Tag Archives: boardgames

Books Acquired Recently: Holiday Gift Edition

This post lists the various books I’ve received as gifts this holiday season. I actually didn’t ask for very many this year (I went a more purely aesthetic route, getting some snazzy clothing and several pieces of art), hence the small number, though I’ll probably buy a few more with some holiday cash. There are also more books coming from relatives who shipped them late, so expect a part two to this post sometime soon.

Konikowski, Jerzy, and Marek Soszynski. The Sokolsky Opening: 1. b4 in Theory & Practice. Milford: Russell, 2009.

1. b4 was my favorite opening as white when I played chess regularly, and soon after this book came out I put it on my amazon.com wishlist because I enjoy collecting books about such a deliciously esoteric opening. The book will be good to have on hand when I begin playing again.

Sensitive Skin 9 (2012).

This journal issue includes a story by my favorite author, Samuel R. Delany. I have heretofore been unfamiliar with Sensitive Skin, but in flipping through the issue it looks like a venue for some exciting writing and fascinating art work.

Tossell, David. The Great English Final: 1953: Cup, Coronation & Stanley Matthews. Durrington: Pitch, 2013.

I have been fascinated by the 1953 FA Cup final between Blackpool and Bolton Wanderers ever since I read Paul Gardner’s firsthand account of it in his book The Simplest Game. I am eager to read Tossell’s description of why the match has remained so ingrained in soccer fans’ memory, which contextualizes the match within early-1950s British society.

Young, Kevin. The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness. Minneapolis: Graywolf, 2012.

This again is a book that I have had my eyes on since I first heard about it. It examines African American literature within the broader context of American pop culture.

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Books Acquired Recently

Doyle, Arthur Conan. A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four. 1888 and 1890. Mineola: Dover, 2003.

Frederic, Harold. The Damnation of Theron Ware. 1896. Mineola: Dover, 2012.

I just recently heard of Harold Frederic (Utica College’s student literary society is named after him), who was from my new town of Utica, New York, and is buried less than a mile from my apartment. His major novel, The Damnation of Theron Ware, takes place in Utica, so I decided to buy it (and hopefully read it in the next week or two) as a part of my continuing investigations of the area. If I enjoy it there is a good chance I will include it in my American Literature After 1865 course next semester.

I have also been meaning to buy A Study in Scarlet for a while because it takes place in my just-now former state of Utah. I look forward to seeing how a British author depicts the bizarre realities of pre-statehood “Deseret.”

As an aside, note that for Doyle’s book the name of the volume itself is “A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four,” therefore according to MLA formatting only the “and” is italicized because the volume’s title should be italicized, but of course in italicized titles that include book titles (i.e., in this case, A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four) the normally italicized titles must receive another form of emphasis since the entire title of the volume is already theoretically italicized. I understand the logic of this, but it just looks weird. I would much prefer if the “and” were the only word not italicized. I am all for MLA style’s attention to detail, but certain elements of it drive me up a wall.

As a second aside, Dover books are fantastic. I often assign them in my classes when I can because they are so inexpensive. Most people are familiar with Dover as a result of their editions of classic literary works, but they publish a wide-ranging list, including several significant chess books such as Frank Brady’s Bobby Fischer: Profile of a Prodigy and Hans Kmoch’s Pawn Power in Chess. The protagonist in Nicholson Baker’s novel The Fermata is in the process of writing a history of Dover as his M.A. thesis, and I’ve always wished I could read it. Baker himself would be the perfect person to write such a history because of his love of print culture, and especially print culture ephemera.

I’ve been reading David Foster Wallace’s essays for the past week-and-a-half, which is why this post is so footnote-y.

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Chess Again

In my previous post I wrote about having a chess dream last night, and how I love chess’s material culture. Then this afternoon I ran across an article on grantland.com by Dave McKenna about a recent chess cheating scandal in Virginia (here is the link: http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/8362701/the-evolution-cheating-chess). First off, regarding the scandal, in which a player used a computer that was supposedly just for keeping score to access a program that fed him moves, there is no reason that amateur players who do not have some form of physical disability that makes it difficult/impossible for them to write by hand should be allowed to use electronic scorekeeping devices rather than paper scoresheets. Secondly, what an odd coincidence that grantland.com should happen to publish its first ever article about chess on a day that I was already thinking about the game. I’ve written here before about how every once in a while I will encounter a subject or personage several times within a very short period of time, and this feels like the same kind of thing going on. Weird.

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Missing Chess

I had a vivid dream about playing in a chess tournament last night. I haven’t played in a tournament in nearly two years, which was the last time I even played a game. My life is much too busy these days to go back to playing chess because of the all-encompassing nature of my professional life, as being an academic is a 24/7 kind of job. When I am reading for fun I can always put the book down, and when I am watching sports I can always turn the television off, but chess is a hobby that quickly becomes an obsession and also fights for one’s attention all the time.

However,  I do go through phases where I miss the game keenly. Sometimes I’ll find myself playing through a few moves in my head, but what I really miss is the material culture of the game. There is, of course, the rich print culture surrounding the game, which I am especially drawn to as a bibliophile. There is also the game equipment itself. I love being at a tournament and seeing the variety of sets, boards, and clocks in use. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but it also serves as an archeological history of the chess community because well-made sets last for decades, and the basic equipment never changes, so it’s not necessary to buy replacements unless one is a collector like me. I still have my first chess clock, a basic BHB analog from the mid-1990s that is still in perfect working order. I have a digital clock now, too, that I use for tournaments, but it is merely functional rather than beautiful. I also love wooden sets, and have three sets of wooden pieces and one wooden board along with two high quality folding cardboard boards, which are much nicer than the more common vinyl roll-up boards. Wooden pieces make the game more regal; one can be losing terribly and be reminded by the wooden pieces that it is still a beautiful game. Likewise, a win with a cheap plastic set, though ultimately satisfying, feels a little tawdry, too.

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