More Fun with Amazon

Amazon has recently instituted “text stats,” which measures a book by Fleish-Kincaid index (the higher you go, the more difficult it is to read), percentage of complex words and words per dollar. Now if this is the basis for why one should read, let’s see how the thickass literary heavy-hitters stand up:

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Fleisch-Kincaid Index: 9.3
Complex Words: 11%
Words Per Dollar: 25,287

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
Fleisch-Kincaid Index: 7.3
Complex Words: 9%
Words Per Dollar: 24,553

The Recognitions by William Gaddis
Fleisch-Kincaid Index: 8.4
Complex Words: 9%
Words Per Dollar: 25,458

Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
Fleisch-Kincaid Index: 9.5
Complex Words: 10%
Words Per Dollar: 24,086

The Royal Family by William T. Vollmann
Fleisch-Kincaid Index: 6.6
Complex Words: 9%
Words Per Dollar: 31,532

Ulysses by James Joyce
Fleisch-Kincaid Index: 6.8
Complex Words: 10%
Words Per Dollar: 16,777

The Gold Bug Variations by Richard Powers
Fleisch-Kincaid Index: 8.5
Complex Words: 14%
Words Per Dollar: 20,944

And here are the winners.

Best Words Per Dollar Value: William T. Vollmann
Author You’ll Need Your Dictionary For: Richard Powers
Most Difficult to Read: Thomas Pynchon (w/ David Foster Wallace a close second)
Easiest to Read: William T. Vollmann (w/ James Joyce a close second)

Pero, Piense en Los NiƱos!

Our Rocky Mountain pal and colleague has the scoop on the campaign to divest Denver’s libraries of racy fotonovelas. After having removed 6,000 of these “tawdry” books, a full review of the libraries’ 2.5 million circulation is now being considered, leaving some wags to opine that “indecency” might be more of an elastic term than explicitly stated, perhaps used as a euphemism for purging the catalog of, shall we say, less Anglo-friendly titles.

Morning Linkage

I’m trying my best to post lengthy entries (and reply to the email backlog), but other obligations have kept me firmly bogged. In the meantime, here’s some morning linkage:

  • David Foster Wallace gave a commencement speech at Kenyon College a few weeks ago. (via Scott Esposito, who has returned from Spain and has somehow managed to get the keys back from Dan Wickett)
  • A whole-hearted congratulations to M.A.O. for being selected one of Time‘s 50 Coolest Websites.
  • Ron Hogan has a modest proposal. Even though his idea doesn’t involve cannibalism, I did manage to cough up a few shellacs. Have you?
  • I don’t know what’s stranger: the idea of six good reads to the sound of rain or the fact that this high-concept article came from the Tuscon Citizen. Riddle me this: when did Arizona journalists become cummulus experts?
  • Tempo has announced the 50 best magazines for 2005. It’s safe to say that Beads Today and Anal Angels didn’t make the list.
  • CNN explores Maine’s literary heritage, but one has to wonder why Stephen King gets more paragraphs than Longfellow.
  • A new version of Sling Blade will be released to DVD. It’s 22 minutes longer. Remarkably, 19 of these minutes are composed of medium shots of Billy Bob Thornton saying “M’hmmm. Yup.” But there is now a three-minute monologue of Karl Childers extolling the virtues of “taters.”
  • Yes, indeedy. Michel Houellebecq is a badass. (via Maud)
  • And this compelling public access show may get me to rescind my eight year self-imposed ban on cable television. Here in San Francisco, we have a show called “Fantasy Bedtime Hour” that involves two nude women reading Stephen R. Donaldson’s 1977 novel, Lord Foul’s Bane, and other strange speculative fiction titles. I’ve always been a sucker for a nude woman reading to me in bed. I’ve also been a licker too. But then that’s probably TMI.


Infinity expert A.W. Moore compares David Foster Wallace’s Everything and More against two other books specializing in the subject and concludes that DFW is wrong: “The sections on set theory, in particular, are a disaster. When he lists the standard axioms of set theory from which mathematicians derive theorems about the iterative conception of a set, he gets the very first one wrong. (It is not, as Wallace says, that if two sets have the same members, then they are the same size. It is that two sets never do have the same members.)…He goes on to discuss Cantor’s unsolved problem, which I mentioned at the end of the previous paragraph. There are many different, equivalent ways of formulating the problem; Wallace gives four. The first and fourth are fine. The second, about whether the real numbers ‘constitute’ the set of sets of rational numbers, does not, as it stands, make sense. And the third, about whether the cardinal that measures the size of the set of real numbers can be obtained by raising 2 to the power of the smallest infinite cardinal, is simply wrong: we know it can.”

Heather Havrilesky interviews David Callahan, author of The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead.

Bernard Goldberg’s Arrogance has sold considerably short of sales. Retailers will get a half-price credit. And to think that a little less than two years ago, Goldberg was the man of the hour. All demagogues fall. When Ann Coulter?

Dave Eggers may write the script for Where the Wild Things Are for Spike Jonze. Oh no. (via Maud)

And if you haven’t seen this end-of-the-year wrapup yet with the bookblog cabal, check it out.