After seeing The Public’s production of King Lear this summer, Ira Glass came to the incendiary conclusion that “Shakespeare sucks.” The comment riled many, for reasons that are largely obvious to anyone who understands the Bard’s place in the literary canon, but also because of the threat that such an influential public figure’s disapproval poses to an art form that’s already been noted to be “dying” at the slow pace of a stabbed Shakespearean character. Now, some would counter that theater’s adherence to the past is what’s dooming it in the first place, and that our reverence toward Shakespeare is the core of the problem. But Shakespeare has actually proven to be one of the most vital vessels for change in theater. Here are 45 productions that — through radical politics, outlandish visuals, and enormous Kevin Spacey heads, might change the way you (and Ira Glass) — view… Read More
Historically, prestigious prizes like the National Book Award are reserved for realist fiction, or at least historical fiction from a realist angle; and, for many of us, these books can make for dull reading. Thankfully, it appears that the tide is turning towards a wider variety of voices, settings — and genres. Most indicative of this turn is the recent success of Canadian author Emily St. John Mandel’s post-apocalyptic novel Station Eleven, which was shortlisted for the National Book Award in October. The winner will be announced on November 19. … Read More
It all started with the T-shirt below, which exhibits a feminist appropriation of an Ayn Rand quote. Big news! Détournement! Or is it? It seems that the original phrasing was twisted a little — edited, if you will — into the form you see on the shirt. The words on the shirt, in other words, are not the words in the book. The quotation on the T-shirt is a misquotation.
But any curmudgeon can hurl a list of misquotations at the reading public. Instead, we’ve decided to gather a list of items featuring misquotations that you can buy right now, just in time to round out your misquotation wardrobe or library this holiday season. … Read More
With not one, but two novels featuring Jane Austen, one featuring the ghost of Dorothy Parker, and a third about Virginia Woolf and her sister hitting shelves soon, it seemed like a good time to survey the entire “writer-as-character” category of novels. Who are the most popular fictionalized writers? It’s no surprise to see a ton of Shakespeares, Dickenses, and Brontës scampering with pens through the pages of other peoples’ novels. But a graphic-novel Susan Sontag? Cranky Robert Frost? Witty Alexander Pope? These are some of the delights we uncovered for your reading… Read More
Congrats to Ira Glass for creating the least controversial controversy of all time. Earlier this year, the elder statesman… Read More
As of yesterday, the citizens of London can take a breather on one of 50 “Books About Town,” a collaboration between the National Literacy Trust and public art organization Wild in Art. Each book-shaped bench is decorated with an artist’s rendition of works such as Alex Rider and War Horse, running the gamut from contemporary subway reads to longtime favorites. Click through for a sampling of our favorites, including tributes to Charles Darwin and Bridget Jones. … Read More
English occultist Aleister Crowley’s reputation as the snarling cue ball-headed “Great Beast” has been shattered. A book of Crowley’s aching, lovelorn poems, inspired by his affair with female impersonator Herbert Charles Jerome Pollitt, will be exhibited at the Olympia antiquarian book fair in London this month. “The verse is rather broken-backed, and vulgar where he is trying to be honest. But it was written at a time when he was feeling heartbroken and vulnerable and it does somehow humanize him,” rare book dealer Neil Pearson said of the poems. The dark libertine’s muse didn’t share his appreciation for esotericism, and the relationship ended abruptly — but Pollitt did inspire verses that included lines like, “My passion splashes out at last.” We also felt inspired — taking it upon ourselves to dig up the torrid and fascinating tales of ten male muses. The men whose lives helped shape the works of great painters, writers, and filmmakers often take a backseat to their female counterparts, but they are no less intriguing. Meet the inspiring friends and lovers of ten cultural luminaries. … Read More
Today, we’re celebrating literature’s first detective story, which became a prototype for the greatest modern mystery tales and the analytical sleuths that investigated them. This weekend marks the 173rd publication anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue, which first appeared in Graham’s Magazine back in 1841. Protagonist C. Auguste Dupin, a Parisian man who becomes embroiled in a bloody case, solves the bizarre murder mystery surrounding two women without the help of the police force. The story’s final line comes from a puffed-up Dupin, who after ruffling the prefect of police’s feathers, snarkily states: “I like him especially for one master stroke of cant, by which he has attained his reputation for ingenuity. I mean the way he has ‘de nier ce qui est, et d’expliquer ce qui n’est pas.’ (‘To deny what is, and to explain what is not.’)” We felt inspired to look back on some of the most memorable last words of literary characters — those that mark a character’s journey, several closing quips, and a few dying utterances. Add your favorite quotes, below. … Read More
Want to find out who your Shakespearean soul mate is? The Free Library of Philadelphia has you covered.