New Jewish year, new books by Jewish authors!

The new Jewish year is marked this time around with several new book releases that have me very excited:

1) After being mesmerized by The World to Come and In the Image, I can’t wait to read Dara Horn’s newest, A Guide for the Perplexed, which was officially published today. An essay by the author appeared in The New York Times this week, reminding of the book’s release. The topic was the role of memory in literature — particularly in Jewish literature — which Horn tied to Rosh Hashanah. (The holiday falls later this week, and it’s also known as “The Day of Remembrance.”) Her new novel reportedly draws on this theme as it follows two contemporary characters obsessed with the work of the Rambam.

in the courtyard of the kabbalist

Ruchama King Feuerman’s latest, just out

2) Ruchama King Feuerman’s In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist follows an assortment of characters in Jerusalem. I’m very blessed that the author has sent me an advance copy — a review here on the blog will be forthcoming. I was a big fan of her last book, Seven Blessings, as well as some of her more recent, shorter work. Feuerman has been called “a Jewish Jane Austen,” probably because her character portraits so marvelously balance positive and negative qualities. I’m already a few dozen pages in to the new book and really getting into it. For a recent review, see here.

3) Ofir Touche Gafla’s The World of the End will soon be published in English. Continue reading

More good news of the publishing sort

My teen fiction story “Nuture Nature” appears in this week’s Binyan (inside the weekly Hamodia). The magazine is available at Jewish bookstores, newstands, and kosher shops nationwide! It’s the first time I’ve appeared in that publication, although I’ve been a subscriber for years (like more than a decade). You’ll find the story on p. 14. 

A trip into the Uncanny Valley

My kids love Tintin comics by Herge, so I was unable to suppress my desire to watch the trailer of the new Tintin film (despite the fact I haven’t gone to the movies in nearly eight years). If you’re interested it’s here:

http://insidemovies.ew.com/2011/05/17/tintin-adventures-trailer-spielberg/

What surprised me is that the animation in Tintin seemed to me to fall into what is called the Uncanny Valley.
The Uncanny Valley refers to the widespread belief that when computer graphics, robots, or other representations of people look and act almost, but not quite, like the real thing, people are creeped out. Apparently some genuine research has been done in this area, and many experts in CGI and robotics try hard to avoid stumbling into the Uncanny Valley in order to avoid turning off potential viewers. 
 
As technology advances, this becomes more and more difficult. Just when does the image flip from being disgusting and become convincing? And how are we supposed to respond to such simulacra? 

[Indeed, this is a favorite theme in science fiction. For example, both the classic book I, Robot by Asimov and the Ridley Scott movie Blade Runner (based on Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) directly address this conundrum. In one fictional world, androids are prohibited from having a convincing human appearance altogether; in the other, such robots exist, but are forbidden from living on Earth.]

Now let’s get back to the new Tintin adaptation. I watched the trailer (and I should repeat that I actually don’t watch movies in theaters and rarely at home unless Jewish), and I immediately responded—Ugh! 

I’m not sure why the producers opted for an image capture CGI as opposed to live action (there actually are already animated adaptations of the Tintin comics, so I’m not so shocked that they opted out of another animated version), but I had a visceral reaction against what I saw. I’m wondering if other viewers will have similar reactions. With more and more exposure to video game graphics and the like, maybe the Uncanny Valley will lose it’s effect on people who see a lot of CGI.