“Since the middle of the 20th century, the academy has conditioned us to stay grounded within texts and steer clear of writers’ biographies for insights while biographers are often timid about the kind of playful speculation that we can undertake here in Slate. Readers, myself included, tend to wonder about the sources for characters the likes of Kurtz, Sherlock Holmes, and Jay Gatsby—larger-than-life, mysterious, existing on a kind of separate plane—and in doing so we are continuing the quests of the narrators who tried first (Marlow, Watson, and Carraway).” Matthew Pearl asks: was Robert Louis Stevenson the blueprint for Conrad‘s Kurtz?
A mom sat her six-year-old daughter down in front of some classic books and asked her to guess the story based on the cover. The results are both charming and eerily accurate. I’m glad we at least now know what lies in the liminal space between Lev Grossman and kittens inspired by kittens.
The Walter Scott prize did an analysis of prize submissions since its eight years of existence-with 650 novels submitted-and found that “38% of its submissions were set in the 20th century, while 19% were set in the Victorian era, between 1837 and 1901.” They also found many of the submissions focus on World Wars II and II and that the number of women historical fiction writers submitting their work has gone up.”The [Walter Scott] Prize celebrates quality, innovation and longevity of writing in the English language, and is open to books first published in the previous year in the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth,” the breakdown is fascinating.
“I just think it’ll have such a positive effect on the geek community, the black girl community, the black geek girl community… just opening the doors of your mind to what you can achieve.” The newest character to wear Iron Man’s suit? A 15-year-old girl named Riri Williams, reports NPR. As for your own inner geek, might they be interested in an unauthorized corporate history of Marvel Comics?
The latest installment of Housing Works Bookstore Café’s biweekly podcast features a conversation between James Wood and László Krasznahorkai. (We interviewed him for our site last year, too.) The Hungarian author’s next book, Seiobo There Below, was highlighted in our Great Second-Half 2013 Book Preview.
We’ve written before about various rare recordings of authors reading that occasionally surface on the internet (a sample here) but today we add a new author: James Joyce. Open Culture has posted two recordings of the author reading from Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, and while the audio quality is exactly what you would expect for recordings made in the 1920s, we still recommend listening.
“A couple of years ago I attended a British Council discussion about the state of contemporary writing and the creative future in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation. When someone brought up the dearth of memoirs in the Nigerian literary landscape, almost everyone in the room laughed ruefully. Someone joked aloud, ‘We can’t write memoirs. We’d have to wait for parents to die. Not just parents – everyone who knows us, even!’ This concern is not limited to nonfiction.” Bim Adewunmi writes for BuzzFeed on African immigrants’ stories.