With cities, it is as with dreams: everything imaginable can be dreamed, but even the most unexpected dream is a rebus that conceals a desire or, its reverse, a fear. Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.
December 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of Invisible Cities
-- the sublime metaphysical travelogue by author-journalist Italo Calvino
. In a series of pensive dialogues with jaded emperor Kublai Khan
, the explorer Marco Polo
describes a meandering litany of visionary and impossible places, dozens of surreal, fantastical cities
, each poetically reifying ideas vital to language, philosophy, and the human spirit. This gracefully written love letter to urban life has inspired countless tributes
, but it's just the most accessible of Calvino's fascinating literary catalogue. Look inside for a closer look at his most remarkable works, links to English translations of his magical prose, and collections of artistic interpretations from around the web -- including this treasure trove of essays, excerpts, articles, and recommended reading
. [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi
on Dec 30, 2012 -
The Secret Lives of Readers Books reveal themselves. Whether they exist as print or pixels, they can be read and examined and made to spill their secrets. Readers are far more elusive. They leave traces—a note in the margin, a stain on the binding—but those hints of human handling tell us only so much. The experience of reading vanishes with the reader.
How do we recover the reading experiences of the past? Lately scholars have stepped up the hunt for evidence of how people over time have interacted with books, newspapers, and other printed material.
posted by jason's_planet
on Dec 29, 2012 -
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?
posted by Horace Rumpole
on May 22, 2012 -
For years, my self-education was stupid and wasteful. I learned by consuming blog posts, Wikipedia articles, classic texts, podcast episodes, popular books, video lectures, peer-reviewed papers, Teaching Company courses, and Cliff's Notes. How inefficient!
What if we could compile a list of the best textbooks on every subject? That would be extremely useful.
Less Wrong, a community dedicated to rationality, is compiling a list of The Best Textbooks on Every Subject
posted by Foci for Analysis
on Mar 25, 2012 -
Roger Ebert has discovered the Macmillan Reader's Edition of The Great Gatsby
and he hates it: "This is an obscenity."
Macmillan Reader's Editions are geared to ESL students
. Ebert thinks that's a really bad idea: "Why not have ESL learners begin with Young Adult novels? Why not write books with a simplified vocabulary? Why eviscerate Fitzgerald?" [more inside]
posted by CCBC
on Jul 8, 2011 -
In such a world maximalism and encyclopedism, erudite puzzle solving, simply feel like more of the same, and the last thing we need is more of the same. We need less, much less: we don't need fiction that cultivates the general noise in a slightly more erudite way but still plays by the same rules; we need fiction that strips its way down to our nerves and fibers, simulations that are willing to cut enough of our context away to let us step outside of our own increasingly simulated experience and to see it afresh, from without.
—Brian Evenson, "Doing Without," an essay in The Collagist
(could also be titled "How a mistake in the digital conversion of a Cory Doctorow novel [see difference between print and electronic version] made me think about the meaning of innovative literature") [more inside]
posted by jng
on May 16, 2011 -
The writer has—has been stricken with the—the passion and beauty of life, the world, and a—a demon-driven need to—to express that, to put it down on paper or cut it into marble or into music, and with that foreknowledge that he has only a limited time to do it, he may be dead tomorrow—he's got to do it all while he can still breathe, and it's a—a desire, a need, to put the whole history of the human heart into any and every word, every paragraph that he writes, and the obscurity comes from a belief which I hold, that—that there is no such thing as "was."
In the late 1950s William Faulkner was writer-in-residence at the University of Virginia
. Extensive recordings
of readings, reflections, and classes are now online. NPR summarizes
. [more inside]
posted by jjray
on Jul 15, 2010 -
Picture Book Report is an extended love-song to books. Fifteen illustrators will reach out to their favorite books and create wonderful pieces of art in response to the text that has moved them, shaped them, or excited them. From sci-fi to children’s books to fantasy to serious novels, we’ll cover them all. For three weeks out of every month there will be a new illustration every day from one of us along with our thoughts, process, anything we can come up with. Together we will try to excite readers both new and old and capture some of that magic of storytelling.
. [more inside]
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew
on Feb 15, 2010 -
It’s only natural that if you wish to present yourself as a well-read person, a certain degree of complete bullshit is required. There’s no shame in lying about what you’ve read. There’s only shame in getting caught. Then you look like a doofus, and an illiterate one at that... How to lie about books
posted by Artw
on May 28, 2009 -
I know a man who once went to Sioux City, not one of the world’s leading destinations, precisely because he had never been there before. More than a decade later he still talks about the experience, from the Sergeant Floyd obelisk to the dog track of North Sioux and the meat packing plant converted to a shopping mall. The same impulse explains a non-specialist’s reading a history of Byzantine iconography or a survey of Australian wildlife. Both offer a break in daily life and an enlargement of our sense of wonder and possibility. That awareness can provide a sense of transcendence, and connection, or even the spark of divine discontent that leads people to change their lives.Reading as Vacation
, an essay by J. D. Smith and Subway Reader
, pictures of people who read while using public transportation.
posted by Kattullus
on Apr 6, 2008 -
It's a sad old story
but the reading of literature continues to decline. Prospero's Books
- a Kansas-city used bookstore - is so desperate to thin out its collection it has started to burn books. Co-owner Tom Wayne says he is unable to sell many of his thousands of books
, or even to give them away to libraries and thrift stores, so he started a pyre in protest.
posted by stbalbach
on May 29, 2007 -
"Welcome to the Archive of the Now.
The Archive of the Now is an online and print repository of recordings, printed texts and manuscripts, focussing on innovative contemporary poetry being written or performed in Britain. It is part of the Brunel Centre for Contemporary Writing, at Brunel University in west London, UK. At present, the Archive consists of readings by 65 UK-based poets. This number will continue to grow, and includes newly commissioned, recently acquired and historical recordings."
posted by jayder
on Oct 22, 2006 -
Good Riddance to Oprah's Book Club, and Her Literary Amateurism
Norah Vincent says Oprah's opinion in matters of literary taste is amateurish to say the least and she presumed where she should not have, and wouldn't want her sticker on his/hers book either.
Just for fun adds People who dislike Oprah's Book Club dislike it for the same reason that they dislike Barnes & Noble. The fact that the two do a brisk business isn't accidental, and the two represent the same pernicious homogenization of American life that makes existential despair all but unavoidable.
posted by Blake
on Apr 12, 2002 -