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  • Tolstoy's centenary year

    Wed, 06 Jan 2010 10:02

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    To mark the centenary of Russian author Leo Tolstoy's death, the Guardian has published a series of articles on one of the finest writers to have ever lived (expect this to be a big year for all things Tolstoy-related). Particularly noteworthy is Jay Parini's article There's more to Tolstoy than War and Peace:

    This is the anniversary year for Tolstoy's death -- a century ago he fled his ancestral home, Yasnaya Polyana, and went on the road with a friend (his private doctor) to become a kind of wandering monk. He died only a couple of weeks later, in a remote railway station called Astapovo. He was estranged from his wife of nearly five decades, cut off from all of his children except one daughter, who had become a devoted "Tolstoyan". It was a strange end, and the story itself was (to me) so compelling that I wrote a novel about it, The Last Station, in 1990. It has now been made into a film, with Helen Mirren as the Countess and Christopher Plummer as the great man himself.

    Needless to say, the anniversary is going to draw a lot of readers to Tolstoy. This is certainly a good thing. I would assume that most readers who have read Tolstoy seriously will know the important novels, War and Peace and Anna Karenina. These are certainly masterpieces that rank among the great works of western European literature. I go back to them myself every few years, just to sink into their worlds, which are endlessly informative, stimulating, and convincing. I love these books.

    But there is a vast shelf of books by Leo Tolstoy, and these contain some very intriguing and much less widely read works (more...)

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    Three extremely powerful, shocking and uncompromising books about so-called "honour killing" reviewed sensitively ("by the time I had finished reading these ghastly stories, it was the sisters who for me stood out as the heroines"), and exhaustively, by Jacqueline Rose in the London Review of Books:

    The term "honour killing" entered the British legal system in 2003, when Abdullah Yones pleaded guilty to killing his 16-year-old daughter Heshu. Accounts of the case vary but certain facts are clear. The family had fled Saddam Hussein's Iraq in 1991 -- in London the father worked as a volunteer for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. At the William Morris Academy in Hammersmith, where she was a pupil, Heshu repeatedly expressed her fear of a forced marriage, but teachers ignored her. When her parents discovered her relationship with a Christian Lebanese boy, she ran away from home -- her teachers, concerned that he was having an adverse effect on her schoolwork, had told her family about him. Taken to Kurdistan to marry her cousin (one account says Pakistan), and forced to undergo a virginity test, Heshu was threatened with a gun by her father but saved, on this occasion, by her mother and brother. After the family's return to England, her brother discovered letters in which she repeated her desire to escape. She was locked in her room and stabbed to death by her father, who then tried to kill himself by jumping from the balcony after slitting his own throat (more...)

  • Google versus Groovle

    Thu, 31 Dec 2009 05:24

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    A Canadian company behind a search engine called has won a case filed against it by online search giant Google (the BBC has the story).

    More details (below) from TechCrunch:

    Back in 2007, we wrote about Groovle, a site that lets you skin Google with your favorite image, and serves results through Google's Custom Search. It seems that Google wasn't much of a fan though: the search giant sought to take control over the domain name, alleging that it would confuse users. Today comes word that their request has been denied by the National Arbitration Forum, in what Groovle believes is only Google's second such defeat.

    Google initially sent Groovle an Email on July 29 demanding that they hand the domain over. In response to Google's initial complaints, Groovle modified the site design to make it more distinct and added a disclaimer to explicitly say it was not affiliated with Google, but that wasn't enough to placate them. It's not hard to guess why Google was concerned. Groovle, while not simply a typo away from Google's name, does share quite a few letters in common, and the primary purpose of the site is to search Google's index.

    Groovle's defense includes a number of arguments, but the one that resonated with the NAF is that its name stems from the words "Groovy" and "Groove", rather than "Google". It may not sound like a big difference, but those extra letters proved to be enough to win the case.

  • Grinch apps for Christmas

    Tue, 08 Dec 2009 07:10

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    I learn, via eBooknewser, that:

    iPhone app developer Oceanhouse Media has announced the release of three Seuss Enterprises-licensed apps based on the Dr. Seuss classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Two are games -- 'Grinchmas,' a kind of digital snowball fight; and 'The Dr. Seuss Camera-Grinch Edition,' a greeting-card maker -- and are already available in the app store. The third, which the company says will be out in time for the holidays, is an e-book version of the book itself.

    The app features some nice enhancements: professional voice-over narration, words that highlight as they're read and zoom up when touched, background audio, and enlarged artwork. The audio can also be turned off for "traditional" reading (more...)

  • Marion Bataille's 'ABC3D'

    Thu, 19 Nov 2009 11:32

    A huge bestseller at this time of year, ABC3D has been described as "easily the most innovative alphabet book of the year, if not the decade... Beyond clever."

    From the lenticular cover that changes with the angle of your hands all the way to the Z, ABC3D is as much a work of art as it is a pop-up book. Each of the 26 three-dimensional letters move and change before your eyes. C turns into D with a snap. M stands at attention. X becomes Y with a flick of the wrist. And then there's U... Boldly conceived and brilliantly executed with a striking black, red, and white palette, this is a book that readers and art lovers of all ages will treasure for years to come.

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