From the Internet's Many Worlds

1) From the world of the blogs . . .

Is there a better literary blog than the one put together by the Bay Area poet Tom Clark, Beyond the Pale? I'm not sure there is. Day in and day out, in his curated collection of photographs and excerpts, alongside his new poems and background notes set in the comments, something fresh and vital occurs. Very highly recommended you make this a regular stop. 

 

 

 

2) From the world of Twitter . . .

We've extolled the wonder of Teju Cole's Twitter feed before. Today, though, he managed to outdo himself. Over the course of 35 retweets he weaves together a story, complete with narrator and chorus, beginning and end. It is a thing to behold. It begins thus ... (oh, and remember, you have to read from the bottom up) ...

 

 

3) From the world of old media . . .

Michael Robbins waxes sonic about the joys of words made right -- you know the ones, that roll around the mouth and through the lips like Sam Beckett's pebbles -- in his gorgeous, rich contribution to the Chicago Tribune

"One can go too far. Many readers have felt that Lord Byron, Edgar Allan Poe, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Swinburne and Stein do, although I am not among their number (or, rather, their going so far is precisely what I love about them). Samuel Johnson could not abide Shakespeare's fondness for 'quibbles,' or puns (a special case of sound's enhancement of referentiality): 'A quibble is to Shakespeare, what luminous vapors are to the traveler,' leading him astray. ... [Wallace] Stevens occasionally poked fun at his own tendency to sonic boisterousness — 'Such tink and tank and tunk-a-tunk-tunk,' 'With his damned hoobla-hoobla-hoobla-how,' 'This trivial trope reveals a way of truth.'

"In the field of phonaesthetics, which exists, the phrase 'cellar door' is sometimes regarded as the most beautiful-sounding phrase in the English language, though no one can say by whom, exactly."

A Quorum of Quotes

1) Q & A with one of Diesel's favorites, George Saunders. (via BuzzFeed)

"I’ve sometimes felt, because of my background, a little under-informed about and under-engaged with contemporary political and intellectual issues. When I was young I didn’t live anywhere that had any real artistic life going on, and I’ve always regretted that, sort of — like, “I was never part of a movement.” And I think great works of art often come out of the sort of pressure-cooker environment that Miller describes NYC as being in the 1930s and 1940s. That’s where a person gets the deep immersion in certain ideas and artistic assumptions and then — if he’s lucky — he pushes those ideas and approaches forward, just a bit closer to the goal line. That’s called artistic progress. I’ve often felt a little vacant vis-à-vis the artistic movements of my time, and like the ideas that underlie my work are primarily emotional — they come out of my direct experience, but maybe not informed enough by bigger theoretical and political and critical ideas."

 

2) Orhan Pamuk writes beautifully about the poet C. P. Cavafy. (via the New York Times)

"There are some poets whose work we read with their lives in mind, and what we know of those lives ensures that their poetry leaves a more enduring impression. C. P. Cavafy is, for me, just such a poet. Like Edgar Allan Poe, like Franz Kafka, Cavafy makes no explicit reference to himself in his best and most stirring work; and yet, with every poem we read, we cannot help thinking of him. "

 

3) Michael Greenberg encourages you to read the lectures of Jorge Luis Borges (via the New YorK Review of Books)

"Professor Borges is an important addition to his work. These are not academic lectures but spoken essays. Borges’s students didn’t record these classes out of reverence for their teacher, but because it would help them prepare for exams. This messy, casual approach is one of the book’s great strengths. The editors have expertly tidied up the text, hunting down nearly indecipherable references that the students had phonetically transcribed—“Wado Thoube” was the poet Robert Southey, for instance, and “Bartle” was the philosopher George Berkeley. What we end up with is the flavor of Borges’s voice, with its spontaneous digressions and self-entertained ease—his deepest literary influences and concerns, unmediated by the polished and revised nature of the written word. "

Chockablock with Videos

(1) Stop the presses! This week New Directions released a new collection of Stevie Smith poems. If you're unfamiliar with her casual greatness, familiarize yourself. 

 

 (2) Readers of this space will know that this blogger is a fan of (okay, maybe a little obsessed with) Orson Welles. He also adores Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Put the two together . . . well, then it's a holiday miracle, is what it is!

 

 

 

(3) Last but not least, three years ago today the world lost one of its geniuses. Sing along with the Captain, "I may be hungry but I sure ain't weird." 

 

Links Within Links: Keep Clickin'

1) All of these are worth reading and discussing. ("Five Nelson Mandela tributes that will change how you think" -- via the Washington Post)

 

 

 

“Mourn the statesman and the revolutionary and the terrorist and the neoliberal and the ethicist and the pragmatist and the saint and don’t you dare try to discard or remove any part of that whole. Celebrate him? Sure, but then make sure you’re willing to consider emulating him.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) It's said that you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover. I say, though, that's a loot of hooey. Exhibit A: this wonderful selection of fifty covers from the past year 

 

3) Every year -- and 2013 is no different -- you can't read a newspaper or listen to the radio without happening across a new "Best of" reading list. It's hard to keep track. Fortunately, there are people out there who are doing the keeping-track for us and collecting on a single, cheat-sheet page all the titles most often cited on these lists.

Point ... Counterpoint: Three Links

(1) Sure, the New York Times' "100 Notable Books of 2013" is a worthy list (as is their Top 10 list) . . . but it doesn't hold a candle to the Top 50 for the year at our locations in Brentwood and Malibu or the Top 100 in Oakland. I dunno, though. I'm biased here: you be the judge.

 

(2) Forget what you've heard or what the drone-dreaming loss-leaders of the internet want you to think: "How 'Indie' Bookstores Survived (and Thrived)" (via The Atlantic)

In 2012, with Fifty Shades (among other titles) driving their business, sales at the independents were up almost 8 percent. Now that the holiday season is underway, Teicher and his ABA colleagues have every hope of matching or exceeding that growth, not with soft porn, perhaps, but rather from expert book-selling . . .

 

(3) GPS devices are nice and all for helping you get from to A to C without always having to go through B, but I'm pretty sure they're never going to be this cool. (via The New York Review of Books)

"The more localized, practical maps come, perhaps unsurprisingly, from the Romans, concerned about assessing the extent of their empire, measuring plots of land for taxation, and keeping track of their many roads, among other things. It was with the Romans that the so called itinerary—the land based version of a periplus—began. The itinerary was, like the periplus, a written text, though perhaps the most fascinating map in the exhibit, the Peutinger Map, can be seen as a graphic itinerary. The Peutinger Map illustrates the Roman empire’s networks of roads from Spain and Britain in the west to India in the east. Displayed in a twenty-two-foot-long replica, it is a thirteenth-century copy of a fourth-century edition of an even older Roman map"

 

Maps are all the rage these days. Interested in reading (and seeing more)? Check out Jerry Brotton's A History of the World in 12 Maps and Simon Garfield's On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks.

 

Credit Where Credit is Due

 

 We agree with Laura Miller. Credit where credit is due this year: the National Book Award did a great job.

"I was surprised to learn that James McBride’s "The Good Lord Bird" was the “surprise” winner of the National Book Award for fiction last night. Then again, it’s hard to begrudge working journalists a decent angle on the prize during any year in which neither Jonathan Franzen nor Philip Roth has published a book that can be “snubbed” by the panel. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to learn that a novel can be characterized as “little-mentioned” even after it’s made the cover of the New York Times Book Review. "

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This, That, & the Other: Links!

1) In December 1965 the editors of Holiday Magazine asked some of America's most distinguished authors and essayists to highlight some books that might otherwise go (or have gone) overlooked. The contributors did not let them down. 

 

 

 

 

 

"Before the agonized epic of Warlock is over with—the rebellion of the proto-Wobblies working in ­the mines, the struggling for political control of the area, the gunfighting, mob violence, the personal crises of those in power—the collective awareness that is Warlock must face its own inescapable Horror: that what is called society, with ­its law and order, is as frail, as precari­ous, as flesh and can be snuffed out and assimilated back into the desert a easily as a corpse can. It is the deep sensitivity to abysses that makes Warlock, I think, one of our best American novels. For we are a nation that can, many of us, toss with all aplomb our candy wrapper into the Grand Canyon itself, snap a color shot and drive away; and we need voices like Oakley Hall’s to remind us how far that piece of paper, still fluttering brightly behind us, has to fall."

-- Thomas Pynchon

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) Crowd-source your poetry-reading voice.  (via the Brooklyn Academy of Music blog)

In celebration of Tony Award nominee Fiona Shaw's upcoming performances of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic account of bird-related misadventures on the high seas, we're partnering with the Poetry Foundation's Record-a-Poem project to collect your interpretations of (an excerpt from) Coleridge’s classic rhyme.

Deadline for submissions is December 1, 2013 at midnight.

In a few weeks, we’ll edit together a single crowd-sourced reading featuring as many of your voices as possible and post to the blog. And if you participate through Soundcloud, your entire reading will be preserved as part of Record-a-Poem for poetry posterity.
 
 
3) Literary recipes for your holiday celebrations (via Biblioklept)

 

The Internet Makes Itself Useful: Go Book Yourself

The internet is sometimes put to excellent use. Case in point: the Go Book Yourself Tumblr. Real book recommendations by real readers -- and even authors. What a concept!

I like this one below mostly because it brilliantly connects Giuseppe Tomassi di Lampedusa's classic The Leopard with Jess Walter's recent phenomenon, Beautiful Ruins.

 

 


 

Three Modern Masters

1) RIP, Ms. Lessing (1919-2013) (via Page-Turner)

From the 1971 Introduction to her classic novel The Golden Notebook:

“There is only one way to read, which is to browse in libraries and bookshops, picking up books that attract you, reading only those, dropping them when they bore you, skipping the parts that drag—and never, never reading anything because you feel you ought, or because it is part of a trend or a movement. Remember that the book which bores you when you are twenty or thirty will open doors for you when you are forty or fifty—and vice versa. Don’t read a book out of its right time for you. Remember that for all the books we have in print, are as many that have never reached print, have never been written down—even now, in this age of compulsive reverence for the written word, history, even social ethic, are taught by means of stories, and the people who have been conditioned into thinking only in terms of what is written—and unfortunately nearly all the products of our educational system can do no more than this—are missing what is before their eyes. For instance, the real history of Africa is still in the custody of black storytellers and wise men, black historians, medicine men; it is a verbal history, still kept safe from the white man and his predations. Everywhere, if you keep your mind open, you will find the truth in words not written down. So never let the printed page be your master. Above all, you should know that the fact that you have to spend one year, or two years, on one book, or one author means that you are badly taught—you should have been taught to read your way from one sympathy to another, you should be learning to follow your own intuitive feeling about what you need: that is what you should have been developing, not the way to quote from other people.”

 

 

 

(2) "Lolita, as much as any other work in modern literature, illustrates the pleasures and the stakes involved in agreeing to play the game." (wonderful essay on Nabokov's masterpiece [well, one of them!] via Dublin Review of Books)

 

(3) "A man of no fortune, and with a name to come." 

Links! Get your links!

(1) Readers of translated literature, UNITE! (via The 2013 Typographical Translation Award)

 


 

"It all started when I asked a simple question on Twitter yesterday.  Why in the HELL do the GoodReads Choice Awards not have a category dedicated to allowing users to vote for their favorite literary translation of the year?  There are twenty categories.  TWENTY.  Yet translations are completely ignored.  Thus the first ever Typographical Translation Award is born.  Lovers of international fiction, this is your chance to speak up and be heard!  You tell us, what was the best translation published in 2013?"

 

(2) "Drawings and quotes from readings in New York City." (via Last Night's Reading)

 

 

(3) Internet (& now publishing) sensation, Allie Brosh, on writing, depression, and her new book. (via The Hairpin)

 

 

"You're a writer with a tremendous internet following. What do you think about the internet as a place of support?"

"One problem with the internet is it sort of takes away your empathy; you can have less of a connection with people online. But with my readers, I'm talking about things that are more personal, and I started out with this small group of tightly knit readers. There's more empathy and more respect. So, I feel pretty good about the internet. Every once in a while you get weirdos, but you get those people in real life, too."

 

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