The Forbidden Words Of Margaret A. is a science fiction story by L. Timmel Duchamp, first published in 1990, describing a journalist's heavily-vetted meeting with a woman whose words have been declared illegal by the American government. [more inside]
"Oscar Wilde’s long-suffering wife is supposed to be buried in Italy. So what’s her gravestone doing in a cemetery in Spain, and who lies under it?" [more inside]
Caesar, now: a man angry, valourous, fair, bulky, madly-bold, high-spirited, very difficult, haughty, dour and grievous, vehement-natured, firm, strong, contemptuous, self-willed, unsimple, severe, keen, unloved, famous, wrathful, cunning, eloquent, unashamed, indefatigable, venomous, hostile. A king in kingship and a soldier in deeds of valour and bravery, a battle-tower in courage, a soldier in activity. In the floodtide of his grace and his age was he then.In Cath Catharda is a medieval Irish epic about the Roman civil wars. [more inside]
Ning Ken's 4000-word essay translated by Thomas Moran. In the 1980s, when China was starting to open up to the world, Latin American literature, with Gabriel García Márquez as the representative, poured into China. When we read “magic realism,” it seemed familiar, it seemed close to us, and that is because in their suffering and their difficult, incredible histories, Chinese people and Latin Americans have a lot in common. Indeed, in the 1980s we often spoke of China as a place of “magic realism.” But since the 1990s, and especially in the past dozen years or so, China is no longer that place; it is now a place of the “ultra-unreal.” [more inside]
"The personal essay format demands that women reveal everything, often to the point of absurdity, while also allowing men to get away with vague metaphors and platitudes. On one end of the spectrum you have “I’m Glad My Friend Killed Herself,” and on the other end you have, "I Did Some Bad Shit, But All You Need To Know Is That I’m Dealing With It, Manfully."
Michael Herr, author of Dispatches, dies aged 76. [The Guardian] Michael Herr, the American writer and war correspondent famous for writing Dispatches, described as “the best book I have ever read on men and war in our time” by John le Carré, has died aged 76. Born in 1940, Herr was one of the most respected writers of New Journalism, the novelistic reportage pioneered by the likes of Tom Wolfe and Truman Capote, where the journalist is as much part of the story as their subject. He practised this most famously in his book Dispatches, about his time working as a war correspondent for Esquire magazine in Vietnam between 1967 to 1969.
A Summer Reading List for Wretched Assholes Who Prefer to Wallow in Someone Else’s Misery by Claire Cameron [The Millions] “By some secret law of lists, “summer reads” often settle on books that are light and fluffy and happy. Like a marshmallow, they are usually too sticky and sweet for my taste. What about a list for us wretched assholes who prefer to spend the summer wallowing in a someone’s else’s misery? On holiday, I cut myself off from my regular writing regime to focus on the people I’m with — I understand this is called “relaxing.” As my real life is relatively drama free, this means I have dangerous spare capacity to obsess over…what? While a happy book might distract me temporarily, it’s far easier to become completely consumed by an epic novel full of anguish.” [more inside]
"You can tell you’re reading a Sad Boner Confessional when a man is describing the worst trauma of a woman’s life purely in terms of what it means about him. " After the Huffington Post picked up "self-described "Media Activist" Ian MacKenzie's blog post "Love Will be the Death of Us" (warning: Huffpo), author Alexandra Erin (previously, previously) had some thoughts on the narcissistic and self-serving genre of author confessional.
The Westminster Detective Library plans to "to catalog and make available online all the short fiction dealing with detectives and detection published in the United States before Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 'A Scandal in Bohemia' (1891)." (This includes fiction originally published in the UK and Europe but reprinted in the USA.) Title, author, date, and full-text searches are all available. At present, the earliest tale available is from 1824. [more inside]
Author Jim C. Hines (previously, previously, previously, previously) once again takes a look at sexism in Science Fiction and Fantasy, this time looking at the written word.
What if you swapped the genders in classic SF&F novels?
What if you swapped the genders in classic SF&F novels?
Voltaire’s Luck by Roger Pearson [Lapham's Quarterly] “It was once said of Voltaire, by his friend the Marquis d’Argenson, that “our great poet forever has one foot on Mount Parnassus and the other in the rue Quincampoix.” The rue Quincampoix was the Wall Street of eighteenth-century Paris; the country’s most celebrated writer of epic and dramatic verse had a keen eye for investment opportunities. By the time d’Argenson made his remark, in 1751, Voltaire had amassed a fortune. He owed it all to a lottery win. Or, to be more precise, to several wins.”
How are we to understand the last line of James Wright's famous "Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota?" [more inside]
"T’Challa emerged as the fictional representation of those countless dreams denied; the unbroken manhood that Ossie Davis famously invoked after the assassination of Malcolm X. Wakanda symbolized the dreams of black utopias like Ethiopia and South Africa that had grown as the Black Freedom Struggle grew over the twentieth century. In this moment when superheroes become a way to explore contemporary anxieties about activism and authority, the Black Panther provides an opportunity for global audiences to study the traditions of black nationalism, Pan-Africanism, and the variety of African indigenous cultures. Dr. Walter Greason (Monmouth University) took a few minutes to suggest a collaborative exploration of these influences" in the Wakanda Syllabus.
The true author of Borges’ fictions was the third man: the broken, middle-aged Borges, the pencil-pusher who toiled away in the basement of a municipal building. He was a working stiff trying to support his family—just like anyone else—trapped in a labyrinth, feeling that his life was somehow a mistake. He is inseparable from the financial struggle he tried so hard not to write about. An essay by Elizabeth Hyde Stevens
(All links very NSFW.) From audiobook mashup artist Tootleg Boy (previously), who brought you The Lord of the Books of the 55 Arse-Hymens of Stone and Pride and Prejudice and 367 Pages of Balls and Young Men, comes the inspirational, patriotic, and incredibly juvenile American Soldier (With A Sniper)
This Week In Fiction: Discovering An Unpublished Story by Langston Hughes [The New Yorker] “Seven People Dancing” is a story by Langston Hughes that was written, most likely, in the early sixties, but was never published. [more inside]
"None of that for the Boxcar Children, who are so Puritan that Henry worries, out loud, that building a pool on Sunday would be amoral—before Jessie justifies the activity by saying that the pool will help them keep clean. " The Spirit Of Capitalism and 'The Boxcar Children' - Jia Tolentino for the 'New Yorker'
Lytton Strachey, in a sympathetic overview of his life and work, called him the Last Elizabethan. He was morbid, eccentric, and homosexual. His idiosyncratic and macabre style lives somewhere between Shakespeare and Lovecraft. In his short life he composed two complete blank-verse dramas (The Brides' Tragedy and Death's Jest-Book), dozens of shorter fragments, and scores of poems. Today, Thomas Lovell Beddoes (1803-1849) is almost completely forgotten.
Sarah E. Farro, an African-American woman, published a novel calledTrue Love in 1891. "The reason for 'True Love’s' disappearance might be simple: it takes place in England, a place Farro probably never visited, and all of its characters are white." It's been digitized and is available here and here.
Poly-Olbion is a cycle of 30 poems describing England and Wales, county by county, composed by Michael Drayton in the late 16th and early 17th Centuries. It was published in two parts, 1612 and 1622, along with sumptuous black and white maps engraved by William Hole meant to be colored in by its buyers. Now Poly-Olbion will be republished as a coloring book entitled Albions Glorious Ile. The Poly-Olbion Project website is worth exploring, as well as its blog and tumblr.
Mind Webs: semi-dramatized readings of classic science fiction stories by Le Guin, Ballard, Wolfe, Clarke, Dick, Bester, Bradbury, Sheckley, Lafferty, Leiber, Merril, Brunner, Russ, Davidson, Matheson, Vonnegut, deFord, Asimov, Counselman, Spinrad, Bloch, Niven, Clingerman, Harrison, Sturgeon, Aldiss, Knight, Saberhagen, Saxton, Pohl, Silverburg, Cheever, Zelazny, Farmer, Simak, Dybek, Dahl, Priest, and many others. Originally broadcast between the late 70s and early 90s by WHA (AM) of Madison, Wisconsin. [more inside]
The World's Greatest Books series (published 1910) was an attempt "to effect a compendium of the world's best literature in a form that shall be at once accessible to every one and still faithful to its originals; or, in other words, it has been sought to allow the original author to tell his own story over again in his own language, but in the shortest possible space." In other other words, this is where you'll find such ludicrous feats of deletion as a David Copperfield running 4,645 words (cooked down from 382,964) or a Clarissa condensed to 0.4% of its original mass. [more inside]
Nguyen's book was awarded the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Literature and is about a Vietnamese spy who flees wartime Saigon Drawing upon his own experience as a refugee of that war who later settled in the United States, Nguyen tells the program host Michael Krasny: "I knew that in writing a novel about a communist spy that the easiest way for me to write this book would be for the spy to renounce communism and embrace American individualism. This is how one gets published in the American literary industry, and I refused to do that." [more inside]
The NYTimes Style Section has identified a new trend: Men reading books! In clubs! Which obviously need ultra-manly names. Never fear, Twitter to the rescue with #ManlyBookClubNames. Whether you read with the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Patriarchy or The Great Fratsby, Goodreads has some suggestions for your new ultra-manly reading life.
"This is not about Patricia Hearst. It is about me and the peculiar vacuum in which I grew up, a vacuum in which the Hearsts could be quite literally king of the hill." Joan Didion's notes for a never written story about the Patricia Hearst trial.
After 14 years, Bookslut has published its final issue. Vulture has an interview with Jessa Crispin, the site's founder and editor.
Back to the Future by Tony Tulathimutte [The New Republic] For 45 years, Don DeLillo has been our high priest of the American apocalypse, having tackled just about every man-made disaster: nukes in End Zone, nukes and garbage in Underworld, toxic pollution in White Noise, financial busts in Cosmopolis, terrorism in Falling Man, terrorism and the death of the novel in Mao II, war in Point Omega. His latest novel, Zero K, clears out every end-times scenario left in the bag: climate change, droughts, pandemics, volcanoes, biological warfare, even meteor strikes and solar flares. But these only menace in the background as future probabilities, and the novel’s focus is not human extinction but its inverse: immortality through cryonics. [more inside]
“Everything has gone for me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been.”
Why I Came Out As A Gay Children’s Book Author by Alexander London [Buzzfeed] “What happens if I tell the truth about why I’m not married? What happens if I reveal this part of myself? Does my career in children’s books end? Will teachers and parents look at me askance? Ban my books? Run me out of town as some kind of creep trying to “recruit” or pushing a “gay agenda”? Will I never be invited to another school again?”
Jennifer Tamayo describes the cost of confronting white supremacy in the U.S. poetry communities, pointing to the emotional, economic, and temporal wages it exacts: "The handling of this poison — the labour to spot and deconstruct instances of capitalist white supremacist cis-hetero-patriarchy at work — is particularly venomous because it performs both personally and systemically." [more inside]
Subway Reading: Taking Fake Book Covers on the Subway [YouTube] [Video] How would you react if you saw someone reading 'Getting Away With Murder for Dummies on public transport?' Comic Scott Rogowsky (@ScottRogowsky) took some pretend, provocative book covers on an underground operation. [via: The Guardian]
“To Become Louder, Even Still”: Responses to Sexual Violence in Literary Spaces Apogee Journal has collected fourteen responses from writers to sexual violence perpetrated in the literary community. [more inside]
On the bicentenary of Charlotte Brontë’s birth, writers and artists reflect on her greatest creation. [The Guardian] [more inside]
Encrypted is an essay by New Yorker critic Alex Ross about French 19th Century poet Stéphane Mallarmé, and the difficulties he poses for translators and scholars. Notoriously the most bourgeois of avant-garde poets, his life has proved difficult to write about. So perhaps it's best to just go straight for the poetry. The Electronic Poetry Center has a nice page on his late masterpiece, Un Coup de Dés Jamais N'Abolira Le Hasard, with the original and several translations.
"Contemporary criticism is positively crowded with first-person pronouns, micro-doses of memoir, brief hits of biography. Critics don’t simply wrestle with their assigned cultural object; they wrestle with themselves, as well. Recent examples suggest a spectrum, from reviews that harmlessly kick off with a personal anecdote, to hybrid pieces that blend literary criticism and longform memoir." [more inside]
The Bible makes most challenged books list in US for first time. [The Guardian] Americans have objected to titles as diverse as the Bible and Fifty Shades of Grey over the last year, according to a list of the most challenged books which has just been released by the American Library Association. [more inside]
Terry Southern, The Art of Screenwriting No. 3 Interviewed by Maggie Paley [The Paris Review] [more inside]
NRA [National Rifle Association] Rewrites Fairytales to Include Firearms. by David Barnett [The Guardian] The US pro-gun lobby is entertaining its younger members with its own take on classic fairytales, but they have a unique twist: firearms. The National Rifle Association’s nrafamily.com website is featuring the pro-firearms stories: Little Red Riding Hood (Has a Gun) & Hansel and Gretel (Have Guns) by Amelia Hamilton. [more inside]
Jalada, a pan-African writer's collective, has just published their first Translation issue. Thirty three writers from across fourteen African countries came together to create this work of art, an entire issue showcasing a previously unpublished story by Ngugi wa Thiong’o. (Previously) [more inside]
Who is Elena Ferrante? Novelist issues denial as guessing game goes on. by Rosie Scammell [The Guardian] Unmasking the true identity of the pseudonymous author Elena Ferrante has become Italy’s favourite – and increasingly farcical – literary parlour game. The latest writer forced to deny that she is the creator of the critically acclaimed Neapolitan novels is Marcella Marmo, a professor of contemporary history at the University of Naples Federico II. [more inside]
On the day after the greatest American Irish holiday, take a moment to celebrate the fact that you can finally read the greatest Irish novel in American! Er, . . . . english!
The Mass-Market Edition of To Kill a Mockingbird Is Dead by Alex Shephard [The New Republic] Harper Lee’s estate will no longer allow publication of the inexpensive paperback edition that was popular with schools. On Monday, February 29, a judge in Monroe County, Alabama sealed Harper Lee’s will from public view. The motion was filed by the Birmingham law firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, which was acting on behalf of Tonja Carter, Lee’s lawyer and the executor of her estate. [more inside]
There’s a dirty secret tucked away in Thomas Pynchon’s novels, and it’s this: beyond all the postmodernism and paranoia, the anarchism and socialism, the investigations into global power, the forays into labor politics and feminism and critical race theory, the rocket science, the fourth-dimensional mathematics, the philatelic conspiracies, the ’60s radicalism and everything else that has spawned 70 or 80 monographs, probably twice as many dissertations, and hundreds if not thousands of scholarly essays, his novels are full of cheesy love stories. [SLTM]
Where Patrick Bateman Would Be Today by Bret Easton Ellis [Town & Country] Twenty-five years after American Psycho was published as a Bloody Lampoon of the Go-Go '80s, the novel has been turned into a musical. The author considers his protagonist's enduring legacy in an age of even crazier money. [more inside]