And we will all travel in flying cars

October 3, 2006

There’s interesting stuff in this week’s Publishers Weekly Comics Week.

Calvin Reid covers Rich Johnson’s move from DC to Hachette and the publisher’s contemplation of a possible graphic novel imprint. Most interesting is the snapshot the piece provides of where publishers are now in terms of adding graphic novels to their output. This snippet really caught my eye:

“Over at Random House, comics seem to be everywhere, including the flagship graphic novel line at Pantheon and a burgeoning Del Rey manga line. Del Rey is also planning for more titles, more genres and original comics publishing.”

Original comics publishing? Tell me more!

I’m not a gadget geek at all, but I did enjoy Reid’s piece on Sony’s E-Reader. Prose and graphic novel publishers are apparently staring hungrily at the new gizmo, and some (Tokyopop and Harlequin, most notably) have already taken the plunge:

“Mary Abthorpe, Harlequin’s v-p of new business development, says a selection of its Harlequin Pink shojo romance line, No Competition, Jinxed and A Prince Needs a Princess, are available for download to the Sony Reader.”

It’s interesting that they’re starting off with the books that are targeted at a younger audience. I’m sure the undoubtedly sizzling Violet titles won’t be too far behind.

I’m the type that usually waits until for the second or third iteration of some new technology, partly because I always assume there will be bugs to work out, and also because I’m cheap. My partner is a gadget geek (and much less of a pack rat) and stares at my groaning shelves of manga with increasing concern, so he might be more of an early adopter than I am. Still, I’d rather wait until more publishers get on board and there’s a wider range of material available.

Another point of concern for me is what this will mean for the bathtub reader. I’m not about to take a $300 E-Reader near a tub of standing water, much less one altered with circuit-damaging bath salts, so I’d never be able to abandon paper completely.

Last but not least, PWCW takes a stab at a combined monthly best-seller list. I wish they’d offered more information on their methodology and sources in the debut installment. Looking at the list, it seems like the Direct Market contributes a drop in the bucket, as the entries line up pretty closely with BookScan numbers. I could be wrong, obviously.

Food stuff

October 3, 2006

Much as I love The Food Network, they do seem to have a mission to gather anecdotal evidence proving the argument that familiarity breeds contempt.

Paula Deen has gone from being a bracingly unhealthy guilty pleasure to showing up everywhere, inviting viewers to her wedding and first trip to Europe, and she has a new live-audience show. Rachael Ray has reached such a saturation point that she actually had to move to other networks to find room for more programming.

Even my beloved Alton Brown (so informative and entertaining on Good Eats and Iron Chef America) managed to reach the too-much point with Feasting on Asphalt, where he dished out more culinary reverse snobbery in a half an hour than I would have thought possible. (Dude, it’s a corndog.)

So I’m delighted to see them add Nigella Lawson to their line-up, because I can’t imagine ever getting tired of her. Some of her BBC programs aired on either O or We a few years ago, and it was love at first sight. She tends to be marketed for her sexiness, but the real draw is her intelligence, her caustic humor, and her uncanny ability to evocatively describe the sensory experience of eating really good food.

Her cookbooks are a joy to read, because her broadcast voice translates brilliantly to prose, and she always provides wonderful personal context for her recipes. She also wrote a column for The New York Times for a while that was equally engaging. And I would cook virtually anything she prepares; she’s convincingly passionate about cooking without being fussy or gushy.

Speaking of fussy and gushy, I’m in a recorded-book shame spiral, because I’m going through a phase where I can’t stop myself from picking up mysteries by Diane Mott Davidson from the library. (I’ll clearly listen to things I’d never actually read.) Her books star caterer Goldy Schulz, who can’t seem to lay out a tray of pastries for a book club without tripping over a dead body or three.

The idea of combining food writing with sleuthing intrigues me, because I love both. But I do wish there was someone better than Davidson doing it. The culinary bits err towards the rhapsodic, and the mysteries are hampered by Goldy’s singular failings as an investigator.

The pattern seems to be that prim, moralistic Goldy never makes any progress in an case, though she asks a million questions. Ultimately, the culprit either mistakenly believes Goldy is about to expose their crimes, or they reach the conclusion that she’s too stupid to live. Thus, they end up revealing their own guilt by unsuccessfully trying to kill Goldy, and it’s hard to fault them.

But there seems to be plenty of good food writing out there at the moment, and I really need to catch up with it. I still haven’t picked up a copy of Jane and Michael Stern’s Two for the Road, where they take roughly the same approach as Brown did with Feasting. The difference (I hope) is that they won’t make it seem like quite so much of a holy pilgrimage. (The Sterns are my favorite elements of The Splendid Table, which is a great listen all the way around.)

The Times has also made me want a copy of The United States of Arugula, a new bit of culinary anthropology from David Kamp. (This might partly be due to the fact that the review is written by A.O. Scott.) Food culture is one of my favorite subjects for non-fiction (or fiction, for that matter), and this looks like an excellent entry in that category.