Posts Tagged ‘books’

Authorial success: A highly skewed investigation

March 21, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
March 21, 2019

The other day, I wondered who was the most successful author of all time. So I did what people do in 2019: I consulted Wikipedia.

As of mid-March 2019, a regularly updated Wikipedia list of books sold ranked Stephen King as the 22nd most successful fiction author. The American horror scribe rises to 16th by excluding writers working in a language other than English — by name, Belgian mystery writer Georges Simenon, Japanese manga artists Eiichiro Oda and Akira Toriyama, Spanish romance author Corin Tellado, Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy and Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. And by removing five children’s and young-adult writers — Brits Enid Blyton, J.K. Rowling and Gilbert Patten and Americans Dr. Seuss and R.L. Stine — King rises to 11th place.

Now, you might protest that this is cheating. After all, not all of Rowling’s books have been aimed at youngsters — see The Casual Vacancy and her trio of mysteries written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Moreover, there’s some debate over whether the Harry Potter series, which of course brought Rowling fame and fortune, is properly categorized as children’s literature. My qualms about classification extend to Stine, Blyton and Patten, with whose work I have zero familiarity. But who’s writing this post — me or you?

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More radio memories! (In which I describe an author interview that may not have happened)

May 21, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
May 21, 2018

Memory is a tricky thing. People have all sorts of odd old things rattling around their brains; or I do, at least. Sometimes, these memories are spot on. Sometimes, they may — emphasis on may — have been made up from whole cloth.

On Friday afternoon, I spent some time searching the web for information on a book, the title, author and publication year of which I was completely unable to recall.

The good news was that I had a fairly specific concept of what the book was about. The work, which either had been written by a Raleigh resident or else centered on the city of Raleigh, was aimed at a general-interest audience of readers, and it described the systems that deliver electricity and drinking water and remove sewage and rain runoff from modern buildings.

Initially, I conducted a general web search using the terms “the four utilities”book and Raleigh. However, “four utilities” refers to a marketing concept, so I changed this search term to simply utilities. I also ran similar queries in the Library of Congress’s online catalog.

I was certain that the book had been released in the United States at some point after roughly 2010, but even after applying those filters, I was left with a lot of irrelevant results.

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Book overboard! (Trigger warning: Accidental violence to books.)

August 8, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 8, 2015

Author’s note: Earlier today, I began chronicling my mundane exploits on a recent Sunday while on vacation at a beachside apartment complex in Ocean City, Md. And now, the conclusion to my not-so-thrilling adventure! MEM

A few minutes after leaving the parking deck, I stepped out of the elevator and onto the 14th floor. I turned to the right before remembering that I had to head the other way to get to our apartment.

I got there, unlocked the door and headed inside. My head was a bit fuzzy, and I had to concentrate to make sure I did everything I wanted to before I went back down to the beach: Trade sneakers for on sandals; grab my book; locate and swallow the pain reliever; take a towel.

After I accomplished everything I’d wanted, or so I thought at the time, I locked up the apartment and began walking toward the central elevator bank.

But then I got annoyed at myself again — there was something I’d meant to adjust inside the apartment, where I could safely put stuff down and devote both of my hands to a given task without fear of having sand get everywhere, or of having my belongings taken by passers-by. Oh well, I thought, I’ll just go over to the railing and make the adjustment.

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Hope amid hopelessness: Two post-apocalyptic visions of America

July 1, 2012

The other day, I reviewed two novels about a post-apocalyptic America. I had some thoughts about what these books had to say about the United States that didn’t fit into a general review, and I wanted to explore them here. Please beware that there be spoilers here; read no further unless you already know or want to know key information from these novels.

(Also, read no further unless you have the stomach for a rather long essay with ambitions of accessible literary criticism. You have been warned.)

Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Jim Crace’s The Pesthouse are radically different stories. Nuclear war has scorched America in McCarthy’s 2006 bestseller and Pulitzer Prize winner; gray skies blanket a dead, ash-covered landscape roamed by desperadoes and cannibals. As the nameless protagonist and his son walk south in hopes of escaping the relentless cold, every person they encounter seems to poses a mortal threat. McCarthy, an American writer, omits all quotation marks and some apostrophes and hyphens; there are no chapter breaks, and sentence fragments pepper his pages.

The Pesthouse, which Crace published in 2007, is more conventional in form. The British author writes fully formed sentences and divides his book into chapters. Whereas McCarthy pegs his harrowing tale to the viewpoint of the man and the boy, Crace’s narrator is sometimes omniscient and sometimes tied to his protagonists, Franklin Lopez and Margaret, as they journey separately and together across some future America. Read the rest of this entry »

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