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The Great 2015 Indie Press Review

"The feature began originally as an idea born from a discussion online with a number of indie press editors, authors, and readers about the deluge of 'best-of' and 'most anticipated' features and how the majority of these articles continue to be disproportionately favorable to the larger publishing houses. A lot gets lost in transit among the smaller presses, and I wondered why this was the case; the question I asked had been, Why wasn’t there a comprehensive gathering of what the indie community has to offer?" [more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Mar 10, 2015 - 4 comments

“...characters arise out of our need for them.”

From Jamaica to Minnesota to Myself by Marlon James [New York Times] [more inside]
posted by Fizz on Mar 10, 2015 - 5 comments

The humble quest to read all things lesbian

The Lesbrary - "The humble quest to read everything lesbian: a lesbian book blog." Also see sidebar for links to other lesbian book blogs, websites, and online resources. [more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Mar 3, 2015 - 27 comments

Either I'm a sexual deviant, or they're wrong

Did Amazon Sink the Queen of Online Erotica? - Phoebe Reilly, Vulture
"Engler is an underappreciated pioneer, a self-proclaimed feminist in furry-cat slippers. To put her crowning achievement demurely, she challenged the book-publishing industry's denial of women's appetite for sexually explicit books. She wrote tawdry, lowbrow novels, and published hundreds of others, that freed romance from its lame euphemisms well before Fifty Shades of Grey, and she did so in a digital format long before the Kindle and the iPad allowed e-books to flourish.

"To put it less demurely: There were readers out there, lots of them, who didn't want to read about thick manroots. They wanted hard cocks. So that's what Ellora's Cave gave them. Easily and often."

posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Mar 2, 2015 - 52 comments

An Answer to the Novel’s Detractors

"The world exists. Why recreate it?" Adelle Waldman explains why.
posted by shivohum on Feb 21, 2015 - 28 comments

The first science fiction anthology to focus on the immigrant experience

The first science fiction anthology to focus on the immigrant experience [via mefi projects]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Feb 12, 2015 - 8 comments

2 Kill 2 Mockingbirds

Harper Lee is publishing a second book this July. "Go Set a Watchman" is essentially a sequel to "To Kill a Mockingbird," although it was finished earlier.... The new book is set in Lee's famed Maycomb, Alabama, during the mid-1950s, 20 years after "To Kill a Mockingbird" and roughly contemporaneous with the time that Lee was writing the story. In the last few years Lee has been embroiled in legal disputes with her agent over the royalties to To Kill a Mockingbird (previously), as well as with journalist Marja Mills, who published an unauthorized biography of her (previously). Title borrowed from Matt Yglesias.
posted by Cash4Lead on Feb 3, 2015 - 152 comments

“I have great faith in fools - self-confidence my friends will call it.”

On Edgar Allan Poe by Marilynne Robinson [New York Review of Books]
"Edgar Allan Poe was and is a turbulence, an anomaly among the major American writers of his period, an anomaly to this day. He both amazed and antagonized his contemporaries, who could not dismiss him from the first rank of writers, though many felt his work to be morally questionable and in dubious taste, and though he scourged them in print regularly in the course of producing a body of criticism that is sometimes flatly vindictive and often brilliant.

posted by Fizz on Jan 16, 2015 - 14 comments

"It’s hard to stay away from religion when you mess with acid."

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]
posted by Fizz on Jan 12, 2015 - 17 comments

That evergreen feminist cautionary fable: The Handmaid's Tale

Does The Handmaid's Tale hold up? , Adi Robertson for The Verge:
"A few weeks ago, I mentioned to a friend that I was in the middle of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. 'It’s like 1984 for feminists, right?' he asked. Sort of, I said. But it's a lot scarier. It's about how you'll lose every right you have, and none of the men you know will care. Then I said he would probably betray me if they froze all women's bank accounts. That was the peak of my paranoia, but it held on for several more days, as I read on the subway while half-consciously figuring out how I might theoretically escape to Canada. 1984 was for lightweights."
[more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Dec 28, 2014 - 185 comments

César Aira

“I‘ve realized that the perfect length for what I do is 100 pages. In my brevity there may be an element of insecurity. I wouldn‘t dare give a 1,000-page novel to a reader […] My novels became shorter as I became more renowned. People now allow me to do whatever I want. At any rate, publishers prefer thick books. But with books, the thicker they are, the less literature they have.””—César Aira [more inside]
posted by misteraitch on Dec 15, 2014 - 24 comments

Book-selling on Mutanabbi Street: texts from vital sidewalks

Al-Mutanabbi is an open book, bearing symbols that are deeply etched into the body of today’s Baghdad. The street has no endpoint. [more inside]
posted by standardasparagus on Dec 9, 2014 - 4 comments

anxieties about lurid voyeurism, unwholesome interest: In Cold Blood

"Much has been said about the storytelling techniques of 'Serial,' which comes out in weekly installments even as the show’s host, Sarah Koenig, reinvestigates the conviction of a Baltimore-area teenager for the murder of his ex-girlfriend. The serialized approach teases its audience with cliffhangers, prompts its listeners to construct their own theories and invites outsiders to glimpse the tricky winnowing process of reporting. But 'Serial' also testifies to how much the criminal justice system itself is founded on storytelling." (Laura Miller, Salon: The new "In Cold Blood" revisionism: Why it doesn't matter if Capote’s classic wasn't fully true) [more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Dec 8, 2014 - 31 comments

Truth is harder to tell than a lie

The habitual liar may be a very honest fellow, and live truly with his wife and friends; while another man who never told a formal falsehood in his life may yet be himself one lie-heart and face, from top to bottom. This is the kind of lie which poisons intimacy. And, vice versa, veracity to sentiment, truth in a relation, truth to your own heart and your friends, never to feign or falsify emotion—that is the truth which makes love possible and mankind happy. Robert Louis Stevenson on truth and writing.
posted by shivohum on Nov 30, 2014 - 5 comments

You must know thrilling things before you can write about them

I never correct anything and I never go back to what I have written, except to the foot of the last page to see where I have got to. If you once look back, you are lost. How could you have written this drivel? How could you have used "terrible" six times on one page? And so forth. If you interrupt the writing of fast narrative with too much introspection and self-criticism, you will be lucky if you write 500 words a day and you will be disgusted with them into the bargain. A year before his death, James Bond author Ian Fleming explained how to write a thriller.
posted by shivohum on Nov 26, 2014 - 25 comments

Position yourself, whenever possible, at the top of a flight of stairs.

Bookish Beauty Tips from the Toast.
posted by Solon and Thanks on Nov 20, 2014 - 9 comments

Looking at Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" series.

Isaac Asimov's Foundation: The little idea that became science fiction's biggest series [SPOILERS] (io9)
On the planet Terminus, a group of academics struggles to survive as the Galactic Empire crumbles. With no weapons, all they can rely on are the predictions of a dead genius named Hari Seldon. That's right — it's time to discuss Isaac Asimov's Foundation!

Welcome to Foundation Week, a Blogging the Hugos special event. In 1983, Isaac Asimov won the Hugo Award for Best Novel for Foundation's Edge, in which he revisited his groundbreaking Foundation mythos for the first time in over thirty years. Because the Foundation series is such classic, quintessential, and beloved science fiction — the original stories won their own unique Hugo for Best All-Time Series in 1966, and influenced artists from Douglas Adams to George Lucas — Josh Wimmer and Alasdair Wilkins will be discussing each of the seven books between today and Sunday. We begin with Foundation, published in 1951.
[more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Nov 13, 2014 - 87 comments

"A sure sign of a good book is that you like it more the older you get."

First editions, second thoughts: [New York Times] "On December 2, Christie's will auction 75 first-edition books, each of which is a unique object that has been annotated with words and/or illustrations by its author. Proceeds from the auction will benefit PEN American Center."
posted by Fizz on Nov 6, 2014 - 6 comments

Literature - good God y'all - what is it good for? Absolutely something.

What is Literature for? [SLVimeo]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Nov 3, 2014 - 6 comments

“I wanted this to be the saddest thing I’d ever written,”

Closing a Chapter of a Literary Life [New York Times] Ahead of the American publication of his latest work, “The Book of Strange New Things,” Michel Faber discusses it and why it will be his last novel.
posted by Fizz on Oct 26, 2014 - 10 comments

Once outsold Dickens - now called "the other Dickens"

As the nights are beginning to draw in and Halloween approaches, how about something to make the flesh creep and send a shiver down the spine? Charles Dickens was a master of the macabre, whether it’s in his Christmas ghost stories such as A Christmas Carol, in the chilling Gothic emptiness of Satis House in Great Expectations or the dirty squalor of London in Oliver Twist. But there was another novelist who most people have never heard of, whose books also offered the Victorian reading public a good helping of horror. At the height of his career, he sold more copies of his work than Dickens, who is widely thought to have been the bestselling novelist of the age. This other writer’s name was George W. M. Reynolds, and he has recently been called ‘the other Dickens’. 2014 marks the bicentenary of his birth.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Oct 26, 2014 - 7 comments

What to read when pressed for time.

17 Brilliant Short Novels You Can Read in a Sitting by Lincoln Michel at Electric Literature:
This week author Ian McEwan expressed his love of short novels, saying “very few [long] novels earn their length.” Certainly it seems like a novel has to be a minimum of 500 pages to win a major literary award these days, and many genre novels have ballooned to absurd sizes.

I love a good tome, but like McEwan many of my favorite novels are sharpened little gems. It’s immensely satisfying to finish a book in a single day, so in the spirit of celebrating quick reads here are some of my favorite short novels. I’ve tried to avoid the most obvious titles that are regularly assigned in school (The Stranger, Heart of Darkness, Mrs Dalloway, Of Mice and Men, Frankenstein, The Crying of Lot 49, etc.). Hopefully you’ll find some titles here you haven’t read before.
[more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Oct 23, 2014 - 51 comments

I spent 10 years doing New York all wrong

Adelle Waldman, author of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., was a lonely aspiring writer in New York, generally unhappy. Then she moved to Brooklyn and found that community made all the difference.
posted by shivohum on Oct 13, 2014 - 16 comments

“Not everybody wants to read about vampires and dystopia,”

To Lure Young Readers, Nonfiction Writers Sanitize and Simplify: [New York Times]
"Inspired by the booming market for young adult novels, a growing number of biographers and historians are retrofitting their works to make them palatable for younger readers."

posted by Fizz on Oct 9, 2014 - 24 comments

“There is such a thing as the courage in remaining baffled.”

Donald Antrim and the Art of Anxiety by John Jeremiah Sullivan [New York Times]
posted by Fizz on Oct 1, 2014 - 10 comments

"Once upon a time there was no not a king." - Carlo Collodi, basically.

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]
posted by BiggerJ on Sep 25, 2014 - 6 comments

It all comes back to fun

When the champion of adult culture is portrayed, even by himself, as an old curmudgeon yelling at the kids to get off his lawn, it suggests that this adult culture is one of the unfortunate but necessary costs of coming into adulthood. We give up the pleasures of entertainment for the seriousness of art. I just don’t think that this is true. Christopher Beha on Henry James and the Great Young Adult Debate.
posted by shivohum on Sep 21, 2014 - 48 comments

"distinctly queer and contemporary, as if retrofitting a classic car"

"Longings and Desires", a Slate.com book review by Amanda Katz:
[Sarah] Waters, who was born in Wales in 1966, has carved out an unusual spot in fiction. Her six novels, beginning with Tipping the Velvet in 1998, could be called historical fiction, but that doesn’t begin to capture their appeal. It is closer to say that she is creating pitch-perfect popular fiction of an earlier time, but swapping out its original moral engine for a sensibility that is distinctly queer and contemporary, as if retrofitting a classic car.

Her books offer something like an alternate reality—a literary one, if not a historical one. There may have been lesbian male impersonators working the London music halls in the 1890s, as in Tipping the Velvet, but there were certainly not mainstream novels devoted to their inner lives and sexual exploits. Waters gives such characters their say in books that imitate earlier crowd-pleasers in their structure, slang, and atmosphere, but that are powered by queer longing, defiant identity politics, and lusty, occasionally downright kinky sex. (An exception is her last novel, The Little Stranger.) The most masterful of these books so far is Fingersmith, a Wilkie Collins-esque tale full of genuinely shocking twists (thieves, double-crossing, asylums, mistaken identity, just go read it). The saddest is The Night Watch, a tale told in reverse of a group of entwined characters during and after World War II. But among many readers she is still most beloved for Tipping the Velvet, a deliriously paced coming-of-age story that is impossible to read in public without blushing.
[more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Sep 20, 2014 - 29 comments

“Lovers of print are simply confusing the plate for the food.”

International Read an E-Book Day:
The new holday -- "holiday"? -- is the brainchild of OverDrive, a major e-book distributor. OverDrive is the country's largest provider of e-books to libraries; it handles e-books from 5,000 publishers, including major Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Perseus, Wiley, and Harlequin. If you've ever checked an e-book out from the L.A. Public Library, it was provided by OverDrive. To celebrate International Read an E-book Day, Overdrive will be giving away tablets and e-reading devices at the readanebookday.com website and through social media. Readers are asked to "tell their story of what eBooks mean to them" and use the hashtag #eBookDay to be eligible.
via: L.A. Times
posted by Fizz on Sep 18, 2014 - 88 comments

Do you ever dream of starting again in a new skin?

Uncomfortable in His Own Skin ‘Your Face in Mine,’ by Jess Row, a Novel About Changing Race: [New York Times]
"When literary fiction dares examine the issue of race at all, it is usually done in an exceedingly tone-deaf way (think William Styron’s Confessions Of Nat Turner or Kathryn Stockett’s The Help) or from a somewhat safe remove (think Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue). It always seems as if the story is accompanied by a blaring announcement that it’s time for this (white) protagonist to learn something. Sometimes the pedantic drum-banging can get so excessive it drowns out everything else, including the inclination to tell a good story. If nothing else, the debut novel from Jess Row, Your Face In Mine, is a refreshing plunge into the deep end of the race conversation." [A.V. Club]
[more inside]
posted by Fizz on Aug 31, 2014 - 6 comments

If we're not in pain, we're not alive

You invest so much in it, don't you? It's what elevates you above the beasts of the field, it's what makes you special. Homo sapiens, you call yourself. Wise Man. Do you even know what it is, this consciousness you cite in your own exaltation? Do you even know what it's for?
Dr. Peter Watts is no stranger to MetaFilter. But look past his sardonic nuptials, heartbreaking eulogies, and agonizing run-ins with fascists (and fasciitis) and you'll find one of the most brilliant, compelling, and disquieting science fiction authors at work today. A marine biologist skilled at deep background research, his acclaimed 2006 novel Blindsight [full text] -- a cerebral "first contact" tale led by a diverse crew of bleeding-edge post-humans -- is diamond-hard and deeply horrifying, wringing profound existential dread from such abstruse concepts as the Chinese Room, the Philosophical Zombie, Chernoff faces, and the myriad quirks and blind spots that haunt the human mind. But Blindsight's last, shattering insight is not the end of the story -- along with crew/ship/"Firefall" notes, a blackly funny in-universe lecture on resurrecting sociopathic vampirism (PDF - prev.), and a rigorously-cited (and spoiler-laden) reference section, tomorrow will see the release of Dumbspeech State of Grace Echopraxia [website], the long-delayed "sidequel" depicting parallel events on Earth. Want more? Look inside for a guide to the rest of Watts' award-winning (and provocative) body of work. [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi on Aug 25, 2014 - 84 comments

"That wasn't any act of God. That was an act of pure human fuckery."

Things That Don't Suck, Some Notes on The Stand
I recently reread The Stand for no particular reason other than I felt like it. I'm honestly not sure how many time[s] I've read it at this point, more than three, less than a half dozen (though I can clearly remember my first visit to that horrifyingly stripped bare world as I can remember the first reading of all the truly great King stories). It's not my favorite of King's work, but it is arguably his most richly and completely imagined. It truly is the American Lord of The Rings, with the concerns of England (Pastorialism vs. Industrialism, Germany's tendency to try and blow it up every thirty years or so) replaced by those of America (Religion, the omnipresent struggle between our liberal and libertarian ideals, our fear of and dependence on the military, racial and gender tension) and given harrowing size.

I'm happy to say that The Stand holds up well past the bounds of nostalgia and revisiting the world and these characters was as pleasurable as ever. But you can't step in the same river twice, even when you're revisiting a favorite book. Even if the river hasn't changed you have. This isn't meant as any kind of comprehensive essay on The Stand. Just a couple of things I noticed upon dipping my toes in the river this time.

[Spoiler alert: assume everything, from the link above to those below, contains SPOILERS.] [more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Aug 19, 2014 - 162 comments

Lev Grossman on finding his true genre

You have demons in your subconscious? In a fantasy world those demons can get out, where you can grapple with them face to face. The story I was telling was impossible, and I believed in it more than I believed in the 10,000 entirely reasonable, plausible things I’d written before. Lev Grossman, author of the Magicians series of books, on how he found his voice as a fantasy novelist.
posted by shivohum on Aug 19, 2014 - 66 comments

"This is a book for both the new and experienced reader."

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
posted by Fizz on Aug 12, 2014 - 40 comments

More 'gripey and complaining' set for 2015.

"It's annoying to hear we told you so—but, we told you so. The New Republic's initial review, published July 16, 1951, perfectly anticipated all the gripes and complaints readers would ironically come to have about Catcher's gripey and complaining protagonist." 63 Years Ago, We Knew That 'The Catcher in the Rye' Was Insufferable and Overrated. [more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Aug 2, 2014 - 109 comments

"If they’re watching TV, I ask, “Where are the brown girls?”"

Black Girls Hunger for Heroes, Too: A Black Feminist Conversation on Fantasy Fiction for Teens.
What happens when two great black women fiction writers get together to talk about race in young adult literature? That's exactly what happens in the conversation below, where Zetta Elliott, a black feminist writer of poetry, plays, essays, novels, and stories for children, and award-winning Haitian-American speculative fiction writer Ibi Aanu Zoboi decided to discuss current young adult sci-fi.

posted by Lexica on Jul 26, 2014 - 29 comments

But then I suppose we have all read the reviews. We can talk about those

"So what is going on here? Should we be reassured that critics are sticking loyally by a work they admire regardless of sales, or bemused that something is being presented as a runaway commercial success when in fact it isn’t?" Tim Parks: Raise Your Hand If You’ve Read Knausgaard. [more inside]
posted by RogerB on Jul 25, 2014 - 33 comments

“I think it was such a fluke that I got published at all,”

You Are Now Entering the Demented Kingdom of William T. Vollmann: [The New Republic] Home to goddesses, dreams, and a dangerously uncorrupted literary mind.
posted by Fizz on Jul 24, 2014 - 27 comments

“Remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

The Decline of Harper Lee: [Vulture] The iconic 88-year-old author is involved in [another] messy tussle over a new biography. Does this mean she'll never tell her own story? [more inside]
posted by Fizz on Jul 21, 2014 - 12 comments

Where there are no people

Animal Land where there are no people was a children's book released in 1897, written by Sybil Corbet, who was four years old, and illustrated by her mother, Katharine Corbet. "Animal Land where there are no People is quite near, only you can't see it... They live by the North Pole and in the leafy places near. It is always light there, always day, they climb the poles and always play." [more inside]
posted by dng on Jul 18, 2014 - 6 comments

Trans Women's Lit

Trans women writers Jeanne Thornton, Imogen Binnie, Red Durkin and Casey Plett read from their recent works for Talks at Google. [more inside]
posted by emmtee on Jul 6, 2014 - 11 comments

774-325-0503

Call Me Ishmael: call a number and leave a voicemail about a book you've loved and a story you've lived. Later, that anonymous voicemail will be transcribed and made into a short video for everyone to see.
posted by SkylitDrawl on Jun 22, 2014 - 8 comments

The Women's Prize For Fiction 2014

This year's Women's Prize For Fiction has been won by A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride. [more inside]
posted by dng on Jun 6, 2014 - 7 comments

The acacia tree treatment

“If someone goes out on a limb and tries something different, and the book doesn’t sell, you know who to blame: the guy who didn’t put the acacia tree on the cover.” [more inside]
posted by Herr Zebrurka on May 14, 2014 - 67 comments

The novel is dead!

The literary novel as an art work and a narrative art form central to our culture is indeed dying before our eyes. Will Self on the future of the novel.
posted by dng on May 2, 2014 - 56 comments

It isn’t much, but you get quite a lot of vitamins in the malted milk.

From grilled kidneys to gruel to open faced sandwiches to sliced up grapefruits, photos of literature's most memorable meals.
posted by pravit on Apr 26, 2014 - 40 comments

Mery Talys and Quicke Answeres

Shakespeare Jest-Books: Reprints of the Early and Very Rare Jest-Books Supposed to Have Been Used by Shakespeare.
posted by Iridic on Apr 23, 2014 - 16 comments

"What message are we sending to young people?"

Julianne Ross asks: Must Every YA Action Heroine Be Petite? Amy McCarthy asks a similar question: Why do all our young adult heroines look the same? Mandy Stewart also offers up her own advice: Be Divergent and Other Lessons for My Daughter. Interview with Veronica Roth on her book 'Insurgent' and feminism. [more inside]
posted by Fizz on Mar 27, 2014 - 142 comments

40 Worst Book Covers and Titles Ever

Exactly what it says on the tin -- 40 Worst Book Covers and Titles Ever These things have got to be real, no one could ever dream this stuff up. [more inside]
posted by dancestoblue on Mar 7, 2014 - 65 comments

A tiny cog in the great wheel of imaginative literature

The drama issues from the assailability of vital, tenacious men with their share of peculiarities who are neither mired in weakness nor made of stone and who, almost inevitably, are bowed by blurred moral vision, real and imaginary culpability, conflicting allegiances, urgent desires, uncontrollable longings, unworkable love, the culprit passion, the erotic trance, rage, self-division, betrayal, drastic loss, vestiges of innocence, fits of bitterness, lunatic entanglements, consequential misjudgment, understanding overwhelmed, protracted pain, false accusation, unremitting strife, illness, exhaustion, estrangement, derangement, aging, dying and, repeatedly, inescapable harm, the rude touch of the terrible surprise — unshrinking men stunned by the life one is defenseless against, including especially history: the unforeseen that is constantly recurring as the current moment.
Philip Roth on his life as a writer.
posted by shivohum on Mar 4, 2014 - 16 comments

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