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There is much to be learned from Reggie Watts.

Reggie Watts teaches science. Reggie Watts teaches literature.
posted by Shepherd on Feb 27, 2014 - 10 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

on literature and elitism

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”.
posted by latkes on Feb 12, 2014 - 68 comments

The True Story of America's First Black Female Slave Novelist

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.
posted by Kattullus on Feb 11, 2014 - 2 comments

What's next? Criticial attention to videogames?

Ng Suat Tong presents the best online comics criticism of 2013. Particularly recommended (by me): who white washes the Watchmen.
posted by MartinWisse on Feb 11, 2014 - 23 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

Disk Around a Star

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 have tried. 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.
posted by Kattullus on Feb 1, 2014 - 70 comments

Oddly enough Dhalgren wasn't mentioned.

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.
posted by MartinWisse on Jan 30, 2014 - 103 comments

Arrange to introduce a great fire

The 100 Greatest Painters in Western History (according to the editors of This Recording). [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Jan 30, 2014 - 63 comments

Waiting for the Ellison phone call

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]
posted by MartinWisse on Jan 29, 2014 - 33 comments

Early Indo-European Online

Learn how to read Sanskrit, Hittite, Avestan, Old Persian, Classical Greek, Latin, Koine Greek, Gothic, Classical Armenian, Tocharian, Old Irish, Old English, Old Norse, Old Church Slavonic, Old French, Old Russian, Lithuanian, Latvian, and Albanian in ten lessons apiece.
posted by Iridic on Jan 27, 2014 - 26 comments

Do We All Float Down Here? One Clown Says Yes

These editors decided to rewrite book titles to sound like clickbait. The results will astound you.
posted by divabat on Jan 24, 2014 - 169 comments

Proust = neuroscience. Austen= game theory. Dickens = gastrointerology

That’s the latest gambit in the brave new world of “consilience,” the idea that we can overcome the split between “the two cultures” by bringing art and science into conceptual unity—which is to say, by setting humanistic thought upon a scientific foundation. Take a famous writer, preferably one with some marketing mojo, and argue that their work anticipates contemporary scientific insights. Proust knew things about memory that neuroscientists are only now discovering. Austen constructed her novels in a manner that is consistent with game theory. Bang, there’s your consilience.
posted by HeroZero on Jan 21, 2014 - 37 comments

"In a way the easiest and laziest way is to write in English."

"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."
posted by RogerB on Jan 20, 2014 - 70 comments

Melchizedek and Goliath

"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]
posted by Iridic on Jan 15, 2014 - 9 comments

A story 10 years in the making

Measuring societal zeitgeist by counting 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.
posted by stbalbach on Jan 14, 2014 - 10 comments

For World Literature

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?"
posted by dhruva on Jan 11, 2014 - 12 comments

What would be the gravitational properties of Asteroid B-612?

What would be the density of Asteroid B-612? (That's the home of the Little Prince. [full text]) Randall Munroe describes life there. [more inside]
posted by JHarris on Jan 5, 2014 - 4 comments

The writer’s lifelong dialogue with violence

The Daggers of Jorge Luis Borges. [Via]
posted by homunculus on Jan 4, 2014 - 7 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

One Weird Old Trick to Undermine the Patriarchy

"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."
posted by Jacqueline on Dec 29, 2013 - 90 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

Some Essays by Hilton Als

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).
posted by AceRock on Dec 16, 2013 - 3 comments

Think you're an alcoholic?

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."
posted by Chocolate Pickle on Dec 12, 2013 - 72 comments

Interview with Alice Munro

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]
posted by Short Attention Sp on Dec 11, 2013 - 6 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

Faculty X

Colin Wilson 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 (previously), is currently planned. Wikipedia page, 2004 Guardian interview, Times Obituary (subs only).
posted by Artw on Dec 7, 2013 - 40 comments

you can love me if you want it's not my problem

"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," Author (and composer) of "I Am Ready To Die A Violent Death." [more inside]
posted by Potomac Avenue on Dec 6, 2013 - 21 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

A melted listicle

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.
posted by codacorolla on Dec 4, 2013 - 25 comments

Hail & Farewell

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.
posted by Cash4Lead on Dec 2, 2013 - 8 comments

One more drink and I'd have been under the nymphet

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.
posted by Cash4Lead on Nov 23, 2013 - 7 comments

"Something can be true and still be fiction."

[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.
posted by Kattullus on Nov 22, 2013 - 5 comments

My name is Katniss Everdeen

A Textual Analysis of The Hunger Games (and Twilight, and Harry Potter)
posted by fearfulsymmetry on Nov 22, 2013 - 62 comments

A Sad Day for Readers

Doris Lessing, revolutionary Nobel prize-winning novelist, passed away this morning at the age of 94. [more inside]
posted by still_wears_a_hat on Nov 17, 2013 - 54 comments

The unfraught sex of Boccaccio’s Decameron

Dirtiest Book in the Canon: A new translation of Boccaccio’s Decameron. [Previously]
posted by homunculus on Nov 8, 2013 - 22 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

The Best Hundred Novels (1898 Edition)

The Queenslander, 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]
posted by Monsieur Caution on Nov 6, 2013 - 57 comments

Thanks to Paul F. Tompkins, for no particular reason.

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]
posted by Room 641-A on Nov 2, 2013 - 23 comments

Are you a dark dreamer?

Dark Dreamers 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, 2, 3); Richard Laymon; Richard Matheson; Julie Strain (MLYT)
posted by fearfulsymmetry on Oct 31, 2013 - 4 comments

"reading into poems nasty little messages that aren't there"

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]
posted by RogerB on Oct 30, 2013 - 32 comments

A WEEK OF KINDNESS: a novel in collage

SUNDAY. Element: Mud. Exemplar: The Lion of Belfort.
MONDAY. Element: Water. Exemplar: Water.
TUESDAY. Element: Fire. Exemplar: The Court of Dragons.
WEDNESDAY. Element: Blood. Exemplar: Œdipus. [Certain images NSFW on account of Victorian prurience] [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Oct 30, 2013 - 7 comments

The Annual Halloween Horde of Horrible Happenings

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]
posted by Monsieur Caution on Oct 29, 2013 - 11 comments

Translator Beware

"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.
posted by ChuckRamone on Oct 28, 2013 - 16 comments

I hope the beer in hell is non-alcoholic.

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]
posted by Rustic Etruscan on Oct 23, 2013 - 15 comments

Was Shakespeare a Woman?

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 has written that if Bassano did not write all of the plays, she was certainly a major collaborator. He is not alone.
posted by Israel Tucker on Oct 22, 2013 - 159 comments

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