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How To make a shoe, kill a bear, and mix a Widow's Tears

Mental Floss links to free How-To guides from a hundred years ago that are still helpful if you need to mesmerize someone or name a baby
posted by The Whelk on Jul 28, 2014 - 34 comments

A hard stare from a public bench bear

"London has become a literary playground: a project by the National Literacy Trust has scattered 50 book-shaped benches across the capital for the whole summer, each dedicated to an iconic London-related author or character." (The Guardian). The BBC report about the literary benches; the full list of benches from the Books about Town website. CNN has a slideshow that includes a nice photo of the Paddington Bear bench in use.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Jul 25, 2014 - 11 comments

Trans Women's Lit

Trans women writers Jeanne Thornton, Imogen Binnie, Red Durkin and Casey Plett read from their recent works for Talks at Google. [more inside]
posted by emmtee on Jul 6, 2014 - 11 comments

The 200 Greatest Adventure Novels of All Time

One man's favorite adventure novels published before the '80s. "Why does my Top Adventures List project stop in 1983? Primarily because I figure that adventure fans already know which adventure novels from the Eighties, Nineties, and Twenty-Oughts are worth reading; I’m interested in directing attention to older, sometimes obscure or forgotten adventures." (Hat-tip: DGStieber)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Jun 14, 2014 - 29 comments

The Women's Prize For Fiction 2014

This year's Women's Prize For Fiction has been won by A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride. [more inside]
posted by dng on Jun 6, 2014 - 7 comments

The novel is dead!

The literary novel as an art work and a narrative art form central to our culture is indeed dying before our eyes. Will Self on the future of the novel.
posted by dng on May 2, 2014 - 56 comments

The devourer and the devoured

"Nobody would believe how difficult it is to be the mother of a Wunderkind. Everything I do is wrong; everything the child does is “for effect”; everything we say is utterly untrue. If Vivien runs up to me and kisses me, I hear it murmured that she is trained to do so. (“Whipped to be affectionate in public!”) So I tell her never to do it again. Immediately people remark how cold I am to the child; how the poor little creature evidently fears me and prefers Fräulein Muller. We take her with her hoop and skipping-rope to play in the park? It is said we make her pretend to be infantine, force her to act the “happy child” when people are looking on! So we take her toys from her and conduct her for prim walks between us. “Poor little unnatural creature!” say our friends: “she has no child-life at all.” The Devourer and the Devoured is a long essay by Emily Hogstad about the intertwined lives of the novelist Annie Vivanti and her daughter Vivien Chartres, a world-famous violin prodigy, at the beginning of the twentieth century.
posted by escabeche on Apr 29, 2014 - 16 comments

How Reader's Digest Became a Chinese Stooge

How Reader's Digest Became a Chinese Stooge Larkin was delighted when Reader's Digest said it would take her work for one of its anthologies of condensed novels. Thirst would reach a global audience and – who knows? – take off. Reader's Digest promised "to ensure that neither the purpose nor the opinion of the author is distorted or misrepresented", and all seemed well. [more inside]
posted by modernnomad on Mar 30, 2014 - 38 comments

Democratic and demanding

Are the New ‘Golden Age’ TV Shows the New Novels? (NYT) [more inside]
posted by stbalbach on Feb 27, 2014 - 71 comments

(you) | Call | Me \ Ishmael

The first sentences of notable novels. Diagrammed. From Pop Chart Lab (previously).
posted by davidjmcgee on Feb 26, 2014 - 50 comments

To hell with Gatsby's green light!

Why We Should Stop Teaching Novels To High School Students (Natasha Vargas-Cooper for Bookforum)
posted by box on Jan 17, 2014 - 160 comments

Boot Boy

Skinhead Farewell a BBC documentary on the controversial cult novelist James Moffat aka Richard Allen
posted by fearfulsymmetry on Dec 10, 2013 - 12 comments

The Best Hundred Novels (1898 Edition)

The Queenslander, April 4, 1898: "Mr. Clement K. Shorter, asked by 'The Bookman' to write out a list of 100 of the best novels in the English language, supplied the following list, naming only one book of each author, and giving the date of publication :--" [Via.] [more inside]
posted by Monsieur Caution on Nov 6, 2013 - 57 comments

A WEEK OF KINDNESS: a novel in collage

SUNDAY. Element: Mud. Exemplar: The Lion of Belfort.
MONDAY. Element: Water. Exemplar: Water.
TUESDAY. Element: Fire. Exemplar: The Court of Dragons.
WEDNESDAY. Element: Blood. Exemplar: Œdipus. [Certain images NSFW on account of Victorian prurience] [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Oct 30, 2013 - 7 comments

The most famous book from each state in the US

A map of the most famous books set in each U.S. state. Which of these books have you read? Is there a book you think should be on the list that isn't? (the full list) It reminds me of a recent post on the Blue featuring a writer who spent a year reading one novel from every country in the world. Metafilter users, of course, have been there done that. [more inside]
posted by Jacob Knitig on Oct 26, 2013 - 126 comments

Fifty or so teenagers, eavesdropping

Your next Young Adult novel, in fragments. [more inside]
posted by Potomac Avenue on Oct 18, 2013 - 18 comments

Action-Adventure Space Opera Manners Romances and Coming-of-Age Stories

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Agent of Change and Fledgling are now available as free downloads. Starting points in the Liaden Universe, a space opera series notable for its romance elements and convoluted publication history, their particular sequences (among others) in the same setting take noticeably different approaches to common themes such as complicated manners, familial obligations, and meeting a soulmate. Not to mention humanoid turtles. And occasional cats. [more inside]
posted by Monsieur Caution on Sep 27, 2013 - 13 comments

The [INSERT JOB TITLE]'s Daughter

"I was curious to see how many of these books there actually are, so I did a search for books with 'The' and 'Daughter' in their titles on Goodreads. Afterward I spent some time copying and pasting all instances of The ___’s Daughter into an Excel spreadsheet. How much time? A lot..." [more inside]
posted by taz on Aug 7, 2013 - 106 comments

Crow Road

RIP Iain Banks. [more inside]
posted by fearfulsymmetry on Jun 9, 2013 - 372 comments

from "proteaform" mass of modern learning to "faustian fustian" of words

Finnegans Wake, Joyce's famously unreadable masterpiece (read it online here), was considerably more readable in one of its earlier drafts. Watch Joyce cross out decipherable words and replace them with less decipherable ones! Watch him end, not with a whimper, but with a slightly less impressive whimper! Sadly, Shem's schoolbook, which in the finished version is a House of Leaves-esque compendium of side columns and footnotes, was not written until much later (according to the footnotes of that section). The introduction to this draft by David Hayman, who assembled it, is worth a read.
posted by Rory Marinich on May 20, 2013 - 54 comments

"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

The short sci-fi/fantasy/noir/b-movie stories of Richard Kadrey

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]
posted by filthy light thief on May 7, 2013 - 14 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

Highlighting forgotten, neglected, abandoned, forsaken, unrecognized, unacknowledged, overshadowed, out-of-fashion, under-translated writers.

Writers No One Reads
posted by the man of twists and turns on Dec 17, 2012 - 34 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 frantic career of the eyes

Picturing Books: What do we see when we read? (Other than words on a page.) What do we picture in our minds? A consideration by Knopf's senior designer Peter Mendulsund. [more inside]
posted by shakespeherian on Jun 27, 2012 - 22 comments

What becomes a legend most?

In 1929, John Galsworthy won a Guardian poll as the novelist most likely to still be read in 2029. Three years later, he won the Nobel Prize, and the prices of his first editions skyrocketed. His reputation has since been on a 80-year wane that shows no signs of abating. The New Yorker asks Why is Literary Fame So Unpredictable? And who will they be teaching in literature class a century from now?
posted by Horace Rumpole on May 22, 2012 - 65 comments

It's rude to blurb in public

Adam Mansbach (previously) will write a blurb of your novel. For a price.... [more inside]
posted by schmod on Apr 18, 2012 - 23 comments

There are neither beginnings or endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.

"It all started with wondering what it was really like to be tapped on the shoulder and told that you are the savior of mankind. Ten years of thinking about that, and I began writing." He was James Oliver Rigney, Jr., a Vietnam vet who went on to get a degree in physics from The Citadel, and was then a nuclear engineer for the US Navy. He put all that behind him and started writing a variety of fantasy novels under various aliases. As Reagan O'Neal, he wrote the Fallon trilogy of historical fantasy in the early 1980s, which he followed up with a quick series of Conan novels as Robert Jordan. Under this pen name, he spent a decade planning and four years writing The Eye of the World, the first book in The Wheel of Time, an epic storyline in a fantasy world. Jordan had planned out the broad story arc from the beginning to the "final scene in the final book," but he died before his epic tale could be completed. A young author, Brandon Sanderson, was chosen by Rigney's wife and editor, Harriet McDougal, to complete the portions of the tale left as a loose collection of notes. One last book became three, and just last month, the release date of the final book was set: January 8, 2013, in the final month of the Year of the Dragon. Now that the end is in sight, you might feel the pull of nostalgia to finish the series, or maybe you're interested to see what all this fuss is about. With around 11,000 pages, 635 chapters, and more than four million words, it's a complex, daunting world to (re)enter. Fear not, the internet is here to help. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Mar 10, 2012 - 66 comments

The Most Dangerous Man in Publishing

Barney Rosset, former owner of the influential Grove Press and Evergreen Review, boundary-shattering publisher of Tropic of Cancer, Waiting for Godot, and Naked Lunch, and U.S. distributor of I Am Curious (Yellow), died yesterday at the age of 90.
posted by Horace Rumpole on Feb 22, 2012 - 30 comments

You are, unfortunately, a fiction writer.

46 Things to Read and See for David Foster Wallace's 50th Birthday. The writer described as The Best Mind of His Generation would have turned 50 years old today. [more inside]
posted by mattbucher on Feb 21, 2012 - 26 comments

yWriter

Since its last* appearance in the blue, yWriter has been updated to version 5. Designed specifically for novels, this freeware "contains no adverts, unwanted web toolbars, desktop search programs or other cruft".
posted by Trurl on Feb 11, 2012 - 56 comments

Serialized eBooks

Despite the popularity of long-arc, serialized TV shows, no one really wants to read serialized fiction, apparently. That's not stopped anyone from trying, though, like say Stephen King with The Green Mile and The Plant, semi-successful efforts from a mega-successful author. That was before the current rise of the ebook, though, and a few authors (also here and here and here) are betting technology will turn serialized novels into the next big thing, that we're in "the perfect environment for a resurgence."
posted by nospecialfx on Dec 7, 2011 - 44 comments

Dawn Powell

For decades Dawn Powell was always just on the verge of ceasing to be a cult and becoming a major religion. But despite the work of such dedicated cultists as Edmund Wilson and Matthew Josephson, John Dos Passos and Ernest Hemingway, Dawn Powell never became the popular writer that she ought to have been. In those days, with a bit of luck, a good writer eventually attracted voluntary readers and became popular. Today, of course, "popular" means bad writing that is widely read while good writing is that which is taught to involuntary readers. Powell failed on both counts. She needs no interpretation and in her lifetime she should have been as widely read as, say, Hemingway or the early Fitzgerald or the mid O'Hara or even the late, far too late, Katherine Anne Porter. But Powell was that unthinkable monster, a witty woman who felt no obligation to make a single, much less a final, down payment on Love or The Family; she saw life with a bright Petronian neutrality, and every host at life's feast was a potential Trimalchio to be sent up. - Gore Vidal
posted by Trurl on Nov 12, 2011 - 38 comments

Malignant Narcissism Or Middle-Aged White Dudes Constantly Boning Down?

An American writer hasn't won the Nobel Prize for Literature since 1993 (Toni Morrison). Slate's Alexander Nazaryan tells us why: "The rising generation of writers behind Oates, Roth and DeLillo are dominated by Great Male Narcissists — even the writers who aren’t male (or white)."
posted by bardic on Oct 4, 2011 - 121 comments

Harold Brodkey

[Harold] Brodkey produced fiction that was epic too, but chiefly in its elaboration of human intimacy. To read his prose is to be incarcerated in the situations of his characters; indeed, it is to be very nearly overwhelmed by them. ... Brodkey moved forward with new forms for rendering human consciousness. His protagonist was, almost always, "a mind shaped like a person." The action consisted of that mind discovering its thoughts. [more inside]
posted by Trurl on Aug 23, 2011 - 11 comments

Oh My God! I Was Wrong! It was Serling All Along!

In 1963, French novelist (and former secret agent!) Pierre Boulle, released a smashing new Sci-Fi novel called La planète des singes (Monkey Planet in the UK). Like his previous 1952 bestseller, Le Pont de la rivière Kwaï (Bridge Over the River Kwai), the book was adapted into a classic film - and eventually a franchise of some note. Interested in how Boulle's sociopolitical satire became one of the iconic films of our time? You can read some of the backstory about Serling's involvement with the project, then have a look at the various drafts themselves and final shooting script. [Previously].
posted by Dr. Zira on Aug 5, 2011 - 12 comments

Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow?

Gamers, have you ever looked in the sci-fi aisle of your bookstore and wondered how there could possibly be novels set in the worlds of "Gears of War" or "Doom," but nothing in the richly imagined distopia of Bioshock? Have you fed your Art Deco obsession with Ryan-inspired fan fiction, wishing for something more? Wish no longer: Bram Stoker Award winner, sci-fi novelist, punk rocker, Blue Oyster Cult lyricist, etc. John Shirley has written the first official BioShock novel, "BioShock: Rapture," which hit store shelves yesterday. An excerpt of the book, which is a prequel to the first game, is offered here from publisher Tor. [more inside]
posted by jbickers on Jul 20, 2011 - 63 comments

Your/My Unfinished Novel

OK, so you've partly written a novel, but you're having trouble finishing the damn thing. What to do? Summon stamina, press on, and be proud of your literary success? Or, post your abandonment for all the world to see! Ladies and gentlemen, a place for your unfini--
posted by anothermug on Jul 12, 2011 - 39 comments

Teenagers in Love

Teenagers in Love: Lesbian Literature for Ages 12 & Up.
posted by nasreddin on Jun 2, 2011 - 18 comments

Literary Blurb Translation Guide

"Trenchant satire" = poop jokes. J. Robert Lennon at Ward Six presents the Literary Blurb Translation Guide.
posted by escabeche on May 22, 2011 - 55 comments

The Stockholm Syndrome Theory of Long Novels

"Reading a novel of punishing difficulty and length is a version of climbing Everest for people who prefer not to leave the house. And people who climb Everest don’t howl with exhilaration at the summit because the mountain was a good or a well made or an interesting mountain per se, but because they’re overawed at themselves for having done such a fantastically difficult thing." Mark O'Connell writes about how he overcame his fear of reading very long novels.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear on May 18, 2011 - 83 comments

Cover Your Nose - or - Love Is In The Air

Bad (and some so bad they're good) excerpts from bad romance novels. Includes things like: "And as he ground sinuously against her tender flesh, she began to quake and contract, whimpering with tortured delight. Her senses exploded; her very body seemed to dissolve into a fierce, white-hot blast of elemental heat. And in that boundless, exploding star of pleasure she felt his essence mingle with hers as he buried his face in her hair and erupted, pouring his passion into her soft, responsive frame."
posted by fantodstic on Apr 16, 2011 - 95 comments

2010 Locus Recommended Reading

Locus, the Magazine of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Field, is the paper of record in the science fiction community. Every year the editors and reviewers at Locus publish a recommended reading list which includes novels, YA novels, first novels, anthologies and collections, related non-fiction, art books, and three types of shorter work (novellas, novelettes, and short stories). If you are at all interested in the current state of the SF&F genre you can't do better than Locus' yearly effort. The list for 2010 appears in the February issue. [more inside]
posted by Justinian on Feb 18, 2011 - 25 comments

Rise of the Neuronovel

Rise of the Neuronovel. Marco Roth at N+1 argues that the recent interest of contemporary novels (Motherless Brooklyn, Saturday, Atmospheric Disturbances) in the disordered wetware of their characters represents a defeat for fiction. "...the new genre of the neuronovel, which looks on the face of it to expand the writ of literature, appears as another sign of the novel’s diminishing purview." Jonah Lehrer responds to Roth and Roth responds back.
posted by escabeche on Jan 2, 2011 - 58 comments

Figment

Figment.com is a new, free community and platform for young people to share their fiction writing, "connect with other readers and discover new stories and authors. Users are invited to write novels, short stories and poems, collaborate with other writers and give and receive feedback on the work posted on the site." (Via)
posted by zarq on Dec 5, 2010 - 19 comments

“I found the action exciting writing skillful.”

Novelist Bill Morris on the lost art of the rejection letter (via) [more inside]
posted by otio on Oct 29, 2010 - 23 comments

Hint: It's spelled *Allen*.

Mental Floss has some good stuff, but I really like their quizzes. Especially the "Who Am I" series. Novels. Poets. Actors. Sports. Wonders of the World. [more inside]
posted by phunniemee on Oct 14, 2010 - 13 comments

"The great advantage of being a writer is that you can spy on people. You're there, listening to every word, but part of you is observing."

Graham Greene, Arthur Ransome and Somerset Maugham all spied for Britain, admits MI6 "The authors Graham Greene, Arthur Ransome, Somerset Maugham, Compton Mackenzie and Malcolm Muggeridge, and the philosopher AJ "Freddie" Ayer, all worked for MI6, Britain's Secret Intelligence Service admitted for the first time today . They are among the many exotic characters who agreed to spy for Britain, mainly during wartime, who appear in a the first authorised history of MI6."
posted by Fizz on Oct 11, 2010 - 27 comments

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