Marcel Proust

The Morning’s Top 5 Pop Culture Stories

1. If you missed seeing The Daily Show last night, there was a hilarious video segment that took a look back at Barack Obama’s first term, and was narrated by none other than Larry David. The major takeaway: “Less bad is better than more bad.” [via Gawker]

2. Here’s your first… Read More

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20 Famous Writers on Death and Mortality

Today marks the publication of Mortality, confrontational journalist Christopher Hitchens’ posthumous work about his experiences with the cancer that killed him. We’ve lost a lot of great minds recently — Nora Ephron, Maurice Sendak, David Rakoff, and Hitch himself — and we think this end-of-life memoir in essays, full of Hitchens’ trademark wit and his clear-eyed dissection of life as he sees it, may just heal us a little bit, as books tend to do. To celebrate the book’s publication, and to help recalibrate our own perspectives on the loss of so many of our intellectual heroes, we’ve put together this selection of passages on death and mortality from a few of our favorite authors. Read through after the jump, and since there are an infinite number of these, add your own favorite to our collection in the comments. … Read More

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When Marcel Proust Met James Joyce

In Craig Brown’s recently released Hello Goodbye Hello: A Circle of 101 Remarkable Meetings, Marilyn Monroe meets Nikita Khrushchev, President Richard Nixon meets Elvis Presley, Salvador Dali meets Sigmund Freud and of course, Marcel Proust meets James Joyce. These are just a few of the delightful and completely true stories in this book, which documents what happens when the famous, the genius, and the notorious bump up against each other, often to hilarious results. One of our favorite essays, which we’ve had the good fortune to be permitted to reprint below, retells the first meeting between Proust and Joyce in 1922 Paris — though accounts vary widely, one thing is for certain: neither had read the work of the other (or neither admitted to it). Click through to read this charming essay, and then be sure to check out the book for even more. … Read More

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The Books That Make Guys Swoon

A couple weeks ago we posted about the books that might make you undateable — at least in the eyes of those who might, perhaps, yes, judge your romantic appeal based on the book you’re reading. (Sorry, but this is a thing that happens.) We were inspired by a Paris Review blog post about the books guys should read to attract girls. But what about the inverse? What kind of books might make a girl appealing to guys? Culled from a number of anecdotal conversations with young men that read, collated by us, here’s a sampling of books the ladies might consider sticking their noses into if they’re hoping to catch that special literary fly guy’s eye on the subway, at the bus station, in the library or around the copier room. … Read More

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An Essential French Lit Reading List for Bastille Day

Tomorrow is Bastille Day, or as the French call it, la Fête Nationale or le quatorze juillet, the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, the flashpoint of the French Revolution that symbolizes the birth of the modern nation. So basically the French version of the fourth of July, only slightly bloodier and with more presidential garden parties. In honor of the French’s national holiday, we’ve put together a list of essential French literature to get anyone in the spirit. And obviously, there’s no way to distill the literature of an entire country into a ten point list, so these are just some of our favorites — chime in with your own in the comments. Vive la révolution! … Read More

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10 Novels That We Dare You to Finish

Peter Nadas’s novel Parallel Stories, which will be released this November, clocks in at well over 1,000 pages. In an interview with New York, the Hungarian author queried, “Why wouldn’t ­Musil, Mann, or Broch be my contemporaries?” In honor of his ambition,  we’ve compiled a list of 10 novels that could also function as doorstops if you decide to give up on them. Maybe you’ve tried to impress your friends by casually mentioning that you’re finally reading Proust, or you’re the annoying person on the train with the weighty tome in both hands, jostling into your fellow passengers because you can’t spare a free hand — whatever the reason, we salute you, foolhardy readers. Have any of you finished the following novels with ease? If so, let us know in the comments section. … Read More

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Speed Reading: Jennie Ottinger’s Hollowed-Out Books

Many people already love their books as they would pieces of art – why else would we so proudly display books we will never read again on our bookshelves in our tiny New York apartments instead of boxing them away? We tell ourselves it’s in case we ever want to lend them or reference a passage or reread them, but it’s really because we love them as objets d’art, and want to look at them all day long. To that end, Jennie Ottinger creates hollowed-out, redesigned and painted-over versions of classic novels, replacing their guts with pithy summaries she gleans from SparkNotes. Ottinger’s idea is that in our busy, harried world, we don’t really have time to take in all the cultural input we would like to/are supposed to. We’re tempted to be horrified by this brusque treatment of literature, but we kind of love these faux-books. Ottinger just closed a show at Johansson Projects in Oakland, but a few of her pieces are on display in NYC until February 26 in the book-themed exhibition “Ex Libris” at the Adam Baumgold Gallery. Click through for more images of her work. … Read More

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A History of Fist-Fueled Author Feuds

Even some of literature’s most iconic authors were responsible for behavior more befitting a barroom brawl than intellectual provocation. In Writers Gone Wild, Bill Peschel has culled together the most notorious embarrassments, love affairs, and addictions of beloved literary heroes. In honor of the infamous feud that overshadowed recent Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa’s relationship with fellow laureate Gabriel García Márquez for 30 years, here are five other instances where the sword pulverized the less-than-mighty pen. … Read More

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Against Promotional Author Photographs

Excellent authors avoid writing cliches. The problem is that some of these very authors do not apply the same level of vigilance when it comes to taking promotional photographs, whether they’re for magazine profiles or back-of-the-book biographies. In an attempt to look uniquely profound yet accessible, or convey some novel combination of deep thoughts with good times, a lot of writers end up looking exactly the same as their peers. It doesn’t matter if the authors are well-established or just scheduling their first panel discussion — all are susceptible to producing hackneyed images.

Since we don’t expect authors to be virtuosos in every medium, we thought we’d take a critical look at five categories of promotional-author photography as a warning for all future writers who want to break out of the formula. … Read More

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The James Franco Reading List

In addition to being an actor/artist/director/model/writer/student, James Franco is also an avid reader. How he finds time to do it all, we’re not sure. Apparently, his next project, after finishing his four Master’s degrees and acting in a bunch of upcoming films like Rise of the Apes, is to earn his PhD from Yale. If all goes according to plan, someday soon hordes of young men and women will have the option of enrolling in a class taught by Professor Franco.

In anticipation, we’ve put together a potential reading list that might appear on his syllabus. All of the following ten books have been either explicitly endorsed by the energetic young man or seen accompanying him on breaks in-between shoots. … Read More

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