BookLamp.org is a new website that is similar to Pandora — it creates algorithms and breaks down your book preferences by main themes. For instance, if you liked White Teeth, then Booklamp discerns that you’re into: Culture, Life/Death/Spirituality, Extended Families, Explicit Language, and “Elements of Time.” This results in some odd recommendations, such as The Cestus Deception (Star Wars: Clone Wars) by Steven Barnes. (Really? Because we are just never going to be in to that.) However, another suggestion was The Pregnant Widow by Martin Amis, which makes some sense. So click through and see what hilarious, interesting, and arguably accurate choices we found on our trip through the site. … Read More
This week, we came across this list of ‘books you really should have read in high school’ over at MSNBC’s Today Books. While their picks are definitely classics, most of which we did in fact have to read in high school, we think today’s youth (and any adults playing catch-up, which let’s be real, is almost everybody to some extent) would be better served by a few alternate choices. The classics are wonderful, but the canon should be fluid, allowing some experimental choices as well as the tried-and-true. Of course, kids today should read hundreds of books, if possible, so this is by necessity a finite, imperfect list reflecting, as it must, our own proclivities. Let us know your own choices for essential alternative high school reading in the comments! … Read More
People say that the lines in your face are representative of the life you’ve led – as in, love your laugh lines because clearly you’ve had a good run of it – and maybe we’re starting to believe that’s true. This week, HTMLGiant pointed us towards our newest obsession – artist and author John Sokol’s “Word Portraits,” drawings of literary greats in which the lines of their faces are crafted from the very words of their own works. How metaphorically poignant! But more than that, they’re beautiful, fascinating and often spot-on. Just don’t actually try to read them – you may get lost somewhere in Toni Morrison’s hair. Click through to see a few of our favorite portraits, and be sure to check out the rest here and a few of their prices here. … Read More
In 1953, three American ex-pats (Harold “Doc” Humes, Peter Matthiessen, and George Plimpton) decided to start a magazine that would promote, as the author William Styron confirmed in the first issue, “the good writers and good poets, the non-drumbeaters and non-axe-grinders. So long as they’re good.” The spring issue of the Paris Review is out now, so we decided to make a list of notable interviews in the venerable literary quarterly. The best of “the art of fiction” contains writers from the past 58 years of its publication; they all have a way of commanding the page that is entirely their own, and this quality is reflected in each author’s interview style. Nabokov is authoritative yet bemused, Didion has a terse way of speaking that is plagued with anxiety, and Vonnegut is playful, despite the conversation about the bombing of Dresden. And, as the publication date for The Pale King approaches, we realized the Paris Review missed its chance to interview David Foster Wallace. We can only imagine how the late author would have approached the conversation. Would there have been footnotes? We hope so. … Read More
Can authors write for both kids and adults? The Guardian doesn’t seem to think so, but with this list we beg to differ. Sure, there’s some crossover in genre — as we all know, a lot of adults love Harry Potter with all the strength in their muggle bodies — but the books we’ve picked were written expressly for children, regardless of whether or not grown ups like them too, and written by authors who are primarily famous for their adult literature. You may be surprised by who has made the foray into kiddie lit — it turns out that some of the most serious authors we can think of have a warm, nougat center full of laughter and sunshine. Or something like that. Click through to see our list of children’s book written by famous “adult” authors and let us know which of your favorites we’ve missed in the comments! … Read More
Writing about sex in literature is a difficult task; there are so many ways authors can go wrong. Nowadays, most writers spend too much time on the build up and then release the curtain during the show, choosing instead to segue to a point immediately after the act. Others spend an inordinate amount of energy coming up with penis euphemisms, and end up ruining a scene (think: late John Updike), or even a whole novel. Evelyn Waugh’s son, Auberon, established the Bad Sex in Fiction Award 17 years ago for this very reason. He wanted to “gently dissuad[e] authors and publishers from including unconvincing, perfunctory, embarrassing, or redundant passages of a sexual nature in otherwise sound literary novels.” Rowan Somerville was the 2010 winner for some godawful passages in his second novel, The Shape of Her. Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen, was also nominated, as was Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross.
To counter this terrible scourge on contemporary readers, here is a list of noteworthy sex scenes in modern literature not by a Great Male Novelist (e.g., Mailer, Roth, or Updike) — those supposed masters of the form. … Read More
Last week, we published a list of 10 essential books of the past 25 years. It was one of our most popular posts of all time, as well as one of our most contentious, racking up over 100 comments. Much of the argument has focused on the list’s lack of diversity: of the 10 books, eight were written by white men.
Since best-of lists can’t help but be subjective and flawed, and because there have been so many game-changing books by women and people of color in the past 25 years, we’ve put together an alternate top 10 list. Don’t think of it as an affirmative action move or a consolation prize, but rather as proof that you could make an equally strong list of the past few decades’ greatest literary achievements without including a single American- or British-born white guy. The highbrow novels, page-turning bestsellers, and one particularly inspired graphic novel after the jump all challenged the received wisdom that literature is or should be dominated by white dudes. … Read More
The cover of this week’s Time Magazine features writer Jonathan Franzen, whose new novel, Freedom, publishes at the end of August. As the New York Times points out, he’ll be the first living writer on the cover in ten years. To get there, an author must brew the perfect combination of sales, publicity, and cultural impact. (Only a small fraction of the authors on Time’s 100 Novels list ever made the cut for a spot on the cover.) After the jump, we’ll take you through the last 15 Time covers featuring a living writer, and explain what landed them there. … Read More
This past week, a 1950s video of Vladimir Nabokov sipping tea, discussing Lolita with Lionel Trilling, and just generally being his charmingly elitist self made the rounds. It reminded us that author videos don’t have to resemble the BookTV cliche of someone just droning on and on. It also got us thinking: What else is out there today? After the jump, we collect our five favorite sites for author… Read More
Romanian-born, German writer Herta Mülller was tapped for the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature today. Persecuted for her depictions of life under Nicolae Ceauşescu in communist Romania, Mülller is a voice for the repressed citizens behind the iron curtain — a detail clearly not lost on the Swedish Academy given the 20th anniversary of communism’s collapse in… Read More