Thursday, May 30, 2013

Poetry - A Dying Art?

News of plummeting sales do not, as some fear, indicate a dying art. In fact, the genre is adapting well to a new publishing age.

From a story in the Guardian...

So, where some see poetry as a dying art, I see it as an early and enthusiastic adopter of new technologies, partly because it has to be. Why? Well, if selling what you're making isn't going to make anyone rich, but you want to share it with those people who are interested, then you have to work out the cheapest way to do so. And right now it looks like that way is a mix of online, performance and print, with each supporting the other in a new model of publishing, one in which the printed collection is no longer the only accepted mode of publishing but remains a key part of the package. And given the apparent reluctance of most bookshops to stock verse, they'll be sold mainly online and at events. It may not be big business, but that's not what it's setting out to be.

Rick Springfield - Novelist?


Michael Chabon - Profiled

San Francisco Magazine talks to the author.

From the piece...

Chabon’s writing life is deeply tied to California. He received his MFA from UC Irvine and lived for a spell in Los Angeles, but his California journey began and has continued in the Bay Area. His mother, the “original settler,” moved to Oakland when he was still in college in Pittsburgh. On his first visit out here—at age 20—his mother zipped him from the airport to a Mexican restaurant in Fruitvale. He felt instantly at home. “Pittsburgh didn’t even have Taco Bell,” he says. He loved the light, the people, the diversity. “Monocultures—Sweden, China—make me nervous,” he says. “But I guess because I’ve always felt like an outsider, I feel really at home around other outsiders.”

This instant feeling of home, however, applies only to the East Bay. “I remember going up the Montgomery Street escalator into San Francisco that first trip. I was so excited. City Lights. Dashiell Hammett. But I just got this feeling of insignificance—you’re not welcome here. We don’t need you.”

He struggled against this feeling for the entire trip, and years later he did briefly live in San Francisco just before he and Waldman married. But he never warmed to the city. Or maybe it never warmed to him.

Rudyard Kipling - Plagiarist?


From a piece in the Los Angeles Times...

Addressed to an unidentified woman, the short letter, which is signed by Kipling, reads...

"I have been absent from home for some days. Hence the delay in answering yours of no date, in regard to my account of the Law of the Jungle.

"I am afraid that all that code in its outlines has been manufactured to meet 'the necessities of the case': though a little of it is bodily taken from (Southern) Esquimaux rules for the division of spoils.

"In fact, it is extremely possible that I have helped myself promiscuously but at present cannot remember from whose stories I have stolen."

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ed Ruscha in His Studio

A Saturday Morning in Front of La Salle de Justice

Artwork by Rey Taira.

Illuminated Manuscripts

They certainly are beautiful.

From a post on AbeBooks...

An illuminated manuscript is any manuscript whose text is accompanied by decoration. It originally referred only to silver or gilt adornments, but came to be acceptable terminology for any manuscript with drawings, paintings or decorations such as ornate initials, borders, floral accoutrements and the like. Often the illuminations would depict a historical or rural/pastoral scene.

The earliest confirmed example of illuminated manuscripts in existence today originated some 2000+ years ago. While some of the oldest instances were on papyrus, a thick, papery substance produced from the pulped flesh of the Egyptian papyrus plant, most were made of parchment, a thin writing material made from the skin of an animal, usually calf, goat or sheep. The highest quality parchment, very smooth and fine, was called vellum.

When Benjamin Franklin Wanted to Change the Alphabet

Smithsonian has the story of Franklin's Phonetic Alphabet.

From the piece...

It was the ultimate test of Franklin’s scholarship and polymathy, a phonetic alphabet designed to have a “more natural Order,” than the existing system. His proposal, “A Reformed Mode of Spelling,” opens with an analysis of spoken English in the form of a  table prioritizing the alphabet by sound and vocal effort. Franklin gave preference to “Sounds formed by the Breath, with none or very little help of Tongue, Teeth, and Lips; and produced chiefly in the Windpipe.”

Franklin’s analysis resulted in removing six letters from the alphabet – C, J, Q, W, X, AND Y– that were, in his view, redundant or confusing. The “hard” and “soft” sounds of a C, for example, can easily be replaced by a K and S. Franklin also limited the remaining letters to one sound, “as every letter ought to be,” including vowels. In the phonetic alphabet, “long” vowel pronunciations are achieved using double vowels. The changes weren’t all reductive. Franklin’s alphabet includes six letters of his  own devise: a letter that makes a “soft O” sound as in “folly” or “ball”; one that replaces all “sh” sounds as in “ship” or “function”; an “ng” sound; two “th” substitutes; and a letter that replaces both “um” and “un” letter combinations.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Is My Harry Potter Book Valuable?

5 Writing Mysteries No One Knows

The list, care of the Huffington Post.

From said post...

Who wrote Beowulf?
The epic poem Beowulf is the most important surviving work of Anglo-Saxon literature. Known only from a single manuscript called the Nowell Codex, it is a tale of heroic dragon-slaying exploits so potent that a translation of its 3,182 lines into modern English won Seamus Heaney the Whitbread Book of the Year Prize in 1999. Yet we know almost nothing of the origins of Beowulf. The best that can be said is that it was written somewhere between the eighth and eleventh centuries. As for the identity of the writer, we have no idea at all. The story may, however, have existed for some time, being passed down in the oral tradition, before finally being written down.

Tiger Eyes

The first movie based on a Judy Blume book...

Saturday, May 25, 2013

10 Novels More Action Packs That Summer Blockbusters

The list, care of io9.

20 Most Beautiful Libraries in Film and TV

The list, care of Flavorwire.

10 Best Coming-Of-Age Novels

The list, care of the Guardian.

Unpublished Pearl S. Buck Novel Found

And it'll be published soon, too, after being found in a storage locker.

From a piece in the New York Times...

The manuscript was stumbled upon in a storage unit in Texas and returned to the Buck family in December in exchange for a small fee, said Jane Friedman, the chief executive of Open Road Integrated Media, the publisher. 

Buck, the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, is believed to have completed the manuscript for the book, “The Eternal Wonder,” shortly before she died of cancer in 1973, said her son Edgar S. Walsh, who manages her literary estate. 

The novel is one of dozens that the prolific Buck completed during her lifetime, a tumultuous eight decades that took her as a young child from her birthplace, Hillsboro, W.Va., to China, where her father worked as a Presbyterian missionary. While in her late 30s, she wrote “The Good Earth,” her second and most famous novel, a compassionate portrait of Chinese farmers that was published in 1931 and became the biggest-selling novel in the United States for two successive years.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Art and Culture of Burning Man

DREAM - Art & Culture of Burning Man from Spark Pictures on Vimeo.

Something That Happened

That was the original title of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.

Learn about 24 classic books' original titles, here.

Read This Post, Or the Devilish Hoardes Win

The British Library is having a persuasive propaganda exhibit.

From a piece on the Londonist...

The British Library’s new exhibition provides an exploration of the persuasive power of this state tool, looking at examples from ancient Rome to the present day.

Curators at this impressive new show have taken what they describe as a “neutral” definition of the word, embracing all activity by the state to influence behaviour, whether for good or evil. So, alongside troubling posters from Nazi Germany and Northern Ireland in the 1980s are gentler examples of state persuasion about the benefits of drinking milk and adhering to the Green Cross Code. Chairman Mao’s much-reproduced mythology is analysed, as are uses of the Olympic Games (in London and elsewhere) as a method of promoting national identity.

While the main focus of the exhibition is on propaganda since World War I, there are examples from earlier in history: a coin from the third century BC; a huge portrait of Napoleon; and a curious fan from the reign of George III.

10 Best Books about Haiti

The list, care of the Guardian.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Great Gatsby - Why It Draws Fans from Prison

The Christian Science Monitor investigates.

From the piece...

The character they felt influenced Gatsby the most? Not Daisy Buchanan. She was dismissed as too obvious or too trivial. Instead they favored a character who surfaces only briefly: the gambler and unrefined “reminiscencer” Meyer Wolfsheim. 

My students admired Wolfsheim, the character who unabashedly sports “cuff-buttons” made from “the finest specimens of human molars"; a man who resembles a “real life” racketeer, mobster, and high-roller; the figure who fixed the 1919 World Series and undermined the national pastime, so he “could play with the faith of fifty million people, with the single-mindedness of a burglar blowing a safe," and who “saw the opportunity” and was so smart that he was never jailed for the fix.

And while my students gave Wolfsheim his “props,” they also allocated some admiration to Gatsby. But what they felt mostly was envy mixed with incredulity – and disdain for his devotion to Daisy. (“Get over it, Slick. Move on, fellow.”)

A Biopic on Winnie-The-Pooh Creator, A.A. Milne?


From a story in the NY Daily News...

The film will explore A.A. Milne’s life between 1918 and 1930 and will disclose details of his relationship with his son, their bond over “Winnie-the-Pooh” and how fame affected their lives. Milne named the character Winnie-the-Pooh after his son’s teddy bear and used his son as the basis for the character of Christopher Robin.

The estimated cost of the project is between $10 million and $15 million. Simon Vaughan, who created the BBC drama “Ripper Street” and produced the five-part television miniseries “Parade’s End,” wrote the script for the biopic.

Oh, and here are pictures of the original Pooh bear.

Children's On-Screen Reading Takes Over Print

A new study points to the fact that kids are reading on computers now, over books.

From a piece on Literacy Trust...

For the first time children are reading more on computers and other electronic devices than they are reading books, magazines, newspapers and comics. This is potentially detrimental to children’s reading levels as those who read daily only on-screen are much less likely to be good readers than those who read in print. We are calling for a healthier reading balance using both books and technological devices.

 Our new research with 34,910 young people aged eight to 16 reveals:
  • 39% of children and young people read daily using electronic devices including tablets and eReaders, but  only 28% read printed materials daily. The number of children reading eBooks has doubled in the last two years (from 6% to 12%).
  • Children say they prefer to read on screen. Over half (52%) said they would rather read on electronic devices but only a third (32%) would rather read in print.

Athiest Books Next to Bibles

A national atheist group said Monday that it will donate its literature for use in cabins and lodges in Georgia's state parks after the governor's recent decision to allow Bibles there.

From a story in the Huffington Post...

"We expect fair treatment, we anticipate fair treatment and we look forward to fair treatment," Silverman said. "If the state is going to put Bibles in the cabins, they must allow alternate points of view – all alternative points of view without taking sides."

But it was not at all clear Monday whether the atheist literature would find a place in the cabins alongside the Protestant Bibles.

Asked if the state would allow it, Brian Robinson, a spokesman for Gov. Nathan Deal, would only say that the governor's office is working on regulations governing the distribution of materials with the Department of Natural Resources and the Attorney General's Office.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Robert Pinsky's PoemJazz

Jeremy Irons on His Love of T.S. Eliot

Jeremy Irons will be reading "Four Quartets" at the Telegraph Hay Festival. He talked to Horatia Harrod about the friendship that inspired his interest in TS Eliot.

From the article...

Hart never explained why she chose Eliot for him, but perhaps it was this sense of freedom that she admired: “I just took it on with my gut and came at it with a lack of responsibility.” Was he ever intimidated by Eliot’s work? “I tried to fight that,” he says, “because I think that can work against the transference of it. I think you’ve got to own it. You mustn’t be frightened of it, mustn’t make it anything special. It’s just somebody trying to explain a feeling that he has.” 

Some of Irons’s enviable fearlessness about Eliot’s text may be explained by the fact that he has always read it aloud. Heaney wrote that it was hearing Eliot’s poetry that allowed him to begin to approach it with less feverish anxiety. “What I heard made sense,” he wrote. In being read aloud, the compressed intensity of the poem can open up, and suddenly there is space to think and to understand. 

Eliot himself recorded a version of Four Quartets that Irons discovered when preparing to read the poem. “I’ve always felt that poets are not the best readers of their work,” he says, “but I thought he was very good. It’s very much a sort of Forties rendition, proper English.” Irons then turned to the actor Paul Scofield’s reading. “I thought he was at times really good,” he says, “but when he hadn’t got a true grasp of it he became a bit actor-y.”

From Comp to Final

Booktryst follows book jacket designer Philip Grushkin from his first comp to the finished piece, here.

10 Detestable Literary Characters Who Technically Aren't Villains

The list, care of Hairpin.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Ten Buildings That Changed America

The Future of Street Lit

Will it disappear as it enters the mainstream?

From a piece in the Observer...

The genre, with its allegiance to all-or-nothing street politics and a firebrand code of ethics, was initially fostered by a cadre of authors like Ms. Clark who had actually lived the lives they narrated on the page.

Now that street lit seems poised to jump from the ghetto into the mainstream, it’s an open question whether that authenticity can survive. A major record label has snapped up several of the most popular authors, including Ms. Clark. Reality stars are co-authoring books.

Suddenly, a genre that built its cachet in the hearts and minds of voracious readers is wondering if it’s losing its soul.

And then there are academics like the writer Nick Chiles, who struggle with the notion that street lit is recognized as belonging to the proud, up-you-mighty-race tradition of the African-American literary canon. “Is street fiction some passing fad, or does it represent our future?” Mr. Chiles asked in The New York Times in 2006. “It’s depressing,” he continued, “that this noble profession, one that I aspired to as a child from the moment I first cracked open James Baldwin and Gabriel García Márquez about 30 years ago, has been reduced by the greed of the publishing industry and the ways of the American marketplace to a tasteless collection of pornography.”

The Tim Tebow Poem

ESPN's Rick Reilly wrote a sports poem so bad it changed the way I see the world. In the chaos of our new sports media dystopia, we hold a handful of gray ash and wonder: how did this happen?

From a story on SB Nation...

And now the poem.

How did this happen? I don't pose this question with the intent to answer it. I am asking it sincerely and earnestly: I genuinely want to know how, in the year 2013, Rick Reilly and the so-called "Worldwide Leader in Sports" published a poem so ham-fisted it barely belongs in a high school newspaper. This is my public and heartfelt plea for answers in a world I no longer understand, a message in a bottle that I'm throwing in the general direction of Bristol, Connecticut: how in the living fuck did this see the light of day?

How many editors died or quit or threw themselves out 12-story windows in order for this childishly amateur work -- and I use the word "work" as loosely as possible -- reach the viewing public? Who was the brow-beaten chump who said, "Sure, okay, Mr. Reilly, let's run with this"? Or is there no brow-beaten chump with the misnomer of "editor" at all? Does Reilly truly have the unfettered freedom to publish without an editor? I'm not kidding: if you work or worked at ESPN and can offer me insight into this, please email me or explain that peculiar alchemy in the comments.

Decoding Linear B - A Very Old European Language Indeed

When Alice Kober died at the age of 45, she was a forgotten and ignored classics professor. But she arguably did more than anyone to decode what was then the oldest written European language known to exist. 

From a story in the Daily Beast...

The story of Linear B is well known. This 3,000-year-old language was discovered on clay tablets excavated in 1900 on the island of Crete. It thereafter puzzled scholars for half a century before it was decoded by Michael Ventris, an English architect with no formal training in archeology or linguistics. Linear B’s history is an absorbing tale, full of mysteries both intellectual and historical, and it’s been told and retold since Ventris made his breakthrough. The problem, as Fox sees it, is that what’s been published so far is by no means the whole story. Previous versions, she argues, neglect a major player, so much so that the story as we know amounts to if not a lie then certainly a libel. The Riddle of the Labyrinth is her attempt to set the record straight, to apportion credit correctly, and by doing so to explicate the solution of Linear B in a way that at last makes sense.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Asking People Who Have Read the Book - What's 'The Great Gatsy' About?

The Art of Data Visualization

The Beauty of Concertina Books


Lost W.H. Auden Journal Found

The Independent unearths the story of it being discovered.

From the article...

It is one of only three journals that the poet is known to have kept and covers the period shortly after what he described as the “eleven happiest weeks of my life” – the honeymoon period of his relationship with the American poet Chester Kallman.

The frank details of his personal life are set against the build-up to the Second World War. He wrote: “I am happy, but in debt… I have no job. My [US] visa is out of order. There may be a war. But I have an epithalamion to write and cannot worry much.”

The journal is 96 pages long and covers the background to his feted poem September 1, 1939, written at the outbreak of the Second World War.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Dan Brown on Colbert

Six Brilliant Portrayals of Editors in Film

The list, care of Word and Film.

The Origins of the Spelling Bee

Merriam-Webster digs deep.

From the piece...

Spelling-fight,” “spelling school,” “spelling match,” “trials in spelling,” “spelling combat,” “spelldown.” It seems that no fixed name for the activity existed, and yet Americans always understood exactly what was meant. Evidence of the term “spelling bee” in print dates from this period of nostalgia and renewed interest. Thus, paradoxically, the new name “spelling bee” dates from the very time when the activity was used to evoke the past. The New York Times used “old-fashioned” to modify “spelling bee” in 1892 and again in 1908; by the time of its coverage of the congressman’s victory of 1913, the terms seemed to be linked inextricably.

The word bee had been used in conjunction with other group activities, such as a “quilting bee,” or occasions when farmers or neighbors would help each other, such as “husking bee,” “apple bee,” or “raising bee.” More grimly, The Oxford English Dictionary also provides evidence of the terms “hanging bee” and “lynching bee.” Despite the obvious link to industriousness and teamwork, this use of the word bee seems to have nothing to do with buzzing insects. The word’s etymology in the Unabridged shows that this bee is an alteration of a word that meant “voluntary help given by neighbors toward the accomplishment of a particular task,” and descends from the Middle English word bene. Bene also gave us the word boon, understood today to mean “blessing” but which also has the meaning of “benefit” or “favor.”


A new platform, aimed at streamlining the process of pitching, writing and billing outlets for your writing.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Dracula is Coming...

to NBC primetime.

Famous Authors' Outlines for Their Famous Novels

The list, care of Flavorwire.

David Sedaris on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart

13 Surprising Celebrity Novelists

The list, care of the AV Club.

From said list...

7. Gene Hackman, Wake Of The Perdido Star (1999), Payback At Morning Peak (2011)Of all the collaborations for Gene Hackman to pursue, a series of historical-fiction novels with underwater archaeologist Daniel Lenihan was probably the least expected. Their first project together, the seafaring 19th-century pirate adventure Wake Of The Perdido Star, was published in 1999, and two more collaborative novels followed after Hackman retired from acting in 2003: 2004’s Depression-set Justice For None and 2008’s Escape From Andersonville, about a Civil War prison break. Although Hackman reportedly has some voiceover work in the upcoming Martin Scorsese film The Wolf Of Wall Street, he’s been far more prolific as a writer recently. His first solo novel, a Western paperback called Payback At Morning Peak, came out in 2011.

8. Johnny Cash, Man In White (1986)Johnny Cash’s only novel, Man In White, is a fictional biography of St. Paul, the fanatical, murderous enemy of Christianity who experienced a visionary conversion on the road to Damascus and became an equally fanatical proselytizer for the new religion. The book, which Cash began writing in the ’70s, grew out of the same period as The Gospel Road, the 1973 movie about the last days of Christ that Cash produced, co-wrote, and narrated. (He eventually grew frustrated while writing the book and set it aside, only to resume work on it at the urging of Billy Graham.) By the time Man In White appeared, Johnny Cash, the reformed pill-popping wild man, was probably the best-known “saved” figure in popular culture, and the book is most notable for how openly he identifies with Paul, a figure who even hardcore Christians tend to regard as more than a little scary.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

William Faulkner at Home in Oxford, Mississippi

11 Baby Naming Trends of the Past

The list, care of Mental Floss.

From said list...

2. Cities
This year has a number of cities as names on the list: Brooklyn, London, and Memphis among them. Cities as names is not a new thing, however. Boston was a boy's name in the 1880s. Dallas and Denver have been around since the 1880s, as has Cleveland (though it peaked in popularity during the presidency of Grover Cleveland, so perhaps should count as a president name instead.)

3. States
Some of our state names come from women's names, so it is expected that states like Virginia, Carolina, and Georgia should be represented on name lists. But other state names have made the list too. Missouri made the girl's name list from 1880 until about 1900 and Indiana, Tennessee, and Texas also showed up a few times as girl's names in the 1800s. 

Decayed Olympic Game Venues


How Comic Books Will Help Save a Business Hurt by Hurricane Sandy

The owner of a ice cream shop is auctioning off his immense comic book collection to offset costs to repair his business.

From a piece on WNYC...

Wenzel faces $850,000 worth of repairs, most of which are needed to get his ice cream and treat shop, Salty’s in Lavallette, open for the summer. He didn’t have flood insurance and the storm punched holes in the walls and floor, as well as trapped water in the walls.

To help offset the cost Wenzel, who was named for a comic book character, decided to auction off his three-generation-old comic collection.

“There comes a time where you collected 'em for not only the enjoyment of having them and being able to read them and look at them, but also in case of times of distress like we've been placed in with Hurricane Sandy,” he said.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Colbert Does Gatsby

The Real Life Inspiration for Daisy Buchanan?

Ginevra King.

Spreading Literature Through Africa...

...via cell phone.

From a piece in the Christian Science Monitor...

As e-readers boom in popularity in the West, African publishers are stretching their reach with the help of a device millions already have in their pockets: their cellphones. 

"You can give people instant access to work now," says Angela Wachuka, executive director of Kenya's Kwani Trust, which publishes the popular Kwani? literary journal. "Before, you had to rely on delivery or people coming to find you."

Mobile internet now accounts for well over half of all web traffic in some African countries, and it is expected to grow 25-fold on the continent in the next four years, according to the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association, an industry organization.

As I Lay Dying

August Osage County

Monday, May 13, 2013

Dialect Map of the United States


What Books Will We Remember in 100 Years?

Media Bistro has some ideas, here.

The Surf Riders of Hawaii

A rare surfing book about surfing in the early 1900s is expected to do well at auction.

From a story in the Denver Post...

The book is one of eight made by hand by A.R. Gurrey Jr. between 1911 and 1915. Gurrey is considered the father of surf photography. The book helped spread surfing's appeal from Hawaii to the mainland. 

It is composed of six leaves of heavy brown woven paper, with eight mounted gelatin-silver photographs of native Hawaiians surfing Waikiki. Among them is Duke Kahanamoku, the Olympic medalist swimmer who helped popularize the sport. 

There are three pages of text featuring eight black-and-white silver prints and the poem "Childe Harold" by Lord Byron.