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January 3, 2013

Best Books of 2012: Friends of LitReactor Edition with Irvine Welsh, Jack Ketchum, Douglas Coupland, and Stephen Graham Jones


By Joshua Chaplinsky

We’ve already given you our staff picks for the Best Books of 2012, as well as a supplemental Genre Edition for the geeks, but who the hell cares what a bunch of nobodies have to say when some real, live authors are willing to tell us what to read?

Seriously, though, we’ve had the privilege of making friends with some amazing writers, and we figured what better way to close out the year than with a special Friends of LitReactor best of list. So we reached out like a grubby urchin begging for alms and they were kind enough to share their favorite reads of 2012 with us.

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November 24, 2012

Etymological Evolution: 12 Words Altered By Historical Misuse

Filed under: Lists — Tags: , , , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 8:40 am

By Joshua Chaplinsky

They say two wrongs don’t make a right, but what about countless wrongs piled one on top of another like corpses on the battlefield? Please don’t misconstrue– this isn’t some crackpot justification of genocide. We’re not talking the 2+2=5 of politics or religion, here. “How many lights do you see?” “I see four lights.” “No, there are five.” Nothing like that. What we’re talking about is the evolution of words over time– specifically due to their chronic misuse, mispronunciation, and misspelling. If enough people abuse a word long enough, the Dictionary Dictators have no choice but to begrudgingly accept. Like it or not, this is one of the ways the English language goes through changes. And it’s an important one. Without it, the know-it-all armchair etymologists of the internet would have nothing to complain about.

Who gets to decide when the wrong becomes right? According to Patricia T. O’Connor and Stewart Kellerman, authors of the highly informative Origins of the Specious, we all do:

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October 31, 2012

Book vs. Film: Cloud Atlas

Stories cross mediums like clouds cross skies, an’ tho’ a cloud’s shape nor hue nor size don’t stay the same, it’s still a cloud an’ so is a story.

By Joshua Chaplinsky

Back in July when the glorious six-minute trailer for Cloud Atlas came out, I wrote about how I had written about the unfilmable nature of the source material back in February. In said article– which I had initially planned for LitReactor’s October 2011 launch, but postponed so I could wait for a producer’s quote which never materialized– I promised to revisit the matter once the film had been released. It was set to hit theaters this past October, which it did, but luckily I got to see the film early, at a Fantastic Fest secret screening this past September. At the time of this reading (but not of this writing), some of you have no doubt seen the film, and the column idea I hatched over a year ago has finally come to fruition. It will now spread across the consciousness of the internet, and be transformed in the minds of those who read it, before being passed on in some form or another, verbal or electronic, while hopefully retaining its true essence.

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June 28, 2012

Passing Strange: 15 Of The Most Bizarre Author Deaths On Record

By Joshua Chaplinsky

Why go gently into that good night like a sucker when you can go out in a Bon Jovian blaze of glory and be remembered forever? If you’re a 16th century poet or an obscure opera critic, it might be your only chance at leaving a lasting legacy. And if you’re already a canonical author, it doesn’t hurt your street cred if you die in a fiery car wreck and people blame the KGB.

The authors on this list share a common bond; death was their final indignity. Many of these accounts already exist online, but I humbly submit that none are as colorful as my own. I made a conscious choice not to include any of the famous suicides- Virginia Woolf putting rocks in her pockets, Sylvia Plath putting her head in the oven, Hemingway putting buckshot in his brain- so no need to point out their absence. I was more interested in the accidental, the grotesque, the downright kooky. And I think these 15 deaths more than fit those criteria.

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February 29, 2012

What The Hell Ever Happened To… Harry Crews?

By Joshua Chaplinsky

Harry Crews is, was, and always will be a complete and utter badass.

I mean, just look at his face. Would you fuck with that guy? If you’re even remotely considering the idea, I’d advise you continue reading.

Born in Bacon County, Georgia in 1935, this poor country boy lived through more shit by the age of seven than most of us experience in a lifetime. He was only twenty one months old when his father died of a heart attack, leaving his mother to raise the children and work the family farm. It was a burden she couldn’t handle by herself, so she married her brother in-law out of necessity. In his essay, “Mama Pulled The Load Alone,” Crews describes his stepfather as “…a man who might have been a good husband had he not been a brutal drunk.” [1]

But that was the least of his worries. He had a hard enough time doing a little something called “staying alive.” In the 2007 documentary, Survival Is Triumph Enough, Crews tells the story of how baby Harry popped lye like candy and had to be rushed to the doctor. On a horse-drawn cart. If he had swallowed the stuff, it would have killed him from the inside.

At the age of five he contracted polio, which caused the muscles in his legs to tighten, drawing his heels all the way back against his buttocks. He was bedridden for six weeks, and it took almost a year of dragging himself across the ground before he could walk again.* Shortly after regaining the use of his legs, Crews fell into a pot of scalding water used for hog butchering. From his autobiography, A Childhood (which is a MUST read) :

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February 11, 2012

Behold! The Unfilmable: David Mitchell’s ‘Cloud Atlas’

Column by Joshua Chaplinsky

I can picture Don LaFontaine doing voice-over from the big vocal booth in the sky:

In a world of undiscovered countries and high seas adventure, a Dickensian composer living in Belgium… Wait a minute, that can’t be right, can it? Are you sure? Ok, then… An intrepid journalist investigates improprieties at a nuclear power plant… Am I missing a page here? Is this even the same movie? An aging publisher on the run from the mob, trapped in a nursing home against his will– Alright, is this someone’s idea of a joke? In the not too distant future, a clone working at a fast food restaurant contemplates rebellion, but is actually the subject of a holographic film being watched in a post apocalyptic future where the last surviving members of an advanced civilization watch over a group of primitives– Seriously, how can this be one movie? It doesn’t make any sense. In the not too distant future, a clone working– dammit, we’ve done this part. An aging publisher… an investigative journalist… What the hell? Why are we going backwards? A Dickensian composer– That’s it! I’m out of here! Good luck with your ridiculous movie.

That’s right, David Mitchell’s unfilmable opus, Cloud Atlas, is coming to a theater near you, courtesy of the Wachoswski siblings (nee brothers) and (run) Tom Twyker (run). The purported (though denied) $150 million epic stars Tom Hanks, Jim Broadbent, and Susan Sarandon, to name an illustrious few. It also stars Halle Berry.

From the Hollywood Reporter:

…the film will see the actors playing multiple roles in the various storylines. Twyker and the Wachowskis will shoot parallel to each other using two separate film crews. It’s expected Tykwer, whose credits include the 18th century-set Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, will handle Cloud Atlas‘ period era plotlines while the Wachowskis apply their Matrix mojo to the novel’s sci-fi settings.

Of course, the question on everyone’s mind is, how the hell are they going to pull this off? For those of you who don’t know (and couldn’t discern the ramblings of the theoretical trailer), Cloud Atlas is comprised of a sextet of stories structured like a Russian nesting doll. A Russian nesting doll starring at its own reflection. You get the first half of each story- except for the sixth, which sits complete at the center- followed by their conclusion, in reverse order. Each section is presented as a historical or fictional document in the one that follows (or the one preceding, if you’re on the back end), acting as a thematic through line. It is a pastiche of genres, encompassing everything from high seas adventure to post-apocalyptic sci-fi.

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December 31, 2011

LitReactor Staff Picks: The Best Books of 2011

Filed under: Best Books of the Year — Tags: , , — Bookblurb @ 5:29 am

Column by Joshua Chaplinsky

We may have only gone live in October, but the staff here at LitReactor are a bunch of voracious bilbliophagists who have been steady readin’ all year long. So we figured engaging in a some year-ending listrionics would be a great way to play catch up, and would give you a better idea of who we are as readers. Who knows, we might even turn you on to something new. Hope you enjoy.

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