Renting Knowledge

This article form the New York Times about renting textbooks has my opinion fairly split.  On the one hand, I’m all for lowering the costs of texts (something I actively try to do when I pick out textbooks for my courses).  On the other hand, I see some problems.  First, if book rentals means that publishers will stop issuing new editions every year then we might be getting somewhere.  The article itself indicates that the publishers get no money from the sale of used books, hence the new edition which will ensure increased profit (minus some chump change for a new cover and forward by some scholar or other).  There’s also the troubling aspect of merely renting knowledge.  A brief example: if I assign a writing handbook for my class, having students merely rent it entirely defeats the purpose.  At least 80% of the students in my classes end up desperately needing a handbook that covers basic grammar so I assign one that does just that.  75% will need that handbook when they leave.  It’s not that I ignore teaching the topic, or that my students are unable to learn, rather it’s just a topic that needs refreshing and to be looked up from time to time.  Sure they could buy the book, but how many will be motivated to do that?  There’s already the likelyhood that students will sell back the book anyway, but it seems to me that a student is more likely to keep a resource like this if there’s no more money to be paid.  If it’s paid for already, why not keep it?  If you owe $20, forget it.  It’s an issue that becomes even more distressing in regards to English Literature or History.  What happens when we view these books as not being intrinsically worth owning on their own merits.  What happens when we merely rent our education?

That said, I’ve had my fair share of useless textbooks that I’ve sold back after the term, and I get the usefulness of this in some cases.  Still, it feels like it reinforces a disturbing trend.  Maybe, instead of renting, we should look at lowering the cost of education all together, the price of textbooks included.

Inherent Other

Oh if I could just get to Poland…

Of Pynchon And Vice: America’s Inherent Other (International Pynchon Week), June 09-12, 2010, Lublin, Poland

full name / name of organization:
Zofia Kolbuszewska, The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin
contact email:
cfp categories:

While focusing on AGAINST TH DAY and Pynchon’s eagerly awaited most recent novel, INHERENT VICE, the conference is open to engagement with any aspect of Pynchon’s oeuvre and any Pynchon-related subject. The organizers hope to provide a forum for scholars in various disciplines, ranging from literature through cultural studies to the exact sciences, taking any critical or theoretical approach. There is no participation fee.

All presentations will be in plenary session. Each speaker will be allotted thirty minutes (including discussion). Presentations may take the form of individual papers, media presentations, or panels. Please submit proposals/abstracts (in English) of 500-750 words for individual presentations, or of 1,000-1,500 words for panels.

Deadline for proposals: November 30, 2009
Decisions by January 15, 2010
Proposals/abstracts should be e-mailed to
Zofia Kolbuszewska:

All information at

The Great Pynchon Caper?

The New Yorker on Thomas Pynchon’s interactions with the band Lotion. (I have to add that the URL for this link has the phrase “Pynchon-Lotion” in it, which frankly just sounds like it might result in a mysterious rash and lead you to calling a help line from the more nefarious depths of Procter and Gamble.  Out of body experience included.)

Also, the liner notes for the album in question.

Anyone have a copy of that album?

More Pynchon & Inherent Vice

I’ve sadly fallen far behind on things thans to some traveling and a backlog of work.  Here’s some new links that have been sent my way while I’ve been gone from the internets.

First the Inherent Vice trailer from Penguin Press:

Of course the question is who did the narration…

Next is a map of Pynchon’s LA from Wired.

More as I get my act together.

[Edit – I lost my mind and forgot to credit Shane and Austin for the links.  Sorry.]