literature

Christian Kracht’s ‘Imperium’ is a Melvillean Masterpiece of the South Seas

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Long of toenail and hair and beard, the eccentric August Engelhardt shunned clothing and subsisted entirely on coconuts; he was, in other words, a nudist and cocovore. He was also a subject of the German Empire at the turn of the twentieth century, a privilege that gave him the right to purchase land in what was then German New Guinea. His expressed purpose? To establish a nudist colony of coconut-devouring sun-worshippers on the island of Kabakon.
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‘That Thing You Do With Your Mouth': ‘Reality Hunger’ Brand David Shields as Ventriloquist Porn Director

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David Shields is a literary brand in need of devaluation. His last name is not a surname; it’s the predicate in a sentence where the indirect object is “quality,” and the direct object is anyone who publishes with him. By this I mean that Shields’ famed “reality hunger” has given way to a kind of base gluttony that masks a deeper need to see his name stamped twice-yearly on books with literary themes. This, in effect, turns his “essays” into documentaries wherein Shields becomes an auteur-documentarian who cobbles, edits, guides, but never produces any worthwhile literary work.
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Teaching Trigger Warnings: What Pundits Don’t Understand About the Year’s Most Controversial Higher-Ed Debate

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When Kyla Bender-Baird was an undergraduate a decade ago, a gender studies lecture she was attending ended with an incident she’ll never forget: a visiting professor played a rape victim’s graphic 911 call. Then the class was dismissed and, she says, everyone went home dazed and had “messed-up dreams” that night.

Although the professor apologized at the next session for failing to place the recording in appropriate context and give students adequate time to process it, Bender-Baird kept the incident in mind when she became a PhD candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center, teaching sociology courses to undergraduates. Now, she includes a note at the end of her syllabus,that reads, in part:

It is my goal in this class to create a safe environment in which we examine our assumptions… Discomfort can be part of the learning process as we are challenged to shift our paradigms. I invite you to sit with this discomfort. However, if the discomfort starts to turn to distress, I want you to take care of yourself. You can withdraw from an activity or even leave the classroom.

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Charming Photos of a Bookworm Reading in Unexpected Public Places

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Prague-based photographer Jakub Pavlovsky has one motto: take the time to read — anywhere, anytime. His self-portrait series Book’s Calling, which we spotted on Lost at E Minor, features the artist sitting cross-legged and buried in a book in some rather unusual and beautiful spots. Pavlovsky pays no mind to the crowds that bustle around him while sitting in the middle of the street. He reads atop public sculptures, on bridges, in the middle of a subway car, in a field, and other unusual spots. The photographer’s Instagram account is full of inspiring images that make us want to grab our favorite book and head outside to take a seat wherever we damn well please. Pavlovsky has also donated several hundred books to local retirement communities to further promote the love and importance of reading, hoping to encourage others to do the same.
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What Do We Want from Writing? Money? A Career? Recognition?

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It’s time to rethink everything. Everything. What it means to write and what it means to write for a public — and which public. What do I want from this writing? Money? A career? Recognition? A place in the community? A change in the government? World peace? Is it an artifice, is it therapy? Is it therapy because it is an artifice, or in spite of that? Does it have to do with constructing an identity, a position in society? Or simply with entertaining myself, with entertaining others? Will I still write if they don’t pay …Read More

10 Must-Read Books for May

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Often a given year’s publishing calendar is lopsided — the heavyweight books come out in September, after the literary mind has been thoroughly and evenly baked by the summer sun. But not this year! After a spirited April, we’re seeing a wise and hilarious May. One-of-a-kind acts of literary brilliance? Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts and Nell Zink’s Mislaid. Clear-eyed interventions in American life? Try Susan Neiman’s Why Grow Up? or n+1‘s City by City. There is even a potential science-fiction masterpiece in Neal Stephnenson’s Seveneves. If we project our minds to the end of 2015, my guess is that we’ll see many of these on those lists of “best” and “notable” …Read More

Flavorwire Exclusive: Charles Dickens Nightwalks Through Paris and London

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“In the dead of night, in spite of the electric lights and the remnants of nightlife, London is an alien city, especially if you are strolling through its lanes and thoroughfares alone,” writes Matthew Beaumont in the introduction to his Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London, out now from Verso Books. Well, do you know your city at night? And, if not: do you know it at all?

Chaucer and Shakespeare, Johnson and Blake, Wordsworth, De Quincey, and Dickens — all were nighttwalkers. And the joy of Beaumont’s book is the way it illuminates both literature and urban politics through the splendors and panics of their nighttime journeys. It’s a story that paradoxically meanders with a purpose, like a walk to nowhere in particular, from “the Middle Ages to the height of the gaslight era in the mid-nineteenth century.”

In the below excerpt, we learn about Charles Dickens’ maniacal nighttwalks through London and Paris, and the effect it likely had on his novels.
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