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Twenty-nine Tao te Chings.

Twenty-nine Tao te Chings, a line at a time. For Sunday evening, a spare, meditative post. The Tao-te-Ching in 29 translations, line by line and side by side. I'll leave you to investigate the writings on your own; here alone are just the words to consider. Suggested: Mitchell. [more inside]
posted by Tufa on Jan 11, 2009 - 99 comments

The Tale of Genji is 1000!

The Tale of Genji turned 1000 years old sometime around now, and Japan is celebrating with parties and dressing up. This lengthy rambling narrative may be the world's first novel, although that depends on how you define "first" and "novel." For the person who is technophilic and literary, there is a very cool robot that reads it to you (in Japanese -- sorry). Sadly, it is only a prototype. There is a recent board game, however. More useful links previously.
posted by GenjiandProust on Jan 10, 2009 - 9 comments

Illustrations of the Shahnama, the Persian epic poem

The Princeton Shahnama Project is an "archive of book paintings--commonly known as Persian Miniatures--that were created to illustrate scenes from the Persian national epic, the Shahnama (the Book of Kings). The Shahnama is a poem of some 50,000 couplets that was composed by Abu'l Qasim Firdausi over a period of several decades in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries. The core of this archive is a fund of 277 illustrations from five illustrated manuscripts of the Shahnama that are housed in Princeton University's Firestone Library." The site also has the complete Shahnama in the Warner & Warner translation but here's another translation by Helen Zimmern [more inside]
posted by Kattullus on Jan 5, 2009 - 5 comments

Artists' Books Online

Artists' Books Online is a collection by the University of Virginia of artists' books. Artists' books are works of art that take the form of books and are often both text and visual art. Either way, they're awful interesting to look at. Here are some artbooks to get you started: How to Humiliate Your Peeping Tom by Susan Baker, The Word Made Flesh by Johanna Drucker, Life in a Book by Francois Deschamps, A.A.A.R.P. by Clifton Kirkpatrick Meador, opuntia is just another name for a prickly pear by Todd Walker and Black Dog White Bark by Erica Van Horn
posted by Kattullus on Dec 28, 2008 - 7 comments

Harold Pinter's curtain call

Harold Pinter has died, the BBC reports If you don't know about him it is worth getting acquainted. This is a sad day for literature, but at least he had a good innings.
posted by The Salaryman on Dec 25, 2008 - 53 comments

It's that time again.

Coming February 3, 2009.... It's time for the next big wintertime memoir scandal.... ...and Oprah is not going to be amused. [more inside]
posted by availablelight on Dec 24, 2008 - 52 comments

Search me. Ezra liked foreign titles.

Des Imagistes is an online version of Ezra Pound's influential 1914 anthology of Imagist poetry, which includes work by Pound, James Joyce, H. D., and William Carlos Williams. [more inside]
posted by whir on Dec 16, 2008 - 11 comments

The Natural History of Destruction

Seven years ago today, the German writer W.G. Sebald was involved in a fatal car accident near his home in Norwich, England. Sebald worked as an academic at The University of East Anglia, but some of his writings found a receptive wider readership. The works which brought him to public attention were four books, written originally in German, which seemed to blend memoir and fiction, photography and prose: Vertigo, The Emigrants, The Rings of Saturn, and Austerlitz. He also wrote poetry, and used some of those poems to collaborate with visual artists. In the main, his sad, erudite work revolves around themes of loss, destruction, landscape, and memory, and it continues to inspire exhibitions, stage plays, reflections, and tributes (not to mention blogs and videos). His voice is missed.
posted by hydatius on Dec 14, 2008 - 8 comments

David Foster Wallace on Fatalism

Consider the Philosopher. The early metaphysical investigations of David Foster Wallace.
posted by homunculus on Dec 14, 2008 - 83 comments

The Agrippa Files

The Agrippa Files presents a fairly expansive overview of the original and very rare 1992 art book Agrippa (a book of the dead), a collaboration between artist Dennis Ashbaugh, author William Gibson, and award-winning journalist Kevin Begos, Jr. that presciently explored the ephemeral nature of and decay of memories and information. [more inside]
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Dec 13, 2008 - 11 comments

Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius

Norman Thomas di Giovanni, translator for the 20th century Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges's has recently posted on his web-site, his translation of Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, one of his most well known and greatest short stories.
posted by Fizz on Dec 9, 2008 - 14 comments

Hard-Boiled Detectives, female and male

Early Female Authors of Hard-Boiled Fiction. Chester Himes and Early African-American Detective Novelists. The Detective's Code. The Femme Fatale. Just a few of the many fascinating offerings at detnovel.com.
posted by mediareport on Dec 8, 2008 - 4 comments

International literature websites

Fiction in Translation: How to Find the Year's Best. [more inside]
posted by stbalbach on Dec 6, 2008 - 6 comments

Clarkesworld science fiction magazine

Clarkesworld Magazine has been serving up new science fiction and fantasy short fiction monthly free of charge since October of 2006. The current issue has a story by Robert Reed. Among the authors who have been published in Clarkesworld Magazine are Mike Resnick, Elizabeth Bear, Jeff VanderMeer and Sarah Monette. Clarkesworld has a podcast of readings of selected stories from the magazine. The magazine also publishes non-fiction, separated into two categories, commentary and interviews. Among those interviewed are Gene Wolfe, Kage Baker and Steven Erikson. There is also a covers gallery and a discussion forum.
posted by Kattullus on Dec 5, 2008 - 13 comments

'Where Forgotton Books are Remembered'

The Neglected Books Page
posted by anastasiav on Dec 5, 2008 - 13 comments

2666 reasons to find your library card.

With the advent of December comes the annual ranking of the book industry's over-saturated market. Along with the garden variety Best Books of 2008 lists, niche critics weigh in on the best cookbooks (baking and regular), most trustworthy business publications, best children's book illustrations, safest bets for literary holiday gifts, and, of course, the prettiest book covers.
posted by zoomorphic on Dec 1, 2008 - 17 comments

Everything you wanted to know about pre-Columbian Central America but were afraid to ask lest your heart get ripped out and offered to Quetzalcoatl

The Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies is your one-stop shop for pre-Columbian Central America awesomeness. There are so, so many wondrous things on that site, I don't quite know where to begin. I suppose John Pohl's scholarly introduction is a natural place to start. But maybe you just don't have time to read anything and just want to dive into pretty, pretty pictures. Perhaps the most user-friendly databases are Justin Kerr's photographs Maya Vases (e.g. 1, 2, 3) and Pre-Columbian Portfolio (e.g. 1, 2a, 2b, 3). From there you can delve into the collection of Linda Schele's photographs (e.g. 1, 2) and drawings (e.g. 1, 2, 3). There are more image databases but let me direct you to the collection of old Maya, Aztec and Mixtec books which are simply stunning (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4 [last link pdf]). You can read more about Mayan and Mixtec codices and download high resolution versions of the entire books. There are also Maya dictionaries, glyph guides, linguistic maps and a who's who. There is also classic Mayan and Aztec poetry in translation. I'm telling you, that's not even half of what this amazing site has to offer.
posted by Kattullus on Nov 29, 2008 - 19 comments

He made her forget she was a Communist.

He's a madman, she thought as he made love to her again. Oh my God, after twenty years of being the most rational Bolshevik woman in Moscow, this goblin has driven me crazy! Oh joy! It's time for the annual Bad Sex Award. Shortlist is up at The Guardian.
posted by jokeefe on Nov 25, 2008 - 69 comments

Thus did the sons of the Heike vanish forever from the face of the earth.

The Tale of the Heike (Heike Monogatari) is a medieval Japanese account of the rise and fall of the Taira clan and has inspired many other works of art. Click on the chapters and scroll down to see Heike illustrations (or start here), see more art or figures inspired by the Heike. Would you rather read? [more inside]
posted by ersatz on Nov 16, 2008 - 10 comments

In case you were wondering

Joyce explained. (via)
posted by kliuless on Nov 15, 2008 - 23 comments

The Texture of Time

Nabokov and the Moment of Truth. VN talks about metaphors of time, great books, and reads the first line of Lolita. [more inside]
posted by mattbucher on Nov 14, 2008 - 18 comments

Novels 'better at explaining world's problems than reports'

Novels are 'better at explaining world's problems than reports'. According to the study "The Fiction of Development: Literary Representation as a Source of Authoritative Knowledge" (HTML or PDF), people should read best-selling novels like The Kite Runner and The White Tiger rather than academic reports if they really want to understand global issues, such as poverty, migration and other issues. [more inside]
posted by stbalbach on Nov 13, 2008 - 60 comments

Thar She Blows 2.0

The Online Annotated Power Moby-Dick explains the more obscure seafaring and whaling terms, 19th Century slang and topical jokes in Melville's epic. Hey, didja know there's a fart joke right there in Chapter 1? [more inside]
posted by Quietgal on Nov 11, 2008 - 50 comments

"Just don’t call this blog entry a deconstruction."

It was a dark and stormy campaign... A film theorist's thoughts on the narratives of Barack Obama and John McCain. [more inside]
posted by defenestration on Nov 8, 2008 - 15 comments

The Lost Years & Last Days of David Foster Wallace

The Lost Years & Last Days of David Foster Wallace, Rolling Stone (warning: long article; could make you cry)
posted by Baldons on Nov 1, 2008 - 70 comments

Oral History of Black Leadership

Explorations in Black Leadership is a collection of video interviews with prominent African-Americans, focusing on activists of one sort or another. 34 people are interviewed, including Nikki Giovanni, John Lewis, Barbara Lee, Bobby Rush, Dorothy Height and Amiri Baraka. There are full transcripts of every interview. Here's an excerpt from the Nikki Giovanni interview: "The kids today have to have a voice. I'm amazed that they found it. I remember Sugarhill Gang with Sylvia, you know: "Uptown, Downtown, the Holiday Inn." You know, things like that. Then, of course, I remember the explosion of Tupac Shakur. Losing Tupac was a great loss for this generation. I have a tattoo--it says "Thug Life" --because I wanted to mourn with this generation. I don't see how people can knock the kids…paying so little attention. I had deep regrets--and I know Rosa Parks, you know, we don't hang out but I know her--I so regretted that she lent her name to be used against Outkast, because Rosa Parks is a wonderful--is a wonderful tune. And they were giving her problems. If people don't--if the younger generation doesn't sing the praises of the older generation they get forgotten."
posted by Kattullus on Oct 25, 2008 - 8 comments

The lively, compelling, rarely-updated Waggish

Waggish would be one of the choicest blogs around if he updated more, but I suppose I can settle for what there is. If you've never read it, you'll know how good it is when I tell you about a few of the coolest posts: an inquest on "left-brained" literature, a short review of John Williams' Stoner, an appreciation of the great Shohei Imamura and three part coverage of the ultimate film, Béla Tarr's Sátántangó.
posted by colinmarshall on Oct 19, 2008 - 23 comments

Man Booker Prize 2008

Aravind Adiga, a 33 year-old first-time author from India, won the Man Booker Prize yesterday with his novel The White Tiger. It's a story about the underclass of India which he found "similar to black Americans, with a sense of humour you would associate with the Jewish population in the ghettos". The prize selection was very heated and "brought all of the male judges to tears" over the winner and one other work (unnamed). Some critics find it a "left field" choice. The complete review. Excerpts.
posted by stbalbach on Oct 16, 2008 - 37 comments

Entitled Opinions, the smartest podcast

Stanford Italian literature professor Robert Harrison does a conversational show on KZSU, the university radio station, called Entitled Opinions (on Life and Literature), which is also distributed as one of the most fascinating, engaging podcasts in any possible universe. Choicest topics include mimetic desire, Proust, the inflationary universe, 1910, American writers in Paris and the history of the book.
posted by colinmarshall on Oct 15, 2008 - 8 comments

Don'tgive me no jibber-jabber

Man-up with Stephen King.
posted by Artw on Oct 13, 2008 - 137 comments

Interviews with Venturous Writers

Dalkey Archive conversations with William Burroughs, Angela Carter, Robert Creeley, William Gaddis, William H. Gass, Danilo Kis, Harry Mathews, Richard Powers, Raymond Queneau, Hubert Selby, William T. Vollman, David Foster Wallace, and many other writers.
posted by Iridic on Oct 12, 2008 - 9 comments

The Iron Heel

The Iron Heel, published a century ago this year, is a novel by Jack London about socialist revolution in the United States. It is set mostly between 1912 and 1932, with a foreword and numerous footnotes written from the point of view of a historian who has just discovered the manuscript some 700 years later. Here is an excerpt (which is printed on the back cover of some editions) from chapter five:
"This, then, is our answer. We have no words to waste on you. When you reach out your vaunted strong hands for our palaces and purpled ease, we will show you what strength is. In roar of shell and shrapnel and in whine of machine-guns will our answer be couched. We will grind you revolutionists down under our heel, and we shall walk upon your faces. The world is ours, we are its lords, and ours it shall remain. As for the host of labor, it has been in the dirt since history began, and I read history aright. And in the dirt it shall remain so long as I and mine and those that come after us have the power. There is the word. It is the king of words--Power. Not God, not Mammon, but Power. Pour it over your tongue till it tingles with it. Power."
posted by finite on Oct 10, 2008 - 30 comments

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio Receives Nobel Prize in Literature

The Nobel Prize in Literature goes to French novelist Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio. Here's an old interview, a short video interview (in French) and a short story (in English).
posted by Kattullus on Oct 9, 2008 - 34 comments

Paavo Haavikko (1931-2008)

Paavo Haavikko, one of Finland's (and Europe's) foremost poets, died earlier this week. As well as poetry, his seventy or so published works included essays, novels, plays for the stage, radio & TV, and opera libretti. (via) [more inside]
posted by misteraitch on Oct 9, 2008 - 8 comments

Reality sucks. Let's escape for a little while.

Here there be dragons. On 8 October 2008, the #1 book on Amazon.com was Christopher Paolini’s Brisingr, the third book of the Inheritance quartet. The books recount the adventures of Eragon and Saphira, the last Free Dragon, but they are hardly free from past influences. In medieval lore, dragons are man’s great foe, a monstrous version of the serpent from the garden of Eden. Raphael’s painting (c. 1506) of St. George and the Dragon evokes this idea, but dragons and their heraldic relatives, the wyverns, gained a more positive reputation over time. Look to Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle for the inspiration behind Paolini's dragons, or try Dealing with Dragons, geared towards younger readers. There be dragons on bookshelves everywhere.
posted by woodway on Oct 7, 2008 - 45 comments


"There is powerful literature in all big cultures, but you can't get away from the fact that Europe still is the centre of the literary world... not the United States," he said. "The US is too isolated, too insular. They don't translate enough and don't really participate in the big dialogue of literature... That ignorance is restraining."

Nobel literature prize judge Horace Engdahl comes down hard against Don DeLillo, David Foster Wallace, and other crazy American shit that just can't cross the waters.
posted by plexi on Oct 6, 2008 - 124 comments

Online public-domain children's literature

"The Baldwin Project seeks to make available online a comprehensive collection of resources for parents and teachers of children. Our focus, initially, is on literature for children that is in the public domain in the United States. This includes all works first published before 1923." [more inside]
posted by bitter-girl.com on Oct 5, 2008 - 10 comments

When Books Could change Your Life

When Books Could Change Your Life: an excellent essay on Children's literature by Tim Kreider, (previously), on the importance of reading as cultural socialization.
posted by Jon_Evil on Sep 25, 2008 - 32 comments

In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption

The realistic style is easy to abuse: from haste, from lack of awareness, from inability to bridge the chasm that lies between what a writer would like to be able to say and what he actually knows how to say. It is easy to fake; brutality is not strength, flipness is not wit, edge-of-the-chair writing can be as boring as flat writing; dalliance with promiscuous blondes can be very dull stuff when described by goaty young men with no other purpose in mind than to describe dalliance with promiscuous blondes. There has been so much of this sort of thing that if a character in a detective story says, "Yeah," the author is automatically a Hammett imitator. Raymond Chandler, "The Simple Art of Murder" (1950)
posted by Navelgazer on Sep 24, 2008 - 8 comments

O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!

50 Greatest Villains In Literature
posted by fearfulsymmetry on Sep 23, 2008 - 139 comments


This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger. And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. Let's get concrete. The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what "day in day out" really means. There happen to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine, and petty frustration. The parents and older folks here will know all too well what I'm talking about. First reported by an anonymous tip to a blog, the Los Angeles Times has confirmed that David Foster Wallace has hung himself.
posted by gerryblog on Sep 13, 2008 - 483 comments

"All your better deeds shall be in water writ"

In August of 1820 one of the most beloved poets of his age came to the defense of another poet who was fast slipping into obscurity after a string of flops and a barrage of devastating reviews. That poet receding into oblivion? John Keats. That mightily loved poet? Barry Cornwall. Barry who?! Barry Cornwall was the nom de plume of solicitor Bryan Waller Procter, who won the admiration of a great many, including no lesser a reader than Pushkin. You can acquaint yourselves with this now almost wholly forgotten literary figure by reading volume 1 of his 1822 Poetical Works or other texts by and about him on Google Books. As for Keats, well... Keats is everywhere.
posted by Kattullus on Sep 11, 2008 - 11 comments

The Henry Ford of Literature

How One Nearly Forgotten 1920s Publisher's “Little Blue Books” Created An Inexpensive Mail-Order Information Superhighway That Paved The Way For The Sexual Revolution, Influenced The Feminist And Civil Rights Movements, And Foreshadowed The Age Of Information. [more inside]
posted by amyms on Sep 4, 2008 - 29 comments

Guardian's Top 50 Arts Videos

The Guardian has compiled a list of their top fifty arts videos, the majority being from either rare or obscure sources and uploaded onto YouTube.
posted by djgh on Aug 30, 2008 - 13 comments

Gilbert Alter-Gilbert

An interview with translator (and critic and literary historian) Gilbert Alter-Gilbert.
posted by Wolfdog on Aug 28, 2008 - 10 comments

H.H. Cool J

Helen (Hunt) Jackson was an author and an activist. Her mom died when Helen was 14, her dad 3 years later. Helen's first child died at 11 months, her second at 10 years old. In 1879 she was inspired after hearing Chief Standing Bear describe how the U.S. government took Native Americans' land. She began to publish in support of Native American rights. 1881 brought her book A Century of Dishonor [pdf], branded with the words "Look upon your hands! They are stained with the blood of your relations". In 1883, she published her most famous work, Ramona, a novel about racial discrimination set in California. If that's too much to take in, and now you need some kitties, she's still got you covered. Letters from a Cat (1879) is being featured at Archive.org today. [more inside]
posted by cashman on Aug 25, 2008 - 7 comments

O Hangout, My Hangout

The vault at Pfaffs where the drinkers and laughers meet to eat and drink and carouse
While on the walk immediately overhead pass the myriad feet of Broadway
As the dead in their graves are underfoot hidden
And the living pass over them, recking not of them,
Laugh on laughers! Drink on drinkers!

posted by Miko on Aug 15, 2008 - 9 comments

Quoth the raven, "Halloa old girl!"

"On the clock striking twelve he appeared slightly agitated, but he soon recovered, walked twice or thrice along the coach house, stopped to bark, staggered, exclaimed 'Halloa old girl!' (his favorite expression) and died... The children seem rather glad of it. He bit their ankles, but that was play..." So wrote Charles Dickens, describing the death of his pet raven "Grip," in a letter to a friend. Grip has an interesting legacy. Having served as an eponymous character in Dickens' Barnaby Rudge [full text] and subsequently inspiring Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven [full text], Grip has the distinction of being named a literary landmark. His taxidermied body is on display in the Rare Book Department at the Philadelphia Free Library.
posted by amyms on Aug 13, 2008 - 19 comments

a bookshelf full o' sorrows

Starting with Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes" and Dave Pelzer's "A Child Called 'It'" "misery lit" has blossomed into a peculiar genre all its own, one especially popular with the British.
posted by freshwater_pr0n on Aug 12, 2008 - 57 comments

Turkish folktales

The Uysal - Walker Archive of Turkish Oral Narrative is an immense repository of folktales from modern Anatolia. The full list of stories but luckily there's a search function. But that's not all, oh no, there's also a music section, with downloadable mp3s and a whole nother section with more stories and Turkish literature and mp3s. Here's a somewhat random selection of stories to get you started (all links pdf): Nasreddin Hoca's Brilliant Donkey, A Saint Urinates in Public, The Girl Disguised as a Monk and the Padishah's Youngest Son, Behlül Dane Discourses with the Dung Heap and finally, Elia Kazan in Kayseri (yes, that Elia Kazan).
posted by Kattullus on Jul 29, 2008 - 10 comments

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