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]
"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]
a BBC documentary on the controversial
cult novelist James Moffat
aka Richard Allen
A map of the most famous books set in each U.S. state.
Which of these books have you read? Is there a book you think should be on the list that isn't? (the full list)
It reminds me of a recent post
on the Blue featuring a writer who spent a year reading one novel from every country in the world. Metafilter users, of course, have been there done that. [more inside]
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Agent of Change and Fledgling are now available as free downloads
. Starting points in the Liaden Universe
, a space opera series notable for its romance elements
and convoluted publication history
, their particular sequences (among others) in the same setting take noticeably different approaches
to common themes such as complicated manners, familial obligations, and meeting a soulmate. Not to mention humanoid turtles. And occasional cats. [more inside]
"I was curious to see how many of these books there actually are
, so I did a search for books with 'The' and 'Daughter' in their titles on Goodreads. Afterward I spent some time copying and pasting all instances of The ___’s Daughter into an Excel spreadsheet. How much time? A lot..." [more inside]
, Joyce's famously unreadable masterpiece (read it online here
), was considerably more
readable in one of its earlier drafts.
Watch Joyce cross out decipherable words and replace them with less decipherable ones! Watch him end, not with a whimper, but with a slightly less impressive whimper
! Sadly, Shem's schoolbook
, which in the finished version is a House of Leaves
-esque compendium of side columns and footnotes, was not written until much later
(according to the footnotes of that section). The introduction to this draft by David Hayman, who assembled it, is worth a read
In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the publication of Swann's Way
, the New York Times
is publishing a series of blog posts
on In Search of Lost Time
) [more inside]
Picturing Books: What do we see when we read? (Other than words on a page.) What do we picture in our minds?
A consideration by Knopf
's senior designer Peter Mendulsund
. [more inside]
In 1929, John Galsworthy won a Guardian poll as the novelist most likely to still be read in 2029. Three years later, he won the Nobel Prize, and the prices of his first editions skyrocketed. His reputation has since been on a 80-year wane that shows no signs of abating. The New Yorker asks Why is Literary Fame So Unpredictable?
And who will they be teaching in literature class a century from now?
Despite the popularity of long-arc, serialized TV shows, no one really wants to read serialized fiction
, apparently. That's not stopped anyone from trying, though, like say Stephen King with The Green Mile
and The Plant
, semi-successful efforts from a mega-successful author
. That was before the current rise of the ebook, though, and a few authors
) are betting technology will turn serialized novels into the next big
thing, that we're in "the perfect environment for a resurgence.
An American writer hasn't won the Nobel Prize for Literature since 1993 (Toni Morrison). Slate's Alexander Nazaryan tells us why
: "The rising generation of writers behind Oates, Roth and DeLillo are dominated by Great Male Narcissists — even the writers who aren’t male (or white)."
In 1963, French novelist (and former secret agent!) Pierre Boulle
, released a smashing new Sci-Fi novel called La planète des singes (Monkey Planet in the UK)
. Like his previous 1952 bestseller, Le Pont de la rivière Kwaï
(Bridge Over the River Kwai
), the book was adapted into a classic film - and eventually a franchise of some note
. Interested in how Boulle's sociopolitical satire became one of the iconic films of our time? You can read some of the backstory about Serling's involvement with the project
, then have a look at the various drafts themselves and final shooting script.
, the Magazine of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Field, is the paper of record in the science fiction community. Every year the editors and reviewers at Locus publish a recommended reading list which includes novels, YA novels, first novels, anthologies and collections, related non-fiction, art books, and three types of shorter work (novellas
, and short stories). If you are at all interested in the current state of the SF&F genre you can't do better than Locus' yearly effort. The list for 2010
appears in the February issue. [more inside]
is a new, free community and platform for young people to share their fiction writing, "connect with other readers and discover new stories and authors. Users are invited to write novels, short stories and poems, collaborate
with other writers and give and receive feedback on the work posted on the site." (Via
Inspired by the cage matches
between popular characters over at Suvudu
, Random House's SF/fantasy blog, Heather Zundel
have started a YA Fantasy version
. At least 3 of the characters' authors are involved in the fight write-ups
, although one author reacted differently
. All I know is that I have a lot of books to check out.
Why are so many recent Young Adult novels set in nightmarish futuristic dystopias? Because they're just like high school. [more inside]
In early 1934, about a dozen of America's leading writers and critics - William Faulkner, John Dos Passos, Sinclair Lewis, Edmund Wilson, Thorton Wilder, etc. - answered the question: What are some “Good Books That Almost Nobody Has Read”
? [Via the always interesting Neglected Books Page]
"Meanwhile, down in Vaginaland, Mr Condom's beginning to feel a bit iffy. He's overheating. For some reason, the shagging seems to be twice as fast this evening, and he grimaces as he gets flung willy-nilly in and out of the pink tunnel. He starts getting friction burns, hanging onto Bobby's stiff penis for dear life, headbutting Georgie's cervix at 180 beats per minute. 'Help me!' he yells in the darkness, feeling himself melting."
This year's worst sex. [NSFW or post-turkey family reading] [more inside]
"Five months ago, the kaleidoscope of power had been shaken, and Aringarosa was still reeling from the blow." Dan Brown's 20 Worst Sentences
A new subgenre is rising to meet the significant demand for romance novels that won't corrupt the flesh: Amish Romances
. The relatively chaste romances
, mostly written by non-Amish authors, the books are selling well, with Cindy Woodsnall
's Sisters of the Quilt
trilogy leading the pack on the New York Times bestseller list
, and many new authors jumping into the game
The Iron Heel
, published a century ago this year, is a novel by Jack London about socialist revolution in the United States. It is set mostly between 1912 and 1932, with a foreword and numerous footnotes written from the point of view of a historian who has just discovered the manuscript some 700 years later. Here is an excerpt (which is printed on the back cover of some editions) from chapter five:
"This, then, is our answer. We have no words to waste on you. When you reach out your vaunted strong hands for our palaces and purpled ease, we will show you what strength is. In roar of shell and shrapnel and in whine of machine-guns will our answer be couched. We will grind you revolutionists down under our heel, and we shall walk upon your faces. The world is ours, we are its lords, and ours it shall remain. As for the host of labor, it has been in the dirt since history began, and I
read history aright. And in the dirt it shall remain so long as I and mine and those that come after us have the power. There is the word. It is the king of words--Power. Not God, not Mammon, but Power. Pour it over your tongue till it tingles with it. Power."
Ladies, have you ever dreamt of being
whisked away kidnapped
by a dashing young Prince? Or being swept off your feet and losing your virginity to a dark and mysterious stranger
, who happens to be a Sheikh? Or how about being sold to an Arab aristocracy and living off the rest of your days in married bliss
. No? Then how about considering a Royal who is so down-to-earth
you won't meet anyone else quite like him? Much better than the alternative of marrying his polar
opposite, don't you think? Of course, you can always try
and keep it platonic if you wanted to. Welcome to the wonderful world of Sheikhs and Desert Love
, where all of your fantasies
can come true! (via)
The Page 69 Test
--inspired by Marshall McLuhan's suggestion to readers for choosing a novel
, a new blog, inviting authors to describe what's on page 69. One says: Not the best, but not the worst. If my pages were presidents, I’d put page 69 somewhere in the James K. Polk range.
Looking for something to read this summer? Well, if you like crime fiction The Rap Sheet
has some recommendations for you.
Booktribes is a new site
from the creators of writing site Abctales
where bibliophiles can compile lists of every book they've ever read. Replete with a simple, intuitive interface, compiling your life's reading list becomes strangely addictive, and for the whole of March, the best comment of the day on this as-yet underpopulated site wins a copy of David Mitchell's Black Swan Green
, with the best comment of the month winning the entire 21 volume Sceptre Collection. And if you're worried your reading list isn't up to scratch, don't panic - you can always cheat.
- who died recently - was art director at Penguin Books
during the 1960s. He was responsible for some of the most striking book cover designs
of the period. More here
PICTURE THIS: A folksy, self-consciously plainspoken Southern politician rises to power during a period of profound unrest in America. The nation is facing one of the half-dozen or so of its worst existential crises to date, and the people, once sunny, confident, and striving, are now scared, angry, and disillusioned. Through a combination of factors -his easy bearing chief among them (along with massive cash donations from Big Business; disorganization in the liberal opposition; a stuffy, aloof opponent; and support from religious fanatics who feel they've been unfairly marginalized)-he wins the presidential election.
Ripped from today's headlines? Nope. Sinclair Lewis
, Circa 1935: "It Can't Happen Here"
has been recently reissued
. But you can read it here (with free registration)
at American Buddha
(possibly NSFW). first link via Arts & Letters Daily
Gould's Book of Fish
(full contents of Chapter One) by Tasmanian author/historian/Rhodes Scholar Richard Flanagan
is a critically lauded
2002 novel that is the most interesting and accomplished work of fiction I've read in years. Set in the 19th century on a penal colony off the coast of Tasmania, the book
is narrated by William Buelow Gould, a convict, charlatan, and possible madman.
Here is an audio interview
with Flanagan; here's an audio clip
of the author reading from his book. (.ra files)
Yes, the book is a few years old, but it somehow passed under my radar; and, anyway, a good book is timeless.
(Picking up the piscine gauntlet thrown down by Plutor.)
"This book isn't as good as Harry Potter in MY opinion, and no one can refute me. Tastes are relative!" A review of Orwell's 1984 on Amazon, from a list compiled by Matthew Baldwin at The Morning News
with a selection of the funniest one-star reviews of books from Time's list of the 100 best novels.
1997 essay on the myth of artistic inspiration
represents an emerging Russo-German culture. He is a DJ
spinning Russian wild ska-punk club music, he is a radio talk-show host, the author of several best-selling books depicting the life of Russian immigrants in Germany, and a sort of good-humored emblem of the emerging hybrid culture of Berlin. In a fascinating interview
, he reveals post Soviet Russia, and Russian lives and literature in the West; you can read his stories, Paris Lost,
and Animal Transport,
and the usual overview of his works and of his significance,
in the NYT Books
I have recently begun
of Aubrey-Maturin novels, set in the rich and vibrant world of the 18th century
Royal Navy; I have also enjoyed
These superb historic novel have rekindled my interest in the great age of sail,
especially the exploits of
The Royal Navy at this time ruled the world, although the
brutal and seaman were often taken to sea
against their will
The Battle of
is certainly the most famous engagement and
the most famous of the
ships. Next year is the
of the battle, the preparations sound
is good to see the strong British sailing tradition
"Hubert Selby died often. But he always came back, smiling that beautiful smile of his, and those blue eyes of his... This time he will not be back. My saints have always come from hell, and now, with his passing, there are no more saints".
is the author of Last Exit to Brooklyn
, (tried for obscenity in England
and supported by, among many others, Samuel Beckett and Anthony Burgess), Requiem For a Dream
, Song of the Silent Snow
. He is being eulogized in the USA and UK
, but also, massively (I've just watched a fantastic TV special) in France, where he is much more popular than in his native land (Selby's death was the cover story -- plus pages 2, 3 and 4 -- in the daily Libération today -- .pdf file
): Dernière sortie vers la rédemption
, L'extase de la dévastation
. What makes all this kind of ironic -- in a very Selbyesque way -- is that Selby himself used to say, "I started to die 36 hours before I was born..." (more inside)
it? Who'd have thunk it
is a great little website for all those who love a good mystery, whether ancient
. ( My favourites, btw, are Dorothy L. Sayers and Patricia Highsmith. This last website - Stop! You're Killing Me!" - is also well worth investigating.
On Sundays West Coast Live
I heard an interview with Adam Johnson, the author of Parasites Like Us
, a post-apocalyptic novel with a decidedly (if somewhat spurious) anthropological bent. Literary criticism aside, as an anthropologist myself (and die-hard sci-fi reader), it got me thinking of what our vaunted Western culture may have to offer the survivors of whatever catastrophe may befall our civilization in the future.
From classic novels like Earth Abides
, or even The Stand
, writers and storytellers have tried to discern what may be the surviving aspects of culture once all else fails; what it is that has made and defines us as modern humans, and perhaps what it is that will sustain us.
So, what is it that would sustain you? What would separate you from the crazed and the mad that seem to populate the annals of post-apocalyptic literature? Or perhaps more specifically, what is it that you value of your culture and your technology that makes it worthwhile to maintain and perhaps fight your way back to?