Monday, April 30, 2012

Bound Together - Robert Caro and Lyndon Baines Johnson

How Many Hours Does it Take to Master the Act of Writing?

10 Best American Poems

The list, care of the Guardian.

A few of my favorite American poems aren't on the list, including...

Grass, by Carl Sandburg
For the Union Dead, by Robert Lowell
Traveling Through the Dark, by William Stafford
Birches, by Robert Frost
Howl, by Allen Ginsberg
When Death Comes, by Mary Oliver

...I could go on and on. 

Tolstoy vs. Dostoevsky

Who is the better writer?

From a piece in the Millions...

It is likely that these words express more about me than about Tolstoy or Dostoevsky. I have long ago given up on the idea of objective appraisal of literature: reading is a much more mediated process than we would like to admit. All sorts of ghosts crawl into the pages, a prehistory of tastes and experiences and prejudices and fears. So if I say Dostoevsky is a greater writer than Tolstoy, I only mean he has been greater to me.

Anna Quindlen's 3 Favorite Memoirs Written by Women

The list, care of the Barnes & Noble Review.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

True Adventures in Better Homes

The artwork of Nadine Boughton is cool.

From the artist's website...

Men’s adventure magazines of the 1950’s and early 1960’s are shocking, funny, ambiguously rich artifacts of popular culture. Seeing them as narratives from the collective psyche, in this portfolio I consider how they would speak in an environment of orderly homes with sunny patios depicted in women’s magazines of the same era. 

Here is a collision of two worlds: men’s adventure magazines or “sweats” meets Better Homes and Gardens. These photocollages are set against the backdrop of the McCarthy era, advertising, sexual repression, WWII and the Korean War. The cool, insular world of mid-century modern living glossed over all danger and darkness, which the heroic male fought off in every corner.

My intention is to show how the inner psyche reflects the culture at large. I am drawn to the tension of opposites: inner and outer spaces, wildness and domesticity, the sweat and the cool.  With a background in psychology, I am always interested in what lies beneath appearances. The predator theme so present in the “true” adventures led me to explore “who” or “what” is breaking through. Whether the metaphor is that of bats or whales, this “other” carries not only our deepest fears but our deepest desires. We meet ourselves.

Posing Like a Man

Jim C. Hines recreates romance novel covers, here.

10 Great Books about Young Women

The list, care of Flavorwire.

Self Published Romance Authors Band Together

Several romance authors have gotten together to launch a brand designed to help readers find "high-quality self-published works." This brand is called Rock*It Reads, and you'll be able to identify Rock*It Reads books by the logo on the cover.

From a story in USA Today...

Joyce: Why did all of these authors form this group/brand?

A: The e-book market place is exploding, offering readers an astounding number of books to choose from. But it's too easy for readers to get "search fatigue" from wading through the options, trying to find the gems.

By establishing Rock*It Reads, we're giving readers an effective, streamlined way to find really great books. Our beautiful new website is a one-stop portal for finding our books and for keeping up to date on latest news and upcoming releases. And our clearly recognizable logo is a signal to readers that they're getting a story that's been tended with the same level of attention and professionalism as our New York works. The logo is our "seal of quality," telling readers we care as much about writing great stories as they do about reading them!

America's Literary Named Towns

A map, care of AbeBooks.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Flapper Girl Muses

For Jazz Age girls Zelda Fitzgerald, Vivienne Eliot and Lucia Joyce, having it all was not enough.

From a piece in the Telegraph...

Interest in the ”flapper girl“ is once again high, with Baz Luhrmann's forthcoming film remake of The Great Gatsby and new editions of Fitzgerald's short story collection Tales of the Jazz Age published by Cambridge University Press next week and by Oxford University Press in June. 

Vivienne Eliot, the young wife of T S Eliot, was also a flapper, or ”char-flapper“ as he liked to call her when they met in 1915. And across the Channel, Lucia Joyce, dancing exuberantly through the 1920s, was another. The daughter of James Joyce, she was his femme inspiratrice, according to Carl Jung; Vivienne Eliot was, according to Virginia Woolf, ”the true inspiration“ of her husband. 

These three young women, the female embodiments of the new partying age, would each end their lives in mental hospitals. Their tragic ends are obscured by our shiny rediscovery of the flapper today – possibly because they posit such uncomfortable questions. The muse is traditionally a silent, passive figure; a beautiful woman whose beauty alone is enough to inspire artists. But what made young women of such an exciting new age want to take on this silent, passive role? Did they renew it or rebel against it? And did their rebellion lead to their madness?


Don't Read the Last Rites on Hardcover Books

Why? Sales figures show that, though paperbacks are all but history, hardbacks look surprisingly healthy.

From a story in the Guardian...

Moreover, the new data shows that, as book sales soar, it's the paperback that's in real trouble. During the first three months of 2012, 11.3 million paperbacks were sold, compared to 14.9 the previous year. Year on year, sales of paperbacks are down by almost 25%. Paperback chiefs are being fired. Supermarket editions such as Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code will soon be a thing of the past. Simultaneously, the Pew Internet and American Life Project reveals that ebook consumers typically read more ebooks than their print-conscious predecessors. The latest sales figures for ebooks are off the chart.

Is this the end of civilisation as we know it? Certainly not. From another perspective, you might say this is a golden age of reading – with this difference. Everyone knows that digital screens are changing the way we read. Ebook buying and ebook reading is not like buying and reading traditional print through a bookshop. It's closer to browsing, and rarely involves the same reader-author loyalty. Where mass market paperbacks had the shelf life of fresh fish, ebooks redefine the meaning of ephemeral.
So where does this leave the future of the book? The sensible thing to observe at this moment is that, in the middle of a huge paradigm shift, no one knows anything.

How Well Do You Know the Bard's Plays?

Take this quiz to find out!

From Kerouac To Rand, 'Harmful' Reads For Writers

Columnist Crawford Kilian advises aspiring writers to avoid Jack Kerouac's On the Road, Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and eight other well-known novels.

From a piece on NPR...

On the right way to let great books inform your writing

"What you need to do is bear in mind that you are entering a conversation with everybody you have ever read when you start writing. And you don't want to simply say 'ditto, ditto, ditto' to the authors that you're conversing with. What you want to do is to say, 'That's a very interesting point you made. Now let me take it a little further and show you what could also be done in this regard.' ...

"There's a lot of great writing being done in translation from other languages. One of the authors I say you can't imitate but you can still learn from is Gabriel Garcia Marquez, whose One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of the most astounding books of the century. ...

Who is Reading E-Books?

Find out with this sprawling infographic, here.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Top 5 Reasons to Let Kids Choose What Books They Want to Read

The list, care of Nerdy Book Club.

From said list...

1. When you let kids choose what they read, they will take risks.

This year, I asked my students to read widely across a variety of genres.  While I required a certain number of books in particular genres, I left the titles up to the kids.  I found in my conversations that students who had been stuck in a reading rut appreciated the nudge to explore other genres and picked up books they never would have read otherwise.  I now have students who at the beginning of the year said, “I hate fantasy books, especially ones with dragons and fairies” reading books like The Sixty Eight Rooms and Small Persons With Wings, which is not your typical fairy book!

Holy Musical, Batman!

More, here. Or watch the whole show on YouTube, here.

Reading Tips

Happy Poem in a Pocket Day!

What poem is in YOUR pocket? Go out and celebrate!

Henry David Thoreau - the Video Game?


From a small post on Media Bistro...

The University of Southern California has received a $40,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to produce a video game based on the work of Henry David Thoreau.

Here’s more about the project: “To support production costs for a video game based on the writings of Henry David Thoreau at Walden Pond. The player will inhabit an open, three-dimensional game world which will simulate the geography and environment of Walden Woods. Once developed, the game will be available online.”

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Do You Want to Learn How to Speed Read?

Ready? Set? GO!

60 Years of Charlotte's Web

The New York Times celebrates the kid lit classic.

From the article...

Back on his new farm in Maine as an adult, after he settled in, White rejuvenated the old barn with pink newborn pigs, yammering klatches of geese and cliques of thoughtful-looking sheep. Rats came in uninvited, as they had to the stable, and reprised their role as gluttonous thieves. The smell of hay and the wary gaze of cows became part of White’s rural days, just as the subway and pigeons were at the other pole of his elliptical life, as a writer for The New Yorker from the 1920s to the 1980s. 

Inevitably, though, the morality of farming troubled White, especially his betrayal of a pig’s trust when he suddenly turned from provider to executioner. In the fall of 1947, a pig he had planned to slaughter became ill, and White labored heroically but failed to save its life, a sad farce he immortalized in his 1948 essay “Death of a Pig.” In his animal-populated imagination, however, the pig lived on. White began to envision stories in which the poor animal’s life might be endangered — only this time it would survive.

10 Facts about Dracula Author Bram Stoker

The list, care of the Telegraph.

From said list...

Born in Dublin, Stoker had an ancient, colourful lineage on his mother's side – including the legendary sheriff of Galway, who hanged his own son. It was material the writer mined in his fiction. 

A key inspiration for Dracula was always said to have been Vlad the Impaler, the 15th-century Transylvanian-born prince also known as Vlad III Dracula of Wallachia. However, historian Fiona Fitzsimons says: “Stoker did not use overtly Irish references in Dracula, but his main theme is taken from Irish history – the history, we now learn, of his own family – recast in the writer’s imagination. Manus the Magnificent (Manus O’Donnell,who once ruled much of Ireland) was Stoker’s direct ancestor and was an influence on the book."

Pablo Neruda, Interviewed

The Paris Review unearths a Neruda interview from 1971.

From the piece...

Why did you change your name, and why did you choose “Pablo Neruda”?

I don’t remember. I was only thirteen or fourteen years old. I remember that it bothered my father very much that I wanted to write. With the best of intentions, he thought that writing would bring destruction to the family and myself and, especially, that it would lead me to a life of complete uselessness. He had domestic reasons for thinking so, reasons which did not weigh heavily on me. It was one of the first defensive measures that I adopted—changing my name.

Did you choose “Neruda” because of the Czech poet Jan Neruda?

I’d read a short story of his. I’ve never read his poetry, but he has a book entitled Stories from Malá Strana about the humble people of that neighborhood in Prague. It is possible that my new name came from there. As I say, the whole matter is so far back in my memory that I don’t recall. Nevertheless, the Czechs think of me as one of them, as part of their nation, and I’ve had a very friendly connection with them.

In case you are elected president of Chile, will you keep on writing?

For me writing is like breathing. I could not live without breathing and I could not live without writing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

10 Most Disturbing Deaths in Shakespeare

The list, care of the Huffington Post.

Mark Your Calendars

May 5th is Free Comic Book Day.

Hemingway - the Hotel Chain?


From a small piece in the New York Daily News...

Hemingway’s estate recently announced that it intends to build a hotel brand based on the iconic author and his works. The chain, Hemingway Hotels and Resorts, cites his traveling and jet-setting lifestyle as the inspiration behind the concept, which hopes to infuse the surrounding landscape and character of the hotels’ locations into the physical architecture and layout of these lush resorts. 

The hospitality group’s website reads, rather ebulliently: “An artist needs inspiration to flourish, and so Hemingway was drawn to the world’s most beautiful locales: Paris, Spain, Venice, Key West, Havana, Idaho. Hemingway Hotels will also be found there, and in other beautiful places around the world, in cities and in nature, on beaches and in mountains. Only select hotels will be approved for this iconic brand. For each Hemingway Hotel must be true to its environment, unique architecturally, and committed to providing guests with active, passionate one-of-a-kind experiences that deeply enrich their lives.”


Based on the famed Don DeLillo novel:

The Kindle Index

What city buys the most e-readers? You'd be surprised by the results. The Atlantic has the answer, here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Great Lives - Gertrude Stein

BBC Radio discusses the life and times of Gertrude Stein and wants you to listen in, here.

How a Book About Fish Nearly Sank Newton's Principia

Poor sales of lavishly illustrated book forced Royal Society to go back on promise to finance publication of Newton's Principia.

From an article in the Guardian...

The debacle played out in the 17th century when the country's most prestigious scientific organisation ploughed its money into the lavishly illustrated Historia Piscium, or History of Fishes, by John Ray and Francis Willughby.

Though groundbreaking in 1686, the book flopped and nearly broke the bank, forcing the Royal Society to withdraw from its promise to finance the publication of Newton's Pricipia, one of the most important works in the history of science.

Today, digital images from Historia Piscium, including a stunning engraving of a flying fish, are made available with more than a thousand others in a new online picture archive launched by the Royal Society.

The Reader and Technology

Toby Litt, in Granta, discusses the future of books and reading as it continues to converge with technology.

From the piece...

Literature depends on technology – a society needs to be able to do more than subsist before it produces a literature. An oral culture, yes, that is possible – but I am referring specifically to words on the page, words on the screen.

The internet connection offers all of us the constant temptation of snippets, of trivia. We don’t live, as other writers did in the past, without these particular temptations. They had their own temptations: Byron wasn’t undistracted. Yet there were greater acres of emptiness, surely. Travel took forever. Winters isolated. Boredom was there as a resource for daydreaming, trancing out.

I think writers will continue to occur but technology and its trivia will cause us to lose something, just as we lost something when we lost the classical education. We write worse because we cannot write classical prose. Yet classical prose is useless for describing the world of 2012, the world that is there – ready to buzz – in your pocket or bag.

Our perceptions outrun the sedentary sentence by much too much; just as we listen to mp3s to hear what an album would sound like were we actually to sit down and listen to it, so we skim-read the classic books to get a sense of what they would be like were we to sit down and dwell on them.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Steinbeck in Vietnam

The last piece of published writing from one of America's greatest writers was a series of letters he sent back from the front lines of war at the age of 64.

John Steinbeck's reports shocked readers and family so much that they've never been reprinted — until now.

A Bookstore Devoted Solely to Winston Churchill?


From a story in the Paris Review...

But 55 East Fifty-second’s marble lobby, inside the triangle-shaped office building with a Gotham-style green-glass facade, conceals an equitably valuable treasure in the world’s only standing bookstore dedicated to the works of England’s former prime minister, Winston Churchill—Chartwell Booksellers. And while the tiny bookstore might seem at odds with its location, it actually makes perfect sense that one of history’s best-dressed leaders would have a store in one of the world’s most upscale shopping districts.

“He’s more highly regarded in America than he is in England, even today,” Barry Singer, the proprietor of Chartwell, tells me as we sit on a wooden bench surrounded by the spines of hardcover books—some encased behind glass, others invitingly out in the open. There are new editions of Wodehouse and Borges, a first-edition copy of Wilde’s The Sphinx from 1894, some books of photography featuring shots of famous race cars and jazz musicians, but mostly there’s Churchill—lots and lots of ephemeral odes to and by Winston Churchill.

Unknown Poe Manuscript Unveiled at Exhibit

Newly discovered Edgar Allan Poe manuscripts will be revealed in a major exhibit at Richmond, Virginia's Edgar Allan Poe Museum from April 26 to July 11, 2012.

From a piece on the Wall Street Journal's Market Watch...

According to the Poe Museum's Curator Chris Semtner, "This is the kind of exhibit that comes around only once in a generation. Because Poe's manuscripts were not highly valued during his brief life, many have been lost or dispersed over time, making them very rare today. Given that, it is remarkable that this show will feature such items as the only complete Poe short story in private hands, the earliest privately owned Poe manuscript, and even a letter from Poe to Washington Irving." 

One of the show's highlights will be the recently discovered manuscript for "To Helen," which represents a unique and previously unknown version of poem's first stanza. The piece was written in the album of Poe's cousin Amelia Poe of Baltimore, which was given to the Poe Museum in 1930 by Mrs. Stewart Woodward, but the poem was not found until last month during a recent cataloging and digitization project.

Steve Soboroff - Typewriter Collector

Steve Soboroff, an L.A. civic leader, has acquired typewriters once owned by the famous and infamous. In an era of iPads and text-spouting phones, the ancient, clunky machines have become unlikely objects of desire.

From a story in the Los Angeles Times...

The object of his fascination? Typewriters.

There's the 1932 Royal Model P that Ernest Hemingway used to write letters during his time in Cuba. There's a tiny Imperial Good Companion Model T on which
John Lennon banged out song lyrics years before the Beatles invaded America.

There's the 1936 Corona Junior on which budding playwright
Tennessee Williams composed his antiwar farce "Me, Vashya" for a student competition at Washington University in St. Louis. (He lost!)

"I love people who are the best at what they do," Soboroff said. "The idea that geniuses sat there and accomplished what they accomplished on these typewriters … it gives me chills."

The Question of Nonfiction

From James Frey to Mike Daisey the issue of truth in nonfiction continues to be a source of angst, perturbation, inquiry, fun, argument, and discussion.

Here, on the Los Angeles Review of Books' sparkling new website, a few authors have a quick say, in a series of LARB One-Minute Films.  Some find the argument that fidelity to fact is the essence of nonfiction, including the memoir, to be an impossible and perhaps uninteresting goal; some find our culture's inability to agree on the solidity of fact to be a sign of the apocalypse.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

10 of the Most Hilarious Memoirs You'll Ever Read

The list, care of Flavorwire.

How to Spot a First Edition

Bathroom Reading

Charles Simic, for the New York Review of Books, waxes poetic about reading in the bathroom.

From the piece...

Did our Founding Fathers read while sitting on their chamber pots? In my childhood in Serbia, when outhouses were common in the countryside and toilet paper was regarded by ordinary folk as a decadent luxury, the pile of old newspapers we kept in there provided not only the necessary substitute, but also inviting reading material, which supplemented my education and entertained me. It used to be a common experience, and most likely still is in some homes, that if a child or a grownup was missing and could not be found, someone was sent to knock on the bathroom door. We’ve all had family members who spent inordinate amount of time on the potty or lying in a tub filled with water reading magazines and novels, until a small line had formed outside the door, each of us as impatient to relieve ourselves as to find out what the last occupant, looking guilty, had been reading in there. 

As a guest in homes of strangers, I have discovered bathroom libraries that took my breath away by their size and intellectual pretensions. It was unclear to me whether Plato’s dialogues in original Greek, together with Marx’s The Communist Manifesto, Thomas Pynchon’s latest novel were there to impress the visitor, or in the case of another fellow who had a pile of memoirs by ex-presidents going back to Reagan, to make him laugh. I can’t say that I’ve encountered a whole lot of poetry in bathrooms, even in the homes of poets, though I’ve come across many an anthology. Would reading one of Hamlet’s soliloquies or John Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale” in such a setting be unbecoming? I don’t know. I’ve heard of people reading the Bible on the toilet, which even for an unbeliever like me came as a shock. Even more appalling to me was the discovery, in a famous art collector’s bathroom, of a painting of the Madonna and the Child, either by some highly competent imitator of Raphael—or perish the thought!—by the master himself.

Hemingway and Gellhorn

Anne of Green Gables Starring...Me as Anne of Green Gables?

U Star Novels will reprint classic novels starring you and your friends as the main characters. Check out the service, here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

What Is It Like to Edit Hustler Magazine?

Find out, here.

Book People Unite

The Little Golden History of Little Golden Books

AbeBooks revels in the history of children's lit classics, here.

From the piece...

If you think about the books you read as a child, or have read to a child, Little Golden Books will pop into your head. These books were first published in 1942 and have become a staple on children's bookshelves. Little has changed with the books over the years, they still have the iconic gold spine, the brightly illustrated covers and educational and moral stories. Although they no longer sell for 25 cents - first edition copies easily go for over $100 - Little Golden Books are a sweet little piece of the literary pie.

Guy Duplaix, president of the Artist and Writers Guild, came up with the idea to produce inexpensive children's books that were durable. In September 1942, Duplaix worked with Simon & Schuster to publish the first 12 titles...After only five months, the Little Golden Books were in their third printing with 1.5 million copies in print.

Helping Writers to Take the Pain Out of Rejection

The Rejection Generator Project.

5 Books about Fenway Park

The list, care of the Christian Science Monitor.

A Book You Can Smoke?

Thanks, Snoop Dogg.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Art of the Title Sequence

7 Must Read Books on the Future of Information and the Internet

The list, care of Brain Pickings.

When a Thermos Becomes a thermos

The Associated Press takes a look at products that become common nouns (coming soon - the ipad, rather than the iPad)?

From the story...

For the vast majority, the idea of a tablet is really captured by the idea of an iPad,'" says Josh Davis, a manager at Abt Electronics in Chicago. "They gave birth to the whole category and brought it to life."
Companies trip over themselves to make their brands household names. But only a few brands become so engrained in the lexicon that they're synonymous with the products themselves. This so-called "genericization" can be both good and bad for companies like Apple, which must balance their desire for brand recognition with their disdain for brand deterioration.

It's one of the biggest contradictions in business. Companies spend millions to create a brand. Then, they spend millions more on marketing that can have the unintended consequence of making those names so popular that they become shorthand for similar products. It's like if people start calling station wagons Bentleys. It can diminish a brand's reputation.

3 Books on the True Nature of Paris

The list, care of NPR.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I Know That Voice

Ray Bradbury's Thoughts on Disneyland

The famous writer wrote about "The Happiest Place on Earth" for Holiday magazine - their October 1965 edition.

From said edition...

It is a long way from that first slot machine to the “miracles of rare device” created by Walt Disney for his kingdom, Disneyland. When Walt Whitman wrote, “I sing the Body Electric,” he little knew he was guessing the motto of our robot-dominated society. I believe Disney’s influence will be felt centuries from today. I say that Disney and Disneyland can be prime movers of our age.

But before I offer proof, let me sketch my background. At twelve, I owned one of the first Mickey Mouse buttons in Tucson, Arizona. At nineteen, sell­ing newspapers on a street corner, I lived in terror I might be struck by a car and killed before the premiere of Disney’s film extravaganza, Fantasia. In the last thirty years I have seen Fantasia fifteen times, Snow White twelve times, Pinocchio eight times. In sum, I was, and still am, a Disney nut.

You can imagine, then, how I regarded an article in the Nation some years ago that equated Disneyland with Las Vegas. Both communities, claimed the article, were vulgar, both represented American culture at its most corrupt, vile and terrible.

I rumbled for half an hour, then exploded. I sent a letter winging to the prim Nation editors.

40 Famous Manuscripts That Were at First Rejected

The list, care of Bachelors Degree Online.