The Chimerist

Posts tagged reading

These are my screenshots — two photos by Pierre-Louis Pierson, of the Comtesse de Castiglione, Virginie Oldoni, a woman who is both a muse to my second novel, The Queen of the Night, and the villain of it as well. The first, “The Opera Ball,” I like to look at as it perfectly contains the tone of the novel. The second, “Scherzo di Follia,” on the home page, is a famous one of her eye.

Oldoni was a bit of a 19th Century Cindy Sherman, one of the most famous beauties in Second Empire Paris and probably the most notorious mistress of Napoleon the III. She had herself photographed in her most famous gowns and costumes to document her own history, and Pierson did very well by her. She’s my novel’s presiding ghost, and I wrote about her before I knew she existed, inventing a character like her before finding a photo of her by Pierson, dressed as I had described her. These two photos help me remember what I am doing somehow, so they are here.

I bought my iPad back in 2010. I didn’t initially like it, despite some high hopes. I found the lack of Flash ridiculous, an ostentatious prohibition like the colored dots Apple forced fashion magazines like GQ and VMan to put on their photo spreads, over nipples and other potentially obscene areas. These actually enraged me so much I almost returned it. The censorship by dot was all due to Steve Jobs’ famous fear of porn, and it made the tablet editions of these magazines look and feel a lot like they were being subjugated to the demands of a high-tech gated community run by a co-op board with a bizarre moral code. One that was only going to force you to pay for things you could get for free elsewhere, and without the dots. I didn’t like a machine that felt as if it didn’t trust me to be an adult. Who were these dots for? Who was going to accidentally see a nipple and be offended except me? My window to the future of media had a child lock on it that I didn’t ask for and couldn’t take off.

Worse, it wasn’t even legislated — it was only due to Steve Jobs’ personal foibles, and as such, it was immune to appeal, unlike, say, a law. But then I found Comixology and so the device stayed put. Because I really did like reading comics on the iPad — it was like the most organized set of reading copies ever. 

Read More

I use my iPad for many things, but mainly for reading books, magazines, stories, and essays that happen to be digitized. Most of them are also published on paper; others, like The Atavist’s ”Mother Stranger" or Storyville’s du Maurier reprints, are only available digitally, and are consequently much less expensive to distribute, but could just as easily be read in print. 

For these kinds of publications, the iPad enhances availability but doesn’t particularly change the reading experience itself — except insofar as the lit screen makes it easier to read at night and harder to read in bright sunlight. And that’s fine. When I read, I don’t need bells and whistles; I’m looking for information or to be lost in a story. As Laura wrote recently:

By now, the theory that the novel of the future will be a game has become almost venerable. That’s despite indications that — as the critic and author Tom Bissell pointed out in his book “Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter” — narrative and interactivity are in fundamental respects incompatible. Where games offer the pleasure of mastery, narrative offers the pleasure of surrender. You can beat “Halo,” but you can’t win “To Kill a Mockingbird”; the notion doesn’t even make sense. A “Hamlet” in which Hamlet can blithely decide to kill his uncle as soon as his father’s ghost tells him to is not “Hamlet,” and, furthermore, not that interesting. Part of the power of that story is its feeling of inevitability, the understanding that each event follows from those preceding it and ultimately derives from the nature of each character.

This potent sense of causality, along with a subtle balance of expectation and surprise, is the great storyteller’s secret weapon.

This fact — that so much of the pleasure of reading fiction lies in surrender, while the pleasure of interactivity is by definition the opposite — is a tension that strikes at the core of this site. Laura and I are readers, first and foremost, and will invariably touch on our reading here. On the other hand, we aren’t going to duplicate the sort of writing about books we do elsewhere simply because we happen to have read an e-galley rather than a bound one.

Maud Newton