We are all by now familiar with J.K. Rowling‘s elaborate, hand-drawn outlines for the Harry Potter series, but what if all plots could be simplified further? Down to, let’s say, graphs? And not even an infinite number of graphs, but just six? The Paris Review considers the work of Matthew Jockers, a literature professor who studies “the relationship between sentiment and plot shape in fiction.”
Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell and his wife KA Yoshida (who have an autistic son of their own) translated the latest work from Naoki Higashida, who uses an alphabet grid to communicate. The resulting memoir from the thirteen year old boy, The Reason I Jump, is scheduled for an August release. Hari Kunzru has a sneak preview of the book’s cover.
The L Magazine features an interview with poet/multi-genre artist Claudia Rankine, whose performance piece The Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue — a Rankine-written-and-recorded narrative that accompanies a bus ride through the South Bronx — will run for two months beginning Labor Day Weekend.
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.
In 2013, Mo Yan became China’s first resident Nobel Laureate in Literature, which prompted a huge swell of interest in his books in the West. In the Times, Janet Maslin reviews Frog, his latest novel to get an English translation. Sample quote: “Mo Yan, whose real name is Guan Moye, says everything he needs to about the Cultural Revolution with a scene in which Tadpole and other schoolboys eat coal and claim to find it delicious.” You could also read Alan Levinovitz on modern Chinese literature.
Frederick Douglass was one of the first people to use photography to control meaning. Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American catalogues his many portraits and how they contributed to our perception of Douglass. Our own Edan Lepucki writes about the place of slave narratives in fiction.