Symptoms are forms of self-knowledge. When you think, I’m agoraphobic, I’m a shy person, whatever it may be, these are forms of self-knowledge. What psychoanalysis, at its best, does is cure you of your self-knowledge. And of your wish to know yourself in that coherent, narrative way. You can only recover your appetite, and appetites, if you can allow yourself to be unknown to yourself. Because the point of knowing oneself is to contain one’s anxieties about appetite. Psychoanalyst and writer Adam Phillips interviewed by The Paris Review.
This week sees the publication of the third volume of “My Struggle,” the thirty-six-hundred-page autobiographical novel by Karl Ove Knausgaard, the Norwegian novelist. It’s hard to overstate the strangeness of the book’s success. The six volumes of “My Struggle” chronicle, in hypnotic detail, episodes from Knausgaard’s life. There is no plot to speak of, unless you consider real life a plot. [more inside]
The Teen Whisperer by Margaret Talbot [New Yorker] How the author [John Green] of “The Fault in Our Stars” built an ardent army of fans.
From what I saw the plurality of students and faculty had been educated exclusively in the tradition of writers like William Gaddis, Francine Prose, or Alice Munro—and not at all in the traditions of Toni Morrison, Cherrie Moraga, Maxine Hong-Kingston, Arundhati Roy, Edwidge Danticat, Alice Walker, or Jamaica Kincaid. In my workshop the default subject position of reading and writing—of Literature with a capital L—was white, straight and male. This white straight male default was of course not biased in any way by its white straight maleness—no way! Race was the unfortunate condition of nonwhite people that had nothing to do with white people and as such was not a natural part of the Universal of Literature, and anyone that tried to introduce racial consciousness to the Great (White) Universal of Literature would be seen as politicizing the Pure Art and betraying the (White) Universal (no race) ideal of True Literature.In the New Yorker Junot Diaz talks about MFA vs POC. [more inside]
Alistair Macleod, one of Canada's greatest writers, has passed away. With just one novel, and two collections of short stories to his name, Macleod left an indelible mark on Canadian, and modern, literature. Other writers share their memories at the National Post (skip the first, Joyce Carol Oates' completely bland and characterless effort). At the Globe and Mail, Steven Galloway shares his own stories with Alistair. [more inside]
The Emily Dickinson Archive is a collection of high resolution digital images of Emily Dickinson's handwritten manuscripts. Here are, for instance, Because I Could Not Stop for Death, Tell the Truth but Tell It Slant, I Dwell in Possibility, They Shut Me Up in Prose and I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died. The whole collection is fully searchable and the images include the text of the poems as they were written down by Dickinson. The archive is a project of Harvard's Houghton Library but many other institutions provided manuscripts. Perhaps the best place to start is to simply browse the poems by title.
The British Library today unveiled a major addition to its website: Discovering Literature, a portal to digitized collections and supporting material. The first installment, Romantics and Victorians, includes work from Austen, the Brontës, Dickens, and Blake, and forthcoming modules will expand coverage of the site to encompass everything from Beowulf to the present day.
Cultivating Thought: Cups and bags at Chipotle (previously) will now feature stories and essays by famous authors, including Toni Morrison, George Saunders, Steven Pinker, Sarah Silverman, and Jonathan Safran Foer, who came up with the idea for the series and will be curating it as well.
“If someone goes out on a limb and tries something different, and the book doesn’t sell, you know who to blame: the guy who didn’t put the acacia tree on the cover.” [more inside]
The literary novel as an art work and a narrative art form central to our culture is indeed dying before our eyes. Will Self on the future of the novel.
The Huffington Post does a surprisingly decent, nostalgic roundup of 18 books women readers say "shaped the way they thought about themselves as young women," from Jane Eyre to Tori Amos.
From grilled kidneys to gruel to open faced sandwiches to sliced up grapefruits, photos of literature's most memorable meals.
Shakespeare Jest-Books: Reprints of the Early and Very Rare Jest-Books Supposed to Have Been Used by Shakespeare.
Dmitri Nabokov, Car Guy [Part One], Dmitri Nabokov, Car Guy [Part Two]: Dmitri Nabokov, son of Vladimir: his father’s work (Lolita, Pale Fire, Ada, etc.), and cars. [more inside]
Novelist Gabriel García Márquez has died at the age of 87. A giant of Latin American literature, he had struggled with lymphatic cancer and likely dementia (previously) in his latter years. To honor his memory, The Paris Review has reposted their interview with García Márquez from 1981, the year before he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
The earliest Shakespeare quartos are over four hundred years old and constitute the rarest, most fragile body of printed literature available to Shakespeare scholars. Sold unbound and often read to pieces, they are among the most ephemeral books of the age and survive in relatively low numbers. In the absence of surviving manuscripts, the quartos offer the earliest known evidence of what Shakespeare might actually have written, and what appeared on the early modern English stage. Only about half of Shakespeare’s plays were printed in quarto during his lifetime (1564–1616), and before the first printed collection of his plays, the First Folio of 1623. They are living artifacts telling the story of how Shakespeare's Hamlet, Henry V, King Lear, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Romeo and Juliet, to name just a few, first circulated in print.... Due to their rarity and fragility, the earliest quartos are often not accessible to those who need to study them. Today, six institutions in the United Kingdom and United States stand out as the main repositories of the pre-1642 quartos.... Through this international collaboration, many of the earliest Shakespeare quartos are now freely available for in-depth study to students of Shakespeare across the globe. You can read, compare, read annotations and overlay copies at Quartos.org.
Aspiring writers often ask established authors, "How did you do it?" The truth is that there is no single path to literary success. We sent a nonscientific survey to writers participating in the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books: Did they keep a diary as a child? Did they ever have a book rejected? Did they earn a living from writing? We tabulated more than 200 responses to make the board game below. Roll a die and see where the writing life takes you.
One should add that he was an extraordinarily gifted con man, persuading the most discerning intellectuals that he had credentials he did not possess and a heroic personal history, rather than a scandalous one, while he worked his charm on generations of students. Just who was Paul de Man?
The Travels of Sir John Mandeville is a remarkable 14th Century book which tells the autobiographical story of Sir John Mandeville's travels from England to Jerusalem and beyond to Asia. The only problem is that the book "had been a household word in eleven languages and for five centuries before it was ascertained that Sir John never lived, that his travels never took place, and that his personal experiences, long the test of others' veracity, were compiled out of every possible authority, going back to Pliny, if not further." The book was very popular for many centuries and was illustrated many times. For more about the book there is the introduction to a recent scholarly Middle English version and an illuminating podcast interview [iTunes link] with Professor Anthony Bale, the translator of a new version of the "defective" version of the book, which was the best known version for centuries. The interview goes into the many errors and fantasias of Mandeville but also puts the work in the context of its time and place.
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]
Mental Floss makes couplets from literary first lines and hip hop hits using the "generate line" feature from rappad.co.
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]
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]
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]
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]
SCENE I.[more inside]
An Anti-Chamber in the Palace.
Enter RIGDUM-FUNNIDOS and ALDIBORONTIPHOSCOPHORNIO, courtiers.
Where left you Chrononhotonthologos?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ng Suat Tong presents the best online comics criticism of 2013. Particularly recommended (by me): who white washes the Watchmen.
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 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.
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.
The 100 Greatest Painters in Western History (according to the editors of This Recording). [more inside]
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]
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.
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.
"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]
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.