LFLR is Up and Running!

LFLR is Up and Running!

Very exciting news to share: Little Free Library Reykjavík was installed in Hljómskálagarður (the park along Tjörnin), next to the statue of Bertel Thorvaldsen on June 14, 2013! It’s a lovely spot for the library—there’s even a bench right next to it so that you can sit and browse through books and read while enjoying the summer weather in the park.

(Keep reading here.)

Building the First Little Free Library in Iceland

(Reblogged from Eth & Thorn)

The Little Free Library in Reykjavík will look a lot like this–I’m going to build it myself using a kit. The wood in the kit has been salvaged from a barn that blew down in a tornado 100 years ago!

Yesterday was a big day, everyone. And if you haven’t heard about why via the onslaught of emails, Facebook messages, giddy phone calls, etc, I’d like to share my new pet project with you now. (For those of you who already know about this–bear with me!)

I’m trying to build the first Little Free Library in Iceland. And I started my fundraising for this project yesterday. I now have just over a month to raise the €860 (about $1,165) that I need to make this project a reality. (I decided to have the fundraising end on my mom’s birthday, incidentally–so to double the fun, we’ll call it a long distance, honorific birthday present for her if I can make this happen.)

Now Larissa, you are saying: you are always rambling on about libraries. What is this Little Free Library thing all about?

Well, dear reader, I am glad you asked:

The Little Free Library project was started in Wisconsin in the USA. The idea is to place a small, weatherproof hutch, house, or other interesting structure (there’s one in an old fridge in New Zealand, and Berlin is making them out of hollow tree trunks) in a public place, fill it with books, and then let people come borrow and return them at will. It’s like your typical “take a book, leave a book,” but better because it is not just a place to discard old books and magazines that you don’t want, but rather, a thoughtfully curated mini-library which can bring together broad communities of readers in a new way.

Little Free Library has now become an international project, and it is estimated that there are between 5,000 – 6,000 “branches” in 36 countries around the world. But thus far, there are no branches in Iceland. Given my own interest in (tiny) libraries, (Icelandic) literature, translation, and creatively utilized public spaces, it seemed to me like a great idea to build the first Little Free Library in Iceland–specifically, in Reykjavík, which as you all know by now, is a very literary city. (In fact, I’m working on this project with Reykjavík UNESCO City of Literature office, the City of Reykjavík library, and the Icelandic Literature Fund among others.)

I’ve included informational links about the project–the fundraising page, website, and Facebook page–below, but would be delighted to talk about this project further if it is of interest. Just send me a message and I’ll be totally thrilled to talk tiny libraries with you.

The Little Free Library Reykjavík Fundraising Page: http://alpha.karolinafund.com/project/view/68

The Little Free Library Website: http://littlefreelibraryreykjavik.wordpress.com/

The Little Free Library Facebook Page: http://littlefreelibraryreykjavik.wordpress.com/

If you think this is a worthy project and can donate a little money to the cause, I will be extremely grateful (and will also send you a neat, probably handcrafted gift–see the first link for more info on that). If you are on the fence about why you, a reader who may not be in Iceland or have any immediate plans of visiting Iceland, might want to donate to this project, I encourage you to check out the Little Free Library Reykjavík FAQ page.

And donation or not: if you can share this project and its information with the library/literary lovers in your life, I would be immensely grateful. The success of something like this really depends on finding the widest audience possible–so thank you in advance!

Just in Time for Christmas…a Vampire Remix.

Varney the Vampire Literary Remix, Cover via GalleyCat

This one’s just for fun…

Back around Halloween, GalleyCat, one of my favorite websites-about-all-things-literary, hosted its second annual Literary Remix Contest, which I am pleased to have participated in. The contest was sort of a large-scale Exquisite Corpse for writer-types. More specifically, from the contest description:

With the help from writers around the country, we will rewrite Varney the Vampire–a bestselling vampire novel from the 19th Century filled with enough star-crossed romance, vampire action and purple prose to inspire another Twilight trilogy.

You will rewrite a small section from the book your own unique style (from poetry to Twitter updates to cartoons to imitations of your favorite writer). We will publish and distribute the final product as a free digital book through Smashwords (complete with Victorian-era illustrations) so it will be available at the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, the Diesel eBook Store, Blio.com and others.

I believe there may have been some sort of prizes involved for selected contributors in the U.S. (not me), which is why it was a “contest” but I think that everyone who actually submitted a page was included. That’s really not the point, though–it was just a lot of fun to take part.

The page I was assigned was a great selection in that it was actually a story within the main plot that one of the characters is reading, which means it was entirely self-contained. It was an exceptionally, delightfully dramatic story, a Hungarian Hamlet sort of tale in which a nefarious duchess and her lover, a nefarious count, kill off her husband so as to take over his fortune and position, and relegate her son to a dank mine. (The son–spoiler alert–survives with assistance from a fellow miner, and eventually gets his revenge.) I re-wrote this tale in a sort of epistolary fashion: mostly telegrams (“Varnegrams” for the purpose of this exercise), but also “Page VI” gossip columns, and even a bureaucratic memo written from an overseer in a dank mine to his employers. (Being a former office administrator, I excel at bureaucratic memos, so this bit was particularly fun.)

The e-book is now ready and available for download in a variety of formats, so if you have a yen for out-of-season Victorian Vampire fiction and/or collectively wrought pulp fiction, I’d encourage you to head over to the Smashwords page where you can download the remixed book for free.

A Note on Imminent Departures

As you, my dedicated reader, have no doubt noticed, my posts here on The Afterword have been somewhat more sporadic than they used to be and there are less reviews posted than there have been in years past. This is because–I can finally say it out loud now–I have been granted a Fulbright to study Icelandic at the University of Iceland for the 2012-2013 academic year. (Yay! crowd noises Yay!) As such, I have spent the last beaucoup (or “boo-coo,” as we used to say at home) months (years) working on grant applications and acceptance paperwork, travel logistics, preliminary language study, and the whole nine yards. In the midst of all this, my reading and reviewing has had to take a back seat; it’s immensely hard (at least it has been for me) to construct a coherent thought on any remotely challenging literature when you’re trying to decode another country’s visa regulations.

I’ve now got most of the aforementioned logistics worked out, or am in the process of getting them worked out, but I won’t be back to regular reviewing for awhile, I don’t think. It’s absolutely my intention to continue posting informal, and–as it’s possible–professional reviews on this site going forward, but I can’t say with what regularity. So bear with me, check back, and accept my very appreciative thank yous for ever taking the time to visit this blog. It’s been a pleasure to write and know that a few someones out there in the world (read: The Internet) are reading. (Hi, mom!)

Oh, and should you have any interest in reading about Icelandic grammar, the culture shock of the recently expatriated, or other little odds and ends while I’m living in Reykjavik next year, please feel free to drop in on my other, new blog: Eth & Thorn.

Farewell to Partners & Crime

Yesterday I learned the sad news via GalleyCat that after 18 years in business, Partners & Crime, the superb West Village independent bookstore dedicated entirely to new/used/rare mystery, crime, espionage, and thriller fiction is closing. The one positive–and it’s a big one considering recent bookstore closure trends–is that P&C does not seem to be shuttering because of any problems with rent or sales. (It’s not every closing bookstore that thanks its landlord…) Here’s the goodbye message they’ve posted on their website’s homepage:

After 18 years in the shop on Greenwich Avenue, Partners & Crime Mystery Booksellers is closing its doors on September 20th.

We’ve had a great run and have enjoyed helping a generation of readers find the books they love.

We’ve had a lot of fun, learned a tremendous amount, and enjoyed our time with all of you – customers, authors and publishers.

Stop by, reminisce and check out our THANK YOU sale — and maybe find that favorite title you really can’t live without!

Couldn’t have done it without you!

With our great appreciation to all , and a special thank you to Bernard Charles, our landlord, for all their support.

So there you have it–a little over a month to do just as P&C suggests: stop by, say thank you, buy a book, and bid adieu to a great New York City institution.

For my part, I thank you very much, Partners & Crime! Your interested, interesting, friendly, and knowledgeable staff assisted me in particular with tracking down/selecting a number Scandinavian crime novels, right as I started getting into the genre. Some of these were harder to acquire than others, too: I remember, for one, the gentleman who helped me order Lime’s Photograph when I was frustratedly trying to find any Danish thrillers or crime fiction whatsoever–I actually enjoyed our conversation more than the book.

El libro que no puede esperar

Yesterday, I came across this Galley Cat post about El libro que no puede esperar (The Book That Can’t Wait), a new collection of Latin American fiction published by Eterna Cadencia which is printed with disappearing ink. Once the book is exposed to light and air (it’s sold in shrink-wrapped plastic pouches which have to be torn open), the ink will begin to fade. So it is only actually readable for about two months. After that, all you have is a blank book.

If this seems like a somewhat self-defeating, gimmicky concept, consider the rationale. Per the video embedded below:

“Books are very patient objects. We buy them and then they wait for us to read them–days, months, even years. That’s okay for books, but not for new authors. If people don’t read them, the authors don’t make it to a second book. That’s why Eterna Cadencia, an independent publisher and bookstore, decided to create something different, to launch their new authors into the market: The Book That Can’t Wait.”

Okay then. So now you’ve got an interesting concept, one which actually alters the relationship between the reader/book buyer and not only the purchased book, and also the book’s author. Additionally, given the limited time frame during which you can actually read it, this book challenges the expectations that most of us have for a reading experience. I’m not sure I’m totally in favor of it, honestly, but it’s worth parsing a bit.

On the reader/book relationship:

  • Part of the appeal of buying books, honestly, is owning the object itself. I freely admit this–I like being surrounded by books in my home and while I could just get everything from the library, there are a lot of books that I prefer to own rather than borrow. But it’s not like buying a painting–unless you are a collector of artist books, the object itself is still valuable and desirable because it’s functional, not solely because it has a beautiful cover. So if you buy a book which quickly loses its functionality, and isn’t in and of itself a beautiful, timeless object, what do you have, really? A conversation piece, I suppose, but not much else.

On the reading experience:

  • Part of owning a book is that you can always refer back to the text–can re-read and re-experience a story or novel. I’m not a chronic re-reader myself, but I do often find myself going back to specific passages in a book, or just as importantly, lending it to someone else who I think would enjoy it as well. By essentially restricting the reading experience to one person–the person who buys the book–you lose the communal, social possibilities–the shared experience of book lending. This is not so different from the ludicrous proprietary restrictions on a good many e-books right now which can only be read on one person’s device and can’t be easily or freely shared among readers. I understand that the intent is to encourage people to delve into a book quickly, but if the whole point is to boost new authors, wouldn’t it be in everyone’s best interest if those authors could be exposed to more readers through book sharing?
  • Again, most readers expect that their reading experience is not finite, but that it can be repeated, at least in part, over and over again. You return to a favorite passage, re-read a memorable scene, share the book with someone else. Owning a book usually means that you can go back and if not have the exact same experience each time, at least have a very similar one. But if the text itself disappears and you can only really read the book once, then this reading experience becomes much more similar to that of watching a play on stage. As a theater-goer, you know and expect that you will see a play or performance only once. Even if you were to go back and see the same play a few days later, it would be a different experience–you’ll never replicate the first performance completely. El libro que no puede esperar necessitates an experience more like theater-going than reading, and I actually think that’s one of the most interesting, and possibly successful, aspects. You have to be much more present and attentive during the initial reading because you don’t really have the option of going back and revisiting it again in a few months.

On readers’ responsibility to authors:

  • This is where I think the logic gets fuzzy, or perhaps just more transparent. According to the video, if  “people don’t read [authors’ first books], the authors don’t make it to a second book.” I get what they are saying: if an author’s first book doesn’t sell enough copies, then they frequently aren’t deemed successful enough to have a second book contract. But there is a big difference between being read and selling books. And this essentially brings us to the same argument that is being staged about all kinds of media/cultural output (most frequently music).

    To rehash the basic point: People (consumers) have grown accustomed to being able to access cultural products for free, and therefore are not buying nearly as many of these products as they used to. As a result, not only do the (book/music) publishers and corporate entities suffer, but the artists do as well because they can’t make a living from the sale of their art.

    I understand and, to a point, support this argument and its parallel imperative: if you value an artist’s work and want to see more of it, then you should support it–basically, you should pay for it. (I’m not going to get into all the gray areas with copyright law, open access, etc. right now–just keeping it simple for now.) But it doesn’t necessarily follow here that it is my responsibility as a reader to support all new authors by buying expensive books that I can only read once. It doesn’t follow that just because I buy this anthology and read it right away that the publisher will put out all of the included authors’ second books, either. It may be arguable that as a reader who is interested in international fiction I should make an effort to become acquainted with (and purchase, even) the work of up-and-coming authors, but I’m not sure that it’s any more my responsibility to support work just because it is new than it is the responsibility of the publisher to create multi-book contracts with new authors who may not furnish them (the publishers) with immediate best-sellers.

    And it still is a pretty slippy slope to imply that new artistic talent can only be nurtured by the frequent purchase of hard-back, first-run books.

To conclude: this is an interesting concept for sure, and it has kept me thinking (and writing) for two days now, so at the very least, Eterna Cadencia can be pleased that its hope to bring attention to the project has worked out. Although, I have to say, what I’ve spent all this time thinking about is the book’s format, not its content. I don’t know a single author in this collection. So maybe this project was a bust after all?