Books in General

TV drama to explore Bronte family life

24 May 2015

From the BBC:

A drama about the “tragedy and passion” of the difficult lives of the Bronte family is to appear on BBC One, written and directed by Last Tango In Halifax author Sally Wainwright.

It will explore the relationships between Charlotte, Emily and Anne and their brother Branwell, who was latterly an alcoholic and drug addict.

All three sisters managed to produce great literary works before their untimely deaths.

. . . .

To Walk Invisible: The Bronte Sisters will be filmed in and around Yorkshire, where they lived.

Charlotte, whose works included Jane Eyre, died aged 38; while Emily, who wrote Wuthering Heights, died aged 30; and Anne, who died aged 29, wrote The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall.

They all struggled with their brother’s behaviour, which became increasingly difficult after a failed love affair.

BBC One controller Charlotte Moore said: “It’s an extraordinary tale of family tragedy and their passion and determination, against the odds, to have their genius recognised in a male 19th-Century world.”

Link to the rest at BBC

Into the Darkness: Investigating Film Noir

22 May 2015

From Canvas Networks:

Summer is cooler in the shadows.

We invite movie fans from around the world to join us for a flexible, multimedia investigation and celebration of film noir.

In this nine-week course, we’ll go back in film history to investigate the “The Case of Film Noir”—the means, motives, and opportunities that led Hollywood studios to make these hard-boiled crime dramas, arguably their greatest contribution to American culture.

This course will run concurrently with the Turner Classic Movies “Summer of Darkness” programming event, airing 24 hours of films noir every Friday in June and July 2015. This is the deepest catalog of film noir ever presented by the network (and perhaps any network), and provides an unprecedented opportunity for those interested in learning more to watch over 100 classic movies as they investigate “The Case of Film Noir.”

. . . .

Students will

  • gain a deeper appreciation of classic Hollywood movies
  • be able to identify the characteristics of a film noir
  • able to explain the origins and history of film noir
  • be able to perform close analyses of films noir

Topics include

  • What is Film Noir?
  • Film Noir and Its Influences
  • Film Noir in the Studio System
  • Film Noir Themes and Characters
  • Film Noir in the Postwar Period

. . . .

For students who seek to complete the course, it will take between two and four hours each week, not including additional time to watch a few films noir each week on your own or on TCM.

. . . .

The course will use social media and Google Hangouts on Air to have a few live events.

Link to the rest at Canvas Networks

F Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby home on sale for $3.8m

22 May 2015

From The Guardian:

Author and his wife, Zelda, lived in the seven-bedroom manor house just outside New York between 1922 and 1924.


A spokeswoman for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage said on Wednesday that the asking price for the manor home on Long Island was just over US$3.8m (A$4.8m). She did not identify the owner.

The home is in the village of Great Neck Estates, about 20 miles (32km) from Manhattan.

The 5,000-square-foot (464sqm) Mediterranean style home, which was built in 1918, has seven bedrooms and six bathrooms. It has a music room and several fireplaces.

Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, lived in the home between 1922 and 1924.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

When Did Books Get So Freaking Enormous? The Year of the Very Long Novel

21 May 2015

From Vulture:

When Doubleday editor Gerald Howard acquired Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, a 736-page novel about a New Yorker with a hellish past, he told her they’d have to cut it down by a third. She countered that Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, both longer than her book, were poised to do pretty well that year. She also emailed a list of successful long novels, as well as a “passive-aggressive picture” of her manuscript beside a 900-page issue of Vogue and a paperback copy of Vikram Seth’s 1,400-page classic, A Suitable Boy.

Howard lost the fight, and Yanagihara turned out to be prescient. The Goldfinch went on to win the Pulitzer, and The Luminaries became, at 864 pages, the longest novel ever to win the Booker prize.  “I don’t know if it’s a real trend or just some statistical clutter,” says Howard, “but there’s definitely something going on.”

. . . .

A Little Lifehas a rabid following and four printings so far; Larry Kramer just published The American People, an epic gay parallel history of the U.S. that runs to 800 pages (and that’s just Volume 1); Marlon James’s sprawling Jamaican saga A Brief History of Seven Killings, out since October, is enjoying a run as long as the book itself. William Vollmann’s July novel, The Dying Grass, will close in on 1,400 pages, and Grove Atlantic just acquired a first novel called TheMystery.Doc, which is 1,700 manuscript pages long. Throw in several big-deal, massively popular series that are really single works split into volumes — a small platoon led by Elena Ferrante and Karl Ove Knausgaard — and it’s tempting to proclaim this the era of the Very Long Novel (VLN).

. . . .

We measure out our lives not just in tweets but in a blizzard of memes, Vines, Periscope soundings, and flash quizzes. We binge-watch, sure, but we wash dishes at the same time. Reading, on any device, is a discreet and solitary experience. “We’re in a very noisy, fast-paced world that’s only getting noisier and faster,” says Hallberg’s agent, Chris Parris-Lamb, “and books, without changing at all, increasingly stand in relief.”

At least, that’s one of the ways that people pitching them try to sell us. The most popular explanation for the staying power of the VLN is no less true for its obviousness: counterprogramming. “The promise of a book remains a unique pleasure in contrast to thumbing through 800,000 Instagrams,” says Michael Pietsch, the CEO of Hachette and the editor of both The Goldfinch and Wallace’s Infinite Jest. “The idea that one mind has created this world for you is a unique and perhaps even more compelling experience to us now.”

Link to the rest at Vulture and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Dante Turns Seven Hundred and Fifty

21 May 2015

From The New Yorker:

April 24th, Samantha Cristoforetti, Italy’s first female astronaut, took time off from her regular duties in the International Space Station to read from the Divine Comedy. She picked the opening canto of the Paradiso, in which Dante describes his ascent through the circle of fire and his approach toward God:

I was within the heaven that receives

more of His light; and I saw things that he

who from that height descends, forgets or can

not speak.

As Cristoforetti spun around the globe at the rate of seventeen thousand miles an hour, her reading was beamed back to earth and shown in a movie theater in Florence.

Ten days later, the actor Roberto Benigni recited the last canto of Paradiso in the Italian Senate. His selection included the poem’s famous closing lines:

Here force failed my high fantasy; but my

desire and will were moved already like

a wheel revolving uniformly by

the Love that moves the sun and the other stars.

The senators gave the comedian a standing ovation. That same day, Pope Francis made some brief remarks about the poet, officially joining what he called the “chorus of those who believe Dante Alighieri is an artist of the highest universal value.” He can, the Holy Father added, help us “get through the many dark woods we come across in our world.”

Dante’s seven-hundred-and-fiftieth birthday is sometime in the coming month—he was born, he tells us in Paradisounder the sign of Gemini—and, to mark the occasion, well over a hundred events are planned.

. . . .

I teach Dante to American undergraduates, and I struggle to convey to them his place in Italian culture. The obvious comparison is to Shakespeare, but this is like trying to make sense of Mozart by means of Coltrane: the number of centuries that divide Dante from Shakespeare is practically as large as the number that separates Shakespeare from us.

Italian kids first encounter Dante at school, when they’re in the equivalent of seventh grade. They return to him in the eleventh grade to study the Inferno in more depth. In twelfth grade, they work on the Purgatorio. Secondary school—liceo—lasts five years, and so in what might be considered the thirteenth grade, the text for the year is the Paradiso. I recently asked the high-school-aged son of an Italian friend of mine about the experience. “It’s annoying, boring, and it never ends,” he told me. “But then you get to like it.”

At the college level, the study of Dante ratchets up by slowing down. In the late nineteen-eighties, I spent a semester in Florence, where I sat in on a Dante course at the university. The entire term was devoted to the analysis of a single canto. As it happened, the canto was Inferno 19, which is devoted to simony. Dante reserves a special hole in the third sub-circle of the eighth circle of Hell for corrupt Popes; they are stuffed into it, one after another, headfirst. Their feet are then lit on fire. Among the issues the class discussed at length was how, exactly, new Popes could be accommodated. Had space been left open for all those that would come along? Or did each new arrival compress his predecessor into some kind of pontifical pesto?

Either because of or despite this pedagogical program, Italians, to a surprising degree, stick with Dante.

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

Spotify now does videos and podcasts

20 May 2015

From The Verge:

Spotify is no longer just a music service. On stage in New York City today, the company shared its new goal of finding the perfect content to accompany every moment in your day. CEO Daniel Ek said his company is taking a “massive leap forward” that “goes beyond the conventional formats.” Ek and his fellow executives showcased a new version of Spotify that’s more closely aligned with Songza, with playlists tailored for a listener’s day. But it’s not just limited to music; the new Spotify also brings podcasts to what was previously just a music app. And a new “video capsule” offers streaming video from partners like Comedy Central, Vice News, and The Nerdist. Essentially, Spotify wants to become your all-in-one jukebox. For everything.

Link to the rest at The Verge and thanks to Joanna for the tip.

Why Do We Re-Read Our Favorite Books as Kids, and Why Do We Stop When We Get Older?

17 May 2015

From Flavorwire:

As an avid young reader, I tore through every Nancy Drew book — both the originals and the cheap paperback updates — twice, experiencing my favorites up to five or six times. Even more sacred was my semi-annual ritual of re-experiencing all of L.M. Montgomery’s major novels, including the entire eight-book Anne of Green Gables series, alternating with my personal favorite,Emily of New Moon, and its two sequels.

. . . .

As I got older, I switched out some of these childhood classics for adult ones, going back through the “Austen six” again and again, while also making a point of re-watching my favorite Austen miniseries and the Lord of the Rings films in marathon fashion.

Yet the last Austen novel I re-read was in early 2010 — two apartments, three jobs, and five years ago. Until this week, I hadn’t sat down and re-read a favorite book for pleasure since, and my re-watching had slowed to a trickle, too. I have given up a treasured part of my cultural life, a staple since I was in elementary school. So why did I stop? And what have I lost?

. . . .

Now, almost all the reading I do is for a different homework — the social kind. Even popular series like The Hunger Games and the Sookie Stackhouse series make my reading list at least partly to keep me “up on the conversation.” I walk around with a stack of books I “need” to read, as well as a full Instapaper queue and a stream of essays, articles, and stories by friends that I genuinely want to read to help them evaluate and offer support.

. . . .

I’ve come to understand that I’ll rarely experience that first rush of discovery again, and perhaps that’s the problem with re-reading. It reminds us both of where we’ve been and where we can’t go again. Once, when I was in elementary school, I sat on my carpet and grabbedLittle House on the Prairie, looking forward to an indulgent re-read. But I couldn’t do it — it was too clearly written for children, too simple. It no longer had the power it once had to pull me into its world.

. . . .

A re-read allows us to fly over the pages and absorb more of the secondary meaning of the book, rather than just its initial plot, characters, structures. But it also means a suspension of our willing disbelief, an understanding that what we’re seeing is a false creation.

. . . .

[W]hen I get teary at the end of Pride and Prejudice after four or five reads, it’s not because Lizzy is so amazing or because she and Darcy are finally together — in fact, I see her faults quite clearly now. Instead it’s because I’m amazed that Jane Austen created them, moved them around, and made me still care, even if I see the strings being pulled.

Link to the rest at Flavorwire

Can’t Everyone In The Publishing Industry Just Get Along?

15 May 2015

From Lit Reactor:

The level of discourse in this country really sucks.

It’s not enough to be right anymore. In order to be in favor of something you must also wish death and destruction upon the opposing side.

. . . .

Why can’t we all just get along?

It’s ridiculous when someone turns their nose up at a self-published author or a lover of eBooks, as if their chosen path makes them less passionate. I understand that controversy means blog hits, and we’re naturally attracted to conflict. But you know what? It’s a new year. I’m calling for a moratorium on all the negativity. It’s time for some optimism.

. . . .


The print advocates say: eBooks devalue real books. They take away from the art of a printed book. They contribute to the collapse of bookstores.

The eBook advocates say: Print books are relics. They’re expensive to produce and they take up space. eBooks never go out of print and exist forever.

You know what’s great? Books. My wife and I own hundreds. Maybe nearly a thousand. And they’re great! They’re fun for reading. People see all the books we have and assume we are very smart. They smell good.

You know what else is great? eBooks. Really, they are.

. . . .


The traditional publishing advocates say: If you self-published then you weren’t good enough to real-publish. There’s no standard of quality. You could smash your face against a keyboard for three hours and publish it, and what’s so special about that?

What self-publishing advocates say: Traditional publishing is just a way for someone else to make money off your hard work. By self-publishing, you maintain creative control, as well as your profits. Self-publishing is so easy, there’s no reason to not do it.

Self-publishing advocates call you an idiot if you want to traditional publish. Traditional publishers turn their nose up at self-published writers, calling them hobbyists who don’t take writing seriously.

Why can’t both sides just co-exist?

Now, there’s a longer conversation to be had here about the pros and cons of either side, but at the end of the day, for some people, self-publishing is great. Some people want that control. They want to be in charge of their own destiny. And that’s fine. Just because someone self-publishes a book doesn’t mean it’s going to be bad. There are plenty of books that are traditionally published that are terrible.

I think at this point it’s a matter of personal preference.

Link to the rest at Lit Reactor and thanks to Michael for the tip.

If you haven’t enriched James Patterson enough yet, now you can pay him $90

15 May 2015

From TeleRead:

If you haven’t already found enough ways to boost James Patterson into the Celebrity Net Worth top league and swell his $90 million p.a. income, here’s another one. Rather than read his potboilers or watch his spinoff movies, why not pony up 90 bucks to learn to write like him? Because, lucky aspirants, now you can, with the online Masterclass “James Patterson teaches writing.”

“Set out to write a best-selling book,” runs the blurb. “James Patterson, the author of 19 consecutive No. 1 New York Times Best Sellers, reveals his tricks of the trade for the very first time. In this course, he guides you through every part of the book writing process.”

. . . .

Says Patterson: “Ever wonder how I beat writer’s block, stay motivated, or create characters like Alex Cross and Nana Mama? Want me to teach you how?” (By talking to your co-authors maybe? Oops, didn’t see that in the blurb …)

Link to the rest at TeleRead

PG’s first thought was “Author Solutions?”

Why We Love Vacation Novels

13 May 2015

From Flavorwire:

“Something tells me we’re not going to like this place,” declares Rosemary Hoyt’s mother in the first spoken words of Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night. “I want to go home anyway,” Rosemary replies. It’s a moment of exquisite irony, considering Fitzgerald has just spent 500 words describing the perfect isolation of the Hoyts’ French Riviera environs, where “the pink and cream of old fortifications, the purple Alp that bounded Italy, were cast across the water and lay quavering in the ripples and rings sent up by sea plants through the clear shallows.” It’s a traveler’s utopia, with all the romance of an undiscovered paradise and none of the touristic trappings — yet Rosemary, a follower in all things, doesn’t immediately see it that way. But with her unexpected introduction to Dick and Nicole Diver, models of cool elegance and social surety, Rosemary feels the sense of possibility she longed for in her travels open up. With one chance encounter, the promise of the trips unfurls itself. Dick’s voice “promised that he would take care of her, and that little later he would open up whole new worlds for her, unroll an endless succession of magnificent possibilities.”

Possibility is, of course, the raison d’etre of the vacation novel: the narrative is a respite from the tiresome repetition and banality of daily life. It’s a crisp Mediterranean breeze floating through our hunched-over-turkey-sandwich-at-our-desk lunch break, a rustle of forest leaves instead of the shuffle of files. And that could be enough: the power to transport and entertain is a worthy goal for the novel to pursue.

. . . .

E.M. Forster’s A Room With a View immediately establishes what its characters are seeking on their Italian holiday. While Charlotte Bartlett is immediately concerned with the disregarded promise of “south rooms with a view close together,” Lucy Honeychurch cannot move past the very Englishness of their hotel. “And a Cockney, besides!” she exclaims, “It might be London.” The two women talk past one another, both dissatisfied with the Italian hotel, but for very different reasons. Miss Bartlett’s frustration is practical: the two ladies were not given the rooms they were promised, and the quality of their stay will certainly be suppressed by this fact. But Lucy’s irritation stems from a feeling that she has not truly slipped away from the stifled, close collar of English society. Even on this holiday, she fears, her posture must be ramrod and her moral compass must point her north.

Link to the rest at Flavorwire

Since Room With a View is set in Florence, one of PG’s favorite cities, he decided a couple of photos were in order. (Click for Larger Versions)

Duomo View

This photo was taken from Piazzale Michelangelo and features Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, more commonly known as the Duomo (Italian for dome).


Heracles beating the Centaur Nessus, sculpted in 1599 by Giambologna (who is better known for The Rape of the Sabine Women) and located in the Loggia dei Lanzi on the Piazza della Signoria. The statue undoubtedly caused Lucy to have thoughts.

Next Page »