1485 posts tagged with Literature.
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That evergreen feminist cautionary fable: The Handmaid's Tale

Does The Handmaid's Tale hold up? , Adi Robertson for The Verge:
"A few weeks ago, I mentioned to a friend that I was in the middle of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. 'It’s like 1984 for feminists, right?' he asked. Sort of, I said. But it's a lot scarier. It's about how you'll lose every right you have, and none of the men you know will care. Then I said he would probably betray me if they froze all women's bank accounts. That was the peak of my paranoia, but it held on for several more days, as I read on the subway while half-consciously figuring out how I might theoretically escape to Canada. 1984 was for lightweights."
[more inside] posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Dec 28, 2014 - 185 comments

Reading is hard…It takes time…tl;dr;lit attempts to address this problem

This bot takes works of literature and algorithmically summarizes them, a chapter at a time, to 1% of their original length. These are then read aloud by the lovely voice of Fiona, a Scottish speech synth, and posted at on Twitter at convenient 3 hour intervals. This way entire works of literature can be consumed in bite-sized algo-chunks, giving you the gist of the book, without any troublesome cause to actually ‘read’ or ‘understand’ it at all…
posted by nebulawindphone on Dec 19, 2014 - 23 comments

Chasing Paper

An investigation for Scientific American by MeFi's own cgs06 uncovers evidence of widespread fraud in scientific publishing's peer review system. Alarming signs point to the Chinese government as a source of institutional support and funding for questionable papers and fake peer reviewers. [more inside]
posted by overeducated_alligator on Dec 19, 2014 - 26 comments

César Aira

“I‘ve realized that the perfect length for what I do is 100 pages. In my brevity there may be an element of insecurity. I wouldn‘t dare give a 1,000-page novel to a reader […] My novels became shorter as I became more renowned. People now allow me to do whatever I want. At any rate, publishers prefer thick books. But with books, the thicker they are, the less literature they have.””—César Aira [more inside]
posted by misteraitch on Dec 15, 2014 - 24 comments

Nobel lecture by Patrick Modiano

Writing is a strange and solitary activity. There are dispiriting times when you start working on the first few pages of a novel. Every day, you have the feeling you are on the wrong track. This creates a strong urge to go back and follow a different path. It is important not to give in to this urge, but to keep going. It is a little like driving a car at night, in winter, on ice, with zero visibility. You have no choice, you cannot go into reverse, you must keep going forward while telling yourself that all will be well when the road becomes more stable and the fog lifts.
—From Patrick Modiano's lecture when receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature [Original French, Swedish and video] which is about cities, old telephone directories but mostly about writing, how to do it and what it's like.
posted by Kattullus on Dec 13, 2014 - 27 comments

Book-selling on Mutanabbi Street: texts from vital sidewalks

Al-Mutanabbi is an open book, bearing symbols that are deeply etched into the body of today’s Baghdad. The street has no endpoint. [more inside]
posted by standardasparagus on Dec 9, 2014 - 4 comments

Eat your vegs

POINT: To drop a novel after a few chapters is, then, to disregard what makes it a formal work of art rather than a heap of papers that reside in a desk drawer. Today, books and authors need all the help they can get; if you care about literature as an artistic endeavor and the people who create it, then you should do so fully. If you consider yourself a literary person, you shouldn't just embrace the intellectual cachet that starting books gives you. Starting, but not finishing, books is one step above saying, "Oh yeah, I've heard of that author."

COUNTERPOINT: So if we are considering whether or not it “hurts literature” for us to finish or not finish books, we can mark this down as a “hurting literature” moment. Because if Nabokov is a super important author that we should read…I am not going to read him. Forcing myself to finish the book cost me that.
Juliet Lapidos says you should finish every book you start. Peter Damien disagrees.
posted by MartinWisse on Dec 8, 2014 - 237 comments

anxieties about lurid voyeurism, unwholesome interest: In Cold Blood

"Much has been said about the storytelling techniques of 'Serial,' which comes out in weekly installments even as the show’s host, Sarah Koenig, reinvestigates the conviction of a Baltimore-area teenager for the murder of his ex-girlfriend. The serialized approach teases its audience with cliffhangers, prompts its listeners to construct their own theories and invites outsiders to glimpse the tricky winnowing process of reporting. But 'Serial' also testifies to how much the criminal justice system itself is founded on storytelling." (Laura Miller, Salon: The new "In Cold Blood" revisionism: Why it doesn't matter if Capote’s classic wasn't fully true) [more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Dec 8, 2014 - 31 comments

Truth is harder to tell than a lie

The habitual liar may be a very honest fellow, and live truly with his wife and friends; while another man who never told a formal falsehood in his life may yet be himself one lie-heart and face, from top to bottom. This is the kind of lie which poisons intimacy. And, vice versa, veracity to sentiment, truth in a relation, truth to your own heart and your friends, never to feign or falsify emotion—that is the truth which makes love possible and mankind happy. Robert Louis Stevenson on truth and writing.
posted by shivohum on Nov 30, 2014 - 5 comments

this never wanting it to end

Mark Strand, 1934-2014. (NY Times) [more inside]
posted by spitbull on Nov 30, 2014 - 33 comments

The Maqamah of Hamadhani and Hariri, early Arabic literature

"Maqamah is an old story in prose interspersed with poetry about the hero who is involved in different adventures. Towards the end of the story he disappears to show up in another guise in the next Maqamah (maqamah is singular from maqamat). So Maqamat is the collection of separate stories with unity in subject. Hariri’s Maqamat is one of the outstanding literary works of Arabic literature written in the 5th century." This is the introduction to an article on Hariri's Maqamat. You can read an English translation online in The Assemblies Of Al Hariri, Vol. I, translated by Thomas Chenery M.A. (1867) and Vol. II, translated by Dr. F. Steingass (1898), both on Archive.org. Hariri's Maqamat is heavily influenced by Hamadhani's Maqamat, considered to be the first collection of such writings, is also translated online (also on Archive.org). Both works include footnotes from the translators.
posted by filthy light thief on Nov 29, 2014 - 4 comments

"Why make breakfast, when you can just read Kafka?"

I have come to the conclusion that anyone who thinks about Kafka for long enough inevitably develops a few singular, unassimilable and slightly silly convictions. (The graph may be parabolic, with the highest incidence of convictions – and the legal resonance is invited – found among those who have spent the most time thinking and those who have spent next to no time thinking.) My own such amateur conviction is that the life of Franz Kafka reads like a truly great comedy. I mean this (of course) in large part because of the tragedies in and around his life, and I mean it in the tradition of comedies like the final episode of Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson’s Blackadder, which, after episode upon episode of darlings and foilings and cross-dressings, ends in 1917 with our not exactly heroes climbing out of their trench and running towards the enemy lines.
What kind of funny is he? is an essay by Rivka Galchen on Franz Kafka's life, based on the recently translated three-volume biography by Reiner Stach.
posted by Kattullus on Nov 29, 2014 - 20 comments

Thomas King wins Governor-General’s Award for fiction.

Thomas King wins Governor-General’s Award for fiction In February, King won the British Columbia’s National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction for The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America. On Tuesday, he won the Governor-General’s Literary Award for Fiction for The Back of the Turtle, his first novel in 15 years. [more inside]
posted by Nevin on Nov 27, 2014 - 8 comments

You must know thrilling things before you can write about them

I never correct anything and I never go back to what I have written, except to the foot of the last page to see where I have got to. If you once look back, you are lost. How could you have written this drivel? How could you have used "terrible" six times on one page? And so forth. If you interrupt the writing of fast narrative with too much introspection and self-criticism, you will be lucky if you write 500 words a day and you will be disgusted with them into the bargain. A year before his death, James Bond author Ian Fleming explained how to write a thriller.
posted by shivohum on Nov 26, 2014 - 25 comments

The Real Lolita

Sally Horner was abducted by Frank La Salle in 1948. In Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, Humbert Humbert asks: “Had I done to Dolly, perhaps, what Frank Lasalle [sic], a fifty-year-old mechanic, had done to eleven-year-old Sally Horner in 1948?” In Hazlitt magazine, Sarah Weinman tells the whole story & explores the similarities between Sally & Dolly. [potential triggers]
posted by chavenet on Nov 21, 2014 - 32 comments

Position yourself, whenever possible, at the top of a flight of stairs.

Bookish Beauty Tips from the Toast.
posted by Solon and Thanks on Nov 20, 2014 - 9 comments

"The Culture represents the place we might hope to get to"

The long-term optimism comes from the the fact that no matter how bad things seem and how idiotically and cruelly we behave. . . well, we've got this far, despite it all, and there are more people on the planet than ever before, and more people living good, productive, relatively happy lives than ever before, and—providing we aren't terminally stupid, or unlucky enough to get clobbered by something we have no control over, like a big meteorite or a gamma ray buster or whatever—we'll solve a lot of problems just by sticking around and doing what we do; developing, progressing, improving, adapting. And possibly by inventing AIs that are smarter and more decent than we are, which will help us get some sort of perspective on ourselves, at the very least. We might just stumble our way blindly, unthinkingly into utopia, in other words, muddling through despite ourselves.
In 2010 Jude Roberts interviewed Iain M. Banks for her PhD. Banks discusses his utopia, The Culture, which he created in a series of science fiction novels.
posted by Kattullus on Nov 19, 2014 - 71 comments

Math is hard.

Barbie Fucks It Up Again “This is great!” I said. “Barbie wants to be a computer engineer! And fifty stickers!” [more inside]
posted by Shmuel510 on Nov 17, 2014 - 93 comments

For all we see as wrong, some of its appeal might be in its rightness

I've been slightly under the weather for the last week, which means, of course, soup, self-pity and comfort reads. Rather than my traditional winter-sniffles re-re-re-read of the Belgariad, I thought I'd go wandering around the historical romance category. That is: duchess porn.
At Pornokitsch, Jared Shurin expresses appreciation for "5 things in historical romance I wantonly desire to see in epic fantasy," and commenters suggest where to find them. At the Journal of Popular Romance Studies, similarly meta yet more searching questions arise. [more inside]
posted by Monsieur Caution on Nov 14, 2014 - 38 comments

Looking at Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" series.

Isaac Asimov's Foundation: The little idea that became science fiction's biggest series [SPOILERS] (io9)
On the planet Terminus, a group of academics struggles to survive as the Galactic Empire crumbles. With no weapons, all they can rely on are the predictions of a dead genius named Hari Seldon. That's right — it's time to discuss Isaac Asimov's Foundation!

Welcome to Foundation Week, a Blogging the Hugos special event. In 1983, Isaac Asimov won the Hugo Award for Best Novel for Foundation's Edge, in which he revisited his groundbreaking Foundation mythos for the first time in over thirty years. Because the Foundation series is such classic, quintessential, and beloved science fiction — the original stories won their own unique Hugo for Best All-Time Series in 1966, and influenced artists from Douglas Adams to George Lucas — Josh Wimmer and Alasdair Wilkins will be discussing each of the seven books between today and Sunday. We begin with Foundation, published in 1951.
[more inside] posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Nov 13, 2014 - 87 comments

An Atlas Of Hyperreal Cities And Where To Find Them

On Umberto Eco's latest book of imaginary maps to legendary lands.
posted by The Whelk on Nov 12, 2014 - 11 comments

"By the assembly line I stood straight like iron, hands like flight"

The poetry and brief life of a Foxconn worker: Xu Lizhi (1990-2014) is an article about a 24-year old Chinese assembly line worker and poet who committed suicide last month. He worked for the electronics manufacturer which makes products for a range of companies, including Sony, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Nintendo. The post includes Chinese originals and English translations of Xu Lizhi's poems. His death and poetry have garnered much attention, such as these blogposts from The Wall Street Journal and The London Review of Books.
posted by Kattullus on Nov 12, 2014 - 19 comments

Here's a box of chocolates; it is your duty to eat them.

People like order in their lives. This does not go down well with those who feel that social restraints of any sort are a bad thing, but these people are a distinct, if very noisy, minority. Most of us want social rules of some sort – not oppressive ones, of course – but rules that govern the way we conduct ourselves towards others. We want people to queue correctly.

We like it when people don’t chew with their mouth open. We love it – although we may be cowed into not saying this – when an able-bodied person gives up a seat to somebody who is clearly frailer. Personally, I like it when anybody gives up a seat on a train to anybody else, frail or not. (Novelist Alexander McCall Smith discusses Jane Austen's Emma in The Daily Mail.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Nov 11, 2014 - 35 comments

Ripping up the SFF-Scene Requires Hate

Requires Hate, aka Benjanun Sriduangkaew, is a multiple, serial & proven bully, liar & manipulator says fantasy author Juliet McKenna. She and other authors (like Ian McDonald) are taking up arms in the controversy around the machinations of one writer that are shaking up the SFF publishing world. [more inside]
posted by Omnomnom on Nov 7, 2014 - 151 comments

"A sure sign of a good book is that you like it more the older you get."

First editions, second thoughts: [New York Times] "On December 2, Christie's will auction 75 first-edition books, each of which is a unique object that has been annotated with words and/or illustrations by its author. Proceeds from the auction will benefit PEN American Center."
posted by Fizz on Nov 6, 2014 - 6 comments

We like to think that we understand our universe.

The Uncanny Power of Weird Fiction, by Jeff VanderMeer in The Atlantic.
posted by Sticherbeast on Nov 4, 2014 - 39 comments

Literature - good God y'all - what is it good for? Absolutely something.

What is Literature for? [SLVimeo]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Nov 3, 2014 - 6 comments

You can’t think the same way after you read certain voices.

Toni Morrison and Angela Davis on friendship and creativity.
posted by sea change on Nov 1, 2014 - 1 comment

"Mabel! Mabel! Mabel! Mabel! Mabel! Mabel! Mabel! Mabel!"

The Chapter: A History
posted by a fair but frozen maid on Nov 1, 2014 - 3 comments

If one has no vanity in this life of ours, there is no sufficient reason

Sofiya Tolstoy’s Defense [The New Yorker] In her own writings, Leo Tolstoy’s wife offered a rebuttal of the views that he set out in “The Kreutzer Sonata.” [more inside]
posted by Fizz on Oct 30, 2014 - 19 comments


Galway Kinnell, poet, has died. He was 87. [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Oct 29, 2014 - 34 comments

"I bind you, Hollywood, from doing harm"

Halloween is almost here which to me means one thing: overanalyzing horror flicks for any feminist undertones! ... [N]o season has better metaphors for misogynistic fears and powerful female sexuality than the scary movies that permeate almost every channel and film festival throughout October.
At Autostraddle, Nina suggests nine horror films she likes in the "Blossoming-Teenage-Girl-Becoming-A-Woman" sub-genre. She is far from alone in her search for interesting feminist themes in horror cinema and literature. [more inside]
posted by Monsieur Caution on Oct 29, 2014 - 42 comments

“I wanted this to be the saddest thing I’d ever written,”

Closing a Chapter of a Literary Life [New York Times] Ahead of the American publication of his latest work, “The Book of Strange New Things,” Michel Faber discusses it and why it will be his last novel.
posted by Fizz on Oct 26, 2014 - 10 comments

Once outsold Dickens - now called "the other Dickens"

As the nights are beginning to draw in and Halloween approaches, how about something to make the flesh creep and send a shiver down the spine? Charles Dickens was a master of the macabre, whether it’s in his Christmas ghost stories such as A Christmas Carol, in the chilling Gothic emptiness of Satis House in Great Expectations or the dirty squalor of London in Oliver Twist. But there was another novelist who most people have never heard of, whose books also offered the Victorian reading public a good helping of horror. At the height of his career, he sold more copies of his work than Dickens, who is widely thought to have been the bestselling novelist of the age. This other writer’s name was George W. M. Reynolds, and he has recently been called ‘the other Dickens’. 2014 marks the bicentenary of his birth.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Oct 26, 2014 - 7 comments

What to read when pressed for time.

17 Brilliant Short Novels You Can Read in a Sitting by Lincoln Michel at Electric Literature:
This week author Ian McEwan expressed his love of short novels, saying “very few [long] novels earn their length.” Certainly it seems like a novel has to be a minimum of 500 pages to win a major literary award these days, and many genre novels have ballooned to absurd sizes.

I love a good tome, but like McEwan many of my favorite novels are sharpened little gems. It’s immensely satisfying to finish a book in a single day, so in the spirit of celebrating quick reads here are some of my favorite short novels. I’ve tried to avoid the most obvious titles that are regularly assigned in school (The Stranger, Heart of Darkness, Mrs Dalloway, Of Mice and Men, Frankenstein, The Crying of Lot 49, etc.). Hopefully you’ll find some titles here you haven’t read before.
[more inside] posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Oct 23, 2014 - 51 comments

"I write as a reader, not knowing what the author will say next."

Russell Edson was a prose poet whose poetry had the "the sustained wackiness of old Warner Brothers cartoons." When he passed away this year Charles Simic wrote in appreciation of his work, as did J. Robert Lennon, whose article included two audio clips of Edson reading. In interviews, Edson spoke with the same mix of seriousness and humor as he did in his poetry. Here are two interviews, one with Peter Johnson [pdf] and another with Mark Tursi. But, of course, the important thing is his poetry, so here are a few examples: 1, 2, 3. And finally, here's a video of him reading (starts after the 9th minute). [Edson previously. I especially recommend reading the linked appreciation by Sarah Manguso.]
posted by Kattullus on Oct 23, 2014 - 12 comments

Let Me Tell You About Homestuck

5 years.
7,000 pages.
13,000 panels.
700,000 words. [Approximately the length of the Bible.]
Over 3 hours of animation.
Over 23 hours of soundtrack.
15 separate games, in 3 unique styles.

PBS once called Homestuck the "Ulysses of the Internet". Its author, Andrew Hussie — who resembles Joyce in his impishness, stylistic maximalism, and fondness for disturbing smut — calls it "a story I've tried to make as much a pure expression of its medium as possible". It has become a cultural phenomenon, inspiring proms and dominating Amazon makeup reviews. But most importantly, it's a rollicking good read, equal parts slapstick and epic, bildungsroman and cultural commentary.

What on earth about it makes its fans so overly zealous? And how the hell does one start the daunting process of reading Homestuck? If you're even the remotest bit curious about this Internet phenomenon, the following is a teensy-weensy introduction to just what makes Homestuck so terrific. [more inside]
posted by rorgy on Oct 16, 2014 - 231 comments

"First and foremost was her faith, then came literature..."

Flannery O'Connor's Kiss of Death: Tracking down O’Connor’s Danish inspiration. [more inside]
posted by Fizz on Oct 15, 2014 - 7 comments

When Science Fiction Grew Up

How renegade sci-fi writers of the 1960s paved the way for today's blending of literary and genre fiction [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Oct 15, 2014 - 34 comments

I spent 10 years doing New York all wrong

Adelle Waldman, author of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., was a lonely aspiring writer in New York, generally unhappy. Then she moved to Brooklyn and found that community made all the difference.
posted by shivohum on Oct 13, 2014 - 16 comments

“Not everybody wants to read about vampires and dystopia,”

To Lure Young Readers, Nonfiction Writers Sanitize and Simplify: [New York Times]
"Inspired by the booming market for young adult novels, a growing number of biographers and historians are retrofitting their works to make them palatable for younger readers."
posted by Fizz on Oct 9, 2014 - 24 comments

2014 Nobel Prize in Literature Goes to Patrick Modiano

2014 Nobel Prize in Literature Goes to Patrick Modiano who is a French novelist and memoir writer. This article from 2011 is a good overview over his career and life. He was born in Italy to a Jewish father and a Belgian mother. Much of his writing deals with recent Jewish history such as in the book Dora Bruder. His detective novel Missing Person, which won the Prix Goncourt in 1978, has been called a postmodern mystery novel.
posted by Kattullus on Oct 9, 2014 - 27 comments

"Montaigne was Montaigne, a mountain in more than name."

It's said that even a century and a half after Montaigne's death, when the marquis d'Argenson subtitled a book with that word, Essays, he was shouted down for impertinence. Not a context in which many people would find themselves tempted to self-identify as "essayists." When the French do finally start using the word, in the early nineteenth century, it's solely in reference to English writers who've taken up the banner, and more specifically to those who write for magazines and newspapers. "The authors of periodical essays," wrote a French critic in 1834, "or as they're commonly known, essayists, represent in English letters a class every bit as distinct as the Novellieri in Italy." A curiosity, then: the essay is French, but essayists are English. What can it mean?
The Ill-defined Plot is an essay about the history of essays by John Jeremiah Sullivan.
posted by Kattullus on Oct 7, 2014 - 8 comments

A man who wants to hear a Yes will find a way to drag it out of you.

I do not believe that most women — that most victims of sexual assault — freeze or shut down when faced with the prospect of coercive sex because they don’t really care what happens next, or because they're excited to push through the moment for the sheer joy of accusing the aggressor of rape after the fact. I believe that these women, these people, have a finely tuned sense for their safety, that when a woman reports having "a feeling that it would turn into an ordeal if I rejected him," she is not crazy and she knows what she is talking about.
Mallory Ortberg explores the ongoing debate surrounding passive versus active consent as its effects echo through the Alt Lit community: On Deciding What Counts: Elizabeth Ellen and What Makes A Victim.

[TW: rape, sexual assault, child abuse]
posted by divined by radio on Oct 6, 2014 - 126 comments

“There is such a thing as the courage in remaining baffled.”

Donald Antrim and the Art of Anxiety by John Jeremiah Sullivan [New York Times]
posted by Fizz on Oct 1, 2014 - 10 comments

"So I took up knife and fork and bade the waiter do his duty."

Lieut.-Col. Newnham-Davis was engaged in 1897 as the restaurant reviewer of the Pall Mall Gazette, and his reviews of London restaurants are collected in Dinners and Diners: Where and How to Dine in London, available online from The Dictionary of Victorian London. Newnham-Davis was a bon vivant, amateur of the theatrical world, and man of parts, and his reviews were equal parts reminiscence of the conversation with his pseudonymous companions and recollections and reviews of his opulent and lengthy Victorian dinners. [more inside]
posted by strangely stunted trees on Sep 27, 2014 - 28 comments

"Once upon a time there was no not a king." - Carlo Collodi, basically.

KC Green, the cartoonist currently writing and drawing Gunshow and writing the pre-apocalyptic fantasy-western Back (with art from Nedroid's Anthony Clark) has embarked upon a third project: a chapter-by-chapter adaptation of Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio, currently up to the end of the book's first chapter. [more inside]
posted by BiggerJ on Sep 25, 2014 - 6 comments

When I first came across the article, I thought, I'd like to read these.

Anthology of the Best Short Stories [via mefi projects] [more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Sep 22, 2014 - 8 comments

It all comes back to fun

When the champion of adult culture is portrayed, even by himself, as an old curmudgeon yelling at the kids to get off his lawn, it suggests that this adult culture is one of the unfortunate but necessary costs of coming into adulthood. We give up the pleasures of entertainment for the seriousness of art. I just don’t think that this is true. Christopher Beha on Henry James and the Great Young Adult Debate.
posted by shivohum on Sep 21, 2014 - 48 comments

The Zhivago Affair

The story of Dr Zhivago’s publication is, like the novel itself, a cat’s cradle, an eternal zigzag of plotlines, coincidences, inconsistencies and maddening disappearances. The book was always destined to become a ‘succès de scandale’, in Berlin’s words, but the machinations and competing energies that went into seeing it into print, on the one hand, and trying to stop it going to print, on the other, make it the perfect synecdoche for that feint, counterfeint round of pugilism we call the Cold War.
The Writer and the Valet by Frances Stonor Saunders tells the story of Isaiah Berlin's part in publishing Boris Pasternak's novel Dr. Zhivago while Michael Scammell details the CIA's role.
posted by Kattullus on Sep 21, 2014 - 10 comments

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