In the spring of 2006, John Unsworth taught a graduate seminar on “Twentieth-Century American Bestsellers.” It led to one of history’s finest class projects–a browsable database of bestsellers, 337 in all. As with any bestseller lists, you’ll find a range of titles, everything from Thomas Wolfe to Tom Clancy, but click through and find that each entry includes an extremely detailed description of the book’s history (these were compiled by graduate students, after all); a mini-essay on its reception; images of covers, page layouts, and even some ads; and more. It is, in short, bibliophilic crack. (Thanks Craig)
Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita is one of those rare few classic novels that translates well to the big screen. To some extent, this was intentional — Nabokov often wrote fiction with an eye to selling film rights. John Colapinto writes about the author’s relationship with the cinema over at Page-Turner. You could also read our own Lydia Kiesling’s Modern Library Revue of Lolita.
Most actors don’t go on The Tonight Show to promote literature, but leave it to James Franco to be the first to brag about getting his poetry M.F.A. to Jimmy Fallon. He discussed his new book, Directing Herbert White, and his mentor Frank Bidart. For more on the Bidart/Franco friendship, check out our own Janet Potter’s recap of attending an event featuring the two writers.
Writing for the Wall Street Journal, David Shapiro remarks on the current popularity of the marathon reading, or “a format of communal public performance that has more in common with the filibuster than the conventional literary reading.” Previously, Jeff Price wrote a piece on our site concerning the particular camaraderie that arises among participants and audience members during marathon readings. (As a bonus: I share a David Foster Wallace anecdote in the comments for that piece.)
We’ve been discussing the changing nature of the English language a lot here this week (from the rise of public English to the acceptance of “like”), but if there is one thing that’s consistent in language, it’s the word “huh.” Linguists have studied 31 languages that all contain the interjection, making it one of the first universal words.