tag: ann herendeennyrphyllida and the brotherhood of philander

December 2008

NYR: ann herendeen

Yesterday we had answers from the author of a subversive child-rearing guide. Today we have answers from Ann Herendeen, author of a subversive historical romance, Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander.

What was the best book of the year?

Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri

Like a lot of readers (and novelists) I don’t usually enjoy collections of short stories—too many condensed nuggets of truly exceptional writing, instead of one long wallow of fiction. But I discovered Lahiri a year ago through a story (“Year’s End”) in The New Yorker, and her writing is just too wonderful for me to deny her book the No. 1 slot on my list.

What was the best movie?

Milk (of course). It’s topical and also just right for the mood of the times. Plus, who can ever get enough of “straight” actors kissing each other…

What was the best song/album?

Lucinda Williams’ album Little Honey. The best song is Right In Time, but that’s from an earlier album. I’m a bizarre New Yorker—I like country/rock.

Favorite Blog?

Teach Me Tonight

This blog began as an outgrowth of RomanceScholar, a listserv for (primarily) academics who study romance novels in (primarily) college English depts., and also including some authors. The blog is a perfect example of how the study of popular culture can be presented in a scholarly way without losing the senses of pleasure, fun, and sexy entertainment of the subject itself.

Who was the person of the year?

Obama of course. Sigh. Too obvious. And yet inevitable.

What is your New Year’s resolution?

To eventually let go of revising my second novel and begin writing my third. That will mean figuring out what the third book IS…

** Bonus question: Where do you see the world going in 2009?

Can’t do anything but go up. Temperature…rising. Population…rising. Inflation…increasing.

But to separate out a very small portion of the whole world: print. I’d like to say that, having been an Amazon Kindle user for most of the past year, I don’t see print going away any time soon. Yes, it’s great to have a portable reader that holds many titles, a way to read the New York Times on the subway, and a format that allows me to read without those damned reading glasses (by increasing the type size).

But on the other side: there simply is no better interface between “content” and the part of the human brain that appreciates it than the printed page. It’s fast, user friendly and oh-so-simple. The Kindle has no page numbers, only “locations,” much the way early VCRs only counted spool rotations instead of time. If you don’t have an identifiable “search term” to enter into the box, there’s no Kindle equivalent to just riffling the pages, knowing whatever it is you’re looking for was on the upper left. It’s mind-blowing, until you’ve tried it, how slow it is, clicking through a list of headlines, clicking again to read the full story, clicking through each page, clicking “Back” to the headline format, “Back” again to the Sections List…

By contrast, with the dirty, inky full-page print version, you just turn the pages, scan the articles, knowing immediately whether the item is worth reading or will bog you down in tedium, all in a fraction of a second.

E-readers will undoubtedly catch on (probably already have) for things like textbooks and business manuals. But for fiction and all the pleasurable nonfiction (history, biography, etc.) there’s no substitute for the paper book.

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