Books

In Praise of Literary Failure

I’ll be honest: I’m baffled by the contemporary mania for the slogan “fail better.” Sure, in context, I appreciate Samuel Beckett’s famous line, but I can’t shake the notion that it comes from a piece called Worstward Ho. “Ever tried,” he writes, “Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” The way it’s often used today, “fail better” implies that we’re lurching and stumbling, toddler-like, toward a better world. But the speaker in Beckett’s fiction isn’t moving toward success; he’s moving worstward. If we take the Oxford English Dictionary’s first-order definition of failure as a “lack of success,” we can appreciate that to fail better is to screw up more drastically, more spectacularly than ever before. To “fail better” is to lurch and stumble ever closer to the abyss. … Read More

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The 35 Best Books by Cinema’s Greatest Auteurs

It’s an old standby that if a person is truly a master at one thing, he’s probably not great at much else. But when it comes to cinema, the auteur’s role is to be good at everything — sound, writing, camerawork, etc. — while also maintaining an overarching vision. So it isn’t surprising that there are so many great books written by cinema’s most famous (and infamous)… Read More

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National Book Award Finalists Announced

Book awards season! We had our Man Booker Winner announced yesterday (not an American, the commonwealth is safe, etc.), and… Read More

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2014 Kirkus Prize Finalists Announced

Hey! It’s a book prize that actually offers a significant amount of money to the recipients, and the list of… Read More

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10 Evocative Southern Gothic Films

Southern Gothic cinema owes a lot to the great Tennessee Williams, whose stunning stage plays became evocative films. Works like A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof introduced moviegoers to the steamy South, revealing its sinister side. Trading the grand for the grotesque, Southern Gothic cinema was born from the literary genre made famous by authors like Flannery O’Connor and Harper Lee. These films brought the genre’s penchant for sex, secrets, and betrayal to the big screen. Williams is currently the subject of a Film Forum retrospective. Inspired by his Southern Gothic style, here are ten films that capture the dark heart of the South. … Read More

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What Do This Year’s Wildly Disparate National Book Award Longlists Mean?

If you like awards, this week has been super-fun, between the MacArthur “Genius” Grants (shout out Alison Bechdel!) and the National Book Awards’ longlists in the young adult fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and fiction categories. … Read More

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The Greatest Ray Bradbury Adaptations

This week marked the birthday of visionary science fiction icon Ray Bradbury. He was dubbed the “Poet of the Pulps” in 1953 for his lyrical style, which lent creditability to a genre that often struggled for legitimacy. With over 600 short stories and 27 novels to his credit, Bradbury’s works have always attracted filmmakers and producers looking for descriptive, emotional, and engaging narratives. We’ve highlighted just a few of our favorites, but feel free to share your own picks, below. … Read More

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Miniature Paintings Enshrined in Vintage Books

Joseph DeCamillis, who we first learned about on Beautiful/Decay, transforms vintage books into works of art by inserting miniature copper oil paintings into their covers. But his altered books are more than just two-dimensional pictures. DeCamillis collages other materials and personal writings with the paintings that play off the cover text, creating new narratives. Combining DeCamillis’ talent with his love of collecting and literature, the paintings are created with brushes that have three hairs or less. They are the size of a postage stamp. Once completed, DeCamillis seals the books shut forever. “Enshrining the miniatures in altered books establishes them as icons,” he writes on his website. The highway imagery is inspired by DeCamillis’ time living on the road in an old motor home. See more of DeCamillis’ whimsical book paintings in our gallery. … Read More

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Conjoined Twins in Pop Culture

Earlier this week, actress Sarah Paulson teased a photo of her character for the upcoming carnival-set installment of American Horror Story, subtitled Freak Show. She’ll star as conjoined twin sisters Bette and Dot in the series. Set in Jupiter, Florida at one of the last remaining freak shows of the 1950s, the struggling outsiders are forced to contend with the “evil forces” who do not understand them. It’s fantastic news for fans of the outrageous series (but somewhat bitter for those who wish Daniel Knauf’s Carnivàle was still on the air). Twins of all types have fascinated audiences for centuries, from the mythological figures of history to the vaudeville acts of the 1920s. But there’s something about conjoined twins that remains mysterious and potent for pop culture narratives. Their bodies are meshed, but their stories are unique. Here are eight instances of conjoined twins in pop culture that mesmerized and entertained. … Read More

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