Books

The Revealing First Entries in 10 Fictional Diaries

Marilyn Monroe made the character Lorelei Lee famous after her portrayal of the diamond-loving gold-digger in the 1953 Howard Hawks musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. But author Anita Loos, who was born on this day, invented the outrageous blonde in her 1925 Jazz-Age novel of the same name. Written in the form of Lorelei’s diary, spelling mistakes and all, Loos captures the character’s personality and obsession with wealth and status in the opening entry. These other fictional diaries are equally telling, revealing powerful themes and insights into each character from the very first page. It’s also fascinating to see how the diary format has often been relied upon to express the inner world of fictional women throughout literature. … Read More

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Buddies With Time: Why Knausgaard Really Is Like Proust

When my friends ask me to recommend a work of “contemporary literature,” I often tell them about Karl Ove Knausgaard or Nell Zink or Ben Lerner. But mostly I talk about Knausgaard. Now, I realize that my friends only want a “good book” written recently — a work of contemporary fiction — but I can’t help recommending Knausgaard’s books on a slightly different basis, one that mischievously fulfills the criterion: Knausgaard’s My Struggle volumes are assertively contemporary, even if I’m not always sure what that means. … Read More

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Jon Krakauer Mansplains Rape, But Will His Book Help Women?

Jon Krakauer’s Missoula is the true-crime story of a handful of acquaintance rapes in one college town. Krakauer, who happens to be my favorite narrative nonfiction writer, uses the same technique he applied in his last two books about fundamentalist Mormons and a covered-up death in Afghanistan, respectively, to examine the way a single American community handled a number of university rape cases. … Read More

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Other Fictional Characters You Didn’t Know Were Actually Based On Jeff Eugenides

In this weekend’s New York Times Book Review, celebrated novelist Jeffrey Eugenides reviews the fourth volume of fellow celebrated novelist Karl Ove Knausgaard’s celebrated six-part saga My Struggle. The first paragraph is simply an extended block quote from Knausgaard’s Times Magazine travelogue, published in February, recounting an awkward lunch with another writer. The second paragraph is one of the most unintentionally funny passages of a book review in recent memory. … Read More

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How Shakespeare’s Heroines Evolved From One-Dimensional to Feminist

It’s the Bard’s birthday! Some celebrate the day by inserting “thee”s and “forsooth”s into their speech, and others by gathering Shakespeare’s quips and aphorisms. But there’s another way to honor his legacy, and that is to take a look at his treatment of women, which might be very instructive to some of our more boorish and misogynist culture creators today. Shakespeare was once just like them, but he evolved into something far greater. … Read More

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Brooklyn Author Recreates Borges’ Library of Babel as Infinite Website

“When it was proclaimed that the Library contained all books, the first impression was one of extravagant happiness,” wrote Jorge Luis Borges in his classic of philosophical fiction, “The Library of Babel.” One of the most revered stories-as-thought-experiments ever committed to print, Borges’ fiction posits the Universe as a library (“composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries”) that contains every possible text. This intellectual vision, at once playful and poised, has stirred authors (like Umberto Eco and Terry Pratchett) and philosophers (W.V.O. Quine and Daniel Dennett) alike for more than 75 years.

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Flavorwire Exclusive: Invisible Spies, Heroin, and Conspiracy Theory as Art in ‘Chameleo’

The below excerpt comes from Robert Guffey’s Chameleo, a breathless true story of “invisible spies, heroin addiction, and homeland security,” out now from OR Books. By turns exuberant, resourceful, hilarious, dubious, and emotionally affecting, Chameleo thrives on the contact high of the possible, much like the twin arts of paranoia and conspiracy, from which it takes its manic energy. True to its title, Guffey’s book camouflages itself in bouts of obsession and incredulity, recounting an episode of American insanity that weirdly implicates the Department of Homeland Security, the NCIS, and the state of American welfare, among other parties. Along the way, Guffey’s book also proves that a certain strain of powerful but thwarted American intellect — one often wielded by the disenfranchised, American loser — is alive and well in our homeland today. … Read More

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Matt Weiner’s Years of Pre-‘Mad Men’ Failure and Humiliation Will Inspire You to Persevere

As someone who spent a significant chunk of my 20s floundering around in different directions, attempting to figure out how to find meaning and success in adult life, nothing makes me happier than stories of artistic and cultural luminaries who struggled, sank, and despaired before finally hitting the jackpot. There’s hope for all of us, these stories of creative late bloomers prove. … Read More

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The MRAs of Literature: Is This Anonymous, Male Version of the VIDA Count a Joke?

In a few short years, the VIDA Count has become a regular fixture in the literary world, released each year to be either ignored or heeded by magazine editors depending on their individual consciences. Now, a self-described anonymous group of friends who made a “bar bet” about the “real” numerical state of equality in the literary world have emerged to do their own count, revealing what they perceive to be female dominance over a group of mostly small literary magazines. With a faux-naive attitude and a mere handful of followers, this group, “Equality in Literature,” seems to be trying to demonstrate the existence of a misandrist conspiracy that is shutting off the gates of literary access to men. In the early days of feminist blogs, this would be called a “what about teh menz” reaction. … Read More

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Reese Witherspoon to Record Audiobook of Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’

Now that the ageist controversy over Harper Lee’s lucidity has cooled, we’re free to question other features of Go Set… Read More

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