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)
“Many of the most powerful characters in our best-loved stories are orphaned, adopted, fostered, or found. At the same time, many of the most powerless citizens in our society are orphaned, adopted, or fostered children, and the marginalized adults that so many become. Why have so few of us even noticed this centuries-old disparity?” On literature’s most celebrated protagonists, from Oliver Twist to Anne of Green Gables.
Our friends at The Common have organized a Postcard Auction, and you have until May 20 to bid online. Users can bid on the chance to have well-known authors – such as Adam Johnson, Téa Obreht, Chris Ware, and Kiese Laymon – send handwritten postcards to the address of their choosing. Come on, now. This is your chance to get a handwritten note from an Orange Prize-winner.
In a piece reminiscent of Talk of the Nation’s “You Can’t Possibly Read It All, So Stop Trying” episode, A D Jameson tracks every film he’s watched over a fifteen year span, and then discusses the data for HTMLGiant. Choice line (which could easily apply to literature, too): “The more you watch from the present day, the more garbage you’re bound to see—but your conclusions will be your own. Conversely, the further back you go, the more you’ll be guided by the opinions of others. (If nothing else, what’s available will be largely determined by what’s remained popular.)”
This essay from Adrian Barnes at The Daily Beast on cancer and fiction and how the two mirror one another is eerie and fascinating. This review of Rebecca Solnit’s The Faraway Nearby from The Millions addresses this tendency of writing and real world illnesses to feed of of one another.
What if the zodiac was based not on your birthday but on your favorite book in high school? If it were, and if your favorite book happened to be Lord of the Flies, we could guess that you are currently “researching masters programs and preparing for your fourth Burning Man.”