Free Books!

There are a lot of free ebooks out there.  Some are legitimate free ebooks which are released on Amazon, Smashwords and similar places to tempt readers into buying other books from the same author.  Others are curiosities.  Perhaps someone wants to share their knowledge of making chainmail or crochet or gas metal arc welding and for whatever reason don’t feel it right putting a price on it.

There are other legitimate sites where the books are free.  You can visit your local library (some lend ebooks as well), or read books that would otherwise have a cost through subscription schemes like Amazon Prime or Scribd.  You can even share books around.  There are a lot of book exchanges, some more official than others.  I found a load listed on Wikipedia here.

Some free ebooks deal with health matters.  Sometimes those who have struggled down dark paths of addiction, disordered eating or chronic illness want to share their experience and how they made it through.  They can be a valuable resource to people lost in bad places.  Please always check advice from these sources against reputable medical advice.  It’s not that all of the books would mislead you, but some are safer than others.  You are precious and worth doing due diligence.

Then there are places out there that tout that they supply free ebooks, but perhaps aren’t the safest places to find a good read.  If you are not familiar with a site, it’s worth double checking or skipping altogether.  The last thing anyone needs is to find themselves downloading the latest virus instead of the most recent blockbuster.

These are all modern books dealing with new fiction or current techniques.  But did you know that there are a lot more books out there that may have passed under your radar?  For example, did you know about ‘Internet Sacred Text Archive‘?  This is a collection of free texts on folklore, esoteria, religion and mythology.  You can donate or subscribe to read without ads, but if you do neither you can still read such works as ‘Four Ancient Books of Wales’ which is a translation made in 1868 of some of the older works in the Welsh tradition.  I am sure that fantasy writers of all types would have a gleam in their eye at the thought of dipping into the legends of the saints, the Vikings, the Celts, Alchemy, the Pacific, or even UFOs.

You can also have a rummage around the kindle bookstore on Amazon.  Did you know that there are a lot of free classics on there?  I have no longer have an excuse to avoid Moby Dick – free on Amazon.  I ought to be dipping in to Immanuel Kant, or Dickens, or Kafka – all with editions of their work free on Amazon.  I won’t, though.  I’m currently listening to the free Audio book, The Children of Odin.  This channel, like many others on YouTube, has a collection of out of copyright books read by individuals and while some are less than perfect, others rival professional audio books.

If you are looking for a really good site for free, obscure, out of copyright books, then check out Project Gutenberg.  There are currently over 57,000 free books, including ‘Memoires de Garibaldi’ by Dumas, Dracula by Bram Stoker (seriously worth reading the original if you haven’t already and if you want to pay for an audio version the one with Brian Cox rocks), and Persuasion by Jane Austen.

And after going back to all these great places, I think I may spend some time dipping in to a chapter or two.  I may be gone some time.

Is It Art

I went into Leeds today.  I had a few errands to run, the sun was shining and I thought I would make the most of it.  I got off the bus in City Square and saw this.

It’s a statue of some legs, in case you haven’t guessed.  It’s been done very well, and someone has gone to a lot of trouble and effort and it’s bright and colourful and contemporary.  I wasn’t sure about it, though.  I’m not educated in Art, and I think if you have a fine arts background and you know more about context then it’s probably a really great piece.  For a philistine like me, it just looked like some colourful legs.  There’s some more about it here.

A little later, in Briggate, I took this picture.

As you can tell, I’m not brilliant when it comes to pictures.  This is a statue of Minerva, apparently, and I think was sculpted more recently.  As I said, I’m completely uneducated, but I love the way that the solid metal is made to look like fabric folds.  According to a snippet here, Minerva was the goddess of weaving and commerce which is absolutely perfect for Leeds which was built on textiles in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and I love the owl mask, as owls are on the Leeds coat of arms.  I understand this as much as I understand anything.  It tells me stories in the way that the Legs don’t.

The question is – are they both ‘Art’?  Of course they are, and some people will prefer one and some the other.  In both cases someone took an idea and translated it into something solid using skill and passion.  The problem isn’t in the sculpture, the problem is in the question.  The question is poison.

In Leeds Art Gallery there is a huge canvas painted blue.  That’s it – just a vast, flat, blue rectangle.  My instinctive reaction is – someone had a sale on blue paint.  However I have been told that there is a lot of skill in getting an even tone and texture over such a large canvas and that those who paint will really appreciate it.  I know that whoever painted it did a better job than I could ever do.  Who am I to say that they are wrong?

That question – is it art? – is poison to writing as well.  You can be caught up writing the most exciting, challenging, thrilling story.  You can see the action, hear the voices, even smell the smoke and flowers but there is always a little doubt.  There’s always a little niggle.  Are the characters deep enough?  What about extended metaphors?  Have I let an adverb sneak in?  Should I have included this character?  Should I have cut that character?  I need to edit more.

I think that the questions you should ask are things like, are the characters believable?  Are they consistent?  Do they have the same eye colour from one chapter to the next (it happens!)?  Does the story make sense?  Does it have variations in pace?  How about the descriptive passages?  How does the dialogue sound?  All these are valid questions.  You should never stop unless you can say that you are proud of it.  But if you find yourself asking, is it art? then I think you need to step away from the writing and do grocery shopping or cleaning or something that ties you back to the mundane.  From my experience, chasing Great Art is bad for the mental health.

I don’t agree with everything that Rudyard Kipling wrote, but darn it, he could work rhythm and I was reminded of his poem when I saw the Legs this morning – The Conundrum of the Workshops