Journalist and Screenwriter Jon Ronson on Writing ‘Frank,’ Twitter Shame, and His Real-Life Past With Outsider Art

Handsome Michael Fassbender wears a giant paper maché head with a face on it for the duration of the fantastic new movie Frank. That’s the weird selling point for a movie that’s ostensibly about a guy wearing a paper maché head, but it turns out that there’s a lot more bubbling under the surface of Frank. It’s a film about the human urge for creativity and transcendence in the face of mental illness and, well, on the other hand, naive youthfulness through the adventures of the world’s greatest outsider art band. And the best part is that Frank, the character in the movie, is not just a creation straight from the head of co-screenwriters Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan — although you could imagine that was the case, especially if you’re familiar with Ronson’s endlessly curious, wide-ranging journalism for The Guardian, GQ, and This American Life, among others. … Read More

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It’s OK to Start Out Reading ‘Harry Potter’ — But Not Because It’s a Gateway Book

In a recent essay at the New York Review of Books, Tim Parks argues against the prevailing notion that it is A-OK for people, particularly young people, to read lowbrow/genre novels because “so long as they are reading something there’s at least a chance that one day they’ll move on to something better.” He essentially argues that that never happens, and moreover that, “If anything, genre fiction prevents engagement with literary fiction, rather than vice versa, partly because of the time it occupies, but more subtly because while the latter is of its nature exploratory and potentially unsettling the former encourages the reader to stay in a comfort zone.” … Read More

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“Love Is the Closest Thing We Have to Magic in Real Life”: YA Writer Stephanie Perkins on ‘Isla and the Happily Ever After’

A good romantic comedy is a hard thing to find, and in the span of a few short years, young adult writer Stephanie Perkins has established herself as a wonderful writer of sweet and smart romantic comedies, with a loosely connected triptych of teenage love stories set in fabulous cities: Anna and the French Kiss (Paris), Lola and the Boy Next Door (San Francisco), and her newest book, Isla and the Happily Ever After (New York, Barcelona, Paris). There’s an earnest charm and swooning sincerity to her work, and the characters and cities unfold like a sweet teenage dream. Isla starts out with shy cartoonist Josh falling for the titular unconventional redhead, and the way their relationship unfolds is a delicious surprise — through Paris and New York, beyond the stresses of senior year, and other factors like being a senator’s son or having a best friend with Asperger’s. Isla is an entrancing conclusion to a delightful series, and we were excited to talk to Perkins about her writing process, romance, and her feelings about YA and adults. … Read More

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The Executor for George Orwell’s Literary Estate Responds to Amazon’s “Doublespeak”

Bill Hamilton, the executor of George Orwell’s literary estate, has some strong words for Amazon’s quoting of Orwell… Read More

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Back When The Oneders Stole Our Hearts: Links You Have to See

Today’s links have an overarching musical theme (and then, of course, there’s the requisite unrelated George R.R. Martin link). From fake bands brought to life by filmmakers to a real band a certain director is trying to resuscitate, to Michael Cera setting his aloof cutesiness to song, there’s plenty here to keep you occupied, although you might not want to actually listen to all of it. … Read More

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20 YA Book Covers That Are Actually Gorgeous

It seems like every couple of years, the internet gets to hem and haw over a new set of Harry Potter book covers. The most recent iterations are nice, but their release only served to remind me of how terrible — that is, cheap, cheesy and/or trashy-looking — most YA book jackets are these days. In the past things were different — check out classics A Wrinkle in Time or A Wizard of Earthsea. Today, though, publishers often slap down a stock image of a girl in a fancy dress, cut off her head, slide that under some new exciting bubble font and call it a day. So, in an effort to beautify your world, here is a selection of excellent — that is, beautiful, interesting, and/or cool — contemporary YA book covers that should set the standard for the rest of them. … Read More

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Does the Amazon Vs. Hachette Battle Ignore a Future Where Physical Books Will Be Extinct?

In Bloomberg, writer Leonid Bershidsky has a POV on the protracted, lengthy battle between Amazon and Hachette over e-book pricing — a battle that is being framed, at least in the media, as a sign of “the future of books.” It’s a fight that is happening for the profits that are available in the future, one that’s getting vicious as Amazon does have a 65% stake — arguably a monopoly — over the selling of e-books. Bershidsky, however, feels as if this fight is already obsolete, as the pricing of e-books between publishers and distributor(s) is something that won’t matter in the future, when our book libraries are somewhere in a cloud and no-one actually buys anything — instead, he argues, we’ll rent books from Amazon the way some people apparently rent movies from iTunes. … Read More

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50 Great Books You’ll Never Read in School

Back-to-school time is upon us, and for many, that means reading for pleasure will give way to burning through that syllabus. Classrooms, especially high school classrooms (college classes are becoming so weird and specific nowadays that you could read just about anything in them), suffer from the “classic effect” — which is exactly what it sounds like. Not that there’s anything wrong with literary classics, and they definitely should be read, but there’s so much more out there. And when you consider the fact that one-third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives — well, it would be nice if they had a little more to go on than The Great Gatsby. After the jump, find a selection of books you’ll (probably) never read in high school, but should still read, and add your own favorite anti-schoolbooks to the list in the comments. … Read More

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