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...takes greater formal and intellectual risks than most

The New York Times calls David Mitchell's new novel, "The Bone Clocks," his most ambitious novel. This is significant because his other novels are fairly ambitious. [more inside]
posted by entropone on Aug 25, 2014 - 24 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 - 146 comments

The radiance of life

"Woolf often conceives of life this way: as a gift that you've been given, which you must hold onto and treasure but never open. Opening it would dispel the atmosphere, ruin the radiance—and the radiance of life is what makes it worth living. It's hard to say just what holding onto life without looking at it might mean; that's one of the puzzles of her books. But it has something to do with preserving life's mystery…" Virginia Woolf's Idea of Privacy
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Aug 10, 2014 - 11 comments

Climate change and contemporary fiction

"Novels are no use at all in days like these, for they deal with people and their relationships, with fathers and mothers and daughters or sons and lovers, etc., with souls, usually unhappy ones, and with society etc., as if the place for all these things were assured, the earth for all time earth, the sea level fixed for all time." [more inside]
posted by brundlefly on Aug 9, 2014 - 57 comments

Scientific-Marvelous

On the Scientific-Marvelous Novel and Its Influence on the Understanding of Progress, written by Maurice Renard in 1909. Via.
posted by brundlefly on Aug 7, 2014 - 5 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

A hard stare from a public bench bear

"London has become a literary playground: a project by the National Literacy Trust has scattered 50 book-shaped benches across the capital for the whole summer, each dedicated to an iconic London-related author or character." (The Guardian). The BBC report about the literary benches; the full list of benches from the Books about Town website. CNN has a slideshow that includes a nice photo of the Paddington Bear bench in use.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Jul 25, 2014 - 11 comments

Tozai Mystery Best 100

In 1985, the Mystery Writers of Japan (plus "508 people who love mystery novels") assembled two separate lists of the 100 best mystery novels: one each for the books of the East and West. A revised list came out in 2012. Both Western lists are remarkable for their comparative lack of overlap with the "100 best" lists produced by the American and British mystery writers associations. The Eastern lists are remarkable for the fact that fewer than a quarter of their entries have been translated into English. [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Jul 18, 2014 - 14 comments

What if Homer Simpson smoked weed? It's not that crazy to imagine.

For the last few weeks, the Twitter account @Homer_Marijuana has been publishing a bizarre piece of long-form fan fiction about The Simpsons, family, America's wars in the Middle East, and marijuana, vast amounts of all sorts of marijuana. Now, 5,015 tweets later, Marijuana Simpson has concluded, and is available to read on an easier-to-follow Scribd document.
posted by Small Dollar on Jul 9, 2014 - 28 comments

The 200 Greatest Adventure Novels of All Time

One man's favorite adventure novels published before the '80s. "Why does my Top Adventures List project stop in 1983? Primarily because I figure that adventure fans already know which adventure novels from the Eighties, Nineties, and Twenty-Oughts are worth reading; I’m interested in directing attention to older, sometimes obscure or forgotten adventures." (Hat-tip: DGStieber)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Jun 14, 2014 - 29 comments

"Don’t Forget to Be Awesome"

The Teen Whisperer by Margaret Talbot [New Yorker] How the author [John Green] of “The Fault in Our Stars” built an ardent army of fans.
posted by Fizz on Jun 3, 2014 - 24 comments

Shouldn't Sue her for trying

And so I ask myself: Is Mary Sue - obnoxious and world-distorting as she can be - simply making up for a lack in the world she has entered? When we see Mary Sue, should we be deriding the fanfic writer? Or questioning the gender breakdown of the original universe?
posted by MartinWisse on Feb 17, 2014 - 98 comments

Na Thing Left Unruinated

447 years ago this morning, the Provost's house at Kirk o' Field, Edinburgh, was annihilated in an explosion. Lord Darnley, king consort to Mary, Queen of Scots, had been staying in the house to recuperate from a bout of pox; his body was found in a nearby orchard, unburnt but asphyxiated. Rafael Sabatini recounts the possible course of events in his Historical Nights' Entertainment, a two volume anthology of murders, court intrigues, and scandals. [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Feb 10, 2014 - 18 comments

J.K. Trolling

In a an interview conducted by Emma Watson appearing on the front page of today's Sunday Times (embiggen), Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling admits she regrets Ron and Hermione's relationship and that Hermione should have wed Harry. Maybe she should have killed Ron after all. [more inside]
posted by guiseroom on Feb 1, 2014 - 172 comments

The Elmore Leonard Paradox

If the sheer number of Leonard adaptations is remarkable, what is more remarkable still is how few of them are any good. No one was more aware of, or blunt about, this disappointing onscreen record than Leonard himself. His first crime novel, The Big Bounce, was twice adapted for film, in 1969 and 2004. Leonard memorably described the earlier effort as the “second-worst movie ever made”; it was not until he saw the 2004 version, he later said, that he knew what movie was the worst.
posted by Rustic Etruscan on Jan 3, 2014 - 60 comments

A Very Beerbohm Christmas

Presenting A Christmas Garland woven through with festive stories and essays by H*nry J*m*s, R*dy*rd K*pl*ng, Th*m*s H*rdy, H.G. W*lls, G**rg* B*rn*rd Sh*w, and many other worthies from the Edwardian literary c*n*n! [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Dec 24, 2013 - 6 comments

The Millions's Year In Reading 2013, My Year In Reading 2017

The Millions has finished its Year In Reading for 2013. Sixty-eight people, including Metafilter's own Stephen Dodson, write about the books they read in 2013. Highlights include Choire Sicha, editor at The Awl, Sergio de la Pava, who wrote A Naked Singularity, and Rachel Kushner, who wrote The Flamethrowers. Full list here.
posted by Rustic Etruscan on Dec 20, 2013 - 18 comments

A Christmas Offering

...They have got up among themselves a periodical called THE LOWELL OFFERING, "a repository of original articles, written exclusively by females actively employed in the mills," -- which is duly printed, published, and sold; and whereof I brought away from Lowell four hundred good solid pages, which I have read from beginning to end...Of the merits of the Lowell Offering as a literary production I will only observe, putting entirely out of sight the fact of the articles having been written by these girls after the arduous labours of the day, that it will compare advantageously with a great many English Annuals. It is pleasant to find that many of its Tales are of the Mills, and of those who work in them; that they inculcate habits of self-denial and contentment, and teach good doctrines of enlarged benevolence.
On an early leg of his 1842 American tour, Charles Dickens paid a visit to Lowell, Massachusetts, where he toured the famous river-powered textile mills and met some of the thousands of young women employed there. The literary journal he carried away, the Offering, inculcated certain of its benevolent doctrines through stories about Christmas, ghosts, mystic journeys through time and space, and mystic journeys through time and space with ghosts. Soon after his return to England, Dickens published A Christmas Carol. Coincidence? [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Dec 20, 2013 - 13 comments

There and Back Again

To define the world of The Hobbit is, of course, impossible, because it is new. - C.S. Lewis reviews The Hobbit. Why Smaug Sill Matters. Tolkien, Alignment, Non-Violence, and Why Hobbits are Required for Middle-earth to Survive. "‘Smaug’ is about almost absolutely nothing". Scientist maps climate of Lord of the Rings.
posted by Artw on Dec 8, 2013 - 157 comments

The Readings of Elizabeth Klett

Librivox, the grand repository for free recordings of public domain literature, hosts quite a few fine readers. I'm partial to the Dickens interpretations of Czechchris and Mil Nicholson, and I've warmed to Chiquito Crasto's judicious renditions of classic ghost stories. But for my money, the best reader on Librivox is Elizabeth Klett, a trained actor and English professor whose many recordings unite range and insight. [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Dec 4, 2013 - 34 comments

Inspirational and Educational Reading

"In Advanced Readings in D&D, Tor.com writers Tim Callahan and Mordicai Knode take a look at Gary Gygax’s favorite authors and reread one per week, in an effort to explore the origins of Dungeons & Dragons and see which of these sometimes-famous, sometimes-obscure authors are worth rereading today." [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Nov 8, 2013 - 42 comments

Seiobo There Below

László Krasznahorkai's most recently translated book, Seiobo There Below, whose first chapter can be read online, is a collection of interconnected stories about art and revelation, stories composed almost entirely of pages-long sentences, "long, sinewy sentences," sentences which might make you think "Krasznahorkai holds the run-on in a suffocating bear hug," as Adam Z. Levy has it, sentences which other critics call "captivating", "vertiginous", "apparently endless [...] like diving deep underwater, with no hope of coming up for air, or like releasing the brakes on a bicycle at the top of a steep hill", but those sentences, which go on for pages as they shift scenes and perspectives, serve as vehicles for a terrifying aesthetic bliss or bewilderment [more inside]
posted by RogerB on Nov 8, 2013 - 6 comments

How to Write

Writing advice from Oates, Wolfe, Levine, Pynchon, Stein, Welty, DeLillo, Chekhov, Gallant, and Elkin; Baldwin, Miller, Morrison, Vonnegut, Atwood, Nabokov, and Stein again; Maugham, Hughes, Duras, Orwell, Ashbery, Sontag, Creeley, and Steinbeck; O'Connor, Baxter, Didion, Yeats, Hejinian, Cocteau, du Plessix Gray, and Bolaño; Waldrop, Cary, Pessoa, Amis, Carroll, Atwood, and Le Guin; Vinge, Williams, Crane, Creeley once more, Gallant, Vargas Llosa, Mathews, and Wolfe again. [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Sep 18, 2013 - 33 comments

The map is not the story

The Book Globe has mapped the settings of all the 267 novels nominated for the Booker Prize since 1969.
posted by MartinWisse on Sep 17, 2013 - 21 comments

Character Writings of the 1600s

The Corranto-Coiner, the Huffing Courtier, the Prater, the Squire of Dames, the Braggadocio Welshman, the Droll, the Pot Poet, the Ingrosser of Corn, the Duke of Bucks, the Drunken Dutchman Resident in England, the Factious Member, the Common Singing Men in Cathedral Churches, the Wittol, the Knight of the Post, and many more neglected stereotypes of 17th century England. [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Sep 5, 2013 - 20 comments

flown in to Japan to assess the damage done by Godzilla

As Thomas Pynchon's new novel Bleeding Edge's Sept. 17th release date approaches, New York Magazine's Vulture blog offers a capsule biography of the man. (SLVulture) [more inside]
posted by Rustic Etruscan on Sep 2, 2013 - 43 comments

I Spit On Your Realities

Sullivan’s book was a hit. It was the single best-selling book of 1947, ahead of de Beauvoir, ahead of Sartre, ahead of Camus. People wanted to meet him. The press wanted to talk to him. He was also the plaintiff in a civil suit that could carry a heavy fine or even lead to time in jail. He had to appear in court, which was tricky, because Vernon Sullivan didn’t exist. (SLTheAwl)

posted by Rustic Etruscan on Aug 27, 2013 - 17 comments

"In a rare feat..."

The pseudonymous author behind the critically-acclaimed mystery novel The Cuckoo's Calling has been outed. And it's J. K. Rowling.
posted by Rory Marinich on Jul 13, 2013 - 140 comments

Five Feet of Books

"During his days as Harvard’s influential president, Dr. Charles W. Eliot made a frequent assertion: If you were to spend just 15 minutes a day reading the right books, a quantity that could fit on a five-foot shelf, you could give yourself a proper liberal education. Publisher P. F. Collier and Son loved the idea and asked Eliot to compile and edit the right collection of works. The result: a 51-volume series of classic works from world literature published in 1909 called Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf, which would later be called The Harvard Classics." (Via) [more inside]
posted by zarq on Jul 11, 2013 - 89 comments

“She would live now, not read.”

Alice Munro Puts Down Her Pen to Let the World In: Accepting a literary prize in Toronto last month, Alice Munro, the acclaimed short-story writer — “our Chekhov,” as Cynthia Ozick has called her — winner of the Man Booker International Prize and just about every important North American literary award for which she is eligible, told a newspaper interviewer, “I’m probably not going to write anymore.”
posted by Fizz on Jul 2, 2013 - 32 comments

Bewilderment, speculation and plain old fashioned abuse

"If Shirley Jackson’s intent was to symbolize into complete mystification, and at the same time be gratuitously disagreeable, she certainly succeeded" - The New Yorker takes a look at the over 300 letters in reaction to The Lottery
posted by Artw on Jun 27, 2013 - 44 comments

"It's a Sugar song."

Orson Scott Card's Unaccompanied Sonata [Google Books], which he has called one of his favorite short stories, is an darkly enchanting tale about a boy who, at a young age, is taken from his family and brought to a house deep in the forest...
posted by Rory Marinich on Jun 4, 2013 - 40 comments

Lit Lists and Ranked Ratings

Christopher Pound combines and weights lists and ratings from Project Gutenberg, Goodreads, and elsewhere to produce novel sortings of familiar dataShakespeare's plays by popularity, for example. The most successful fiction writers at Gutenberg, and the top thousand most popular works of fiction found there. The most highly rated films of 2012 and 2011. The most popular Sci-fi and fantasy sub-genres at Goodreads. [more inside]
posted by Iridic on May 30, 2013 - 25 comments

Lydia Davis wins Man Booker International Prize

The 2013 Man Booker International Prize went to Lydia Davis, best known as a short story writer—some just a single sentence long—but also a novelist and translator. There is a wealth of material by and about her online, and here are few favorites: Video of Davis reading some very short stories, PennSound MP3 collection of readings, talks and interviews, writer James Salter reads and discusses Davis' story Break It Down, interview by Francine Prose, Frieze Talks reading and interview, video of reading followed by Q&A, "A Position at the University" and a a discussion about the story, and finally, a number of links to her short stories: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. [Lydia Davis previously on MeFi]
posted by Kattullus on May 29, 2013 - 16 comments

Dhcmrlchtdj!

The Library of Babel is online! Recently digitized classics include Rtvcdg Lxcxahssds Qgflvab mge Bjbpd Orrq, Dgqqjv Iqfold xpx Ljg vjd Vapdophr, and Vmcyogxmvyrnle Lgjmyqsh Hfmni Lyvvdahec Bajvp Hlibiov, which appears by the gracious permission of Lbtddnbdqh Pjnghbdtvmi. [more inside]
posted by Iridic on May 29, 2013 - 42 comments

"Each animal reminds one terribly of certain men."

Next to a beautiful, elegant woman, between the silky spirals of her train, on the back of a chair, in a dark angle in the background, he accurately painted, although almost invisible, the animal that recalled the face of the protagonist. He thus had a series of ladies and gentlemen from the squirrel, from the lizard, from the sea horse, etc.
From "The Real Face," by Guido Gozzano, "first and finest representative of the Crepuscolari, the poets of the Twilight." [more inside]
posted by Iridic on May 23, 2013 - 1 comment

"Learn as much by writing as by reading."

First editions, second thoughts. [The Guardian] "Interactive: From Amsterdam to Wolf Hall, Booker winners and bestsellers – authors annotate their own first editions.
posted by Fizz on May 18, 2013 - 2 comments

“Don’t go around asking the question, ‘Is this character likeable?’

Claire Messud: “A woman’s rant” [National Post] "Over the last week, discussion surrounding Claire Messud’s new novel, The Woman Upstairs, has shifted from the book to an interview its author recently gave to Publishers Weekly, in which Messud took issue with the following question: “I wouldn’t want to be friends with Nora, would you? Her outlook is almost unbearably grim.” [more inside]
posted by Fizz on May 10, 2013 - 23 comments

"...wearing various smiles on their faces."

The 2013 Lyttle Lytton Contest winners are here. [more inside]
posted by Navelgazer on Apr 25, 2013 - 23 comments

He is interested in confusion

‘I am a phantasmagoric maximalist. I like things to be overwhelmingly strange and capacitous. I want what I write to live; it isn’t about something, it is something’— Michael Cisco. [more inside]
posted by misteraitch on Apr 3, 2013 - 4 comments

Inventions of the Monsters

"It was John Polidori's misfortune to be comic without having a sense of humor, to wish to be a great writer but to be a terrible one, to be unusually bright but surrounded for one summer by people who were titanically brighter, and to have just enough of an awareness of all of this to make him perpetually uneasy. Also, he couldn't jump."
posted by Iridic on Mar 18, 2013 - 107 comments

Ian McEwan's Uneasy Relationship With Fiction

When I Stop Believing in Fiction, by Ian McEwan
posted by rollick on Feb 16, 2013 - 15 comments

The Spy Novelist Who Knows Too Much

"De Villiers has spent most of his life cultivating spies and diplomats, who seem to enjoy seeing themselves and their secrets transfigured into pop fiction (with their own names carefully disguised), and his books regularly contain information about terror plots, espionage and wars that has never appeared elsewhere. Other pop novelists, like John le Carré and Tom Clancy, may flavor their work with a few real-world scenarios and some spy lingo, but de Villiers’s books are ahead of the news and sometimes even ahead of events themselves." (SLNYT)
posted by Rustic Etruscan on Jan 31, 2013 - 26 comments

The Mi-Go are greater beings than we, but then again, who ain’t?

Brattleboro Days, Yuggoth Nights: an inter­view with H. P. Love­craft on a single postcard.
posted by brundlefly on Jan 9, 2013 - 20 comments

Twelve Missives from the Roi des Belges

Perched high up above the Thames in downtown London every month this past year a different writer has spent four days living in a replica of the Roi des Belges, the boat Marlow travels up the Congo in Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness. Each author would write a short text during their stay "which explores London, rivers, the work of Joseph Conrad, or even all three." They would be visited on the last day by a journalist from The Guardian who recorded them reading their essay, poem or short story. Among the poets, historians and novelists were Adonis, Jeanette Winterson, Teju Cole, Michael Ondaatje and Kamila Shamsie. These recordings, each prefaced by a short interview, are all available on the Guardian website, to stream or download. Below the cut there is a link to each recording, with a short description. [more inside]
posted by Kattullus on Dec 31, 2012 - 7 comments

Short story podcast

Authors choose their favourite short stories. For the next two weeks over the festive period we will be running a short story podcast each day. Our contributing authors introduce the stories they have chosen to read. Ford reads Carver. Gordimer reads Saramago. Selfs reads Borges. Postcasts are being posted here. [previously]
posted by shakespeherian on Dec 24, 2012 - 3 comments

Shirley Temple Three

“What I’m about to show you,” he says, “you can’t tell a soul about it. If you did, it would be major trouble. Trouble with a capital ‘T.’ ” He sips his drink and tugs the quilt away.

Mawmaw takes a step back. She’s looking at some kind of elephant. With hair.

“Don’t worry. She’s not dangerous,” Tommy says. “Bread Island Dwarf Mammoth. The last wild one lived about ten thousand years ago. They’re the smallest mammoths that ever existed. Cute, isn’t she?”

The mammoth is waist high, with a pelt of dirty-blond fur that hangs in tangled draggles to the dirt. Its tusks, white and pristine, curve out and up. The forehead is high and knobby and covered in a darker fur. The trunk probes the ground for God-knows-what and then curls back into itself like a jelly roll.

“What’s a goshdern Bread Island Dwarf Whatever doing in my yard?” Mawmaw asks.
Shirley Temple Three by Thomas Pierce
posted by y2karl on Dec 18, 2012 - 17 comments

Literary Dioramas

Julia Callon makes dioramas inspired by 19th Century women novelists. More dioramas (and other projects) can be seen on her website.
posted by leesh on Dec 10, 2012 - 6 comments

Joseph McElroy's "Women and Men"

[Joseph] McElroy's sense of original and authentic contemporaneity makes him the most important novelist now writing in America, the artist who has most consistently combined the mastering capabilities of systems perspectives and an art of excess. Women and Men is the capstone of his career and, I believe, the most significant American novel published since Gravity's Rainbow. - Tom LeClair [more inside]
posted by Egg Shen on Dec 4, 2012 - 18 comments

The computer /is/ your friend

Friendship is Optimal is not a "My Little Pony" fanfic, but a SF story that starts with a procedurally-generated MLP MMO, and crescendos to what could very well be the Best Possible Outcome if self-optimizing algorithms are given /almost/ the right goals. Some readers are horrified by the implications; some want to move into "Equestria Online" anyway. Whichever camp you fall in, you'll never forget the phrase "satisfy human values through friendship and ponies".
posted by DataPacRat on Nov 28, 2012 - 41 comments

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