference revolution, some will instill an insatiable desire for it, and others will simply be so aggro that the listener gets amped up to fight for liberty. Am I ethnocentric? Yes, because Western music is the international language! There are Western rock, pop, and top 40 stations on every continent, and in remote places like Belarus, Dubai, Serbia, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, and Lebanon. The revolution will be accompanied with three chords on an electric guitar, and a mixmaster thumping the 808.
Rock played a role in the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, the counter-cultural revolution of the 1960s in the US, and blasted as the Berlin Wall fell.
Here are my first picks. Post your suggestions for the playlist below.
- Rock the Casbah by The Clash
- Clampdown by The Clash
- F#@% tha Police by N.W.A.
- Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N Roses
- Peace Train by Cat Stevens
- God Save the Queen by The Sex Pistols
- War Pigs by Black Sabbath
- Born to be Wild by Steppenwolf
- Another Brick in the Wall by Pink Floyd
- California Uber Alles by The Dead Kennedys
- Freewill by RUSH
- We’re Not Gonna Take It by Twisted Sister
- Cult of Personality by Living Colour
News Blog and Discussion - February 2nd, 2011
In the posh Kensington area of London, just south of Hyde Park, there is a veritable Vatican of the mind with three cathedrals to human ability. Albertopolis!
Albertopolis is the area of London that contains three of the greatest museums on earth:
- The Victoria and Albert Museum
- The Natural History Museum
- and the Science Museum
Imagine The Smithsonian, The Field museum, The Henry Ford, and The Getty all on one block. Albertopolis is awesome. Old school definition literally awesome. Awe inspiring, gob smacking, double rainbow awesome.
There is a tidy division of labor between the museums of London. The National Gallery has paintings, the British Museum has mummies and historical artifacts, and the three museums of Albertopolis cleverly divide the rest. The land for Albertopolis was purchased in the 1850s with the proceeds of the Great Exhibition of 1851. It remains a tribute to accomplishments in Science, Arts, Commerce, and Industry.
The Natural History Museum – This is a temple to Charles Darwin, and to other scientists who have explored the mysteries of life and earth. There are massive dinosaur and other prehistoric skeletons on display. There are a thousand Ark’s worth of taxidermied and wet preserved creatures. Some rocks and minerals, and geologic displays. Sorry to say, the newest addition, the modern seven story “Cocoon”, is a giant waste of concrete. Climb to the top to the Giant Sequoia, and look down across the nave of the great hall to the sculpture of Charles Darwin, seated as a Bishop in his cathedral, and enjoy the overwhelming joy of being in a place that is a monument to our ability to reason.
The Victoria and Albert Museum – The V&A is a museum of commerce, cleverly disguised as an art museum. I saw J.M.W. Turner paintings there, but they were there as examples of the craft of painting, not qua art. There is metalwork, jewelry, architecture, textiles, furniture and crafts. Also the V&A houses the cartoons of Raphael, which are not all that funny, but are terrific examples of big screen communication and storytelling from the 16th century.
Science Museum – The history of technology, industry, transport, agriculture, medicine and other practical results of science. Items from the Victorian Era and Industrial Revolution such as a working Babbage’s Difference Engine, and old steam locomotives and power plants are the most interesting. The mid to late 20th century stuff seems a little lame by comparison, since the Brits will pretty socialist and most of the world’s innovation came from the United States. In fact most of the 20th century exhibits were American objects: a Boeing 747 cross section, Apollo lander, Apple and IBM computers, and even Hoover vacuums (Sorry Dyson!)
I had a terrific time in London last week. I encourage you to visit London and Albertopolis. Take the family. Your kids will learn more there than in a week at school. Plan on one museum per day max. While there, be sure to visit Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, and that other temple of commerce, Harrod’s. I would recommend The Capital Hotel for lodging, and Gloucester for traditional pub food and cask marque drafts.
News Blog and Discussion - February 2nd, 2011
There is a teaser page up at www.atlasshruggedpart1.com promoting the first installment of the upcoming Atlas Shrugged film. Bonus, it launches on Tax Day!
News Blog and Discussion - January 22nd, 2011
Exclusive MindPosts.com interview with Charles Santino, the writer/producer of ANTHEM – The Graphic Novel
Charles Santino and Joe Staton collaborating in studio on ANTHEM graphic novel. Photo by Michael Weisbrot.
When I heard the announcement of the graphic novelization of Ayn Rand’s ANTHEM, I was intrigued and excited. The original novella is a very approachable story for intermediate readers, and rich enough in theme for older readers. I liked the idea of expanding the reach via a new format.
Given the sanctity with which many regard Ayn Rand, I can imagine that most writers and artists would run from such a project. Not Charles Santino. He conceived of the project, contacted ARI and their publisher, put the team together, and has created a terrific new work. He has been faithful to the source material, whilst opening up Rand’s fiction to a wider audience.
Rick Marazzani of MindPosts.com got some time from Charles Santino, and asked him about the creation of ANTHEM – The Graphic Novel. The book fits in with MindPosts’ mission as a site for objective parents raising rational children. Order it now for yourself and/or your kids from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or from your favorite bookseller.
What was the inception of Anthem – The Graphic Novel?
A few years ago I was in a mall bookstore with $8.00 left on a gift card and ten minutes before I had to leave. I found myself in front of Ayn Rand’s fiction, which was right at eye level. I was aware of her longer novels but hadn’t read them. Anthem was new to me. The back cover copy was intriguing and so were the first few sentences.
You have been a pro in the comics business for years. Can you tell us about your background and the previous books you have worked on?
I collaborated with Michael McDowell on the Dell/Abyss psychological horror novel, Toplin; after that a seven-issue run scripting Conan the Barbarian for Marvel, and then adapting, scripting, and packaging Aesop’s Fables for Fantagraphics.
So, Charles, you are more than a writer. A “packager” in the comics biz is like a producer in movies. What is your process for bringing a book to life?
In packaging Anthem, I either took on, or hired out, every role in producing a final digital file ready for the printer. Anything that is left to chance has a chance of going wrong, right down to paper stock. I thought that the glossy, bright white paper stock used for many comic books and graphic novels would be a mistake for Anthem, so I tracked down the manufacturer of the flat, off-white stock used for The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb and we matched that as closely as possible. Even when I just write a script and I’m not packaging the project, the final product should reflect my vision as much as possible.
When I write a comic book or graphic novel, to make sure that the script is going to work visually, I lay out and “draw” a complete story in crude thumbnail sketches, working from my plot. My final script is based on this preliminary sketchbook. Because I don’t want an artist to be locked into the exact set-ups that I’ve sketched out, the artist will never see the sketchbook, just the script that was developed from the sketchbook. On a more practical level, these drawings are so crude and minimal that an artist probably couldn’t make any sense of them anyway, so getting the artist involved at that stage would be pointless. I know that some artists who are also writers will sketch out stories early in the process, but I’ve never heard of a writer who is not also an artist doing this. I’m sure they will come out of the woodwork after this interview is published.
This project seems like a labor of love for you. How did the Anthem graphic novel come together?
The process is always the same: find a property (or create one), work up a treatment, pitch it, and then execute it.
When adapting an existing work, it’s difficult to find something that has the necessary elements. Very few books are well-suited to the graphic novel format. They are often too long, but more often they simply don’t offer enough visual interest and visual variety along with a good story. Anthem does. It has a number of compelling but simple locations. The story never lingers in one spot for too long. I knew that the neo-Medieval setting would make the design work relatively easy for any experienced artist.
In 2008 I contacted The Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) and showed them my treatment for Anthem. They referred me to New American Library (NAL), a division of Penguin Books. I signed a contract to package the book through my production studio, Marshall Holt Entertainment.
I contacted Joe Staton [ed. Joe is a Bronze Age of comics veteran who has drawn for Charlton and DC, and now the Dick Tracy strip for Tribune] and asked if he was available and interested in penciling the story. I hired Joe with the understanding that I needed complete pencils that would not need to be inked. Scanning is now advanced enough to reproduce pencil art quite beautifully. There’s an innocence and charm to Joe’s art that’s much more apparent in his un-inked pencils and they worked well in depicting a story that is largely about forbidden love and two young lovers pitted against society. Joe agreed that Anthem was essentially a teen romance, despite all the other science fiction and philosophical trappings. About a third of the pages deal directly with the relationship between Equality 7-2521 and Liberty 5-3000.
What were the challenges of bringing the book to graphic novel form?
Even a novella as short and adaptable as Anthem—it’s about 20,000 words—needed to be dealt with graphically, as opposed to just illustrating the text. I dropped the literary device of Equality 7-2521 telling the story through his journal because I wasn’t interested in showing him writing in the journal and carrying it around. That device also forces the story into a flashback framework which I didn’t care for. The graphic novel tells the story as an internal monologue presented in captions and in dialogue with the other characters. I boiled down the “information dump” backstory presented in the first 16 pages of the novella to a single page in the graphic novel.
The hero, Equality 7-2521 plays a bit of Prometheus, bringing light to his dystopian dark age. How did you illuminate that part of the story?
With much difficulty. In the novella, there’s virtually no description of the “light box”—the makeshift battery and light bulb device that Equality 7-2521 cobbles together from parts he scavenges in his secret tunnel. I did some research on the actual historical experiments that lead from the discovery of electricity to the invention of the light bulb and designed a detailed light box which I drew for Joe in such a way that would allow him to depict it at any angle. It occurred to me that a more ambitious reader, possibly a student, might try to replicate the light box, so I wanted to make sure it was plausible. Theoretically, is should be possible with the right materials to build a working version of the light box, although it might require some welding. Anthem [the novella] is taught extensively in high schools and junior high schools across the country, so it’s reasonable to expect that the graphic novel is going to find its way into many classrooms where someone might get the idea to build a light box.
The setting of the modern-primitive city could almost be from a Conan comic.
It’s about the same level of technology. The characters wear loose, comfortable robes, skirts, and tunics that could be tailored in a low-tech world. The buildings are simple stone and wood affairs, no more than a few stories high, which we see in exterior and interior shots. But it doesn’t look like anything from real history, or the imagined pre-history of Robert E. Howard’s various worlds. I wanted it to look as distinctive as possible while keeping within the limits of pre-industrial technology.
The final section of the book breaks through from pre-industrial to high-tech, at least by 1938 standards, when the novella was published. Would you consider this section to be your “set piece”?
The house that Equality 7-2521 and Liberty 5-3000 find in the mountains after they leave the city is the most elaborate set in the story. I told Joe that I wanted a satisfying tour of the house, and that’s what we get. Joe looked at a lot of Bauhaus -influenced designs for reference, and eventually settled on a Phillip Johnson house built in 1955 as the primary inspiration. I asked Joe to set the house back into a cliff side where it might stay more preserved over the unspecified period of time since the fall of civilization.
What narrative enhancements did the graphic novel medium provide?
There are visual tricks that you can do in a graphic novel that you can’t do with prose. The most subtle change that I made to the novella that could be considered an enhancement is the gradual change in the landscape throughout the course of the story. The story begins in the city from which Equality 7-2521 and Liberty 5-3000 eventually flee and they travel through woods and mountains before finding the house. The novella makes it clear that they aren’t going to be followed but I wanted to put plenty of distance between them and the city. I asked Joe to throw some sub-tropical foliage in the city settings, like palms, so that after they travel through the woods and end up in a mountainous, alpine setting, the mind’s eye will know they’ve gone some distance, possibly 500 miles. We don’t draw any attention to this, but it’s there if you go back and look for it.
How difficult was it to edit the novella text into a graphic novel format?
Figuring out what narration to cut and what to keep was tough, but there’s only so much room on the page. I took the original text and highlighted what I thought was necessary to retain, knowing precisely how many words I could put on the page before things would start to look crowded. This required considering the somewhat small trim size of the book, 6 inches by 9 inches, and the style and size of the font I chose for the lettering. I used a strict formula and tried not to stray from it.
When you’re not depicting action or dialogue with two or more characters talking, deciding what to show graphically can be tricky. Certain pages in the final section of the story were just philosophical thoughts. There were no guideposts telling me what had to be depicted. Some of the panels that I wrote for this section were little physical bits of business that had movement and helped the narration. Other pages required what could be considered pure illustration, in the sense of a magazine illustration, where an abstract, written idea suggests a certain visual concept.
The easiest part of adapting the story was capturing the human dynamics of the novella. Equality 7-2521’s journey is emotional and intellectual as well as physical. We follow him step by step through this. Anyone can relate to being in love. The lovers’ courtship is very unusual because of the society they live in, but it is a courtship nonetheless and it has all the basic elements of any budding relationship. I also think that most people can relate to having a great idea crushed by a figure of authority. Everyone can relate to being lost, emotionally, even if just for a short time. When Equality 7-2521 bolts into the Uncharted Forest, he is literally lost, but he is also lost emotionally and intellectually.
For the parents and teachers out there, what age is best for this book?
There’s no best age, but it’s assigned to students as early as the eighth grade. Knowing that the book might be read by students as young as thirteen, I was careful about we showed and what we didn’t. In a prose novel, you can suggest. In a graphic novel, you have to show something. Shot word-for-word as a movie, the novella’s text would certainly be rated no more than ‘PG-13’ by today’s standards, but we knocked it down a little from there, down to what would be ‘PG’ in a movie, without losing any of the meaning or emotional impact. In a movie, the scene where Equality 7-2521 is whipped would almost have to be more brutal than the way we depict it, but we don’t shy away from it because it needs to be shown. The first night that Equality 7-2521 and Liberty 5-3000 spend together is completely left up to the imagination, even to the point that I changed the word “ecstasy” to “joy,” “joy” being a word that Equality 7-2521 uses a number of times earlier, frequently in reference to his relationship with Liberty 5-3000.
Is it a good primer for heavier Romantic and philosophic literature?
I wouldn’t say the story is a warm-up for heavier romantic and philosophic literature, but I would say it is a solid example of romantic and philosophic literature.
Steve Ditko is a legend in the comic book business and famous for his objectivist views. He even created Randian type heroes for comics. How influential was he on you and Joe?
Steve’s craftsmanship impressed me when I started reading comics in the mid-sixties. After that, I was glad to see the market loosen up enough so that Steve could publish comics that expressed his personal philosophical views. Although Joe’s style is very different from Steve’s, I know that Joe has paid close attention to Steve’s work through the years. During Joe’s Charlton Comics period, when both Joe and Steve worked for that publisher during the 1970s, I understand that Ditko was the same very private person that he’d always been.
So Charles, what’s up next for you? An Atlas Shrugged graphic novel? An illustrated version of The Virtue of Selfishness?
I can’t say that those books would or would not be adaptable; I’ve read neither. But stranger things have happened; I understand they are making a movie of Blink, the non-fiction book about perception, by Malcolm Gladwell. After I delivered Anthem, I began a script under contract to a book publisher to adapt an adventure story by a fairly well-known writer, but I don’t know when the details on that graphic novel will be announced.
There will also be a serialized web-comic coming out, which is a detective story set on another planet. It’s also too early to announce any details on that project.
Thanks so much for your time, Charles. Any last words?
I hope that MindPosts’ readers and their families enjoy Anthem. I was happy to give you this interview, Rick.
News Blog and Discussion - January 21st, 2011
I have been to the UK a few times, but mostly up north in the glorious Cheshire and Peak District area in Bollington. For my first trip I read two books that really helped me, as an American, dive into England. If you are traveling there for the first time, do read Bryson and grab a Frommers.
The two books that were most interesting, insightful, and entertaining are Kingdom by the Sea by Paul Theroux, and Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson.
This time I am taking a more literary tack, whilst focusing on London itself. This is my first time to really be IN London. I have been over, under, through, and around London before, but this time I am here all for London. A week in Kensington and Albertropolis.
Hound of the Baskervilles – I started reading this a few weeks ago and just finished. I read it as a kid, but wanted to get the Sherlock vibe as an adult. Most of the story takes place with Watson out in Devonshire, but we see some of London out of Holmes’ front window and along a Hansom cab ride.
I Never Knew That About London - This book ain’t no Lonely Planet guide. It is pretty starchy and heavy on Blue Plaque churches. There is more in the book about where Samuel Pepys’ wife was buried than on the Gherkin building. I have never said this phrase in my life, and may never again: “I wanted more Gherkin”.
Albion - I just started Peter Ackroyd’s chronological exploration of English imagination and creativity from Beowolf to Bacon to Bronte to Britten. I will dig up London: The Biography if I get a chance. After all, it is a 13 hour flight each way!
Nigella Kitchen – This is NOT a nook edition; I still get my cookbooks the old fashioned way. One thing I am super excited about is eating while in the UK is the Full English Breakfast. British food gets picked on, but they deserve praise for whatever Nigella Lawson makes, beer, cheese, Michelin starred chefs from France, and Full English. I am going to be staying in Nigella’s ‘hood the SW3, so maybe I will bump into her.
Jason Dark: Ghost Hunter vol. 1 – a modern book that takes an old school Gothic-horror-mystery romp through foggy Victorian London. This is not Sherlock Holmes where there is a Scooby Doo normal explanation for everything. In Jason Dark, the evil is supernatural, and REAL. Here is a sample:
He had no answer for these questions, of course, but various thoughts streamed through his mind. The demon had been headed uptown, he knew that. With his stagecoach he was headed towards either Pall Mall or Haymarket before he had to abandon the carriage. Both streets would have taken him to the West End. - Demon’s Night – pg 62.
Sparrowhawk Book Two: Hugh Kenrick – I love this series by Ed Cline, and am re-reading this volume for its London locations. This book is set just before the series makes the leap to the Colonies and sets up the narrative for the American Revolution.
Below are some great books to read before and during your trip to London and and the rest of England.