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."


Of Refusals, Rituals, and Writers

(1) Margaret Atwood will kindly not provide a blurb for your book.  (via Melville House)



(2) Like Pascal said, in so many words, fake it 'til you're not faking anymore. (via The Believer)

Number of artists included in Daily Rituals: 161
Number of women: 27
Number of routines that include walks: 40
Minimum number of artists who could be said to have obsessive rituals relating to coffee: 6
Number of croissants Proust ate every day when writing: 1 or 2
Artist with the best mnemonic device: Jonathan Edwards, who would “pin a small piece of paper on a particular part of his clothes, which he would associate with [a] thought”
Partial list of proven ways to avoid creative blocks: stroking one’s genitals (Thomas Wolfe), standing on one’s head (Igor Stravinsky), taking a shower (Woody Allen), smelling a drawer of decaying apples (Friedrich Schiller), photographing “filth and decay” (William Gass)
(3) William T. Vollmann's daily rituals would surely require a volume all their own. (via Newsweek)

If William T. Vollmann ever wins the Nobel Prize in Literature – as many speculate he will – he knows exactly what he will do with the $1.1 million pot the Swedes attach to the award. “It will be fun to give some to prostitutes,” he says, sitting on his futon, chuckling, a half-empty bottle of pretty good bourbon between us.

He is neither flippant nor drunk, though more booze awaits us out there in the temperate Sacramento twilight. Vollmann became famous for fiction that treated the sex worker as muse – especially the street stalker of those days in the Tenderloin of San Francisco when AIDS was just coming to haunt the national psyche and the yuppie invasion was a nightmare not yet hatched. His so-called prostitution trilogy - Whores for GloriaButterfly Stories, and The Royal Family - is overflowing with life and empathy, nothing like the backcountry machismo of Raymond Carver or fruitless experimentation of Donald Barthelme, both oh-so-popular with young writers when Vollmann first came on the scene after graduating from Cornell in 1981. He approached the prostitute like an anthropologist, yet did so without condescension, writing in Whores for Gloria, “The unpleasantnesses of her profession are largely caused by the criminal ambiance in which the prostitute must conduct it.”

First through Third: Images Abound

(1) First things first . . . Happy Halloween!

Image courtesy Kansas Sire


(2) Second things second . . . a twist on the idea of reading religiously. 


Image courtesy BK. Architecten
(click through the slides)
Architects BK. Architecten were tasked with converting this 15th century Dominican church into a modern bookstore with the addition of 700 square meters of shopping space. But there was one major catch: all the historical elements of the 547-year-old building including stained glass windows, pipe organ, ceiling paintings and expansive arches had to remain intact.

Incredibly, BK. Architecten managed to add three levels of retail space to the side wings of the church in a manner that the entire structure can one day be removed in order to restore the church to its original design. In addition only three colors of building materials were used to mimic the existing palette of the cathedral’s interior to further ensure that the bookstore would pay reverence to the original space. (via Colossal)


(3) Third things third . . . a new look on sartorial swaps. 

This is delightful. On her Tumblr Canadian photographer Hana Pesut has been posting an ongoing series of shots she calls "Switcheroo." As you see in the examples below, two participants are photographed together twice, once in their own outfits and again wearing the other's outfits -- each time against the same background. The power of contrast is amusing, but also revealing of something interesting about norms and expectations. 

Colleen & Kyle:


Elliott & Reya:

Gene & Kathy:

Kari & Ryan:

Two Visions of the Sublime

Two videos today . . . both of them depicting, well, let's call it what it is, the sublime.

(1) The first comes to us from the halls of Harvard University, and it's our old friend once again, Mary Ruefle. (Two posts in a row, you're thinking, I can tell. Ah but poets require a refrain, don't they?) As with her best work, the surreal meets the humane, and something wonderful happens.



(2) And then there's David Lynch . . . and quinoa.


From New To Old

(1) New Words Written

        -- Mary Ruefle, Trances of the Blast


(2) Old Words Unused

In the three decades I’ve been teaching, I find that the subset of students is steadily increasing who consider nearly all words of three or more syllables pretentious, with the exception of “pretentious”—which is for them an indispensable term. Meanwhile, in recent years, a word I’ve always been fond of—“artisanal”—has been swallowed by an enormous maw. Its fine associations of individual tooling and subtle calibration—the craftsman’s guild—have all but vanished. The word has been devoured by fast-food franchises, supermarkets, junk-food confectioners; any day now I’ll spot on some diner menu artisanal s’mores, artisanal pigs in a blanket. 

       -- Brad Leithauser, "Unusable Words" (via The New Yorker)


(3)  New Shelves Filled

Like the librarians of Babel in Borges’ story, who are looking for the book that will provide them with the key to all the others, we oscillate between the illusion of perfection and the vertigo of the unattainable. In the name of completeness, we would like to believe that a unique order exists that would enable us to accede to knowledge all in one go; in the name of the unattainable, we would like to think that order and disorder are in fact the same word, denoting pure chance.

It is also possible that both are decoys, trompe l’oeils intended to disguise the erosion of both books and systems. It is no bad thing in any case that between the two our bookshelves should serve from time to time as joggers of the memory, as cat rests and as lumber rooms.

       -- Georges Perec, "Brief Notes on the Art and Manner of Arranging One's Books"


(4) Old Shelves Emptied

       -- For more artists and examples, see Inspiration Green.

The Art of Reading: Postcards from Malc

Each of us reads for different reasons. I daresay even when our reasons are said to be the same – e.g. “distraction,” “education,” “entertainment,” etc. – we’re usually describing something unspeakably and maybe unintentionally personal. There is an art to reading, and it creates as much as (perhaps more than) it consumes. In this series of posts, we highlight people who take this notion to heart.

* * * 

Postcards from Malc



This delightful Tumblr is not updated too frequently, but that doesn't matter. It is surely more inspired than most pages updated hourly. The nameless mind behind it describes it succinctly:

A random collection of imaginary postcards produced from the life and words of Malcolm Lowry.

It's okay, I hope, to be jealous of how clever some people can be. 

Three Good Things: On Good Books & Aphorisms

(1) Need another reason to love David Bowie? His wonderful list, Top 100 Must-Read Books will more than do, I trust. 

(2) If Susan Sontag's journals (As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh) are any indication, oh boy, would she have hated Twitter. (via Brain Pickings)

"Aphorisms are rogue ideas.

Aphorism is aristocratic thinking: this is all the aristocrat is willing to tell you; he thinks you should get it fast, without spelling out all the details. Aphoristic thinking constructs thinking as an obstacle race: the reader is expected to get it fast, and move on. An aphorism is not an argument; it is too well-bred for that.

To write aphorisms is to assume a mask — a mask of scorn, of superiority. Which, in one great tradition, conceals (shapes) the aphorist’s secret pursuit of spiritual salvation. The paradoxes of salvation. We know at the end, when the aphorist’s amoral, light point-of-view self-destructs."

(3) The always wonderful White Review excerpts the enigmatic opening chapter from Seiobo There Below, the newest (and magnificent!) novel by the contemporary Hungarian master, László Krasznahorkai. Krasznahorkai has been feted by peers and critics for his luxuriously long sentences -- each of them seemingly in search of something unidentifiable, somewhere between the commas and semi-colons that accumulate in his paragraphs like the wind-blown apocalyptic ruins of modernity. (Susan Sontag says of him: “the contemporary Hungarian master of apocalypse who inspires comparison with Gogol and Melville.") Ah, but here, these sentences that seem so similar are yet strikingly different, as though this "something unidentifiable" has been found, and maybe known all along. And that something is, in a word, beauty. Seiobo There Below may be Krasznahorkai's masterpiece.

[H]e doesn’t mention it because he doesn’t see it, as he points over there, because of its continual motionlessness, everyone has got so used to it, it is always down there, they don’t even notice anymore, yet it is there as if it weren’t even there, it stands motionlessly, not even a single feather quivering, it leans forward, raking with its gaze the foamy froth of the water trickling down, the snow-white unceasingness of the Kamo, the axis of the city, the artist who is no more, who is invisible, who is needed by no one.

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