Tag Archives: chess

Books Acquired Recently

Cuevas, T. Jackie. Post-Borderlandia: Chicana Literature and Gender Variant Critique. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2018.

I just heard about this book, which is at an intersection (queer+Latinx) I am beginning to explore in my work, so I decided to buy it. I acquired it, Maurensig’s, and Shapiro’s books from amazon.com.

Maurensig, Paolo. Theory of Shadows. 2015. Translated by Anne Milano Appel. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018.

I greatly enjoyed Maurensig’s 1993 chess-themed novel The Lüneburg Variation when I read it about a decade ago, thus when I heard he had published another novel on the game I put it on my list.

Shapiro, Laura. What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women & the Food That Tells Their Stories. 2017. New York: Penguin Books, 2018.

I assign a food essay in my first-year composition course, and am always looking for good food-related books to read alongside it. I received a promotional email about Shapiro’s book from the publisher and decided to buy an examination copy for $3.00 to see whether it might be worth teaching.

Shawl, Nisi. Everfair. 2016. New York: Tor, 2017.

Shawl is an author I have been wanting to read as part of my continuing exploration of speculative fiction by people of color. Everfair was recommended to me as a good place to start.

Toews, Miriam. Women Talking. Toronto: Knopf Canada, 2018.

I bought Toews’s newest novel as soon as it was published. It won’t be out in the U.S. until next year, so I had to order the Canadian edition from amazon.ca. I read it as soon as I received it and it is amazing, powerful, an absolute must-read.

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Books Acquired Recently: Mostly Birthday Edition

My birthday is this week and I have already received several books as gifts. There is no gift better!

Brady, Frank. Endgame: Bobby Fischer’s Remarkable Rise and Fall–from America’s Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness. New York: Broadway Paperbacks, 2012.

I am a recovering chess addict who has always been fascinated by Bobby Fischer, the greatest American chess player ever. Brady’s first biography of Fischer, Profile of a Prodigy, is one of my favorite books ever, and I look forward to reading this sequel.

Castro, Jennifer, ed. All You Need is Love: Honoring the Diversity of Women’s Voices in Theology. Elkhart, IN: Mennonite Church USA, 2016.

I am friends with several of the contributors to this book, which collects essays from the 2014 Women Doing Theology conference. Mennonite theology needs all the help it can get from those on the margins, thus I am excited to see what ideas the book’s writers have to offer.

Palahniuk, Chuck. Haunted. 2005. New York: Anchor Books, 2006.

This is one of the few Palahniuk books that I have not read. His books are either brilliant or terrible.

Shigekuni, Julie. Unending Nora. Los Angeles: Red Hen Press, 2008.

Shigekuni gave a reading earlier this week at the local Barnes & Noble. She was very personable and chatted at length with the students present after the reading. I decided to buy this novel rather than a more recent one because a colleague told me that it involves autoerotic asphyxiation and I am always looking for new fictional representations of kink.

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Books Acquired Recently: MLA Edition

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Last week I went to the annual Modern Language Association (MLA) convention, which was in Philadelphia this year. It was my third time attending MLA, and as usual one of the highlights of my trip was going to the Book Fair. It seemed like there were fewer publishers there this year, but I still managed to come away with ten books! All of the publishers had sales, and I actually got four of the books (Cisneros, Hass, Karr, McCloud) for free.

Cisneros, Sandra. A House of My Own: Stories from My Life. 2015. New York: Vintage Books, 2016.

Random House was giving out free books in exchange for signing up for their email list, and this patchwork memoir was the most intriguing of the books eligible for the offer.

Cruz, Ariane. The Color of Kink: Black Women, BDSM, and Pornography. New York: New York University Press, 2016.

BDSM is one of my major scholarly interests and it excites me how there are more and more academic studies of it being published.

Cvetkovich, Ann. Depression: A Public Feeling. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012.

I adored Cvetkovich’s An Archive of Feelings when I read it earlier this semester, so I decided to check out this newer volume.

Gillot, Alain. The Penalty Area. Trans. Howard Curtis. New York: Europa Editions, 2016.

This lovely little novel that I’ve already finished is about a French youth soccer team. Happily, not only is it about soccer, but chess also plays a significant role.

Gray, Mary L., Colin R. Johnson, and Brian J. Gilley, ed. Queering the Countryside: New Frontiers in Rural Queer Studies. New York: New York University Press, 2016.

I have read very little on rural queer experience, and bought this new reader in order to help remedy this lack.

Hass, Robert. A Little Book on Form: An Exploration Into the Formal Imagination of Poetry. New York: Ecco, 2017.

I love both Hass’s poetry and his writing about poetry, and was thus excited to see that he has this new book (which, at over 400 pages, is not “little”) out.

Hoang, Nguyen Tan. A View from the Bottom: Asian American Masculinity and Sexual Representation. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014.

I have been trying to read as much work at the intersection of race/ethnicity and queer theory as possible recently, but have not yet read anything about the Asian queer experience.

Karr, Mary. The Art of Memoir. 2015. New York: HarperPerennial, 2016.

I have been writing more and more creative nonfiction lately, but without reading much theory on how to do so. I thought reading this book would be helpful as I continue to pursue this writing.

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: William Morrow, 1993.

It is terrible that I still haven’t read this classic text even though I have taught graphic narratives in a number of courses. But there’s nothing like the impetus of getting it for free!

Rabinowitz, Paula. American Pulp: How Paperbacks Brought Modernism to Main Street. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014.

I love pulp paperbacks and was thus very excited to find this history of them and their influence.

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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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Saying Goodbye To Old Friends

The books that I am removing from my library.

The books that I am removing from my library.

I have decided to de-accession some of my books in preparation for my upcoming move. This is a difficult decision because I love my books, not just for their content, but also for the history that they embody. My obsessive book collecting is one way to document my life. There are many books that I have which I know I will almost certainly not read again and which probably will never come in handy as reference for my research, but I keep them because of the memories that I associate with them. Thus giving some of them away is like giving away part of myself, which sounds cliche, but is true in my case. I am not just a person with lots of books, I am a cyborg in the Harawayan sense who consists of my physical person and my books (and perhaps a few other objects as well).

But this group of books that I’ll take to my local bookstore (the Central Book Exchange) for some cash no longer have enough nostalgia attached to them to justify moving across the country. Most of the nonfiction is well-written, I’ll just never read it again. Most of the fiction (clearly not all–War and Peace is pretty decent, ha ha) is not. A few of the books are excellent, but I have two copies and only need one. It is an interesting cross-section of texts: some old religion textbooks from my undergraduate days, some superfluous chess books (I’ve had Pawn Power in Chess since high school, but I still haven’t read it, and haven’t played in about three years, so I wouldn’t get to it any time soon), some fiction.

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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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Some Thoughts on Edgar Allan Poe

Yesterday a friend of mine posted this hilarious cartoon on Facebook: http://i.imgur.com/rlEZr.png. Any time you can combine Edgar Allan Poe and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” you have to do it. I’ve been thinking about the cartoon and chuckling all day, which in turn got me thinking about Poe in general, and how he keeps inserting himself into my life at random intervals. I enjoy his work, though I would not consider him one of my “favorite” authors, but my history with him is longer than my history with any other non-children’s author aside from C.S. Lewis. Here is a brief recounting of some of that history.

My first encounter with Poe was via his famous poem “The Raven.” I don’t remember when I discovered this poem—presumably in school—but I knew it by 1989 when it featured in the first Simpsons Halloween special, with James Earl Jones narrating and the Bart-headed raven saying “eat my shorts” instead of “nevermore.”

The second encounter with Poe which comes to mind is reading a book of his short stories for eighth-grade English. The stories were cool because of their creepiness, but I got a 72 (or maybe a 74? Anyway, pretty abysmal) percent on the exam that covered them, so didn’t revisit the book for years afterward because it was associated with bad memories. However, I still have it, and just now noticed that it is edited by Vincent Price! Classic. And only $4.95 new.

A third strong Poe memory comes from the tail end of my sophomore year of high school. I was in Stratford, Ontario on a school trip to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival (which was a surreal experience, but that is a story for another post). The plays were in the evening, thus we were spending the day browsing Stratford’s shops. I came across a small bookstore and decided to go inside and look for a collection of Poe’s poetry. (Why Poe? Why poetry? I don’t remember my reasons; it was like an unexplainable craving.) This is the earliest instance I can remember of that lovely phenomenon of going into a bookstore wanting a specific book and finding it when you were not sure that you would (Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street and Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited are two other examples of this happy synchronicity that I have experienced). In this case, I didn’t even know whether the book I wanted even existed, but there it was, “The Raven” and Other Favorite Poems, for only $1.00.

My fourth major Poe memory, and really the last time I thought about him extensively until this weekend (I taught “Annabel Lee” this past semester, but made my students do the thinking about it), is from three or four years ago when I was playing chess with a friend and he observed that in successful attacks the threat of a crushing move is often stronger and more decisive than its actual execution. He compared this to the threat present in “The Purloined Letter,” where the threat of blackmail resulting from the stolen letter is so strong that those who look for it are out of their heads to the point where they miss that it is on the desk, out in the open. I suppose I must add Poe to that ever-increasing mental list of authors that I need to re-read.

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