Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Monday Miscellany

Monday, April 21st, 2014

The big literary news of the past week was the death of Gabriel García Márquez and the announcement of Pulitzer Prize winners. But there is other news as well, particularly about upcoming publications:

Spring brings bounty of new titles for book lovers

Mary Ann Gwinn, book editor for the Seattle Times, lists both fiction and nonfiction titles to be published in May and June. Her list includes books by Stephen King, David Guterson, and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Best Summer Books 2014

Publishers Weekly chooses some books worth looking out for this summer, both fiction and nonfiction.

 

Reading Agency survey finds 63% of men rarely read

The Bookseller has some distressing news: the results of a survey conducted by the Reading Agency:

Researchers found that being too busy, not enjoying reading and preferring to spend their spare time on the internet means men read fewer books, read more slowly and are less likely to finish them than women.

Here’s one finding I find particularly interesting: “Nearly three quarters of the men surveyed said they would opt for the film or television adaptation of a book, whereas the same percentage of women were as likely to go for the book itself.”

The research was conducted in Britain.

The Death of Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe

From Wikipedia (public domain photo)

American writer Edgar Allan Poe died under mysterious circumstances, and many sources attribute his death to chronic alcoholism. But this post on The Medical Bag offers a different explanation, posited in 1996 by Dr. Michael Benitez, a cardiologist at the University of Maryland Medical Center who practices a block from Poe’s grave.

Monday Miscellany

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Because I am in Nashville cheering on the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team’s pursuit of yet another national championship, this week’s entry is an abbreviated one.

A Brief Interview With Emma Donoghue

Emma Donoghue is the author of eight novels and four short story collections, in addition to a number of dramatic productions. Her 2010 novel Room was nominated for the Man Booker Prize. Her latest book, Frog Music [Little, Brown, $27.00], publishes on April 2.

Read why Emma Donoghue includes “a bitch character in every book.”

Senior English Major Wins the 2014 Rose Prize for Literary Criticism

I was intrigued by the description of English major Katie McLaughlin’s winning paper:

When senior English major Katie McLaughlin decided to write her capstone paper on collaborative Internet fiction, there was no official name for what she was writing about. So she made one up. She dubbed websites where people write, edit and read stories together “narrative communities,” and these narrative communities are what inspired her capstone paper, “‘Everybody Writes’: Re-imagining Reader, Writer, and Text in the Online Community.”

Classic dystopian novels forecast a bleak future — soon

New reprints of classic dystopian novels show that a bleak view of our future has enduring appeal. Seattle Public Library librarian David Wright rounds up titles by George Turner, J.G. Ballard, John Brunner, Russell Hoban and John Wyndham.

Here’s the book on Wright’s list that most piques my interest:

Russell Hoban’s “Riddley Walker” (Gollancz, $17.95) is easily one of the most ingenious novels ever written. Set during a distant Dark Age long after our current civilization has given itself to the fire, the entire narrative is rendered in a hyper-phonetic, punning version of devolved English. We riddle along with Walker as he grapples with obscure legends of our own bad times, including that particularly seductive myth: the myth of progress. Readers who get the hang of Riddleyspeak (it’s easier than it looks) are in for a profound, transformative journey into the human heart, where fires of creation and destruction are kindled.

Cover: Cloud AtlasThis sounds like “Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After,” the central portion that functions as the turning point in David Mitchell’s novel Cloud Atlas. Set in the future, this section features language like this:

Adam, my bro, an’ Pa’n’me was trekking’ back from Honokaa Market on miry roads with a busted cart axle in draggly clothesies. Evenin’ catched us up early, so we tented on the southly bank o’ Sloosha’s Crossin’, ‘cos Waipio River was furyin’ with days o’ hard rain an’ swollen by a spring tide. Sloosha’s was friendsome ground tho’ marshy, no un lived in the Waipio Valley ‘cept for a mil’yun birds, that’s why we din’t camo our tent or pull cart or nothin’. [David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas (New York, Random House, 2004, rpt. 2012), p. 239]

Although this language looks strange, I soon found that, as Wright says of Riddleyspeak, it’s easier to decipher than it looks.

 

Monday Miscellany

Monday, March 31st, 2014

The Conclusion of Women’s History Month

woman readingAs Women’s History month ends, here are two commemorative lists:

14 Totally Badass Female Authors

Though many truly badass women authors are alive and working today, their stories aren’t yet finished. So as Women’s History Month draws to a close, we wanted to look back on some of the incredible literary women from history and remember how both their work and their lives broke new ground.

Read why Huffington Post thinks these female authors were totally badass:

  1. Louisa May Alcott
  2. Mary McCarthy
  3. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
  4. Nellie Bly
  5. Edith Wharton
  6. Zora Neale Hurston
  7. Edna St. Vincent Millay
  8. George Eliot
  9. Mary Wollstonecraft
  10. Carson McCullers
  11. George Sand
  12. Hannah Arendt
  13. Harriet Ann Jacobs
  14. Katherine Anne Porter

The 10 Best Thrillers and Crime Writing By Women

Though James Patterson might be the one getting 17-book deals for millions, some of the best writers of crime, thrillers, and mysteries have been women. Here are some of the best examples of these genres from the past century that will keep you reading past your bedtime (and possibly unable to sleep forever).

Among the authors Jessica Grose recommends here are Agatha Christie, Ann Rule, Edna Buchanan, and Patricia Highsmith.

Addition:

Australia’s literary cranky ladies

 

Really? You’re Not in a Book Club?

“WHAT’S your book group reading?” I say to a friend encountered on the street. Not: “Are you in a book group?” I have no idea whether Clara is in a book group. We’ve never talked about it. All the same, I just know. Why? Because it’s a safe assumption to make these days.

By some estimates, five million Americans gather every few weeks in someone’s living room or in a bar or bookstore or local library to discuss the finer points of “Middlemarch” or “The Brothers Karamazov.” (A perfect number is hard to pin down because some people belong to two or three clubs, and of course, there’s no central registry of members.) Among them is Clara, whose book group even has a name: the Oracles. They’re reading “The Flamethrowers,” by Rachel Kushner.

James Atlas learns why book groups aren’t just a fixture of New York City.

Top Literary Cities in the U.S.

What determines a city as ‘literary?’ It’s not enough to have a large library, unique bookstores, or be the birthplace of a famous writer. Nor is it enough to be one of the top literate cities in the United States  Most literary cities have a strong writing program at one of their numerous colleges and universities, as well as bookstores and institutions hosting event after event. If anything, a literary city is a blend of the historical, cultural, and modern parts of literature, encouraging and inspiring future generations to appreciate and take part in the literary world.

See what cities (other than New York City) Gabriella Tutino has chosen for this article in Highbrow Magazine.

On Literary Cravings and Aftertastes

In this unusual take on literary criticism, Allison K. Gibson describes her literary cravings during pregnancy:

While I was pregnant, I learned to follow my instincts — my hunger — to lead me to stories that would nourish me. And, as I learned from that first 3 a.m. craving for “The Night of the Curlews,” certain stories are meant to be savored so that the words continue to nourish long after the last sentence has been swallowed. The best stories leave an aftertaste.

10 Famous Writers Who Hated Writing

Writers are terrible procrastinators, and I’m pretty sure that’s because writing, although it can be exhilarating, is also just plain hard. Here author Bill Cotter, who has his own love-hate relationship with his profession, offers some (comforting?) remarks from writers including Kurt Vonnegut, Flannery O’Connor, and Virginia Woolf.

Monday Miscellany

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Author News

Last week I happily came across news related to two of my favorite mystery writers:

Why Novel Reading Reduces Anxiety

woman reading

Good stories, then, not only help us relate to the hero’s journey, as Joseph Campbell pointed out, but the act of reading them actually can reconfigure brain networks. This means that not only are we able to escape from our problems while reading, it also increases compassion to another’s suffering — as well as perhaps to one’s own — which can be a major aid to self-growth and healing, as well as helping to decrease anxiety and depression.

The Psychology of Storytelling and Empathy, Animated

More on how stories affect the human brain:

Stories without key elements–including a climax and denouement–do not engage the brain in the same way. Indeed people ignore them.

From MIT, An Interactive Book That Makes You Feel Characters’ Pain

Have you ever felt your pulse quicken when you read a book, or your skin go clammy during a horror story? A new student project out of MIT wants to deepen those sensations. They have created a wearable book that uses inexpensive technology and neuroscientific hacking to create a sort of cyberpunk Neverending Story that blurs the line between the bodies of a reader and protagonist.

Called Sensory Fiction, the project was created by a team of four MIT students–Felix Heibeck, Alexis Hope, Julie Legault, and Sophia Brueckner–who took part in Science Fiction To Science Fabrication class, a multimedia course that uses sci-fi as both inspiration and caution for the technology of the future.

Monday Miscellany

Monday, January 13th, 2014

I’ll be traveling for the next three weeks. Therefore, updates here will be sparse.

The 9 Best Books That Don’t Exist

From Publishers Weekly:

It’s time to make you really sad: here are 9 great books…that don’t actually exist. But while the world would certainly be a better place if they did exist (except #4 and probably #1), if you haven’t read the books they’re from, change that right away.

Commenters have some additions to this list, and I would add The Book of Counted Sorrows from the works of Dean Koontz.

16 Books To Read Before They Hit Theaters This Year

The list includes some big titles: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, The Giver by Lois Lowry, and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

30 Books You NEED To Read In 2014

If you’re still drawing up this year’s reading list, Huffington Post has some recommendations from authors such as Karen Russell, Richard Powers, Lorrie Moore, Emma Donoghue, and Alain de Botton.

10 New Ways to Read in 2014 That Will Change the Way You Think About Books

From PolicyMic:

There’s no denying that the world of books is changing. But literature lovers are keeping up. Six years after the birth of the e-book reader Amazon Kindle, we’re no longer groaning about the death of traditional books. Even the most die-hard bibliophiles will admit that not only has technology not killed the book, but it also has extended literature’s boundaries by creating new forms — and has reached new audiences along the way.

Branch out and discover literature in all its hip, inventive, and tech-savvy glory this year, with our 10 reading resolutions that will change the way you think about and interact with books. Whether you’re a print-book fanatic or a Twitter fiend, there’s bound (pun intended) to be something in here for you.

10 Literary Blogs Every 20-Something Should Read

Also from PolicyMic:

The new literary generation is here, and it’s bored — bored with the New Yorker, bored with the New York Times, bored with the New York Review of Books.

We need new literary sustenance. We want writing by people who understand the tremendous attentional effort it requires to read more than three sentences of anything. We want a literary La La Land that gives us gifs and James Joyce in the same breath. Screw it — we want gifs of James Joyce.

While I look for those, take a look at these: The best — funniest, crassest, headiest, least boring, most addictive — literary blogs for 20-something readers and writers.

However, I don’t see why these recommendations should be limited to 20-something readers. I often read several of them myself, and I’m way past 29.

Monday Miscellany

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Robert McCloskey Sketches for “Make Way for Ducklings”

Born in 1914 in Hamilton, Ohio, Robert McCloskey came to Boston to attend the now-defunct Vesper George Art School. He left to live in New York for a time and established a career as an author and illustrator in the late 1930s. Over the years, he became the force behind beloved tales like Homer Price, Blueberries for Sal, and Time of Wonder. His most famous work is Make Way for Ducklings, which tells the story of a pair of mallards in Boston who take their eight ducklings from the Charles River to Boston’s Public Garden. The Boston Public Library has digitized over 100 of McCloskey’s studies for this wonderful work for consideration by the general public. Visitors can zoom in and look around and some of these great works. Visitors can also create their own curated collections for use at a later date.

From The Scout Report, Copyright Internet Scout 1994-2013. https://www.scout.wisc.edu/

Slideshow: The Emily Dickinson Archive

The New York Times offers a good sampling of the materials now available online through The Emily Dickinson Archive. There’s also a link to the archive itself.

What 20 years of best sellers say about what we readKid With Books

How has your reading changed in the past 20 years? From readers shopping in brick-and-mortar bookstores, to the dominance of game-changing online sellers, to a digital era of e-reading and instant delivery, the book industry has gone through monumental change. And USA TODAY has been there all along. Look through 20 years of best-selling books.

This feature by USA TODAY offers an informative look at how reading and books have changed over the last 20 years. Includes lists of the best-selling books for each year.

How Changing Technologies Influence Storytelling

The Internet has changed (and keeps changing) how we live today — how we find love, make money, communicate with and mislead one another. Writers in a variety of genres tell us what these new technologies mean for storytelling.

The New York Times rounds up comments on technology from the following authors:

  • Margaret Atwood
  • Charles Yu
  • Marisha Pessl
  • Tom McCarthy
  • Rainbow Rowell
  • Dana Spiotta
  • Frederick Forsyth
  • Douglas Coupland
  • Tracy K. Smith
  • Emily Giffin
  • Ander Monson
  • Elliott Holt
  • Victor LaValle
  • Lee Child
  • Meg Cabot
  • Tao Lin
  • A.M. Homes

The 10 Best Mystery Books

Thomas H. Cook, one of the best at what he does, has done it again with 2013′s Sandrine’s Case, which is just as intricate and surprising as you’d expect from the Edgar winner. A veteran thriller and mystery writer of over 20 books, Cook shared his favorite mystery novels.

I love mysteries, but I’ve only read two of the books on Cook’s list for Publishers Weekly. But the two that I have read, A Crime in the Neighborhood and A Simple Plan, are very good.

Monday Miscellany: Big Literary News Edition

Monday, October 14th, 2013

Meet Alice Munro, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature

Cover: Dear LifeThe big literary news of last week was the announcement of Canadian writer Alice Munro as recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Munro is generally considered to be the current master of the short-fiction form.

The announcement generated a lot of articles about Munro’s life of literary accomplishments. Here are some of the most useful that serve as a primer of Alice Munro’s life and works.

A Beginner’s Guide to Alice Munro

Back in July 2012, to celebrate the publication of Munro’s most recent book, Dear Life, Ben Dolnick, a self-proclaimed Alice Munro fanatic, offered this overview at The Millions:

Considering which of Alice Munro’s stories to read can feel something like considering what to eat from an enormous box of chocolates. There are an overwhelming number of choices, many of which have disconcertingly similar appearances — and, while you’re very likely to choose something delicious, there is the slight but real possibility of finding yourself stuck with, say, raspberry ganache.

A Nobel reading list: Essential Alice Munro books

From USA Today:

Canadian writer Alice Munro, “master of the contemporary short story,” has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for her body of work. Here is a list of books by the 82-year-old author, who recently said she was retiring from writing:

From the Archive: From fact to fiction

The Montreal Gazette reprinted this article from 2005:

The events of Alice Munro’s life – an Ontario girlhood, university, marriage and a move to the West Coast, motherhood, the breakup of the marriage and a move back east – are the stuff of fiction (hers) and the stuff of life, a life laid bare in Robert Thacker’s new biography, Alice Munro: Writing Her Lives.


Reading Literary Fiction Increases Empathy

woman reading

The other recent event of literary interest is the release of findings of a new study suggesting that reading literary fiction increases empathy, or the ability to understand why people act as they do.The research was conducted by a professor and a graduate student from the New School for Social Research in New York City. Here’s what the institution says in its press release:

Ph.D. candidate David Comer Kidd and his advisor, professor of psychology Emanuele Castano performed five experiments to measure the effect of reading literary fiction on participants’ Theory of Mind (ToM), the complex social skill of “mind-reading” to understand others’ mental states. Their paper, which appears in the Oct. 3 issue of Science is entitled “Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind.”

In their experiments the researchers studied three different types of written material:

To choose texts for their study, Kidd and Castano relied on expert evaluations to define three types of writing: literary fiction, popular fiction, and nonfiction. Literary fiction works were represented by excerpts from recent National Book Award finalists or winners of the 2012 PEN/O. Henry Prize for short fiction; popular fiction works were drawn from Amazon.com bestsellers or an anthology of recent popular fiction; and non-fiction works were selected from Smithsonian Magazine.

And the results of the several experiments were consistent:

Across the five experiments, Kidd and Castano found that participants who were assigned to read literary fiction performed significantly better on the ToM [theory of mind] tests than did participants assigned to the other experimental groups, who did not differ from one another.

The study shows that not just any fiction is effective in fostering ToM, rather the literary quality of the fiction is the determining factor. The literary texts used in the experiments had vastly different content and subject matter, but all produced similarly high ToM results.

The researchers’ discussion of the results suggests the following explanation:

Kidd and Castano suggest that the reason for literary fiction’s impact on ToM is a direct result of the ways in which it involves the reader. Unlike popular fiction, literary fiction requires intellectual engagement and creative thought from its readers. “Features of the modern literary novel set it apart from most bestselling thrillers or romances. Through the use of […] stylistic devices, literary fiction defamiliarizes its readers,” Kidd and Castano write. “Just as in real life, the worlds of literary fiction are replete with complicated individuals whose inner lives are rarely easily discerned but warrant exploration.”

Lots of news outlets jumped on this story, eager to give it their own spin. Here are some of the more interesting offerings.

Novel Finding: Reading Literary Fiction Improves Empathy

Scientific American chose this emphasis:

How important is reading fiction in socializing school children? Researchers at The New School in New York City have found evidence that literary fiction improves a reader’s capacity to understand what others are thinking and feeling.

For Better Social Skills, Scientists Recommend a Little Chekhov

Pam Belluck, writing in The New York Times, chose this approach:

Say you are getting ready for a blind date or a job interview. What should you do? Besides shower and shave, of course, it turns out you should read — but not just anything. Something by Chekhov or Alice Munro will help you navigate new social territory better than a potboiler by Danielle Steel.

That is the conclusion of a study published Thursday in the journal Science. It found that after reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction, people performed better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence — skills that come in especially handy when you are trying to read someone’s body language or gauge what they might be thinking.

Want To Read Others’ Thoughts? Try Reading Literary Fiction

For National Public Radio (NPR), Nell Greenfieldboyce concluded:

This study could be a first step toward a better understanding of how the arts influence how we think, says David Comer Kidd, a graduate student who coauthored the study with Castano.

“We’re having a lot of debates right now about the value of the arts, the value of the humanities,” Kidd says. “Municipalities are facing budget cuts and there are questions about why are we supporting these libraries. And one thing that’s noticeably absent from a lot of these debates is empirical evidence.”

Book News: Reading Fiction May Boost Empathy, and Other Stories from the Week

In a blog post for The New Yorker, Rachel Arons also speculated about the implications of the research:

Though the study leaves many questions unanswered—like how “literary” the fiction has to be to have an impact, or how long the empathy boost lasts—the researchers hope that studies like this one, which demonstrate the quantifiable benefits of reading literature, could have an impact on curriculum design in schools. (The Common Core standards have attracted criticism for emphasizing nonfiction over literature.)

 

Monday Miscellany

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Why GR’s new review rules are censorship – Some thoughts

Late Friday (US time) Goodreads announced a change in review and shelving policy, and immediately started deleting readers’ reviews and shelves. In doing this they became censors. Limiting readers’ ability to discuss the cultural context of a book is censorship designed to promote authors’ interests.

young girl readingOver on Goodreads reader Emma Sea has lashed out against the site’s new policy and has engendered quite a lot of support from commenters. I lead with this entry today because at the heart of the controversy lies the question of exactly what a book review is and what a review should—and shouldn’t—contain.

As soon as I started reading Emma’s post, I knew that the reference to Orson Scott Card’s book Ender’s Game was coming. This very popular book is being made into a movie. Card himself is outspoken in his criticism of gays and gay marriage; as a result, many people have called for a boycott of the movie, even though the book does not deal in any way with gay rights.

So, in terms of book reviewing policy, the question becomes: Is it acceptable to refer to Card’s beliefs in discussions of Ender’s Game?

I have struggled with this very question myself. Ender’s Game is one of the best books I’ve ever read. And I grew up under the school of New Criticism, which holds that literary works should be judged on the basis only of their text, not of their author or of any other external social or cultural context. However, I have reached a point in my life when I believe it’s important for me to stand up and be counted in support of my values and beliefs. I certainly stand by Orson Scott Card’s right to hold and to state his beliefs, but I also reserve the same right for myself.

But the question still remains: Is it appropriate for me—or anyone— to mention a disagreement with Card’s stated beliefs in reviewing a book that does not in any way touch on the subject of those beliefs? I’d love to hear suggestions on how to resolve this dilemma.

Why I Believe I Should Stand Up and Speak Out

Because I keep finding stories, like these, about censorship:

30 Books You Should Read Before You’re 30

some books are best experienced at a certain age, like, say, “Catcher in the Rye.” If you pick it up for the first time when you’re far beyond puberty, you’ll likely wonder what all the hype is about. Likewise, there are certain books you should read in your 20s, due to the age of the characters or the intended audience — books like Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History” or Christopher Hitchens’ “Letters to a Young Contrarian.”

There are also fantastic classics that may not have been assigned to you in school but that you should pick up ASAP simply because you’re missing out — books like Doris Lessing’s “The Golden Notebook” or “A Collection of Essays” by George Orwell.

Check out the 30 books we think you should read before you’re 30:

I’m not sure exactly why the folks at Huffington Post chose 30 as the magic age. I’ve read several of these recommended books in recent years, and I’m well over 30. In fact, I like to think that I probably got more out of reading these books precisely because of my maturity.

At any rate, this is a good list to use when you’re looking for the next book to pick up.

30 “Guilty Pleasure” Books That Are In Fact Awesome

All books are worth reading, obviously. But some books are slightly more “guilty pleasure” than “classic literature.”

Because you can never have too many good-books lists. . . .

Bookless Public Library Opens In Texas

An all-digital public library is opening today [September 14, 2013], as officials in Bexar County, Texas, celebrate the opening of the BiblioTech library. The facility offers about 10,000 free e-books for the 1.7 million residents of the county, which includes San Antonio.

I’ve always been a big fan of ebooks, but I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the idea of a bookless library. Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?

The Working Novelist: Writing and the Irrational

Something about the process of writing (and maybe art in general) pushes us toward the parts of ourselves and the world that we don’t totally understand.  Toward the grey areas, the uncertainty, the unsettled.

I don’t write fiction myself, but I’ve heard fiction writers say that sometimes a character will speak up on its own and take over the writing of the story. Here writer Alex Washoe describes how something similar happened to him:

When we read over what we’ve written – if we’ve surrendered ourselves at least a little to the process, to the “vivid and continuous dream” – we often find things we didn’t mean to include.  Stray details, odd comments, small actions – things that perhaps don’t seem to relate to the main action of the story.  Things that sometimes contradict what we thought we were saying.  The first tendency is always to delete these things, the smooth them over, to bring them in line with our plan.  And most of the time, that’s probably for the best.

But if we are willing to stay with these things, to hold them in our minds and find where they lead, they can sometimes open up dimensions of character and story – meaning – we never knew were there.  These stray details, these odd moments, these irrational tics push us away from what the conscious mind thinks it’s doing toward something a little less neat.

Readers, too, often find these little suggestive details in literature, and those details often deepen and enrich our understanding, whether we are aware of that process or not.

Monday Miscellany

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Two Items on J. D. Salinger

Two recent news items about J. D. Salinger, reclusive author of Catcher in the Rye:

New biography of JD Salinger to be published this September

An attempt to piece together the life of the notoriously reclusive Catcher in the Rye author JD Salinger, researched over the course of eight years in strict secrecy and including more than 200 interviews, is to be published as a biography on 3 September. A documentary film about the author will be released in the US the same week.

Arriving three years after Salinger’s death at the age of 91, The Private War of JD Salinger promises new insights based on accounts from his “World War II brothers-in-arms, family members, close friends, lovers, classmates, neighbours, editors, publishers, New Yorker colleagues and people with whom he had relationships that were secret even to his own family”, according to a description on Amazon. The author’s literary estate has remained resolutely silent.

‘The film was run like a CIA operation’: Inside the secretive documentary ‘Salinger’ that promises major revelations about reclusive author of the Catcher in the Rye

For much of the nine years that Shane Salerno worked on his J.D. Salinger documentary and book, the project was a mystery worthy of the author himself.

Code names. Hidden identities. Surveillance cameras. Until 2010, when The Catcher In the Rye novelist died at age 91, only a handful of people were fully aware of what he was up to. Even now, with the release date of the film Salinger less than three weeks away, little is known about a production that draws upon more than 100 interviews and a trove of documents and rare photographs, and that promises many revelations about an author who still fascinates millions.

This second article promises that the film, to be released September 6, features “commentary from famous Salinger fans like Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton, and John Cusack.” There’s also some background information about Salinger here, and you can watch the movie trailer.

Best of British: Five iconic food moments in literature

From writers of canonical prestige, to the classics of our childhood, appetizing and iconic literary food moments are at the forefront of many of our best books. Here is a selection of some of the tastiest:

This list is drawn from British literature. Any suggestions for comparable scenes from American literature?

Early Reader

Priscilla Gilman describes her son’s early love of books:

As an infant, my son Benj was aloof and never wanted to cuddle with me, but if I read to him, he would snap to attention and listen avidly. He shunned toys and stuffed animals, preferring instead to surround himself with books. . . . But when Benj was almost 3, he was given a diagnosis of a rare disorder called hyperlexia: the ability to read at an early age coupled with difficulty with social interaction and verbal communication, and typically, although not exclusively, found in children on the autism spectrum. I was devastated to learn that Benj’s fondness for reading and reciting literature, which I’d taken to be impassioned and profound, was, in fact, a symptom of his disorder.

Read this entire piece for Gilman’s examination of hyperlexia and her discussion of how it has given her growing son an extraordinary appreciation for the inner workings of language.

‘Bone Season’ author suggests 5 other books of dark futures

You’ve probably heard that the Today show is starting up a new book club and that the first selection is The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon:

The 21-year-old phenom, whose book, “The Bone Season,” came out Tuesday, cites a variety of classics among her biggest influences. Characters like Lucy Snowe from Charlotte Bronte’s “Villette” helped her forge a path for Paige Mahoney, the female protagonist of “The Bone Season.”

Here Shannon recommends five dystopian novels that contributed to the creation of her own dystopian world.

Monday Miscellany

Monday, August 5th, 2013

There are a couple of sad stories about well known authors to report:

But there is some good news about libraries and librarians:

State of America’s Libraries Report 2013

Libraries and library staff continue to respond to the needs of their communities, providing key resources as budgets are reduced, speaking out forcefully against book banning attempts and advocating for free access to digital content in libraries, with a keen focus placed on ebook formats. These and other library trends of the past year are detailed in the ALA’s 2013 State of America’s Libraries Report.

Librarians group calls for boycott to stop ‘erasure of Palestinian culture and history

We are an independent group of librarians and archivists who traveled to Palestine from June 23 – July 4, 2013. We come from the US, Canada, Sweden, Trinidad & Tobago, and Palestine. We bore witness to the destruction and appropriation of information, and the myriad ways access is denied. We were inspired by the many organizations and individuals we visited who resist settler-colonialism in their daily lives. We connected with colleagues in libraries, archives, and related projects and institutions, in the hopes of gaining mutual benefit through information exchange and skill-sharing.

Finally, Evan Gottlieb, Associate Professor of English at Oregon State University, describes the challenges and pleasures of reading novels with unreliable narrators:

We Will Be Fooled Again: The Strange Pleasures of Narrative Trickery

the unreliable narrator. This narrator almost always speaks to us in the first person, meaning she or he tells the story directly in her own voice and from her point of view. Traditionally, such narrators implicitly gain the reader’s trust quickly; when Jane Eyre, the title character of Charlotte Brontë’s classic Victorian novel from 1847, informs us on page 1 that “I never liked long walks, especially on chilly afternoons,” we have no reason to doubt her. Neither do we initially doubt the narrators’ words in Wuthering Heights (1847), the equally famous novel by Charlotte’s sister Emily. Unlike Jane, however, the more we hear from Mr. Lockwood and then Nelly Dean (whose “narration within a narration” occupies the novel’s central chapters), the more we come to wonder whether either of them truly understands the significance of the events they relate.