literature

The 5 Best New Songs We Heard This Week: Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, Punch ft. Kendrick Lamar

This week, we’re a little bit country, and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll, and a little bit hip-hop, and a little bit soul. That’s always the intent with this column, but this week we’ve got the added bonus that most of the folks here are fresh talent. Have a listen. … Read More

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5 Unthankful Literary Treats for Thanksgiving Day

Are you proud of your unthankfulness? Do you loathe Thanksgiving? Do you loathe everything? If so, you may want to disgust yourself with this cornucopia of literary misery, ready-made for your disapproval. Thwarted romance, hatred of country, bullies, Billy Crystal: it’s all here. Enjoy it now: you won’t thank me later. … Read More

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100 Years Later, What Have We Learned From James Joyce’s ‘Dubliners’?

Twelve years ago, I inadvertently began a literary ritual that I’ve kept alive to this day. It was late in the first term of my freshman year of college, and I’d been assigned to lead a discussion on James Joyce’s “The Dead,” the devastating final story in his collection Dubliners. Never having read it, I was unaware of the symbolic importance of snow in the story. It happened to be the first snowfall of the year, and by the time I reached the book’s end, my romantic, teenaged soul swooned along with Gabriel’s, as he heard “the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.” So, as embarrassing as it is to admit, I now re-read “The Dead” on the first snowfall of every year. … Read More

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The Secret Truce in the Literary Genre Wars

Should young-adult, science fiction, and fantasy novels be considered works of literature? Is The Hunger Games a work of art? Does anyone care? Over the last couple of years, a handful of authors have pitched their tents in the no man’s land between “genre fiction” and “pure literature.” But the more intense the genre wars become, the more difficult it is to understand what it’s all about. Is it a question of what we should read? Is it a critical discussion about what counts as “literary quality” writing? Or is it a war of words over which books should be published? … Read More

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10 Famous Poems That Appeared in Film

For decades, Hollywood has looked to the annals of literature for inspiration. Literary adaptations are more popular than ever, but poetry is still largely untapped. Films like Ken Russell’s Gothic and Jane Campion’s Bright Star center on famous poets, and there are some great movies based on poems, but we’re looking at the appearance of poetry in films — instances where characters and narratives are reflected in poetic works, recited in the movies themselves. Here’s a video scrapbook of poetry in movies. Feel free to continue adding to the list with your own video examples, below. … Read More

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Nostalgia for the Future: William Gibson on ‘The Peripheral’ and His Legacy

For an author who is arguably our greatest speculist of techno-culture, William Gibson hasn’t been spending much time in the future. His last novel to be set in the future, in fact, was 1999’s All Tomorrow’s Parties. It’s a rather extraordinary and rare event, then, that Gibson has set his new novel, The Peripheral, in not one but two futures. … Read More

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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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10 New Translated Books to Read Right Now

Next month, American readers will be able to suss out why Patrick Modiano (of all people) won the Nobel Prize, when Yale University Press releases Suspended Sentences: Three Novellas. In the meantime, here are ten amazing new (or fairly new, or about-to-be-published) translated works that demand to be read right now. … Read More

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Trolled by the Swedish Academy: Patrick Modiano’s Nobel Prize in Literature

This morning readers across America sighed with boredom and mild irritation as the Swedish Academy announced the winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature. Who? Patrick Modiano, a Frenchman who is definitely not J. M. G. Le Clézio or Michel Houellebecq. At first, I felt like I had been trolled by the Academy. If the winner was going to be a “surprise,” why not pick a younger writer? Kipling was only 42 when he won. Or, even better, why not award the Nobel to a writer on the basis of a single work? Hemingway won solely because of The Old Man and the Sea. Or just give it to Adonis already. … Read More

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“No Comment”: Getting to Know the Shadowy Oddsmaker for the Nobel Prize in Literature

The Nobel Prize in Literature will be announced tomorrow. Who will win? Ngugi Wa Thiong’o (7/2)? Haruki Murakami (9/2)? Bob Dylan (25/1)? I’m pretty sure it will be Adonis (10/1), but, then again, I’ve been saying that for years. Recent statements, like this from one of the judges, suggest you’d do well to put your money on an African or Asian writer. Or someone who has never enrolled in an MFA course in creative writing. Or just anyone who isn’t American. … Read More

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