Thursday, August 26, 2010

10 reading revolutions

In an article for, writer Tim Carmody lists 10 major events in the history of the word, not counting e-books, that changed everything. 'The phrase "reading revolution" was probably coined by German historian Rolf Engelsing. He certainly made it popular. Engelsing was trying to describe something he saw in the 18th century: a shift from "intensive" reading and re-reading of very few texts to "extensive" reading of many, often only once. Think of reading the Bible vs reading the newspaper.' More...

Is this Odysseus' palace?

The truth behind Homer, if any, may not even matter. Now the question is, not whether we have discovered Troy, but whether we have discovered the home Odysseus sought so fervently. 'Archaeologists from the University of Ioannina have found a three-storey building, with a well, steps carved out of rock, and fragments of pottery, all fitting Homer's description. Was this where Odysseus returned to save his wife Penelope from her wicked suitors, after 10 years fighting at Troy, and another 10 years wandering the seas off modern Greece and Turkey? The short, unromantic answer is probably no. There are just too many imponderables.' More...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Photos of people reading

What a remarkable collection, from photographer Steve McCurry. Who would have thought that something as simple as people reading could be so eloquent and so thought-provoking? 'As a photographer, McCurry is always on the hunt for the “unguarded moment,” that slice of time that reveals something personal and honest. “I have another gallery of people sleeping and of couples interacting. There’s an intimacy people have with a book and its author that is similar,” he says, adding. “We’re all different and we’re all the same. It amuses me that whether you’re fabulously rich and sophisticated or you happen to be someone on the street in the third world or a classroom in some remote area, reading is all the same act. It’s a common link in our shared humanity, a thing we all do that is regardless of where we are economically or socially.”' More...

Monday, August 23, 2010

How much money does everyone else make?

Okay, we saw what the big writers earn. What about everyone else? The Rejecter explains it all, and it's not a pretty picture. Or at least it's not a picture of big bucks. 'The only advice I can say when planning a writing career is: don't. ' More...

List of the highest paid authors

That James Patterson is at the top of the list will be shocking to you only if you shock really, really easily. After all, he seems to come out with a new bestseller every week. Check out the article in Forbes for the rest of the cash earners.

The ten best pigs in literature?

All right. The list says "ten of the best," which implies not the very best, which may explain why it inexplicably excludes Wilbur, the hero of one of my personal favorite books, Charlotte's Web. Still, there's some other interesting pigs to be considered. Check it out.

Ray Bradbury is 90 years old

And National Review Online has a great article by James E. Person, Jr. 'Moral truths appear not in obvious nuggets, like raisins in a raisin cake, but blended among the basic ingredients. They bespeak Bradbury’s beliefs that human beings are more than the flies of summer — they are in fact made for knowing beauty, truth, and eternity — and that each movement toward political centralization, materialism, sham intellectualism, and needless destruction of the natural environment endangers all that makes life fulfilling and worthwhile, rendering man little more than a trousered ape.' More...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Jack London

An engaging piece on the author, in a review of a new biography by James L. Haley. 'In his 40 years of life, he was a "bastard" child of a slum-dwelling suicidal spiritualist, a child laborer, a pirate, a tramp, a revolutionary Socialist, a racist pining for genocide, a gold-digger, a war correspondent, a millionaire, a suicidal depressive, and for a time the most popular writer in America.' More...

This book is

Except what if it isn't? What if you detest the very paper it was printed on? The Guardian (via) considers the problem. 'Does this mean, when a fellow book lover gives you a book you hate, the person didn't really know you, or had an erroneous idea of you in their mind? Does it mean you don't really know yourself? Does it mean the self is fundamentally unknowable, at least through the contents of a bookshelf? Most importantly, does it mean you'll have to avoid the giver from now until the day one of you dies, just to be spared that excruciatingly awkward moment where they excitedly ask how you liked the book, and you lie unconvincingly to spare their feelings?' More...

He may not be a man some think of as handsome

But to many of us, Ira Gershwin carries the key to our hearts. On the anniversary of his death, LOA has a nifty remembrance. Said Ira, “Since most of the lyrics … were arrived at by fitting words mosaically to music already composed, any resemblance to actual poetry, living or dead, is highly improbable.” More...

Harry Potter 101

Yes, you can now study Harry Potter in college—Durham University, to be precise. This is not necessarily a bad thing. 'Exploring issues such as "prejudice and intolerance, peer pressure, good citizenship and ideals of adulthood, [as well as] ways in which the Harry Potter series has helped to rebrand Britain", the course has been reviewed and approved by the faculty's teaching and learning committee. "Harry Potter is a culturally iconic phenomenon and has already been the subject of many well-regarded academic studies over recent years, so it is only fitting that a leading university like Durham responds to new developments in our academic and wider social and cultural environment in developing new modules like this."' More...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Weird words

A quiz from the Guardian, courtesy of their Twitter feed. I'll be honest: if you know any of these, you're smarter than I am.

Obama's reading list

I'm impressed. Recently we commented on how world leaders ought to do some serious reading. According to The Daily Beast, President Obama is doing his part. It's quite a list! 'As reader-in-chief, Obama has thrilled the intellectual classes with his frequent book talk from the days of his campaign onward. The two-time bestselling author has shown a taste for the literary by name-checking the likes of Joseph O’Neill, Richard Price, and George Pelecanos. Since this fall, though, as the governing got tough, the president has been avoiding fiction for some hard-boiled history.' More...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Literature and leaders

Once upon a time, great leaders (and not-so-great leaders) turned to literature to learn lessons about humanity. Charles Hill in Foreign Policy thinks they still should. 'Statesmen have looked at literature not only as another source of strategic insight but as a unique intellectual endeavor. Of all the arts and sciences, only literature is substantially and methodologically unbounded. Literature's freedom to explore endless or exquisite details, portray the thoughts of imaginary characters, and dramatize large themes through intricate plots brings it closest to the reality of "how the world really works."' More...

On reading difficult books

A nice little essay in the Washington Post: 'We play tennis on vacation, or go for strenuous hikes. We might get just as much pleasure from working out some little-used parts of our brains.' (via)

Life imitates Frederick Forsyth's art

Frederick Forsyth, author of The Day of the Jackal, is still going strong. And in the research for some of his books, he found himself perilously close to the end of the line. 'A few minutes later, back at his hotel, Forsyth received a phone call warning him that he had 80 seconds to get out of the country. "I left all my clothes, grabbed my money and passport and ran across the square to the train station. There was a train pulling out so I did a parachute roll through the window, landing on a bewildered businessman. The ticket conductor asked me where I was going. I asked him where the train was going and he said Amsterdam. So am I, I said." ' More...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Those rare writers on Time?

Well, not quite so rare as Time has been saying, at least back in the Olden Days. Thanks to Amazon's Omnivoracious for real scoop (at the bottom of the article).

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Map of the world's bookstores

We got this link from HuffPo. Made us immediately want to run out and take a walking tour.

Also known as...

Pseudonyms are not uncommon among authors—we are lately celebrating the 100th anniversary of the passing of someone called Mark Twain, for instance—so the practice does go back a ways. An interesting piece in the Washington Post (via) talks about some famous aliases, as well as the phenomenon of authors hiding behind names we know they're hiding behind. 'The reasons for hiding behind fake names are as varied as the writers who do it. Satirists such as François-Marie Arouet and Eric Arthur Blair (better known as Voltaire and George Orwell) used pseudonyms as a shield from critics and irritable sectors of society. Charlotte Brontë sidestepped the soft misogyny of the male-dominated publishing industry by first submitting the novel "Jane Eyre" under the pen name Currer Bell.' More...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pop-up books are fun, but...

They may not be doing the job when it comes to education, which of course is the reason many of them exist. In one experiment, 'Those exposed to the book with the photographic images were able to correctly identify their bird nearly 80 percent of the time. Those who saw the book with the drawings did so around 70 percent of the time. But those who were entertained by the pop-ups did so only 50 percent of the time — no better than chance' More... (Via.)

Dostoevsky in the subway

Russians love their writers, but sometimes things don't work out quite as planned. Some people are just so hard to please! 'The Dostoevskaya station — which opened this summer in memory of Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky — met a fair share of opposition when psychologists expressed concern that dark murals of the violent scenes from Dostoevsky's books could put riders in gloomy moods — or, worse, even encourage suicidal impulses.' More...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Harry Potter in New York

The Potter books are doing gangbuster business, still, at the NY Public Library. And that is a good thing, if you believe in the value of reading. 'The books bring people together and create a love of reading that is contagious. "When classes come in, when one reads the book, they all want the book."' More...

Authors' last words

The Guardian has put together an interesting selection of them, from Dr. Johnson to James Joyce.

E-readers banned in coffeehouses

On the other hand, you can read an old-fashioned book to your heart's content. In other words, battle lines are being drawn. 'This culture does not have room for laptops and e-readers, but print books and newspapers are still “embraced” by owners and are part of the culture these coffeehouses are hoping to regain. In defining their values and the values of their customers, owners working to remove electronic devices from their cafés have drawn a definite distinction -– print books are cultured, electronic books are not.' More...

Monday, August 9, 2010

How Green Eggs and Ham got its name

I won't excerpt from the short article, which is a cute little piece of history, Sam I Am.

Kid book reviews

Got kids? You might be interested in this iPhone book review app. TeleRead gives us the details.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Peter Mayle's weekend

I want to be a writer. Or maybe I just want to be a writer in Provence, on the weekend, like Peter Mayle. 'I try to avoid having to rush, particularly at weekends. We lived in the United States for a few years and found the American passion for speed – in business, in social life, in everything – to be completely exhausting. I don’t think they appreciate the joys of taking it easy, of counting the stars and watching the grass grow. This is something the French understand very well. They are not ashamed to admit to liking pleasure, whether it’s two hours over lunch or a full month’s holiday in August. They like to have a good time and they’re not guilty about it. An infectious attitude.' More...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

100 best thrillers

Well, that's the hundred best according to NPR, anyhow. I like this list a lot. You can do worse than using it as a starting point. 'Who is the NPR audience's favorite thriller writer? It's the King, of course — Stephen King, who landed six titles in the top 100. Lee Child comes next, with four winning books. And, at three titles each, Michael Crichton, Dennis Lehane and Stieg Larsson tie for third.' More...

In defense of chick-lit

An article in the UK Guardian takes those to task who would put down an entire genre. "I take issue with those who dismiss all chick-lit as poorly-written fodder for the dim-witted reader. There are some appallingly bad books (as I discovered), but that's true of every single genre. And there are some dim-witted readers, and that's also true across the genres. But saying that chick-lit can't be well-written is a little like saying that pretty girls can't be smart. It's ludicrous. And it's wrong." More... (Via)

The creation of Charlie Chan

The detective has certainly been controversial over the years, but he was also popular, first in the novels by Earl Derr Biggers, and then, of course, in movies, comics and even animated television. A review of a new book in The New Yorker (Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and his Rendezvous with American History by Yunte Huang, Norton, $26.95) allows the magazine to lay out an interesting tale.

'Earl Derr Biggers did not invent Charlie Chan. “How can I write of Chinese?” he asked Chan, in that fictional conversation with his fictional detective. “I could not distinguish Chinese man from Wall Street broker.” (Chan had an answer for that. Chan had an answer for everything. “Chinese would be the one who sold you the honest securities.”) ' More...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Lonely Planet on the iPad

I just saw this video courtesy of HuffPo. I've got an iPad and I want to travel. All I have to do is pick a country and, oh, save up a few dollars...

5 best book recommendation services

(Via). Lifehacker did a poll, and came up with this list. I will admit to following the serendipitous user lists on Amazon: you never know where they'll take you.

Nathaneal West revisited

From LOA: 'In his brief life Nathanael West wrote four darkly comic novels, two of them acclaimed masterpieces: Miss Lonelyhearts, a devastating portrait of a newspaper columnist overwhelmed by his readers’ sufferings, and The Day of the Locusts, an apocalyptic vision of the underside of the Hollywood dream. In a prescient article for The Boston Phoenix in 1997 Virginia Heffernan wrote “[West] seems to have become a writer, like Frank Norris or Djuna Barnes, whose work is periodically 'revived,' appreciated, and explained, and then returned to the hands of more stalwart fans.” Based on recent evidence a sustained revival of Nathanael West seems to be at hand.' The article reports that there's a Twitter account, a blog and some film clips, among other things. If you're a West fan, check it out.