Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What Killed American Lit

Today's collegians don't want to study it—who can blame them?

From an article in the Wall Street Journal...

Yet, through the magic of dull and faulty prose, the contributors to "The Cambridge History of the American Novel" have been able to make these presumably worldly subjects seem parochial in the extreme—of concern only to one another, which is certainly one derogatory definition of the academic. These scholars may teach English, but they do not always write it, at least not quite. A novelist, we are told, "tasks himself" with this or that; things tend to get "problematized"; the adjectives "global" and "post"-this-or-that receive a good workout; "alterity" and "intertexuality" pop up their homely heads; the "poetics of ineffability" come into play; and "agency" is used in ways one hadn't hitherto noticed, so that "readers in groups demonstrate agency." About the term "non-heteronormativity" let us not speak.

These dopey words and others like them are inserted into stiffly mechanical sentences of dubious meaning. "Attention to the performativity of straight sex characterizes . . . 'The Great Gatsby' (1925), where Nick Carraway's homoerotic obsession with the theatrical Gatsby offers a more authentic passion precisely through flamboyant display." Betcha didn't know that Nick Carraway was hot for Jay Gatsby? We sleep tonight; contemporary literary scholarship stands guard.

"The Cambridge History of the American Novel" is perhaps best read as a sign of what has happened to English studies in recent decades. Along with American Studies programs, which are often their subsidiaries, English departments have tended to become intellectual nursing homes where old ideas go to die. If one is still looking for that living relic, the fully subscribed Marxist, one is today less likely to find him in an Economics or History Department than in an English Department, where he will still be taken seriously. He finds a home there because English departments are less concerned with the consideration of literature per se than with what novels, poems, plays and essays—after being properly X-rayed, frisked, padded down, like so many suspicious-looking air travelers—might yield on the subjects of race, class and gender. "How would [this volume] be organized," one of its contributors asks, "if race, gender, disability, and sexuality were not available?"

Jimmy Fallon's "Do Not Read" List

Hurricane Lit

Now that Irene has come, perhaps it's time to sit down and read some hurricane lit. The Daily Beast offers up a list, here.

And Big Think offers up some hurricane poetry, here.

Booktrack - a Soundtrack for Books

Collectible Diaries

AbeBooks celebrates them, here.

From the piece...

Writing a diary is a very personal experience and yet they are a staple of the publishing world. Reading somebody else’s diary is supposed to be a heinous crime but bookshops are full of them. Despite this apparent conundrum, diaries from notable figures and ordinary people become highly collectible.

Of course, the most famous diary from an ordinary person was written by a mere schoolgirl - Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl. But how can you ignore a diary penned by a doctor describing the bombing of Hiroshima and the subsequent seven weeks?

This selection of rare diaries contains many notable names, including adventurer Lawrence of Arabia, revolutionary Che Guevara, avant-garde artist Jean Cocteau, silent movie star Rudolph Valentino, and the green-fingered author who created Biggles.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Is the Personal Library Doomed?

So asks Publishers Weekly.

From the small opinion piece...

Looking over someone’s Kindle contents tells me something, but not much. Was this title even read? Has it been re-read, loved, slept with? Read in the bath and therefore slightly waterlogged? Where are the dog-eared pages, the satisfying kinesthetic memory inherent in heft, shape, size? And don’t forget about bookmarks: those tell their own stories. In my own books, I re-discover bookmarks from long-defunct bookshops I loved, receipts and restaurant napkins I used to mark my place that now serve as travel diary entries, photos and other random flat paper items I grabbed to use as placeholders and then left there, giving me sudden bright glimpses of my own forgotten past. And there are items in the pages of books that were left there by other readers, little messages in bottles from across mysterious seas. My sister gave me a beautiful old King James Bible, an ornate leather-bound version from the 1800s, with illustration plates protected by onion skin. Pressed into the heart of the book, between onion skin and paper, was a four-leaf clover. I love this so much I can hardly stand it. A person of faith, perhaps, who owned this book before me, hedged his or her bets with a little piece of pagan luck! Show me an e-reader that can provide that kind of wacky archaeology.

The convenience of e-readers is handy, but libraries are treasure troves. I have so many friends and acquaintances who have shifted the bulk of their book buying to e-readers that I am starting to think about more than the usual anxiety about the future of publishing and bookselling. Book fanatics will always be here, and our libraries will survive. But I am starting to wonder whether the casual personal library is in danger.

The Rum Diary

What We Do to Books

The great Geoff Dyer, for the New York Times, discusses the book and how we leave our mark(s) on them as physical objects.

From the piece...

Other than that mark the book should be in near-mint condition when I start reading it, but I am not obsessive about keeping it that way. On the contrary, I like the way it gradually and subtly shows signs of wear and tear, of having been lived in (by me), like a pair of favorite jeans.

It’s time to get specific. I bought a remaindered copy of the British edition of Richard Overy’s “Why the Allies Won” (Pimlico) for £4.95 at Judd Books in London on Dec. 11, 2010 — I always write the date and place of purchase on the flyleaf, in pencil. A large-format paperback, it has a color-manipulated photo of a bloated German corpse on the cover, thereby suggesting that the Allies won because the Axis powers lost. It’s a dense work of analysis, lacking the propulsion we associate with the narrative histories of Antony Beevor or John Keegan, so even when immersed in the book — after a purchase-to-start-it lag of several months — I was unable to concentrate on it for more than an hour at a time. As a result it was lugged around to many places, in various bags, on planes and trains. In the process the corners became curled and the spine wrinkled. Spreading in direct proportion to the amount of the book’s contents that were being loaded into my brain, those creases became the external embodiment of the furrow-browed effort that reading it required. After a while, as these grooves deepened, the book refused to close completely when I laid it down. I love this. In the biblio equivalent of the corner of a bed being turned down, inviting you to get in, it’s as if the book were encouraging you not to abandon it, to keep at it. Which I did. I made notes, put pencil marks by passages that strikingly revised my understanding of the war: “For most of the Second World War Britain and the United States fought a predominantly naval conflict. . . . ” Hmmm. In addition to these annotations a couple of pages are marked by blotches of brown dried blood. George Steiner wrote somewhere that an intellectual is someone who can’t read a book without a pencil in his or her hand. My version of this compulsion is that I can’t seem to read without picking my nose — hence the blood stains.

Eventually, I finished this impressive volume. It went from being a new and unread book to one that was very evidently used and read. I left it lying around for a few days, enjoyed looking at the transformation it had undergone, struck by the mysterious transfusion of knowledge in which this object had played such an important — and historically tried-and-tested — role. The changes wrought upon the book were fairly discreet but, at the risk of projecting my own feelings of satisfaction at having made it to the end, I am tempted to say that it looked fulfilled. Like the youth in “The Red Badge of Courage” (bought Dec. 28, 1987, Cheltenham), it had, after an ignominious beginning (cowardice/remaindering), accomplished its purpose. Together, it and I earned a Read Badge of Shared Achievement.

Top Ten Novels of Solitude

The list, care of the Guardian.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Spider-Man vs. Hurricane Irene

New Scottish Literature

What's the best writing coming from the land of Scots? The Guardian finds out.

The Ecstacy of Influence - a Plagiarism

Jonathan Lethem, in Harper's, discusses artistic appropriation and plagiarism.

From said piece...

“When you live outside the law, you have to eliminate dishonesty.” The line comes from Don Siegel's 1958 film noir, The Lineup, written by Stirling Silliphant. The film still haunts revival houses, likely thanks to Eli Wallach's blazing portrayal of a sociopathic hit man and to Siegel's long, sturdy auteurist career. Yet what were those words worth—to Siegel, or Silliphant, or their audience—in 1958? And again: what was the line worth when Bob Dylan heard it (presumably in some Greenwich Village repertory cinema), cleaned it up a little, and inserted it into “Absolutely Sweet Marie”? What are they worth now, to the culture at large?

Appropriation has always played a key role in Dylan's music. The songwriter has grabbed not only from a panoply of vintage Hollywood films but from Shakespeare and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Junichi Saga's Confessions of a Yakuza. He also nabbed the title of Eric Lott's study of minstrelsy for his 2001 album Love and Theft. One imagines Dylan liked the general resonance of the title, in which emotional misdemeanors stalk the sweetness of love, as they do so often in Dylan's songs. Lott's title is, of course, itself a riff on Leslie Fiedler's Love and Death in the American Novel, which famously identifies the literary motif of the interdependence of a white man and a dark man, like Huck and Jim or Ishmael and Queequeg—a series of nested references to Dylan's own appropriating, minstrel-boy self. Dylan's art offers a paradox: while it famously urges us not to look back, it also encodes a knowledge of past sources that might otherwise have little home in contemporary culture, like the Civil War poetry of the Confederate bard Henry Timrod, resuscitated in lyrics on Dylan's newest record, Modern Times. Dylan's originality and his appropriations are as one.

The same might be said of all art.

The World's Highest Paid Authors

Odd...I guess I'm number #11, err...maybe 1,298,384,381...on the list.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Exactly Your Type

The Daily gives a history of the Times New Roman Font.

From the piece...

It’s in State Department memos, vintage pages of Woman’s Home Companion and your inbox: Times New Roman, the most widely used typeface in the world — and one of the most controversial. For more than half a century, it was attributed to a titan in the field of typography, Stanley Morison. But in the late 1980s, a Canadian printer discovered that Morison might have plagiarized the classic font.

The original story of Times New Roman’s genesis goes like this: Morison wrote a blistering article in 1929 arguing that Times Old Roman, the font of The Times of London, was dated, clunky, badly printed and in need of help — his help. The paper listened and charged Morison with directing the creation of a new suite of letters. He did, and on Oct. 3, 1943, Times New Roman debuted on the bright white broadsheets of the London daily.

Here’s the problem with this tidy account: Evidence found in 1987 — drawings for letters and corresponding brass plates — suggests that the real father of the font wasn’t a typographer at all, but a wooden boat designer from Boston named William Starling Burgess.

The Perks of Being an English Major

History's Ill-Fated Literary Couples

The list, care of Flavorwire.

From said list...

Sylvia and Ted met at the issue launch party for St. Botolph’s Review; she was studying on a Fulbright at Cambridge and he was writing poems for the short-lived publication. The pair were married on Bloomsday in 1956, at an Anglican church in Camden. Seven years later, the very unstable Sylvia killed herself, after discovering that Ted was having an affair with Assia Wevill (who also killed herself via oven fumes, in a copycat suicide a few years later). In a poem about Sylvia that was published in the late 1990s, Ted writes, “I did not know/I had made and fitted a door/ Opening downwards into your Daddy’s grave.”

Ten Great Books to Read Aloud

The list, care of AbeBooks via the Guardian.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

10 Great Movies for Book Lovers

The list, care of Flavorwire.

What's Obama Been Reading?

Here's a list of books he's read since 2008. Enjoy!

Borders Goes Out of Business

How Do You Make a Pencil?

Butch Cassidy's Autobiography?...Or Horse Pucky?

A rare book dealer says he's found a thinly veiled autobiography of Butch Cassidy. Some don't think much of said discovery.

From an article in the Washington Post...

A rare books collector says he has obtained a manuscript with new evidence that Butch Cassidy wasn’t killed in a 1908 shootout in Bolivia but returned to the U.S. and lived peaceably in Washington state for almost three decades.

The manuscript, “Bandit Invincible: The Story of Butch Cassidy,” dates to 1934. At 200 pages, it’s twice as long as a previously known but unpublished novella of the same title by William T. Phillips, a machinist who died in Spokane in 1937.

Utah book collector Brent Ashworth and Montana author Larry Pointer say the text contains the best evidence yet — with details only Cassidy could have known — that “Bandit Invincible” was not biography but autobiography, and that Phillips himself was the legendary outlaw.

Others aren’t convinced.

“Total horse pucky,” said Cassidy historian Dan Buck. “It doesn’t bear a great deal of relationship to Butch Cassidy’s real life, or Butch Cassidy’s life as we know it.”

BookLamp - "The Pandora of Books"

It's gone live.

From a piece in Paste... went live earlier today, offering a free service similar to the wildly popular Pandora Internet radio service, but for books.

The story of BookLamp, the brainchild of 29-year-old Aaron Stanton, began back in 2003 when he and other students at the University of Idaho put together what they called the Book Genome Project. Similar to the Pandora-originating Music Genome Project, the Book Genome Project breaks down a literary work to analyze the style of writing, which they refer to as Language DNA, and assign numerical values to what they refer to as Story DNA: a breakdown of the settings and actors in any given scene.

Fantasy Women

Fantasy writer Juliet McKenna discusses gender in fantasy fiction.

From the piece...

Kings and princes, wizards and heroes – isn’t that what fantasy’s all about? Look at the great epics of yore and see Gilgamesh, Achilles, Hector, Odysseus, Aeneas, Beowulf, Arthur, Lancelot, Roland, Siegfried. Look at the development of the fantasy genre and see Conan, Aragorn, Elric, Druss, Belgarion. Such lists are endless – and all male.

But why should this concern us? There are women in these stories; Helen, Hecuba, Penelope, Dido, Lavinia, Guinevere, Morgan le Fay, Isolde, Galadriel, Arwen, Polgara, Ce’Nedra. Their presence offers the necessary balance, and if the characters who drive the plot are predominately male, that’s just a traditional aspect of this genre which does reflect so much history. Before the last few decades, women were subject to male authority for centuries. No one’s saying that women shouldn’t be equal in the real world nowaday, but this is fiction after all. Right?

No, wrong, and for a whole lot of reasons.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Shakespeare...on the L Train

Top Ten Soccer...Err...Football Fictions

The list, care of the Guardian.

Sherlock Holmes Banned in Virginia

Arthur Conan Doyle's tale "A Study in Scarlet" has been removed from library shelves in Albemarle County.


From a piece in the Los Angeles Times...

If I were there today, the sixth-graders I passed in the halls would be banned from reading the Sherlock Holmes mystery "A Study in Scarlet" by Arthur Conan Doyle.

A parents at one of the other middle schools in the district objected to "A Study In Scarlet," first published in 1887, on the grounds that it portrays Mormons in a negative light. According to the Daily Progress, Brette Stevenson said, "This is our young students’ first inaccurate introduction to an American religion."

Franz Kafka's "It's a Wonderful Life"

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

The Henry David Thoreau Crater

Publisher's Weekly takes note of six strange things named after writers.

From said list...

A look at the list of Mercury’s craters will reveal that the following writers have big holes named after them on the planet: Honoré de Balzac, Giovanni Boccaccio, The Brontë family, Robert Burns, Lord Byron, Italo Calvino, Miguel de Cervantes, Anton Chekhov, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles Dickens, John Donne, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Gustave Flaubert, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ernest Hemingway, Homer, Horace, Victor Hugo, Henrik Ibsen, John Keats, Rudyard Kipling, Mikhail Lermontov, Li Bai, Herman Melville, Pablo Neruda, Ovid, Petrarch, Edgar Allen Poe, Marcel Proust, Alexander Pushkin, Rainer Maria Rilke, Arthur Rimbaud, William Shakespeare, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Sophocles, Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, William Butler Yeats, and Emile Zola.

The Top Ten Best Zombie Comics Ever

The list, care of MTV Geek.

Ten Spectacular Suicides in Literature

The list, care of Flavorwire.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bringing Books to the Homeless By Bike

Let us know praise, Laura Moulton.

From a piece in the Christian Science Monitor...

Ms. Moulton is Portland’s mobile librarian. Since early June Moulton has been bringing books to the public with her library-on-wheels Street Books, an outdoor library for people who live outside.

“The power of the book,” she says, “offer[s] a way to transport oneself out of a current reality.” Books are also “a tool to help pass time, which a lot of people living outside have a lot of.”

Moulton, a novelist and mother of two young children, bikes her library to Skidmore Fountain and Park Blocks – near Portland State University – on Wednesdays and Saturdays respectively. She brings about 40 or 50 books with her for each shift. But she says her basement is full of paperbacks that have been donated to her since the project began.

Each book holds an “old school” pocket on the inside cover with a loan card inside. Street Books patrons receive a library card that they can use to check out as many books they desire at a time.

“Being able to give them a card and tell them, ‘I hope to see you again’ – that’s a powerful thing because these are people who cannot get a library card [at the local library] because they have no address,” Moulton says. Her patrons show a high-level of accountability in returning books, which contradicts some assumptions about homeless people.

Fiction Changes Personalities

There's scientific proof.

From a story in Quill & Quire...

To test this hypothesis, Oatley and his colleagues developed experiments to measure empathy, and examine what Oatley calls the “big five personality traits” – extroversion, emotional stability, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. In one such experiment, the researchers randomly assigned readers one of two versions of Anton Chekhov’s short story “The Lady With the Little Dog”– a translation of the original and another comprising only basic plot points. Beforehand, researchers measured the readers’ personality traits and their emotions at the time of the experiment.

“We found the people who read the [whole] story changed a bit in their personality,” Oatley says. “What we found interesting was that they all changed in somewhat different ways.”

The observations of the researchers are significant because they differ from the psychology of persuasion, which assumes that media affects everyone in the same way. “In literary art, what you’re asking people is, ‘Alright, how does this affect you? How do you feel about this? How do you think about it?’”

Frida Kahlo and Edgar Allan Poe

A book of Poe's work, annotated by none other than painter Frida Kahlo sold at auction recently.

From a piece on the Paul Fraser Collectibles site...

In a different sphere, celebrated Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is also highly coveted by collectors, and her works have attracted six and seven figure bids.

Obviously the two are not usually related. But at Leslie Hindman's auction earlier this week one lot will have interested collectors of both kinds:

The beaten-up copy of The Works of Edgar Allan Poe was covered the book with doodles, inscriptions, paint and collaged leaves by Kahlo.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Is This the End for Books?

That's the question posed, recently, by the Guardian.

From the piece...

Are books, like defunct internet pages, heading towards the point where they will be archived as an academic curiosity? Some think so. You won't find any shortage of people willing to pronounce the printed book doomed, arguing that the convenience and searchability of digital text and the emergence of a Kindle-first generation will render them obsolete.

Certainly, electronic books have overcome their technological obstacles. Page turns are fast enough, battery life is long enough, and screens are legible in sunlight. Digital sales now account for 14% of Penguin's business. But there are reasons to reject the idea that the extinction of the printed book is just around the corner, just as there were reasons to reject the notion that e-books would never catch on because you couldn't read them in the bath and, y'know, books are such lovely objects.

Literary Characters, Girls, You Most Wanted to Be

The list, care of the Barnes & Noble Review.


Here's What I Hate about Writers' Houses

April Bernard says why in a piece in the New York Review of Books.

From the essay...

There I was, after many years of living in Bennington, Vermont, finally visiting the “Robert Frost Stone House Museum”—which happens to be in the next town north, South Shaftsbury. Frost is buried in the churchyard of the Old First Church in Bennington, and he lived in the Stone House and another Shaftsbury farmhouse for almost 20 years. Over his long life, he also lived in about a dozen other houses all over New Hampshire and Vermont, and many of these, in the strange world of competitive writer shrine-making, similarly have been designated “Frost houses.”

Here’s what I hate about Writers’ Houses: the basic mistakes. That art can be understood by examining the chewed pencils of the writer. That visiting such a house can substitute for reading the work. That real estate, including our own envious attachments to houses that are better, or cuter, or more inspiring than our own, is a worthy preoccupation. That writers can or should be sanctified. That private life, even of the dead, is ours to plunder.

Dragons Ascend - The Rise of Fantasy

The success of George R.R. Martin's books shows that fantasy books aren't just kids stuff.

From a piece in the New York Times...

It’s a high time for high fantasy. Novels about wizards outsell (and often outshine) the most glittering literary fiction titles; the contemporary romantic hero generally sports a pair of fangs; and even now the five remaining earthlings who haven’t read “The Lord of the Rings” are being hunted down and put to the sword. Yet for all of fantasy’s successes, there remains a chip on the spaulder of the genre. As Michael Agger put it in 2009, reviewing Lev Grossman’s Harry Potter-­influenced novel “The Magicians”: “Perhaps a fantasy novel meant for adults can’t help being a strange mess of effects. . . . Sounds like fun, but aren’t we a little old for this?” And with that, hundreds of years of fantastical writing are reduced to 20-­sided dice, pencil nubs, half-filled Coke cans and the crushing realization that no, your elven rogue’s dagger is not going to be effective against green slime.

There are reasons to think this view of fantasy is needlessly limited, and one of the most obvious is the titanic success of George R. R. Martin, the present and future king of The New York Times best-­seller list. Martin’s immensely popular new book, “A Dance With Dragons,” follows “A Feast for Crows,” which in turn followed “A Storm of Swords,” “A Clash of Kings” and “A Game of Thrones” (even if you admire these books, as I do, it’s hard to argue that Martin has A Knack for Titles). Thus far, the series has included a boy being thrown off a balcony, a woman having her face bitten off, a man having his nose cut off, a girl having her ear sliced off, multiple rapes, multiple massacres, multiple snarfings of people by animals, multiple beheadings and multiple discussions of revenue streams in medieval economies. If kids are reading this stuff, God help their parents.

Young Ada Lovelace

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fashion Cats? Yes, Fashion Cats

The Popeye Cookbook

It's coming.

From a piece in Paste...

He’s the sailor who is synonymous with anchor tattoos, a corn-cob pipe and bulging biceps. But perhaps Popeye’s greatest legacy was making eating spinach cool again — a trait that influenced London-based publishing house SelfMadeHero to create a cookbook based on the Sailor Man’s favorite food.

The Popeye Cookbook, which comes out this fall, promises 150 recipes that are “healthy takes on some All-American classics, moreish snacks, vegetarian dinners, special smoothies and seaside suppers,” according to SelfMadeHero.

The cookbook will also feature original color illustrations and cartoon strips alongside each recipe with easy-to-follow instructions.

Marvels and Monsters

NPR visits an exhibit at NYU that highlights Asians depicted in comic books.

From the piece...

KEYES: Jeff, the exhibition kind of looks at the way comic books and current events mesh together. Over time, how has American history influenced the way Asians are depicted?

YANG: One of the things that we realized as we looked at this collection - and the collection is extraordinary. He has collected literally hundreds, thousands of comic books across a span that, in many ways, defines the forge of Asian America, in a way, you know, 1941 all the way through 1986, a period of time in which America was engaged in physical wars and sort of spiritual ones with Asian countries - you know, from World War II, the war in the Pacific, through the Korean War, Vietnam War, and then the economic and political battles with Japan and China that followed.

And so comic books, in a lot of ways, pick up a lot of this resonant energy around how Americans were thinking of Asians in ways that virtually no other medium does. You see this character, like the character of the Yellow Claw emerging, this sort of monstrous, incredibly alien, exotic figure, this puppet master behind the scenes emerging just as America's anxiety around Chinese immigration, around the changing demographics of the country was first beginning to be felt.

Stephen King, Jonathan Demme and the Kennedy Assassination

Jonathan Demme has bought the movie rights to Stephen King's book that has yet to be published.

From a piece in Variety...

Helmer Jonathan Demme has optioned the feature rights to Stephen King's upcoming novel "11/22/63" and is set to write, direct and produce the adaptation through his Clinica Estetico banner.

Book follows Jake Epping, a 35-year-old high school English teacher from Maine who travels back in time to try to prevent President John F. Kennedy's assassination.

Ilona Herzberg ("Rachel Getting Married") will produce the sci-fi project, while King will exec produce.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Charles Bukowksi - Pant Salesman

True thing.

The Laughing Heart
by Charles Bukowski

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

A Third Bridget Jones Movie?

Oh. God. No.

Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books

The list, compiled by NPR listeners, here.

Long Live the Book

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Seven Crappiest Superheroes in Comic Book History

The list, care of Cracked.

From said list...

The Red Bee

Rick Raleigh fights crime during the day as assistant district attorney of Superior City and fights crime... also during the day as the Red Bee, scourge of the underworld!

Sadly, we have not been able to find anything remotely close to an origin story for this guy, which is a shame because if anything needs an explanation it's those awful stripped tights and see-through sleeves. You know what, maybe it's better we don't know.

What Went Wrong?

You know how Batman doesn't actually fight crime with trained bats? And how Spider-Man actually stays away from actual spiders? Well the Red Bee said fuck that shit, and fights crime with bees... for real.

Not only that, but he keeps his favorite Bee and best friend, Michael, in a special compartment in his belt for special occasions. So think of Red Bee as an Aquaman, but limited to one insect, making him the scourge of people allergic to bees and villains who have never heard of insecticide.

Edible Books

Happy reading, err...eating.

How to Draw Mr. Tickle

Bjork's Biophilia

Bjork's new album is nothing if not creative.

From a piece in Creative Review...

As well as these fetching tuning forks, Biophilia, The Ultimate Edition also contains The Biophilia Manual – a 48 page hardbound, cloth-covered, thread-sewn book, with a lenticular panel tipped on to the front cover (spreads shown, above). It can be removed from the case by means of a ribbon pull. The box also contains two audio CDs including the Biophila album plus additional exclusive recordings. The discs are housed in uncoated black board wallets with foilblocked covers and spines.

The Great Great Gatsby

The National Post takes a look back at the life of F. Scott Fitzgerald and discusses his literary legacy.

From the article...

The fact that a major publisher believes this slight and uneven work deserves reprinting is one more proof of Fitzgerald's enduring status.

The account of his drinking was probably amusing at the time but it makes uneasy reading for those who know, as millions do, that when he wrote it he was drinking himself to death. Eleven years after he set down that apparently jovial chronicle, his heart gave out and he was dead at 44.

Seven decades later, his career remains a source of wonder, admiration and retrospective anxiety. In almost every corner of life, from handling money to handling liquor, he lacked shrewdness and a sense of survival. Yet he had a strong sense of himself, and a feeling for the demands of literature. In this book we find him writing: "My idea is always to reach my generation. The wise writer, I think, writes for the youth of his own generation, the critic of the next and the schoolmasters of ever afterward."

He was critically dismissed during his last years and died believing himself a failure. But the sales records of today, the opinions of other writers and the current judgments of critics suggest that he was an author of spectacular resilience. When The Great Gatsby was published, T.S. Eliot wrote to Fitzgerald: "It seems to me to be the first step that American fiction has taken since Henry James." Eliot had it right.

In 2002, a trade magazine asked a group of authors, editors and agents to name the most powerful character in literature since 1900. They chose Jay Gatsby and, in second place, Holden Caulfield, from J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. It was Holden who famously told us "I was crazy about The Great Gatsby. That killed me." So Fitzgerald came both first and second in the same poll. (Third and fourth were, respectively, Nabokov's Lolita and Joyce's Leopold Bloom.)

The Book of Poetry Bound in Human Skin

The Canberra Times has more, here.

Ralph Fiennes to Direct Movie about Charles Dickens' Affair

The Guardian takes note of Ralph Fiennes' next movie project.

From the piece...

It is not yet known whether Fiennes will star in the film, as he did with his directorial debut, Corialanus. But he would appear to be an obvious choice for the leading role: Dickens was 45 when he met Ternan, then 18, in 1857. Their relationship remained secret from the public, even after Dickens's separation from his wife the following year. Ternan travelled with the author for the rest of his life; after his death, she married a man 12 years her junior, having disguised her own age as 23, rather than 37.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Snail Mail by Email

Write an email. Have it written and sent by mail. It's free. Try it, here.

Babar the Elephant Turns 80

Shakespeare and Country Music

There's a tie between them? Indeed!

From a piece in the Los Angeles Times...

Why haven’t Shakespeare and country music come together more often?

“Country music deals so unabashedly with big feelings — just like tragedy,” Chalsma said. “I thought the audience would connect to the song.”

Country music has long been a place where songwriters explore romantic tragedy using language as compact and colorful as the Bard of Avon’s. Clever couplets, vivid imagery and unexpected turns of phrase are the stock in trade of both.

In modern times, Shakespeare’s work is often placed among the pinnacles of high art in the Western world; just the opposite of country music, which is strongly rooted in the lives and concerns of regular folk. But the two are, historically speaking, closely connected.

“It’s always ironic to me when people start talking about Shakespeare as being so highfalutin’,” said Thomas Bradac, founder of Shakespeare Orange County and a theater professor at Chapman University in Orange. “The poetry was always considered high art, and the sonnets, but the plays themselves were the dime novels of their day. That’s why the royalty didn’t go to them, and why they got kicked out of London and moved to the South Bank, next to the whorehouses.”

Some directors have set productions of “Taming of the Shrew” in the Old West to help audiences connect better with Shakespeare’s treatise on gender stereotypes, while the Bard’s best-known themes and characters have occasionally surfaced as country song fodder.

Taylor Swift’s hit “Love Story” may be the most recent example, one in which the young singer-songwriter cast herself and her would-be love as Shakespeare’s star-crossed couple. Except she added a happy ending.

Calligraphers Still Going Against Type

The Los Angeles Times profiles calligraphers and discusses their art.

From the piece...

"Calligraphy is an art; typing isn't," she says. "When you see letters that have been handwritten, you make a connection that doesn't occur with type. Hand lettering leads to a broader, richer relationship to language."

But in a world bent upon frugality and speed, calligraphy is becoming a marginalized skill, more hobby than profession.

Lettering styles that look hand-drawn can be downloaded off the Internet. Budget constraints have led the city and county of Los Angeles to employ fewer artists skilled in calligraphy — targeted as an unnecessary taxpayer expense — and computers now produce portions of proclamations.

The calligraphy class that Singh taught for 25 years at the Beverly Hills Adult School was recently eliminated for lack of funding, and in April the Indiana Department of Education issued a memo emphasizing "keyboarding skills" over cursive writing for third-graders. Many calligraphers credit early writing lessons for inspiring their interest in letters.

The erosion of their trade has left some calligraphers eager to take hammers to word processors.

The Whitman of the Industrial Heartland

Congratulations, Phillip Levine, on being the US Poet Laureate.

An Abandoned Factory, Detroit

The gates are chained, the barbed-wire fencing stands,
An iron authority against the snow,
And this grey monument to common sense
Resists the weather. Fears of idle hands,
Of protest, men in league, and of the slow
Corrosion of their minds, still charge this fence.

Beyond, through broken windows one can see
Where the great presses paused between their strokes
And thus remain, in air suspended, caught
In the sure margin of eternity.
The cast-iron wheels have stopped; one counts the spokes
Which movement blurred, the struts inertia fought,

And estimates the loss of human power,
Experienced and slow, the loss of years,
The gradual decay of dignity.
Men lived within these foundries, hour by hour;
Nothing they forged outlived the rusted gears
Which might have served to grind their eulogy.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

8-Bit Twilight

Will Bella end up with Edward or Jacob? Find out in Twilight: Eclipse in this 8-Bit Interactive!

Big Plans for Laura Ingalls Wilder Home


From an article in the News-Leader...

Wilder moved to the Ozarks in 1894, which is where she eventually penned her famous "Little House" books.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Home Association owns five of her original manuscripts, and board members hope to preserve them and the history of this farm through an upcoming renovation and restoration project.

The association has received a $200,000 grant from the USDA to build an archival library. It needs to raise additional funds, and Coday said former first lady Laura Bush has agreed to be an "honorary chairman" of the campaign.

"She said she loved the books since she was a little girl. She was a school librarian, and that makes her very interested in us doing the right thing with all these treasures," Coday said. "She said she couldn't promise anything other than her support as honorary chairman. We won't ask her to do more than she can."

The library will house the original manuscripts, first editions of her books, letters and some of the items currently in the museum, which they would eventually like to tear down.

Sans Sheriff