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June 26, 2013

I Am Legend author Richard Matheson was himself a real legend

LegendThe man behind the best ever vampire novel was a major inspiration to innumerable stars of SF and horror.

By Alison Flood

I am meant to be writing a blog about how I Am Legend, by the late, immensely great, Richard Matheson, is the king of vampire novels. But after finding my old copy on the shelf downstairs, I’ve become somewhat distracted, and would really rather just get on with reading it.

The image Matheson provides, at the start of the novel, of Robert Neville alone in Los Angeles, is one of the most chilling, the most believable, in post-apocalyptic fiction. Shifting from practical and unemotional, to lonely and furious, Neville sits in his barricaded living room, trying to ignore the cries of the vampires, “their snarling and fighting among themselves”, coming from the other side of the walls. Later, “he went from house to house and used up all his stakes. He had forty-seven stakes”. So deadpan. So unnerving.

Then there are Matheson’s vampires – written in 1954, and so much scarier, so much more interesting and memorable and believable, than the hordes of pallid high–school students who keep springing up today.

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March 21, 2013

Burning Books

Thomas Cranmer

Thomas Cranmer

On this day in 1556 Thomas Cranmer, one of the “Oxford Martyrs,” was burned at the stake. Cranmer’s promotion of the English Bible and his authorship of The Book of Common Prayer are his most significant connections to Christian literature, but for fiction readers he is known through his connection to Ray Bradbury’s book-burning novel, Fahrenheit 451.

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March 8, 2013

10 Classic Books You Read in High School You Should Reread

PracticalBy Kevin Smokler

In Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven’t Touched Since High School, Kevin Smokler takes you on a trip down high school memory lane, when you couldn’t stand reading As I Lay Dying or Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Or maybe you could, you bookworm. Either way, Smokler gives us 10 books and 10 compelling reasons why you should revisit them.

It’s all too easy to look at the novels assigned to us as high school students as monuments or mist, to be worshiped or abandoned as we did our outfit to the junior prom. That either/or narrative matches both how we encounter these “great books” in education (as non-negotiable requirements) and an educator’s hope for our response (that their “greatness” changes our lives). That may be a whole lot no-shades-of-gray thinking on my part. As proof, I’ll accept a “meh” opinion on Moby-Dick or The Scarlet Letter from anyone assigned to write an essay on it as a teenager.

Is there a third way? I hope so. I spent the last year rereading the books my high school teachers assigned to me. My thinking: It isn’t enough to give a classic another look just because “it’s a classic.” A classic is also so because of its resonance and usefulness throughout time, JST as Shakespeare’s Henry V was a patriotic salvo when Laurence Oliver adopted it at the beginning of the Cold War and a warning about the cost of empire when Kenneth Brannagh did at the end of it.

Below are 10 high school classics where I found that useful thing I missed the first time around.

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November 27, 2012

The Daily Routines of Famous Writers

Don DeLillo

 By Maria Popova

“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”

Kurt Vonnegut’s recently published daily routine made we wonder how other beloved writers organized their days. So I pored through various old diaries and interviews — many from the fantastic Paris Review archives — and culled a handful of writing routines from some of my favorite authors. Enjoy.

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September 17, 2012

The First Ads for Famous Books


Because even genius needs share of voice to succeed.

By Maria Popova

In Read Me: A Century of Classic American Book Advertisements (public library), New York Times book critic Dwight Garner offers “a visual survey of book advertisements, plucked from yellowing newspapers, journals and magazines large and small, from across the United States during the twentieth century” — more than 300 of them, to be precise, including some of modern history’s most beloved literary classics by favorite authors like Susan Sontag, Kurt Vonnegut, Joan Didion, Anaïs Nin, and Ray Bradbury. What emerges is a curious alternative history of literature and its parallel evolution alongside twentieth-century communication arts and advertising. But, perhaps most importantly, it serves as a necessary antidote to the genius myth, demonstrating that icons are very much made, not merely celebrated for their “God”-given talent.

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August 26, 2012

Story of a Writer: Ray Bradbury on Storytelling and Human Nature in 1963 Documentary

By Maria Popova

“Man has always been half-monster, half-dreamer.”

Beloved science fiction author Ray Bradbury, whom we lost earlier this year, would’ve been 92 today. A passionate advocate of doing what you love and writing with joy, Bradbury was the subject David L. Wolper’s 1963 documentary Ray Bradbury: Story of a Writer, in which he shares a wealth of insight on writing, some advice on perseverance, and his singular lens on the storyteller’s task.

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June 10, 2012

Remembering Ray Bradbury with 11 Timeless Quotes on Joy, Failure, Writing, Creativity, and Purpose

Filed under: Authors, Verbatim — Tags: , , , — Bookblurb @ 1:32 pm

  By Maria Popova

What a tragic season it’s been for literary heroes who defined generations of readers and creators. Last month, we lost Maurice Sendak, and this week, Ray Bradbury — beloved author, champion of curiosity, relentless advocate of libraries — passed way at the age of 91. To celebrate his life and legacy, here are eleven of his most timeless insights on writing, culture, creativity, failure, happiness, and more.

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June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury dies: Science fiction author of ‘Fahrenheit 451’ and ‘Martian Chronicles’ was 91

  By Becky Krystal

Ray Bradbury, a boundlessly imaginative novelist who wrote some of the most popular science fiction books of all time, including “Fahrenheit 451” and “The Martian Chronicles,” and who transformed the genre of flying saucers and little green men into a medium exploring childhood terrors, colonialism and the erosion of individual thought, died June 5. He was 91.

The death was announced by the Associated Press.

Mr. Bradbury, who began his career in the 1930s contributing stories to pulp-fiction magazines, received a special Pulitzer Prize citation in 2007 “for his distinguished, prolific and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy.”

His body of work, which continued to appear through recent years to terrific reviews, encompassed more than 500 titles, including novels, plays (“Dandelion Wine,” adapted from his 1957 semi-autobiographical novel), children’s books and short stories. His tales were often adapted for film, including the futuristic story of a book-burning society (director François Truffaut’s “Fahrenheit 451,” in 1966), a suspense story about childhood fears (“Something Wicked This Way Comes” in 1983) and the more straightforward alien attack story (“It Came From Outer Space” in 1953).


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December 7, 2011

Is this the future, and do I like it? Pt. 1

Veteran SF writer and devout Luddite Ray Bradbury has finally bowed to the inevitable and allowed Farenheit 451 to be reproduced in a digital format. Bradbury’s hand was forced by contractual reality: his publishers refused to re-sign him without digital rights.

Surely print must now be damned if even Bradbury has to consort with his Devil? To mark the occasion, we have commissioned two posts about the brave new world of the eBook. Here, Paul Torday, author of the award-winning novel Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, tells of his latest digital foray :

 Where will this end up?

This December,Breakfast at the Hotel Déjà Vu, a novella I have written, will become available only as an eBook. The format will be for use on a Kindle, the electronic digital book reader marketed by Amazon. No print version will be published, at least for now. Why?

The publishing world is going through a period of profound change. Sales of Kindle eBooks in the last quarter of 2010 were just ahead of sales of paperbacks on Amazon. By May 2011 sales of Kindle eBooks exceeded both hardback and paperback sales on Amazon. Other electronic readers such as the iPad or Sony Reader are also growing their markets. The graph appears to be moving sharply upwards. So publishers — including mine — are experimenting with this new medium. Many new print books published — and certainly all the books that get into charts — now have an eBook avatar. But another market is emerging: books that exist only in digital form. This sector too is apparently growing rapidly. A lot of self-publishing goes on here, inspired by exemplars such as John Locke, the U.S. author who became the first self-published writer to sell a million eBooks on-line. Now published authors are turning to this medium too, using it as an additional channel to reach readers they might not find otherwise.

The eBook began in 1971 with Project Gutenberg, an ambitious mission to digitise all that existed in print book form. At first it concentrated on out of copyright works in the public domain. What began as the ultimate archive has become a hot new market: the instant book, downloaded in seconds onto your iPad, Kindle or laptop. Like Frankenstein’s monster climbing off the slab, nobody quite knows where this is going. What is clear is that it is a trend that cannot be stopped or reversed. more

August 31, 2011

Madonna’s Sex most sought after out-of-print book

Madonna's Sex most sought after out-of-print book

Explicit coffee-table title continues to be in hot demand, according to Bookfinder research.

By Alison Flood

Madonna’s explicit book Sex is once again America’s most sought after out-of-print title of the year, according to BookFinder’s annual report.

The graphic coffee-table book, featuring – in the words of BookFinder, “photos of the Material Girl, without the material” – has been one of the most popular out-of-print titles in the US for years and a collector’s item since it was first published in 1992. “Since Madonna is never one to do something twice, and the fact that the once highly controversial book is less edgy than it once was leads us to guess that Sex will remain out of print,” predicted the book search engine, a subsidiary of AbeBooks, last year.

BookFinder has tracked the most searched for out-of-print titles in America over the last 12 months for its annual report, which sees romantic suspense author Nora Roberts’s novel Promise Me Tomorrow come in second.

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