Polish painted Feliks Topolski saw things in a very particular light — and not always a very flattering one. In 1960, after the Harry Ransom Center acquired a selection of his work that included an enormous portrait of George Bernard Shaw, Topolski was commissioned to paint portraits of 20 of the 20th century’s greatest British authors. The resultant series, Twenty Greats, was (quite understandably) not particularly well-liked by most of the authors in question, but we think the paintings are so devilishly ugly that they become beautiful again, drenched in sloppy expressive glory. Click through to see some of our favorite portraits from Topolski’s series, and then be sure to head over to The Daily Beast to see the entire set — and find out what their subjects had to say about them. … Read More
When a particular line sings, sometimes underlining just isn’t enough. We’ve come across more than one quote or literary quip that we wanted to hang on our walls, but a postcard with a scribbled phrase doesn’t have quite the same impact as Evan Robertson’s elegant literary posters. We’ve already gushed about Robertson’s work, but when My Modern Met tipped us off that he had some new posters, we just had to share them with you again. So far, Robertson has created 32 posters, and aims to make the series an even 50. As he told My Modern Met, his aim for the series is to encourage “a reconnection with great thinking. It’s a call to action to pick up a great book. And the inspiration to slow down for a bit, I hope, to enjoy the luxury of thinking about something with no practical aim.” Sounds good to us. Click through to check out a few more of our favorite posters from Robertson’s series, and then head on over to his Etsy shop to buy a print for yourself or a book-lover you love. … Read More
This week, we were totally psyched to hear that Colin Firth and Michael Fassbender will be playing Thomas Wolfe and his legendary editor Max Perkins in a film adaption of A. Scott Berg’s National Book Award–winning account of their relationship, Max Perkins: Editor of Genius. And not just for all the Firth/Fassbender it means we’ll be getting. Inspired by this national nod towards an important literary relationship, we’ve rounded up a few other famous author/editor relationships to inspire both the critics and the scribblers among you. Read about them after the jump, and if we’ve missed your favorite, tell us the story in the comments. … Read More
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit, and as a result, we’ve been blessed with all manner of new Hobbit-related media coming to fruition. Inspired by the recently published compendium of Tolkien’s artwork, The Art of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, we decided to track down a few other literary authors who created illustrations for their works, whether published or unpublished.… Read More
“J’Accuse!” Writer Émile Zola fled France today 114 years ago to escape imprisonment after being convicted for libel. He defended the innocence of a Jewish artillery captain in the French army, Alfred Dreyfus. The L’Assommoir author directed his letter — published in newspaper L’Aurore — at France’s President Félix Faure and the government, citing anti-Semitism and judicial corruption in the unlawful jailing of Dreyfus for espionage. Zola quickly took off to London and later returned to see Dreyfus pardoned.
History has proven that honest, intellectual, and creative freethinkers can be deemed dangerous — demonized and ostracized by their own societies. Many have been banished, but some have left their native countries of their own accord. Oddly enough, the experience has been a catalyst for some of literature’s finest work. See what famous figures made our list of literary exiles below. … Read More
In case you haven’t been trolling the literary blogs in the past week, we are happy to inform you that today is Bloomsday, the unofficial international holiday dedicated to canonical Irish writer James Joyce, and more specifically, to his most famous work, Ulysses. Though he has many enthusiastic fans (the man died over 70 years ago and still has young ladies dancing in the streets once a year to celebrate his life), he has always been a controversial figure in critical and social circles. For our own mini celebration of Bloomsday, we’ve put together a collection of some of our favorite quotes about the great writer and his work — some so flattering they read like silver-tongued worship, and some, well, significantly less flattering. Click through to read a cacophony of famous figures sounding off on James Joyce, and then get out there and decide on his merit for yourself. … Read More
There are a million ways to rank authors, as anyone who has spent any time on this website can surely attest. But here’s one that has us reflecting on the state of the American literary canon in a new way. Over at Commentary Magazine, D.G. Myers has ranked American writers based on the MLA International Bibliography’s account of the amount of scholarship on them. And, perhaps more interestingly, he’s tracked the changes since the last listing.
In the last 25 years, Henry James overcame William Faulkner as the headliner in our collective academic heraldry, Vladimir Nabokov and Toni Morrison have both shot up the charts, and Hawthorne, Thoreau, Frost and Twain seem to be fading fast. Of course, as Myers points out, this isn’t a popularity contest, per se. The list reflects ”the professional commitments, the devotion of time and energy, on the part of literary scholars. These are the writers who are principally taught in university English departments around the country, the writers who are being handed down to the next generation.” Click through to see Myers’ list, with the bracketed numbers reflecting changes since 1947, and let us know if you think this reflects the American canon in the comments. … Read More
As evidenced by an ever-increasing glut of TV talent quests and reality shows, the public seems to imagine fame as some sort of existential panacea, something that changes your life so dramatically that everything’s suddenly somehow all right — you can pay the bills, and get laid, and most importantly, you can quit your boring-ass job. Unfortunately, that’s not always how it goes. One of our readers contacted us recently and suggested we do a roundup of celebrities who worked straight jobs after becoming famous — we loved the idea, and so, thanks to reader Ken Schaefle, here’s a selection of well-known types who went back to work post-fame, or who never stopped working in the first place. … Read More
[Editor's note: While your Flavorwire editors take a much-needed holiday break, we'll spend the next two weekends revisiting some of our most popular features of the year. This post was originally published July 13, 2011.] It’s an old topic but it always manages to be interesting — what did the authors we love do in order to write what they did? Beyond the jobs they held, what habits did they have that made writing possible? We take a look at 10 modern authors who had unusual approaches to writing; some due to the limits they would impose on themselves, others due to what they would wear or how they would attempt to channel greatness. Regardless of their methods, they have all produced work of lasting value. We might learn a thing or two from them if we’re willing to get out of our comfort zone and see the craft as just that — a skill to be exercised, not a bolt of ideas that comes if you wait long enough. So read on, dear readers, and tell us in the comments section who we missed. … Read More