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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

Victorians, eminent and otherwise

The Victorian Web is your one-stop resource for England in the Victorian era (1837-1901). The site is much too extensive to give but a flavor. It is divided into 20 categories, including Technology, Gender Matters, Economic Contexts, Authors, Political History, Theater and Popular Entertainment, Science and Genre and Technique. Here are a few examples of the articles inside: Inventions in Alice in Wonderland, The Role of the Victorian Army, Earth Yenneps: Victorian Back Slang (and a glossary of same), Algernon Charles Swinburne and the Philosophy of Androgyny, Hermaphrodeity, and Victorian Sexual Mores, Evolution, progress and natural laws and, of course, Queen Victoria.
posted by Kattullus on Jul 28, 2008 - 10 comments

Which Barbapapa are you?

The Barbapapa family are shapeshifters. (In French, Barbapapa's name loosely translates to "Cotton Candy.") Barbapapa was lonely; thus he went on an adventure to find others of his species, only to find that his Barbamama had been laying dormant in the same garden where he'd been first discovered! He and Barbamama now have seven brightly-colored children. Here are all of their names. [more inside]
posted by not_on_display on Jul 25, 2008 - 38 comments

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.

Great Opening Sentences From Science Fiction from io9.com.
posted by blue_beetle on Jul 25, 2008 - 105 comments

And All The Time You Could Feel Your Heart Beating Along The Wounds

Roald Dahl (1916-1990) is probably best known as one of the principal architects of the 20th century children’s fairy tale, with such sly, savage and addictive masterpieces as The Enormous Crocodile, The Witches, The BFG, and personal favourite The Twits. [more inside]
posted by turgid dahlia on Jul 22, 2008 - 70 comments

The Apparition of Enoch Soames

In the summer of 1897, the Devil transported a minor Decadent poet named Enoch Soames one hundred years into the future to see what posterity would make of his work. The only witness to the affair was the parodist Max Beerbohm, whose account of Soames and his journey ensured that at 2:10 P.M. on June 7, 1997, some dozen pilgrims waited in the Round Reading Room of the British Museum to see the poet appear...
posted by Iridic on Jul 22, 2008 - 26 comments

Russian poetry and drama

Early Twentieth Century Russian Drama and From the Ends to the Beginning: A Bilingual Anthology of Russian Poetry are both products of Northwestern University Slavic Department. The former is devoted to Russian theater from the 1890s through the 1930s and focuses on the visual aspect of theater, with images of costumes, set designs and photographs of stagings. The latter is a collection of 250 poems, both in Russian and English translations ranging from the 18th Century to the modern day. There are some amazing images from the history of Russian drama, such as Kazimir Malevich's designs for Victory over the Sun and a quicktime video of actors doing Meyerhold's biomechanical exercises. The Listening Gallery of russianpoetry.net has over 75 recitals of poems, including Vladmir Mayakovsky reading his own And Could You? and a reading of Velimir Khlebnikov's famous Invocation of Laughter.
posted by Kattullus on Jul 19, 2008 - 8 comments

Encyclopedia of Greece, from ancient times to the modern day, focusing on science and technology

Hellenica is an encyclopedia of Greek culture, from classical Hellas, through the Byzantine Empire until the modern day, though its focus is on antiquity and especially the science and technology of Ancient Greece. Featuring technical diagrams and explications, there's no better site if you seek information on gigantic galleys, now obscure great Greek mathematicians, the last still working Ancient lighthouse and gears and how they were used by Archimedes and other ancients. This is not to denigrate other sections of the site, such as the page on the Olympics (including a Google Map of the site of the games), biographies of ancient, Byzantine and modern Greeks, the warring and healing of the Byzantines or the overview of Greek literature, taking in antiquity, the medieval era and modern times. That said, Hellenica is at its finest when treating science and technology.
posted by Kattullus on Jul 18, 2008 - 8 comments

Art and poetry from the post-Enligthenment and pre-Modernist era

ArtMagick is a collection of art and poetry that roughly dates from after the Enlightenment but before Modernism. While the poetry section is extensive the main draw is the sites extensive art collection, which can be browsed by artist, art movement, title, theme or albums created by the site's users. So, forget the summer heat with some chilly pictures of winter, check out famous objects of devotion or search the archive.
posted by Kattullus on Jul 14, 2008 - 5 comments

Condensed: 'Care, constraint, concise, cut, character, clarity, and charity.'

How to Write With Style.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane on Jul 13, 2008 - 36 comments

A Web of Geeks, Every One of Which Knows a Lot about Something

Vegging Out vs. Geeking Out. Romance as the MSG of film. The bifurcated careers of Lucy lawless, Sigourney Weaver, and Hugo Weaving. Characters making smart decisions vs. stupid decisions. Neal Stephenson discusses Sci-Fi/Speculative Fiction as a literary genre at Gresham College. (Warning: requires Flash 9)
posted by Navelgazer on Jul 13, 2008 - 29 comments

Ancient, Medieval and Classic Works

In Parentheses is a collection of many ancient, medieval and classic texts from all over the world, many of whom are hard to find anywhere, let alone on the internet. There are translations from Greek, Old Norse, Medieval Irish, Japanese, Incan, Old French, Medieval Latin and many more! As well as all that they have papers in medieval studies and vaguely decadent and orientalism series. Adding to that there's a linguistics section with wordlists and language flash cards in languages such as Icelandic, Quechua, Basque, Classical Armenian and a whole bunch more. [flashcard links go to pdf files]
posted by Kattullus on Jul 10, 2008 - 18 comments

Dystopian Evolution: Imagining an Envirogeddon

Dystopian storytelling is pillar of Western narrative tradition, but this decade has seen a significant shift in the way our apocalypse is told. Orthodox tales of government tyranny are giving way to visions of humans running helpless in the wake of environmental meltdown. From the plausible to the fantastic, most of this fiction remains hauntingly real while the non-fiction can get downright scary. In 2008, the 20th anniversary of climatologist James Hansen's landmark speech before Congress, popular art is beginning to reflect an increasingly bleak public sentiment on the future, playing out some of our worst nightmares. It may be that these writers and directors are wishing for the end of the world, but even so, they are certainly giving voice to the creeping feeling that indeed, we might not make it.
posted by dead_ on Jul 7, 2008 - 21 comments

The Book of Accidents

The Book of Accidents: Designed for Young Children (1831). "In presenting to his little readers The Book of Accidents, the Author conceives he cannot render a more important service to the rising generation and to parents, than by furnishing them with an account of the accidents to which Children, from their inexperience or carelessness, are liable. If generally studied it will save the lives of thousands, and relieve many families from the long and unavailing misery attendant on such occurrences." [Via]
posted by homunculus on Jul 3, 2008 - 34 comments

Turkish Literary Delights

A Mid-summer Night's Story - one of hundreds of novels, poems, and tales in English translation at Suat Karantay's Contemporary Turkish Literature pages. Also: Turkish Poetry in Translation (the side-by-side translations of Dağlarca are particularly well-done), and selected stories of childhood & youth from Turkish authors in the mid 20th century.
posted by Wolfdog on Jun 25, 2008 - 4 comments

Autobiography of Read

Happy Birthday, Anne Carson! The iconoclastic modern poet who published the arresting, compulsively readable Autobiography of Red turned 57 this weekend. [more inside]
posted by zoomorphic on Jun 23, 2008 - 9 comments

Colorful Allusions

Colorful Allusions
Though printed in black and white, great literature is bursting with vibrant colour. In these rebus-style puzzles, color words and parts of words have been replaced with colored boxes.
posted by carsonb on Jun 11, 2008 - 8 comments

Fritzl, all too nonfictional

The horrifying crimes of Joseph Fritzl shocked Austria and the world. Recently two essays explored Austrian literature in an attempt to understand what cultural conditions could foster such monstrosity. Nicholas Spice, in Up from the Cellar, explores the work of Nobel Prize laureate Elfriede Jelinek and her dissection of male violence. Ritchie Robertson searches for antecedents in Josef Fritzl's fictive forebears. [via The New Yorker's Book Bench]
posted by Kattullus on Jun 8, 2008 - 63 comments

"social problems of a somewhat mixed-up but dynamic, even brash, modernizing community"

From the Bookstalls of a Nigerian Market. Onitsha Market Literature consists of stories, plays, advice and moral discourses published primarily in the 1960s by local presses in the lively market town of Onitsha [in then-newly-independent Nigeria]... In the fresh and vigorous genre of Onitsha Market Literature, the commoner wrote pulp fiction and didactic handbooks for those who perused the bookstalls of Onitsha Market, one of Africa’s largest trading centers. Examples: How To Write And Reply Letters For Marriage, Engagement Letters, Love Letters And How To Know A Girl To Marry, Learn To Speak 360 Interesting Proverbs And Know Your True Brother, Struggle For Money [All full-text links are in pdf format, and some are quite large]. With links to additional resources.
posted by amyms on Jun 4, 2008 - 25 comments

British Literature Blogs

British Literature Blogs is the brainchild of six British literary bloggers. Each working hard at bringing readers to forgotten or overlooked books, our BritLitBloggers decided that combining their latest blog entries together in one place would highlight the breadth and depth of British literary blogging.
posted by Fizz on Jun 2, 2008 - 2 comments

Literary Interviews from The Atlantic Monthly

The Atlantic Monthly has helpfully indexed literary interviews from its archives. These include, among others, Alice Munro, Chinua Achebe, Dennis Lehane, Zadie Smith, Charles Simic, Salman Rushdie, Susan Sontag and John Irving.
posted by Kattullus on May 31, 2008 - 5 comments

Reading Proust or Proust Reading You?

Waggish Reads Proust Reading In Search of Lost Time, or Remembrance of Things Past, is quite the daunting task. Whether you've read Proust, or are considering reading Proust for the first time, a helpful summary & guide, that examines significant passages for your own discussion.
posted by Fizz on May 27, 2008 - 46 comments

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