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?
These days, the idea of being a “good reader” or a “good critic” is very much out of fashion — not because we believe that such creatures do not exist, but because we all identify as both. The machine of consumerism is designed to encourage us all to believe that our preferences are significant and self-revealing; that a taste for Coke over Pepsi, or for KFC over McDonald’s, means something about us; that our tastes comprise, in sum, a kind of aggregate expression of our unique selfhood.
We are led to believe that our brand loyalties are the result of a deep, essential affinity between the consumer and product — this soap is “you”; this bank is “yours” — and social networking affords us countless opportunities to publicise and justify these brand loyalties as partial explanations of “who we are”.
In 2002 Henry Louis Gates jr. published The Bondwoman's Narrative
. It was the first publication of a novel written in the 1850s by a former slave who wrote under the name Hannah Crafts. The original manuscript has been digitized by Yale's Beinecke Library
. The book caused a splash at the time, sold well and was reviewed widely, including an essay by Hilary Mantel in the London Review of Books
. The identity of Hannah Crafts was uncertain, which cast a slight shadow on its provenance, but Prof. Gregg Hecimovich discovered the writer's true identity
. Her name was Hannah Bond and after escaping slavery she became a teacher in New Jersey. Journalist Paul Berman further fills in the story of Colonel Wheeler
, the slaveowner whose family was depicted in The Bondwoman's Narrative.
Wheeler was the US ambassador to Nicaragua in the 1850s and played a major part in the administration of General Walker, the American who became a short-lived dictator of Nicaragua and tried to set it up as a slave state.
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]
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]
An Alderson Disk
is a science fiction megastructure imagined first by scientist Dan Alderson
. It's a solid disk that is thousands of kilometers thick, with a circumference equal to the orbit of Mars or Jupiter. The habitable zone
would be on both sides of the disk and would be millions of times the surface area of the Earth. Not much theoretical work has been done on its feasibility, but some
. Missile Gap, by MeFi's own Charles Stross, which won the Locus readers' award for best novella of 2006, features a 1960s Earth transposed to an Alderson disk and is available for free on the publisher's website
Want to introduce your genre shunning friends or family to the wonders of science fiction? A baker's dozen of sf writers and editors, including a certain John Scalzi of this parish, have listed their favourite books to entice new readers to science fiction with
Then Ellison himself left some notes. They were bombastic, and far more articulate than the comments from the fans. One read, in part, “Goodbye Bradbury. Goodbye Lieber. Goodbye Aeschylus. Goodbye Pliny the Elder…” and continued at length. By the time he got describing me as a “manque, a poetaster, a no-price for whom the internet is a last chance slave market where, for free, he can bleat to his shrunken little heart's delight” my wife Olivia, who had been reading along over my shoulder, said to me, “Wow, I see what you mean. He really is a great writer! No wonder you like him so much.” -- Nick Mamatas on the importance of Harlan Ellison
and why he still likes him. [more inside]
how to read Sanskrit
, Old Persian
, Classical Greek
, Koine Greek
, Classical Armenian
, Old Irish
, Old English
, Old Norse
, Old Church Slavonic
, Old French
, Old Russian
, and Albanian
in ten lessons apiece.
"I love your work, Jonathan…but in a way you are smeared by English American literature…I think certain American literature is overrated, massively overrated." In the session on the global novel
during the first day
of this year's Jaipur Literature Festival, Jonathan Franzen served as a giant piñata
, as Xiaolu Guo and Jhumpa Lahiri bemoaned American literary culture
and lamented "the lack of energy put into translation in the American market."
"When laid open, the Waynai Bible
measures 43.5 inches tall and 98 inches wide. Closed, the spine is 34 inches thick. The book has 8,048 pages and weighs in at 1,094 pounds." [more inside]
mood words across millions of books correlates with the economic misery index shifted forward a decade. "When are we most miserable, according to literature? Ten to eleven years after an economic downturn." Paper: Books Average Previous Decade of Economic Misery
For World Literature
"In this story of an ever-broadening canon, the study of world literature makes perfect sense. It is simply the latest chapter in the larger story of the widening horizons of literary study. Yet world literature has prompted an awful lot of hand-wringing. Isn’t it absurd to try to study the literature of the entire world?"
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.
"Bilbo, it turns out, makes a terrific heroine. She’s tough, resourceful, humble, funny, and uses her wits to make off with a spectacular piece of jewelry. Perhaps most importantly, she never makes an issue of her gender—and neither does anyone else."
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]
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.
...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]
This year's critical darling essay collection -- Junot Diaz's favorite read of the year (#)
, Michael Robbins's pick for best book of the year (#)
-- is White Girls
by Hilton Als. Mentions of Als are infrequent on Metafilter, so I thought I would share a Readlist collection of his stuff
(that has a bit of overlap with the book).
Think you're an alcoholic?
Not by the standards of great artists and writers! "As for Balzac, he was definitely a coffee kind of guy – he sank 60 cups a day. Samuel Beckett slurped red wine every night til 5am. Pablo Picasso liked opium (he claimed opium has the “least stupid smell in the world”). Across Paris, Jean Paul Sartre guzzled four pints of Burgundy for lunch, liked his barbiturates, and was addicted to Corydrane, a mix of aspirin and amphetamine. The recommended dose of this now-prohibited tablet was 1 a day, Sartre took 20."
Alice Munro, awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature, was unable to travel to Stockholm due to her health, so the committee went to her. This is their 30 minute interview with the celebrated author. [more inside]
has passed away at the age of 82
. He rose to fame in the 50s
with The Outsider
, which made him a figure amongst Britain's Beat movement and Angry Young Men
. His writing has spanned the fiction and non-fiction, with an interest in the paranormal and the occult, his thoughts on which he blended with HP Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos to produce The Mind Parasites
. A TV series based on his The Space Vampires, also the basis for the movie Lifeforce
), is currently planned
. Wikipedia page
, 2004 Guardian interview
, Times Obituary
"Alt lit [previously
] is accused of navel-gazing myopia, but technically any writing occurring outside of traditional institutions qualifies for the label. Everyone I know has written alt lit: every status update, every blog post, everything that has ever been said on Twitter
. And Twitter, unbeknown to Jonathan Franzen, is especially literary...Which brings me to Heiko Julien
) of "I Am Ready To Die A Violent Death
." [more inside]
, 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]
NPR is sick of the list.
For their year end book round up this year, they have instead compiled an interactive web app
which categorizes books by type (allowing you to apply these types as filters) and connects similar books by hyper-linked keywords.
Publisher André Schiffrin died
Sunday at the age of 78. As editor-in-chief of Pantheon Books
, he published books by Studs Turkel (previously
), Günter Grass (previously
), Simone de Beauvoir (previously
), Jean-Paul Sartre (previously
), and many, many other literary giants of the 20th century. The NYT obit doesn't do Schiffrin justice, however; for that, you'll have to read Dennis Johnson's appreciation
: No one did so much, in fact, to define the term independent publisher coming into the twenty-first century.
Edmund Wilson was a friend [Vladimir] Nabokov shared with many people in American literary circles—including Dorothy Parker. Wilson had first learned about Nabokov's Lolita in the summer of 1953, when he was contemplating an article about Nabokov and asked the novelist whether he had a new project in the works.... A year later, Nabokov offered to let Wilson read his new novel, which he said he considered "to be my best thing in English."
In November, while in New York talking to Straus about his own projects, Wilson got the Lolita manuscript and was a bit less discreet than Nabokov would have wanted.
--How Edmund Wilson may have leaked the plot
of Nabokov's Lolita
to Dorothy Parker, who then published in the New Yorker
a story titled "Lolita," about a middle-aged man in love with a teenage girl, three weeks before the novel came out.
[Norman Mailer] wanted to talk a lot about age and he told me I should look after myself. 'You know,' he said, 'when you get to my age you have to pee a lot. And there is no distance at all between knowing you want to pee and then just peeing. I was at Plimpton’s funeral in St John the Divine not long ago, and they sat me near the front, you know. Suddenly, I had to go. I knew I wasn’t gonna make it all the way down the aisle so I spotted a little side door and I got the canes and nipped in there. Halfway down the corridor, I was looking for a john and who do I see but Philip Roth. "Hey, Philip, what you doin' here?" "Oh, I had to pee," Roth said.'
—Mailer's Last Punch
is Andrew O'Hagan's tender, short memoir of his interactions with Norman Mailer. Among other things he talks about are the long interview of Mailer
he did for The Paris Review and an event at the New York Public Library with Mailer and Günter Grass
A Textual Analysis
of The Hunger Games
, and Harry Potter
"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]
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"
, "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]
, April 4, 1898
: "Mr. Clement K. Shorter
, asked by 'The Bookman'
to write out a list of 100 of the best novels in the English language
, supplied the following list, naming only one book of each author, and giving the date of publication :--" [Via
.] [more inside]
The Dead Authors Podcast
: Legendary time-traveling writer H.G. Wells (Paul F. Tompkins) welcomes literary giants to The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre
in Los Angeles for a lively discussion in front of a live audience. Unscripted, barely researched, all fun! [more inside]
was a series of interviews with horror writers and directors and other icons. Several of them are on youtube: Clive Barker
; Wes Craven
Harlan Ellison (1
); Richard Laymon
; Richard Matheson
; Julie Strain
Joyce Carol Oates's new story
about an imagined interview with Robert Frost has been called outrageous
, even an attack
on the poet. [note: story link opens a print dialog]
. Element: Mud
. Exemplar: The Lion of Belfort
. Element: Water
. Exemplar: Water
. Element: Fire
. Exemplar: The Court of Dragons
. Element: Blood
. Exemplar: Œdipus
. [Certain images NSFW on account of Victorian prurience] [more inside]
Mid-19th C. terrors, ca. 1840-1865
: short fiction selected for the occasion by Miriam Burstein, a.k.a. The Little Professor
, an expert on 19th C. British literature (especially including "lost" but formerly popular religious novels
). [more inside]
"Why translators should give Dr Alaa Al Aswany and Knopf Doubleday a wide berth"
is a "cautionary tale," which involves literary agent Andrew Wylie, seen in a recent metafilter post
, and translator Jonathan Wright who says, "The least I can say is that he [Dr. Aswany] is not an honorable man. But let others be the judge, as I explain the origins of our dispute." Some of Dr. Aswany's objections to Wright's translation can be found in this file.
Ruby-Strauss learned his craft working for the notorious Judith Regan, in whose shadow all lowbrow publishing still operates. In college at the University of California, Santa Cruz, he had been a comp-lit major who scoffed when friends talked up popular sci-fi books. “I was too pretentious,” he says. “I was reading Camus.” (A far way from that to Tucker Max, I noted. “Is it?” he replied.) Under Regan, he came to appreciate the simpler beauty of “books that sell.” He acquired a book by shock-rock star Marilyn Manson and then a series of pro-wrestling books, still his highest-selling titles ever. He once took Regan to a match, where he remembers her looking around the arena and declaring happily of the crowd, “You could sell them blank pages!”
(SLNewRepublic) [more inside]
Did Amelia Bassano Lanier write William Shakespeare? Her
single volume of poetry, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum
was published in 1611, but Amelia Bassano Lanier
(1569–1645) may have left us even more. John Hudson
, a British Shakespeare scholar and director of the New York theatre ensemble the Dark Lady Players
that if Bassano did not write all of the plays, she was certainly a major collaborator. He is not alone