A Summer Reading List for Wretched Assholes Who Prefer to Wallow in Someone Else’s Misery by Claire Cameron [The Millions] “By some secret law of lists, “summer reads” often settle on books that are light and fluffy and happy. Like a marshmallow, they are usually too sticky and sweet for my taste. What about a list for us wretched assholes who prefer to spend the summer wallowing in a someone’s else’s misery? On holiday, I cut myself off from my regular writing regime to focus on the people I’m with — I understand this is called “relaxing.” As my real life is relatively drama free, this means I have dangerous spare capacity to obsess over…what? While a happy book might distract me temporarily, it’s far easier to become completely consumed by an epic novel full of anguish.” [more inside]
X-Rays Reveal 1,300-Year-Old Writings Inside Later Bookbindings [The Guardian] The words of the 8th-century Saint Bede are among those that have been found by detecting iron, copper and zinc – constituents of medieval ink. Medieval manuscripts that have been hidden from view for centuries could reveal their secrets for the first time, thanks to new technology. Dutch scientists and other academics are using an x-ray technique to read fragments of manuscripts that have been reused as bookbindings and which cannot be deciphered with the naked eye. After the middle ages manuscripts were recycled, with pages pasted inside bindings to strengthen them. Those fragments may be the unique remains of certain works.
Shelley's Ghost: Reshaping the Image of a Literary Family [The Bodleian Library] This exhibition is a collaboration between the Bodleian Libraries and the New York Public Library. Few families enjoy such a remarkable reputation for their contribution to the literature and intellectual life of Britain as the Godwins and the Shelleys. Shelley's Ghost: Reshaping the Image of a Literary Family explores how the reputation of this great literary family was shaped by the selective release of documents and manuscripts into the public domain. It also provides a fascinating insight into the real lives of a family that was blessed with genius but marred by tragedy. [more inside]
J. K. Rowling Just Can’t Let Harry Potter Go [The New York Times] J. K. Rowling always said that the seventh Harry Potter book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” would be the last in the series, and so far she has kept to her word. But though she’s written many new things in the intervening nine years, including four adult novels, she’s never been able to put Harry to rest, or to leave him alone. [more inside]
TS Eliot's rejection of Orwell's Animal Farm [The Guardian] Digitised for the first time by the British Library, Eliot’s rejection is now available to read alongside others including Virginia Woolf’s to James Joyce. Eliot’s letter is one of more than 300 items which have been digitised by the British Library, a mixture of drafts, diaries, letters and notebooks by authors ranging from Virginia Woolf to Angela Carter and Ted Hughes. The literary archive reveals that Orwell was not the only major writer to suffer a series of rejections: the British Library has also digitised a host of rejections for James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, showing how his patron Harriet Shaw Weaver attempted to find a printer for the novel she had published in serialised form in The Egoist. [more inside]
Don’t Know What To Read? Let Goldman Sachs Tell You. [Melville House] "Goldman Sachs: financial giant, hotbed of enthusiasm for subprime mortgages, and hapless recipient of your hard-earned money. Who better to tell you what to read? Well, now they are telling you what to read, in the form of a recently-published recommended book list [PDF]. We’re talking about people who incurred $550 million in fines for schemes to turn a profit on the civilization-threatening financial crisis they themselves had helped create, and the line between genius and chutzpah is notoriously hard to draw, so, yeah, I’d like to know what’s on these folks’ bedside tables."
Some of you may already be aware that the looooooong gestating miniseries based on Stephen King's "Dark Tower" books has finally begun filming (previously) with MeFi favorite Idris Elba in the lead role of Roland (Pictures have already been taken of him on set). As with any beloved piece of literature, fans have their reservations about what changes may occur from the original text. But as any Dark Tower fan will tell you, this is no ordinary book series. And it looks like Stephen King is hinting that the miniseries will follow in kind (Spoilers ahoy).
An Interview with Guy Gavriel Kay [io9] Guy Gavriel Kay has carved out a unique niche, writing fantasy novels that take real-life historical settings and transforming them into something new and different. His latest novel, Children of Earth and Sky, takes place in a version of 16th century Europe that’s under threat from a version of the Ottoman Empire, and includes a fictionalized version of real-life Croatian bandits called the Uskoks, who stole from the Venetians and the Ottomans for justice. We talked to Kay about just how he manages to turn real-life history into a world all his own. You can read an excerpt of Children of Earth and Sky, introducing the character of Danica, here. [more inside]
In “ ‘Hamilton’ Aside, Where the Real Tony Competition Lies' ", one of your theater critics, Charles Isherwood, says of “Hamilton”: “I do find it slightly puzzling that it was nominated in the book of a musical category, since the show is almost sung-through.” [more inside]
Subway Reading: Taking Fake Book Covers on the Subway [YouTube] [Video] How would you react if you saw someone reading 'Getting Away With Murder for Dummies on public transport?' Comic Scott Rogowsky (@ScottRogowsky) took some pretend, provocative book covers on an underground operation. [via: The Guardian]
“To Become Louder, Even Still”: Responses to Sexual Violence in Literary Spaces Apogee Journal has collected fourteen responses from writers to sexual violence perpetrated in the literary community. [more inside]
On the bicentenary of Charlotte Brontë’s birth, writers and artists reflect on her greatest creation. [The Guardian] [more inside]
The Bible makes most challenged books list in US for first time. [The Guardian] Americans have objected to titles as diverse as the Bible and Fifty Shades of Grey over the last year, according to a list of the most challenged books which has just been released by the American Library Association. [more inside]
Who is Elena Ferrante? Novelist issues denial as guessing game goes on. by Rosie Scammell [The Guardian] Unmasking the true identity of the pseudonymous author Elena Ferrante has become Italy’s favourite – and increasingly farcical – literary parlour game. The latest writer forced to deny that she is the creator of the critically acclaimed Neapolitan novels is Marcella Marmo, a professor of contemporary history at the University of Naples Federico II. [more inside]
Where Patrick Bateman Would Be Today by Bret Easton Ellis [Town & Country] Twenty-five years after American Psycho was published as a Bloody Lampoon of the Go-Go '80s, the novel has been turned into a musical. The author considers his protagonist's enduring legacy in an age of even crazier money. [more inside]
Sometimes a good book comes out that doesn't receive the attention it merits. To give them a second chance, there's the Phoenix Award -- given to a children's book published twenty years previously. This year's winner is Frindle, by Andrew Clements, first published in 1996.
Web pages are ghosts: they’re like images projected onto a wall. They aren’t durable. Contrast this with hard-copies—things written on paper or printed in books. We can still read books and pamphlets printed five hundred years ago, even though the presses that made them have long since been destroyed. How can we give the average independent web writer that kind of permanence? Joel Dueck on building a website with Matthew Butterick's Pollen, allowing it to also be published as a printed book.
We are the killers. We stink of death. We carry it with us. It sticks to us like frost. We cannot tear it away. [...]
The Aztecs in the shock of the conquest, of utter destruction, tried to regain their speech, and they tried to describe simple things. A cave. A cave is a place of darkness. It is full of fear. It is dark, yes, very dark. And fear looms there. And do we dare to enter? Because the cave is big and it is dark.A 70-minute conversation with Werner Herzog, loosely structured by one of his favorite books, J. A. Baker's The Peregrine. [more inside]
Dickey’s poetry made him famous, the nation’s poet laureate. But Deliverance catapulted him into the stratosphere, where he was toasted all the way from The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in Hollywood to the presidential inauguration in 1977. For decades, the themes of the story had haunted the native Georgian. It started with canoe and hunting trips in the 1950s. “I love the woods and I love wild nature,” he said in a short studio documentary produced to accompany the film’s release. He envisioned a battle between man and nature in which man summons within himself courage he never knew he had.
Scientists find evidence of mathematical structures in classic books. [The Guardian] James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake has been described as many things, from a masterpiece to unreadable nonsense. But it is also, according to scientists at the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Poland, almost indistinguishable in its structure from a purely mathematical multifractal.
“The absolute record in terms of multifractality turned out to be Finnegans Wake by James Joyce. The results of our analysis of this text are virtually indistinguishable from ideal, purely mathematical multifractals,” said Professor Stanisław Drożdż, another author of the paper, which has just been published in the computer science journal Information Sciences.
Gay City News profiles Robert Woodworth, on his retirement after thirty-two years at New York’s LGBT Community Center.
The Great 2016 Book Preview [The Millions]
We think it’s safe to say last year was a big year for the book world. In addition to new titles by Harper Lee, Jonathan Franzen, and Lauren Groff, we got novels by Ottessa Moshfegh, Claire Vaye Watkins, and our own Garth Risk Hallberg. At this early stage, it already seems evident this year will keep up the pace. There’s a new Elizabeth Strout book, for one, and a new Annie Proulx; new novels by Don DeLillo, Curtis Sittenfeld, Richard Russo and Yann Martel; and much-hyped debut novels by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney and Callan Wink. There’s also a new book by Alexander Chee, and a new translation of Nobel Prize-winner Herta Müller. The books previewed here are all fiction. A non-fiction preview will follow next week. While there’s no such thing as a list that has everything, we feel certain this preview — at 8,600 words and 93 titles — is the only 2016 book preview you’ll need.[more inside]
Chad W. Post at Three Percent recently linked to World Literature Today's 75 Notable Translations of 2015 and went on a list-making tear to provide more structure and commentary: 7 books by women, 6 water-cooler fiction books, 6 university press books, 3 'funny' books, 4 books from underrepresented countries, and the best poetry I should read. The commentary often leads to further matters of interest, e.g. the Women in Translation Tumblr or Marianne Fritz and the translation challenges (scroll down) in her work.
An unexpected revival for the ‘bard of empire’. [The Guardian] ‘Vulgar rabble-rouser’, ‘rootless cosmopolitan’, ‘mouthpiece of the empire’ Rudyard Kipling has had his share of detractors. But, 150 years after his birth, interest in India’s greatest English-language writer is growing.
They are not alone. Kipling, the “bard of empire”, has always been difficult to place in the cultural pantheon. Britain, too, has done remarkably little to officially mark the sesquicentenary of its first winner (in 1907) of the Nobel prize for literature (and still the youngest ever from anywhere). Indian-born, yet British? We are already entering the muddy field of contradictions that sometimes bog down the reputation of this mild-mannered man. Yet it is these that make him uniquely appealing and that, belying top-level institutional indifference, are sparking an unexpected revival of interest in him, and in particular in his role as a commentator on the origins of an integrated global culture.[more inside]
Allegra Lab's recently published list of 30 essential books in cultural anthropology overlaps substantially with Ryan Sayre's earlier list, 100 influential ethnographies and anthropological texts, but neither provides many details. Angela Stuesse's Engaged Ethnography site provides an up-to-date list of politically-engaged ethnographies (etc.) with descriptions of what to expect, and the Staley Prize each year selects and describes a book at least two years old but not more than eight to recognize recent work of lasting interest. Incidentally, many books on these lists are available online. [more inside]
The Luttrell Psalter is a mid-14th century English illuminated manuscript containing a large number of illustrations of everyday life in medieval England. In 2008 the Psalter was adapted into a 20 minute short film for The Collection Museum in Lincoln, drawing on 35 scenes from the manuscript. There is also a blog describing the making of the film. [more inside]
Lolita Turns Sixty by Lolita Book Club [New Republic] Ten writers reconsider Nabokov’s novel, page by page.
Though Vladimir Nabokov was living in America when he wrote Lolita, the novel was first published in Paris in 1955—by Olympia Press, whose list included many pornographic titles. On the sixtieth anniversary of Lolita’s first publication, we asked ten writers to reflect on their changing experiences with the novel in the course of their reading lives. Each day for five days, we are posting two reflections, each revisiting a section of pages from the book—we are using Vintage’s 2005 edition, a complete, unexpurgated text.[more inside]
Librarians in Japan upset after newspaper published names of books that novelist Haruki Murakami checked out as a teenager from his high school library. [Los Angeles Times] [more inside]
Debate erupts as Hanya Yanagihara's editor takes on critic over bad review of A Little Life. [The Guardian] The editor of Hanya Yanagihara’s bestselling novel A Little Life has taken to the pages of the New York Review of Books to defend his author from a review that claimed the novel “duped” its readers “into confusing anguish and ecstasy, pleasure and pain”. [more inside]
Marlon James, winner of this year’s Man Booker prize, believes that writers of color are “pandering to the white woman.” [The Guardian]
The 2015 Man Booker prize winner Marlon James has slammed the publishing world, saying authors of colour too often “pander to white women” to sell books, and that he could have been published more often if he had written “middle-style prose and private ennui”.[more inside]
The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2015 The year’s notable fiction, poetry and nonfiction, selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review.
Betting Big on Literary Newcomers [The Wallstreet Journal] The publishing industry’s hunt for the next blockbuster has given rise to an elite new club: the million-dollar literary debut.
The need to secure one of the few must-read books of the year has given rise to an elite new club: the million-dollar literary debut. At least four literary debut novels planned for 2016 earned advances reported at $1 million or more, a number agents say is striking in the world of highbrow fiction. At least three such debuts were published this year, and two in 2014. “City on Fire,” by first-time novelist Garth Risk Hallberg, came out last month amid a flurry of publicity after receiving a nearly $2 million advance from Alfred A. Knopf, one of the largest ever for a literary debut.[more inside]
Shoemaking (the job of a cordwainer) is a very particular blend of artistry and science. Here are some masters at work: Emiko Matsuda at Foster & Son; artisans at Saint Crispin's; and at Paul Parkman. [more inside]
Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, The Art of Translation No. 4 [The Paris Review] [more inside]
Photojournalists put their lives on the line every day, after all, and a photograph is less likely to contain bias, right? "With his new photobook War Is Beautiful: The New York Times Pictorial Guide to the Glamour of Armed Conflict, David Shields is taking aim at what he characterizes as the “war porn” routinely seen on the front page of America’s most respected paper of record." [more inside]
Unpublished Charlotte Brontë story and poem discovered. [The Guardian]
The short story features a public flogging, embezzling from the Wesleyan chapel, and a “vicious” caricature of the Reverend John Winterbottom – a religious opponent of the children’s father. Winterbottom is “in the middle of the night dragged from his bed” and then “by the heels from one end of the village to the other”, writes Charlotte in the story. The poem features Mary Percy, the lovesick wife of the king of Angria Zamorna, and “one of the leading Angria characters”, said Dinsdale.[more inside]
The Novella Is Not The Novel’s Daughter: An Argument in Notes by Lindsey Drager [Michigan Quarterly Review] [more inside]
Frederick Douglass's Faith in Photography by Matthew Pratt Guterl [The New Republic] How the former slave and abolitionist became the most photographed man in America.
He wrote essays on the photograph and its majesty, posed for hundreds of different portraits, many of them endlessly copied and distributed around the United States. He was a theorist of the technology and a student of its social impact, one of the first to consider the fixed image as a public relations instrument. Indeed, the determined abolitionist believed fervently that he could represent the dignity of his race, inspiring others, and expanding the visual vocabulary of mass culture.[more inside]
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari - "The book delivers on its madly ambitious subtitle by in fact managing to cover key moments in the developmental history of humankind from the emergence of Homo Sapiens to today's developments in genetic engineering." Also btw, check out Harari on the myths we need to survive, re: fact/value distinctions and their interrelationships.
The Art of Witness by James Wood [The New Yorker] How Primo Levi survived.
“Primo Levi [wiki] did not consider it heroic to have survived eleven months in Auschwitz. Like other witnesses of the concentration camps, he lamented that the best had perished and the worst had survived. But we who have survived relatively little find it hard to believe him. How could it be anything but heroic to have entered Hell and not been swallowed up? To have witnessed it with such delicate lucidity, such reserves of irony and even equanimity? Our incomprehension and our admiration combine to simplify the writer into a needily sincere amalgam: hero, saint, witness, redeemer.”[more inside]
Over a hundred years after his death (it was supposed to be a hundred but you know how people can be), The Autobiography of Mark Twain has been released in its entirety (Volume One previously). [more inside]
Fruit of good labours. [Times Literary Supplement] Earliest known draft of King James Bible discovered by Jeffrey Alan Miller, assistant professor of English at Montclair State University in New Jersey.
The draft appears in a manuscript notebook formerly belonging to Samuel Ward (1572–1643), who was part of the team of seven men in Cambridge charged with translating the Apocrypha. At the time of his selection as a translator, probably in 1604, Ward was still a young Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. In 1610, though, he became Master of Sidney Sussex, a post he held until his death. Today, a trove of Ward’s notebooks and other manuscripts survive in the college’s archives, and among them is a small notebook now identified as MS Ward B.