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]
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]
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]
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]
Chuck Wendig, author of the new Star Wars novel Aftermath, has told fans who have objected to his inclusion of a gay character that “You’re not the good guys ... You’re the shitty, oppressive, totalitarian Empire.” [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]
It’s an all-girl supergroup like no other: Pretenders leader Chrissie Hynde, Jamaican-born singer Grace Jones, Sleater-Kinney guitarist and “Portlandia” star Carrie Brownstein, folkie Jewel, punk poet Patti Smith and 1970s icon Carly Simon. Only these women aren’t reviving Lilith Fair. They’re part of the latest trend in book publishing. In a genre once wholly dominated by male rockers, female musicians are now finding their voices — and their book deals.
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]
"Here are some books that will not only make you want to quit doing the thing that is killing you, but also offer an interesting narrative structure for writers because they flout the conventional hero journey template. Instead of a reluctant hero emerging from an ordinary world to delve into the tricky landscape of magic and tests, these heroes begin in chaos and emerge from the grungy ashes of last call and plunge into sober, or at least peaceful, life earned by one’s ability to overcome hurdles associated with addiction." (Antonia Crane at Electric Literature) [more inside]
Our books lived, were killed, and reborn, and released. They were donated, organized, cataloged, seized, destroyed, saved, and became testimony, evidence, burden, and discarded. The Dregs of the Library: Trashing the Occupy Wall Street 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]
The 51 Best Fantasy Series Ever Written [Buzzfeed]
Whether you’re a Swords and Sorcery type of fantasy reader, a fan of battles and betrayal, or you just want a few more goddamn elves in your life, there’s something for you here. These are the truly great fantasy series written in the last 50 years.
All over America, people have put small "give one, take one" book exchanges in front of their homes. Then they were told to tear them down.
Living in the Age of Permawar by Mohsin Hamid [The Guardian]
You see from your nook that humanity is afflicted by a great mass murderer about whom we are encouraged not to speak. The name of that murderer is Death. Death comes for everyone. Sometimes Death will pick out a newborn still wet from her aquatic life in her mother’s womb. Sometime Death will pick out a man with the muscles of a superhero, pick him out in repose, perhaps, or in his moment of maximum exertion, when his thighs and shoulders are trembling and he feels most alive. Sometimes Death will pick singly. Sometimes Death will pick by the planeload. Sometimes Death picks the young, sometimes the old, and sometimes Death has an appetite for the in-between. You feel it is strange that humanity does not come together to face this killer, like a silver-flashing baitball of 7 billion fish aware of being hunted by a titanic and ravenous shark. Instead, humanity scatters. We face our killer alone, or in families, or in towns or cities or tribes or countries. But never all together.
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]
You’ve decided on a life of letters. You’ve got that manuscript you workshopped getting your MFA, an agent, and a publisher. Congratulations! You’re well on your way to being a critical darling. Now all you need is a catchy title. Lucky for you, this handy guide will help you title your book, and every book you write in your illustrious career. Janet Potter (previously) at The Millions (previously)
Dutch newspaper uses n-word in headline of review of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s new book On July 31, the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad published a review of several books on race and racism in the United States. The series, written by the paper’s Washington correspondent Guus Valk, leads with a review of Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates’s latest book, “Between the World And Me.” Somewhere along the editorial process, the editors thought it would be a good idea to headline the article, “Nigger, Are You Crazy?” (Washington Post) [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]
From A Curious Hieroglyphick Bible to Our Bodies, Ourselves. In 2012 the United States Library of Congress held an exhibition on what it saw as the most influential books in American history. (via) [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.”
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]
"When women win literary awards for fiction it’s usually for writing from a male perspective and/or about men. The more prestigious the award, the more likely the subject of the narrative will be male. I analysed the last 15 years’ results for half a dozen book-length fiction awards: Pulitzer Prize, Man Booker Prize, National Book Award, National Book Critics’ Circle Award, Hugo Award, and Newbery Medal." Nicola Griffith notes the absence of stories about women from prize-winning novels--even when those novels are written by women. The Seattle Review of Books adds an interview with Griffith on the writing and aftermath of her original blog post.
The Man Booker Prize Longlist has been announced! This year, it includes more US authors than Brits (per country breakdown), the first Jamaican nominee and three first-time authors. [more inside]
"Maybe the story is the difference between the writers on the panels and the writers in the audience. That story is the creation of a celebrity class. That story is the fine line between jealousy and envy: I want everything you have versus I want everything I can have. Or is the story simply vanity?" Choire Sicha of the Awl reports on (and attempts to schmooze through) the two-day New Yorker literary festival
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.
The Best Books of 2015 (So Far) By Christian Lorentzen at Vulture. "These ten stand out as having made an especially remarkable impression on the past half-year." [more inside]
Obsessively Detailed Map of American Literature's Most Epic Road Trips
"The...map is the result of a painstaking and admittedly quixotic effort to catalog the country as it has been described in the American road-tripping literature. It includes every place-name reference in 12 books about cross-country travel...and maps the authors' routes on top of one another. You can track an individual writer's descriptions of the landscape as they traveled across it, or you can zoom in to see how different authors have written about the same place at different times."[more inside]
From Steinbeck to Cervantes: Confessing Our Literary Gaps by Sarah Galo, Elon Green [Hazlitt] Authors, journalists, and assorted literary stalwarts tell us why they’ve missed the famous books they’ve missed. [more inside]
Books in the films of Wes Anderson - a video essay.
The Book Graphics blog collects thousands of gorgeous covers and illustrations, with special emphases on Russian artists, fairy tales, and antiquarian books.
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.
Ernest Cline’s Armada is everything wrong with gaming culture wrapped up in one soon-to-be–best-selling novel
Authors as breakfast cereal mascots by Kate Gavino, creator of last night's reading, which is a collection of drawings and quotes from readings she attends in New York.
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]
"Although it has been said that every person is the hero of their own life story, it is more accurate to say that every person is the underdog of their own life story." Why southern gothic rules the world [SLGuardian], MO Walsh
Well before Netflix, there was the circulating library. Although circulating libraries large and small were well-established in Britain by the middle of the eighteenth century--some of them, perhaps most (in)famously the Minerva Press, becoming publishing houses themselves--the most powerful circulating libraries came into being during the Victorian era. [more inside]
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]
In more innocent days, you could write about cocks and not be misunderstood. Unintentional double entendres.