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To hell with Gatsby's green light!

Why We Should Stop Teaching Novels To High School Students (Natasha Vargas-Cooper for Bookforum)
posted by box on Jan 17, 2014 - 160 comments

 

Structure

I had done all the research I was going to do, assembled enough material to fill a silo. And now I had no idea what to do with it - John McPhee, on narrative structure. [more inside]
posted by Turkey Glue on Jan 9, 2014 - 16 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

The thrillsville of it all...

Gay Talese's "Frank Sinatra Has A Cold" appeared in Esquire Magazine in April 1966. Sinatra had turned down interview requests from Esquire for years and refused to be interviewed for the profile. Rather than give up, Talese spent the three months following and observing the man and interviewing any members of his entourage who were willing to speak -- and the final story was published without Sinatra's cooperation or blessing. In 2003, editors pronounced it the best article the magazine had ever published. Nieman Storyboard interviewed Talese last month about the piece and has annotated it with his comments. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Oct 8, 2013 - 46 comments

"Topics galore."

Collected Essays by Rudy Rucker [via]
posted by brundlefly on Aug 21, 2013 - 7 comments

Five Feet of Books

"During his days as Harvard’s influential president, Dr. Charles W. Eliot made a frequent assertion: If you were to spend just 15 minutes a day reading the right books, a quantity that could fit on a five-foot shelf, you could give yourself a proper liberal education. Publisher P. F. Collier and Son loved the idea and asked Eliot to compile and edit the right collection of works. The result: a 51-volume series of classic works from world literature published in 1909 called Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf, which would later be called The Harvard Classics." (Via) [more inside]
posted by zarq on Jul 11, 2013 - 89 comments

Looking back at Hunter S. Thompson's classic Kentucky Derby story

Director's cut: "The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved": An annotated look back at one of Hunter S. Thompson's greatest hits. [more inside]
posted by AceRock on May 6, 2013 - 11 comments

"once having given a pig an enema there is no turning back,"

Death Of A Pig, E.B. White.
I spent several days and nights in mid-September with an ailing pig and I feel driven to account for this stretch of time, more particularly since the pig died at last, and I lived, and things might easily have gone the other way round and none left to do the accounting. Even now, so close to the event, I cannot recall the hours sharply and am not ready to say whether death came on the third night or the fourth night. This uncertainty afflicts me with a sense of personal deterioration; if I were in decent health I would know how many nights I had sat up with a pig.
[more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Feb 26, 2013 - 32 comments

In fact-based films, how much fiction is OK?

With the "true story" films Argo, Lincoln, and Zero Dark Thirty having been nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, discussion has risen about storytelling accuracy: "Does the audience deserve the truth, the whole truth and nothing but? Surely not, but just how much fiction is OK?"
posted by The Girl Who Ate Boston on Feb 20, 2013 - 160 comments

The Spy Novelist Who Knows Too Much

"De Villiers has spent most of his life cultivating spies and diplomats, who seem to enjoy seeing themselves and their secrets transfigured into pop fiction (with their own names carefully disguised), and his books regularly contain information about terror plots, espionage and wars that has never appeared elsewhere. Other pop novelists, like John le Carré and Tom Clancy, may flavor their work with a few real-world scenarios and some spy lingo, but de Villiers’s books are ahead of the news and sometimes even ahead of events themselves." (SLNYT)
posted by Rustic Etruscan on Jan 31, 2013 - 26 comments

"I often read dozens of books simultaneously."

My 6,128 Favorite Books - "Joe Queenan on how a harmless juvenile pastime turned into a lifelong personality disorder."
posted by the man of twists and turns on Nov 26, 2012 - 150 comments

Why's This So Good?

Conceived as sort of a companion to Longreads, Longform, Pocket, Byliner, etc., Nieman Storyboard's Why's This So Good? series looks at why some great long-form journalism and narrative nonfiction pieces are so great. There are over 60 installments of writers talking shop about writing. [more inside]
posted by AceRock on Nov 26, 2012 - 7 comments

A Penguin a Week

Karyn Reeves collects Penguin paperbacks. She reads and reviews a Penguin a week. She also blogs about Penguins (such as the elusive green Penguins) and showcases classic Penguin book covers. Nonfiction fans may want to check out her list of Pelicans - or visit the Pelican Project at Things Magazine (previously).
posted by kristi on Oct 30, 2012 - 18 comments

High Weirdness By Mail

"I guess it started for me when, as a young sci-fi movie fan, I did a fanzine at age 12 to 15... that’s when I learned how relatively cheap and easy it was to self-publish, at least for a small circle of weirdos. Later, after comics went up to 50¢, I started collecting stuff equally weird but much cheaper than comic books: kook literature." - Rev. Ivan Stang

You may know of the Church of the SubGenius, that parody religion that worships the almighty "Bob" and was a fixture of MTV and Night Flights back in the day. But do you know of its SECRET ORIGINS? Co-founder Ivan Stang corresponded with hundreds of "mad prophets, crackpots, kooks & true visionaries," from sincere cults to winking charlatans to utter nutjobs to hate groups to independent artists and musicians, with some respected names thrown in, and synthesized them into a half-joking, half-serious celebration of the kook spirit. These days of course the forward-thinking crackpot looking for sheep goes directly to the internet. But while it lasted Stang and co-authors Mike Gunderloy, Waver Forest and Mark Johnston collaborated to document this vanished scene in the legendary book HIGH WEIRDNESS BY MAIL. (All links within may quickly lead someplace NSFW by the nature of the beast.) [more inside]
posted by JHarris on Aug 27, 2012 - 133 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

Author interviews

"Book TV's After Words features the author of a recently published hardback non-fiction book interviewed by a guest host with some knowledge, background, or connection to the subject matter of the book." There's also a podcast version (link goes to XML feed), for those who'd rather listen. Many more non-fiction author interviews can be found at Booknotes (transcripts and streaming video). If your tastes run to interviews with authors of fiction, check out the BBC's Modern Writers archive. (BookTV (but not specifically After Words) previously, Booknotes (but before the series ended) previously.)
posted by cog_nate on Jun 22, 2012 - 7 comments

These Things Happened

"In the space of My Darkest Year, in no particular order, these things happened. My younger son died. My marriage ended. A rabbi and renowned jazz musician whom I’d only met once performed my son’s funeral. People applauded. I fell in love with a blond poet suffering from PTSD. It didn’t work out. My divorce was granted. The only Jewish funeral director in town admitted to me, unbidden, that her life’s passion is improv comedy. My ex-husband threatened my boyfriend’s balls via Facebook. I fled—and sold—my dream house. My older son lost his first tooth and entered kindergarten. I performed stand-up comedy. People applauded. I fell in love again. I realized I’m not afraid of anything." Michelle Mirsky's column No Fear of Flying: Kamikaze Missions in Sex, Death, and Comedy won the 2011 McSweeney's Column Contest. It's funny, aching, gutsy, and heartwrenching.
posted by sixswitch on May 14, 2012 - 10 comments

Best Essays of the year

Byliner (prev 1,2) has released its list of 101 Spectacular Nonfiction Stories from the last year from around the web.
posted by scodger on Apr 19, 2012 - 12 comments

The pills are $2,000 every month. The doctor visits never end. And there's always the possibility the virus could spread. Otherwise, it's not so different.

Odd Blood: Serodiscordancy, or Life with an HIV-Positive Partner
posted by liketitanic on Mar 29, 2012 - 7 comments

Are facts stupid?

"Readers who demand verifiable truth in nonfiction—who were upset about James Frey, for example—are unsophisticated and ignorant, D’Agata said, and he wants to change that." Dan Kois reviews The Lifespan of a Fact, the transcript of the editorial battle between author and fact-checker on John D'agata's piece in the Believer (excerpt; full article requires payment) on the suicide of Levi Presley, who killed himself by jumping off the observation deck of the Stratosphere in Las Vegas in 2002.
posted by shivohum on Feb 16, 2012 - 107 comments

The Open Notebook

The Open Notebook looks at how science writers, and some general nonfiction writers, practice their craft. Their Story-Behind-the-Story interviews are especially interesting, showing how projects like Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and David Dobbs Atavist story "My Mother's Lover" developed from start to finish. For writers, there's also a database of successful story pitches.
posted by gottabefunky on Nov 23, 2011 - 3 comments

om nom nom

(Almost) Everything You Need to Know about Culture in 10 Books
posted by glass origami robot on Sep 1, 2011 - 49 comments

The Joy of Cooking

In 1931, Irma Rombauer, a Missouri homemaker struggling to support her family after the suicide of her husband, self-published The Joy of Cooking: A Compilation of Reliable Recipes with a Casual Culinary Chat. The New York Public Library later named it one of the 150 most influential books of the century. [more inside]
posted by Trurl on Aug 29, 2011 - 61 comments

Janet Malcolm: The Art of Nonfiction

"I can’t imagine a nonfiction writer who wasn’t influenced by the fiction he or she had read. But the “thriller-like pacing” you find in my writing may come more from my own beat than from thrillers. I walk fast and am impatient. I get bored easily—no less with my own ideas than with those of others. Writing for me is a process of constantly throwing out stuff that doesn’t seem interesting enough. I grew up in a family of big interrupters." Janet Malcolm interviewed by Katie Roiphe in The Paris Review.
posted by escabeche on Jul 25, 2011 - 6 comments

The essays of Kenneth Rexroth

The poet and translator Kenneth Rexroth, one of the central figures in the San Francisco Renaissance, only wrote prose for money. But he did it very well. (way previously) [more inside]
posted by Trurl on Jul 3, 2011 - 8 comments

Set aside some free time; you're gonna need it

Launching today is Byliner, both a portal to the best narrative nonfiction from around the web, and a publishing platform for original works. Some additional background here.
posted by Horace Rumpole on Jun 21, 2011 - 15 comments

"In nonfiction, you have that limitation, that constraint, of telling the truth."

The 100 greatest non-fiction books: [Via: The Guardian] After keen debate at the Guardian's books desk, this is our list of the very best factual writing, organised by category, and then by date.
posted by Fizz on Jun 14, 2011 - 74 comments

The runners’ bibs say something different each year: SUFFERING WITHOUT A POINT; NOT ALL PAIN IS GAIN

The Immortal Horizon: Thirty-Five Runners Face Hollers and Hells, a Flooded Prison, Rats the Size of Possums, and Flesh-Flaying Briars to Test the Limits of Self-Sufficiency in a race only eight men have ever finished.
posted by The Whelk on May 7, 2011 - 37 comments

Abandon all hope, ye who add to queue...

The official Church of Satan Video List. The official Church of Satan Fiction Reading List. The official Church of Satan Non-Fiction Reading List.
posted by hermitosis on Mar 23, 2010 - 82 comments

So you want to write a pop-sci book

Brian Switek, David Williams and Michael Welland have started a series of blog posts about writing popular science books. (Switek's overview.) [more inside]
posted by brundlefly on Mar 15, 2010 - 4 comments

Best Journalism of 2009

Looking for something to read? Check out the best journalism Conor Friedersdorf encountered in 2009. And in 2008. He also updates a twitter feed with pieces he comes across that he either missed or that might make onto a 2010 list.
posted by AceRock on Feb 25, 2010 - 16 comments

How To Write Badly Well

You have a great idea for a novel and it's almost November, so you think now is the time to get cracking. You've decided that hiring a ghostwriter is too easy, but you don't have 100 days to write your novel and the snowflake method seems too frilly. Snowflakes, those delicate little monsters that papered your car when you were stranded on the road in Minnesota. A single snowflake is beautiful, but millions make an avalanche. You were cold, so cold, yet you survived. You're not sure if you have time to read a book on what not to do (UK edition), and the search results are daunting. Forget all that, because you already know how to write, right? Embrace your awesome, magnificent, spellbinding abilities, go forward but never back, ever spinning, shake the rain off your bedspread, and now that you have brewed a delicious pot of steamy, hot, life-giving coffee, you can learn how to write badly well. [via mefi projects] [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Oct 22, 2009 - 35 comments

John McPhee

John McPhee writes about basketball, headmasters, oranges, tennis, hybrid airships, nuclear weapons, bark canoes, Alaska, the Swiss Army, the merchant marines, dissident Soviet artists, shad, long-distance trucking, and - Pulitzer Prize-winningly - geology (282kb PDF). He discusses his work here. [more inside]
posted by Joe Beese on Sep 30, 2009 - 32 comments

"turn to page 69 of any book and read it. If you like that page, buy the book."

The Page 69 Test --inspired by Marshall McLuhan's suggestion to readers for choosing a novel, a new blog, inviting authors to describe what's on page 69. One says: Not the best, but not the worst. If my pages were presidents, I’d put page 69 somewhere in the James K. Polk range.
posted by amberglow on Dec 11, 2007 - 28 comments

Confessions of A Long Distance Sailor

Confessions of A Long Distance Sailor - I had been sitting in dark rooms, punching computer keys, for years. I had always wanted to learn SCUBA diving, hike around in the tropics, so I booked a flight to Hawaii. But a month later I was in — are you ready? — a traffic jam on Maui. I understand now, from the moment I touched that sailboat's dock lines, I was doomed to sail.
posted by phrontist on Jun 17, 2007 - 12 comments

Gotta Catch Em All!

Booktribes is a new site from the creators of writing site Abctales where bibliophiles can compile lists of every book they've ever read. Replete with a simple, intuitive interface, compiling your life's reading list becomes strangely addictive, and for the whole of March, the best comment of the day on this as-yet underpopulated site wins a copy of David Mitchell's Black Swan Green, with the best comment of the month winning the entire 21 volume Sceptre Collection. And if you're worried your reading list isn't up to scratch, don't panic - you can always cheat.
posted by RokkitNite on Mar 3, 2007 - 20 comments

Edmund Wilson and American culture

"When I read his work, I forgive him all his sins". Edmund Wilson disliked being called a critic. He thought of himself as a journalist, and nearly all his work was done for commercial magazines, principally Vanity Fair, in the nineteen-twenties; The New Republic, in the nineteen-twenties and thirties; The New Yorker, beginning in the nineteen-forties; and The New York Review of Books, in the nineteen-sixties. He was exceptionally well read: he had had a first-class education in English, French, and Italian literature, and he kept adding languages all his life. He learned to read German, Russian, and Hebrew; when he died, in 1972, he was working on Hungarian.
Edmund Wilson and American culture. (more inside)
posted by matteo on Aug 25, 2005 - 12 comments

identity theory

Interviews: Russell Banks, Susan Orlean, Tibor Fischer, Azar Nafisi. | Writing on social justice: Susan Power on Bosnia. Barbara Erenreich on poverty. | e-books: Aristotle, Emma Goldman, Buddha. | New Non-fiction, fiction. | Hundreds of Reviews. Graphic Art, Poetry, Music, and much more from identity theory, one of the best literary websites I've encountered, thanks to an incredulity-inducing amount of work by what seem to be volunteers. Wow. (Specific interviews already MeFid in these threads.)
posted by louigi on Jun 1, 2005 - 1 comment

"I am the only woman in the room with shirt on at the VIP Strip Club"

Showing Off a Little (Inner) Cleavage. Author Geralyn Lucas wore bright, red lipstick to her mastectomy. "It was my way of saying I knew I would still be a woman when I woke up with a blood-soaked bandage where my breast used to be... women have sacrificed breasts and hair to try to save their lives. We have traded in our beauty for some kind of cure. But something strange often happens when we lose the bling — the big boobs and big hair — of womanhood. We're left with what I call 'inner cleavage,' and no plastic surgeon can sculpt it. It is the beauty that exists when everything else has been stripped away".
Lauren Greenfield photographs here. More inside.
posted by matteo on Apr 4, 2005 - 19 comments

Short shorts

Who Wears Short Shorts? Micro Stories and MFA Disgust Being a writer in today's lovely world of fiction and creative nonfiction is like reliving 70's TV hell, where that Nair commercial jingle has been conveniently rewritten into "Who writes short shorts?" Poetic vision rarely shows up. After all, how can you express vision in 100 words? As for plot and character development, give those antiquated goods to Goodwill. All that matters with short shorts is a competent writing style and a desire for lots of publication credits.
posted by ColdChef on Nov 22, 2004 - 33 comments

OMG ITS SO GROSS EWWW!!1!

Warning: this is possibly the worst story ever told. Ever wanted to know what it's like to have a beef tapeworm? (Fun fact: they're the kind that fills your whole intestinal tract!) A storyteller on The Fray helpfully clues us in to the experience of living with, and eventually destroying, his li'l parasite buddy. Don't read it if you don't want to wish for death at the end. (Blessedly, there are no photographs, though there are some toon-like illustrations.) Via Boing Boing.
posted by logovisual on May 7, 2004 - 40 comments

other peoples' stories

A collection of absurdly interesting stories. (Note to the gun-shy: not in Comic Sans.) via the always excellent JerryKindall.com
posted by stupidsexyFlanders on Jan 15, 2004 - 6 comments

Has anyone read "Swimming Across" by Andy Grove?

Has anyone read "Swimming Across" by Andy Grove? It appears to be pretty far from the traditional "look-at-me, revel in my vision, I'm an uber-CEO," self-promotional book; he never even gets into his Intel career, apparently. Instead it's an account of Grove's childhood in Hitler and Stalin's Hungary and the story of how he came to America. The book has been getting great reviews, from people as diverse as Tom Brokaw, Elie Wiesel and Monica Seles. Still, the cynic in me says that no matter how dramatic the tale, when you're a Fotune 500 CEO, you always have other motives. Perhaps I'm just too cynical. So again, has anyone read it? What did you think?
posted by emptyage on Nov 26, 2001 - 3 comments

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