"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]
30 Books You Need To Read Before You Turn 30 (Huffpost Arts & Culture, Katherine Brooks) / 33 books everyone should read before turning 30 (Business Insider, Richard Feloni and Drake Baer) / 30 works of Canadian fiction to read before you're 30 (CBC) / 30 Books by Women to Read Before You Turn 30 (Bustle, Gina Vaynshteyn) / 30 Books Every Man Should Read By 30 (slideshow or thumbnails, Esquire, Sam Parker and Claudia Canavan)
The Digital in the Humanities: An Interview with Franco Moretti - "the term 'digital humanities' (DH) has captured the imagination and the ire of scholars across American universities. The field, which melds computer science with hermeneutics, is championed by supporters as the much-needed means to shake up and expand methods of traditional literary interpretation and is seen by its most outspoken critics as a new fad that symbolizes the neoliberal bean counting destroying American higher education. Somewhere in the middle of these two extremes lies a vast and varied body of work that utilizes and critically examines digital tools in the pursuit of humanistic study. [more inside]
JK Rowling has been accused of appropriating the “living tradition of a marginalized people” by writing about the Navajo legend of the skinwalker in new story. [The Guardian] [more inside]
Max Nelson is writing a series on prison literature for The Paris Review. The first entry from 15 September 2015 concerns Dostoevsky's "Notes From a Dead House", the latest so far, from 25 February 2016, deals with Austin Reed's "The Life and Adventures of a Haunted Convict". [more inside]
The Only Thing I Envy Men is an essay about women writers by Rivka Galchen, taken from her book Little Labors. The book focuses partly on writing by Japanese women, especially the 11th Century writers Sei Shonagon and Murasaki Shikibu, authors of The Pillow Book and Tale of Genji respectively. The latter has recently been retranslated, and was the subject of a lengthy article in the New Yorker by Ian Buruma.
Songs of the Victorians is a website about four songs composed in Victorian England. The history behind them reveals forgotten details of the era: Juanita was composed by Caroline Norton, a pioneering feminist; The Lost Chord was a poem by Adelaide Anne Procter first published in a feminist journal, then set to music by (yes that) Arthur Sullivan; a part of Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem Maud, which employs the cryptographical language of flowers, is set to music by Michael William Balfe and Sir Arthur Somervell, the former allowing performers to disguise or emphasize the disturbed emotions of the original, the latter makes the mental distress plain. The website was designed by digital humanities blogger and professor Joanna Swafford as a prototype for Augmented Notes, a system for highlighting sheet music visually while playing a sound file.
Sometimes a good book comes out that doesn't receive the attention it merits. To give them a second chance, there's the Phoenix Award -- given to a children's book published twenty years previously. This year's winner is Frindle, by Andrew Clements, first published in 1996.
Saga Thing is a podcast [iTunes link] about the Sagas of the Icelanders by Professors Andrew Pfrenger and John P. Sexton. The format is simple, the two of them discuss a single saga over the course of one or more episodes. Then they render judgment at the end, on such issues as the quality of its nicknames, witticisms, characters and bloodshed. If you need a refresher on the medieval literature and history of Iceland, Saga Thing has you covered with three introductory episodes (1, 2, 3), or you could listen to the BBC's In Our Time episode about the sagas. Andy and John also have a few short episodes on related topics, such as the gruesome blood eagle, dueling and Norse remains in Newfoundland.
How do you quantify the effects of things that don't happen to you? "The whole point of living in a culture is that much of the labor of perception and judgment is done for you, spread through media, and absorbed through an imperceptible process that has no single author." (previously; via)
Rebecca Solnit: 80 Books No Woman Should Read.
"Jo, having devotedly fulfilled her readers’ expectations for years, confounds our hopes by ending up not with the dashing, boyish Laurie but with Professor Bhaer, a somewhat older, less glamorous, rather didactic German tutor. To anyone steeped in the conventions of romance—not to mention conventional plotting—the gesture has for generations felt almost vindictive on Alcott’s part." Who is Professor Bhaer? Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.
Lithub commends twenty undeservedly neglected writers to our attention. Stephen Sparks offers two lists: Ten Great Writers Nobody Reads and 10 More Writers Nobody Reads. The authors, men and women, of various races, come from all over: Brazil, France, Britain, Honduras, the United States, the Maghreb, Italy, Germany, and Zimbabwe. [more inside]
Children of the Century: For writers of historical fiction, fact fades and feeling persists. by Alexander Chee [New Republic] [more inside]
The Golden Notebook Project: the complete text of Doris Lessing's novel, with copious annotations and responses from seven women readers.
The Brackets for The Morning News 2016 Tournament of Books by The Tournament of Books Staff [The Morning News]
You already know the titles and judges that will participate in this year’s tournament. You likely perused the “long list” for a glance at 86 of our favorite works of fiction from last year. You might have even checked out our 11 previous tournaments, just to whet your appetite—or maybe you have no idea what we’re talking about, in which case you should go read this primer. [Download the 2016 brackets as a .PDF][more inside]
Full cast radio adaptations of The Big Sleep, The Lady in the Lake, Farewell My Lovely, The Long Goodbye, The High Window, and three more Raymond Chandler mysteries. Starring Toby Stephens as Philip Marlowe.
An expert in prison literature, Smith felt sure that the book was written by someone with firsthand knowledge of 19th-century correctional facilities. And if Haunted Convict was a genuine account, it would be groundbreaking: the earliest-known narrative penned by an African-American prisoner.
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.
‘2666,’ a Most Difficult Novel, Takes the Stage [The New York Times]
“2666,” the Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño’s darkly enigmatic, wildly digressive, sometimes densely philosophical and above all extremely long final novel, has awed, mesmerized, baffled and exasperated readers around the world since its posthumous publication in 2004. “It would take 45 minutes just to explain what the novel is about,” Mr. Falls, the longtime artistic director of the Goodman Theater here, said on a recent afternoon. But that hasn’t stopped him from turning it into a five-hour stage adaptation that begins performances on Saturday, Feb. 6, the culmination of what he describes as a nearly decade-long effort to wrestle Mr. Bolaño’s baggy monster to the theatrical ground.Previously.
We have identified ten red-flag areas that can help to differentiate healthy debate, problematic research practices and campaigns that masquerade as scientific inquiry. None by itself is conclusive, but a preponderance of troubling signs can help to steer the responses of scientists and their institutions to criticism.
No trolls allowed: Seattle advertises a writing residency … in a bridge. by Marta Bausells [The Guardian] The US city’s transport department offers $10,000 for a ‘unique’ residency in a bridge tower – in return for ‘an in-depth exploration’ of the space.
“The Seattle Office of Arts & Culture (ARTS), in partnership with Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) seeks a practicing, published poet, fiction, or creative non-fiction writer for a unique project-based artist residency in the northwest tower of the Fremont Bridge. The selected writer will undertake an in-depth exploration of the bridge and write a piece in response to the experience.”[more inside]
The evolution of first lines of novels.
'Silver Fork' or Fashionable Novels are the largely forgotten English popular novels of the 1820s and 30s which depicted aristocratic life and scandals as a how-to guide for rising middle-class readers while also exploring growing political and class anxieties in the post-Regency. Advice on how to romance, eat, party and raise children like a member of the upper class from Silver Fork novels via Bizarre Victoria (previously).
Published in 1913, a best-seller in the 1930s and long out of print, Physics for Entertainment was translated from Russian into many languages and influenced science students around the world ... In the foreword, the book’s author describes the contents as “conundrums, brain-teasers, entertaining anecdotes, and unexpected comparisons,” adding, “I have quoted extensively from Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Mark Twain and other writers, because, besides providing entertainment, the fantastic experiments these writers describe may well serve as instructive illustrations at physics classes.”