Italo Calvino

10 Phenomenally Tricky Books Everyone Should Read

This morning, we read Laura Miller’s piece on “sneaky author tricks” over at Salon, in which she muses on the dangers of metafictional, tricks-y writing — one of her points being that if an author’s going to do it, he’d better do it well. Like Miller, we are rather fond of authorial tricks, and considering that today is April Fools’ day, we thought we’d collect a few of the best here. Click through to see a few of our favorite tricky books. … Read More

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The Flâneur in Fiction: Great Books About Wandering the City

Earlier this week, in a piece I wrote about Jean Rhys at the Paris Review, I imagined walking with the author through Cambridge, London, Paris, and New York. In Rhys’ metropolitan novels – Quartet (1928), After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie (1930), Voyage in the Dark (1934), and Good Morning, Midnight (1939) – writing and walking become confluent activities. But her fiction arrives in a long tradition of flâneur writing. Baudelaire once defined the flâneur as “lounger or saunterer, an idle ‘man about town.’” Walter Benjamin’s writing on the arcades of Paris reads like a blueprint. Woolf haunted the streets of London by night, as did Dickens before her. Even Freud got stuck in the city, as walking in Rome invoked an “uncanny” experience, thus informing the polemic for which the father of psychoanalysis is most famous. These authors inspired us to compile a list of our favorite writing on wandering. Saunterers, loungers, and loafers: don’t forget to comment with your favorite walking stories. … Read More

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10 Lists That Read Like Poems

If you’re a frequent visitor to this space, you know that we rather enjoy lists here at Flavorpill. Recently, we found our habit (compulsion?) affirmed by Katie Kitamura’s excellent article on listmaking, “Literary Lists: Proof of Our Existence,” over at The Guardian. In it, Kitamura discussed the appeal of the list, particularly in literature, quoting Umberto Eco, who said, “We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death. That’s why we like all the things that we assume have no limits and, therefore, no end. It’s a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don’t want to die.” She goes on to write that “it requires real faith in the powers of fiction beyond style, in the formal aspect of language and its ability to approximate infinity.” Indeed. Inspired by Kitamura’s description of the form, we’ve hunted around for ten great lists, from literary sources and otherwise, that seem like they could be poems in and of themselves. Read through for some list-y inspiration after the jump, and add your own favorites to our infinite list of lists in the comments. … Read More

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The Surprising Meanings of 20 Famous Authors’ Last Names

As kids, we were always fascinated by the meaning of our names — what did they say about us? What ancient history were we somehow connected to? And while we’re not so interested for ourselves anymore (as you can see, this writer has a pretty boring last name), it’s still fun to find out what other people’s names mean. Especially if those other people are famous writers, some of whom are now known only by the words that surround and come from them. To this end, we did some snooping, and using a mixture of foreign language dictionaries and online genealogy databases, we came up with the list below. Some might surprise you — but some fit like a glove. After the jump, school yourself on the meaning of 20 famous authors’ last names, and if you know of any secrets we’ve missed, add to our list in the comments. … Read More

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A Required Reading List For the End of the World

Well, we’ve made it folks: it’s the end of the world. Or, er, maybe it will be, sometime today. In these end times, we’ve been thinking about our dear friend P.J. O’Rourke, who once quipped a quip that’s always nagging at the back of our minds: “always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.” Well, readers, the day has come. Now, whether anyone else will be around to see your cool death-read is a separate question, but if you need a little guidance as to what to keep on your person for posterity, we’re here for you. After the jump, a few books we think would send you off with a bang — whether today or years from now. Get on it. … Read More

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The Best Books Flavorpill Staffers Read in 2012

Year-end best-of book lists can be tough. After all, if you’re anything like us, you’re still catching up on the best books of 2010 — or 1910 — and only sneaking a few brand new hardcovers into the mix. So when sitting down to contemplate our collective year in reading, we decided to include everything, not just the new stuff. After the jump, your humble literary editor and a few other Flavorpill staffers expound on the best books we read this year — whether they be books that came out this year, or just the ones we finally (finally!) got around to reading. And inquiring minds want to know, dear readers, what was the best book you read this year? Let us know in the comments. … Read More

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Photos of Famous Authors Reading Famous Books

“If you want to be a writer,” Stephen King tells us at the beginning of his classic craft book On Writing, “you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” We think it’s pretty fair to say that King has done both — and so have most other famous authors. After all, that’s how they got there. But what do they read? We scoured the web to find pictures of a few of our favorite authors reading — and from what we can tell, they spend a lot of time reading their own books (or at least a lot of time being photographed reading them). After the jump, check out a few famous authors reading, whether their own books or other writers’, and if you have a cool photo we missed, add to our collection in the comments! … Read More

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Writers Praising Writers: 15 of the Best Compliments from One Author to Another

We all know authors can insult one another with aplomb, but do those bitter wordsmiths ever have anything nice to say? Well, yes, of course. If we had to guess, we’d say that most authors’ biggest fans are other authors, who might understand a given piece of literature better than any mere mortal — or they might just be more likely to write about it. In the excellent collection Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story, which hit shelves last week, 20 famous writers choose and introduce the short stories from the periodical that moved and thrilled them. In honor of the book’s publication, we’ve put together a few of our favorite author-on-author compliments. Click through to spread the love, and if we’ve missed your favorite compliment, add to our list in the comments. … Read More

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10 Essential Books for Book Nerds

What makes a book nerd? Reading a lot of books — and liking to talk about said books — is a major requirement, of course, but there’s often something a little more nebulous involved: book nerds are the kinds of people who get a little thrill when walking into a bookstore, who press volumes into their friends’ hands with serious promises of life changing moments, who are fascinated by following the many tangled threads through authors and literature, happily wandering wherever they might lead. Robin Sloan’s recently published Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is a book for such people — if you can’t already tell from the title. If you count yourself among them (or are looking for a gift for the same), we’ve put together a list of books you might want to consider taking a look at. Click through to read through our list of essential books for book nerds — and since you’re probably not a true book nerd if you’re satisfying with ten, add your own picks to our list in the comments! … Read More

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15 of the Greatest Lists in Literature

This week, Threaded reminded us of one of our favorite moments in Joan Didion’s The White Album — when she lists her packing list, incredibly simple and yet so revealing. Lists, of course, are no rare thing in literature, and have many uses, from adding quirk to showing off knowledge, and have storied positions in classic texts like The Faerie Queene (so many different kinds of trees) and The Illiad (200+ lines of Greek chieftains). Inspired by Didion, we spent some time thinking about our favorite lists in literature, from short to impossibly long, from lists that catalogue items to those that follow the train of imagination. Click through to check out the literary lists we think are the funniest, most revealing, most interesting or flat out strangest, and if we’ve missed your own favorite, tell us about it in the comments. And yes, it does not escape us that this is a list of lists. Meta is the way we like it.
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