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)
You may have heard (via this site or elsewhere) that Harold Bloom has a new book out. In the Times Sunday Book Review, Cynthia Ozick gives her take, identifying the critic’s use of the phrase “without precedent” as key to understanding his theory. You could also read Matt Hanson on Bloom’s classic The Anatomy of Influence.
Among Haruki Murakami’s many significant literary achievements is the fact that the author has – since the 1990s – become “responsible for triggering and fueling the Japanese literature boom in South Korea.” Indeed, by “creat[ing] bonds of shared emotions and literary sensibilities among tens of millions of people with different cultural and historical backgrounds,” writes Yoon Sang-In, “Murakami’s literary works have emerged as a great cultural asset that contributes to stability in [the East Asian] region.” (Bonus: Murakami’s latest book – which will be published in the States in 2014 – is flying off the shelves in Japan.)
Sometime Ph.D candidate, sometime actor, and ubiquitous lit blog all-star James Franco (henceforth known as “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named”) has begun filming an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God in West Virginia, and I’m reminded of that line from W. B. Yeats’ “The Second Coming” — “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.”