Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Worst Children in Literature

The list, care of AbeBooks.

An Antiquarian Obsession

"Book collectors are a curious lot." So begins a story in the Economist about book collectors and the London Antiquarian Book Fair.

From the piece...

Rarely can one touch or gawp at exceedingly rare treasures like a second folio of Shakespeare; Dickens’s own marked-up copy of “Mrs Gamp”, which he read from on his last American tour; or 15th-century books from the presses of Anton Koberer and Aldus Manutius, which sell for tens if not hundreds of thousands of pounds. At the other end of the spectrum, vintage children’s books, autographs and postcards can be picked up at numerous stands for £50 or less.

Most interesting, perhaps, is the air of optimismthere is not the slightest whiff of gloom at the state of the book world. The internet, paradoxically, has made books “à la mode”, says Claude Blaizot of the Librarie August Blaizot in Paris, purveyor of first editions of "Tintin" and fantastically bound livres d’artiste. “It has brought people to books, and shown them booksellers they never would have known existed before,” he says. Clive Farahar, the Antiques Roadshow’s book specialist, agrees that technology has opened up the book trade, and made the world of books much more accessible to all. “It’s not just the dim little shop on the high street anymore,” he said. “We can learn so much now we never would have known before.”

It is the peculiar enthusiasms of book collectors to which we owe many great library collections. Now, as the internet allows major libraries to digitise their holdings, duplicates and other surplus volumes are being released back into the market. The result is more remarkable volumes for non-specialists to admire and, yes, touch.

Queen Victoria's Journals Online

For the first time, the complete on-line collection of Queen Victoria's journals from the Royal Archives are available, here.

From a letter written by Queen Elizabeth II:

These diaries cover the period from Queen Victoria's childhood days to her Accession to the Throne, marriage to Prince Albert, and later, her Golden and Diamond Jubilees.

Thirteen volumes in Victoria's own hand survive, and the majority of the remaining volumes were transcribed after Queen Victoria's death by her youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice, on her mother's instructions.

It seems fitting that the subject of the first major public release of material from the Royal Archives is Queen Victoria, who was the first Monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee.

It is hoped that this historic collection will make a valuable addition to the unique material already held by the Bodleian Libraries at Oxford University, and will be used to enhance our knowledge and understanding of the past.

The Green Eyed Writer

Robin Black, in Beyond the Margins, discusses writers envying other writers.

From the story...

My name is Robin and I am jealous of other writers daily, including – and this is an icky part – some of my very closest friends. It’s a tough admission to make, for many reasons. For one thing, I know that I have been incredibly fortunate to have my work published and to have some readers out there who like it; and to have had some good reviews, along with the inevitable (or so I tell myself) stinkers on Goodreads. It wasn’t all that many years ago that I was sobbing on my bedroom floor telling my (poor, long-suffering, inadequately compensated) husband that no one thought it was even worth the cost of the ink to print a story of mine. So it might seem unseemly to be jealous when you’ve had any success in this field in which it is so tough to succeed. And yet. And yet. We all are. At least, I’ve never met a writer who doesn’t envy other writers, and while it’s true I don’t know many of the richest & most famous writers in the world, I do know a few of them and have been amazed at how very little one’s achievements do to protect one from the sort of envy I want to write about here. The sort that is painful. The toxic sort.

I have been watching myself these past few months, monitoring my own reactions to the success of other writers and pondering why some of it bothers me and some it does not. For example (and let me tell you, what I am about to disclose here is pretty close to bathing-suit-at-the-age-of-50 exposing, something I am dreading about this summer, so I really hope it does some good. . .) when Doris Lessing won the Nobel Prize, I felt no envy except of the mildest, gee wouldn’t it be nice to have had that career sort of musing. And when Mario Vargas Llosa won it I’m not sure that I felt even that. But when Jennifer Egan won the Pulitzer, I had a bad few hours. And when a graduate school classmate was reviewed prominently, glowingly (and deservedly) in The New York Times, for her debut novel the week my own book came out, failing to elicit any reaction at all from The Times, I had a downright shitty weekend.

Did Someone Say 1920s Typewriter Erotica?


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Best Selling Book Series of All-Time

The list, care of the Daily Beast.

The 10 Most Asinine 1990s Comic Book Characters Who Never Caught On

The list, care of io9.

From said list...

4. Dreadlox
The supervillain with the worst name of the 1990s

Many years back, a grade-school version of yours truly picked up the hologram-covered, much-ballyhooed first issue of Secret Defenders, a comic that promised to unite all of my favorite shitty 1990s superheroes (like Darkhawk and Nomad) on a single team with Wolverine. The massive cliffhanger at the end of the issue is that Wolverine and Spiderwoman will next brawl with a (possible) disco dancer dubbed "Dreadlox," who needed a sidekick named "FearBagel." Back in those heady days, I'd buy anything with Wolverine or foil on the cover — I didn't buy Secret Defenders #2.

Les Miserables

One of the Rarest Wizard of Oz Book Pops Up

A scarce, complete, first edition, first state copy of The Wizard of Oz Waddle Book (1934) - one of the rarest of all movable books - has come into the marketplace.

From a piece on Booktryst...

The Wizard of Oz Waddle Book is actually a reprint of the fifth edition of the first book in the classic series, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), which, in its second edition, was retitled, The New Wizard of Oz (1903). The text points are similar to the fifth edition (printed 1920s-30s), second state, but with a new title page, an additional entry at the end of the Contents for the instructions, and with the instructions bound at the rear as pages 209-211.

The color plates have text printed on the versos. In the book's first state, as here, the punch-out waddle figures are printed on sheets of heavy card stock which are mounted on bound-in perforated stubs. In its second state, the waddle figures are not mounted on stubs but, instead, enclosed in the envelope along with the ramp. The second state of the cloth is light olive rather than bright green.

Following Tina Fey, Comedians Churn Out Books

With the success of Fey's Bossypants, more comedians take to writing memoirs.

From a piece in the New York Times...

“Bossypants,” her 2011 memoir, isn’t just a commercial success or a critical darling. It’s a blockbuster, a staple of the New York Times best-seller list (27 weeks on the hardcover list; 19 and counting on the paperback one). But its impact can’t be measured solely in numbers.
Comedy has become a growing and diverse publishing genre. Published this week was "The Lowbroad Reader Reader” an excellent anthology of a 10-year-old comedy zine, and essays by the comedian Dave Hill called “Tasteful Nudes: ... And Other Misguided Attempts at Personal Growth and Validation.” The first week in June brings “I Hate Everyone ... Starting With Me,” an encyclopedia of kvetches by Joan Rivers, with more punch lines per paragraph than any book I’ve read in years. 

But the most popular literary form in comedy is the memoir, perfectly suited for beach and bathroom reads. These are typically around 250 breezy pages that mix “Can you believe I’m writing a book?” jokes with shoptalk and self-deprecating confessions. The ambitions are somewhere between a long magazine piece and a talk show interview. 

What made “Bossypants” a book likely to be imitated is its seemingly effortless balance of genuine insight with candid personal vignettes. It’s light comedy without guilt, which is much harder to pull off than it looks. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

10 Great Books about Cycling

The list, care of the Christian Science Monitor.

Self Published Authors Don't Make a Lot of $

A comprehensive survey of DIY writers suggests that despite a few high-profile successes most authors struggle to sell.

From a piece in the Guardian...

"The majority of the information out there is about the outliers, whose success is inspiring, but as we can now confirm bears scant resemblance to the experience of most authors," said Dave Cornford and Steven Lewis, who carried out the survey, published on Thursday, for the Taleist website.

Those who want to do best at self-publishing, they found, would be well advised to focus on romantic fiction. Romance authors earned 170% more than their peers, while authors in other genres fared much worse: science-fiction writers earned 38% of the $10,000 average, fantasy writers 32%, and literary fiction authors just 20% of the $10,000 average.

It's also best to be female, educated and in your early 40s: the survey's "top earners" – those who indicated they could live exclusively off their earnings – were 68% female, and 33% had a degree, compared to an average of 28%. High earners also dedicated more of their time to their writing, churning out 2,047 words a day on average, as compared to 1,557 for the rest of the sample.

All the Dead Dears

The skeleton that inspired Sylvia Plath to write a poem is now on display.

From a piece in the Guardian...

The viewing prompted Plath's 1957 poem All the Dead Dears, in which she describes "this antique museum-cased lady" and the "gimcrack" bones of the rodents "that battened for a day on her ankle-bone", and fears that the "barnacle dead", strangers or members of her family will drag her down and suck her life away. Six years later, the poet killed herself.

The sarcophagus, with its inner lead coffin, was one of a group of high-status burials discovered by chance by builders clearing land for a housing estate at Arbury, on the outskirts of Cambridge.

The poem can be read, here.

The Rarest, Most Desirable John Lennon Books Goes to Auction

It's called Bag One.

From a piece on Booktryst...

Bag One is a series of fourteen signed original lithographs originally conceived and executed in 1969 to commemorate Lennon's wedding to  Yoko Ono and their subsequent honeymoon  in Amsterdam.

The lithographs were scheduled for a two-week exhibition at London Arts Gallery at 22 New Bond Street on January 15th 1970.  On the exhibit's second day, however, Scotland Yard raided the gallery and confiscated eight of the fourteen lithographs on the grounds that they were obscene and "exhibited to public the annoyance of passengers, contrary to Section 54(12) of the Metropolitan Police Act, 1839, and the third schedule of the Criminal Justice Act 1967." 

Top 50 Cookbooks

The list, care of the Stylist.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Ranking Jane Austen's Books from Best to Worst

The list, care of Publisher's Weekly.

René Magritte’s Little-Known Art Deco Sheet Music Covers from the 1920s

Enjoy, care of Brain Pickings.

From the piece...

Belgian Surrealist artist Rene Magritte may have carved his place in art history as a master of mind-bending, advertising-influenced imagery at the intersection of aesthetics and philosophy, but he also had a little-known early commercial career like other subsequently famous artists, including Andy Warhol. Young Magritte made rent by working as a draughtsman at a wallpaper factory and designing graphic ephemera, among which were some 40 sheet music covers he produced in the 1920s.

Zach Galifianakis in A Confedacy of Dunces?


I Shot the Serif

Play the game, here.

Are Young Adult Novel Book Covers Racist?

Looks like it.

From a piece in the Huffington Post...

Kate Hart is a Young Adult (YA) writer with a complaint about her own genre. More specifically, she has a problem with the design of the covers of YA books.

She recently compiled a survey of the covers of 624 "traditionally published" YA books, and noted, among other things, the representations of minorities - or rather, the lack of them.

She found that 90% of covers featured a white character, 10% featured a character of ambiguous ethnicity, 1.4% featured a Latino/Latina character, 1.4% an Asian character, and 1.2% a black character.
Of the black models featured, two were "behind a white girl", two had their face obscured, three were without heads and featured alongside two white friends, and only one is featured front and center.

The Hemingway Papers

Ernest Hemingway once wrote columns for the Toronto Star. You can find those columns, here.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Happy Birthday, Golden Gate Bridge

Celebrate through literature.

From a piece on Melville House Books' site...

Today, San Francisco marks The Golden Gate Bridge’s 75th birthday with a series of tributes, festivals, and readings.

The suspension bridge is known across the globe for its grand towers and sweeping beauty, but also for its place in popular culture, including literature.

It would take a great deal of research to qualify just how many times, and in which stories, essays, poems, and novels the bridge is mentioned. But for the purposes of today’s MobyLives post, here are some examples that quickly call to mind the many sides of the Golden Gate.

+ From Thomas Pynchon’s Vineland:
Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge represents a transition, in the metaphysics of the region, there to be felt even by travelers unwary as Zoyd. When the busful of northbound hippies first caught sight of it, just at sundown as the fog was pouring in, the towers and cables ascending into pale gold otherworldly billows, you heard a lot of ”Wow,” and ”Beautiful,” though Zoyd only found it beautiful the way a firearm is, because of the bad dream unreleased inside it, in this case the brute simplicity of height, the finality of what swept below relentlessly out to sea. They rose into the strange gold smothering, visibility down to half a car length. . . .

7 Erotica Books That Are Actually Good

The list, care of AbeBooks.

Top 10 Mad Scientists in Literature

The list, care of Lit Reactor.

Phil Collins Remembers the Alamo with a New Book

Wait. What? Phil Collins?! Yup.

From a story in the New Yorker...

Skip ahead a little more: it’s 2004, and Collins is in San Antonio again, this time on his farewell tour before retiring from music. (An operation to fix some dislocated vertebrae made it hard to play the drums.) Now a seasoned collector, he visits the Alamo for what he thinks is his last time, and stops in at The History Shop, a store about fifty yards from the mission. There he meets the proprietor, Jim Guimarin, who offers to scout for artifacts for him. The two become friends, and Guimarin points out that no one has ever dug beneath the shop itself. By 2007, he and Collins are digging beneath the floorboards. “There were cannon handles and a flattened cannonball, lots of musket balls, personal effects of soldiers,” Collins said. They also found the remains of three fire pits, which may have been the site of the group that cleaned up after the battle, led by General Andrade.

Besides the artifacts from The History Shop, Collins’s collection, which he keeps in the basement of his house in Switzerland, includes Davy Crocket’s musket-ball pouch (complete with five musket balls), a knife belonging to James Bowie (Texan folk hero—no relation to that other British rocker), and a sword belonging to the Mexican leader Antonio López de Santa Anna.

Dante's Inferno... depicted by LEGOS.

10 Scandalous Authors from History

The list, care of the Huffington Post.

From said list...

When he died, D.H. Laurence was regarded as a writer of pornography who had gained many enemies throughout his life and spent much of it in voluntary exile. Even after death he wasn't immune from scandal, with the 1960 Lady Chatterley trial becoming one of the most famous literary controversies of all time when the book's publishers Penguin were tried under the Obscene Publications Act.

Pretty Bookplates


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Harry Potter in Academia?

JK Rowling’s books about the Hogwarts wizard have been the subject of academic debate.

From a piece in the Telegraph...

In the 600-year-old halls of St Andrews University, a group of leading academics is discussing a piece of literature. Not just any old literature: this, they say, is “the narrative experience of an entire generation”. In a series of 50 lectures, culminating today, the scholars will debate themes of death, empathy and paganism, as well as comparisons with J R R Tolkein and Chaucer. Their subject? The seven Harry Potter books by J K Rowling. 
The conference, A Brand of Fictional Magic: Reading Harry Potter as Literature, is the first event in the world to look at the series as a literary text. Sixty academics from the US, South Africa, India and Australia will examine the themes, allegories and narrative structure of the boy wizard’s adventures. Organiser John Patrick Pazdziora, from the university’s School of English, has invited discussion on topics such as British national identity, politics and education. 
“As a literary text it’s a fertile area of study,” he tells me. “There are so many allusions and connections to myths in her work. Now that the films are over and has launched, it’s time to start analysing them.”

What's Worse - Watching Porn on a Library Computer or Stabbing Someone for Watching Porn on a Library Computer?

It happens. The Los Angeles Times has the story.

Frank Frazetta's 'Lord of the Rings' Illustrations

In the world of comics, the legendary Frank Frazetta is probably most closely associated with Conan the Barbarian and the occasional Molly Hatchet album cover, but it's his incredible work in fantasy illustration that catapulted him to fame. Case in point, his illustrations for The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, originallly published as a limited (to 1,000) signed and numbered portfolio in 1975, which capture key moments of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic in Frazetta's absolutely beautiful style.

Top 50+ Creative Writing Professors on Twitter

The list, care of the Boston Globe.

5 Best Off-the-Beaten-Path Philosophy Books

The list, care of the Daily Beast.

From said list...

A 1920s Berlin psychoanalyst rejects the idea that “repression of sex impulse” is “the origin of philosophical thought,” then goes on to catalogue the neuroses of 30 famous philosophers. Surprise—philosophers are “abnormal,” solitary, and unstable when not nasty, brutish, and short. You may know that Schopenhauer threw an old lady down the stairs, but had you heard that Rousseau accused his enemies of giving him invisible ink so he couldn’t write his Confessions?

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Surprising Winnie-the-Pooh Rolling Stones Connection



F. Scott Fitzgerald's Turkey Recipes


Happy Birthday, Theodore Roethke

Read some poems in his honor today!

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.
We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.
Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.
This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Everyday Words That Were Invented by Famous Authors

The list, care of Flavorwire.

Cuban Film Posters by Eduardo Munoz Bachs


14 Essential Talking Points about the Berenstain Bears

The points, care of Mental Floss.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

CW Reveals Green Arrow TV Show

How Well Do You Know Jane Austen?

Take the Guardian's quiz and find out.

Canteen's Hot Author Series

Canteen is putting cool authors together with cool photographers to see what happens.

From a piece on their site...

Writers have lost their place as cultural heroes. Instead, we celebrate a numbing parade of overpaid and undertalented actors, musicians, and athletes. Ridiculous amounts of money, publication real estate, and TV time are squandered to promote The Bachelors and the Kardashians and whoever will soon rise vapidly to take their place.

Writers don’t traditionally get such crass and ubiquitous promotion. But why can’t they at least try to compete with pop-culture stars on the same terms? Let’s promote novelists as sexy and fabulous! Insist that the PEN Award require a turn on the catwalk! Hold the National Book Awards on a sliver of sand populated by buxom models in horn-rimmed shades; let the champagne pop for the cameras, as Oxford tweed gets wet on Temptation Island!

11 Mistakes Writers Make When Approaching an Agent

The list, care of the Huffington Post.

Teddy Roosevelt, on the Rushmore of Literary Life

Rebecca Joines Schinsky celebrates the literary life of Theodore Roosevelt on Book Riot.

From the piece...

I knew Roosevelt had authored books, but I didn’t expect this topic when I picked up a volume with his name on the spine. I mean, when I think of Teddy Roosevelt, I think of (besides the whole he-was-a-president thing) Amazon adventures and African safaris and general swashbuckly badassery. But look at that title! The implication that Roosevelt considered his adventures to be mere holidays from his bookish life makes me happy in at least nineteen different ways. “I feel that way, too!” I want to tell him. We are kindred spirits already. And it gets better!

In the foreword, Roosevelt tells us that a man going on holiday “will take books with him as he journeys; for the keenest enjoyment of the wilderness is reserved for him who enjoys also the garnered wisdom of the present and past.” So, reading is not an escape from the world or an excuse for not engaging with it; reading is a way to enrich our experiences in the world and to put them in greater context. I would add, also, that reading makes us want more of the world. This is good stuff, Teddy, so I’mma forgive you for the exclusionary language and let you finish.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Great Gatsby

Jonathan Swift on...Farting

For reals.

From a piece on Booktryst...

Originally appearing in 1722, The Benefit of Farting Explain'd was reprinted in 1735 within a  miscellany including two other scatological works. It is a very rare book. The first edition has fallen under the hammer only twice within the last thirty six years, in 1980 and 2007; the same copy. The 1935 edition has not been seen at auction at all within the same period.

This lower intestinal tract has long been attributed to Swift but, according to him is was written by "one Dobbs, a surgeon."

Elementary - a New Sherlock Holmes Series on CBS

Miniature Books Are Big Collector Items

The Somerville News revels in the miniature book.

From the article...

For the most part, today’s miniature books are novelty items, but they didn’t start out that way. Throughout the 1400s and 1500s books were very expensive luxury items that were affordable only to the wealthy, privileged few. Because books had to be portable, mostly for students and people on pilgrimages, they began making them smaller. Some of the books measured four or five inches, but most were even smaller than that.

In the 1700s and 1800s, miniatures began to be made mostly as novelty items. They used less paper and they were made in order to be carried or to be used as gifts. Making a miniature book is very hard work because of the detail involved, but when it’s done right, the result can be truly amazing. Today there are still people who design wonderful miniatures. Bromer Booksellers in Boston publishes classics in miniature and carries limited editions. St. Onge, from Worcester, produced a whole series of miniatures.

Bibles are some of the more popular miniature books. There is one called The Thumb Bible that is literally the size of your thumb. One of my customers collects only miniature Bibles, and has 3,000 of them on little spice shelves throughout her house. Each Bible is a little different from the others.

John Steinbeck, Interviewed

The Paris Review interviewed Steinbeck once for their "Art of Fiction" series.

From the piece...


It is hard to open up a person and to look inside. There is even a touch of decent reluctance about privacy but writers and detectives cannot permit the luxury of privacy. In this book [East of Eden] I have opened lots of people and some of them are going to be a little bit angry. But I can't help that. Right now I can't think of any work which requires concentration for so long a time as a big novel.
Sometimes I have a vision of human personality as a kind of fetid jungle full of monsters and demons and little lights. It seemed to me a dangerous place to venture, a little like those tunnels at Coney Island where “things” leap out screaming. I have been accused so often of writing about abnormal people.

It would be a great joke on the people in my book if I just left them high and dry, waiting for me. If they bully me and do what they choose I have them over a barrel. They can't move until I pick up a pencil. They are frozen, turned to ice standing one foot up and with the same smile they had yesterday when I stopped.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Neil Gaiman Address the University of the Arts

Rock Novels That Got it Right

The list, care of Three Guys One Book.

From the intro of said list...

It usually goes like this:
  1. Rockstar is born not a rockstar, but to a dismal family of chicken farmers or garbage pickers or libertarians.
  2. Rockstar buys guitar and struggles. Suspiciously, Rockstar is surrounded by naysayers recommending more lucrative careers in livestock breeding or politics.
  3. Rockstar gets really freakin’ good in a suspiciously short amount of time. Rockstar wins lots of fans. Naysayers turn to yaysayers.
  4. Rockstar meets drugs. Drugs meet rockstar. It’s a match made in heaven until it’s not anymore. Suddenly, the simple life of trash picking seems like a step up from this gutter.
  5. Suspiciously, Rockstar finds redemption in the form of a woman, an estranged child, or Ron Paul.
This story arc is so easy. That ease is why there are a million rock ‘n’ roll novels. It’s also why there are tons of forgettable rock novels.

Tricksters in Literature

The list, care of AbeBooks.

Happy 50th Birthday, A Clockwork Orange

Go celebrate by...joining a gang.

Thom Steinbeck Interviewed

Thom, the son of John Steinbeck, discusses his dad, letter writing and his own career as a writer.

From the interview on Hairpin...

Anyway, I'd done something off the wall, I can't remember what it was, I'd gotten bad grades or something. It doesn’t really make a lot of difference. But my father sent me this very long letter, and he had very tiny handwriting — he wrote by hand — and it was like an 18-page letter. It took me a week to decipher this thing, because of his handwriting, primarily. And when I got to the very end of it, I noticed at the very bottom, he said, “Son, I want to apologize. I would’ve sent you a note but I didn’t have the time!”

Meaning, that ultimately, the greatest amount of time in all writing is spent editing. My father said there's only one trick to writing, and that's not writing, that's writing and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting. Like sculpture. I mean, the first thing off the top of your head isn't the most brilliant thing you ever thought of. And then when you're writing about it, when you want others to understand what you’re still talking about, then it really requires that you edit yourself really, really well, so that other people can comprehend it.

But even he could get carried away. When he didn’t have time to edit it, I would get these 18-page letters. They were essays. And not as many always aimed at me. One and two makes three. Add four makes nine. It was sort of like, this is the process, and this is how it happens, and this is what you should observe in the process of it happening. He was very linear in his understanding of how these things went.

Top 10 Eco-Books

From the despair of nuclear bombs to the hope of nuclear technology, the environment journalist Fred Pearce picks out green books that are both positive and negative about our planet's future, care of the Guardian.