"A few days ago Colleen Theisen who helps with outreach and instruction at the Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa shared an amazing gif she made that demonstrates something called fore-edge painting on the edge of a 1837 book called Autumn by Robert Mudie. Fore-edge painting, which is believed to date back as early as the 1650s, is a way of hiding a painting on the edge of a book so that it can only be seen when the pages are fanned out. There are even books that have double fore-edge paintings, where a different image can be seen by flipping the book over and fanning the pages in the opposite direction. When I realized the book Theisen shared was only one of a series about the seasons, I got in touch and she agreed to photograph the other three so we could share them with you here."
As Thomas Pynchon's new novel Bleeding Edge's Sept. 17th release date approaches, New York Magazine's Vulture blog offers a capsule biography of the man. (SLVulture) [more inside]
Sullivan’s book was a hit. It was the single best-selling book of 1947, ahead of de Beauvoir, ahead of Sartre, ahead of Camus. People wanted to meet him. The press wanted to talk to him. He was also the plaintiff in a civil suit that could carry a heavy fine or even lead to time in jail. He had to appear in court, which was tricky, because Vernon Sullivan didn’t exist. (SLTheAwl)
"I think the answer is 100 per cent of people cheated! That's what everyone tells us. Do we mind? No." A history of Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone's Fighting Fantasy game books.
Barbara Mertz, whose writing career encompassed over sixty books and three nom de plumes, has died at the age of 85. As Barbara Mertz, she wrote scholarly books on Egyptology after receiving a doctorate from the from the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago in 1951, but then turned her hand to writing fiction under the names Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels. [more inside]
"I was curious to see how many of these books there actually are, so I did a search for books with 'The' and 'Daughter' in their titles on Goodreads. Afterward I spent some time copying and pasting all instances of The ___’s Daughter into an Excel spreadsheet. How much time? A lot..." [more inside]
The 25 Best Websites for Literature Lovers might include a few you don't already visit.
"I haven't told why I wrote the book, but I haven't told you why I sneeze, either. A book is a sneeze." A lovely little letter from E. B. White.
A wonderful, generous and free selection of authors, collections and books online at Lit2Go for awake times or drowsy ones. The Count of Monte Cristo from the Adventure collection | or perhaps a Just So Story from the Fantasy collection | Beowolf from the Here Be Dragons! collection | Aladdin from Andrew Lang's Fairy Books of Many Colors or The Heart of Happy Hollow from the African American collection. Also practical for children. Previously. [more inside]
CARPENTRY FOR BOYS WITH 250 ORIGINAL ILLUSTRATIONS By J. S. ZERBE, M.E. Copyright, 1914.
The Tournament of Literary Friends. "Serious readers know we shouldn’t go looking for friends in fiction. Better to look for moral questions, social truths, emotional possibilities—the stuff of life. And yet, isn’t it sort of fun to imagine playing Eschaton with Michael Pemulis or cruising Mexico with the Savage Detectives? Isn’t imagining ourselves among fictional people actually pretty central to the experience of reading?" Novelist Katherine Hill and her husband draw up a tournament bracket of their likely/ideal friends from literary fiction. From the Paris Review.
Books with borax crystals growing on them. Artist Alexis Arnold grows crystals on the pages of books.
The American Historical Association just released a statement that "strongly encourages graduate programs and university libraries to adopt a policy that allows the embargoing of completed history PhD dissertations in digital form for as many as six years." The statement is aimed at publishers who are disinclined to consider books based on dissertations that have been made freely available in open access databases. Some responses cite a 2011 survey, "Do Open Access Electronic Theses and Dissertations Diminish Publishing Opportunities in the Social Sciences and Humanities?," that found most publishers self-reported they would indeed consider publishing such dissertations, but also suggested university libraries are refusing to buy books based on dissertations that have previously been available online. "The Road From Dissertation to Book Has a New Pothole: the Internet," a 2011 article from the Chronicle of Higher Education, quotes editors who are wary of publishing such books, and discusses the process by which students can restrict access to their work at companies like ProQuest, "the electronic publisher with which the vast majority of U.S. universities contract to house digital copies of dissertations." [more inside]
Ellen Raskin (1928-1984) is best known as a writer, author of The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I mean Noel) and the Newbery Award-winning The Westing Game. But she always considered herself an artist first. Raskin designed over 1,000 book covers, including the iconic original cover of A Wrinkle In Time, the edition of Dubliners you probably read in college, and the New Directions edition of a Child's Christmas in Wales (Raskin did the woodcuts on the inside, too; further appreciation here.) More Raskin covers are collected in this flickr set from Bennington College. [more inside]
Everyone knows that this book isn't real. What this Goodreads entry presupposes is...
"During his days as Harvard’s influential president, Dr. Charles W. Eliot made a frequent assertion: If you were to spend just 15 minutes a day reading the right books, a quantity that could fit on a five-foot shelf, you could give yourself a proper liberal education. Publisher P. F. Collier and Son loved the idea and asked Eliot to compile and edit the right collection of works. The result: a 51-volume series of classic works from world literature published in 1909 called Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf, which would later be called The Harvard Classics." (Via) [more inside]
What makes you put down a book? A Goodreads infographic on the what, when, and why of abandoning a book, and what keeps people reading.
Skeleton doodles, crappy D's, cat hats, embroidered book repair, dentistry, and a duck going queck, from the tumblr of Erik Kwakkel, a medieval book historian at Leiden University.
Burma's Lucky Bibliophile
When the Ministry of Information’s director general visited Ye Htet Oo’s library in 2010, it could have been disastrous. Ye Htet Oo, then a recent college graduate, was running his new library in downtown Rangoon on the sly, without approval from the former military regime, and was told he could face three months in jail for every book he lent without permission from the censorship board. Unable to get a library license from the government, which saw libraries as a way to spread subversive ideas, he fronted his operation as a bookshop but kept a collection of unapproved library books hidden in a back room. Then one day, unknown to the young bibliophile, the ministry’s director general—who has since become the deputy minister of information and President Thein Sein’s spokesman—entered the “bookshop” and walked straight into the secret room.[more inside]
Shelf Esteem. Stories about people and their book collections.
The School of Venus, or the Ladies Delight, Reduced into Rules of Practice (digitized by Google Books) is a delightfully raunchy sex manual from 1680, captured in wonderfully engaging detail. [more inside]
Sparky Sweets, PHD drops some of da illest classical literature summary and analysis that yo ass ever heard on The Great Gatsby, Crime and Punishment and To Kill a Mockingbird.
"Great war novels inevitably follow great wars, and in literary circles following World War II, everyone was wondering what would be the successors to A Farewell to Arms and All Quiet on the Western Front — and who would write them. But when John Horne Burns, age 29, in his small dormitory suite at the Loomis School in Windsor, Conn., on the night of April 23, 1946 (Shakespeare’s birthday, at that), finished The Gallery — 'I fell across my Underwood and wept my heart out,' he later recalled — he was convinced he had done just that, and more. ‘The Gallery, I fear, is one of the masterpieces of the 20th century,' he wrote a friend." (SLNYT) (via) [more inside]
The Seattle Public Library has set a new record for the longest domino chain... made of books (full video)
Base, animalistic and ravenous: Daniel Berger's book What Do Women Want claims that a sexist bias has obscured research into the female sex drive. (previously)
Cotton Tenants, the newly released book by James Agee, was the precursor to Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. It is the original essay that was rejected by Fortune, presumably because it was too much like Famous Men. But Cotton Tenants "is not merely an early, partial draft of Famous Men, in other words, not just a different book; it’s a different Agee, an unknown Agee... This new book is most properly classed as a lost classic of that ’30s-era documentary renaissance. Five years later he would take this tradition of journalism and inject it with powerful hallucinogens, creating something new, a book that did important documentary work while simultaneously x-raying, through the psyche of its own author, the assumptions underlying such work. That was a greater task. And Cotton Tenants shows us one of the reasons for its greatness: that before Agee transformed the genre, he paused and mastered it."
"I wondered why someone who hates words would take the trouble to arrange so many of them in a row." The Millions reviews Tao Lin's new novelty.
The Essayification of Everything (SLNYT)
The Library of Babel is online! Recently digitized classics include Rtvcdg Lxcxahssds Qgflvab mge Bjbpd Orrq, Dgqqjv Iqfold xpx Ljg vjd Vapdophr, and Vmcyogxmvyrnle Lgjmyqsh Hfmni Lyvvdahec Bajvp Hlibiov, which appears by the gracious permission of Lbtddnbdqh Pjnghbdtvmi. [more inside]
The folks at Mellow Pages, a community-run library/salon in Brooklyn (recently profiled in the NYT), have put together a how-to guide for building a similar kind of space in your neighborhood: short version here, long version (and Google Doc) here.
The New Yorker is publishing excerpts from Italo Calvino: Letters, 1941-1985, translated by Martin McLaughlin, on its book blog. (via) [more inside]
Finnegans Wake, Joyce's famously unreadable masterpiece (read it online here), was considerably more readable in one of its earlier drafts. Watch Joyce cross out decipherable words and replace them with less decipherable ones! Watch him end, not with a whimper, but with a slightly less impressive whimper! Sadly, Shem's schoolbook, which in the finished version is a House of Leaves-esque compendium of side columns and footnotes, was not written until much later (according to the footnotes of that section). The introduction to this draft by David Hayman, who assembled it, is worth a read.
"On a beautiful sunny day last week, the Turning Over a New Leaf project team decided to take a day off from the office to visit a spectacular chained library in the small town of Zutphen (located in the eastern part of the Netherlands). Built in 1564 as part of the church of St Walburga, it is one of only five chained libraries in the world that survive ‘intact’—that is, complete with the original books, chains, rods, and furniture."
First editions, second thoughts. [The Guardian] "Interactive: From Amsterdam to Wolf Hall, Booker winners and bestsellers – authors annotate their own first editions.
In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the publication of Swann's Way, the New York Times is publishing a series of blog posts on In Search of Lost Time. (via) [more inside]
Claire Messud: “A woman’s rant” [National Post] "Over the last week, discussion surrounding Claire Messud’s new novel, The Woman Upstairs, has shifted from the book to an interview its author recently gave to Publishers Weekly, in which Messud took issue with the following question: “I wouldn’t want to be friends with Nora, would you? Her outlook is almost unbearably grim.” [more inside]
At Slate.com, Ted Scheinman has written a nice appreciation of John LeCarré. Confessions of a John le Carré Devotee
"...I could tell there was more than politics, class, and acts of stratospheric treason to be found in these pages. I adored the psychological acuity with which he roamed his characters’ heads..."
My Psychic Garburator by Margaret Atwood [The New York Review of Books]
"Most dreams of writers aren’t about dead people or writing, and—like everyone else’s dreams—they aren’t very memorable. They just seem to be the products of a psychic garburator chewing through the potato peels and coffee grounds of the day and burping them up to you as mush."[more inside]
Guantánamo prison library for detainees. [tumblr] New York Times reporter Charlie Savage set up a Tumblr dedicated to cataloging some of the books available in the Guantánamo prison library for detainees.
What Is the Business of Literature?
Publishing is a word that, like the book, is almost but not quite a proxy for the “business of literature.” Current accounts of publishing have the industry about as imperiled as the book, and the presumption is that if we lose publishing, we lose good books. Yet what we have right now is a system that produces great literature in spite of itself. We have come to believe that the taste-making, genius-discerning editorial activity attached to the selection, packaging, printing, and distribution of books to retailers is central to the value of literature. We believe it protects us from the shameful indulgence of too many books by insisting on a rigorous, abstemious diet. Critiques of publishing often focus on its corporate or capitalist nature, arguing that the profit motive retards decisions that would otherwise be based on pure literary merit. But capitalism per se and the market forces that both animate and pre-suppose it aren’t the problem. They are, in fact, what brought literature and the author into being.[more inside]
Sunday, April 28, would have been Roberto Bolaño's 60th birthday. The Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona is holding an event that day, in conjunction with their recent exhibit of Bolaño's archive, to celebrate the life and work of the writer. Or if you're not in Barcelona, the celebration is #DiaBolaño on twitter. [more inside]