Don't Judge A Book By Its Author by Aminatta Forna [The Guardian]
‘I have never met a writer who wishes to be described as a female writer, gay writer, black writer, Asian writer or African writer’ … Aminatta Forna on her frustration at the book world’s obsession with labels and identity.
Pakistan's booksellers with wooden carts piled high: "Magazines and newspapers all have a standard price, but books—most of them old and, in some cases, quite rare—are sold by tola, a South Asian unit of measurement that works out to less than a pound, for as little as one dollar. A several-hundred-year-old copy of The Royal History of England, with hand-painted borders and diagrams, can sell for less than a set of Harry Potter books."
Centireading Force: Why Reading a Book 100 Times is a Great Idea (SL Guardian)
Have you any spare mercury about the house? Are you well supplied with saltpetre, phosphorus, and oil of vitriol? Such domestic staples can you afford you ENDLESS AMUSEMENT! in the form of hundreds of science tricks from 1847! [more inside]
A map showing the reading habits of 10 countries. For comparison, number of books published per capita in Europe.
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.
The University of Michigan Library, the University of Oxford's Bodleian Libraries and ProQuest have made public more than 25,000 manually transcribed texts from 1473-1700 — the first 200 years of the printed book. Full text access. Multiple format downloads, including ePUB. Or just download the entire corpus. [more inside]
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.
Den of Geek: "If Warner Bros. were smart, they'd mine the King Universe for that much-needed franchise. Apart from fun little easter eggs here and there, the films have never been acknowledged as part of a larger universe. Yet this universe has one of the most coherent backbones ever known in fiction. World-building wouldn't be difficult at all. Just look at how all of this stuff connects..." Previously: "That wasn't any act of God. That was an act of pure human fuckery." [spoiler alert for both links]
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]
Over the past ten years, an organization called PJ Library Has distributed more than ten million free children's books and music with Jewish content directly to children ages 0 to 8 across the United States. The program is modeled on Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. Not always without controversy, books contain information about Jewish-American culture, Israel, general values, Jewish holidays, and even occasionally mysticism. In 2014 PJL announced a new program to distribute books to Arab-Israeli preschoolers. Sign up here.
Amazon’s disruption of the traditional publishing model is well-documented. Self-published authors on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited are seeing their incomes plummet by as much as 75%. Citizen-reviewers have wrested the reins of criticism from established newspaper and magazine critics, much to authors’ dismay. But one writer found online reviewing a way to reclaim her identity as a writer—even if she was reviewing a crappy mattress purchase on Amazon. How A Bad Amazon Review Totally Changed My Career. [more inside]
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]
Many are worried about what [e-book] technology means for books, with big bookshops closing, new devices spreading, novice authors flooding the market and an online behemoth known as Amazon growing ever more powerful. Their anxieties cannot simply be written off as predictable technophobia. The digital transition may well change the way books are written, sold and read more than any development in their history, and that will not be to everyone’s advantage. Veterans and revolutionaries alike may go bust; Gutenberg died almost penniless, having lost control of his press to Fust and other creditors. But to see technology purely as a threat to books risks missing a key point. Books are not just “tree flakes encased in dead cow”, as a scholar once wryly put it. They are a technology in their own right, one developed and used for the refinement and advancement of thought. And this technology is a powerful, long-lived and adaptable one.—From Papyrus to Pixels is a long essay in The Economist about the changing form of books, presented both as a traditional web-scroll, as an e-book and in audio form.
A couple of years ago a mother / daughter author team wrote a book for dependent kids with parents in the military, in which they decided to replace the traditional "Military Brat" identifier with "CHAMPS" ( Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel). The book spawned a non-profit called Operation Champs, which provided support services to military dependents and their families. [more inside]
Do you like books for more than just the words inside? Here, thanks to MeFi's own Jason Kottke, are four and a half lists of the best book covers of 2014.
“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]
"Year-end lists are always subjective and incomplete, but they are especially tricky for books. A dedicated film critic can watch every wide release film and a theater critic can go to most every play, but the book critic is faced with an insurmountable mountain of books each year. The sheer number of books is inspiring as a reader, but it can make 'best of' lists laughably subjective when the critic has only read a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of novels published each year. With that in mind, I decided to crowd source Electric Literature’s year-end lists. First up: novels."
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]
"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]
The specialists began to use terms such as "quality of life" to describe all the things she was likely to be without. My husband, Michael, realized it was going to be nearly impossible to pry me away from her bedside. He asked what he could bring me from home: a change of clothes, sweater, food, or something to read? I asked him to bring me anything by Anne McCaffrey."Changes Without Notice" is one reader's personal essay about discovering a book at just the right moment. An afterword in Dragonwriter says a little more about how things turned out. [Via and previously.]
Steven Millhauser is an American Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction author known for his erudite, witty and surreal writing style that blends the magical and the real. Enjoy the full text of Eisenheim The Illusionist (pdf, 20 pages), the story that inspired the 2006 film The Illusionist. [more inside]
Kent Haruf, ‘a great writer and a great man’, dies aged 71 [The Guardian]
"Pan Macmillan, Haruf’s UK publisher, said that the novelist died on Sunday 30 November, praising his “beautifully restrained, profoundly felt novels” which it said “reflected a man of integrity, honesty and deep thoughtfulness”."
Do you have good eyesight and a steady hand? How about a grown-up dot-to-dot picture to pass the time? Thomas Pavitte is the author of not only the 1000 Dot to Dot Portrait book but the 1000 Dot to Dot Cities Book (video), the 1000 Dot to Dot Animals Book (video), and various others including the Mona Lisa. (free download)
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.
In this interview the splendid eight-year-old Madison makes it clear that she really loves books and the new Little Free Libraries that are in her Cleveland neighborhood of Fairfax. A Little Free Library [previous and ly] is a small, sturdy box full of books that local communities take are of all over the world. The non-profit organization behind it received the 2014 Innovation in Reading Award from the National Book Foundation.
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.
Racing to Checkpoint Charlie – my memories of the Berlin Wall by Haruki Murakami [The Guardian] The Japanese novelist on why the fall of the Berlin wall has such resonance with his novels.
Maria Popova on the story, art, and universal truths of this year's best books for kids. [more inside]
"Books are dead. It's sad, but it's basically true. Sure, you can eke out a decent living if you dedicate yourself to your craft, spend years researching niche topics, and fleshing out the true human characteristics of your characters–that is, if you're extremely lucky and enormously talented. Or you could write a young adult novel."
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![more inside]
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.
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."
What is Literature for? [SLVimeo]
The closest a film has ever come to adapting King’s internal-horror aesthetic is a film King himself has publicly lambasted: Kubrick’s version of The Shining. It’s the most artful, scary, and beautifully directed of the King adaptations, and even excludes some of the novel’s more overt (and potentially silly) visual elements, such as the hedge animals that come to life and stalk the family in the yard. Yet, the film never tackles the serious human horrors that infect Jack Torrance throughout the novel, specifically his alcoholism, along with the themes of cyclical abuse and mounting financial pressure. King’s criticism of the film is that Torrance, as played by Jack Nicholson, is portrayed as unhinged right from the start, whereas the novel slowly unravels the man’s sanity, the haunted house he occupies pushing him deeper into madness and violence. [more inside]
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.
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.
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.[more inside]
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.
Music Theory for Musicians and Normal People Toby W. Rush's "Music Theory for Musicians and Normal People" covers a massive range of topics like pitch, rhythm, scales, intervals, and harmonics. The online book itself is arranged as a collection of about 50 PDFs that offer diagrams, notes, and tips for everything music theory related. [more inside]
Cooking the Books
"Cooking the Books is an internet cooking show hosted by Emily Gould in which she invites famous authors into her kitchen to make food inspired by their books."[more inside]
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.
Among a rising chorus of folks speaking out about problems caused by America's obsession with football at every level, author (and fan) Steve Almond's voice stands out the loudest. His new book Against Football argues that "our allegiance to football legitimizes and even fosters within us a tolerance for violence, greed, racism, and homophobia." In a nutshell "Fans should stop watching." Needless to say the book has provoked a strong reaction in fans (and defensive sportswriters), most notably in New York Mag, with Jonathan Chait's personal story of how football made him a better person: "In Defense of Male Aggression: What Liberals Get Wrong About Football". [more inside]
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."
A collection of philosophical science/speculative fiction reading lists, (with decent amount of short fiction and some media thrown in) with short "why you should read this " blurbs. The suggestions are made by professional philosophers and philosophy-trained SF writers, and curated by Eric Schwitzgebel, Professor of Philosophy at UC Riverside. Part 2, Part 3 With more suggestions promised to come. (Previously, a course on Science Fiction and Political Science , previouslier - curated lists of anarchist and socialist science fiction
"HH [Henry Hauser]: Ryan and Nina are right on target. The Ray-Dave sibling rivalry sparked many of The Kinks' most spontaneous (and brilliant) musical moments. The Storyteller, Ray's riveting account of early life in the Davies household and his band’s rise to prominence, has him describing how he and Dave exchanged scornful looks while recording "You Really Got Me". The elder Davies swears that if you listen closely, you can actually hear Dave yelling "Fuckkkoffff" right before his guitar solo. Ray salvaged the track by covering up Dave's profane exclamation with his own unscripted outburst ("Owwwww noooooo!"), and the impromptu rock scream turned into one of the most memorable quirks in Kinks history. It perfectly captures the animalistic agony that accompanies hopeless infatuation. Without the Ray-Dave rivalry, it would never have happened."
Henry Hauser, Ryan Bray, Nina Corcoran, and Stevie Dunbar at Consequence of Sound hold a round-table discussion in "Dusting 'Em Off: The Kinks – The Kinks". [more inside]
Henry Hauser, Ryan Bray, Nina Corcoran, and Stevie Dunbar at Consequence of Sound hold a round-table discussion in "Dusting 'Em Off: The Kinks – The Kinks". [more inside]
Abdel Kader Haidara awarded Germany's 2014 Africa Prize for rescuing Timbuktu manuscripts. Under his direction centuries' worth of texts were smuggled out when the city was taken by book-burning religious conservatives in 2012. The collection is currently in Mali's capital Bamako where it is being preserved and digitized. More text, slideshow, video, previously previously previously [more inside]
‘The Giving Tree’: Tender Story of Unconditional Love or Disturbing Tale of Selfishness?
Anna Holmes and Rivka Galchen reconsider Shel Silverstein’s classic, published 50 years ago.