One of the most intriguing items in the British Library Persian manuscripts collection is a small unexceptional looking volume which contains a personal record, written in his own hand, of 37 dreams of Tipu Sultan, Sultan of Mysore (r. 1782-1799). [Complete translation.]A figure of continuing interest, Tipu Sultan's depiction in a 2014 parade float was the subject of a minor controversy, revisited expansively this year in a TV news report. A video history lesson for children offers a brief portrait of the ruler, sometimes remembered for his use of rockets against the British and his anti-British mechanical pipe organ (examined carefully here, but here used to play two tunes, including "Rule, Britannia!"). [more inside]
"For those who love books, but don’t have enough time for reading. Here are the best books you can read in under an hour each." 24 books to read in under an hour (infographic) by Piotr Kowalczyk at Ebook Friendly. (via Electric Literature) Previously: What to read when pressed for time
Ruth Rendell, crime writer, dies aged 85. [The Guardian]
Ruth Rendell, one of Britain’s best-loved authors, who delighted fans for decades with her dark, intricately plotted crime novels, has died at the age of 85, her publisher has announced.[more inside]
The Whole Family [(1908; Wikipedia)] is a bit of an oddity - a 'shared-world' by twelve prominent authors, each focusing on an individual member of an extended New England upper class family. William Dean Howells sets up the framework in the opening chapter ... [I]n the second story, Mary Wilkins Freeman overturns the whole table with a wonderfully feminist reinterpretation of a secondary character. The rest of the book is a scramble to put the apples back in the cart ...In "5 Goodies from Gutenberg," Jared Shurin revisits a round-robin novel he reviewed in more detail last summer at Pornokitsch, but it's not the only classic collaborative fiction available online. [more inside]
What are the most disturbing novels? [The Guardian] [Books] Guardian Books discusses disturbing reads:
"Bret Easton Ellis has haunted some of our readers for days, and on the books desk we’re still getting over certain depictions of dangerous obsessions and hellish orgies. Which fiction has most unnerved you?"
Originally released on the PSP system in 2010 the first Danganronpa game called Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc ( (ダンガンロンパ 希望の学園と絶望の高校生) developed and produced by Spike Chunsoft . It featured a classic whodunit game where the MC (Makoto Naegi) a Japanese teenger found himself stuck in a strange high school setting with a unique cast. [more inside]
"The world exists. Why recreate it?" Adelle Waldman explains why.
In 2010 Alan Prendergast wrote a long article about the life of novelist John Williams and how he was beginning, at long last, to find a sizable audience. How true that turned out to be, as Williams' 1965 novel Stoner subsequently became a bestseller all over Europe, first in French translation, but later elsewhere in Europe, and it has begun to get glowing notices in his native US. Williams is not around to enjoy the success, as he passed away in 1994. Now another of his novels, Augustus, has also begun its rise from obscurity. The New York Review of Books republished it last year on the occasion of the 2000th anniversary of the first Roman Emperor's death. On the NYRB website you can read Daniel Mendelsohn's fine introduction to the book.
Drinking My Way Through the Literary 1930's : "The backbone of this blog is the amazing and unfortunately out-of-print book, So Red the Nose. To this 1935, somewhat tongue-in-cheek recipe book, thirty bestselling contemporary authors submitted original cocktails, based around their own original works ... My mission, then, is to recreate 29 of these cocktails ... and combine them with their namesakes, ... discovering which books are classics tragically forgotten and which are better left to collect dust in library basements." [via mefi projects] [more inside]
They would ask me what actors I saw in the roles. I would tell them, and they’d say “Oh that’s interesting.” And that would be the end of it. --Elmore Leonard, in 2000, on the extent of his input for Hollywood's adaptation of his novels For authorial input on film adaptation, try My Book The Movie, by Marshall Zeringue, also of The Campaign for the American Reader, the page 69 test (previously), and the page 99 test. [more inside]
Kent Haruf, ‘a great writer and a great man’, dies aged 71 [The Guardian]
"Pan Macmillan, Haruf’s UK publisher, said that the novelist died on Sunday 30 November, praising his “beautifully restrained, profoundly felt novels” which it said “reflected a man of integrity, honesty and deep thoughtfulness”."
How renegade sci-fi writers of the 1960s paved the way for today's blending of literary and genre fiction [more inside]
"Longings and Desires", a Slate.com book review by Amanda Katz:
[Sarah] Waters, who was born in Wales in 1966, has carved out an unusual spot in fiction. Her six novels, beginning with Tipping the Velvet in 1998, could be called historical fiction, but that doesn’t begin to capture their appeal. It is closer to say that she is creating pitch-perfect popular fiction of an earlier time, but swapping out its original moral engine for a sensibility that is distinctly queer and contemporary, as if retrofitting a classic car.[more inside]
Her books offer something like an alternate reality—a literary one, if not a historical one. There may have been lesbian male impersonators working the London music halls in the 1890s, as in Tipping the Velvet, but there were certainly not mainstream novels devoted to their inner lives and sexual exploits. Waters gives such characters their say in books that imitate earlier crowd-pleasers in their structure, slang, and atmosphere, but that are powered by queer longing, defiant identity politics, and lusty, occasionally downright kinky sex. (An exception is her last novel, The Little Stranger.) The most masterful of these books so far is Fingersmith, a Wilkie Collins-esque tale full of genuinely shocking twists (thieves, double-crossing, asylums, mistaken identity, just go read it). The saddest is The Night Watch, a tale told in reverse of a group of entwined characters during and after World War II. But among many readers she is still most beloved for Tipping the Velvet, a deliriously paced coming-of-age story that is impossible to read in public without blushing.
"The du Maurier sisters had, from their volatile, crowded childhood onward, formed this private country they could slip in and out of, where "menaces" and "Venetian tendencies" could be freely discussed. In other words, they found a way to use games of pretend to tell the absolute truth." - Carrie Frye on author Daphne du Maurier and her seminal gothic novel, Rebecca.
Ian McEwan: the law versus religious belief. [The Guardian]
The conjoined twins who would die without medical intervention, a boy who refused blood transfusions on religious grounds…Ian McEwan on the stories from the family courts that inspired his latest novel.[more inside]
A Soviet take on Rambo (brief clip; Rutube) is "unique in its violence and anti-Americanism." A Russian point of view on James Bond remarks that "so widespread was the interest in Bond that an official Soviet spy serial ... was released." But the spy novel / miniseries Seventeen Moments of Spring (somewhat digestible in 17 highlights with commentary: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17) is for interesting reasons not a Soviet counterpart to James Bond or Rambo. See also Seventeen Moments fanfic, two pages of jokes about its hero, and how he figures in the present. [more inside]
The Sci-Fi Writers' War. "A pro-Western, NATO-backed Ukrainian government faces a stubborn insurgency in the pro-Russian East. Fighting rages around Donetsk, with civilians dying in artillery fire and airstrikes, while Russian troops mass on the Ukrainian border. The latest headlines? No, a two-novel series by Russian-Ukrainian science-fiction writer Fedor Berezin: War 2010: The Ukrainian Front and War 2011: Against NATO. In a startling plot twist, Berezin, a 54-year-old former Soviet Army officer and Donetsk native, is now living inside a real-life version of his own story: He is deputy defense minister of the embattled 'Donetsk People’s Republic.'"
The gals at Anglo-Filles have an entertaining (and epicly long) talk about the history of Dracula and vampires as characters and symbols throughout the ages and throughout fiction - topics discussed include Varney The Vampire, The Vienna Vampire Scare, Where Does Sunlight Killing Vampires Come From, The Secret Spanish Dracula, and Jonathan Harker As An Abuse Survivor.
In the LA Review of Books, Stephen Marche reflects upon the Literature of the Second Gilded Age. In his recently published book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, economist Thomas Piketty argues that when r>g, that is, when an economy's annual rate of return on capital exceeds the economy's annual rate of growth, wealth inequality tends to increase, and that this condition has held both during the 19th century and since around the latter quarter of the 20th century. Unusually for an economics book, Piketty's work makes reference to several pre 20th-century works of fiction. Stephen Marche discusses role of this literature in Piketty's book. He goes on to critique the modern American social-realist novel. Although these books are not discussed by Piketty, according to Piketty's research they too pertain to a time in which r>g. Marche however accuses the more modern literature of being a "restrained, aspirational product" with "most of its sting removed".
Holt, Reinhart, and Winston published Amazons: An Intimate Memoir by the First Woman Ever to Play in the National Hockey League in the fall of 1980 ... In over-the-top comically implausible prose, [Cleo] Birdwell, a twenty-three-year-old from Badger, Ohio, narrates her inaugural season with the New York Rangers. She has a Midwestern practicality and straight-forwardness, a sly humor, and an unusually subversive sexual candor and agency, chronicling—sans any standard female shame or hesitancy—her plentiful sexual liaisons with a gamut of neurotic men. The dialogue is masterful and playful and the humor unremitting. Yet beneath Birdwell’s narration, a foreboding lurks—a tinge of sadness and an existential-like searching-ness. That’s because Cleo Birdwell is a pseudonym for Don Delillo.
A-hind of hill, ways off to sun-set-down, is sky come like as fire, and walk I up in way of this, all hard of breath, where is grass colding on I's feet and wetting they. [more inside]
Stuck on that novel or just looking for some writing inspiration? Swing by the WritingPrompts subreddit for a wealth of clever prompts, each with a different set of constraints. Be sure to browse the stories submitted in the comments. [more inside]
So, you want to eat like a hobbit do you? The big old dragon of Middle-Earth recipes is the charmingly retro 'Middle-Earth Recipes' (now with a more modern and photo-friendly blog version ) from which NPR's Beth Accomando has complied an all-day feasting menu suitable for marathon watching (or reading) assorted Lord Of The Rings media while Recipewise sticks to foods served by Bilbo in The Hobbit itself and explains the Victorian convention of high vs. low tea. (Author Diane Duane's own Hobbit-inspired recipe, Took Family Seed Cake can be made with poppy rather than caraway seed if that's your thing) Need something to do while digesting? Why not read about the history and meaning of the rural comfort food in Tolkien at Strange Horizons " Well Stocked Larders: Food And Diet Of Hobbits" by Stephanie Green.
In the summer of 2012, Jeffrey Wilson interviewed Noam Chomsky.
“When the police came into [Occupy Wall Street] under Bloomberg’s orders and smashed up Zuccotti Park one of the things that they did was destroy all the books. You have got to destroy books that are dangerous. It has a long tradition back to the middle ages. Arizona knows all about that.”They discussed the Occupy movement (previously) and its roots in previous resistance movements, back to the Civil Right Movement Spanish Civil War. To bring the conversation to a mass audience, he's now publishing the transcript as a comic book. The artwork so far is beautiful. [more inside]
The book that helped me understand my son. Author David Mitchell's introduction to The Reason I Jump, a newly-translated memoir by thirteen-year-old Naoki Higashida on what it's like to have autism.
The pseudonymous author behind the critically-acclaimed mystery novel The Cuckoo's Calling has been outed. And it's J. K. Rowling.
Daniel Handler, best known for A Series of Unfortunate Events and his accordion work with Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields, reads a chapter from his novel Adverbs, which made Dave Eggers describe Handler as "something like an American Nabakov". An excerpt from another chapter, Immediately, is available courtesy of the New York Times. Handler's first adult novel, the nightmarishly satirical The Basic Eight (think the movie Heathers with a less reliable a narrator), is also well worth a read (excerpt from Google Books).
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.
Richard Kadrey is not the most prolific novelist in the world. Still, every five, six years or so out comes another book like Metrophage, or Kamikaze L'Amour, dark, violent, intense works mostly set in and around Los Angeles with characters straight out of a good punk rock song. The self-confessing film nerd is probably best known for his Sandman Slim series, and if you're impatient for the forthcoming Dead Set novel, you can bide your time with a ton of short stories online. [more inside]
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?"
Highlighting forgotten, neglected, abandoned, forsaken, unrecognized, unacknowledged, overshadowed, out-of-fashion, under-translated writers.
The author Samuel Langhorne Clemens, a popular MetaFilter topic, was born 177 years ago today (November 30th 1835) in Missouri. The printer, riverboat pilot, game designer, journalist, lecturer, technology investor, gold miner, publisher and patent holder wrote short stories, essays, novels and non-fiction under the pen name Mark Twain. This included The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (recently adapted into a musical), one of the top five challenged books of the 1990s, published in 1884-85 to a mixed reception and with an ending that still causes debate. [more inside]
My 6,128 Favorite Books - "Joe Queenan on how a harmless juvenile pastime turned into a lifelong personality disorder."
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]
The 55 Scariest Scenes from Fantasy/SF/Horror movies by the jewel-in-the-crown-of-Gawker io9 features many clips guaranteed to freak you out. Along the same lines, and also from io9, is an excellent list of ten novels that are scarier than horror movies.
The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, went on sale 75 years ago today. The first printing, by Allen & Unwin, was for 1,500 copies (which now fetch a premium at auction); the first reviewer, the son of the publisher, was paid a shilling. Through a contorted publishing history, exact or even approximate sales figures are unknown; "over a hundred million" is often quoted. [more inside]
It's about a year since the storied Weird Tales magazine (previously) got a new editor and sacked its staff (previously), so WT elected to celebrate that milestone by publishing some text from actress, film director, sometime blogger and new author Victoria Foyt's debut Revealing Eden: Save the Pearls. Some people have a problem with its content and its video. [more inside]
James Salter's A Sport and a Pastime is one of those very rare novels that seems not so much to have been written as discovered. At its heart is a love story, an encounter, that transforms its relatively ordinary protagonists into beings around whom the entire cosmos shapes itself. The love story is delicate and ephemeral, put together out of bits and pieces, like a bird's nest. The vulnerable lovers tremble, in the most mundane circumstances, on the edge of catastrophe. Simply the way one of them moves across the room to meet the other seems miraculous and hazardous. Were they to become aware of themselves everything would be lost. But there is no danger of that. Oblivious, they tiptoe on a precipice. They do not and cannot know that their innocence cloaks them in a kind of divinity and infallibility. Actions and attitudes we expect to bring them down don't. They do things that seem so perfect, so poignant, without knowing they are doing anything at all. They arc beautifully across our path, and then vanish. - Michael Doliner (previously) [more inside]
For his 2008 novel The Museum of Innocence, about a man who obsessively collects objects associated with his beloved and eventually creates a museum of those objects in his beloved's old house, Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk has built a museum in a house in Istanbul containing the objects mentioned in the novel, including a half-eaten ice cream cone (made of plastic) and 4,213 cigarette stubs, complete with lipstick and ice cream stains. Elif Batuman reports on how the museum, which opened in April, came to be.
simply read Finnegans Wake. Since it is said to make more sense when recited aloud, you could start with this recording of James Joyce performing a passage from the "Anna Livia Plurabelle" section - which has been described as "one of the most beautiful prose-poems in English". [more inside]
‘You will never go wrong anticipating doom in my books, any more than you’ll go wrong in anticipating doom in ordinary life’—László Krasznahorkai. [more inside]
"The Threat to Proust" by Roger Shattuck: When Proust’s novel fell into the public domain in 1987, three Paris publishing houses were ready with new editions that had been in preparation for several years. They all carry the same basic 3,000-page text with few variations. The differences lie in packaging and presentation. Laffont-Bouquins chose to publish three fat volumes prefaced by elaborate historical and biographical materials. Garnier-Flammarion produced ten pocket-sized volumes competently edited by Jean Milly. The new Pléiade edition, published by the original copyright holder, Gallimard, made the boldest, most ambitious, and most expensive bid to claim the market. In a combination of editorial, literary, and commercial decisions, Gallimard proposed to influence the way we read Proust and, to some degree, the way we approach all great literary works. [more inside]