Personal Library Compression: Learning to Let Go of Books

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There’s been a bit of a row, a kerfuffle, a hullabaloo, a hurlyburly, a brouhaha recently over a woman named Marie Kondo and a meme spreading that’s raised the ire of a few book lovers. I’d never heard of Marie Kondo until this event. She’s a lifestyle writer who has a Netflix show about organizing and decluttering your home; of course I hadn’t crossed cultural paths with her. I only use Netflix to watch terrible anime Godzilla films and whatever old John Hughes movie just got drawn from the archives.

What’s the Kondo Crisis? I don’t want to rehash it, so here’s a brief explanation of how Marie Kondo’s book-tidying advice and a gag about book-hoarding clerics turned into the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. For my part, when I first saw the meme with a photo of Marie Kondo and the quote “Ideally, keep less than 30 books,” (without the lower half that constitutes the joke) I was skeptical about it. Meme skepticism is always healthy. And some of the anger directed at her misunderstood advice quickly turned ugly, so I was glad I took the time to find out the context of what was happening. 

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My History With Conan Pastiches; Plus: Conan the Bold

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Fans of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Cimmerian have little affection for the Conan pastiches, i.e. any Conan story by another author. I can’t blame them—few of these short stories, novellas, and novels are much good. Howard was singularly suited to writing about the barbarian hero, and without his peculiar combination of skills and his relentless authorial drive, it’s tough to capture anything matching the same excitement. Non-Howard Conan is just another muscular fantasy barbarian who’s really good at splitting open skulls and drinking. That can be fun, but it’s not really Howard’s Conan.

But I owe some of where I am today to the Conan pastiche novel, specifically the long series Tor Books published from 1982 to 1997 (with one extra book popping up in 2003). I got my start as an online writer and book/movie essayist by writing about the Tor Conans—because nobody else apparently wanted to. In the early 2000s, while wasting time at a mind-killing day job at a commodities firm, I often posted on some of the Conan forums. I noticed other posters occasionally asking if anybody could recommend some of the Tor novels, which usually got the response of, “Don’t know, I haven’t read them.”

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Check Out My New Edgar Rice Burroughs Article

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Hello there, 2019! I had hoped to get something posted a bit earlier, possibly filled with definitive statements about the year to come (i.e. making stuff up), but it’s already been an extraordinarily busy year for me so far. Perilous Worlds is starting to ramp up, and soon you can expect around an article a week from me on the site.

My newest article for Perilous Worlds is up now, the first one they’ve posted since the site opened in October: it’s a short examination of the history of the pulps using Edgar Rice Burroughs as a focus. ERB was one of the reasons the pulp medium grew the way it did. I’m pleased with how the article came out, since it is no simple task to compress the history of the pulps into under a thousand words. Perilous Worlds is teaching me important lessons on concision! Two more articles are finished and waiting in the wings, and I’m finishing up a new one this weekend, a little visit to The Worm Ouroboros. I also recently delivered an article on The Hour of the Dragon to Black Gate as part of a round-robin project on all of the Conan stories by Robert E. Howard. That won’t end up posted for a few months, however.