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 -
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 -
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 -
“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.Shirley Temple Three
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.
by Thomas Pierce
posted by y2karl
on Dec 18, 2012 -
[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 -
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 -
Just when you thought it was safe to open a book... it's the Literary Review's annual Bad Sex Award
) 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 -
... [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 -
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 -
"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 -
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 -
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 -
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 -
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 -
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 -
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 -
. "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 -
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 -
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 -