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Paging Umberto Eco

When Dickens Met Dostoevsky. "So now the meeting between two literary giants had led me to two names with very little behind them: Stephanie Harvey, who had written only these two articles, and Leo Bellingham, whose chief claim to fame may be that he was once compared by Stephanie Harvey to Doris Lessing." [more inside]
posted by PMdixon on Apr 10, 2013 - 22 comments

 

"Sexism is over!"

An Orange Prize nominee speaks out about her experience as a woman in literature: weakened titles, pink covers, snubbed for reviews. [more inside]
posted by Andrhia on Apr 10, 2013 - 62 comments

Tolstoy, the Circassians, and Lincoln

"But you have not told us a syllable about the greatest general and greatest ruler of the world. We want to know something about him. He was a hero. He spoke with a voice of thunder; he laughed like the sunrise and his deeds were strong as the rock and as sweet as the fragrance of roses. The angels appeared to his mother and predicted that the son whom she would conceive would become the greatest the stars had ever seen. He was so great that he even forgave the crimes of his greatest enemies and shook brotherly hands with those who had plotted against his life. His name was Lincoln and the country in which he lived is called America, which is so far away that if a youth should journey to reach it he would be an old man when he arrived..." [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Apr 4, 2013 - 18 comments

He is interested in confusion

‘I am a phantasmagoric maximalist. I like things to be overwhelmingly strange and capacitous. I want what I write to live; it isn’t about something, it is something’— Michael Cisco. [more inside]
posted by misteraitch on Apr 3, 2013 - 4 comments

“seeing is inescapably tied to scarring,"

STREET OF THE IRON PO(E)T, A Paris Diary by Henri Cole: "Today I visited the cenotaph to Baudelaire..." Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6.
posted by Fizz on Mar 31, 2013 - 3 comments

“I never attacked anyone weak."

Cult writer Renata Adler, whose novel Speedboat has been reissued by NYRB Classics, sits down for an interview with The Believer. [more inside]
posted by Rustic Etruscan on Mar 29, 2013 - 6 comments

“Sibyl, what do you want?” she answered: “I want to die.”

T.S. Eliot’s cultural clusterfuck and middle finger to the stripped-down simplicity of the Imagists. Let the folks over at rapgenius breakdown The Waste Land for you. [via]
posted by Think_Long on Mar 26, 2013 - 27 comments

Thirty Years Later: The last self-help book.

Percy and Sagan in the Cosmos: On the 30th anniversary of "The Last Self-Help Book." "Lost in the Cosmos is the most peculiar book of Percy's career, and in my judgment his finest achievement. I read it when it first appeared, and if you had asked me at the time whether I expected the book to be relevant in 30 years, I probably would have said no. It seemed so topical, so of its moment; and how long could that moment last? But re-reading it in preparation for this essay I saw how little it matters that many people today will know nothing or nearly nothing about Phil Donahue or Carl Sagan. Their immediate heirs are with us every day when we turn on the TV." [more inside]
posted by resurrexit on Mar 18, 2013 - 15 comments

Inventions of the Monsters

"It was John Polidori's misfortune to be comic without having a sense of humor, to wish to be a great writer but to be a terrible one, to be unusually bright but surrounded for one summer by people who were titanically brighter, and to have just enough of an awareness of all of this to make him perpetually uneasy. Also, he couldn't jump."
posted by Iridic on Mar 18, 2013 - 107 comments

"I give my right hand to the Occidentals and my left to the Orientals."

Edith Maude Eaton (1865-1914), better known by her nom de plume Sui Sin Far ("lotus blossom" in Cantonese), was a North American journalist, author, essayist and travel writer who has been dubbed the "'mother' of Asian North American literature." Born of an English businessman father and a Chinese mother adopted by British missionaries, Eaton lived and worked in New York, Montreal, San Francisco, Seattle and Boston. Her short stories, known principally through her only published collection, Mrs. Spring Fragrance (1912), offer sympathetic depictions of Chinese and Eurasian immigrants while prejudice against Asian peoples in North America was rampant. [more inside]
posted by Catchfire on Mar 16, 2013 - 4 comments

The Inscrutable Brilliance of Anne Carson

Famous writer Anne Carson on ice bats: "I made up ice bats, there is no such thing." (SLNYT) [more inside]
posted by Rustic Etruscan on Mar 14, 2013 - 34 comments

Some call it whining. I call it facts.

Today, VIDA (Women in Literary Arts) published their annual VIDA count, breaking down the treatment of women in literature in 2012 and the past three years of trends.
posted by roomthreeseventeen on Mar 4, 2013 - 11 comments

1. one specimen α of the species coolcaticus with maximal length of neck

At this point I usually feel it would be a good idea to say something about this , Exercices de Style, But as it's rather difficult to know where to begin, if I'm not careful I find that my would-be explanation goes rather like this: "Oh yes, you know, it's the story of a chap who gets into a bus and starts a row with another chap who he thinks keeps treading on his toes on purpose, and Queneau repeats the story 99 times in different ways - it's terribly good . . . [more inside]
posted by Think_Long on Mar 4, 2013 - 9 comments

I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.

Pablo Neruda (bio, pics, recordings) was a Chilean poet and Nobel Prize winner. His work comprises 48 books* (excluding posthumous publications), the most famous of which remain Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (scribd, alt) (Spanish, alt) and Canto General (Spanish). Documentary. [more inside]
posted by ersatz on Mar 1, 2013 - 13 comments

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.”

The Turn Against Nabokov [newyorker.com]
"The author, whose novels thrum with ironic recurrences, might have been perversely pleased with this: thirty-six years after his death and twenty-two years after the fall of the Soviet Union with all its khudsovets, Vladimir Nabokov is, once again, controversial."

posted by Fizz on Feb 28, 2013 - 44 comments

How cooking saved Curtis Duffy

Kevin Pang's profile of Chicago chef Curtis Duffy recounts how Duffy emerged from a turbulent family life to become a Michelin-starred chef. [more inside]
posted by BibiRose on Feb 24, 2013 - 11 comments

"I have now attained the true art of letter-writing..."

Post & Prejudice: [guardian.co.uk] "The Royal Mail is joining in the celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice with the release of a series of stamps featuring all six of Jane Austen's novels. Royal Mail commissioned the artwork by Angela Barrett." [Slideshow]
posted by Fizz on Feb 24, 2013 - 13 comments

The New Essayists

"A talented writer such as John Jeremiah Sullivan might, fifty years ago, have tried to explore his complicated feelings about the South, and about race and class in America, by writing fiction, following in the footsteps of Walker Percy and Eudora Welty. Instead he produced a book of essays, called Pulphead, on the same themes; and the book was received with the kind of serious attention and critical acclaim that were once reserved for novels. But all is not as it seems. You do not have to read very far in the work of the new essayists to realize that the resurrection of the essay is in large measure a mirage." (via) [more inside]
posted by Rustic Etruscan on Feb 22, 2013 - 13 comments

"His writing is not about something; it is that something itself."

In theory: the unread and the unreadable - "We measure our lives with unread books – and 'difficult' works can induce the most guilt. How should we view this challenge?"
posted by the man of twists and turns on Feb 19, 2013 - 18 comments

"they are defenseless and easily murdered in their youths."

The Souls of Alligators, by Robert Kloss. [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Feb 17, 2013 - 2 comments

"I wanted to say: it’s nothing personal, it’s monarchy I’m staring at."

Royal Bodies by Hilary Mantel
"I used to think that the interesting issue was whether we should have a monarchy or not. But now I think that question is rather like, should we have pandas or not? Our current royal family doesn’t have the difficulties in breeding that pandas do, but pandas and royal persons alike are expensive to conserve and ill-adapted to any modern environment. But aren’t they interesting?"

posted by Fizz on Feb 17, 2013 - 53 comments

Ian McEwan's Uneasy Relationship With Fiction

When I Stop Believing in Fiction, by Ian McEwan
posted by rollick on Feb 16, 2013 - 15 comments

An image of a soundless voice

Only two works of Nonnus of Panopolis (fl. AD 400), arguably the last great poet of the Homeric tradition, survive complete. The first is his Dionysiaca, ostensibly an account of the adventures of Dionysus but embracing everything that touches chaos and fire and sound, "the longest surviving poem from classical antiquity and one of the most entertaining, outrageous and vivid epics ever conceived west of the Ganges." The second is the Metabole kata Ioannou [PDF]. It's a paraphrase of the Gospel of John into the idiom of Homer.
posted by Iridic on Feb 15, 2013 - 9 comments

The testicles story, any sex stuff, and literary back stabbings

I realized that if something had happened to Henry James' testicles, that my friends didn't know about it, because if they did, it'd just be weird that they didn't mention it - given what we were talking about. And I thought this was sort of neat because one of my friends had done his Ph.D. on James, and even he didn't know about the guy's self-castration! I instantly resolved to solve the mystery.
            "Look," I said, exited now, "I'm pretty sure something happened down there, so I'm going to check it out. And when I do find out - "
            "You'll let us know.
            "We'll look forward to it."
posted by carsonb on Feb 13, 2013 - 22 comments

Jonathan Rendall, 1964-2013

Late last month, the writer Jonathan Rendall was found dead at his home in Ipswich. He was 48. He was the greatest gonzo writer you've never heard of. [more inside]
posted by hydatius on Feb 13, 2013 - 9 comments

Everything but Hawaii

"Cheever wasn't the only one who found inspiration at the Writers' Project [NYT]. Others included Conrad Aiken, Nelson Algren, Saul Bellow, Arna Bontemps, Malcolm Cowley, Edward Dahlberg, Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, Kenneth Patchen, Philip Rahv, Kenneth Rexroth, Harold Rosenberg, Studs Terkel, Margaret Walker, Richard Wright and Frank Yerby. These federal employees produced what would become the renowned American Guide Series, comprising volumes for each of the 48 states that then existed, as well as Alaska."
posted by Iridic on Feb 12, 2013 - 11 comments

Hwæt!

In 1731, a fire broke out in Ashburnham House, where the greatest collection of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, the Cottonian Library, was then being stored. Frantically, the trustees raced into the burning library and hurled priceless and unique manuscripts out the windows in order to save them. One of these was the sole manuscript of Beowulf. Today, bearing the charred edges of its brush with extinction, it's been digitized by the British Library, along with a group of other treasures including Leonardo Da Vinci's Codex Arundel and the Harley Golden Gospels.
posted by Horace Rumpole on Feb 11, 2013 - 25 comments

Capote's In Cold Blood: new evidence

New documents shed critical light on the treatment of the 1959 Clutter murder case, both by Kansas investigators and by Truman Capote in his classic book. Perhaps most strikingly, it turns out that Capote changed the sequence of events whereby investigators learned of the possible involvement of Richard Hickock and dealt with that information. As Capote describes it, Alvin Dewey heard of Hickock and went to visit his parents that same night, artfully extracting crucial information. KBI documents show that instead, a group of agents went to the house five days later and recovered the murder weapon.
posted by BibiRose on Feb 9, 2013 - 15 comments

In the future, all Space Marines will be Games Workshop

Last December Amazon blocked sales of the Ebook Spots the Space Marine by author M.C.A. Hogarth after a notice from gaming industry powerhouse Games Workshop that they had trademarked the phrase "Space Marine" and that Hogarth, and anyone else who uses it, is infringing. GW brought this complaint based on "Class 16" of their European tradmark. [more inside]
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey on Feb 7, 2013 - 77 comments

Twelve Mintue Chunks Of White Hot Knowledge!

John And Hank Green (previously), amusing youtube teachers of world history and biology have finished the first cycle of their educational series Crash Course (previously) and have wrapped up mini lessons on Literature and Ecology. Now they've just started two brand new series on U.S History and Chemistry (to come). Outtakes.
posted by The Whelk on Feb 6, 2013 - 19 comments

Beyond untranslatable words

In 1995, an Atlantic story on the first Chinese translation of Ulysses closed with the offhand remark that "no one in China is offering to translate Finnegans Wake." Today on the (day after the) 131st anniversary of his birth, James Joyce's famously difficult work is a bestseller in China.
posted by Lorin on Feb 3, 2013 - 30 comments

Speak, Memory

A meditation on falsehood and truth in memory by Oliver Sacks.
posted by parudox on Feb 2, 2013 - 26 comments

Max Sebald's Writing Tips

"As far as I’m aware, nobody that term recorded Max’s words systematically. However, in the wake of his death, David and I found ourselves returning to our notes, where we’d written down many of Max’s remarks. These we gleaned and shared with our classmates. Still, I wish we’d been more diligent, more complete. The comments recorded here represent only a small portion of Max’s contribution to the class."
posted by Lorin on Feb 1, 2013 - 9 comments

Sea. Common Night. Forest. City. Mountain. Private Light. Desert.

"From symbols and notions to literary and religious allusions, this chart contains [W.H.] Auden's view of the world (and of worlds beyond), at least as he envisioned it in the 1940s." [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Feb 1, 2013 - 17 comments

I HATE SPEECH

Jacket2 has digitzed all 10 editions of Roof magazine, an important publication in the development of language poetry. Featured poets include (pulled from a quick glance): Robert Duncan, Michael McClure, John Ashbery, Michael Castro, Robert Creeley, Alan Ginsberg, Diane Wakoski, Peter Inman, Octavio Paz.
posted by Think_Long on Feb 1, 2013 - 3 comments

The Spy Novelist Who Knows Too Much

"De Villiers has spent most of his life cultivating spies and diplomats, who seem to enjoy seeing themselves and their secrets transfigured into pop fiction (with their own names carefully disguised), and his books regularly contain information about terror plots, espionage and wars that has never appeared elsewhere. Other pop novelists, like John le Carré and Tom Clancy, may flavor their work with a few real-world scenarios and some spy lingo, but de Villiers’s books are ahead of the news and sometimes even ahead of events themselves." (SLNYT)
posted by Rustic Etruscan on Jan 31, 2013 - 26 comments

"Someone is assigned when there is no one else."

The Designated Mourner (2002); a radio adaptation of Andre Gregory's 2000 revival of the Wallace Shawn play, starring Shawn, Deborah Eisenberg, and Larry Pine.
posted by Iridic on Jan 25, 2013 - 5 comments

Modern World Lit

Modern World Lit is a carefully curated library of recommended literary fiction from around the world
posted by Cloud King on Jan 18, 2013 - 12 comments

The Frightening Hungarian Crackdown

"The new constitution 'recognizes the role of Christianity in preserving nationhood,' and art that is deemed blasphemous or 'anti-national' is now the target of a full-blown campaign of suppression."
posted by Rustic Etruscan on Jan 10, 2013 - 137 comments

The Mi-Go are greater beings than we, but then again, who ain’t?

Brattleboro Days, Yuggoth Nights: an inter­view with H. P. Love­craft on a single postcard.
posted by brundlefly on Jan 9, 2013 - 20 comments

Nobel Prize Library

We introduced UNZ.org before but it's probably worth revisiting for a vein of gold, the Nobel Prize Library (1971), which contains full modern translations of significant works of 20th century literature. For example [more inside]
posted by stbalbach on Jan 5, 2013 - 4 comments

"the arts are just a part of the weapons of life"

The poet Jayne Cortez passed away this past December 28th in New York City (New York Times obituary). She started publishing her poems in the late 1960s and in the 70s began performing her poetry backed by music, first in collaboration with bassist Richard Davis, and then backed by her own band The Firespitters. Some of their tracks have found their way to YouTube: I See Chano Pozo, If the Drum Is a Woman, There It Is, Maintain Control & Economic Love Song I, Everybody Wants to Be Somebody, Takin' the Blues Back Home, Talk to Me (for Don Cherry), I've Been Searching, You Can Be and Endangered Species List Blues. Just two years ago she performed solo with her son by Ornette Coleman, drummer Denardo Coleman: Find Your Own Voice, I'm Gonna Shake and She Got He Got. In 1997 she was featured on University of California television network in the series Artists on the Cutting Edge where she read poems and discussed her work. Finally, here's a brief clip from the 1982 documentary Poetry in Motion, where she was interviewed.
posted by Kattullus on Jan 5, 2013 - 4 comments

--o---<<|

Happy Thomas Pynchon rumor day! [LAtimes.com] "What's that, you say? America's most reclusive author, Thomas Pynchon, appeared in the news Friday -- not once but twice? Why, yes, yes, he has, surfacing in two unconnected rumours. Conspiracy? Pynchonian? Maybe we should henceforth designate Jan. 4 as Thomas Pynchon Rumor Day." [more inside]
posted by Fizz on Jan 5, 2013 - 40 comments

The Old Corner Bookstore is Now a Chipotle

"'Personally, I think it’s slightly sad how easy it was to get,' Jessica says, referring to the building. She brightens. 'But everyone at Chipotle was really excited to get this spot because of the history, the chance to be a part of Boston’s history. This is the oldest retail location in Boston.'" (via)
posted by Rustic Etruscan on Jan 4, 2013 - 52 comments

"and even when there's nowhere left, no refuge for their pain, they turn to the illusion of travelling" - Kajal Ahmad, translated by Mimi Khalvati

The Poetry Translation Centre pairs living poets from Asia, Africa and Latin America with English-language translators and then puts the resulting translations online. You can browse the poetry by country, language, translator or poet. Besides the hundreds of individual poems, all presented in the original and both literal and poetic translations, many have been recorded in dual readings by translator and poet, and put online as videos or mp3s (look for the microphone or camera icon). There are also podcasts to download, articles to read, and chapbooks to purchase. It is absurd to single out a few poems as favorites, but nonetheless, here are a few that struck me hard, Birds by Kajal Ahmad, translated by Mimi Khalvati, Cataclysm and Songs by Conceição Lima, translated in a workshop, and Survivors by Choe Young-mi, translated by Kyoo Lee and Sarah Maguire (who is the founder and director of the Poetry Translation Centre). If these poems do not hit you, no need to worry as there are literally hundreds more to read. [via The Guardian]
posted by Kattullus on Jan 2, 2013 - 5 comments

Twelve Missives from the Roi des Belges

Perched high up above the Thames in downtown London every month this past year a different writer has spent four days living in a replica of the Roi des Belges, the boat Marlow travels up the Congo in Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness. Each author would write a short text during their stay "which explores London, rivers, the work of Joseph Conrad, or even all three." They would be visited on the last day by a journalist from The Guardian who recorded them reading their essay, poem or short story. Among the poets, historians and novelists were Adonis, Jeanette Winterson, Teju Cole, Michael Ondaatje and Kamila Shamsie. These recordings, each prefaced by a short interview, are all available on the Guardian website, to stream or download. Below the cut there is a link to each recording, with a short description. [more inside]
posted by Kattullus on Dec 31, 2012 - 7 comments

Finding the "just right" book

What's the right age to introduce children to literature with challenging themes? Authors, teachers, librarians and critics weigh in. (SLNYT)
posted by Daily Alice on Dec 30, 2012 - 60 comments

Cities and the Soul

With cities, it is as with dreams: everything imaginable can be dreamed, but even the most unexpected dream is a rebus that conceals a desire or, its reverse, a fear. Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else. December 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of Invisible Cities -- the sublime metaphysical travelogue by author-journalist Italo Calvino. In a series of pensive dialogues with jaded emperor Kublai Khan, the explorer Marco Polo describes a meandering litany of visionary and impossible places, dozens of surreal, fantastical cities, each poetically reifying ideas vital to language, philosophy, and the human spirit. This gracefully written love letter to urban life has inspired countless tributes, but it's just the most accessible of Calvino's fascinating literary catalogue. Look inside for a closer look at his most remarkable works, links to English translations of his magical prose, and collections of artistic interpretations from around the web -- including this treasure trove of essays, excerpts, articles, and recommended reading. [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi on Dec 30, 2012 - 26 comments

"I watched the entire street turn hot and black with smoke and then, after a few minutes, stared up at the hole in the roof and saw thousands of small gray ashes—pieces of paper, books, newspapers—floating down from the sky."

Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here is a project initiated by San Francisco bookseller and poet Beau Beausoleil that began as a response to the 2007 bombing [previously on MeFi] of the Baghdad bookselling center Al-Mutanabbi Street. After the attack the authorities made an effort to revive the area but recently the government has begun to make life difficult for the booksellers and intends to turn the street into an animal market. The Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here project consists of book art created by 260 artists and authors from all over the world, but also includes essays, exhibitions and readings, some of which have been put online as videos. You can see a lot of artists' books online at the Jaffe Center for Book Arts and the Centre for Fine Print Research (1, 2, 3). The history of the project was told in a recent essay in World Literature Today by Persis M. Karim.
posted by Kattullus on Dec 29, 2012 - 5 comments

The Secret Lives of Readers

The Secret Lives of Readers Books reveal themselves. Whether they exist as print or pixels, they can be read and examined and made to spill their secrets. Readers are far more elusive. They leave traces—a note in the margin, a stain on the binding—but those hints of human handling tell us only so much. The experience of reading vanishes with the reader. How do we recover the reading experiences of the past? Lately scholars have stepped up the hunt for evidence of how people over time have interacted with books, newspapers, and other printed material.
posted by jason's_planet on Dec 29, 2012 - 25 comments

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