Books

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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“Speed Dating”-Like Antique Book Fairs to Pop Up Around the Globe Tomorrow

The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) has organized Pop Up Book Fairs around the globe to coincide with… Read More

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Yes, But How Old Is the Earth and How Will It Die? Darwin vs. Kelvin

“Are we entitled to say that Earth’s age is 4.55 billion years, and its trajectory an ellipse centred on the Sun, with an average radius of 150 million kilometres?” writes Hubert Krivine in the introduction to his important new work of scientific history, The Earth: From Myths to Knowledge. It’s a better question than you might think. Creationism, whether we like it or not, makes recourse to “proof” and its own historical lineage — it has fronted itself with the awning of “logic.” And from the other side, scientific inquiry is often reduced to what it produces, or how it applies. “As for the general public,” Krivine writes, “they know science only through its applications, the worst as well as the best, which is why the euphoria that it generated in the nineteenth century has given way today to scepticism, at least in the rich countries.” … Read More

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25 Novels That Will Turn You Into an Environmentalist

Earth Day is upon us, and you know what that means: time to pick up the trash in your neighborhood, or hug a tree, or at least think a little bit about your carbon footprint. Not exactly your cup of tea? Then how about reading one of these novels (er, and two short story collections and one children’s book), each guaranteed to turn you into some kind of environmentalist, whether by scare tactics (post-apocalyptic climate nightmare!) or straight wooing (look at all these pretty plants and things!). And, we promise, none of these is as boring as Walden. Celebrate Earth Day from the comfort of your couch this year, and next year… well, who knows? … Read More

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The Real, Obscured Message of ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed': Humiliation Doesn’t Work

In Jon Ronson’s interview with “Mercedes,” a 4chan activist, for his controversial nonfiction book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, she offhandedly explains why controversial site operates the way it does: “On the Internet, we have power in situations where we would otherwise be powerless.” … Read More

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The 50 Best American Poetry Books of the Decade so Far

No poem in the preceding decade captured the spirit of the times more than Frederick Seidel’s “December.” The product of a Faustian pact, it fixed itself in a fiendish dialectic, a self-canceling logic that likewise trapped the reader like a dying fly — in the politics of the War on Terror, in the axiomatic hell of the Bush presidency. At the beginning of the new decade, we began to see the fuller, clearer expression of an anger stemming from the early 2000s, specifically from the fallout of Hurricane Katrina. Works like Nikky Finney’s Head Off & Split and Thomas Sayers Ellis’ Skin Inc.: Identity Repair Poems, in different ways, began to reshape the possibilities of American poetry. Now, halfway through the 2010s, we find ourself in a much more variegated American scene. And that change is both welcome and necessary. Below, you’ll find an admittedly idiosyncratic cross section of American poetry from 2010 to today, one that should open an aperture onto the prospects of a cautiously flourishing… Read More

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