Monday, January 31, 2011

Alice covers

A series of covers of the Alice in Wonderland books makes for a history of typography and illustration both, although as far as I'm concerned, no matter how good an alternative might be, the Tenniel illustrations are as much a part of the book as the Carroll text. Link. Via.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Charles Portis

I have a copy of The Dog of the South on my nightstand, ready to go. I like this guy! 'Rooster Cogburn, the charismatic rogue played by Jeff Bridges in the Coen brothers’ entertaining new film, True Grit, is fearsome enough – a one-eyed, whiskey-guzzling, trigger-happy US marshal. But his creator, Charles Portis, the reclusive and largely forgotten American novelist who wrote the 1968 book on which the film is based, wasn’t someone to mess with either.' More...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pullman defends libraries

This article explains how a speech from author Philip Pullman has gone viral, and far beyond its local area. He is saying, in the strongest terms possible, that libraries are important, and books are important, and we cannot let them die. This is also an issue for us in the US, where I know of at least one public library that has stopped buying books. There's a link to the full speech in the article.

Letters from J. D. Salinger

Some letters from the presumed reclusive author are released on the one year anniversary of his death. 'The enigmatic writer of "The Catcher in the Rye" was an affectionate friend who enjoyed gardening, trips to the theater and church suppers - and thought one restaurant chain's burgers were better than the rest. Chris Bigsby, professor of American studies at the letters' new home, the University of East Anglia, said they challenge Salinger's image as a near-hermit holed up in his New England home.' More...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A valet's duties

This comes from a fun blog call Jane Austen's World. If you've wondered what Jeeves is supposed to do, other than get Bertie Wooster out of trouble, now you know. 'The valet (rhymes with pallet) is a personal manservant who tends to his master’s every need, from a clean room to seeing to his clothes to making sure that his entire day goes smoothly from the moment he rises to the time he goes to bed. Also known as a gentleman’s gentleman, the valet is the closest male equivalent to a lady’s maid.' More... Via.

The internet and literature

If you're writing about modern life, the internet is the elephant in the room that cannot be, but often is, ignored. What is serious writing supposed to be nowadays? 'The further literature is driven to the outskirts of the culture, the more it is cherished as a sanctuary from everything coarse, shallow and meretricious in that culture. It is the chapel of profundity, and about as lively and well visited as a bricks-and-mortar chapel to boot. Literature is where you retreat when you're sick of celebrity divorces, political mudslinging, office intrigues, trials of the century, new Apple products, internet flame wars, sexting and X Factor contestants – in short, everything that everybody else spends most of their time thinking and talking about.' More...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lillian Hellman

As "The Children's Hour" opens in London, the Guardian presents the author. 'Hellman unquestionably engaged in mythmaking, misrepresentation and exaggeration: but she also admitted as much, albeit obliquely, in the opening of An Unfinished Woman: "What I have written is the truth as I saw it, but the truth as I saw it, of course, doesn't have much to do with the truth. It's as if I have fitted parts of a picture puzzle and then a child overturned it and threw out some pieces." ' More...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Edgar Award nominees

A tip of the hat to Omnivoracious for publishing this year's list (on EAP's birthday, of course) of the year's best mysteries.

Oliver Twist's workhouse?

Perhaps. Historian Ruth Richardson 'has identified the model for the workhouse in Oliver Twist – and that the building in central London is now facing demolition. The irony is that, given Dickens's feelings about workhouses, he may well not have been supportive of the campaign to preserve it.' Whether this really is the model for Oliver Twist is debatable; the real story here is the insight into Dickens youth, regardless of the place of this building in it. Link.

Jack Kerouac

This reminiscence from Smithsonian Magazine is as much about an era as it is about the author. 'If the publication of On the Road had not been such a galvanizing event, would 1957 still have been a watershed year—one that would lead directly to the counterculture of the '60s? Change would undoubtedly have come, but not so abruptly. Like Jack's protagonists, young people in America, without even knowing it, had been waiting for some Word. Now a compelling new voice had uncorked all that bottled-up generational restlessness. American culture was at a crossroads: more and more rooftops were bristling with television aerials, but the written word had yet to lose its tremendous power. On the Road hovered at the bottom of the best-seller list for only a few weeks, but through the publicity generated by the burgeoning mass media, "beat" and "Kerouac" instantaneously became household words.' More...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The new, official Sherlock Holmes

It's not as if there haven't been plenty of pastiches and wholesale thefts, but this one is officially sanctioned. 'The Guardian reported that Anthony Horowitz, the author of the best-selling Alex Rider novels for young adults, has been tapped by the Conan Doyle estate to write the new book, which will be set in traditional Victorian London and aimed at adult readers.' More...

Oscar Wilde visits Walt Whitman

This sounds amazing on so many levels. 'The room which has most impressed me [in America is] a little bare whitewashed room . . . [upstairs at 431 Stevens Street] in Camden town, where I met Walt Whitman, whom I admire intensely.' Readers Almanac has the whole story.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Charles Dickens escapes certain death

I had never heard this before. Dickens was involved in a train crash while he was writing Our Mutual Friend (one of my favorites). 'The engine and the first part of the train went across the 21 foot breach, avoiding plunging into the River Beult through a mixture of momentum and luck. Coaches in the middle and the rear of the train, however, fell through the breach and plunged into the river below. All of the first class coaches fell into the river, apart from one: The coach that carried Charles Dickens and his companions.' More... (via)

H. P. Lovecraft

Open Culture points us to a documentary about the influential horror writer. (Link). This is just a preview, but there's also a link to the entire film. I think it's amazing how much serious material one can find these days for free.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Conversation between Ian Fleming and Raymond Chandler

A classic meet-up! Link. Via.

Libraries of the Rich and Famous

Yep: ten pictures of exactly that. The only person actually sitting in one of them reading a book is Frank Sinatra, curiously enough. Link. Via.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Award-winning books for young people

The American Library Association has announced this year's awards. Link.

Monday, January 10, 2011

West Egg in 3D?

The mind boggles. I mean, some movies just don't cry out for in-your-face and special glasses. (If you ask me, just about no movies cry out for in-your-face and special glasses, unless I'm at a theme park and they're also splashing water on us and setting off fireworks or the like.) Make your own judgment on this one: 'The Great Gatsby has been adapted for the big screen in the silent, monochrome and colour eras, as well as on the small screen, and even in a version for Korean audiences. Now F Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel of the gilded jazz age could be set for a turn in stereoscopic vision after director Baz Lurhmann said he was considering filming his new adaptation in 3D.' More...

Bestsellers the day you were born

A fun link via @GalleyCat. I've actually read a couple of mine (although not when they were first published).

Friday, January 7, 2011

Goodreads Choice Awards

I like the idea of readers choosing the best of the year, and that's exactly what you get from Goodreads. The list is here.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

G. K .Chesterton

An interesting appreciation of GKC appears in the Huffington Post. The author had quite an impact on people both in his own time, and beyond. 'Chesterton remains vital and relevant as a thinker and person of faith. If he could help, as indeed he did, a gifted young writer-yet-to-be like John Updike to find solace and strength in an uncertain time, surely that is worth something. And Chesterton the man of letters remains a writer who deeply rewards time spent getting better acquainted with him. Reading his reflections on Dickens, or Jane Austen -- "a genius" whom he likened to Shakespeare -- has made me want to delve more deeply into the books those writers gave to the world.' More...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The autobiography of P. T. Barnum

Talk about flim-flam! 'Barnum points to something sacred in advertising—its ability to turn appearances into reality. This metamorphosis serves as a kind of secular transubstantiation, and on this subject he has no peer: “Put on the appearance of business, and generally the reality will follow.” And what follows then? Profit. How is this miracle achieved? First, through false superlatives and inflated rhetoric, e.g., “The world-famous _______ is the greatest one ever seen.” Then, through repetition: if one asserts a claim often enough, the claim (true or untrue) achieves, as we say now, traction. But the process requires faith, “to teach you that after many days it [your investment] shall surely return, bringing a hundred- or a thousandfold to him who appreciates the advantages of ‘printer’s ink’ properly applied.” The making of money in this formulation of the new gospel is a sign of blessedness, and instead of prayer to effect a particular outcome, we have advertising.' More... (Via).

Monday, January 3, 2011

LOA bestsellers

Library of America, the definitive classics publisher, tells us what they've been selling the most of all these years. Number One is by some guy named Thomas Jefferson, which means that, as far as I'm concerned, there's still hope for all of us. 'We’re asked frequently what have been the most popular volumes in our history, and we thought we’d start off the New Year by publishing our top-ten titles, based on the total number of copies sold through all channels (both in retail stores and through our mail-order subscription program).' More...