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"an inadequate title for this ragbag of lectures and classes"

Literature and Form is a series of four lectures by Oxford literature academic Dr. Catherine Brown. The lectures are on the themes of unreliable narrators, chapters, multiple plotting and what comparative literature is. You can listen to it as a podcast or through iTunes U. In this lecture series Brown primarily looks at some central structures of the novel as well as examining what the study of literature entails. Brown weaves in examples from world literature, especially English and Russian literature of the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries.
posted by Kattullus on May 15, 2013 - 6 comments

A Century of Proust

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the publication of Swann's Way, the New York Times is publishing a series of blog posts on In Search of Lost Time. (via) [more inside]
posted by Rustic Etruscan on May 13, 2013 - 11 comments

“Don’t go around asking the question, ‘Is this character likeable?’

Claire Messud: “A woman’s rant” [National Post] "Over the last week, discussion surrounding Claire Messud’s new novel, The Woman Upstairs, has shifted from the book to an interview its author recently gave to Publishers Weekly, in which Messud took issue with the following question: “I wouldn’t want to be friends with Nora, would you? Her outlook is almost unbearably grim.” [more inside]
posted by Fizz on May 10, 2013 - 23 comments

Don't believe anything until you read it in a sprawling historical novel

Comics made out of covers for books in the Oxford World's Classics series. For earlier editions, see here, here, here, here, and here.
posted by Cash4Lead on May 10, 2013 - 1 comment

"You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one."

My Psychic Garburator by Margaret Atwood [The New York Review of Books]
"Most dreams of writers aren’t about dead people or writing, and—like everyone else’s dreams—they aren’t very memorable. They just seem to be the products of a psychic garburator chewing through the potato peels and coffee grounds of the day and burping them up to you as mush."
[more inside]
posted by Fizz on May 8, 2013 - 17 comments

From Ritual to Performance

Great artists rise early, stay up late, float themselves in coffee, flirt with amphetamines, drink carefully, eat if necessary, take morning walks followed by afternoon naps, procrastinate, amuse themselves, avoid their friends, hold down jobs, indulge their oddities, and workwork like draft horses. [more inside]
posted by Iridic on May 6, 2013 - 35 comments

"Violence gives weight to the meaningless."

Falling Men: On Don DeLillo And Terror
posted by the man of twists and turns on May 3, 2013 - 10 comments

Posthumous Papers

The Pickwick Papers, one of the most honored first novels of all time, was conceived as a showcase for the comic etchings of the celebrated illustrator Robert Seymour. His publishers tapped a 24 year old journalist named Charles Dickens (their third choice) to provide the humorous "commentary" linking the pictures, which were to depict the hunting mishaps of a club of cockney sportsmen. Dickens, who knew nothing about hunting, ignored the prospectus and wrote his own way forward. As it became clear that Seymour was ill-equipped to depict the darker turns of Dickens' imagination, illustrator and writer fell into a conflict which ended in horror. [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Apr 30, 2013 - 14 comments

Never fear quarrels, but seek adventures. Julie d’Aubigny or d'Artagnan?

Shortly thereafter, one of the nuns died. La Maupin disinterred the body of the deceased nun and, placing it in the bed of her beloved, set the room afire so that the two could flee in the ensuing confusion. Julie d’Aubigny a.k.a. La Maupin or Mademoiselle Maupin was a 17th century fencer and opera singer of the Paris Opera. In detail. [more inside]
posted by ersatz on Apr 29, 2013 - 7 comments

RED: "Well, we ought to file that under Educational too. Oughtn't we?"

Guantánamo prison library for detainees. [tumblr] New York Times reporter Charlie Savage set up a Tumblr dedicated to cataloging some of the books available in the Guantánamo prison library for detainees.
posted by Fizz on Apr 28, 2013 - 37 comments

"Publishing is tremendously susceptible to the availability heuristic"

What Is the Business of Literature?
Publishing is a word that, like the book, is almost but not quite a proxy for the “business of literature.” Current accounts of publishing have the industry about as imperiled as the book, and the presumption is that if we lose publishing, we lose good books. Yet what we have right now is a system that produces great literature in spite of itself. We have come to believe that the taste-making, genius-discerning editorial activity attached to the selection, packaging, printing, and distribution of books to retailers is central to the value of literature. We believe it protects us from the shameful indulgence of too many books by insisting on a rigorous, abstemious diet. Critiques of publishing often focus on its corporate or capitalist nature, arguing that the profit motive retards decisions that would otherwise be based on pure literary merit. But capitalism per se and the market forces that both animate and pre-suppose it aren’t the problem. They are, in fact, what brought literature and the author into being.
[more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Apr 27, 2013 - 62 comments

Bolaño Dia 2013

Sunday, April 28, would have been Roberto Bolaño's 60th birthday. The Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona is holding an event that day, in conjunction with their recent exhibit of Bolaño's archive, to celebrate the life and work of the writer. Or if you're not in Barcelona, the celebration is #DiaBolaño on twitter. [more inside]
posted by mattbucher on Apr 25, 2013 - 10 comments

OK, maybe I just have a thing for talking dogs.

"...forcing its cast to act around a Jack Russel terrier decked out in full period costume." Blogger Josh Marsfelder of Soda Pop Art explores the legacy of Wishbone.
posted by emjaybee on Apr 25, 2013 - 29 comments

"...wearing various smiles on their faces."

The 2013 Lyttle Lytton Contest winners are here. [more inside]
posted by Navelgazer on Apr 25, 2013 - 23 comments

Does my voice really sound like that?

For this year's National Poetry Month, the Poetry Foundation has set up a SoundCloud group called "Record-a-Poem." They're inviting people to record themselves reading their favorite poems. (via) [more inside]
posted by Rustic Etruscan on Apr 17, 2013 - 21 comments

Robert Adams

Robert Adams delivers book reviews as lectures. TVO's Big Ideas posts the videos on the internet. So far, they have posted lectures on: Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Aravinda Adiga's The White Tiger, Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and Elie Wiesel's The Forgotten.
posted by smcg on Apr 17, 2013 - 3 comments

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

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