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"Some remarkable Books, Antiquities, Pictures and Rarities of several kinds, scarce or never seen by any man now living."

Musæum Clausum is a catalog of invented books, pictures and antiquities written by 17th Century Englishman Sir Thomas Browne. It is a fantastical and witty meditation on the ravages of time on literature and other works of man. The Musæum Clausum is perhaps the finest example of the invented, or invisible, library, a genre which seems to have originated with Rabelais. The genre has been of special interest to Beachcombing's Bizarre History Blog (older posts), where he has written about the invisible libraries of writers such as Charles Dickens, Neil Gaiman, H. P. Lovecraft and invisible libraries in video games. The natural medium for invisible libraries might be pictures, and Musæum Clausum inspired a suite of etchings by Erik Desmazieres.
posted by Kattullus on Oct 31, 2012 - 30 comments

Are literary journals comatose?

Have literary journals lost their cultural relevance? Ted Genoways, former editor of the Virginia Quarterly suggests they have, and are relegated to publishing masses of material, often submitted by waves of new MFA graduates, that few read. Others question the definition of relevance. The journals do continue to proliferate, generating constant fresh material for a review that reviews them, a database that writers use to sort through them, and agents who comb through them looking for the next literary sensation. Perhaps only print journals are in real trouble?
posted by shivohum on Oct 30, 2012 - 39 comments

There is Nothing New Under the Sun

She sat zazen, concentrating on not concentrating, until it was time to prepare for the appointment. Sitting seemed to produce the usual serenity, put everything in perspective. Her hand did not tremble as she applied her make-up; tranquil features looked back at her from the mirror. She was mildly surprised, in fact, at just how calm she was, until she got out of the hotel elevator at the garage level and the mugger made his play. She killed him instead of disabling him. Which was obviously not a measured, balanced action--the official fuss and paperwork could make her late. Annoyed at herself, she stuffed the corpse under a shiny new Westinghouse roadable whose owner she knew to be in Luna, and continued on to her own car. This would have to be squared later, and it would cost. No help for it--she fought to regain at least the semblance of tranquillity as her car emerged from the garage and turned north. Nothing must interfere with this meeting, or with her role in it. "Melancholy Elephants," an enthralling, Hugo Award-winning short story by Spider Robinson about a disciplined operative, a powerful senator, and a crucial mission to preserve humanity's most precious resource. (some spoilers inside) [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi on Oct 27, 2012 - 14 comments

Crime's Grand Tour

Crime fiction is a magnifying glass that reveals the fingerprints of history. From Holmes and Poirot to Montalbano and the rise of Scandi-noir, Mark Lawson investigates the long tradition of European super-sleuths and their role in turbulent times. [more inside]
posted by shoesfullofdust on Oct 27, 2012 - 12 comments

The Library of Babel in 140 characters (or fewer)

The universe (which others call The Twitter) is composed of every word in the English language; Shakespeare's folios, line-by-line-by-line; the Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, exploded; Constantine XI, in 140 character chunks; Sun Tzu's Art of War, in its entirety; the chapter headings of JG Ballard, in abundance; and definitive discographies of Every. Artist. Ever... All this, I repeat, is true, but one hundred forty characters of inalterable wwwtext cannot correspond to any language, no matter how dialectical or rudimentary it may be. [more inside]
posted by 0bvious on Oct 27, 2012 - 14 comments

Tootleg Boy audiobook defacement

These audio files contain profanity:
The Lord of the Books of the Fifty-Five Arse-Hymens of Stone
Pride and Prejudice and 367 Pages of Balls and Young Men
Pride and Prejudice and Praise and Porridge and Presents and Pedantic Ponies and Pride and Pride and Pride and Proud and Priiide
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 on Oct 26, 2012 - 23 comments

Jacques Barzun is dead

Jacques Barzun, pioneering cultural historian and author of From Dawn to Decadence, has died at the age of 104. [more inside]
posted by ubiquity on Oct 26, 2012 - 28 comments

"It has been your lot to achieve that the obedience to manifold rules should not hamper poetry."

During the reign of Constantine the Great, the Roman senator and poet Publilius Optatianus Porphyrius was sent into exile for crimes unknown. He succeeded in regaining favor and his good name by composing a series of poems in praise of the emperor which looked like nothing else. His poetry was an evolution of the Greek tradition of pattern poetry, but he took it a much more complex level, as Arrigo Lora Totino explains. In an illustrated article, John Stephan Edwards goes through the poetry of Porphyrius, showing the evolution of his craft.
posted by Kattullus on Oct 25, 2012 - 14 comments

We are for the dark

Robert Aickman wrote some of the best ghost stories of the last fifty years. He also edited one of the finest genre anthology series of his time: The Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories. Between 1964 and 1972, he curated eight volumes of horror fiction without repeating an author, favoring always the subtle, the psychological, the poetic, the rare, the neglected. 59 of his selections can be found online. [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Oct 25, 2012 - 21 comments

The School of Southern Degeneracy

Flannery O'Connor Soundboard. Based on audio snippets of O'Connor reading from "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" (previously) and from her lecture "Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction."
posted by Cash4Lead on Oct 20, 2012 - 15 comments

"The first is that it is dull, dull, dull in a pretentious, florid and archly fatuous fashion"

Fifteen Scathing Early Reviews Of Classic Novels
posted by the man of twists and turns on Oct 17, 2012 - 69 comments

"To most Americans, there is something inexplicably foreign about cricket"

Wickets and Wonders: Cricket’s Rich Literary Vein - a meditation on the literary history of cricket, and a few of the more well-known books surrounding gigaioggie.
posted by Wordshore on Oct 11, 2012 - 14 comments

Montaigne's Library

On the day he turned thirty-eight, Michel Eyquem de Montaigne retired from public life to the tower of the Château de Montaigne, there to spend the next ten years composing an assay of his life's experience. That his mind might thrive, he turned the tower into a "Solitarium" and its top floor into a sumptuous library, lining its round walls with some 1,500 books. Even the roof beams were made to bear his thoughts: on them he inscribed 46 quotations, here collected and translated.
posted by Iridic on Oct 11, 2012 - 22 comments

The 2012 Nobel Laureate in Literature Is Chinese Novelist Mo Yan

Mo Yan has been awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature. A Chinese novelist, born as Guan Moye, his pen name means "don't speak." His most famous novel, Red Sorghum: A Novel of China, was turned into an acclaimed film in 1987. Here are some interviews with Mo Yan: Granta, National Endowment for the Humanities and Paper Republic. Speculation was rife in China before the announcement whether Mo Yan would receive it, and the matter was controversial. For people who haven't read any books by Mo Yan, the Swedish Academy recommends Garlic Ballads [NYT]. For more news over the day, keep an eye on The Literary Saloon and The Guardian's liveblog.
posted by Kattullus on Oct 11, 2012 - 24 comments

Always wondered if Tom went on to work in banking.

John D. Fitzgerald had written three fictionalized memoirs of his family's life in the late 19th-century Utah west before the night he happened to regale a group of friends with childhood stories of his money-crazed brother, Tom. At their urging, he crafted a funny and clever series of children's books chronicling the adventures of The Great Brain. Like countless other readers, the blogger and researcher behind Finding Fitzgerald (and its companion blog and Facebook page) has been fascinated with discovering the real settings and stories behind the books. And the truly committed can even watch Jimmy Osmond in the 1978 film adaptation.
posted by Miko on Oct 10, 2012 - 40 comments

The Seventh Voyage of Ijon Tichy, by Stanislaw Lem

It was on a Monday, April second - I was cruising in the vicinity of Betelgeuse - when a meteor no larger than a lima bean pierced the hull, shattered the drive regulator and part of the rudder, as a result of which the rocket lost all maneuverability. [more inside]
posted by Egg Shen on Oct 6, 2012 - 40 comments

Pity the Billionaire

Pity the Billionaire (YT): Thomas Frank discusses how the American right pulled off a massive coup and successfully branded itself the party of rebellion and protest in the wake of the financial crisis.
posted by shivohum on Oct 5, 2012 - 32 comments

Tapes on Books

Tapes on Books: Mixtape soundtracks for beloved classics. Some obvious ("Runaway" by Del Shannon for Ralph Macchio's escape after stabbing Johnny Cade in The Outsiders), some clever ("If You Got the Money" by Lefty Frizzell as Daisy Buchanan's theme song in The Great Gatsby), with witty rationales throughout ("If Sauron's evil flaming eye was actually a evil flaming mouth, then it would sing with Lemmy’s voice").
posted by goatdog on Oct 4, 2012 - 8 comments

Henry Miller's "The Books In My Life"

They were alive and they spoke to me! That is the simplest and most eloquent way in which I can refer to those authors who have remained with me over the years. - Henry Miller, The Books In My Life [more inside]
posted by Egg Shen on Sep 23, 2012 - 7 comments

See, they return

Poetry Reincarnations. "I hope you may enjoy these glimpses at some of the long-gone poets and literary figures, etc., in the form of scratchy old movies, as if they had been filmed by candle light."
posted by Iridic on Sep 20, 2012 - 6 comments

Machado de Assis

Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (1839-1908) is the greatest of Brazilian writers, an ironist, realist, and fabulist in the leauge of Chekhov, Flaubert, and Borges. [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Sep 10, 2012 - 4 comments

The picture letters of Beatrix Potter

In [a series of notes to Noel Moore, the oft-sickly son of her former governess], Potter punctuates her words with small, sweet illustrations: 'I have come a very long way in a puff-puff …' (next to a train), a straightforward, 'Here are some rabbits throwing snow balls,' and, of course, Peter’s debut in a special dispatch from 1893. - Beatrix Potter’s Picture Letters, The Birthplace Of Peter Rabbit [more inside]
posted by SugarAndSass on Sep 10, 2012 - 4 comments

‘The real world's what the map here stands for!’ —Otis P. Lord, page 334

An “Infinite Jest” atlas. The Infinite Atlas Project is an independent research and art project seeking to identify, place and describe every possible location in David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. The project includes: Infinite Map- a cartographic infographic poster identifying 250 of the most interesting locations from the novel. Infinite Boston-a ruminative travelogue and photographic tour of key locations in and around Boston, Massachusetts. [Previously]
posted by Fizz on Sep 7, 2012 - 24 comments

Please do not feel the necessity to send us more pieces under a clumsy pseudonym.

The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure: poignant tales of the justly obscure. The entry on Hans Kafka is a good starting point.
posted by Horace Rumpole on Sep 7, 2012 - 11 comments

Two men, four surnames

"Anyone who finds David Foster Wallace a literary genius has got to be included in the Literary Doucebag-Fools [sic] Pantheon ... I continue to find David Foster Wallace the most tedious, overrated, tortured, pretentious writer of my generation ... DFW is the best example of a contemporary male writer lusting for a kind of awful greatness that he simply wasn't able to achieve. A fraud." Bret Easton Ellis has been savagely criticising the late David Foster Wallace on Twitter. [more inside]
posted by WPW on Sep 6, 2012 - 256 comments

Possible second photograph of Emily Dickinson

The only authenticated photgraph of Emily Dickinson is of a 16 year old girl. Amherst College now believes that a privately owned daguerrotype shows the poet as a 28 year old woman - about the time she wrote the "Master" letters.
posted by Egg Shen on Sep 5, 2012 - 33 comments

What Kind of Book Reader Are You?

What kind of book reader are you? More types of book reader.
posted by rollick on Sep 4, 2012 - 63 comments

Injury and the Ethics of Reading

Poetry Changed the World: Injury and the Ethics of Reading.
posted by homunculus on Sep 3, 2012 - 8 comments

The Drowned World

J.G. Ballard and the alchemy of memory
posted by Artw on Sep 1, 2012 - 24 comments

Chore list of Champions

From a January 26, 1947, contract between Kurt Vonnegut and his pregnant wife, Jane, to whom he had been married for sixteen months: "I, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., that is, do hereby swear that I will be faithful to the commitments hereunder listed..."
posted by daniel_charms on Aug 30, 2012 - 68 comments

Illustrated Aesop's Fables through history

Historical versions of Aesop's fables - text and pictures - collected by Laura Gibbs. She gives thousands of historic texts in English, Latin, and Greek, but even better, has Flickr sets of the historic illustrations (that page is sorted by artist) from editions by Rackham, Caldecott, and other artists going back to the 1400s. [more inside]
posted by LobsterMitten on Aug 30, 2012 - 11 comments

A kit for the pen-sucked flap-dragons in your life

Are the verbal pignuts nipping at thine clay-brained heels yet again? Does your dankish, knotty-ated mind quiver at scouring the bard's odiferous works for suitable defense? Then attend thee to the Shakespeare Insult Kit, where all manner of creations await your dullish wit.
posted by Brandon Blatcher on Aug 29, 2012 - 5 comments

Magic realism: not fantasy. Sorry.

Magic realism: not fantasy. Sorry.
posted by shivohum on Aug 27, 2012 - 136 comments

Hysterical Literature

Clayton Cubitt's Hysterical Literature is a video project where women seem to reach orgasm simply by reading a favorite passage from a book. Session 1 features alt-porn star Stoya reading Supervert's "Necrophilia Variations", while session 2 features Alicia reading Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass". Stoya's thoughts on the project, and Supervert's thoughts. (all NSFW)
posted by Joakim Ziegler on Aug 25, 2012 - 33 comments

A Compendium of Public-Domain Essays

Quotidiana is an ‘online compendium of 383 public-domain essays.’ [more inside]
posted by misteraitch on Aug 24, 2012 - 2 comments

Cynthia Ozick on Henry James: The Lesson of the Master

Cynthia Ozick on Henry James: The Lesson of the Master: ...in earlier days I felt I had been betrayed by Henry James. I was like the youthful writer in “The Lesson of the Master” who believed in the Master’s call to live immaculately, unspoiled by what we mean when we say “life”—relationship, family mess, distraction, exhaustion, anxiety, above all disappointment.
posted by shivohum on Aug 21, 2012 - 7 comments

Anna Akhmatova

Akhmatova's work ranges from short lyric poems to intricately structured cycles, such as Requiem (1935–40), her tragic masterpiece about the Stalinist terror. Her style, characterised by its economy and emotional restraint, was strikingly original and distinctive to her contemporaries. The strong and clear leading female voice struck a new chord in Russian poetry. Her writing can be said to fall into two periods – the early work (1912–25) and her later work (from around 1936 until her death), divided by a decade of reduced literary output. Her work was condemned and censored by Stalinist authorities and she is notable for choosing not to emigrate, and remaining in Russia, acting as witness to the atrocities around her. [more inside]
posted by Egg Shen on Aug 20, 2012 - 11 comments

"Very good, sir. Should I lay out your crazy adventure garb?"

What If Other Authors Had Written The Lord Of The Rings?...Wilde, Wodehouse, and more.
posted by The Whelk on Aug 19, 2012 - 50 comments

How to Read a Poem

Curious about poetry, but don't know where or how to begin? We've reprinted the first chapter from the book "How to Read a Poem" by Edward Hirsch. Its 16 sections provide strategies for reading poems, and each section has plenty of links to examples of poems in our archive to illustrate the points.
posted by Think_Long on Aug 17, 2012 - 34 comments

Seed a large prone turkey

How to Eat Like Your Favorite Authors
posted by superquail on Aug 15, 2012 - 45 comments

The Physics of physicality

WIRED has been running a fascinating series: Olympic Physics: Can Runners Benefit From Drafting?, Scoring the Decathlon, New [Swimming] Platform Is No Chip Off The Old Block [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Aug 13, 2012 - 16 comments

Farewell, Pushcart Queen

Farewell Pushcart Queen: Jean Merrill has passed away from cancer. Many of her 30 books were young adult stories which followed underdogs in conflict with powerful interests. Her most well-known books were The Pushcart War, about a confrontation between New York pushcarts and the trucking industry, and The Toothpaste Millionaire, about a young African American entrepreneur who challenges big business. (previously) [more inside]
posted by honest knave on Aug 12, 2012 - 33 comments

Michal Ajvaz

“The beast sets me riddles every evening, and when I fail to guess them, it kicks and bites me. It is like a small leopard and in other circumstances I should say it looked quite charming. So far I haven't solved a single one of these riddles…”—Michal Ajvaz. [more inside]
posted by misteraitch on Aug 10, 2012 - 19 comments

return armada;

If Hemingway wrote JavaScript [SFW, despite the .xxx URL]
posted by brundlefly on Aug 6, 2012 - 35 comments

10 years of language hat

languagehat looks back on ten years of Languagehat: I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX X.
posted by nangar on Jul 31, 2012 - 28 comments

Gore Vidal October 3, 1925 – July 31, 2012

Gore Vidal, arguably one of america's greatest living post-war writers, died Tuesday at the age of 86. [more inside]
posted by MartinWisse on Jul 31, 2012 - 141 comments

James Salter's "A Sport and a Pastime"

James Salter's A Sport and a Pastime is one of those very rare novels that seems not so much to have been written as discovered. At its heart is a love story, an encounter, that transforms its relatively ordinary protagonists into beings around whom the entire cosmos shapes itself. The love story is delicate and ephemeral, put together out of bits and pieces, like a bird's nest. The vulnerable lovers tremble, in the most mundane circumstances, on the edge of catastrophe. Simply the way one of them moves across the room to meet the other seems miraculous and hazardous. Were they to become aware of themselves everything would be lost. But there is no danger of that. Oblivious, they tiptoe on a precipice. They do not and cannot know that their innocence cloaks them in a kind of divinity and infallibility. Actions and attitudes we expect to bring them down don't. They do things that seem so perfect, so poignant, without knowing they are doing anything at all. They arc beautifully across our path, and then vanish. - Michael Doliner (previously) [more inside]
posted by Egg Shen on Jul 31, 2012 - 8 comments

The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books

The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books catalogs the top ten favorite books of over 140 major authors and growing, including Louis D. Rubin, Jim Harrison, David Foster Wallace, David Leavitt, Paul Auster, Michael Chabon, and many more. Here's the list of books rank-ordered by frequency and here are other lists compiled from the statistics.
posted by shivohum on Jul 28, 2012 - 40 comments

Neverending stories

Four Micro-Essays on League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: 2009 (contains spoilers), a look at the concluding part of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's 3 part LoEG: Century series in which the league face off against a headline grabbing villain (extreme spoiler warning) and which spookily presaged some of last nights Olympic opening. Previous Moore and O'Neill. Obligatory annotations from Jess Nevins.
posted by Artw on Jul 28, 2012 - 37 comments

RIP Margaret Mahy

Acclaimed New Zealand children's and young adult's book author Margaret Mahy died in Christchurch yesterday aged 76. [more inside]
posted by Start with Dessert on Jul 23, 2012 - 24 comments

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