Most people know Alexandre Dumas for his classics (usually assigned as required reading for class) The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, but fewer people are aware of what he considered his masterwork: Le Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine. This giant tome was part memoir, part encyclopedia, part cookbook. Rohini Chaki at Atlas Obscura describes the project as “more than a cookbook. Dumas meant it to be a formidable inquiry into both gustation and gastronomy, utilized by enthusiasts and culinary professionals alike.”
Lolita was panned as “dull, dull, dull,” while Collected Poems by W.B. Yeats was called “as discouraging as a breakfast of cold porridge.” Read some of the harshest New York Times book reviews of literary classics. Of Ulysses, the reviewer declares: “The average intelligent reader will glean little or nothing from it…save bewilderment and a sense of disgust.” Ouch.
Fifty years after the publication of Ursula K. Le Guin’s classic work of science fiction The Left Hand of Darkness, and less than one after the author’s death, Charlie Jane Anders writes for the Paris Review about how the book served as “a guidebook to a place I desperately wanted to visit but had never known how to reach.” Read about Le Guin’s “ambisexual world” and its warm, provocative, occasionally brutal vision of an alternative society.
It’s been more than a decade since C. Max Magee started The Millions, then a modest DIY website hosted on Blogspot. Since then, it’s grown to staff more than 30 writers and editors and reach millions of readers. In a post that reflects on online publishing’s evolution in the context of The Millions, Magee takes stock of the past 15-plus years and all the lessons he learned founding and growing this website. “A reason that The Millions didn’t die way back then,” he writes, “is that, as it evolved, I discovered my strength was not so much as a writer but as an editor, a discoverer and an inspirer of talent and as a publisher, always looking for the next worthwhile partnership, the next revenue stream, the next tweak or optimization that would enable the project to keep growing.” Here’s to the next decade!
Photo credit: Photo by Neal Strydom on Unsplash
The 92nd Street Y has released a never-before-heard 1950 recording of T.S. Eliot reading many of his most famous poems and delivering comments on craft, the New York Times reports – even repeatedly making his audience laugh. A snippet: “Introducing ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,'” Eliot says, “I am rather embarrassed with ‘Prufrock.’ I feel it’s rather an exposing and adolescent personality.” It feels good to hear someone say it.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia.
In Hilary Mantel’s award winning Tudor trilogy, she has a grand total of five characters named Thomas, three Catherines, three Marys, and two Annes. How does Mantel juggle the task of writing these characters without confusing the reader? For The Atlantic, Nina Martyris examines books that are rife with characters with similar-sounding names, including One Hundred Years of Solitude and Anna Karenina. “The overlapping of names is an all-too-common occurrence in life,” writes Martryis. “True, it can cause confusion (especially for the accounts department), but if fiction’s grand purpose is the mimesis of la condition humaine, shouldn’t writers be nudged to accommodate this inconvenient reality, rather than dodge it for fear of taxing the reader?”
Carolyn Keene, a name recognizable to most as the author of the Nancy Drew series, has never existed. By now, it’s a well-known secret that the popular mystery series was penned by an ever-changing cast of ghostwriters, ever since Nancy’s creation in 1930 by publisher Edward Stratemeyer. For CrimeReads, Radha Vatsal takes a look at Carolyn Keene’s many identities and how, in the end, it doesn’t matter who wrote the books. “Having a single name like Carolyn Keene attached to the Nancy Drew books helps reinforce a sense of consistency,” Vatsal explains, “and smooths over the reality that each volume had been worked over by many hands before it appeared in print.”
Over at Lit Hub, Garth Greenwell shares his commencement speech for Bennington College, in which he shares his “seven very opinionated thoughts “on weathering the artist’s life. Covering everything from envy to friendship to anxiety, the speech also cites James Baldwin, Yiyun Li, Vivian Gornick, and Edith Wharton, among others. “That intimate communication between writer and reader, that miracle of affective translation across distance and time, is the real life of literature,” he says, “That’s what matters.”
Image credit: GarthGreenwell.com
Whittled down from a pool of 1,000 submissions, the finalists for the 2019 Lambda Literary Awards were announced this morning. The awards, which highlight and celebrate LBGTQ literature, feature 24 categories, including a brand new category: Bisexual Poetry. Finalists include Akwaeke Emezi, Joseph Cassara (our interview), Hieu Minh Nguyen (ft. in our Must-Read Poetry: April 2018), and Year in Reading alums Patrick Nathan (2017) and Jordy Rosenberg (2018).Winners will be announced at a ceremony on Monday, June 3, in New York City.
Librarians know what people are reading, and most importantly, re-reading. OCLC, a leading library technology and research organization, has released a list of the 100 most widely read novels from more than 18,000 libraries worldwide. At the top of the list? Don Quixote, followed by classics by Mark Twain, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and more. “Of course, the list of top novels emphasizes classics,” notes Skip Prichard, OCLC President, “and so reflects dominant cultural views over the years about the canon and its formation. Librarians are aware of this and are more mindful than ever of the need to think critically about their collections. Librarians are actively seeking out and preserving overlooked, minority and marginalized perspectives.”
Image credit: Library of Congress