Friday, September 11, 2015

John Steinbeck's F-Bomb and Other Random Thoughts

It's funny sometimes how random, bookish thoughts pop into (and almost instantly out of) my head.  This has been one of those mornings:

I was reading John Steinbeck's In Dubious Battle last night and noticed a fully-spelled "F-bomb" in the dialogue of one of that novel's main characters.  That's no big deal today, of course, but it made me wonder what kind of reaction that word must have gotten from critics and readers back in 1936 when Steinbeck wrote this one.  Surely that kind of thing could not have been common in the thirties, could it?

I see that the largest bookstore chain in Japan is trying to corner the market on what will be one of that country's most popular books of 2015 by buying a full 90% of the book's first printing.  That decision has effectively limited Amazon Japan to about 5,000 copies, leaving about 5,000 copies for all other booksellers.  It's the bookstore's attempt to fight back against Amazon, and it might very well work in a country the size of Japan if bookstores can convince publishers to play along with the plan.  But Amazon, as we all know, is the 500-pound gorilla in any room it enters, and I wonder how the company will fight this.  Should be interesting.

People in Cleveland are talking about the city councilman who has taken self-publishing to new heights by charging the city for printing somewhere between 200 and 300 copies of a book he wrote - apparently, a book largely about himself.  The guy than "donated" the books to a select group of Cleveland students as a motivational tool of sorts.  He is now being accused of doing little more than self-promoting his image as an "educator" at the expense of the city.  Big ego, but short on ethics.

I have considered Houston to be my home since 1972 when we moved here a week before my official university graduation date.  But because I've always lived just outside the city's official borders, I have never set foot in one of the many libraries that make up the "Houston Public Library," instead always using the surrounding Harris County Library system.  Well, now that we are so into the digital age, I decided to go to the nearest Houston library location to me and get myself a "city" library card.  I drove the 16 miles there and got the card yesterday morning, in fact.  The well-kept little library is located in what seems to be a mostly black neighborhood, and I was disappointed by the amount of shelf space the building houses.  The library has only a tiny fraction of the number of books contained in my local county library, and that makes me sad for the neighborhood.  Now I need to visit other Houston Library branches to see how they compare.

Well, that visit got me wondering about other major city libraries in Texas and wether they offered free (or very cheap) library cards to other Texas residents.  Houston, I think, offers a card free of charge to all Texas residents who want to go through the process of acquiring one.  Other libraries, such as those in Dallas and Austin, offer cards but charge as much as $150 per year for them.  Some, like Fort Worth, do not make their system available to anyone living outside the city limits of that system - and even make residents jump through more hoops to acquire a card than Houston does for nonresidents.  Heck, even the Philadelphia Free Library offers a library card to anyone willing to cough up $50 a year for the privilege of accessing the system.  

I'm trying to force myself to sit down and write a review of sorts of John Steinbeck's Tortilla I'm off to do that now.  I hope.


  1. Greetings from Philadelphia! Glad to see that my comment earlier this week got you looking into other library options.

    1. That's what did it, Kaye, and I'm astounded by the difference in the amounts various libraries charge for an out-of-district library card. Dallas and Fort Worth systems are just nuts.