Tuesday, May 18, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Flickering Pixels by Shane Hipps

Title: Flickering Pixels
Author: Shane Hipps
Publisher: Zondervan
Year: 2009

Shane Hipps is currently a Teaching Pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church and holds a Master of divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary. Hipps was formerly a strategic planner in advertising and worked for several years on the communications strategy for Porsche Cars North America. Experience in advertising contributed to Hipps' understanding of the media/culture relationship and resulted in the writing of two books on the topic. The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture (2006) is aimed at people in church leadership. Flickering Pixels (2009) "appl[ies] insights about media and technology to some of the basic issues of ... faith and life."

Hipps states that "Christianity is fundamentally a communication event" and with this focus he goes on to explore the hidden power of media and technology and its influence on the communication of God's message. By claiming that the medium is indeed the message, Hipps challenges the idea that the methods change but the message stays the same. Method affects the message, thereby allowing media and technology to subtly (or not so subtly) shape us and our faith.

Hipps does not present the reader with a moral judgment of media and technology, but does point out that we should think about these ever present influences on our lives. Media and technology might inevitably affect us, but the outcome of that influence does not have to be inevitable. By having an "intentional relationship to our technologies," by studying and understanding them, we minimize their power over us.

Those persons with an interest in the religious aspects of media and technology, as well as those libraries that support curriculum in these areas, would find this book to be a welcome addition to the collection. End notes and a list of resources round out the academic usefulness of Flickering Pixels.

Publication of review forthcoming in The Christian Librarian.
Book received for review courtesy of the publisher, Zondervan.

Monday, May 17, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Audition by Ryu Murakami

Title: Audition
Author: Ryu Murakami
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Date: June 2010
A LibraryThing Early Reviewer Book

Audition is the novel behind the 1999 cult classic Japanese movie by the same name and has only recently been translated into English. This rather short novel (190 pages) falls into the suspense/horror category.

The main character is Aoyama, a 42 year old widower with a 15 year old son named Shige. Aoyama decides to begin dating after Shige suggests, "Why don't you find yourself a new wife, Pops?" The only problem is that Aoyama is rather rusty and a bit nervous at the prospect of finding the right woman to date. A filmmaker friend suggests that Aoyama help with a casting call for a movie they don't intend to produce, and in this way audition ladies before asking them out for a date. Aoyama quickly narrows the potential wife pool down to just one young lady named Yamasaki Asami. Aoyama is quite smitten with Asami, but it becomes more and more obvious to the reader that Asami is not a benign personality. The lovestruck blindness of Aoyama and the hidden nature of Asami is the vehicle for the tension that builds to the end.

I was a bit disappointed with the level of suspense (I wanted more) and felt like the character development was lopsided. Aoyama was fairly well developed and his background and motivations understandable, but Asami seemed simply a character with a role to fill in a book. The past that made her into a monster is revealed, but I never got the impression of a wounded soul. Asami is simply a monster, end of story. Perhaps this was Murakami's way of making a point that just didn't resonate with me. I was also baffled by what I perceived to be a very flippant ending. The translation was quite readable, but I'm wondering if there were subtleties that were lost by not reading the novel in the original Japanese.

While the story itself left me dissatisfied, I found a fascinating treatise on aspects of the Japanese dining experience. The community and harmony of sushi bar dining that can alternately be seen as exclusive and xenophobic. I wish I could quote this passage for you, but I've been asked not to quote from the Advanced Readers Copy. This passage occurs in Chapter 8.

Recommended: Fans of the movie will probably want to read the novel that inspired the film.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Added note: I would love to read any reviews of this title that others write, so let me know if you have read this book. I'm particularly interested in discussing the ending and Japanese conventions when writing the horror genre (since this might explain why I didn't like the ending!).

Sunday, May 09, 2010

The Sunday Salon: Too Many Books!

I have a problem. I have too many books. I know, I know ... "one can never have too many books." Yet, I do. I live in a rather small space and have limited storage. I think I have done quite well with the space I have, but it is time to take a good hard look at my book collection and start weeding.

I have two fairly large bookcases ... one in the bedroom and one in the living room. I've also got a great storage system for the overflow. I purchased see-through plastic bins and numbered them. Then I cataloged all my books into LibraryThing and made a location note telling me which shelves or which box held each book. The plastic bins live in the garage ... around 20 of them. So far so good. Then I acquired more books and didn't really want to add to the plastic bin numbers. And I was going to read these books soon (riiiiight). So they sat in a small pile on the bench of my breakfast nook. Guess what. Those books still live there and they have been procreating. I swear. They just multiply. I would really like to have my breakfast nook back ... you know, to eat at ... so I've given the books notice. They must find somewhere else to live. Of course, book lovers that you all are, you already know my dilemma. I want to read most of those books and some I will want to keep, so they won't disappear by tomorrow.

What to do about this dilemma? A plan. Accountability. More books going out than coming in.

I'm a librarian, so I'm no stranger to the concept of weeding the collection. I've just never really applied this to myself ... you know ... to my books ... to my lovely, lovely collection. Gulp. But, I remind myself, I'm feeling overwhelmed. I desire an uncluttered living environment. Books are a major source of clutter in my home. I need to weed. My collection. My books. I need to make it happen. I need to have my own collection development and maintenance plan.

Here is the plan. It is really quite simple.

1. Guidelines for the collection. Basically, criteria for what comes in, what stays and what goes. Should I purchase books by unknown authors or borrow from the library first? (I'm actually pretty good at picking authors/books that I end up liking, so this is a bit of a problem!) Will I re-read it? Does it fit into one of my major areas of interest? Is it special in some way that dictates that I would keep it?

2. A spreadsheet with a page for each month of the year. Each page has 2 columns -- Books In and Books Out. I format each page so that the titles do not wrap around. This makes it easy to see, at a glance, which side is longer. At the end of the month I enter the totals for each column. The Books Out column must be greater than the Books In; preferably MUCH greater until some significant progress has been made.

I can hear your question. "So how is it going??" So far, really well. It has been rather easy to find quite a few books that I'm willing to part with as I begin this discipline. Books I know I will never read again -- OUT. Books I have completely lost any interest in reading -- OUT. The books going out are bagged and stored for about 4 weeks before they are actually sent away. I'm hoping to avoid "OMG! I can't believe I got rid of that book. I want it back!" I'm sure I will regret getting rid of at least a few books, but the waiting period should help minimize this.

I've prioritized reading the books I'm pretty sure I won't be keeping. Does this cut into some of my reading spontaneity? Sure. But it's worth it. I really do want my breakfast nook back!

I know it will get more difficult to identify books to give away as the collection diminishes and I also know that some books will stay because I WANT them to stay. My 19th century Russian literature collection will stay; my Victorian literature collection will stay; my Ray Bradbury collection will stay; books I know I will re-read will stay. You get the picture. I will still have quite the collection and anticipate a need to continue storing some of my books, but hopefully this plan will allow me to reclaim my breakfast nook and develop a more peaceful relationship to my books. I want to appreciate my book collection; not feel overwhelmed by it.

Numbers so far this year:

Books Out = 127
Books In = 41
Net books OUT = 86

*I haven't mentioned that my husband contributes to the book madness and is participating in this latest "bee in my bonnet."

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your book collection? Have you implemented a weeding project of your own?