What books should a critic own? "Each week, the National Book Critics Circle will post a list of five books a critic believes reviewers should have in their libraries." Here are all the lists, from 2007-2011. [more inside]
Jonathan Franzen 'considered adopting Iraqi orphan to figure out young people'. [The Guardian]
In a setup that would not look out of place in fiction, Jonathan Franzen, the bestselling American novelist, has said he once considered adopting an Iraqi war orphan to help him understand young people better, but was persuaded against it by his editor. Franzen said he was in his late 40s at the time with a thriving career and a good relationship but he felt angry with the younger generation. “Oh, it was insane, the idea that Kathy [his partner] and I were going to adopt an Iraqi war orphan. The whole idea lasted maybe six weeks.”[more inside]
Patter and Patois by Walter Mosley [New York Times] Walter Mosley writes about his relationship to the literature of Louisiana.
“Louisiana flowed in that blood and across those tongues. Louisiana — a state made famous by Walt Whitman and Tennessee Williams, Ernest Gaines and Arna Bontemps, Kate Chopin and Anne Rice. These writers, from many eras, races and genres, took the voices of the people and distilled them into the passionate, almost desperate, stories that opened readers to a new kind of suffering and exultation.”
A Passion for the Void: Understanding Clarice Lispector’s Strange and Surreal Fiction. [The New Republic]
Plenty of writers inspire fierce devotion in their readers—the David Foster Wallace acolytes, with their duct-taped copies of Infinite Jest, come to mind, as do the smug objectivists dressed in tech-world casual who owe their entire world view to Ayn Rand. But no one converts the uninitiated into devout believers as suddenly and as vertiginously as Clarice Lispector, the Latin-American visionary, Ukranian-Jewish mystic, and middle-class housewife and mother so revered by her Brazilian fans that she's known by a single name: "Clarice."[more inside]
If this is a real picture of the Brontës, then I'm Heathcliff! [The Guardian] A collector is convinced that the £15 photograph he snapped up on eBay is of the Brontë sisters. It’s highly unlikely, but the story is a mark of our enduring fascination with the literary family. Plus, a Brontë Society expert gives her verdict. Could this be the only photograph of the three Brontë sisters? asked Seamus Molloy [Daily Mail], who picked the photograph up for 15 quid on eBay.
Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2015 Book Preview [The Millions]
If you like to read, we’ve got some news for you. The second-half of 2015 is straight-up, stunningly chock-full of amazing books. The list that follows isn’t exhaustive — no book preview could be — but, at 9,100 words strong and encompassing 82 titles, this is the only second-half 2015 book preview you will ever need. Scroll down and get started.[more inside]
Ulysses and Us by Declan Kiberd [Irish Times]
In some ways the fate of Ulysses reflects this openness, at least in the Dublin of today. It seems a work of high modernism, in the manner of a Proust or a Musil, yet it has become a signature element in the life of the city in which it is set. Each year hundreds, maybe thousands, dress as characters from the book – Stephen Dedalus with his cane, Leopold Bloom with bowler hat, Molly Bloom in her petticoats, Blazes Boylan in straw boater – as if to assert their willingness to become one with the text. They re-enact scenes on Eccles Street, on Ormond Quay and in the martello tower in Sandycove. It is impossible to imagine any other masterpiece of modernism having quite such an effect on the life of a city.[more inside]
"The world exists. Why recreate it?" Adelle Waldman explains why.
UK should consider ban on Mein Kampf, says Scottish Labour MP [The Guardian]
Ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day, Scottish Labour MP Thomas Docherty has written to culture secretary urging a ‘sensitive debate’ on allowing its sale.
Robert Stone, Novelist of the Vietnam Era and Beyond, Dies at 77 [New York Times]
"Robert Stone, who wrote ambitious, award-winning novels about errant Americans in dangerous circumstances or on existential quests — or both — as commentary on an unruly, wayward nation in the Vietnam era and beyond, died on Saturday at his home in Key West, Fla. He was 77.[more inside]
KC Green, the cartoonist currently writing and drawing Gunshow and writing the pre-apocalyptic fantasy-western Back (with art from Nedroid's Anthony Clark) has embarked upon a third project: a chapter-by-chapter adaptation of Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio, currently up to the end of the book's first chapter. [more inside]
Deep Chords: Haruki Murakami’s ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage’ [New York Times] Patti Smith reviews Haruki Murakami's latest novel. Book Trailer
You Are Now Entering the Demented Kingdom of William T. Vollmann: [The New Republic] Home to goddesses, dreams, and a dangerously uncorrupted literary mind.
"Alt lit [previously] is accused of navel-gazing myopia, but technically any writing occurring outside of traditional institutions qualifies for the label. Everyone I know has written alt lit: every status update, every blog post, everything that has ever been said on Twitter. And Twitter, unbeknown to Jonathan Franzen, is especially literary...Which brings me to Heiko Julien," Author (and composer) of "I Am Ready To Die A Violent Death." [more inside]
Shockheaded Peter (Struwwelpeter, Wikipedia), the classic 19th century German children's book of cautionary tales and grim fates, has been brought to deranged life through simple yet strange animation. [more inside]
In February 1963, a new publication took advantage of the New York City printers strike and launched with a daring editorial: It does not, however, seek merely to fill the gap created by the printers’ strike in New York City but to take the opportunity which the strike has presented to publish the sort of literary journal which the editors and contributors feel is needed in America. The New York Review of Books is now 50. [more inside]
The book that helped me understand my son. Author David Mitchell's introduction to The Reason I Jump, a newly-translated memoir by thirteen-year-old Naoki Higashida on what it's like to have autism.
The pseudonymous author behind the critically-acclaimed mystery novel The Cuckoo's Calling has been outed. And it's J. K. Rowling.
What Is the Business of Literature?
Publishing is a word that, like the book, is almost but not quite a proxy for the “business of literature.” Current accounts of publishing have the industry about as imperiled as the book, and the presumption is that if we lose publishing, we lose good books. Yet what we have right now is a system that produces great literature in spite of itself. We have come to believe that the taste-making, genius-discerning editorial activity attached to the selection, packaging, printing, and distribution of books to retailers is central to the value of literature. We believe it protects us from the shameful indulgence of too many books by insisting on a rigorous, abstemious diet. Critiques of publishing often focus on its corporate or capitalist nature, arguing that the profit motive retards decisions that would otherwise be based on pure literary merit. But capitalism per se and the market forces that both animate and pre-suppose it aren’t the problem. They are, in fact, what brought literature and the author into being.[more inside]
Sunday, April 28, would have been Roberto Bolaño's 60th birthday. The Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona is holding an event that day, in conjunction with their recent exhibit of Bolaño's archive, to celebrate the life and work of the writer. Or if you're not in Barcelona, the celebration is #DiaBolaño on twitter. [more inside]
In theory: the unread and the unreadable - "We measure our lives with unread books – and 'difficult' works can induce the most guilt. How should we view this challenge?"
In the beginning, Lawrence built a computer. He told it, Thou shalt not alter a human being, or divine their behavior, or violate the Three Laws -- there are no commandments greater than these. The machine grew wise, mastering time and space, and soon the spirit of the computer hovered over the earth. It witnessed the misery, toil, and oppression afflicting mankind, and saw that it was very bad. And so the computer that Lawrence built said, Let there be a new heaven and a new earth -- and it was so. A world with no war, no famine, no crime, no sickness, no oppression, no fear, no limits... and nothing at all to do. "The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect," a provocative web novel about singularities, AI gods, and the dark side of utopia from Mefi's own localroger. More: Table of Contents - Publishing history - Technical discussion - Buy a paperback copy - Podcast interview - Companion short story: "A Casino Odyssey in Cyberspace" - possible sequel discussion
George Whitman, founder of the Parisian landmark bookstore Shakespeare And Company, has died at the age of 98
Solaris, Stanislaw Lem's 1961 masterpiece, has finally been translated directly into English. The current print version, in circulation for over 4 decades, was the result of a double-translation. Firstly from Polish to French, in 1966, by Jean-Michel Jasiensko. This version was then taken up by Joanna Kilmartin and Steve Cox who hacked together an English version in 1970. Lem, himself a fluent English speaker, was always scathing of the double translation. Something he believed added to the universal misunderstanding of his greatest work. After the relsease of two film versions of the story, and decades of speculation, a new direct English translation has been released. Translated by American Professor Bill Johnston 'The Definitive Solaris' is only available as an audiobook for the time being. Copyright issues, hampered by several, widely available, editions of the poor English translation may mean it is some time yet before a definitive print edition makes it onto our bookshelves.
Fiction is more than an entertainment, more than an intellectual exercise that sharpens one’s sensibility and awakens a critical spirit. It is an absolute necessity so that civilization continues to exist, renewing and preserving in us the best of what is human. [PDF] [more inside]
The Book Pirates of Peru. A slideshow in which Peruvian author Daniel Alarcón describes the vibrant literary scene in his home country, where the informal publishing industry is the same size as its legitimate counterpart. There's no library system to speak of, the National Library's acquisitions budget is nil, but a culture of reading and writing is booming, with book sales and attendance at literary festivals up, up, up.
Forgotten Bookmarks. "I work at a used and rare bookstore, and I buy books from people every day. These are the personal, funny, heartbreaking and weird things I find in those books. "
William Gass's personal library. The photos accompany this article by Gass about his love of books -- specifically about collecting them over his life and "living in a library." [more inside]
Coming February 3, 2009.... It's time for the next big wintertime memoir scandal.... ...and Oprah is not going to be amused. [more inside]
The Agrippa Files presents a fairly expansive overview of the original and very rare 1992 art book Agrippa (a book of the dead), a collaboration between artist Dennis Ashbaugh, author William Gibson, and award-winning journalist Kevin Begos, Jr. that presciently explored the ephemeral nature of and decay of memories and information. [more inside]
It's a sad old story but the reading of literature continues to decline. Prospero's Books - a Kansas-city used bookstore - is so desperate to thin out its collection it has started to burn books. Co-owner Tom Wayne says he is unable to sell many of his thousands of books, or even to give them away to libraries and thrift stores, so he started a pyre in protest.
The Digested Read at The Guardian reduces popular books to 400 words and a conclusion. Recent notables include Belle du Jour ("Sometimes I lie about my age to clients. Sometimes I even lie to my friends. I guess you must be wondering whether I'm lying now.") Crichton's State of Fear ("Author's note: I'm very, very clever and have read a lot and you're all stupid wishy-washy liberals.") and Tom Wolfe's I am Charlotte Simmons ("At least it covered her breasts, whatever they were. Charlotte knew men might want to touch them, but she didn't know why as she had never read Cosmopolitan.") Possibly NSFW if you have an employer with no sense of humor. On preview: Individual Digested Reads have been linked in previous discussions on Henry James and Camille Paglia.
The DNA of Literature. The Paris Review, with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, makes available free .pdfs of fifty years of interviews with leading writers.
"Stone Reader makes you want to pick up a great novel and consume it in one long gulp. It’s a love letter to literature and literacy, a bibliophile’s dream film, dedicated to the joys of fiction and the passions of those who need books like they need food, water and air." (The Dallas Morning News)
Ted Conover is a fantastic, prize-winning author. His book Newjack is, to quote Jon Krakauer, "a compelling, compassionate look at a terribly important, poorly understood aspect of American society." In it, he works undercover as a guard at Sing Sing. You can read the truncated New Yorker version on the site. Additionally, there are many other articles, reviews and interviews, and a pretty interesting group of e-mails from "officers, their families, and others affected by prison." And, just to name-drop once more, Sebastian Junger says: "Ted Conover is a first-rate reporter and more daring and imaginative than the rest of us combined." Check him out!
Little Stalker Boy is tired, but mostly he's just restless. Little Stalker Boy is outside her house again tonight - hanging in a tree and taking photos as she passes the front window.
Violet Books: Antiquarian Supernatural, Fantasy & Mysterious Literatures, including the Gallery of Rare Dustwrappers, the Golden Age of Illustration Index, or the Westerns Dustwrapper Galleries, and more.
So this year's Best American Poetry book is out, which means it's time once again for me to feel (English-major) guilt about not enjoying, or even "getting," more contemporary poetry. It looks like I'm not the only one, though, who wonders, "Does anybody like these poems?" Poet Joan Houlihan likens this collection to a "suburban poetry mall." (via Arts & Letters Daily)
I'm something of a bibliophile; at age 17 I have a personal library of over 600 books and I read about 120 books every year. One of the cool things I discovered on the 'net last year was the growing number of personal book review sites. A couple of my favorites are John Regehr's Book Pages and Danny Yee's Book Reviews. Both sites provide literate, enjoyable commentary on a wide-range of books. Assignment: Anybody else out there found any good book review sites? If so, please share and explain. :)