Friday, December 27, 2013

The Chris McCandless Obsession Problem

Every year, scores of Into the Wild fans tackle a dangerous river crossing to visit the last home of Alaska’s most famous adventure casualty. Why are so many people willing to risk injury, and even death, to pay homage to a controversial ascetic who perished so young?

From a piece in Outside...

I WENT TO ALASKA FOR the first time in the summer of 2011, on a grant to report and write radio stories in a small town in southeast Alaska. At summer’s end, I went farther north, spending an extra month and a half with my traveling partner, Jonathan, both of us living out of a 1993 Jeep Cherokee we nicknamed Muskeg, which had dented armor, a cracked windshield, and a missing tailgate handle. Jonathan and I drove 3,500 miles along seven of interior Alaska’s highways, reporting stories for Alaska Public Radio along the way. 

It was Jonathan who first suggested we do a story about the McCandless seekers. The phenomenon is well-known in Alaska—a source of enduring controversy. Every summer, newspapers in Anchorage and Fairbanks publish reports about search-and-rescue episodes on the trail, which invariably prompt online catcalls from Alaskans, who tend to dismiss McCandless as a greenhorn who had no business in the northern wilderness. 

Jonathan and I put the idea on our story list, and as we traveled around the state, we read Into the Wild to each other over the clatter of Muskeg’s engine. We soon felt the story’s pull. I was 20, Jonathan was 22, and McCandless’s uninhibited adventures spoke to both of us.

Valuable Holiday Lessons from Calvin and Hobbes


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Nabakov and His Butterflies

Mary Ellen Hannibal discusses the author's fascination with butterflies in Nautilus.

From the piece...

In the autobiography Nabokov recalls the “original event” of his “collecting life” when he made his first butterfly capture at age 7 at Vyra.  His governess had tried to kill the insect by locking it up in a wardrobe overnight. In the morning, the persistent butterfly flew out and through the window. Nabokov, recalling this event five decades later, projects himself back into his 7-year-old self, and imagines the butterfly soaring far away—eventually to America.  

Though not in the mountains, Vyra was surrounded by aspen groves, in a climate of harsh winters and short summers, and was home to alpine butterfly species. Nabokov pursued similar alpine butterflies throughout his life, taking trips across Europe and the U.S. with his wife Vera, and later their son Dmitri. As his biographer Brian Boyd writes, “the particular kinds of butterflies he concentrated on as a scientist were influenced by his nostalgia.”

Did You Know "Die Hard" Was Based on a Novel?

Well, it was.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

10 Vintage Christmas Books to Open on Christmas Morning

The list, care of AbeBooks.

A Love Letter to the Christmas Card

The Telegraph waxes poetic.

From the piece...

This year the Christmas card celebrates its 170th birthday. Its beginnings were based on a personal malaise we increasingly acknowledge in our own lives: the concept of being “time poor”. In 1843, a man called Henry Cole found himself overwhelmed with work, and reasoned that he wasn’t alone in this predicament. But perhaps few were as busy as Cole. You may recognise his name as a founder and director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, but, as a trusted favourite of Prince Albert, he also appeared to be engaged in almost every other major arts, design and progressive educational project in London. He was practical too, helping to design everything from new teapots to universal penny postage (he was postal reformer Rowland Hill’s chief assistant). The notion of sending messages at the close of the year dates back to pagan times, but in the first years of Queen Victoria’s reign it was a custom predominantly practised by elaborate letter.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Online Publications See a Print?


From a piece in the Los Angeles Times...

While pundits were declaring the death of ink on paper, though, a funny thing happened: Some of the very people who helped pioneer online-only journalism and criticism began to reconsider print.
Indie-music kingmaker, which has spent 17 years publishing on the Web, just launched a quarterly print edition. The Los Angeles Review of Books, which began on Tumblr in 2011, recently celebrated the release of the Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly Journal, while intellectual online journal the New Inquiry is planning a print anthology. This fall, the feminist site Jezebel, an arm of the Gawker Media empire, published "The Book of Jezebel" — an "illustrated encyclopedia of lady things" — and teen girl website Rookie published its second "Rookie Yearbook."

"There's been a lot of discussion of the transition in one direction: print to digital," says New Inquiry editor in chief Rachel Rosenfelt, 28. "But this is the first generation of people who have always been digital, moving in the other direction."

The Faces of History

The British Library releases a million images online. More, here.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Nietzsche's Writing Ball

Nietzsche's Writing Ball from Felix Herbst on Vimeo.

12 Interesting Literary Facts about Christmas

The list, care of the Huffington Post.

From said list...

7. Much of our modern idea of Santa Claus comes from the 1823 poem 'A Visit from St Nicholas.'
More commonly known by its first line, ''Twas the night before Christmas,' this poem popularized the image of St. Nick as a jolly fat man wearing fur-trimmed red robes (long before the Coca-Cola adverts popularized this). The poem also introduced us to the names of all of Santa's reindeer. It was published anonymously, and probably written by an American professor called Clement Clarke Moore -- although this claim has been disputed by some.

Monday, December 02, 2013

National Novel Writing Month

Sorry that I haven't posted as much in November. I was busy with National Novel Writing Month. You'll be happy to know I finished it. 50,000 word novel - done! (Of course, it's probably crap. But...whatever. Small victories, my friend.)

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The Blog Through November - an Update

It might be a little hit and miss this month with the posts. I'm busy taking a stab at completing the National Novel Writing Month contest. 50,000 words by the end of the month. I'm a 1/5 of the way there!

Want to give it a shot? Start, here.