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Go Ahead and Judge These Book Covers

A regular feature on this site used to be the mocking of the latest covers from Tutis, clueless pumpers-out of public domain books with wildly inappropriate covers [...] But, sadly, their utter incompetence seems to have contributed to them going out of business, and for a long time the world of book design was a colder, darker, less colourful place. But this morning my attention was drawn towards a new land of delights: the catalogue of Read Monkey, via this delightful cover, which suggests Dostoyevsky's grim classic is the tale of a couple of knockabout, clean-cut Irish lads getting up to a few harmless japes. Aww, bless. You might think this is as off-key as a cover could get. You would be wrong. Behold, Read Monkey's finest...
posted by cgc373 on Dec 28, 2015 - 46 comments

“Fiction is Truth's elder sister.”

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] posted by Fizz on Dec 26, 2015 - 90 comments

A family of nudists like this can scare a whole parish out of its wits.

An ABZ of Love [NSFW], or, Inge and Sten Hegeler's bewitchingly illustrated 1963 book that Kurt Vonnegut told his wife to read, "[if] you are as interested in sex as you say you are." [more inside]
posted by nightrecordings on Dec 24, 2015 - 3 comments

Essential, influential, and recommended texts in cultural anthropology

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]
posted by Wobbuffet on Dec 22, 2015 - 9 comments

The Luttrell Psalter Film

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]
posted by jedicus on Dec 21, 2015 - 4 comments

“Words without experience are meaningless.”

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] posted by Fizz on Dec 16, 2015 - 63 comments

In my dreams, I was inventing literature

Gabriel García Márquez began writing Cien Años de Soledad—One Hundred Years of Solitude—a half-century ago, finishing in late 1966. The novel came off the press in Buenos Aires on May 30, 1967, two days before Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released, and the response among Spanish-language readers was akin to Beatlemania: crowds, cameras, exclamation points, a sense of a new era beginning. In 1970 the book appeared in English, followed by a paperback edition with a burning sun on its cover, which became a totem of the decade. By the time García Márquez was awarded the Nobel Prize, in 1982, the novel was considered the Don Quixote of the Global South, proof of Latin-American literary prowess. [...] How is it that this novel could be sexy, entertaining, experimental, politically radical, and wildly popular all at once? Its success was no sure thing, and the story of how it came about is a crucial and little-known chapter in the literary history of the last half-century.
The Secret History of One Hundred Years of Solitude
posted by shakespeherian on Dec 13, 2015 - 12 comments

Is that a doorstop or are you happy to read me?

Are books getting longer? A new survey says yes. One of the factors cited in increasing book length is the availability of short digital content, such as Kindle Singles or Serial Box (serial SFF). But many of those digital books are going unread after purchase. Meanwhile, the rise of e-books is costing jobs: warehouse jobs.
posted by immlass on Dec 11, 2015 - 29 comments

NPR’s Book Concierge

Once again, NPR has organized their list of the year's best books into the Book Concierge, a recommendation engine with 29 categories - everything from It's All Geek to Me to The Dark Side to Eye-Opening Reads - available to mix, match, and sort.
posted by everybody had matching towels on Dec 8, 2015 - 11 comments

“It is not right if people cannot use a library free from anxiety.”

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]
posted by Fizz on Dec 5, 2015 - 21 comments

“...things get broken, and sometimes they get repaired,”

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]
posted by Fizz on Dec 4, 2015 - 30 comments

When Popular Fiction Isn't Popular

Genre, Literary, and the Myths of Popularity: The massively popular books are very rarely among the best, whether shelved as “genre” or as “literary.” Want to know what the best-selling book of the year has been? Go Set a Watchmen, a cash-grab novel that many have argued was unethical to even publish. The second? Grey, another cash-grab where E. L. James rewrote 50 Shades from a male point of view. (And, yes, Hollywood “reboot” culture is absolutely coming to the literary world in the near future. I mean, hey, it’s popular.) (Lincoln Michel for Electric Lit) [more inside]
posted by frumiousb on Dec 3, 2015 - 24 comments

“Everyone knows what a New Yorker story will look like.”

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] posted by Fizz on Dec 1, 2015 - 68 comments

“Why can't people just sit and read books and be nice to each other?”

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.
posted by Fizz on Nov 27, 2015 - 27 comments

“Some books are clearly disappointing, however.”

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] posted by Fizz on Nov 26, 2015 - 26 comments

Making Shoes by Hand

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]
posted by jedicus on Nov 24, 2015 - 12 comments

“We actually met because of Russian literature.”

Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, The Art of Translation No. 4 [The Paris Review] [more inside]
posted by Fizz on Nov 21, 2015 - 20 comments

Literature of the Strange

The 10 Best Genre-Bending Books - PublishersWeekly
20 Strange and Wonderful Books - cartania.com
10 Ultra-Weird Science Fiction Novels that Became Required Reading - io9
10 Weirdest Science Fiction Novels That You've Never Read - also io9
China Miéville's top 10 weird fiction books - The Guardian
The Weird: An Introduction - Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, Weird Fiction Review
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Nov 14, 2015 - 53 comments

“Thou dids’t not know my gaze was fixed on thee,”

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] posted by Fizz on Nov 12, 2015 - 7 comments

“...the novella is not an immature or effeminate novel.”

The Novella Is Not The Novel’s Daughter: An Argument in Notes by Lindsey Drager [Michigan Quarterly Review] [more inside]
posted by Fizz on Nov 10, 2015 - 37 comments

“the few comprehend a principle, the many require an illustration.”

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] posted by Fizz on Nov 8, 2015 - 4 comments

Hell—Nothing Less—And Without End

“The uprising,” we told each other immediately, like everyone else in Warsaw. [more inside]
posted by hat_eater on Nov 3, 2015 - 3 comments

“The aims of life are the best defense against death.”

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] posted by Fizz on Nov 2, 2015 - 8 comments

I'd buy that for a penny!

The business of selling second-hand books on Amazon for one cent.
posted by fearfulsymmetry on Nov 1, 2015 - 30 comments

Best Books To Read For Halloween!

"These are books that should get the essence of Halloween going and give people a sure scare!" Goodreads' list of 536 books to get your fright on.
posted by valkane on Oct 28, 2015 - 16 comments

Anthropodermic Bibliopegy

The Macabre Practice of Binding Books in Human Skin: Whether a reminder of mortality, a strange souvenir, or a punishment for a crime, the impetuses behind anthropodermic bibliopegy are as varied as the lives of their skin donors.
posted by frumiousb on Oct 26, 2015 - 21 comments

Ever the Twain shall meet

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]
posted by BiggerJ on Oct 22, 2015 - 9 comments

At once deeply religious and fastidiously superstitious

In preparation for the upcoming exhibition Scholar, courtier, magician: The lost library of John Dee at the Royal College of Physicians (January 2016), the RCP museum's twitter has posted some gifs showing details from some of the books that will be on display for the first time. [more inside]
posted by halcyonday on Oct 22, 2015 - 14 comments

Perhaps she even wiggled her toes, just like Pippi.

Who was the woman behind Pippi Longstocking? Freshly released wartime diaries along with a new biography reveal Astrid Lindgren, author of some of the world's most beloved children's literature, to be as radical and determined as her best-known character.
posted by ellieBOA on Oct 22, 2015 - 21 comments

I Like Big Books And I Cannot Lie

You think City on Fire is big? A reading list of really, really big books.
posted by janey47 on Oct 21, 2015 - 99 comments

The master of slow-burning action.

"There’s a long and noble tradition of literary critics misunderstanding Joseph Conrad. Partly that’s because he is such a complicated, dense and fascinating writer. Far more words have been written about him than he ever wrote himself – and not everyone can get it right all the time. Especially when you throw combustible postcolonial issues into the mix." [Sam Jordison - The Guardian] [more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Oct 14, 2015 - 34 comments

Where do you find out about Russian criminals?

Librarian Edith Edi Campbell posted to her Facebook page about “Large Fears,” a Kickstarter-funded children’s book for queer black boys, “I would say there are so few books for queer black boys, but there are too few books for all our marginalized young people.” Children’s writer Meg Rosoff responded: “There are not too few books for marginalised young people. There are hundreds of them, thousands of them. You don’t have to read about a queer black boy to read a book about a marginalised child. The children’s book world is getting far too literal about what ‘needs’ to be represented. You don’t read Crime and Punishment to find out about Russian criminals. Or Alice and Wonderland to know about rabbits. Good literature expands your mind. It doesn’t have the ‘job’ of being a mirror.” [more inside]
posted by touchstone033 on Oct 13, 2015 - 48 comments

“I made it a point to live with all the guys I admire."

Guillermo del Toro’s House of Horrors [SLNYT]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Oct 11, 2015 - 19 comments

“The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass....”

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 scheduled to be published 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.
[more inside] posted by Fizz on Oct 11, 2015 - 31 comments

Governor General's Literary Awards

The finalists for Canada's Governor General's Literary Awards have been announced. Winners to be announced Oct. 28. Categories, as usual, are fiction, poetry, drama, non-fiction, children's literature (text and illustrated), and translation.
posted by anothermug on Oct 10, 2015 - 0 comments

What's the frequency, kid?

A Highly Irregular Children’s Story: David Gates reviews The Slightly Irregular Fire Engine, a children's book by Donald Barthelme. [Virginia Quarterly Review, Spring 1976]
posted by Lorin on Oct 9, 2015 - 5 comments

"This is the guy you’ve been talking about in all those pages."

Jason Baca has been the cover model for over 400 romance novels. What is his life like? "Things get a little weird" he admits. [more inside]
posted by jessamyn on Oct 9, 2015 - 136 comments

The winner will be revealed on November 10.

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]
posted by Fizz on Oct 8, 2015 - 7 comments

Novel geography

The Map of Literature. Martin Vargic, creator of the Map of the Internet 1.0, has created an insanely detailed "National Geographic" map of Literature, where "Jurassic Park is located between 1984 and Clear and Present Danger on the continent of Thrillers, a stone's throw away from H.G. Wells's War of the Worlds." [more inside]
posted by storybored on Oct 6, 2015 - 6 comments

Hail to the Pencil Pusher

Hail to the Pencil Pusher — American Bureaucracy's Long and Useful History [more inside]
posted by tonycpsu on Oct 5, 2015 - 25 comments

A ponderous, scholastic joke

On the Nature of Things Humanity Was Not Meant to Know: Cosma Shalizi considers Lucretius' De Rerum Natura ('On the Nature of Things') as a "real-life Necronomicon, a book full of things humanity was not meant to know."
posted by kliuless on Oct 4, 2015 - 9 comments

OCLC consciously uncouples from catalog cards

On September 30th, OCLC ended support for Accessions List and Catalog Cards. What does this mean? It means they will no longer be supplying such cards to libraries, special collections and information filers. Partially filling the gap are suppliers of blank cards e.g. [1] [2] [3]. Also, books about cards.
posted by Wordshore on Oct 1, 2015 - 28 comments

“The football was never the problem. The problem is everything else.”

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] posted by Fizz on Sep 30, 2015 - 80 comments

"Reading is cool and so are you!"

For nine seasons, (1995-2004) comedienne and actress Kathy Kinney played Mimi Bobeck, the "outrageously made-up, flamboyantly vulgar, and vindictive nemesis" of Drew Carey on the sitcom The Drew Carey Show. Lately, she's been busy with a new role: professional children's storyteller. Welcome to Mrs. P's Magic Library. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Sep 29, 2015 - 10 comments

Banned Book Week is a Crock...?

Ruth Graham, in a Slate piece entitled, Banned Books Week is a Crock, argued that censorship is no longer a problem in the United States. Censorship laws are nearly extinct, and if your local library doesn't have the book...well, you can always find it online. "This Banned Books Week," writes Graham, "instead of hand-wringing about a nonexistent wave of censorship, let’s celebrate the obvious: The books won." But have they? [more inside]
posted by touchstone033 on Sep 29, 2015 - 94 comments

Beware the novelist . . . intimate and indiscreet

Morrissey’s debut novel List of the Lost is published today. The author has explained that “The theme is demonology … the left-handed path of black magic. It is about a sports relay team in 1970s America who accidentally kill a wretch who, in esoteric language, might be known as a Fetch … a discarnate entity in physical form.” The initial reviews have not been kind: “an unpolished turd of a book” reckons Michael Hann at The Guardian; “a bizarre misogynistic ramble” opines Nico Hines of The Daily Beast. [more inside]
posted by misteraitch on Sep 24, 2015 - 101 comments

As Far Back As I Can Remember I Always Wanted To Be A Gangster

Goodfellas turned Wiseguy’s simple prose into cinematic gold [more inside]
posted by poffin boffin on Sep 22, 2015 - 24 comments

“First lust, then love.”

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.
posted by Fizz on Sep 20, 2015 - 27 comments

Winners will be announced in New York City on November 18.

2015 National Book Award Longlists Released [The Millions] [more inside]
posted by Fizz on Sep 17, 2015 - 16 comments

“the best example in all of American poetry of a wolf in sheep’s cloth”

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] posted by Fizz on Sep 12, 2015 - 71 comments

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