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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

"One can tell if one is happy by listening to the wind. This latter reminds the unhappy of the fragility of their house and pursues them in fitful sleep and violent dreams. To the happy, it sings the song of their safety and security: its raging whistle registers the fact that it no longer has any power over them."

Minima Moralia: Reflections from the Damaged Life is a book written by German sociologist and philosopher Theodor W. Adorno during his exile in California in the 1940s. Translator Dennis Redmond has released his translation under creative commons (here is the same translation set up in a more book-like way). In his essay Promiscuous Reading, Mark O'Connell talks about his habit of never finishing books, but an exception being "this captivatingly strange and mordant text" Minima Moralia, "a thematically wayward aggregation of a hundred and fifty-three short essays and aphorisms that darts restlessly from one subject matter to the next, its fleeting yet intense engagements rarely spanning more than a page and a half." Among the subject matters Adorno addresses is the ethics of writing, which has reverberated down through the years, and is often set up in opposition to George Orwell's thought, as recounted by James Miller in the essay Lingua Franca. [more inside]
posted by Kattullus on Dec 28, 2012 - 31 comments

A Prodigy of Parsimony

I have known him profess himself a man-hater, while his cheek was glowing with compassion; and, while his looks were softened into pity, I have heard him use the language of the most unbounded ill-nature. Some affect humanity and tenderness, others boast of having such dispositions from nature; but he is the only man I ever knew who seemed ashamed of his natural benevolence.
From "The Man in Black," by Oliver Goldsmith, author of She Stoops to Conquer and The Vicar of Wakefield.
posted by Iridic on Dec 25, 2012 - 2 comments

Short story podcast

Authors choose their favourite short stories. For the next two weeks over the festive period we will be running a short story podcast each day. Our contributing authors introduce the stories they have chosen to read. Ford reads Carver. Gordimer reads Saramago. Selfs reads Borges. Postcasts are being posted here. [previously]
posted by shakespeherian on Dec 24, 2012 - 3 comments

BLDGBLOG Books Received

BLDGBLOG has a new Books Received post about the latest books to cross their desk. Previously
posted by Cloud King on Dec 19, 2012 - 2 comments

There is always a last time for everything

Is Science Fiction promoting pseuodoscience? Is it not really better than fantasy? Is it exhausted and dying, per Paul Kincaid (part 1, part 2), a sort of genre-writing version of completing a list of The Nine Billion Names of God? Does physics-bothering unrepentant space case Alistair Reynolds have a compass pointing the way forwards?
posted by Artw on Dec 19, 2012 - 84 comments

Shirley Temple Three

“What I’m about to show you,” he says, “you can’t tell a soul about it. If you did, it would be major trouble. Trouble with a capital ‘T.’ ” He sips his drink and tugs the quilt away.

Mawmaw takes a step back. She’s looking at some kind of elephant. With hair.

“Don’t worry. She’s not dangerous,” Tommy says. “Bread Island Dwarf Mammoth. The last wild one lived about ten thousand years ago. They’re the smallest mammoths that ever existed. Cute, isn’t she?”

The mammoth is waist high, with a pelt of dirty-blond fur that hangs in tangled draggles to the dirt. Its tusks, white and pristine, curve out and up. The forehead is high and knobby and covered in a darker fur. The trunk probes the ground for God-knows-what and then curls back into itself like a jelly roll.

“What’s a goshdern Bread Island Dwarf Whatever doing in my yard?” Mawmaw asks.
Shirley Temple Three by Thomas Pierce
posted by y2karl on Dec 18, 2012 - 17 comments

Literary Dioramas

Julia Callon makes dioramas inspired by 19th Century women novelists. More dioramas (and other projects) can be seen on her website.
posted by leesh on Dec 10, 2012 - 6 comments

"so Manu got into his head a utopia"

The band Mano Negra are here introduced by MTV Europe in 1990. They are today best known for having been the original band of singer Manu Chao, but they were a pretty damn good band in their day. The band went from strength to strength but broke apart in 1993 after building a train and bringing ice to Macondo (or its inspiration, the city of Aracataca, Colombia). Manu Chao talks briefly about the trip here. His father, respected novelist and journalist Ramón Chao, accompanied his son's band and wrote a book describing the journey, which has been translated into English as The Train of Ice and Fire. The publisher of the translation, Route Online, made a YouTube playlist of related videos. The most interesting and substantial one has Ramón sharing a number of stories from the voyage (subtitled in English).
posted by Kattullus on Dec 8, 2012 - 4 comments

A.S. Kline's Poetry in Translation

TransLAtions! Get your free lit-e-rary transLAtions here! Ya want Ovid? Ya got Ovid! Ya got all your classic French poets, your Germans, your Italians, your Russians! Ya got a verse rendering of Zorilla's Don Juan Tenorio with parallel Spanish text! Ya got a rare translation of Vazha-Pshavela's Georgian epic Host and Guest! Everything downloadable in every major format! All edited by A.S. Kline!
posted by Iridic on Dec 6, 2012 - 8 comments

“It’s, I’m, uh … it’s an erotic epic poem.”

Who Was the Real Woman Behind “Nine and a Half Weeks”? [more inside]
posted by chavenet on Dec 5, 2012 - 11 comments

Joseph McElroy's "Women and Men"

[Joseph] McElroy's sense of original and authentic contemporaneity makes him the most important novelist now writing in America, the artist who has most consistently combined the mastering capabilities of systems perspectives and an art of excess. Women and Men is the capstone of his career and, I believe, the most significant American novel published since Gravity's Rainbow. - Tom LeClair [more inside]
posted by Egg Shen on Dec 4, 2012 - 18 comments

"But lapidary epithets are few./We do not deal in universal rubies."

Vladimir Nabokov reads his poem "An Evening of Russian Poetry." [more inside]
posted by Rustic Etruscan on Nov 29, 2012 - 11 comments

The computer /is/ your friend

Friendship is Optimal is not a "My Little Pony" fanfic, but a SF story that starts with a procedurally-generated MLP MMO, and crescendos to what could very well be the Best Possible Outcome if self-optimizing algorithms are given /almost/ the right goals. Some readers are horrified by the implications; some want to move into "Equestria Online" anyway. Whichever camp you fall in, you'll never forget the phrase "satisfy human values through friendship and ponies".
posted by DataPacRat on Nov 28, 2012 - 41 comments

“First with the head, then with the heart.” ― Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One

Bryce Courtenay, prolific Australian author, dies. "Courtenay, who has been suffering from stomach cancer, died in Canberra late on Thursday with his wife Christine, son Adam, and his family pets, Tim the dog and Cardamon the Burmese cat, by his side. He was 79."
posted by Fizz on Nov 23, 2012 - 15 comments

Big generative jockey

Just when you thought it was safe to open a book... it's the Literary Review's annual Bad Sex Award! (Previously) This year's nominees include works by Tom Wolfe, Ben Masters, Nicola Barker, Paul Mason, Nancy Huston, Craig Raine, Nicholas Coleridge, and Sam Mills. Not on the list? J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy--despite "a couple of queasy moments," in the words of TLR senior editor Jonathan Beckman--and E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey, since the award "is not intended to cover pornographic or expressly erotic literature." Snippets from the nominated books can be found at the Guardian link.
posted by Cash4Lead on Nov 21, 2012 - 33 comments

"HAPPINESS FOR EVERYBODY, FREE, AND NO ONE WILL GO AWAY UNSATISFIED!"

Boris Strugatsky passed away Monday, 19 Nov 2012. [more inside]
posted by wobh on Nov 20, 2012 - 22 comments

Classic Sci-Fi and Fantasy, the literature of Reactionism

In 1978, Micheal Moorcock wrote an essay Starship Stormtroopers published in Anarchist Review which said that most popular science-fiction and fantasy is deeply Reactionary (authoritarian conservative right-wing themes), he mocked the notion of sci-fi being a "literature of ideas". But there is some "socialist" science fiction, China Miéville put together a list of Fifty Fantasy & Science Fiction Works That Socialists Should Read. [more inside]
posted by stbalbach on Nov 18, 2012 - 133 comments

'Shuffle the pages like a game of cards'

Shuffle Literature and the Hand of Fate: an article about aleatory literature— including mention of Marc Saporta’s Composition No. 1; B. S. Johnson’s The Unfortunates; Robert Grenier’s Sentences and Herta Müller’s Der Wächter nimmt seinen Kamm.
posted by misteraitch on Nov 15, 2012 - 6 comments

Thomas Ligotti

... [Thomas] Ligotti's stories tend to have a profound emotional impact. His vision is exceedingly dark, and it is possible for his stories to infect the reader with a mild-to-severe case of depression. It is even possible for them to effect a change in the reader's self-perception and view of the universe. This warning is not meant to be sensationalistic, nor is it meant to turn new readers away. It is simply a statement of fact based upon the experiences of actual readers. Ligotti writes about the darkest of themes with an amazing power, and he means what he says. Often his stories seem to communicate a message below their surface, a sort of subliminal statement that should not rightly be able to traverse the barrier of verbal language. - Matt Cardin (previously) [more inside]
posted by Egg Shen on Nov 15, 2012 - 21 comments

The loss of translators...

Readers of literature from "small" languages treasure their translators, who are rarely recognized and poorly compensated for their months and sometimes years of lonely labor.

Two of the best translators from Czech died in the last month or so. Michael Heim translated not only from Czech but also Russian, Croatian, Serbian, German, French and Dutch. Less well-known and less polyglotish, Peter Kussi translated Milan Kundera as well as Jiri Grusa, Karel Capek, Josef Skvorecky, Bohumil Hrabal and others whose works might otherwise be lost to English readers. [more inside]
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy on Nov 12, 2012 - 21 comments

"Who needs to read one more mediocre book?"

"At the end of his life, the boxer Joe Louis said, ‘I did the best I could with what I had.’ It’s exactly what I would say of my work: I did the best I could with what I had.” [The New Yorker] "The writer Philip Roth announced his retirement in a little-noticed interview with a French magazine [Les Inrocks] and said that Nemesis, which was published in 2010, would be his last book."
posted by Fizz on Nov 10, 2012 - 29 comments

Immersed in a room where every surface is glowing screen.

"You sit down and pull the visor over your head. The visor interior is soft and enveloping. You squeeze the drip tube between your teeth and sickly sweet fluid floods your mouth. Pulses fire into your retinas." howling dogs is a work of interactive fiction by game designer Porpentine. It is a strange story about a person who lives in a cell and imagines strange scenes for a living. Endorsed by Emily Short, and made with Twine. Takes about 10 to 15 minutes with multiple endings. Via.
posted by codacorolla on Nov 9, 2012 - 17 comments

New chapter of "Answered Prayers" published

A small piece of Truman Capote’s famously unfinished novel Answered Prayers has come to light. The six-page story, “Yachts and Things,” found among Capote’s papers in the Manuscripts and Archives Division of the New York Public Library, is published in the December issue of Vanity Fair, out now in New York and nationally next week. The story will be available online in mid-November. [more inside]
posted by Egg Shen on Nov 1, 2012 - 13 comments

"Some remarkable Books, Antiquities, Pictures and Rarities of several kinds, scarce or never seen by any man now living."

Musæum Clausum is a catalog of invented books, pictures and antiquities written by 17th Century Englishman Sir Thomas Browne. It is a fantastical and witty meditation on the ravages of time on literature and other works of man. The Musæum Clausum is perhaps the finest example of the invented, or invisible, library, a genre which seems to have originated with Rabelais. The genre has been of special interest to Beachcombing's Bizarre History Blog (older posts), where he has written about the invisible libraries of writers such as Charles Dickens, Neil Gaiman, H. P. Lovecraft and invisible libraries in video games. The natural medium for invisible libraries might be pictures, and Musæum Clausum inspired a suite of etchings by Erik Desmazieres.
posted by Kattullus on Oct 31, 2012 - 30 comments

Are literary journals comatose?

Have literary journals lost their cultural relevance? Ted Genoways, former editor of the Virginia Quarterly suggests they have, and are relegated to publishing masses of material, often submitted by waves of new MFA graduates, that few read. Others question the definition of relevance. The journals do continue to proliferate, generating constant fresh material for a review that reviews them, a database that writers use to sort through them, and agents who comb through them looking for the next literary sensation. Perhaps only print journals are in real trouble?
posted by shivohum on Oct 30, 2012 - 39 comments

There is Nothing New Under the Sun

She sat zazen, concentrating on not concentrating, until it was time to prepare for the appointment. Sitting seemed to produce the usual serenity, put everything in perspective. Her hand did not tremble as she applied her make-up; tranquil features looked back at her from the mirror. She was mildly surprised, in fact, at just how calm she was, until she got out of the hotel elevator at the garage level and the mugger made his play. She killed him instead of disabling him. Which was obviously not a measured, balanced action--the official fuss and paperwork could make her late. Annoyed at herself, she stuffed the corpse under a shiny new Westinghouse roadable whose owner she knew to be in Luna, and continued on to her own car. This would have to be squared later, and it would cost. No help for it--she fought to regain at least the semblance of tranquillity as her car emerged from the garage and turned north. Nothing must interfere with this meeting, or with her role in it. "Melancholy Elephants," an enthralling, Hugo Award-winning short story by Spider Robinson about a disciplined operative, a powerful senator, and a crucial mission to preserve humanity's most precious resource. (some spoilers inside) [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi on Oct 27, 2012 - 14 comments

Crime's Grand Tour

Crime fiction is a magnifying glass that reveals the fingerprints of history. From Holmes and Poirot to Montalbano and the rise of Scandi-noir, Mark Lawson investigates the long tradition of European super-sleuths and their role in turbulent times. [more inside]
posted by shoesfullofdust on Oct 27, 2012 - 12 comments

The Library of Babel in 140 characters (or fewer)

The universe (which others call The Twitter) is composed of every word in the English language; Shakespeare's folios, line-by-line-by-line; the Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, exploded; Constantine XI, in 140 character chunks; Sun Tzu's Art of War, in its entirety; the chapter headings of JG Ballard, in abundance; and definitive discographies of Every. Artist. Ever... All this, I repeat, is true, but one hundred forty characters of inalterable wwwtext cannot correspond to any language, no matter how dialectical or rudimentary it may be. [more inside]
posted by 0bvious on Oct 27, 2012 - 14 comments

Tootleg Boy audiobook defacement

These audio files contain profanity:
The Lord of the Books of the Fifty-Five Arse-Hymens of Stone
Pride and Prejudice and 367 Pages of Balls and Young Men
Pride and Prejudice and Praise and Porridge and Presents and Pedantic Ponies and Pride and Pride and Pride and Proud and Priiide
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 on Oct 26, 2012 - 23 comments

Jacques Barzun is dead

Jacques Barzun, pioneering cultural historian and author of From Dawn to Decadence, has died at the age of 104. [more inside]
posted by ubiquity on Oct 26, 2012 - 28 comments

"It has been your lot to achieve that the obedience to manifold rules should not hamper poetry."

During the reign of Constantine the Great, the Roman senator and poet Publilius Optatianus Porphyrius was sent into exile for crimes unknown. He succeeded in regaining favor and his good name by composing a series of poems in praise of the emperor which looked like nothing else. His poetry was an evolution of the Greek tradition of pattern poetry, but he took it a much more complex level, as Arrigo Lora Totino explains. In an illustrated article, John Stephan Edwards goes through the poetry of Porphyrius, showing the evolution of his craft.
posted by Kattullus on Oct 25, 2012 - 14 comments

We are for the dark

Robert Aickman wrote some of the best ghost stories of the last fifty years. He also edited one of the finest genre anthology series of his time: The Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories. Between 1964 and 1972, he curated eight volumes of horror fiction without repeating an author, favoring always the subtle, the psychological, the poetic, the rare, the neglected. 59 of his selections can be found online. [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Oct 25, 2012 - 21 comments

The School of Southern Degeneracy

Flannery O'Connor Soundboard. Based on audio snippets of O'Connor reading from "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" (previously) and from her lecture "Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction."
posted by Cash4Lead on Oct 20, 2012 - 15 comments

"The first is that it is dull, dull, dull in a pretentious, florid and archly fatuous fashion"

Fifteen Scathing Early Reviews Of Classic Novels
posted by the man of twists and turns on Oct 17, 2012 - 69 comments

"To most Americans, there is something inexplicably foreign about cricket"

Wickets and Wonders: Cricket’s Rich Literary Vein - a meditation on the literary history of cricket, and a few of the more well-known books surrounding gigaioggie.
posted by Wordshore on Oct 11, 2012 - 14 comments

Montaigne's Library

On the day he turned thirty-eight, Michel Eyquem de Montaigne retired from public life to the tower of the Château de Montaigne, there to spend the next ten years composing an assay of his life's experience. That his mind might thrive, he turned the tower into a "Solitarium" and its top floor into a sumptuous library, lining its round walls with some 1,500 books. Even the roof beams were made to bear his thoughts: on them he inscribed 46 quotations, here collected and translated.
posted by Iridic on Oct 11, 2012 - 22 comments

The 2012 Nobel Laureate in Literature Is Chinese Novelist Mo Yan

Mo Yan has been awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature. A Chinese novelist, born as Guan Moye, his pen name means "don't speak." His most famous novel, Red Sorghum: A Novel of China, was turned into an acclaimed film in 1987. Here are some interviews with Mo Yan: Granta, National Endowment for the Humanities and Paper Republic. Speculation was rife in China before the announcement whether Mo Yan would receive it, and the matter was controversial. For people who haven't read any books by Mo Yan, the Swedish Academy recommends Garlic Ballads [NYT]. For more news over the day, keep an eye on The Literary Saloon and The Guardian's liveblog.
posted by Kattullus on Oct 11, 2012 - 24 comments

Always wondered if Tom went on to work in banking.

John D. Fitzgerald had written three fictionalized memoirs of his family's life in the late 19th-century Utah west before the night he happened to regale a group of friends with childhood stories of his money-crazed brother, Tom. At their urging, he crafted a funny and clever series of children's books chronicling the adventures of The Great Brain. Like countless other readers, the blogger and researcher behind Finding Fitzgerald (and its companion blog and Facebook page) has been fascinated with discovering the real settings and stories behind the books. And the truly committed can even watch Jimmy Osmond in the 1978 film adaptation.
posted by Miko on Oct 10, 2012 - 40 comments

The Seventh Voyage of Ijon Tichy, by Stanislaw Lem

It was on a Monday, April second - I was cruising in the vicinity of Betelgeuse - when a meteor no larger than a lima bean pierced the hull, shattered the drive regulator and part of the rudder, as a result of which the rocket lost all maneuverability. [more inside]
posted by Egg Shen on Oct 6, 2012 - 40 comments

Pity the Billionaire

Pity the Billionaire (YT): Thomas Frank discusses how the American right pulled off a massive coup and successfully branded itself the party of rebellion and protest in the wake of the financial crisis.
posted by shivohum on Oct 5, 2012 - 32 comments

Tapes on Books

Tapes on Books: Mixtape soundtracks for beloved classics. Some obvious ("Runaway" by Del Shannon for Ralph Macchio's escape after stabbing Johnny Cade in The Outsiders), some clever ("If You Got the Money" by Lefty Frizzell as Daisy Buchanan's theme song in The Great Gatsby), with witty rationales throughout ("If Sauron's evil flaming eye was actually a evil flaming mouth, then it would sing with Lemmy’s voice").
posted by goatdog on Oct 4, 2012 - 8 comments

Henry Miller's "The Books In My Life"

They were alive and they spoke to me! That is the simplest and most eloquent way in which I can refer to those authors who have remained with me over the years. - Henry Miller, The Books In My Life [more inside]
posted by Egg Shen on Sep 23, 2012 - 7 comments

See, they return

Poetry Reincarnations. "I hope you may enjoy these glimpses at some of the long-gone poets and literary figures, etc., in the form of scratchy old movies, as if they had been filmed by candle light."
posted by Iridic on Sep 20, 2012 - 6 comments

Machado de Assis

Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (1839-1908) is the greatest of Brazilian writers, an ironist, realist, and fabulist in the leauge of Chekhov, Flaubert, and Borges. [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Sep 10, 2012 - 4 comments

The picture letters of Beatrix Potter

In [a series of notes to Noel Moore, the oft-sickly son of her former governess], Potter punctuates her words with small, sweet illustrations: 'I have come a very long way in a puff-puff …' (next to a train), a straightforward, 'Here are some rabbits throwing snow balls,' and, of course, Peter’s debut in a special dispatch from 1893. - Beatrix Potter’s Picture Letters, The Birthplace Of Peter Rabbit [more inside]
posted by SugarAndSass on Sep 10, 2012 - 4 comments

‘The real world's what the map here stands for!’ —Otis P. Lord, page 334

An “Infinite Jest” atlas. The Infinite Atlas Project is an independent research and art project seeking to identify, place and describe every possible location in David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. The project includes: Infinite Map- a cartographic infographic poster identifying 250 of the most interesting locations from the novel. Infinite Boston-a ruminative travelogue and photographic tour of key locations in and around Boston, Massachusetts. [Previously]
posted by Fizz on Sep 7, 2012 - 24 comments

Please do not feel the necessity to send us more pieces under a clumsy pseudonym.

The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure: poignant tales of the justly obscure. The entry on Hans Kafka is a good starting point.
posted by Horace Rumpole on Sep 7, 2012 - 11 comments

Two men, four surnames

"Anyone who finds David Foster Wallace a literary genius has got to be included in the Literary Doucebag-Fools [sic] Pantheon ... I continue to find David Foster Wallace the most tedious, overrated, tortured, pretentious writer of my generation ... DFW is the best example of a contemporary male writer lusting for a kind of awful greatness that he simply wasn't able to achieve. A fraud." Bret Easton Ellis has been savagely criticising the late David Foster Wallace on Twitter. [more inside]
posted by WPW on Sep 6, 2012 - 256 comments

Possible second photograph of Emily Dickinson

The only authenticated photgraph of Emily Dickinson is of a 16 year old girl. Amherst College now believes that a privately owned daguerrotype shows the poet as a 28 year old woman - about the time she wrote the "Master" letters.
posted by Egg Shen on Sep 5, 2012 - 33 comments

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