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October 31, 2013

Implausible Literary Halloween Costumes No One Will Recognize

480px-Gertrude_Stein_1935-01-04By Blake Butler

Gertrude Stein

Cut your hair down to just fistfuls with a pair of safety scissors and without looking in the mirror. A pretty white scarf around your neck would be very nice, or maybe even one patterned like the American flag. Then put on a dark blue dress and find a stairwell and throw yourself down it. Repeat until you’re no longer sure where you are. When you go out, get up close in people’s faces and breathe hard with your eyes big in your face, not saying anything except when others speak first, then repeating back exactly what they said in a slightly different tone. Maybe carry a gun in your panties but don’t tell anybody or ever get it out. Keep putting on extra lipstick and laughing to yourself. For extra elocutionary damage, bring a little flask full of homemade corn whiskey and take a mouthful every time someone says the word egg, why, water, time, dinner, kindness, more, or what.

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Beaumont, Fletcher, Maids

Francis Beaumont

Francis Beaumont

by Steve King

On this day in 1611 The Maid’s Tragedy, by Francis Beaumont (left) and John Fletcher, was entered in the Stationers’ Register. Beaumont and Fletcher dominated English theater throughout the 17th century; many of their plays were the sex-murder “stews” so popular at the time, but they were produced and praised at four or five times the rate of Shakespeare’s plays, and contemporaries placed Fletcher in a “triumvirate of wit” with Shakespeare and Ben Jonson.

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October 30, 2013

The Best Books on Writing, NYC, Animals, and More: A Collaboration with the New York Public Library

nyplbookpickings_fullby Maria Popova

A celebration of timelessly wonderful reads in an elaborate diorama of papercraft book sculptures.

As an enormous lover and patron of public libraries, I was beyond delighted when the fine folks at the New York Public Library asked me to curate a selection of books for their bookstore and gave me free range to do whatever I wished. My original thought was to do a single reading list around a specific theme, much like I had been doing for the TED bookstore. But my chronic maximalism soon kicked in — the single reading list swelled into four reading lists (wisdom on writing, great reads about New York City, heart- and brain-stirring books on pets and animals, and timeless treats for young readers) and the simple tabletop display became an elaborate installation in the bookstore’s main window. That’s when I reached out to the impossibly talented Kelli Anderson, with whom I’d previously collaborated on the Curator’s Code and The Reconstructionists projects, and invited her to bestow her singular gift for disruptive wonder upon the library as we both donated our time and resources to the project.

Kelli, with her own brand of idealistic maximalism, decided to turn the reading lists into a magnificent papercraft wonderland featuring oversized three-dimensional sculptures of each of the books amidst an intricate paper cityscape of the Manhattan skyline.

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How to Succeed as an Author: Give Up on Writing The rancid smell of 21st century literary success

Filed under: Publishers — Tags: , , , , — Bookblurb @ 9:02 am

 

newBY LIONEL SHRIVER

Parents whose offspring aspire to artistic careers find themselves in the invidious position of either trying to crush their children’s hopes or encouraging a pursuit with poor prospects that will probably pay beans. Had I a seven-year-old who declared that she wanted to be a writer, as I did at that age, I worry that I might spontaneously exclaim, “Are you crazy?”

Make no mistake, I’ve led a great life—yet one that, fiscally anyway, may be decreasingly on offer for young writers. Advances are down. Typically for fiction these days, my latest novel has sold roughly two (for the author, less lucrative) e-books for every hardback. Publishers are more impatient than ever—and they were never patient—with a first novel that doesn’t make a splash.

Besides, your talents are equally endangered when a book does make a splash. If you really want to write, the last thing you want to be is a success. Now that every village in the United Kingdom has its own literary festival, I could credibly spend my entire year, every year, flitting from Swindon to Peterborough to Aberdeen, jawing interminably about what I’ve already written—at the modest price of scalding self-disgust.

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Visiting writers’ houses: who’s at home?

There’s no doubting our fascination with places in which authors have lived – it’s less certain what we hope to find there.

By Liz Bury

The news that a three-bedroom “colonial” property in Cleveland, Ohio, has been put up for sale would not usually make a newspaper headline, but when it is the teenage home of poet and writer Langston Hughes, it suddenly becomes interesting.

The estate agent handling the sale told the Plain Dealer: “People want to know how long Langston Hughes lived there and where he wrote” – they want to know that his room was the third-floor attic, and that’s where he first started writing some of his early plays, poems and short stories before moving to New York in the 1920s.

An aspiring writer has reportedly bid for the house, bringing to mind other, similar stories: Vikram Seth was so taken with a rectory that was once the home of metaphysical poet George Herbert that he bought it, and has lived there ever since.

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Sense and Sensibility

Jane Austen

Jane Austen

by Steve King

On this day in 1811 Jane Austen’s first novel, Sense and Sensibility, was published. Early reviewers found it to be “a genteel, well-written novel” as far as “domestic literature” went, and “just long enough to interest without fatiguing.” Virginia Woolf would take a different view: “Sometimes it seems as if her creatures were born merely to give Jane Austen the supreme delight of slicing their heads off.”

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October 16, 2013

Man Booker Prize 2013: Youngest star Eleanor Catton joins Booker luminaries

Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton, second left, at a photocall in London last weekend with fellow shortlisted authors, from left, Jhumpa Lahiri, Colm Tóibín, NoViolet Bulawayo and Ruth Ozeki

Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton, second left, at a photocall in London last weekend with fellow shortlisted authors, from left, Jhumpa Lahiri, Colm Tóibín, NoViolet Bulawayo and Ruth Ozeki

Eleanor Catton wins at the age of 28 with 832-page novel of ‘astonishing maturity’

By

Eleanor Catton has become the youngest writer to win the Man Booker Prize, with the longest novel to triumph in the award.

Catton, 28, beat competition from Colm Tóibín, NoViolet Bulawayo, Jhumpa Lahiri, Ruth Ozeki and the favourite, Jim Crace, to be awarded the £50,000 prize by the Duchess of Cornwall at a ceremony in Guildhall in London.

The author began The Luminaries, her second novel, aged 25, and has eclipsed the previous youngest recipient of the award, Ben Okri, who won aged 32 in 1991.

 

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Hollywood’s Favorite Cowboy

Viggo Mortensen in the movie adaptation 'The Road' directed by John Hillcoat

Viggo Mortensen in the movie adaptation ‘The Road’ directed by John Hillcoat

Author Cormac McCarthy, 76, talked about love, religion, his 11-year-old son, the end of the world and the movie based on his novel ‘The Road.’ He was just getting going.

By John Jurgensen

Novelist Cormac McCarthy shuns interviews, but he relishes conversation. Last week, the author sat down on the leafy patio of the Menger Hotel, built about 20 years after the siege of the Alamo, the remains of which are next door.

The afternoon conversation, which also included film director John Hillcoat of “The Road,” went on ’til dark, then moved to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Dressed in crisp jeans and dimpled brown cowboy boots, Mr. McCarthy began the meal with a Bombay Gibson, up.

The 76-year-old author first broke through with his 1985 novel “Blood Meridian,” a tale of American mercenaries hunting Indians in the Mexican borderland. Commercial success came later with 1992’s “All the Pretty Horses,” a National Book Award winner and the first installment of a Border Trilogy. Critics delved into his detailed vision of the West, his painterly descriptions of violence, and his muscular prose stripped of most punctuation.

The writer himself, however, has proved more elusive. He won’t be found at book festivals, readings and other places novelists gather. Mr. McCarthy prefers hanging out with “smart people” outside his field, like professional poker players and the thinkers at the Santa Fe Institute, a theoretical-science foundation in New Mexico where the author is a longtime fellow.

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Unusable Words

Awan-580 by Brad Leithauser

I was seeking a replacement for “unfathomable.” I thought of “depthless,” but, feeling a bit iffy about it, I consulted my old Webster’s Second. Yes, it was a synonym for “unfathomable” (“Of measureless depth … unsoundable”) but also for “fathomable” (“Having no depth; shallow”). The word was what I think of as an auto-antonym (a term that doesn’t appear in Webster’s Second): it’s its own opposite. Which is to say, it’s a mostly unusable word.

Suppose in a novel you encounter the phrase “Rick stared into Sheila’s beautiful, depthless eyes.” Rick has clearly met a babe—and she is either superficial or profound. No telling which, outside of context. In its flexibility, its complaisant wish to go both ways, the word loses its independence and leaches away most of its efficacy.

I don’t know how many auto-antonyms English offers, but the list includes “cleave” (unify or sever—the butcher’s wife cleaves to the butcher, who cleaves the cow’s carcass), “overlook” (oversee or fail to notice), “let” (allow or, as in the legal phrase “let or hindrance,” obstruct), “enjoin” (encourage or prohibit), and “sanction,” as in any sanctioned imports are either approved goods or contraband. A lengthy, but not exhaustive, list of auto-antonyms can be found on Wikipedia.

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Wilde, Mother & Son

Oscar Wilde    (1854 - 1900)

Oscar Wilde
(1854 – 1900)

by Steve King

On this day in 1854 Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin, and by all accounts, including Oscar’s, cut from his mother’s cloth: “How ridiculous of you to suppose that anyone, least of all my dear mother, would christen me ‘plain Oscar’…. I started as Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde. All but two of the five names have already been thrown overboard. Soon I shall discard another and be known simply as ‘The Wilde’ or ‘The Oscar.'”

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