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.
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Ladybird books, eight new titles are being produced. However these are targeted at adults, and may not be entirely serious in nature... [more inside]
The Wheel of Time Reread by Leigh Butler [TOR.COM]
Hello! Welcome to the introductory post of a new blog series on Tor.com, The Wheel of Time Re-read. This is in preparation for the publication of the next and last book in the series, A Memory of Light, which is[more inside]
scheduled to bepublished this fall. My name is Leigh Butler, and I’ll be your hostess for the festivities. I’m very excited to be a part of this project, and I hope you will enjoy it as well.
The Scotiabank Giller Prize presents its 2015 shortlist. The five titles were chosen from a longlist of 12 books announced on September 9, 2015. One hundred and sixty-eight titles were submitted by 63 publishers from every region of the country. [more inside]
Why Five Friends Stopped Watching the NFL and Started a Book Club
Instead of watching the NFL, we’re launching Football Book Club. And you know what: No one ever got concussed reading The Goldfinch. No one ever suffered a career-ending cervical spine injury curling up with his Kindle. No one’s mind was every slowly destroyed by books — the effect is really quite the opposite — despite what some social conservatives would have you believe. And, best of all: There is no way Roger Goodell can ruin this — he’s not even invited. Every week, we’re exchanging one love for another: Instead of turning on the TV, we’ll read a new book — great works of fiction and nonfiction, poetry and graphic novels — and then we’ll share our thoughts about the current title and what our lives are like without the NFL.[more inside]
Jackie Collins, Novelist Who Wrote of Hollywood’s Glamorous Side, Dies at 77 [New York Times]
Jackie Collins, the best-selling British-born author known for her vibrant novels about the extravagance and glamour of life in Hollywood, died on Saturday in Los Angeles. She was 77. The cause was breast cancer, her family said in a statement.
The Most Misread Poem in America by David Orr [The Paris Review]
“And almost everyone gets it wrong. This is the most remarkable thing about “The Road Not Taken”—not its immense popularity (which is remarkable enough), but the fact that it is popular for what seem to be the wrong reasons. [...] Frost’s poem turns this expectation on its head. Most readers consider “The Road Not Taken” to be a paean to triumphant self-assertion (“I took the one less traveled by”), but the literal meaning of the poem’s own lines seems completely at odds with this interpretation. The poem’s speaker tells us he “shall be telling,” at some point in the future, of how he took the road less traveled by, yet he has already admitted that the two paths “equally lay / In leaves” and “the passing there / Had worn them really about the same.” So the road he will later call less traveled is actually the road equally traveled. The two roads are interchangeable.”[more inside]
A profile on Michel Houellebecq. [The Guardian] [Books]
“It’s not my role to be responsible. I don’t feel responsible,” he says. “The role of a novel is to entertain readers, and fear is one of the most entertaining things there is.” To him, the fear in Submission comes in the dark violence at the novel’s start, before the moderate Islamist party comes to power. Was he deliberately playing on a mood of fear in France? “Yes, I plead guilty,” he says. For Houellebecq, the job of a novelist is foremost to hold a mirror up to contemporary society.[more inside]
In the years preceding World War II, news outlets from home magazines to the New York Times ran profiles of the Nazi leader that portrayed him as a country gentleman — a man who ate vegetarian, played catch with his dogs and took post-meal strolls outside his mountain estate. These articles were often admiring — even after the horrors of the Nazi regime had begun to reveal themselves, says Despina Stratigakos, an architectural historian at the University at Buffalo. Her new book, “Hitler at Home,” will be published Sept. 29 by Yale University Press... She notes that while many historians have dismissed Hitler’s personal life as irrelevant, his private persona was in fact painstakingly constructed to further his political ends.How media ‘fluff’ helped Hitler rise to power [more inside]
The Mysterious, Anonymous Author Elena Ferrante on the Conclusion of Her Neapolitan Novels [Vanity Fair]
Passions run high when you’re talking about Elena Ferrante and her work, particularly her sensational, highly addictive Neapolitan novels, which paint a portrait of a consuming female friendship against the backdrop of social and political upheaval in Italy from the 1950s to the present day. My Brilliant Friend,The Story of a New Name, and Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay have made Ferrante, an enigmatic figure who writes under a pseudonym, and is widely regarded as the best contemporary novelist you’ve never heard of, a worldwide sensation.[more inside]
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]
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]
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]
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]
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.”
Dr. Jane Ward discusses her new book Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men with New York Magazine.
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]
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.
Paper Chasing by Jake Bittle On the subject of why we collect books as opposed to simply read them. [more inside]
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.