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A Critical Library

What books should a critic own? "Each week, the National Book Critics Circle will post a list of five books a critic believes reviewers should have in their libraries." Here are all the lists, from 2007-2011. [more inside]
posted by thetortoise on Aug 29, 2015 - 14 comments

nothing I can do except die or, I suppose, retire and never write again.

Jonathan Franzen 'considered adopting Iraqi orphan to figure out young people'. [The Guardian]
In a setup that would not look out of place in fiction, Jonathan Franzen, the bestselling American novelist, has said he once considered adopting an Iraqi war orphan to help him understand young people better, but was persuaded against it by his editor. Franzen said he was in his late 40s at the time with a thriving career and a good relationship but he felt angry with the younger generation. “Oh, it was insane, the idea that Kathy [his partner] and I were going to adopt an Iraqi war orphan. The whole idea lasted maybe six weeks.”
[more inside]
posted by Fizz on Aug 21, 2015 - 98 comments

“'Come, we shall have some fun now!' thought Alice.”

A Mad Hatter’s Mashup Party: Reimagining Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with public domain and CC-licensed art. [Medium]
The Public Domain Review has invited a dozen Lewis Carroll experts to annotate a special version of the story with lots of fun trivia and facts about the book and its author. You’ll find their comments in the margin notes. We’ll be publishing two new annotated chapters here each week for the next six weeks.
[more inside]
posted by Fizz on Aug 20, 2015 - 13 comments

“Obama is the most bookish of modern residents of the White House,”

Mark Lawson Unpacks President Obama's Summer Reading Picks [The Guardian]
Barack Obama has reached the stage of his administration when plans are being made for the construction in Chicago of the Presidential library that former American leaders get to set up in their memory. But, before that, he – or his aides – have also had to think about a smaller library: the shelf of books that the American people are told their leader plans to read on his summer vacation.
[more inside]
posted by Fizz on Aug 14, 2015 - 44 comments

“This is the literature of Louisiana.”

Patter and Patois by Walter Mosley [New York Times] Walter Mosley writes about his relationship to the literature of Louisiana.
“Louisiana flowed in that blood and across those tongues. Louisiana — a state made famous by Walt Whitman and Tennessee Williams, Ernest Gaines and Arna Bontemps, Kate Chopin and Anne Rice. These writers, from many eras, races and genres, took the voices of the people and distilled them into the passionate, almost desperate, stories that opened readers to a new kind of suffering and exultation.”

posted by Fizz on Aug 8, 2015 - 1 comment

Why Straight Men Have Sex With Each Other

Dr. Jane Ward discusses her new book Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men with New York Magazine.
posted by Elementary Penguin on Aug 5, 2015 - 91 comments

“I write and that way rid myself of me and then at last I can rest.”

A Passion for the Void: Understanding Clarice Lispector’s Strange and Surreal Fiction. [The New Republic]
Plenty of writers inspire fierce devotion in their readers—the David Foster Wallace acolytes, with their duct-taped copies of Infinite Jest, come to mind, as do the smug objectivists dressed in tech-world casual who owe their entire world view to Ayn Rand. But no one converts the uninitiated into devout believers as suddenly and as vertiginously as Clarice Lispector, the Latin-American visionary, Ukranian-Jewish mystic, and middle-class housewife and mother so revered by her Brazilian fans that she's known by a single name: "Clarice."
[more inside]
posted by Fizz on Aug 5, 2015 - 8 comments

Poor Anne.

If this is a real picture of the Brontës, then I'm Heathcliff! [The Guardian] A collector is convinced that the £15 photograph he snapped up on eBay is of the Brontë sisters. It’s highly unlikely, but the story is a mark of our enduring fascination with the literary family. Plus, a Brontë Society expert gives her verdict. Could this be the only photograph of the three Brontë sisters? asked Seamus Molloy [Daily Mail], who picked the photograph up for 15 quid on eBay.
posted by Fizz on Jul 26, 2015 - 9 comments

“No, I haven’t read that yet, but it’s on my shelf.”

Paper Chasing by Jake Bittle On the subject of why we collect books as opposed to simply read them. [more inside]
posted by Fizz on Jul 11, 2015 - 128 comments

The Internet History Sourcebooks

The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted historical texts presented cleanly (without advertising or excessive layout) for educational use. The main sourcebooks cover ancient, medieval, and modern history. Subsidiary sourcebooks cover African, East Asian, Global, Indian, Islamic, Jewish, Lesbian and Gay, Science, and Women's history.
posted by jedicus on Jul 9, 2015 - 6 comments

📕

Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2015 Book Preview [The Millions]
If you like to read, we’ve got some news for you. The second-half of 2015 is straight-up, stunningly chock-full of amazing books. The list that follows isn’t exhaustive — no book preview could be — but, at 9,100 words strong and encompassing 82 titles, this is the only second-half 2015 book preview you will ever need. Scroll down and get started.
[more inside]
posted by Fizz on Jul 6, 2015 - 39 comments

Demons For Dummies Ca. 1775

"A selection of pages from an 18th-century demonology book comprised of more than 30 exquisite watercolours showing various demon figures, as well as magic and cabbalistic signs. The full Latin title of Compendium rarissimum totius Artis Magicae sistematisatae per celeberrimos Artis hujus Magistros, roughly translates to “A rare summary of the entire Magical Art by the most famous Masters of this Art”. With a title page adorned with skeletons and the warning of Noli me tangere (Do not touch me), one quickly gets a sense of the dark oddities lurking inside its pages." - The Public Domain Review presents illustrations from a 18th century guide to demons and demonology (NSFW illustrated nudity, snakes on bits.)
posted by The Whelk on Jun 30, 2015 - 29 comments

“One benefit of Summer was that each day we had more light to read by.”

Summer Reading Guide [LA Times]
Another summer, another chance to draw up the perfect reading list to see you through those languid, sun-drenched days. Whether you’re stretched out by the pool or nestled in a coffee shop, clutching a hardcover, paperback or e-book, we’ve got more than enough titles to keep you reading through Labor Day.
[more inside]
posted by Fizz on Jun 27, 2015 - 46 comments

“I was the only one who saw her for what she was ... a freak!”

JK Rowling reveals why the Dursleys dislike Harry Potter so much. [The Guardian]
Some readers, Rowling writes, “wanted more from Aunt Petunia during this farewell”. At the start of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry leaves his family behind for good - his cousin Dudley shakes his hand, his uncle Vernon roars “I thought we were on a tight schedule”, and his aunt gives him a final look. Rowling writes in the novel that “for a moment Harry had the strangest feeling that she wanted to say something to him: she gave him an odd, tremulous look and seemed to teeter on the edge of speech, but then, with a little jerk of her head, she bustled out of the room after her husband and son.”
Previously. [more inside]
posted by Fizz on Jun 25, 2015 - 183 comments

“The dreams are the skeleton of all reality.”

James Salter, a ‘Writer’s Writer’ Short on Sales but Long on Acclaim, Dies at 90 [New York Times]
James Salter, whose intimately detailed novels and short stories kept a small but devoted audience in his thrall for more than half a century, died on Friday in Sag Harbor, N.Y. He was 90. His wife, Kay Eldredge, confirmed his death, saying he had been at a physical therapy session. He lived in Bridgehampton, N.Y. Mr. Salter wrote slowly, exactingly and, by almost every critic’s estimation, beautifully. Michael Dirda once observed in The Washington Post that “he can, when he wants, break your heart with a sentence.”
Previously. Previously.
posted by Fizz on Jun 20, 2015 - 14 comments

“Come forth Lazarus! And he came fifth and lost the job.”

The Romantic True Story Behind James Joyce’s Bloomsday [TIME]
The day June 16, 1904, was a big one in the romantic life of Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of James Joyces’ Ulysses, at least inside his head. In celebration of that day, and Bloom’s fictional perambulations around Dublin during the course of it, James Joyce fans mark the date each year as “Bloomsday.” It is, as TIME explained in 1982, “a sacred date on the calendar of all Joyceans.”
[more inside]
posted by Fizz on Jun 16, 2015 - 22 comments

“It is a symbol of Irish art. The cracked lookingglass of a servant.”

Ulysses and Us by Declan Kiberd [Irish Times]
In some ways the fate of Ulysses reflects this openness, at least in the Dublin of today. It seems a work of high modernism, in the manner of a Proust or a Musil, yet it has become a signature element in the life of the city in which it is set. Each year hundreds, maybe thousands, dress as characters from the book – Stephen Dedalus with his cane, Leopold Bloom with bowler hat, Molly Bloom in her petticoats, Blazes Boylan in straw boater – as if to assert their willingness to become one with the text. They re-enact scenes on Eccles Street, on Ormond Quay and in the martello tower in Sandycove. It is impossible to imagine any other masterpiece of modernism having quite such an effect on the life of a city.
[more inside]
posted by Fizz on Jun 13, 2015 - 22 comments

“They are sacred to dad.”

Terry Pratchett's daughter declares The Shepherd's Crown will be the last Discworld novel. [The Guardian] [Books]
Terry Pratchett’s daughter Rhianna has brought down the curtain on her father’s Discworld novels, declaring that she will not write any more herself, nor give anyone else permission to do so. The comic novels set in a world balanced on the backs of four elephants standing on a giant turtle are “sacred to dad”, she said. The author, videogame and comics writer told a fan last week that her late father’s forthcoming novel, The Shepherd’s Crown, featuring teenage witch Tiffany Aching, would be the final Discworld book. And asked by a fan if she would be continuing the series herself, she ruled out the possibility. “No. I’ll work on adaptations, spin-offs, maybe tie-ins, but the books are sacred to dad,” she wrote on Twitter. “That’s it. Discworld is his legacy. I shall make my own.” She added: “To reiterate – no I don’t intend on writing more Discworld novels, or giving anyone else permission to do so.”
[more inside]
posted by Fizz on Jun 12, 2015 - 63 comments

Frantumaglia

Elena Ferrante, the author of the Neapolitan Novels, discusses how she shapes her stories, her characters, and her decision to remain out of the public eye
posted by PussKillian on Jun 10, 2015 - 9 comments

“Where they fall, there is no one to take note of and report.”

First Wave at Omaha Beach On June 6, 1944, the Allies invaded occupied France. S. L. A. Marshall Nov. 1, 1960 [The Atlantic]
When he was promoted to officer rank at eighteen, S. L. A. Marshall was the youngest shavetail in the United States Army during World War I. He rejoined the Army in 1942, became a combat historian with the rank of colonel; and the notes he made at the time of the Normandy landing are the source of this heroic reminder. Readers will remember his frank and ennobling book about Korea, The River and the Gauntlet, which was the result of still a third tour of duty.

posted by Fizz on Jun 6, 2015 - 24 comments

“...the crisis of American fiction is that there are no women in it.”

"Let’s have a year of publishing only women." ~ Kamila Shamsie [The Guardian] [Books]
It is clear that there is a gender bias in publishing houses and the world of books. Well, enough. Why not try something radical? Make 2018 the Year of Publishing Women, in which no new titles should be by men.
[more inside]
posted by Fizz on Jun 5, 2015 - 93 comments

/vərˈbōs/

From plitter to drabbletail: a few writers choose the words they love. [The Guardian] [Books]
Dialect terms such as yokeymajig or whiffle-whaffle; all-time favourites like cochineal, clot or eschew; antiquated phrases such as ‘playing the giddy ox’ … leading writers on the words they cherish.
[more inside]
posted by Fizz on May 29, 2015 - 32 comments

“It's about this little girl who finds a little kitten.”

Experimental writer Mark Z. Danielewski discusses his newest project, which he says is as energizing as it is terrifying. [Kirkus Reviews]
"Mark Z. Danielewski knows he’s embarking on a journey as unlikely as it is impressive. “On one hand it’s ridiculously ambitious,” Danielewski says. “But, on the other, maybe it’s just a little more transparent about an ambition that many people have in their profession.” Danielewski, almost certainly America’s most renowned and popular experimental writer, is already known for exploring and expanding the novel’s outer edges. Yet his newest project is an undertaking that will take him years, even decades, to complete. One Rainy Day in May is the first volume of The Familiar, a project slated to fill an epic 27 volumes. That’s right, 27 volumes.
[more inside]
posted by Fizz on May 13, 2015 - 57 comments

Golden Meaning

Graphic artists depict the golden ratio – in pictures [more inside]
posted by chavenet on Apr 14, 2015 - 28 comments

That dystopian fiction need not be confined to the developed world.

"Why the hero of my YA dystopian novel had to be an angry young Indian girl." [Guardian Books]
Laxmi Hariharan challenges the domination of dystopian western worlds in teen novels, why not a dystopian Asia or Latin America? And how it’s time for the stereotype-busting Angry Young (Indian) Girl to claim centre-stage.

posted by Fizz on Apr 6, 2015 - 25 comments

Once upon a time, there was a building full of books...

In cash-strapped Philly school district, a hidden treasure trove of books
posted by Blue Jello Elf on Mar 19, 2015 - 19 comments

“...characters arise out of our need for them.”

From Jamaica to Minnesota to Myself by Marlon James [New York Times] [more inside]
posted by Fizz on Mar 10, 2015 - 5 comments

The Book of Life

After a year, The Philosophers' Mail (previously) has concluded its project. But fret not: it has been succeeded by The Book of Life, a continuously updated online book that "aims to be the curation of the best and most helpful ideas in the area of emotional life."
posted by jedicus on Mar 1, 2015 - 4 comments

An Answer to the Novel’s Detractors

"The world exists. Why recreate it?" Adelle Waldman explains why.
posted by shivohum on Feb 21, 2015 - 28 comments

> > > >

Random House announced today that a never-before-published Dr. Seuss book titled What Pet Should I Get? will appear on bookshelves this July. The book, a spinoff of Seuss’s One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, centers on two young children attempting to choose a pet. Seuss’s widow, Audrey Geisel, discovered the manuscript in 2013. RH said that two or more books derived from the found work will be released, as well, with publication information to follow.
posted by Fizz on Feb 20, 2015 - 46 comments

WK Fine Tools Library

WK Fine Tools is an internet magazine devoted to traditional and fine woodworking. The site also maintains curated collections of downloadable woodworking books and tool catalogs and manuals. [more inside]
posted by jedicus on Feb 15, 2015 - 14 comments

25,000 Transcribed Texts From 1473-1700 Published Online

The University of Michigan Library, the University of Oxford's Bodleian Libraries and ProQuest have made public more than 25,000 manually transcribed texts from 1473-1700 — the first 200 years of the printed book. Full text access. Multiple format downloads, including ePUB. Or just download the entire corpus. [more inside]
posted by Bobby Rijndael on Jan 28, 2015 - 34 comments

“Let’s ask, in the 21st century, are there limits to free speech?”

UK should consider ban on Mein Kampf, says Scottish Labour MP [The Guardian]
Ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day, Scottish Labour MP Thomas Docherty has written to culture secretary urging a ‘sensitive debate’ on allowing its sale.

posted by Fizz on Jan 26, 2015 - 99 comments

"It’s hard to stay away from religion when you mess with acid."

Robert Stone, Novelist of the Vietnam Era and Beyond, Dies at 77 [New York Times]
"Robert Stone, who wrote ambitious, award-winning novels about errant Americans in dangerous circumstances or on existential quests — or both — as commentary on an unruly, wayward nation in the Vietnam era and beyond, died on Saturday at his home in Key West, Fla. He was 77.
[more inside]
posted by Fizz on Jan 12, 2015 - 17 comments

"discard anything that doesn’t spark joy"

De-cluttering your house with love: "Marie Kondo has built a huge following in her native Japan with her “KonMari” method of organizing and de-cluttering. Clients perform a sort of tidying-up festival: time set aside specifically to go through belongings. Each object is picked up and held, and the client needs to decide if it inspires joy. If it doesn’t, it needs to go." [more inside]
posted by flex on Jan 11, 2015 - 143 comments

My Book, The Movie

They would ask me what actors I saw in the roles. I would tell them, and they’d say “Oh that’s interesting.” And that would be the end of it. --Elmore Leonard, in 2000, on the extent of his input for Hollywood's adaptation of his novels
For authorial input on film adaptation, try My Book The Movie, by Marshall Zeringue, also of The Campaign for the American Reader, the page 69 test (previously), and the page 99 test. [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Dec 29, 2014 - 6 comments

Nothing new under the sun

So how did medieval readers locate books, especially when they owned a lot of them? The answer lies in a neat trick that resembles our modern GPS : a book was tagged with a unique identifier (a shelfmark) that was entered into a searchable database (a library catalogue), which could subsequently be consulted with a handheld device (a portable version of the catalogue). Here is how to plot the route to a specific book in the medieval library.
[more inside]
posted by infini on Dec 13, 2014 - 18 comments

The crash team entering the delivery room was the first sign

The specialists began to use terms such as "quality of life" to describe all the things she was likely to be without. My husband, Michael, realized it was going to be nearly impossible to pry me away from her bedside. He asked what he could bring me from home: a change of clothes, sweater, food, or something to read? I asked him to bring me anything by Anne McCaffrey.
"Changes Without Notice" is one reader's personal essay about discovering a book at just the right moment. An afterword in Dragonwriter says a little more about how things turned out. [Via and previously.]
posted by Monsieur Caution on Dec 5, 2014 - 12 comments

“If you can read you can cook. You can always feed yourselves..."

Kent Haruf, ‘a great writer and a great man’, dies aged 71 [The Guardian]
"Pan Macmillan, Haruf’s UK publisher, said that the novelist died on Sunday 30 November, praising his “beautifully restrained, profoundly felt novels” which it said “reflected a man of integrity, honesty and deep thoughtfulness”."

posted by Fizz on Dec 2, 2014 - 5 comments

For John Dillinger

William S. Burroughs’ “The Thanksgiving Prayer,” Shot by Gus Van Sant [YouTube]
“Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 1986” first appeared in print in Tornado Alley, a chapbook published by William S. Burroughs in 1989. Two years later, Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting, My Own Private Idaho, Milk) shot a montage that brought the poem to film, making it at least the second time the director adapted the beat writer to film.
[more inside]
posted by Fizz on Nov 26, 2014 - 14 comments

An internet of firsts, some of them still online

The Webpage FX blog compiled a list of 13 internet "firsts," from the first email sent (1971) and the first spam, sent out to 400 people (1978), to the first photo posted online (1992) and much later, the first Instagram photo, (2010).
posted by filthy light thief on Oct 28, 2014 - 20 comments

Far beyond "every good boy does fine"

Music Theory for Musicians and Normal People Toby W. Rush's "Music Theory for Musicians and Normal People" covers a massive range of topics like pitch, rhythm, scales, intervals, and harmonics. The online book itself is arranged as a collection of about 50 PDFs that offer diagrams, notes, and tips for everything music theory related. [more inside]
posted by Lexica on Oct 23, 2014 - 26 comments

An enthusiastic public reading journal.....

In Praise of Anne Rice's Amazon Reviews
posted by The Whelk on Oct 19, 2014 - 30 comments

"Once there was a tree . . . "

‘The Giving Tree’: Tender Story of Unconditional Love or Disturbing Tale of Selfishness?
Anna Holmes and Rivka Galchen reconsider Shel Silverstein’s classic, published 50 years ago.

posted by Fizz on Oct 6, 2014 - 130 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

The Short And Tragic Life Of Robert Peace

"On a May night in 2011, a man was murdered — shot — in a basement just outside Newark, N.J. Cash and marijuana were found at the scene...Robert Peace, a 30-year-old African-American, was a Yale University graduate and an almost straight-A student in molecular biophysics and biochemistry. He also dealt marijuana." (slNPR)
posted by d. z. wang on Sep 24, 2014 - 25 comments

"How to Keep Your Cat, c. 1470"

If you have a good cat and you don't want to lose it, you must rub its nose and four legs with butter for three days, and it will never leave the house. [more inside]
posted by Quietgal on Sep 13, 2014 - 63 comments

Let’s talk about margins

We’re making a book. The margins are important. Do you know how important? [SLMed]
posted by infini on Sep 12, 2014 - 43 comments

Like taking a cold bath with someone you dislike

Reviews of classic books, culled from the internet's think tank.
posted by Too-Ticky on Aug 22, 2014 - 64 comments

You're gonna need a bigger haringbuis.

Selected pages from Adriaen Coenen's Visboek, an illustrated guide to the strange and wonderful world of fish. No sixteenth-century mariner should leave shore without it. The National Library of the Netherlands has the complete book, with commentary.
posted by prize bull octorok on Aug 13, 2014 - 8 comments

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