Love, Boxing, and Hunter S. Thompson

When John Kaye sent this report it made me realize that two of my great literary touchstones — Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Tristram Shandy — have much more in common than I had ever noticed. They are both colossal failures of mission, spectacular performances of the art of being sidetracked, of being shanghaied by errant attention, or, perhaps, perfect examples of the way art is, at its best, a perversion, a turning away from more straightforward intentions. This piece was commissioned elsewhere to be a brief reminiscence of a weekend in New Orleans. We prefer this Shandean, heavyweight version.

“When It’s Not Your Turn”: The Quintessentially Victorian Vision of Ogden’s “The Wire”

There are few works of greater scope or structural genius than the series of fiction pieces by Horatio Bucklesby Ogden, collectively known as The Wire; yet for the most part, this Victorian masterpiece has been forgotten and ignored by scholars and popular culture alike. Like his contemporary Charles Dickens, Ogden has, due to the rough and at times lurid nature of his material, been dismissed as a hack, despite significant endorsements of literary critics of the nineteenth century. Unlike the corpus of Dickens, The Wire failed to reach the critical mass of readers necessary to sustain interest over time, and thus runs the risk of falling into the obscurity of academia. We come to you today to right that gross literary injustice.

Who Owns Kafka?

An ongoing trial in Tel Aviv is set to determine who will have stewardship of several boxes of Kafka’s original writings, including primary drafts of his published works, currently stored in Zurich and Tel Aviv. As is well known, Kafka left his published and unpublished work to Max Brod, along with the explicit instruction that the work should be destroyed on Kafka’s death. Indeed, Kafka had apparently already burned much of the work himself. Brod refused to honour the request, although he did not publish everything that was bequeathed to him. He published the novels The Trial, The Castle and Amerika between 1925 and 1927. In 1935, he published the collected works, but then put most of the rest away in suitcases, perhaps honouring Kafka’s wish not to have it published, but surely refusing the wish to have it destroyed. Brod’s compromise with himself turned out to be consequential, and in some ways we are now living out the consequences of the non-resolution of Kafka’s bequest.

(Via The Browser)

The art of good writing

Fish’s aim is to offer a guide to sentence craft and appreciation that is both deeper and more democratic. What, at base, is a sentence? he asks, and then goes on to argue that the standard answer based in parts of speech and rules of grammar teaches students “nothing about how to write”. Instead, we should be examining the “logical relationships” within different sentence forms to see how they organise the world.

Solitary Confinement

After being diagnosed with ALS in 2008, Tony Judt undertook two major projects. The first was his last public lecture, at NYU, in which he made the case for community, social democracy, and elevated public discourse. He converted it to the brief, polemical book Ill Fares the Land. The second and more remarkable project was Judt’s final book, a memoir entitled The Memory Chalet, which collects his last, highly autobiographical essays from the New York Review.

The Afterlife of David Foster Wallace

Readers outside academe caught on to Wallace before scholars did. When he died, academic interest in him had only begun to show real signs of life, with scholars starting to look closely at the ways in which Wallace responded to and reshaped for a new generation the postmodernism practiced by writers like Don DeLillo and Thomas Pynchon. Two years later, spurred in part by his death but even more by a rising generation of young scholars, the impending publication of a posthumous novel, and the opening of a major archive of the writer’s papers, David Foster Wallace studies is on its way to becoming a robust scholarly enterprise.

Why people love Stieg Larsson’s novels

However much the book was revised, it should have been revised more. The opening may have been reworked, as Gedin says, but it still features an episode—somebody telling somebody else at length (twelve pages!) about a series of financial crimes peripheral to the main plot—that, by wide consensus, is staggeringly boring. Elsewhere, there are blatant violations of logic and consistency. Loose ends dangle. There are vast dumps of unnecessary detail. When Lisbeth goes to IKEA, we get a list of every single thing she buys. The jokes aren’t funny. The dialogue could not be worse. The phrasing and the vocabulary are consistently banal.

(via Longreads)

Escape Route

The problem with the public discussion about libraries in prison is that it’s the wrong discussion. For over a century now, the debate has centered on reading — on which books should, or more often should not, be included on the prison library’s shelves; which books are “harmful” or “helpful”; whether reading is a privilege or a right. […] But the issue of reading is only one dimension of the question, and not necessarily the salient one. The crucial point of a prison library may not be its book catalog: The point is that it is a library.

Counting on Google Books

The authors of the paper claim that the quantitative data gathered from the corpus are the bones that can be assembled into “the skeleton of a new science.” They call the new field “culturomics,” defining it as “the application of high-throughput data collection and analysis to the study of human culture,” which “extends the boundaries of rigorous quantitative inquiry to a wide array of new phenomena spanning the social sciences and the humanities.”

Jackie O, Working Girl

Whatever else she may have been during her lifetime—tragic heroine, elusive sphinx, reluctant icon—Jackie also distinguished herself as an intensely dedicated career woman who left behind an impressive legacy of books. While Mailer described her as “a princess lighted by a million flashbulbs,” he underestimated how artfully Jackie had arranged her private and public lives. Jackie found a professional sanctuary in the world of publishing that was virtually unassailable, even for the paparazzi who staked out her office and boorishly delighted in stalking her. Jackie’s books, more than 100 titles, along with her personal writings, are perhaps the best window we will ever have into her heart and endlessly inquiring mind.

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