"When I read his work, I forgive him all his sins". Edmund Wilson disliked being called a critic. He thought of himself as a journalist, and nearly all his work was done for commercial magazines, principally Vanity Fair, in the nineteen-twenties; The New Republic, in the nineteen-twenties and thirties; The New Yorker, beginning in the nineteen-forties; and The New York Review of Books, in the nineteen-sixties. He was exceptionally well read: he had had a first-class education in English, French, and Italian literature, and he kept adding languages all his life. He learned to read German, Russian, and Hebrew; when he died, in 1972, he was working on Hungarian. Edmund Wilson and American culture. (more inside)
The Peleliu Project. The tiny Micronesian island of Peleliu was the site of one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. The U.S. invasion of the Japanese occupied island began in September of 1944, and was expected to last only a matter of days. Casualties on this 5 square mile island reached 20,000 by the end of the two-month struggle. U.S. soldiers were forced to pour aviation fuel into caves and ignite them in order to end the standoff of those who refused to surrender. One determined group of 34 Japanese soldiers remained in hiding until they were discovered in April of 1947. Pharmacist Mate 3rd Class Russell Fee returned from Peleliu with a fierce, uncompromising vision of America which would have a profound impact on the life and work of his son. Fifty-three years later, armed with his father's snapshots and diary which he had just uncovered, James Fee went to Peleliu to see with his own eyes the place where his father's vision had taken shape. The result of his five year quest is The Peleliu Project. more inside
Truman Capote's Blood Work Two soon-to-be released films on Truman Capote's life, Capote and Have You Heard? begin as the novelist drops into rural Kansas to begin work on what became "In Cold Blood". More inside.
“To speak in a flat voice / Is all that I can do. / . . . I speak of flat defeat / In a flat voice.” James Wright's letters chronicle many of the major innovations in American poetry in the middle of the twentieth century. They also provide a compelling personal narrative of his life. Here, the American Poetry Review publishes a selection taken from the new volume "A Wild Perfection: The Selected Letters of James Wright". More inside.
Flaubert on Structural Unity. "I’ve just read 'Pickwick' by Dickens. Do you know it? Some bits are magnificent; but what a defective structure! All English writers are like that. Walter Scott apart, they lack composition. This is intolerable for us Latins". Extracts from the letters of Flaubert (via the very awesome book coolie)
Zora Neale Hurston's Glossary of Harlem Slang. Profiles of black writers including Audre Lorde, Chester Himes, The Last Poets and Linton Kwesi Johnson. The complete list of Coretta Scott King children's book award winners. Lots of informative off-site links. A lively forum filled with juicy gossip, among other pleasures. Just a few things you'll find at the African American Literature Book Club.
Sci-fi writer and Marine Biologist Peter Watts puts his first two novels, Starfish and Maelstrom online under Creative Commons license. Behemoth to follow shortly. The most original and starkly vivid account of a dystopian future that I have read for years, made all the more enthralling by Watt's scientific background and knowledge. You will find some of his short stories at the link as well. Via BoingBoing
"It has always been as if I carry chaos with me the way others carry typhoid. My purpose in writing is to transcend my existence by illuminating it." Crime novelist Edward Bunker, who died last Tuesday at age 71 (LATimes obit), became at 17 the youngest inmate at San Quentin after he stabbed a prison guard at a youth detention facility. It was during his 18 years of incarceration for robbery, check forgery and other crimes that Bunker learned to write. In 1973, while still in prison, he made his literary debut with "No Beast So Fierce", a novel about a paroled thief James Ellroy called "quite simply one of the great crime novels of the past 30 years" and that was made into the movie "Straight Time" starring Dustin Hoffman. Also a screenwriter ("Runaway Train"), Bunker appeared as an actor in nearly two dozen roles, most notably as Mr. Blue in "Reservoir Dogs." (more inside)
Neil Gaiman 1997 essay on the myth of artistic inspiration
The Penguin Classics Library Complete Collection. "From Edwin A. Abbott to Emile Zola, the 1,082 titles in the Penguin Classics Complete Library total nearly half a million pages." The weight of the books is approximately 700 pounds. Amazon is offering free shipping! I wonder how big the box would be waiting at my door. (via)
The Aesthetics of Resistance. The first part of Peter Weiss's 3-volume novel Die Ästhetik des Widerstands (1975-81) has, after many delays, finally been published in a Joachim Neugroschel’s English translation: a major, though largely-unheralded literary event. The book ‘stands as the most significant German novel published after The Tin Drum.’ [more inside]
Wired for Books HUNDREDS of uncut, behind-the-scenes AUDIO (!) interviews (scroll down) by Don Swain. Douglas Adams, William Burroughs, Joyce Carol Oates, Henny Youngman... to name just a few.
Move over, Wil Wheaton and Belle de Jour. Book deals are a thing of the past, and publish-on-demand is where it's at. Some bloggers like Tony Pierce and Anti have published their best blog excerpts ("blooks"), while others like Jamie Boud are more creative, using it publish new content (I guess this is when the micropatronage pays off). But Cafepress isn't the only option, and there are definitely many helpful sites out there. Previously discussed here.
50 years with Lew Archer A detailed tribute to classic hard-boiled mystery writer Ross Macdonald, including a fascinating interview with Macdonald's biographer. Considered one of "the big three of the American hard-boiled detective novel" (with Hammet and Chandler), Macdonald has unfortunately "slipped to the back shelves." He had a lifelong lover's quarrel with Hollywood and - oh yeah - probably saved Warren Zevon's life back in 1979.
The Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries from Human Events Online, a weekly conservative journal. [more inside]
Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities is so called because it asserts that what makes up a city is not so much its physical structure but the impression it imparts upon its visitors, the way its inhabitants move within, something unseen that hums between the cracks. This, however, has in no way dissuaded people from attempting to give form to his works. One such example is the Hotel Tressants, a building in Menorca, Spain containing 8 rooms named after and inspired by various cities from the novel. Meanwhile, artists offer illustrations1,2,3, installations 1,2,3,4,5, music1,2,3,4,5,6 and dance, hypertexts1,2, computer programs and animations, even View-Master slides, while intellectuals offer readings and commentary1,2, lectures1,2, and critical texts1,2,3 sparked by the man and his writings. It has been dubbed "The Calvino Effect". Do you know of any more?
"Maybe this world is another planet's hell". Photographer Antonin Kratochvil's new book, "Vanishing" is a collection of 16 photo essays taken over 16 years by one of the world's most acclaimed photojournalists. It is a tour through endangered life forms and ruined environments, human catastrophes and destruction -- resulting in vanishing cultures. "Vanishing speaks on behalf of life, despite man's ever-threatening presence. This body of work offers nothing in the way of answers, neither is it a sermon in hopes of brighter days
Rebecca's Revival. Rebecca Protten, born a slave in 1718, gained her freedom and joined a group of proselytizers from the Moravian Church. She embarked on an itinerant mission, preaching to hundreds of the enslaved Africans of St. Thomas, West Indies. Weathering persecution from hostile planters, Protten and other black preachers created the earliest African Protestant congregation in the Americas. University of Florida historian Jon Sensbach has written a book about Protten's life -- the interracial marriage, the trial on charges of blasphemy and inciting of slaves, the travels to Germany and West Africa. Later in her life, after she moved to Germany, Rebecca was ordained as a deaconess: "a former slave now administered Communion and practiced other claims to spiritual authority over white women, including European aristocrats." More inside.
The International Children's Digital Library has over 600 illustrated children's books entirely viewable online. Included are the amazing 1900 illustrated edition of "A is for Apple", and the 1885 color illustrated "Baseball ABC". Also online are the 1905 and 1916 editions of the illustrated "Alice in Wonderland". Searchable, with books representing 28 languages, including English, Japanese, Farsi, Niuean, Yiddish, Khmer, Tongan, German, Arabic .... (though most contemporary, copyrighted western books are, of course, not here).
What Was True. From the mid 1950s through the early 1980s, William Gedney (1932-1989) photographed throughout the United States, in India, and in Europe, and filling notebook after notebook with his observations. From the commerce of the street outside his Brooklyn apartment to the daily chores of unemployed coal miners, from the lifestyle of hippies in Haight-Ashbury to the sacred rituals of Hindu worshippers, Gedney was able to record the lives of others with clarity and poignancy. Gedney's America is a nation of averted eyes, and broken automobiles, and restlessness, a place Edward Hopper would recognize, but so, also, Walt Whitman.
A contrarian review of Thomas Friedman's "The World is Flat" - "It is a tale of a man who walks 10 feet in front of his house armed with a late-model Blackberry and comes back home five minutes later to gush to his wife that hospitals now use the internet to outsource the reading of CAT scans." Having watched Friedman flog this book on seemingly dozens of talk shows in the last month, I can't say I disagree...
The London Review of Books lands on my doormat twice a month, and is packed with erudite and entertaining essays. But I suspect I am not the only subscriber who turns to the remarkable personals section first.
The Reader of Gentlemen's Mail In the spring of 1919, when the father of American cryptography, Herbert O. Yardley, drew up a plan for a permanent State Department codebreaking organization — a "black chamber — he estimated that a modest $100,000 a year would buy a chief (Yardley) and fifty clerks and cryptanalysts. Yardley rented a three-story building in New York City: on East 38th Street just off Fifth Avenue, he put two dozen people to work under civilian cover—as the Code Compiling Company. His summary dismissal happened in 1929 at the hand of incoming Secretary of State Henry Stimson, who closed down the Cipher Bureau with the casual observation that "gentlemen do not read each other's mail". The son of a railroad telegrapher, a man with a lively Jazz Age interest in money, good-looking women, and drinks at five, Yardley not only taught his country how to read other people's mail but wrote two of the enduring American books—the memoir The American Black Chamber (1931), and The Education of a Poker Player (1957).
"It is here, however -- perhaps 50 pages into this 800-plus page anthology -- that something begins to shift, and what was supposed to be sublime (but is actually ridiculous) becomes something that was supposed to be ridiculous, but is actually sublime."
Why H.P. Lovecraft is scary after all.
Why H.P. Lovecraft is scary after all.
The Mathematical Fiction Homepage is a collaborative attempt to "collect information about all significant references to mathematics in fiction." Feel free to add classic or recent works in any medium to the collection, or rate existing entries on their mathematical content and literary quality.
The Language of Saxophones At 55, L.A. musician and poet Kamau Daáood is finally beginning to acknowledge the possibility of his own place in local letters with his debut book of poetry, The Language of Saxophones, a 30-plus-year retrospective published by City Lights. Though he’s recorded a solo CD and read nationally and internationally, Daáood had never seen fit to collect his material in a book. Until now. “I never liked the idea of poetry sitting on a shelf somewhere, lost in all those book spines”.
What's the difference between reality and unreality? In real life you have no options. It's like when JFK is assassinated and you're in a method acting class, trying to become a mourning American citizen. Thomas De Zengotita's (reality is so passé) new book is out.
Home Economics Archive: Research, Tradition and History (HEARTH). From Cornell University, HEARTH is an internet resource collecting home economics texts from 1850 to 1950, including Meals that cook themselves and cut the costs, by Christine Frederick (1915), and The young woman's guide to excellence, by William A. Alcott (1852), as well as the Journal of Home Economics from 1909 to 1980.
The Epic of Kings. Dr Charles Melville, a lecturer of the University of Cambridge is compiling a list of all the world’s handwritten and illustrated versions of the Shahnameh, the masterpiece of Iranian poet Ferdowsi. “In the first step, I began to search libraries and museums in Iran, Turkey, the United States, India, and a number of European countries. After finding the sources, I traveled to the countries to study the versions that I had found in my search”. Ferdowsi's epic poem (English translation here) has 62 Stories, 990 Chapters, and contains 60,000 rhyming couplets -- making it more than seven times the length of Homer's Iliad.
Frank Conroy Dies at 69 The author of "Stop-Time," jazz pianist, scallop fisherman, and Iowa writers workshop guru disappears into the divine...
Showing Off a Little (Inner) Cleavage. Author Geralyn Lucas wore bright, red lipstick to her mastectomy. "It was my way of saying I knew I would still be a woman when I woke up with a blood-soaked bandage where my breast used to be... women have sacrificed breasts and hair to try to save their lives. We have traded in our beauty for some kind of cure. But something strange often happens when we lose the bling — the big boobs and big hair — of womanhood. We're left with what I call 'inner cleavage,' and no plastic surgeon can sculpt it. It is the beauty that exists when everything else has been stripped away". Lauren Greenfield photographs here. More inside.
The Man Who Unwrote the Bible. In the mid-1720s, Alexander Cruden took on a self-imposed task of Herculean proportions: he decided to compile the most thorough concordance of the King James Version of the Bible (777,746 words). The first edition of Cruden's Concordance was published in 1737. Every similar undertaking before or since has been the work of a vast team of people. Cruden worked alone in his lodgings, writing the whole thing out by hand. Cruden's day job was as a "Corrector of the Press" (proofreader). He would give hawk-eyed attention to prose all day long. Then he would come home at night to read the Bible—stopping at every single word to secure the right sheet from the tens of thousands of pieces of paper all around him and to record accurately the reference in its appropriate place. He had no patron, no publisher, no financial backers: his only commission was a divine one. Cruden's Concordance has never been out of print. A new book tells the tale of Alexander the Corrector's bizarre, sad life (scroll down to about half page).
"Rats that survive to the age of four are the wisest and the most cynical beasts on earth. A trap means nothing to them, no matter how skillfully set. They just kick it around until it snaps; then they eat the bait. And they can detect poisoned bait a yard off. I believe some of them can read." Also, they're athletes
The Cheerful Transgressive Ever since 1971, when Larry Clark published Tulsa, an austere series chronicling his meth-shooting pals in sixties Oklahoma, Clark has made it his mission to document teenagers at their most deviant, their most vulnerable, their most sexually unhinged (possibly NSFW). And now “Larry Clark” the first American retrospective of Clark’s work, currently on display at the International Center of Photography, demonstrates the richness with which he’s mined this single subject (NSFW). More inside.
Weathering the Weather: The Origins of Atmospheric Science A "glorious selection" of strikingly beautiful pages from classic publications about meteorology. [via plep].
We all like getting mail and soldiers stationed far from home or recovering from war injuries in a veterans' hospital really like getting mail. So go through your bookcases and closets and dig out those books you don't read. Got duplicate copies of books or DVDs? What about recent magazines? The Books For Soldiers program sends "care packages for the mind"—books, DVDs and magazines for servicemen and women overseas and in hospitals at home. Just sign into the site, browse soldiers' book requests and send your package.
In those days, he could do no wrong. In the Sixties, he was the man who published Catch-22, Portnoy's Complaint and Hemingway's A Moveable Feast; he put John Lennon's doodles into cold print, launched the careers of John Fowles and Gabriel García Márquez, looked after Thomas Pynchon and Kurt Vonnegut and later, in the early 1980s, was the godfatherly mentor of Amis fils, Julian Barnes, Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie. He was equally adept at commissioning inspired non-fictions such as The Naked Ape, Desmond Morris's zoological inspection of human behaviour. The Independent profiles Tom Maschler, publisher, founder of the Booker Prize. (via Bookslut)
fore-edge painting. Books that, when fanned, reveal paintings on their edges. Hot, fore-edge action! (QuickTime.)
Winter Lit. He has written 40 books that have been published in more than 35 countries and sold more than 25 million copies worldwide. Why isn't Swedish writer Henning Mankell better known in the United States? (via Stefan Geens)
The Spaghetti Book Club offers book reviews by kids for kids, searchable in a variety of ways. (And most of the reviews are also illustrated by the kid-authors!). One of my favorites begins: "Do you like bad ideas or thinking about them? Well, if you like bad ideas then you should read The Book of Bad Ideas. The Book of Bad Ideas is a book that has bad ideas you really shouldn't try at home. If you try them you'll be soooorrrrryyyyy! If you want to learn more about it, I'll suggest a website but I don't know any. Maybe you should read the book."
"... Giordano Bruno might have been a pantheist. A pantheist believes that God is everywhere, even in that speck of a fly you see there. You can imagine how satisfying that is—being everywhere is like being nowhere. Well, for Hegel it wasn’t God but the State that had to be everywhere; therefore, he was a Fascist.” “But didn’t he live more than a hundred years ago?” “So? Joan of Arc, also a Fascist of the highest order. Fascists have always existed. Since the age of . . . since the age of God. Take God—a Fascist.” Umberto Eco in the New Yorker
How to Sell Your Book, CD, or DVD on Amazon [From Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools: he has a knack for asking the best questions]
In Education of Children from Birth to Puberty, Jesuit priest Frank Nimrod shares his wisdom about the human body: "The cannibals can tell us that the fresh and warm brain, just taken out of the cranium is very sweet," and "Our nose does not only serve the purpose of respiration, but the purpose of smelling also." Meanwhile, retired Bell Telephone Laboratories engineer I.W. Whiteside writes an entire volume decoding the strange light patterns on his bookcase. His conclusion? Aliens! "After much thought, I concluded that these people have computer brains and laser-beam eyes." These are just two of many odd books.
EXLIBRIS MUSEUM. We've done ex-libris bookplates before, but trust me, this site far surpasses anything you've ever seen. Just go to the Gallery and click on any of the names. Vereshchagin, for instance. Or Karol Felix. Or... hell, just dive in, you can't go wrong. Warning: many bookplates contain female nudes. (Via dirty.ru; thanks, misteraitch!)