“Delight in book collecting, and in showing off one’s book collection, is common, if not universal, among readers and would-be-readers. The biggest reason we spend money on books is because we want to read them (eventually), but that isn’t the only reason: we also like to look at them, and to look at other people looking at them.” Over at The Point, Jake Bittle considers why we collect books as opposed to simply reading them. He also points out, correctly, that books are very, very unpleasant to move, something our own Matt Seidel can confirm.
Literary prizes are nothing new, but prizes that give writers real estate are a thoroughly modern development. At Salon, Michele Filgate investigates our odd new economy, in which lucky writers win leases to homes, inns and (in one case) a goat farm. You could also read our own Nick Ripatrazone on the Amtrak residency.
The translators behind books such as Don Quixote, My Struggle, and Swann’s Way talk about their translation process. Lydia Davis explains, “When I was translating novels, I would not read the text first, and that was very important to me because it let me retain the excitement of the unknown.”
Gertrude Stein once said of Oakland that “There’s no ‘there’ there.” If the latest novel by Michael Chabon, Telegraph Avenue, is any indication, not everyone agrees -- the author set the book in the Oakland of 2004. At The New Yorker's Page-Turner blog, Matt Feeney delves into the book's racial politics.
During the production of his classic film, Man of Aran, Robert Flaherty also directed an 11-minute short entitled Oidhche Sheanchais (“A Night of Storytelling”). It’s widely considered to be the first film recorded in the Irish language. For years, all extant copies were believed to be lost in a fire, but recently, researchers at Harvard’s Houghton Library rediscovered a nitrate print of the film.
Susannah Hunnewell interviews Michel Houellebecq, France’s controversial literary icon, for The Paris Review's "The Art of Fiction" series: “There is a need for intensity. From time to time, you have to forsake harmony. You even have to forsake truth. You have to, when you need to, energetically embrace excessive things.”
Putting aside for a moment the racist phrenological roots of the terms "highbrow" and "lowbrow," here's an interesting conversation on what the difference between them means for literature now. For a historical take, check out this graphic from a 1949 edition of LIFE magazine, which taught me a real gentleman wears fuzzy tweed, and iceberg lettuce is never in style.