Roberto Bolano

10 of the Most Depressing Places in Literature

After reading Tara Isabella Burton’s American Reader essay, “The Geography of Melancholy,” it’s natural to find yourself thinking about the most depressing cities, towns, and municipalities in literature. Burton points out that, in the real world, “Nearly every historic city has its brand of melancholy indelibly associated with it — each variety linked to the scars the city bears.” She also connects writers and the cities that influenced them — “Baudelaire’s Paris, Zweig’s Vienna, Morris’s Trieste.” There are many more, of course — here are a selection of other depressing places and the writers they inspired. … Read More

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50 Incredibly Tough Books for Extreme Readers

Maybe it’s a Pavlovian response to years of schooling, or that the brisk weather affords more hours inside, or something else entirely, but the fact is this: November seems like the time to take on the heftiest reading on your list. And let’s face the facts: some books are only for the toughest readers on the block, your Sylvester Stallones of literature, as it were. So for those of you who count yourself tough, here’s a list of books for you: some absurdly long, some notoriously difficult, some with intense or upsetting subject matter but blindingly brilliant prose, some packed into formations that require extra effort or mind expansion, and some that fit into none of those categories, but are definitely for tough girls (or guys)… Read More

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20 Great Works of Latin American Fiction (That Aren’t by Gabriel García Márquez)

It appears our old buddy Jonathan Franzen’s reign of terror continues.  He totally bungled an interview with Colombian writer Juan Gabriel Vásquez. Franzen said, “To me it feels as if there’s been a kind of awakening in Latin American fiction, a clearing of the magical mists,” and asked Vásquez if his wonderful new book, The Sound of Things Falling, is a reaction to Gabriel García Márquez and his peers. … Read More

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The Fascinating Stories Behind Classic Book Titles

A book title can make a big difference. After all, as much as our mothers warned us against it, as humans we can never seem to help ourselves from judging books by their covers. And some book titles — whether we’ve read the attendant books or not — are just burned into our brains, ushered in by the collective consciousness. But how did they come to be? After the jump, a few of the fascinating stories behind the titles of classic books, sprung from poems, paintings, and saloon bathroom stalls. Hey, inspiration can come from anywhere. … Read More

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10 Highbrow Books for Smart Stoners

Rejoice, habitual imbibers of the magic herb. This year, the smoke-filled 4/20 falls on a Saturday, so you can celebrate the holiday unencumbered by the work day. If you’d like to supplement today’s festivities with a little bit of quality reading but can’t bear the obvious drug-addled narratives or trippy lit, we’ve got you covered with a list of highbrow books for smarty-pants… Read More

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10 Eclectic Reading Recommendations From Amelia Gray

Earlier this month, a swarm of authors, editors, booksellers, and miscellaneous book people snuck into Boston for the annual AWP Conference, which boasts one of the biggest book fairs in the country. Our friend Amelia Gray (kick-ass Millennial writer, PEN/Faulkner award nominee, and author of the divine Threats) kept a tally of the books she picked up, loved, and was recommended, so that she could recommend them to you. Here’s what she had to say:

At the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference, which Steve Almond called ‘the vast roving capital of American literary anxiety;’ if you’re not running into that ex who is always a dick to you (‘you look like a real bitch in your author photo’), you’re in full-on faux-pas mode with table keepers who stand unwittingly (or worse, wittingly) as symbols of your current or future rejection. Happily, AWP also serves as an easy and fun place to connect with people whose work I love, a time to hang with old friends at the hotel bar, and a great place to pick up a few books. Here’s what I found. … 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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10 Great Novels and the Cocktails You Should Pair Them With

As the bookish among you are most likely aware, literature and liquor have gone hand in hand since time immemorial. But while we know which drinks our favorite authors liked to imbibe while creating, that’s not necessarily a good indication of which drinks are best to read their work by. We’ve already given you our suggestions on the cocktails you should pair with your favorite TV shows, but if you’re more likely to be curled up with a book than in front of the small screen this weekend, we have a few thoughts as to how to best keep the party going in your living room. Click through to read about the cocktails we would pair with ten of our favorite novels, and if you’ve found another winning combination, give us your own recommendations in the comments! … Read More

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10 Famous Authors’ Fascinating Alter Egos

“Write what you know.” This piece of clichéd, but sage, advice is the basis for some of the most acclaimed novels in history. Some simply explore their native milieu and insert a fictional plot, while others write a roman à clef, skirting the border of fiction and reality. Roman à clef—French for novel with a key—is a fancy term for a fictional story based on real life. It’s a pervasive form, and secrets itself among our beach books (The Devil Wears Prada) and heavy literature (The Bell Jar) alike. It’s not surprising that most writers explore their own lives, often with the aid of a parallel self (much like the famous artists who also employ alter egos). Authors may choose to veil their alter egos with differing qualities, or let their true selves shine through. Which of your favorite characters is secretly the author? Find out in our list of famous writers’ alter egos after the jump. … Read More

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The Most Cryptic Titles in Literature (And What They Mean)

This week, Laurent Binet’s HHhH, which we can safely say is blessed with one of the strangest titles we’ve ever encountered, hit shelves. Inspired by the sheer weirdness of the title (we’ll explain what it means later), we’ve compiled a list of some of the most cryptic book titles in literature, from the confusingly short to the numerically based to the grammatically incomprehensible. We’ve left out children’s books, of course — as we’re sure you’re aware, the nonsense words and silly symbols gracing their covers just are too many to count. Click through to check out our list, and if we’ve missed your own favorite cryptic title, let us know in the comments. … Read More

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