Roberto Bolano

The Funniest Secret Society in (Portable) Literary History

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Every secret society has its founding myth, and the “Shandies” were no different. In the winter of 1924, or so the story goes, Russian symbolist Andrei Bely suffered a nervous breakdown on the selfsame “towering rock” where Nietzsche first discovered the concept of “the eternal recurrence of the same.” On that same day, composer Edgar Varèse fell from his horse while parodying French poet Guillaume Apollinaire. The coincidence of these two seemingly unrelated events held great importance for the Shandies, who counted Marcel Duchamp, Varèse, Walter Benjamin, Aleister Crowley, Francis Picabia, the suicidal poet Jacques Rigaut, and many others, among their ranks.
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50 Great Genre-Bending Books Everyone Should Read

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Sometimes, it seems as though the arguments about genre — be it poetry vs. fiction, fiction vs. nonfiction, literary fiction vs. SF vs. fantasy vs. mystery vs. vs. vs. — will never end. So why not just take yourself off the board entirely? After all, marketing professionals aside, does anyone really care what genre they’re reading if the book is good? After the jump, 50 genre-bending novels guaranteed to enthrall you, whether you’re a literary fiction snob or a die-hard fantasy nerd. Enjoy without judgements!
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Staff Picks: Screaming Females, Bolaño, and Ned Beauman

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Need a great book to read, album to listen to, or TV show to get hooked on? The Flavorwire team is here to help: in this weekly feature, our editorial staffers recommend the cultural object or experience they’ve enjoyed most in the past seven days. Click through for our picks, and tell us what you’ve been loving in the comments.
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The 50 Best Independent Fiction and Poetry Books of 2014

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2014 will go down as a landmark year in independent literature, chiefly because a few longstanding “trends” or “developments” are hardening into verifiable traits of fiction and poetry beyond Big Publishing. Independent poetry, in the works of such writers as Claudia Rankine and Andrew Durbin, is becoming more sophisticated in the way it encroaches upon other forms of visual and literary art. In fiction, a greater tendency toward autofictional novels of emotional maturation — typically in a cruel world — is colliding with the arriving generation’s faith in the bending of genres. The increasing confidence these writers have in their forms is beginning to show in the way they assert themselves against an older generation, sure, but it’s also showing up in the quality of the books. Plainly put: line for line, stanza for stanza, independent writing, and therefore independent publishing, is better than it was just a few years …Read More

10 of the Most Depressing Places in Literature

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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.
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50 Incredibly Tough Books for Extreme Readers

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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