Tag Archives: Book Club

Procrastination and Perseverence

In January of this year, I declared on this blog that I’d complete a book by the end of this year. I’d like to report that I’m making great progress — in my mind. Few words have made it onto my virtual pages, alas.

We read so many grim books in my book club that we were delighted to read this hilarious, perceptive, heart-felt book in which we actually cared about the characters.

I was inspired recently to get back to work when I went to a fund-raiser for a local hospital.  (Thanks to my great friend Joy for inviting me!)  One of the speakers was Helen Simonson, an author whose first book I’d read and really enjoyed. “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand” was a delightful, touching and very funny book. I could easily picture this well-drawn English village and its characters, so different from my own neighborhood in many ways, but very similar in others. My book club read the book, and it’s been one of the few that we all liked. It’s a tough crowd.

From Simonson’s website:
When Major Pettigrew, a retired British army major in a small English village, embarks on an unexpected friendship with the widowed Mrs. Ali, who runs the local shop, trouble erupts to disturb the bucolic serenity of the village and of the Major’s carefully regimented life.

Helen Simonson.

The title of Simonson’s speech was “Perseverence. ” Simonson said that it took her five years to write the book, “The first four and a half I didn’t do very much.” I’ve got the procrastination part of the equation pretty much taken care of.

Simonson was in a graduate program, and her novel was her thesis. As the deadline neared, she really got into gear. I hope I don’t wait until November to get moving. Is there anyone out there who needs an online writing partner? We can grant each other master’s degrees when we finish!  I’ll just be happy to finish. Simonson got a book deal through an agent within a week of finishing her book!

After the luncheon, I got a chance to meet Simonson, but I didn’t tell her that I was a wanna-be novelist. We’re a dime a dozen, I’m sure.

Helen Simonson’s Website.  You can find Simonson on Facebook, too.

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Filed under Authors, Books, Entertainment, Europe

Intellectual Property Rights

Classic Books postcard

As a writer and photographer, I’m often territorial about my words and images, so I can understand any creative person getting huffy or even litigious when their intellectual property is used without permission. If I want some pithy quotes, I use the words of a long-dead people, always crediting them, of course.

I designed a greeting card using a photograph I took of old books my mother has collected. I added some quotes from five long-dead authors and philosophers about books and then posted the card on a Print on Demand (POD) site where I have many products. The card is to be a small gift for my fellow book club members (Shhh, don’t tell them.)

A few days later, I received an email from the POD site informing me that my “design contains an image or text that infringes on intellectual
property rights. We have been contacted by the intellectual property right holder and at their request we will be removing your product from …’s Marketplace due to intellectual property claims.”

There was no clue which element might have offended, so I pressed the POD site to find out. Was it one of the publishers listed on the book spines in the photograph? I couldn’t imagine that it would be any of the people I quoted. They’d all been dead at least seventy-five years, when copyrights expire. I realize that copyright issues are much more complicated than that (after all, lawyers are involved) and some copyrights can be renewed. I’ve recently learned that even many versions of the Bible are copyrighted. The King James version, however, is in the public domain.

A plaque featuring Mark Twain's words about Australia is on Writers Walk on Circular Quay of Sydney Harbor in Sydney, Australia. Somehow I must have known I'd meet up with Mark Twain again when I took this photograph.

This was the advice I’d been given about Fair Use. “Public domain works are works whose copyrights were issued before 1923. Many authors choose to use quotes only from people who have been dead more than seventy-five years because their quotes are now considered “Fair Use” under the public domain. Copyrights are good for the duration of the author’s life and for seventy-five years beyond their death. It is generally safe to use quotes from authors who died 1936 or before.”

The POD site fingered the complainer: Mark Twain, or, more accurately, the representatives of Mark Twain. “We have been contacted by the licensing company (I won’t name them) who represent Mark Twain, and at their request, have removed the product from the …  Marketplace.”

I went to the Mark Twain Rep site where I read: “We work with companies around the world who wish to use the name or likeness of Mark Twain in any commercial fashion. The words and the signature “Mark Twain” are trademarks owned and protected by the Estate of Mark Twain. In addition, the image, name, and voice of Mark Twain is a protectable property right owned by the Estate of Mark Twain. Any use of the above, without the express written consent of the Estate of Mark Twain is strictly prohibited.”

Since I make no money from this blog, I hope Twain’s representatives don’t hunt me down here. I’m not even putting Mark Twain or his real name Samuel Clemons in the tags.

Mark Twain was very concerned about protecting his work from pirates, even though he also fussed over nitpicking copyright laws. He wanted the profits from his works — and he was sure there would be plenty of them — to continue to go to his daughters after his death. In Twain’s day, copyright protection expired after 42 years.

Twain is one of the most widely known authors in the world and is still kicking up a fuss today. A publisher recently republished  a politically correct version of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by substituting the word slave for the N word, which provoked a lot of discussion — and more sales.

In November 2010, the first of three volumes of Twain’s autobiography were published complete and unexpurgated for the first time by the Mark Twain Project a hundred years after Twain’s death. Twain had said that he wanted to suppress the publication of some of his more biting comments for a hundred years, but Twain shrewdly also knew that this new version would start the clock ticking on new copyright protection.

Here are two discussions about Twain and copyright:
Mark Twain’s plans to compete with copyright “pirates” (in 1906)

The Mark Twain Project’s Discussion of Copyright and Permissions.

About the Politically Correct Version of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

Here’s a link to the revised greeting card minus the Mark Twain quote.   I did use a quote from Abraham Lincoln and another from Kenkō Yoshida (or Yoshida Kenkō), a Japanese Buddhist monk, who died around 1350.  I think I’m safe there, but you never know.

Love of Books Card.

“A day is coming, when, in the eye of the law, literary property will be as sacred as whisky, or any other of the necessaries of life.” ~ Mark Twain ~

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Filed under Abraham Lincoln, Australia, Authors, Books, History, Humor, Life, Novels, Presidents, Travel

Emergency Chocolate Relief Act

Need some chocolate relief? Mix this cookie dough, form into cookies, freeze and then pop into the oven whenever you have a chocolate emergency.

Our annual book club Christmas party was on Monday night.  We exchange small, but wonderful gifts.  We bring a gift for each person, so we go home with a lot of loot. 

This year, Chris brought a recipe for “Emergency Chocolate Relief Act” plus the actual raw cookies in a plastic bag to put in our freezers.  The raw cookies were ready to pop in the oven whenever we were feeling faint and in need of chocolate. She even gave us a small cookie tray, which will fit into a toaster oven.  It was all wrapped in a festive tea towel.  Her mother, Judy, also a member of book club, gave us a small spatula to complete the ensemble. You can see it all above with the cookies hot from the oven. 

The recipe:

Take off all jewelry. Wash hands. Combine one roll of Nestle refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough with a roll of another brand (such as Pillsbury) in the same amount.  Add substantial amounts of pecans and chocolate chips or pieces of candy bars.  Squish all together into balls. Slightly flatten and put in freezer bags.  Freeze. When you need a cookie or two or three, break out of the bag.  Put on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.  Cool slightly.  Eat!  You’ll feel instant relief!

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Filed under Food, Friendship, Homemaking, Howto, Humor, Life, Personal, Recipes

George Orwell Revisited

                                                                                                                                                                              Last week, I wrote about George Orwell’s new blog. Now he’s back in the news as a subject in a book he shares with Evelyn Waugh.  At first glance, Orwell and Waugh couldn’t be more different in style, interests and beliefs, but writer David Lebedoff has tied together these two fascinating British authors.  You can click on a link below for more information on the book The Same Man: George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh in Love and War.

Orwell and Waugh lived at the same time, observed a similar world and country and expressed opinions on the same topics.  Orwell is known for his dark views of a downtrodden futuristic society, while Waugh’s literary world was lush and populated with an aristocratic crowd. 

The book that epitomizes Waugh for me is Brideshead Revisited.  OK, I admit it was the 1982 miniseries, featuring a young Jeremy Irons, that first drew my attention to Waugh.  Recently, a shorter version of Brideshead Revisited made it to the theater screen.  I don’t see how it can top the first one, but I know I’ll see it eventually.  I’m a sucker for any period piece, even if it takes place last year.

If you want some reviews about the new Orwell/Waugh book go to my book club blog.

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Filed under Entertainment, History, Humor, Language, Life, Literature, Movies, Personal, Politics, Random, Writing