From June 2008 to September 2009, with a few interruptions of service along the way, this website was the home of what I called the Wednesday Book Club, a weekly series of book reviews that sought to deliver more thorough commentary than one typically expects of a personal reading log, but in no less accessible a form. Graduate school and other obligations made it untenable to continue the project long-term, and I came to prefer the flexibility of literary criticism that was not constricted to a single book at a time. Nevertheless, these reviews still serve as an ample window into how I used to write and think, and I still consult them on occasion to jog the memory and chart how my views have changed.
When the site you are looking at now first launched in 2007 as the new home of Nick’s Café Canadien, this page served as an index to the more significant posts from the original weblog so readers who came looking for them could find them easily. As nearly everything from the first incarnation is now decontextualized or outright broken thanks to a decade or more of Internet link decay, and none of it is worth reading, this index has been removed. Eventually all content prior to August 2007 will be phased out of public view, though it will remain visible on the usual caching services and backed up in my private records.
Nick’s Café Canadien, 2007-2011
In the second era of this journal’s operation, a number of my posts attracted the notice of much bigger fish in the ocean and produced sporadic explosions of traffic, and some good discussion often followed. I include these below in a selection of the most significant and developed pieces in this period of the site’s existence.
- “The National Scrabble Cataclysm, Day 3” (Monday, 28 July 2008) — I wrote about the entirety of the 2008 National Scrabble Championship in Orlando, Florida (Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4)—but if you only have time to read one, make it Part 3, in which I fall in love with Scrabble again in spite of my disastrous performance at the tournament.
- “License to Slum: The Novel of the Movie of the Game” (Sunday, 31 August 2008) — In what is surely the lengthiest piece I have ever written for the site (in five parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) I ask myself if my prejudice against spin-off franchise fiction is just a prejudice. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, skip to Part 5, where I spell out my belief in the individual mind as the crucible of art.
- “The greedy strategeme” (Thursday, 15 April 2010) — I expand on a claim by prominent game designer Soren Johnson that World of Warcraft is a game about evolution. Part 1 of a never-completed series about how the copying of strategies in games creates competitive environments that are mildly Darwinian.
- “IBM’s double jeopardy” (Tuesday, 8 February 2011) — A pugnacious journalist dismissed IBM’s Jeopardy!-playing computer as a gimmick without doing his research. I dispel his misconceptions about AI and investigate how standard journalistic style propagates sensationalism and disappointment alike.
- “Here Be Cartographers: Reading the Fantasy Map” (Monday, 18 April 2011) — Maps of fictional places are often taken for granted as passive and precise. I read them in search of narrative perspective and voice.
- Finally, of the many book reviews I have written for the site, one could do worse than to start with what I said about Le Ton Beau de Marot, The Dispossessed, The Rest Is Noise, Twilight, Watership Down, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.