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"What message are we sending to young people?"

Julianne Ross asks: Must Every YA Action Heroine Be Petite? Amy McCarthy asks a similar question: Why do all our young adult heroines look the same? Mandy Stewart also offers up her own advice: Be Divergent and Other Lessons for My Daughter. Interview with Veronica Roth on her book 'Insurgent' and feminism. [more inside]
posted by Fizz on Mar 27, 2014 - 142 comments

Call me Ishmael/ I got that mass appeal

Mental Floss makes couplets from literary first lines and hip hop hits using the "generate line" feature from rappad.co.
posted by klangklangston on Mar 25, 2014 - 60 comments

"How can I stay silent, how can I be still!"

Lessons From A Demigod
The Epic of Gilgamesh has been read in the modern world for a little longer than a century, and, in that time, this oldest of stories has become a classic college text. In my own courses on ancient literature and mythology, it is the book I always begin with. But why should a tale whose origins stretch back more than four thousand years draw such attention in an age of genetic engineering and text messaging? The answer I have given to hundreds of students is that almost every joy and sorrow they will face in life was revealed in Gilgamesh millennia before they were born. Reading Gilgamesh will not only teach them to face the challenges that lie ahead, but also give them an appreciation for the idea that no matter how much our modern world might seem different from earlier times, the essence of the human experience remains the same.
[more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Mar 23, 2014 - 36 comments

The Real Knausgaards of Norway

If there's a literary equivalent of reality television right now--albeit one with more reflections on the cultural taboos surrounding dead bodies and the lingering consequences of the Holocaust--it's Karl Ove Knausgaard's sprawling autobiographical novel My Struggle (Min Kamp). [more inside]
posted by Cash4Lead on Mar 19, 2014 - 19 comments

"One travels far to discover what was at home all along."

World Lite is a polemic against 'world literature' published last year in the magazine N+1. It is the latest salvo in a long-running debate about the term. M. Lynx Qualey of Arabic Literature (in English) gave a response to N+1, and so did Poorva Rajaram and Michael Griffith in Tehelka, N+1 responded to both, and the article was discussed at the Hay Festival in Dhaka. The N+1 article references Franco Moretti, who framed the contemporary version of the debate when he published Conjectures on World Literature and More Conjectures in 2000 and 2003 respectively. [more inside]
posted by Kattullus on Mar 11, 2014 - 9 comments

40 Worst Book Covers and Titles Ever

Exactly what it says on the tin -- 40 Worst Book Covers and Titles Ever These things have got to be real, no one could ever dream this stuff up. [more inside]
posted by dancestoblue on Mar 7, 2014 - 65 comments

The Tragedy of Chrononhotonthologos

SCENE I.
An Anti-Chamber in the Palace.
Enter RIGDUM-FUNNIDOS and ALDIBORONTIPHOSCOPHORNIO, courtiers.

Rigdum-Funnidos: Aldiborontiphoscophornio!
Where left you Chrononhotonthologos?
[more inside]
posted by Iridic on Mar 7, 2014 - 12 comments

A tiny cog in the great wheel of imaginative literature

The drama issues from the assailability of vital, tenacious men with their share of peculiarities who are neither mired in weakness nor made of stone and who, almost inevitably, are bowed by blurred moral vision, real and imaginary culpability, conflicting allegiances, urgent desires, uncontrollable longings, unworkable love, the culprit passion, the erotic trance, rage, self-division, betrayal, drastic loss, vestiges of innocence, fits of bitterness, lunatic entanglements, consequential misjudgment, understanding overwhelmed, protracted pain, false accusation, unremitting strife, illness, exhaustion, estrangement, derangement, aging, dying and, repeatedly, inescapable harm, the rude touch of the terrible surprise — unshrinking men stunned by the life one is defenseless against, including especially history: the unforeseen that is constantly recurring as the current moment.
Philip Roth on his life as a writer.
posted by shivohum on Mar 4, 2014 - 16 comments

"Fuck the prose, no one's going to read your book for the writing..."

Creative writing professor Hanif Kureishi says such courses are 'a waste of time' [The Guardian] Buddha of Suburbia author, who teaches subject at Kingston University, added that many of his students could 'write sentences' but not tell stories.
posted by Fizz on Mar 4, 2014 - 123 comments

"That was I. That was me. That was the author of this book"

Kurt Vonnegut Reads Slaughterhouse-Five in 6 parts. Via discogs. [more inside]
posted by growabrain on Mar 2, 2014 - 24 comments

Text Me, Ishmael

Although Moby-Dick is regarded as a pinnacle of American Romanticism, its themes of destiny and defiance transcend national borders. Over the decades, the Library of Congress has procured editions translated into Spanish, German, Russian, Japanese, Korean and Lithuanian. But the latest translation eschews the written word altogether, telling the story through emoji icons—the pictograms seen in text messages and e-mails. It’s the most ambitious (and playful) effort to explore whether emoji itself is becoming a free-standing language.
posted by chavenet on Mar 1, 2014 - 57 comments

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

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