LaPorte, Indiana

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Curiosities: The Bowflex of Bookishness


The August issue of Open Letters is available. Nestled amidst the literary fare are early Oscar nominations from Sarah Hudson and a piece on the video game The Sims by Phillip A. Lobo.Electric Literature teamed up with animator Jonathan Ashley and musician Nick DeWitt to produce an animated trailer for Jim Shepard’s “Your Fate Hurtles Down at You,” a story which appeared in the literary magazine’s first issue.BOMB Magazine has a conversation between poker buddies Nam Le and Charles D’Ambrosio.Years ago, we wrote about La Porte, Indiana, a nifty book with a connection to Found Magazine chronicling a cache of found photographs from a small town. Now the book is being made into a documentary.Nicholson Baker has written the funniest piece yet about the Kindle. Ed initially takes umbrage (and gets comments from Baker and recants somewhat). YPTR weighs in as well.Spoiler Alert: neojapansme, a provider (along with our own Ben Dooley) of quite a bit of insight into Murakami’s new (and untranslated) novel 1Q84 has published a review of the book.Millions Fans: The Millions Facebook group now has over 400 members. We’ll be asking group members to help us with some upcoming special features, so join up (if you’re into that sort of thing.)Shatner… Palin… Twitter… bongos… need we say more?


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Anne Fernald’s two posts about her grandmother’s editions of Virginia Woolf are a treat.Gwenda Bond of Shaken and Stirred landed on NPR over the weekend to talk about the 100th anniversary of Anne of Green Gables, in honor of which the Modern Library has put out a new edition.The Oxford Project: “In 1984, photographer Peter Feldstein set out to photograph every single resident of his town, Oxford, Iowa.” It’s a neat sounding photo book, reminiscent of La Porte, Indiana.Under 30? Really good at writing book reviews? You should enter VQR’s Young Reviewers Contest.It’s an alarm clock that wakes you up with the voice of Stephen Fry in the character of Jeeves. You can listen to all the recordings at the site. An example: “Let us seize the day and take it roughly from behind… as the Colonel used to say in his unfortunate way.”

Book Expo Dispatch: The People And The Books

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The best part of BEA by a longshot was meeting all the people I’ve been corresponding with for so long and whose blogs I’ve been reading for what seems like forever. The LBC party on Friday night was a blast. Many bloggers were there (Most of these folks have pictures and writeups from BEA up so go check them out as they most likely went to many more parties than I did): Ed, Mark of TEV, Sarah of Confessions, Pinky of her Paperhaus, Kassia of Booksquare, Bud of Chekhov’s Mistress, Wendi of the Happy Booker, Matt of The Mumpsimus, Megan of Bookdwarf, Gwenda of Shaken & Stirred, Scott of SlushPile, Lauren of Lux Lotus, Lizzie of The Old Hag, Written Nerd, Madam Mayo, and, unfortunately, Bat Segundo. (If I forgot anyone or if I mistakenly think I met you but I didn’t – hey, it was dark and I’d had a few drinks – let me know.)Some things I learned about my fellow bloggers: Ed is an intrepid gadfly, but Mr. Segundo is a menace; Megan is not as short as I had been led to believe; Gwenda and Kelly Link are the twin queens of a merry band of sci-fi fanatics; while I can say with some certainty that I will never podcast, all the coolest kids are doing it.I also met cool folks at Melville House, Coffee House, McSweeney’s, and lots of other publishers. I met Jason Bitner who put together the very cool book LaPorte, Indiana (which I wrote about a while back). I also picked up copies of The Long Tail by Chris Anderson and Mark Bowden’s Guests of the Ayatollah along with lots of catalogs, all of which I left at my parents’ house in Maryland because I didn’t want to lug them back on the plane. But all in all it was great to see everybody.

Portraits and illustrations

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Two new books from Princeton Architectural Press crossed my desk recently. Jason Bitner is one of the guys behind Found Magazine, where bits of discarded ephemera are turned into art or maybe a decontextualized historical record of the present day. Bitner calls it “a show-and-tell project.” When he found over 18,000 studio portraits from the 1950s and 60s in the back of a diner in a small, Midwestern town, they became the star of a new show-and-tell project. La Porte, Indiana is the name of the town where Bitner found the photos and the name of the book he made from them. As Bitner describes it in his introduction to the book, “we rifled through an entire town’s population, as if it were a card catalog, a huge visual archive of Midwestern faces.” As with looking at any of the FOUND crew’s finds, flipping through this book leaves one with odd sensations. We’re not used to seeing stuff like this so lovingly presented, so it makes us look a little harder. As I flip through the book, I enjoy the unintentional artistry of the black and white portraits, but more so I wonder who these people are or were. There’s more about the book at this Web site.A Year in Japan by Kate T. Williamson is an illustrated travelogue. Williamson, an illustrator and filmmaker, spent a year in Japan, filling notebooks with her illustrations and observations. This book is like peering into those notebooks. Williamson’s curly cursive elaborates on her rich, colorful drawings. Most of the illustrations are of details of every day life: foods and clothing, but they are exotic both in being from in Japan and in the care Williamson lavishes upon them, presenting them in close up on the page. But there are also portraits, collages and abstract compositions.

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