The latest books and literature reviews, comment, features and interviews, with extracts from famous texts and neglected gems.
How To Get A Husband – a guide for woman in the 1880s:
Read it all at Flashbak…
“When the dead moose floated into view the famished crew cheered – this had to mean land! – but Captain Walgrove, flinty-eyed and clear headed thanks to the starvation cleanse in progress, gave fateful orders to remain on the original course and await the appearance of a second and confirming moose.” — Elizabeth (Betsy) Dorfman, Bainbridge Island, WA…
The contest challenges entrants to compose bad opening sentences to imaginary novels and takes its name from the Victorian novelist George Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who began his Paul Clifford (1830) with “It was a dark and stormy night.“
On Flashbak, Ed Barrett is building a Bike Shed Library.
First book is No. 1: Chopper by Pate Cave (NEL, 1971):
In the days when Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris was bestriding Stamford Bridge, another Chopper Harris was enthralling the juvenile delinquents of Great Britain with a different brand of violence.
This Chopper was the number two in a London-based chapter of the Hell’s Angels. Or should that be ‘NEL’s Angels’? Because, make no mistake, this bears the classic New English Library hallmarks of lurid sensationalism and dubious authenticity.
Christopher Hitchens talks about booze in his book Hitch-22:
I work at home, where there is indeed a bar-room, and can suit myself. But I don’t. At about half past midday, a decent slug of Mr. Walker’s amber restorative, cut with Perrier water (an ideal delivery system) and no ice. At luncheon, perhaps half a bottle of red wine: not always more but never less. Then back to the desk, and ready to repeat the treatment at the evening meal. No “after dinner drinks”—most especially nothing sweet and never, ever any brandy. “Nightcaps” depend on how well the day went, but always the mixture as before. No mixing: no messing around with a gin here and a vodka there.
Alcohol makes other people less tedious, and food less bland, and can help provide what the Greeks called entheos, or the slight buzz of inspiration when reading or writing. The only worthwhile miracle in the New Testament—the transmutation of water into wine during the wedding at Cana—is a tribute to the persistence of Hellenism in an otherwise austere Judaea. The same applies to the Seder at Passover, which is obviously modeled on the Platonic symposium: questions are asked (especially of the young) while wine is circulated. No better form of sodality has ever been devised: at Oxford one was positively expected to take wine during tutorials. The tongue must be untied.
Spotter: Ilia Blinderman
Israel has gone. It was never there. Anyone buying a HarperCollins Middle East Atlas in Jordan, Syria, the Gulf states, Saudia Arabia and Lebanon will find no Israel.
Bishop Declan Lang, chairman of the Bishops’ Conference Department of International Affairs, told The Tablet:
“The publication of this atlas will confirm Israel’s belief that there exists a hostility towards their country from parts of the Arab world. It will not help to build up a spirit of trust leading to peaceful co-existence.”
It could also mean that Islamic State goons see the blank space and think it a fine place to settle. They will march on this barren world and be systematically taken out by an invisible Army.
Publish at will…
Howard Jacobson nails it. Why only Christians can be Nazis. And why Islamofascism is an amplified myth:
‘Christianity is key here,’ says Jacobson. ‘Muslims have needed the Jew less [historically], although there’s a lot of Muslim anti-Semitism now due to the Middle East. [But] Christianity’s had to leave [Judaism] behind, so it’s had to hate it, it’s had to say, we are not that, we are not that anymore, and then to say we were never that – so that’s a necessary hatred.’
‘And then out of that grew a sense of the possibility that all cultures have to have someone to hate. Not just a scapegoat. It’s more essential than that. Who am I, what am I? I am not that. To the degree you know that, you know who you are.’
In Tomboy, Liz Prince looks at growing up, being a girl and what gender means:
“I’ve always thought about gender, as someone who has been categorically ‘gender nonconforming’ for my entire life, I was forced to think about it, but obviously I became more conscious of it as a social issue as I’ve gotten older. And as I’ve met more folks who are genderqueer or trans, it’s been really enlightening to hear their stories, and it got me thinking about my own gender history.
“An unexpected side effect of writing Tomboy is that I have gotten a lot of letters and emails from parents of tomboys, who say that they read the book, and they feel like they understand their children so much better now. I got a really emotional letter from a woman who has a tomboy daughter, who she has in the past tried to force to conform more strictly to a gender norm, and my book made her feel really terrible for doing that, because she understands now that her daughter should be free to express herself the way that is comfortable to her.
“I was really unprepared for receiving feedback like that; letters about how my book has actually changed the way someone approaches their parenting. It’s very validating.”
Thought of the day:
“About two years ago, a letter arrived from a solemn young lady telling me how much she enjoyed reading my experiment in space mythology, The Martian Chronicles. But, she added, wouldn’t it be a good idea, this late in time, to rewrite the book inserting more women’s characters and roles…. The point is obvious. There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist / Unitarian / Irish / Italian / Octogenarian / Zen Buddhist / Zionist / Seventh-day Adventist / Women’s Lib / Republican / Mattachine / Four Square Gospel, feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse… The real world is the playing ground for each and every group, to make or unmake laws. But the tip of the nose of my book or stories or poems is where their rights end and my territorial imperatives begin, run and rule.” — Ray Bradbury
Book of the day is the 1979 tome, God’ll Fix It, the divine words of Sir Jimmy Savile.
The chapter How Do I Cope With Sex? , told readers:
Sex at its worst is corruption, as when young people might be corrupted to provide sex.’
The final word is with the Star:
Neal Cassady Shall Be Justified: Read The Joan Anderson Letter That Inspired Jack Kerouac’s On The Road
In 1950 Neal Cassady chocked down mouthfuls of speed and wrote a 16,000 words, 18-page letter to hgis friend Jack Kerouac. In it he recalled a trip to Denver and a dalliance with a Joan Anderson. Kerouac was writing On The Road. After reading Cassady’s letter he began it anew.
WHAT can Babie be? Well, if you melt her down, she could be doorstop, a martial aid part of South Korean car’s dashboard. But to Martel, Babrie can be anything.
Barbie Can Be…A Computer Engineeer.
Live the dream, Barbie! And dig those glasses. You sure must have smarts to wear bins like those.
John Waters hitchhiked his way across the USA. He’s written it up in Carsick.
“I have probably 8,500 books all catalogued and everything. I’m a book collector. The novelizations of movies which no one collects? I collect them. I also collect porn parodies of literature. So yes, I collect all kinds of books.”
The first two chapters of his book are fictional. He wonders what thrills await him, such as giving head during a demolition derby and being murdered by a serial killer with a thing for film directors.
“Some people skip [the introduction] and they don’t realize the first two parts are fiction. They say, ‘Did that really happen?’ Do you really believe my singing anus did a duet with Connie Francis?”
Save it for the movie…
MODERN journalism is much about lists. You make a list and it is news. Things kicked off in 1977, when millions of people (my father mong them) The Book of Lists, compiled by David Wallechinsky, his father Irving Wallace and sister Amy Wallace.
It was a cracking book, a top toilet read. It was a valuable resource when I wrote the quiz questions for the TV show Jeopardy (What is the impossible job?).
HIGH minds in low places. Amber Sparks interviewed writers about their influences:
“I aspire to write ‘great books,’ but great books are not at all what made me want to write,” says Mike Meginnis, author of Fat Man and Little Boy. “Some of my most formative early reading experiences were apocalyptic Christian YA fiction from my church’s lending library.” It seems ridiculous, on the face of it, that writers could learn their craft at the doorstep of writing or culture that might appear inartful, inelegant, or lack complexity. And yet it makes perfect sense. These books are popular not because of their sentences, but because of their storytelling. And isn’t that the first thing every writer has to learn, regardless of medium or genre? …
I discovered, as I talked to lots of writers, that the vocabulary of the lowbrow almost universally reflects a kind of throwaway culture: garbage, disposable, trash. Yet it’s clear many of us have never tossed out these first and primary influences—they are anything but disposable when we look back at where it all began. Whether we writers actively avoided, sought out, or just plain knew nothing else, it seems what we consumed of the lowbrow world of literature, television, films, video games, and other pop culture has had significant influence on an awful lot of us. When we were young, many of us sought pleasure in the simplest kinds of stories, wherever we found them.
RUSSELL Brand, age 39, has written Revolution, a book dedicated ‘To the divine, mischievous spark in you”.
Craig Brown reviews in the Mail:
‘Russell Brand wants YOU to join the Revolution’ is the pithy way his publishers, Century, put it. Oddly enough, Century is a part of Penguin Random House, itself a division of the German media conglomerate Bertelsmann and Pearson PLC, the largest education company and book publisher in the world, and owners of the Financial Times…
THIS is what you need: a copy of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road map .
But how do you take a photo of a BEK or, indeed, any other kind of ghoul?
Well, thatnls to this 1979 tome from Usbourne Publishing, we know how to take snapshots of the SUPERNATURAL WORLD.
PATRICK Modiano wins the Nobel Prize for literature.
The Swedish Academy on Thursday awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature to the French author “for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation“.
@LadyLegalWriter reviews that announcement:
Not to take away from this amazing accomplishment, but I have no idea what the committee means…
FLAVORWIRE has a cracking list of the favourite books of 50 famous faces.
Bill Murray: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.
Dolly Parton: The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper.
Joan Didion: Victory by Joseph Conrad.
Hillary Rodham Clinton: The Brothers Karamazov
Robin Williams: The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov.
Michelle Obama: Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison.
Nikola Tesla: Faust by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe.
Jennifer Lawrence: Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters.
PIES has some good bits from former Manchester United captain Roy Keane’s second autobiography. Ghost written by Irish novelist Roddy Doyle, The Second Half picks up where his first left off – in that basically it’s a long, extended list of the many, many things and people he hates.
Here’s the best of what we’ve stumbled across so far…
1. From the very first chapter. Has Roy’s view of Alf-Inge Haaland softened over the years?
“There are things I regret in my life and he’s not one of them.”
No. No it has not.
2. On the fond treasured memories he has of his emotional United exit:
Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
PETER Thiel has written a book, Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters. Peter Thiel is worth $2.2 billion. He co-founded PayPal. He ploughed a big chunk of the millions he earned for its sale to eBay inyo a site called Facebook.
Peter Thiel is 46 but looks about 37.
The book is based on notes from a course on high-tech start-ups that he used to teach at Stanford University. The notes were posted online by one of his students and quickly downloaded by 300,000 readers.
WHAT is the power of nightmares?
Argentinian cartoonist has created the delicious What There Is Before There Is Anything There: A Scary Story.
AS Fanny Cradock might have put it: “Having a Johnnie around the place is awlays useful”: “Condom Meals I Want to Make for You.”
FREE Speech looks to the Economist, a magazine read by business suits and people keen to appear smart and knowing. But the Economist is no leader, no thought provoker. It’s a publication as uncertain as a worm in flip-flops.
The Economist published a review of Edward Baptist’s “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism”. The review ends with the line:
Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains. This is not history; it is advocacy.
An odd view, for sure. Not all whites supported slavery; but blacks were the enslaved victims.
So. Cue the Twitter mob. Outraged they wrote in.
Baptist told TalkingPointsMemo: “Maybe this is crass, but I did realize as soon as I read it that this is not actually going to hurt. It has definitely enhanced my Amazon ranking.”
So. What did the Economist do? It became a non review. It was given its own page, so as not to pollute the rest of the ‘newspaper’s’ website. And it is now topped by an apology:
Apology: In our review of “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism” by Edward Baptist, we said: “Mr Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery. Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains.” There has been widespread criticism of this, and rightly so. Slavery was an evil system, in which the great majority of victims were blacks, and the great majority of whites involved in slavery were willing participants and beneficiaries of that evil. We regret having published this and apologise for having done so. We have therefore withdrawn the review, but in the interests of transparency the text remains available only on this special page and appears below.