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September 23, 2014

50 best cult books

Albert Camus, Joseph Heller, JD Salinger and Thomas Pynchon are among the authors chosen by our critics for the 50 best cult books

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)

By Telegraph Reporters

A cult book may be hard to define but one thing is for sure: you know a cult book when you see one.

Cult books are somehow, intangibly, different from simple bestsellers – though many of them are that. And people have passionate feelings on both sides:

Our critics present a selection of the most notable cult writing from the past two centuries. Some is classic. Some is catastrophic. All of it had the power to inspire . . .

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April 23, 2014

Five perfect books for men who never read

RoadJust under a third of the male population don’t read books, says a Reading Agency survey. Here are five man-friendly page-turners they might enjoy anyway.

By

Nearly 30% of men have not read a book since school, according to a survey commissioned for World Book Night, an annual event that hopes to change their ways. The reasons men don’t read are varied, but “not really wanting to” seems to be the main one. However, if you are a man – or know one – who might agree to try just one book for the hell of it, these are my guaranteed-no-regrets recommendations.

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March 4, 2014

The 50 Scariest Books of All Time.

The Collector  -  John Fowles

The Collector – John Fowles

By Emily Temple.

Here, for your horrifying pleasure, are 50 of the scariest books ever written in the English language, whether horror, nonfiction, or speculative futures you never want to see. One caveat: the list is limited to one book per author, so Stephen King fans will have to expand their horizons a little bit. Check out 50 books that will keep you up all night.

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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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October 16, 2013

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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June 20, 2013

Wasteland Gems: Fiction’s Post-Apocalyptic Top 10

apocalyptic-readsBy Rajan Khanna

This month sees the release of two post-apocalyptic films: the thriller World War Z and the comedy This is the End, proving that audiences still have an appetite for end-of-the-world fare. If anything, its popularity seems to be increasing. Television shows like Revolution, Falling Skies, and Defiance are all recent productions. Games like Fallout and Borderlands continue to sell well. The fact that there’s a mainstream post-apocalyptic comedy in theaters seems to say that this is a genre we’re so familiar with that parody and satire seem to be the logical next steps.

As a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction, I’m happy to see it endure, especially as the flavor I grew up with (the post-nuclear war variety) almost went out of style with the Cold War. But post-apocalyptic fiction to me has never been about the apocalypse, about the collapse of society as we know it. To me it’s always always been about hope. In the midst of terrible things, the dismantling of everything we’ve come to know and depend upon, post-apocalyptic fiction focuses on not only the struggle to survive, but often the attempt to preserve or rebuild the best parts of humanity. It allows us to hold up a mirror to ourselves and see both the heights and depths of what we’re capable of.

Which brings us to my Top 10 List of Post-Apocalyptic Fiction. Keep in mind that this is my Top 10. I expect other people’s to differ. Also, I omitted any zombie fiction from this list, not because I don’t think it qualifies, but because I recently covered it in a separate column and wanted to avoid repeats.

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May 27, 2013

Are Apostrophes Necessary?

NoNot really, no.

By Matthew J.X. Malady

One hundred and eighteen miles north of London, in the town of Boston, England, there lives a retired newspaperman named John Richards who is experiencing an unusually rotten spring. Richards is the founder and chairman of something called the Apostrophe Protection Society. His world, at least as related to the tiny mark that denotes possessives and the omission of letters from certain words, appears to be crashing down around him.

Recent news reports emanating from Richards’ native England, and from across the pond in America, describe a number of ominous developments that could threaten the sanctity of everything his society exists to protect. In March, the Mid Devon district council in southwestern England attempted to banish apostrophes from all area street signs. People went nuts, grammarians groused, and the council ultimately changed course. But celebrations by apostrophe acolytes would soon be contracted. A few months after the Mid Devon switcheroo, the Wall Street Journal noted that the United States Board on Geographic Names maintains a longstanding policy of removing apostrophes from titles proposed for towns, mountains, caves, and other assorted locations Americans like to name. The government doesn’t want us getting the wrong idea about, for instance, whether some guy named Pike actually owns “Pikes Peak.” So that’s why formal place names in the U.S.—aside from a few noteworthy exceptions such as Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts and Clark’s Mountain in Oregon—rarely include apostrophes. English language formalists are now up in arms about that manner of proceeding, too.

With each new controversy, it becomes increasingly clear that we, as a society, have reached a Pikes Peak of our own when it comes to fussing and nitpicking over things like how we denote possessives and contractions. The apostrophe chatter business, according to Chairman Richards, is booming. He gets 30 or 40 apostrophe-related inquiries each month via email. “My website has received over a million hits,” he says.

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May 10, 2013

Erotic Canadian Novel Awarded 2012 Believer Book Award

MaidenBy Leigh Anne Williams

Toronto-based indie press Coach House Books is celebrating with author Tamara Faith Berger after her novel Maidenhead was chosen by the editors of San Francisco-based literary magazine The Believer for its 2012 Believer Book Award, as “the strongest and most under-appreciated” fiction book of the year.

Coach House promoted the book as a more cerebral alternative to E.L. James Fifty Shades series, but Maidenhead ventures into darker and more complicated places. Myra, its young protagonist, becomes involved with a Tanzanian musician and the violent woman who controls him. And, according to Coach House, it follows Myra as she enters “unfamiliar territories of sex, porn, race and class.”

 

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April 18, 2013

One Hundred Literary Rumors

Eggers and his flawless skin

Eggers and his flawless skin

By Blake Butler

Lydia Davis can’t stand the sight of children wearing bike helmets.

Richard Brautigan never crossed state lines except on foot.

Jack London loved braiding men’s hair.

Matthew Rohrer claims never to have been inside or to have seen an ad for Chili’s.

Jack Kerouac was addicted to licking stamps.

Jhumpa Lahiri has collected more than 200 autographed head shots of Al Pacino.

“’Wow, cool sky!’” was the original first sentence of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.

Gertrude Stein was on the payroll of the New York Mets.

Virginia Woolf passed the bar exam in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Maine.

T. C. Boyle ghostwrote the screenplay for Mrs. Doubtfire.

Gordon Lish religiously eats at the Applebee’s in Times Square on the 13th and 18th of every month.

Michiko Kakutani‘s Gmail password is wolfdickfourteen.

Barry Hannah hated the sight of charcoal.

Gary Lutz has beaten Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! more than 400 times.

From age eight to 18, Ann Beattie earnestly believed she was born wrapped in a shower curtain.

Dave Eggers bathes in almond milk every Sunday and video-records it.

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March 29, 2013

Three Books About…The Road

the-roadBy Cath Murphy

Books can be about anything – elephants, antimacassars, milk cartons – but generally they are not. Books tend to cluster around certain subjects, old favorites cropping up time and time again, like regulars at a bar. But unlike barflies, who all seem to have learned the same hard luck story by rote, writers (good writers) can take the same base material and make it into something entirely original.

Contrast three writers on the same subject and what you end up with is not just interesting—what you end up with is inspiration.

For example: three books about roads. On the Road by Jack Kerouac, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and The Famished Road by Ben Okri

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