books

But to that second circle of sad hell, where mid the gust, the whirlwind, and the flaw

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Inferno (Italian for “Hell”) is the first part of Dante’s 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy. It is followed by Purgatorio and Paradiso. It is an allegory telling of the journey of Dante through what is largely the medieval concept of Hell.

Hell is depicted as nine circles of suffering located within the Earth.

First Circle: Limbo

Second Circle: Lust

Third Circle: Gluttony

Fourth Circle: Greed

Fifth Circle: Anger

Sixth Circle: Heresy

Seventh Circle: Violence

Eighth Circle: Fraud

Ninth Circle: Treachery

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

I risked it all against the sea to have a better life

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Internet websites and print journals are always trotting out essays by writers and editors and agents and readers about how nobody reads any longer—the reason being, these essays declare, that publishing houses simply want to crank out the cheapest book they can get by with, preferably in e-book format. This is certainly true. Major publishing houses are, without a doubt, money-grubbing book factories so intent on repeating the same paperback thrillers penned by ghostwriters that they increasingly treat serious literary writers without respect, not only financially, but also personally and artistically. All of this is true. But implicit in this argument, is that the writer is doing nothing wrong—and, is in fact generating engaging, progressive, striking works of art, which are in turn, rejected and incinerated by the publishing houses. And this, unfortunately, is certainly false. American realist writers—the vast majority of them—are also to blame for the no-one-is-reading crisis, because they have essentially ceased corresponding with and affecting American society, and their works have in turn, grown boring.

{ Ben Clague/Ugarte | Continue reading }

photo { Mustafah Abdulaziz }

‘Describe your street. Describe another. Compare.’ –Gorges Perec

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A lipogram (from Greek lipagrammatos, “missing letter”) is a kind of constrained writing or word game consisting of writing paragraphs or longer works in which a particular letter or group of letters is avoided — usually a common vowel.

Writing a lipogram is a trivial task for uncommon letters like Z, J, or X, but it is much more difficult for common letters like E, T or A. Writing this way, the author must omit many ordinary words.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading | Thanks Ryan! }

Perec is noted for his constrained writing: his 300-page novel La disparition (1969) is a lipogram, written without ever using the letter “e.”

It has been translated into English under the title A Void (1994).

The silent disappearance of the letter might be considered a metaphor for the Jewish experience during the Second World War. Both of Georges Perec’s parents perished in World War II. In French, the phrase “sans e” (”without e”) sounds like “sans eux” (”without them”).

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

photo { Todd Seelie }

Until my seas are dried up

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It is hard to think of another writer as great as Mark Twain who did so many things that even merely good writers are not supposed to do. Great writers are not meant to write bad books, much less publish them. Twain not only published a lot of bad books, he doesn’t appear to have noticed the difference between his good ones and his bad ones. Great writers are not meant to care more about money than art. Twain cared so much about money that what little he writes about his art in his autobiography is almost entirely, and obsessively, about the business end of things: his paychecks, his promotional tours, his financial disputes with publishers, his venture capital investments in publishing and printing technology. He stops and starts Huckleberry Finn over and again to devote vast amounts of his time and energy to losing $190,000 (roughly $4 million today) in a doomed typesetting machine, and nearly bankrupts himself. Great writers are expected to be interested in ideas; they should associate themselves with at least a few convictions. Apart from a frontier notion of freedom, Twain never met an idea he could not reduce to a joke. He doesn’t even appear to have been wedded to his own skepticism. (…)

Everywhere he went, including the White House, he was always the biggest star in the room. (…)

Twain mentions that in the good old days the post office delivered him a letter from Europe at his home in Hartford, Connecticut, addressed to:

Mark Twain

God Knows Where

{ Michael Lewis/The New Republic | Continue reading }

In our dreams (writes Coleridge) images represent the sensations we think they cause

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Tradition relates that, upon waking, he felt that he had received and lost an infinite thing, something he would not be able to recuperate or even glimpse, for the machinery of the world is much too complex for the simplicity of men.

{ J. L. Borges, Parables, Inferno, 1, 32 | Selected Stories & Other Writings by Jorge Luis Borges | PDF }

painting { Henry Fuseli, The Shepherds Dream, 1793 }

There’s a place on my arm where I’ve written his name, next to mine

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Not many authors can boast of having written a best-selling pornographic novel, much less one regarded as an erotica classic—but Pauline Réage could. Make that Dominique Aury. No: Anne Desclos.

All three were the same woman, but for years the real name behind the incendiary work was among the best-kept secrets in the literary world. Forty years after the publication of the French novel Histoire d’O, the full truth was finally made public. Even then, some still considered it the most shocking book ever written. When the book came out, its purported author was “Pauline Réage,” widely believed to be a pseudonym. Although shocking for its graphic depictions of sadomasochism, the novel was admired for its reticent, even austere literary style. It went on to achieve worldwide success, selling millions of copies, and has never been out of print. (…)

Desclos (or, rather, Aury, as she became known in her early thirties) was obsessed with her married lover, Jean Paulhan. She wrote the book to entice him, claim him, and keep him—and she wrote it exclusively for him. It was the ultimate love letter. (…)

Story of O, the title of the English edition, is an account of a French fashion photographer, known only as O, who descends into debasement, torment, humiliation, violence, and bondage, all in the name of devotion to her lover, René. Over the course of the novel she is blindfolded, chained, flogged, pierced, branded, and more.

{ Guernica | Continue reading }

photo { J. Kursel }

‘Maybe he hasn’t called because he’s washing his hands.’ –Blacky II

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Why did I self-publish?

Advances are quickly going to zero. Margins are going to zero for publishers. There’s no financial benefit for going with a publisher if advances are going to zero and royalties are a few percentage points. The publishing industry does minimal editing. The time between book acceptance and release is too long (often a year or more). That’s insane and makes zero sense in a print-on-demand world when kindle versions are outselling print versions.

Most importantly, the book industry sells “books”. What they need to do is sell their “authors”. Authors now are brands, they are businesses, they are mini-empires. Publishers do nothing to help 95% of their authors build their platforms and their own brands. This would increase author loyalty and make the lack of a meaningful advance almost worth it.

{ James Altucher | Continue reading }

‘All beginnings are involuntary.’ –Pessoa

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{ Pessoa, ‪The book of disquiet‬ | Continue reading }

Drosophila means dew-loving. On occasion, the name is misspelled as drosophilia.

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{ $23,698,655.93 (plus $3.99 shipping) }

Now come the day, the change, the sword of judgment: Then shall many things be revealed!

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I have always suffered with having a (my girlfriend calls it) gi-normous penis. Imagine have two soda cans duct tapped together in your pants. I have always had a hard time sitting down and forget about it if I have an erection. (…) Have you ever been asked to GO HOME from your boss because you were distracting co-workers?

{ Amazon.com | Comments }

And he said to the cat: Viens ici mon petit chat. Tu as peur mon petit chou-chat? Tu as froid, mon pauvre petit chou-chat? Viens ici, le diable t’emporte! And off he went with the cat.

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{ James Joyce Quaterly, Vol. 29, No. 4, Summer, 1992 }

‘Anything that gets the adrenalin moving like a 440 volt blast in a copper bathtub is good for the reflexes and keeps the veins free of cholesterol.’ –Hunter S. Thompson

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Forty years ago, on March 21, 1971, Hunter S. Thompson and a Chicano activist attorney named Oscar Zeta Acosta drove from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to talk over an article Thompson was writing about the barrios of East L.A. When the account of their journey appeared in Rolling Stone in November of that year, Thompson and Acosta had morphed into Raoul Duke and his 300-pound Samoan attorney and the trunk of their car, the Great Red Shark, had become a rolling drug dispensary. (…)

Fear and Loathing compresses two separate trips Thompson took to Las Vegas that spring – the first to cover a motorcycle race called the Mint 400, the second to cover the National District Attorneys’ Conference on Drug Abuse – into a single hellish week of drug consumption and debauchery.

{ The Millions | Continue reading }

On 29 April 1971, Thompson began writing the full manuscript in a hotel room in Arcadia, California, in his spare time. (…)

In November 1971, Rolling Stone published the combined texts of the trips as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream as a two-part article illustrated by Ralph Steadman. (…)

The New York Times said it is “by far the best book yet on the decade of dope.”

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

photo { Thompson and Acosta, 1971 }

‘The flesh is sad, alas, and I have read all the books.’ —Mallarmé

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A federal judge rejected Google’s $125 million class-action settlement with authors and publishers, delivering a blow to the company’s ambitious plan to build the world’s largest digital library and bookstore. (…)

The court’s decision throws into legal limbo one of Google’s most ambitious projects: a plan to digitize millions of books from libraries.

The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers sued Google in 2005 over its digitizing plans. After two years of painstaking negotiations, the authors and publishers devised with Google a sweeping settlement that would have helped to bring much of the publishing industry into the digital age.

The deal turned Google, the authors and the publishers into allies who defended the deal against an increasingly vocal chorus of opponents that included academics, copyright experts, the Justice Department and foreign governments. (…)

The deal would have allowed Google to make millions of out-of-print books broadly available online and to sell access to them, while giving authors and publishers new ways to earn money from digital copies of their works. Yet the deal faced a tidal wave of opposition from Google rivals like Amazon and Microsoft, as well as some academics, authors, legal scholars, states and foreign governments. The Justice Department opposed the deal, fearing that it would give Google a monopoly over millions of so-called orphan works, books whose right holders are unknown or cannot be found.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

Not a lot baby girl, just a lil bit

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(…)

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{ A Paradoxical Property of the Monkey Book | Continue reading }

‘We’re going, we’re going to Crown,’ Parr said, using the code name for the White House.

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At 2:27 p.m. on March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan (Secret Service code name: Rawhide) walked out of a Washington hotel and was shot by John Hinckley Jr. In the confused moments that followed, no one was sure exactly what had happened—or if Mr. Reagan had even been hurt. In this excerpt from the forthcoming book “Rawhide Down,” a detailed account of the attempted assassination, Secret Service agent Jerry Parr has just shoved Mr. Reagan into his car after hearing the gunshots.

{ Del Quentin Wilber/WSJ | Continue reading | More }

He rustled the pleated pages, jerking his chin on his high collar. Barber’s itch.

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Anyone who sets out to write an essay — for a school or college class, a magazine or even the book review section of a newspaper — owes something to Michel de Montaigne, though perhaps not much. Montaigne was a magistrate and landowner near Bordeaux who retired temporarily from public life in 1570 to spend more time with his library and to make a modest memento of his mind. He called his literary project “Essais,” meaning “attempts” or “trials,” and the term caught on in English after Francis Bacon, the British philosopher and statesman, used it for his own collection of short pieces in 1597. (…)

Oddly, Montaigne learned to speak Latin before he learned to speak anything else, thanks to his father’s strict ideas about schooling. But he chose to write in French, which he expected would change beyond recognition within 50 years, rather than a more “durable” tongue.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

photo { Annabel Mehran }

Yes. Sometimes just one time can be enough.

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At the height of his fame and success, whilst his masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), was still on stage in London, Oscar Wilde sued his lover’s father for libel. After a series of trials, Wilde was convicted of gross indecency and imprisoned for two years, held to hard labour.

In prison he wrote De Profundis, a long letter which discusses his spiritual journey through his trials, forming a dark counterpoint to his earlier philosophy of pleasure.

Upon his release he left immediately for France, never to return to Ireland or Britain. There he wrote his last work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, a long poem commemorating the harsh rhythms of prison life.

He died destitute in Paris at the age of forty-six.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

Wilde was released from prison 19 May 1897, and wandered between a small band of friends in England, France and Italy for the next few years. Since the death of his wife in 1898 he had been denied access to his two sons and given £150 a year from her estate to live on.

In August 1899, he moved from the Hotel Marsollier to the Hotel d’Alsace on the Rue des Beaux-Arts (today this is just called L’Hotel), the owner, Jean Dupoirier, having paid off Wilde’s debts at the former hotel.

He spent the days wandering the streets of Paris, drinking with old friends and supporters who would bump into to him and, shocked by his appearance, feed him, or being blanked by former friends.

His former lover Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie) inherited £20,000 on the death of his father, the Marquess of Queensbury, the cause of Wilde’s downfall.

During a meal at the Café de la Paix, Wilde asked Bosie if he could have an income from his money. Bosie said, “I can’t afford to spend anything except on myself,” and accused Wilde of “wheedling like an old whore.”

Wilde replied, “If you do not recognise my claim, there is nothing more to be said.”

{ Find a death | Continue reading }

photo { Oscar Wilde (at left) and Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas in Oxford, 1893 | The Private Life of Oscar Wilde | W | full story }

Quench his quill!

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Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Alan Sorenson and Wharton Business School professor Jonah Berger studied an unexpected question: “Can bad publicity boost book sales?”

They discovered that a popular author’s books can suffer from bad publicity, but a lesser-known writer’s titles can actually benefit from it.

{ GalleyCat | Continue reading }

illustration { Paul Sahre }

‘The only true voyage of discovery, the only fountain of Eternal Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is.’ –Marcel Proust

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Whether she were a woman who had read too many poems, as Evgenie Pavlovitch supposed, or whether she were mad, as the prince had assured Aglaya, at all events, this was a woman who, in spite of her occasionally cynical and audacious manner, was far more refined and trustful and sensitive than appeared. There was a certain amount of romantic dreaminess and caprice in her, but with the fantastic was mingled much that was strong and deep.

{ Fyodor Dostoyevsky, ‪The idiot‬, 1868-69 | Continue reading | Or: Wikisource }

Let’s get friendly, stranger

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“My lover thrust his hand through the hole,” she says, “and my insides groaned because of him.”

This ode to sexual consummation can be found in—of all places—the Bible. (…)

What does the Bible really say about sex?

{ Newsweek | Continue reading }