If his new novel Against the Country is any indication, Ben Metcalf gets his best inspiration from the worst of rural America. In the book, which features a panoply of awful crimes and obscenities, Metcalf rides roughshod over the notion of the rural idyll. In Bookforum, onetime Millions staffer Emily Colette Wilkinson reviews the novel, calling it “a gut-busting knee slapper” in spite of its glut of macabre scenes.
An illustration of why Cliffs Notes are never a substitute for the real thing.The Britannica Blog looks at “fun facts” about the 1,000 most popularly held books in libraries around the world, including this item: “Which author has the most works on the OCLC Top 1000 list? William Shakespeare (with 37 works). He is followed by Charles Dickens (16 works) and John Grisham (13 works).” Here’s the full list where The Bible comes in at #1, the Census at #2, and Mother Goose at #3 (in 2,036 different versions and editions.) (via)Powell’s is making a series of short documentaries about writers that will supplement and stand in for book tours. From the New York Times: “The British author Ian McEwan is the star of the first film, which is planned to run 23 minutes and will feature snippets from an on-camera interview with Mr. McEwan, as well as commentary from peers, fans and critics.” The film is being put out to coincide with the release of his new novel, On Chesil Beach. (via)
The Guardian published a couple of fun pieces earlier this week. The first is a hilarious excerpt from Mallory Ortberg’s Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters. The second is a collection of the top ten most memorable meals in all of literature.
Some very cool Hunter S. Thompson photography showing now at an LA gallery. The show coincides with a pricey new “collector’s edition” book that “presents a rare look into the life of Thompson.” (via)Another most literate cities list has arrived. In 2006, Seattle wins, with Minneapolis second. My hometown Washington, DC, is tied for third and LA, where I lived when I started this blog, is eighth. The last two cities I’ve lived in, Chicago (39th) and, now, Philadelphia (tied for 33rd), fail to crack the top ten. Not sure what conclusions I can draw about that, but USA Today draws its own conclusions in an article about the list.Somebody gets into Gwenda’s garbage, her papers fly everywhere, and before you know it, she’s cought in a “indie movie scene wrought with ironic symbolism.” Brilliant.Lesser-Known Editing and Proofreading Marks. Also Brilliant. (via Languagehat)On a more serious note, Tim O’Reilly explains why the book search efforts of Google, et al, are broken. The problem is that we must search in Google’s (or Yahoo’s) walled garden. There is no way to search across all of the books that have been digitized, which is very much at odds with our experience on the Web, where we can search everything at once.
The University of California Press is updating its e-books collection, adding new titles all the time, and allowing the general public to access over 770 titles published between 1982 and 2004. The full collection can be found over here, and Open Culture highlights some of the gems within the treasure trove.