Here’s a message from Monica Carter of Salonica and Skylight Books—our featured indie store of the month—about some interesting upcoming events.
One of the trademarks of Skylight Books is the ability to recognize and promote the literary greats of our time. Ten years ago, Skylight Books not only participated in the Harry Potter phenomenon with a midnight release party, but was the originator of the Thomas Pynchon Against the Day midnight release party. The tradition continues at Skylight Books with our dedication to celebrating the literary talents of today with our second Thomas Pynchon Midnight Release Party for his new novel, Inherent Vice, on August 4. Along with Pynchon, we will be hosting not one but two parties for Infinite Summer (not a footnote of a party, a PARTY!), the effort of bibliophiles from around the world to read Infinite Jest over the summer of 2009. William T. Vollman has been a perennial bestseller at our store and also a staff favorite which is why we are the only independent bookstore in Los Angeles to host an event for his new book of photographs, Imperial. These events are indicative of Skylight Books’ commitment to fostering cultural vivacity in our own community as well as the global literary community.
Covering approximately 75 pages a week (the entire reading schedule can be found here) , this group will read one of the longest novels of our generation by September 21st. For anyone who hasn’t read this book, this looks to be a fantastic way of experiencing the book, with great commentaries by other interesting writers, and a host of other people enjoying it with you . . .
I’m personally interested in seeing how this plays out. Online reading groups have been a mixed bag, with the Golden Notebook Project getting most everything right and representing the most successful model to date.
Infinite Summer is a bit more traditional, with different commentators leading the group through the reading and trying to encourage comments along the way.
But it’s also one of the first online reading groups I’ve seen that’s incorporating a lot of social media possibilities and allowing for a very de-centered approach to the traditional reading club. For instance, this roundup post links to a separate blog detailing one reader’s reading of IJ, a site where you can download an IJ reading schedule bookmark, a site called Infinite Zombies that is part reading group part Fight Club, a Flickr pool, a Twittered version of IJ, and a site archiving the ongoing conversation of two IJ readers. This is reading group as controlled chaos, or social networking event.
With the popularity of DFW (and his sudden, tragic end), I can imagine that all of these sites will attract a lot of followers, and it will be really interesting to see what sort of long-term effect this has. IJ is one of those books that a lot of people own, but haven’t necessarily read, so who knows if this will be a bigger boost to sales or literary awareness. Regardless, it should be an interesting phenomenon to watch unfold, and short of reading all Open Letter books published to date, this is a damn good way to spend your summer.
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Randall Jarrell once argued a point that I will now paraphrase and, in doing so, over-simplify: As a culture, we need book criticism, not book reviews. I sort of agree, but let’s not get into all of that. Having finished. . .
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