Published August 14, 2009 by Dallas
Michelle from McSweeney’s passed this one along to us. Living Paintings is an organization which has spent the past 20 years perfecting the art of bringing pictures to life for partially sighted and blind people. The process itself is really quite astounding. The above still is from a near-complete Where The Wild Things Are interpretation which involves the voice talents of Ethan Hawke. Check it out in the coming weeks!
Published July 16, 2009 by Molly
My parents allowed me to read anything in the house. If it was on the bookshelf, it was fair game. This is how I learned many things: how to cuss, how to use the dictionary as a demystifying tool, how to develop a distinct taste in literature.
The cussing part came courtesy of Charles Bukowski, the poet and novelist deemed by Time to be the “laureate of American lowlife”. His books were on the shelf because they were good, for one thing, but also because Bukowski was a compadre of my grandfather’s. I don’t think either of my parents dipped into the stash of novels and poetry often, but I sure did: the stories were rough, plainspoken and filled with salacious details and philosophical tangling. It helped that the volumes, all published by Black Sparrow, had remarkably cool covers.
I started with 1971’s Post Office and, since it suited my tastes, moved on to 1982’s Ham on Rye. From there, it was a short hop to the writer’s accessible poems and letters. Any way I came at it, an hour spent reading Bukowski was an hour spent inside the mind of the dirtiest (and cleverest) old man I’d ever met.
If my parents only knew.
Published June 30, 2009 by Dallas
Molly sent me the above picture a few days ago with the note “A couple of antique book cover scans, no reason, somewhat blurry, but charming nonetheless.” It reminded me of this Flickr page dedicated to classic Penguin & Pelican book covers. Amazing things. Like the best book pile of the best online rummage sale you could ever imagine. And for those of you looking for something a little more tangible: “Penguin By Design” is also a must have book for any lonely coffee table.
Published June 19, 2009 by Graham
Photographer Lauren Dukoff’s deluxe new book Family is comprised of 150 intimate images of Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom, Bat for Lashes, Vetiver, Vashti Bunyan and a host of assorted other freak folk hot shots. It’s great to see what these artists’ lives are like outside the often obscuring context of a magazine photo spread. You can almost picture yourself drinking kombucha with Devendra on a Big Sur cliff overlooking the vast majesty of the Pacific.
Published June 18, 2009 by Graham
Dave Eggers’ 300 page young adult novel, The Wild Things, will be released on October 1st. You can pre-order a copy today from the McSweeney’s store, in either the standard edition, or the fur-covered edition. Yes, you heard that right: you can own a copy of this book covered in the real fur of an actual wild thing. McSweeney’s never stops raising the bar in the field of rad book design. The art of bookmaking lives on! Here’s what Eggers had to say about what The Wild Things is and how it came to be, in a December 2007 interview with The Montreal Gazette:
When we were in the middle of [writing the script], Maurice called me and somebody had brought up the idea of there being a novel, too, and he asked me if I would do it.
… We all really get along – Spike and Maurice and I always had the same goals for the movie, and the novelization, too, which was to sort of reinstitute the dangerous elements of that book. Because when it came out (in 1963), it was pretty controversial and some librarians didn’t like it, and child psychologists thought it was, you know, unhelpful. (laughs) And it was really morally ambiguous in a way. It showed a kid sort of disobeying his mother and acting crazy – which all kids do, but you still don’t see much of in children’s literature. It’s too often, I think, washed clean.
Spike and Maurice and I just decided we needed to make the book wild and dangerous again and really unexpected. So the movie is really unlike anything anyone will expect, I think. And the book is different from both of them, actually. It has Max and Max going to an island, but in the book I’m able to (develop) the storyline also – as a book can always do. You have a lot more room to play with. The (picture) book is 150 words, the movie is 90 minutes, the novel gets to be a whole different level.
Published June 10, 2009 by Graham
“My sister bought me my first book, The Prince and the Pauper. A ritual began with that book which I recall very clearly. The first thing was to set it up on the table and stare at it for a long time. Not because I was impressed with Mark Twain; it was just such a beautiful object. Then came the smelling of it. I think the smelling of books began with The Prince and the Pauper, because it was printed on particularly fine paper, unlike the Disney books I had gotten previous to that, which were printed on very poor paper and smelled poor. The Prince and the Paper–Pauper– smelled good and it also had a shiny cover, a laminated cover. I flipped over that. And it was very solid. I mean, it was bound very tightly. I remember trying to bite into it, which I don’t imagine is what my sister intended when she bought the book for me. But the last thing I did with the book was to read it. It was alright.
“But I think it started then, a passion for books and bookmaking. I wanted to be an illustrator very early in my life; to be involved in books in some way–to make books. And the making of books, the touching of books–there’s so much more to it than just reading; there is a sensuousness. I’ve seen children touch books, fondle books, smell books, and it’s all the reason in the world why books should be beautifully produced.”
Maurice Sendak, 1970
Published May 1, 2009 by Graham
Sarah Manguso is an renowned young writer best known for her memoir, The Two Kinds of Decay, which chronicles a long, frustrating battle with an overbearing autoimmune disease. I’d like to point your attention towards a collection of Manguso’s short (really, really short) stories published by McSweeney’s in 2007. Hard to Admit and Harder to Escape is included in a set with two other tiny books from Dave Eggers and Deb Olin Unferth. Together, the collection is referred to as One Hundred and Forty-Five Stories in a Small Box. With a careful, dry wit Manguso recounts minute scenes of quiet revelation, tragicomic devestation, and internal humiliation. Lasting no more than a paragraph each, the stories have been trimmed of any superfluous indulgence, getting straight to the point with a deceptively lethargic sense of urgency.
The espresso machine, which I care for as if part of my own body, has been misused again. Someone has thrown away one of the metal cups by accident, and the pump has been left on too long. It stays unclean the whole day. I have posted a list of instructions and given a demonstration, and people still cannot or will not care for it as I do. I weep as I try to fix the machine, realizing that even if I haven’t convinced the others it’s part of me, I seem, at least, to have convinced myself.
And one more, just for kicks:
One Saturday my piano teacher calls everyone out to the back porch and points to a nest full of just-hatched chicks. In his thick accent, he delivers an obviously practiced line: “It’s our little modernity wart.” No one laughs. He says it again: “It’s our little modernity wart.” Still no one acknowledges his line. He says it again. And then, improbably, he says it a fourth time. He turns to me, knowing I will have to say something. My teacher’s need for affirmation disturbs me. I understand then that his genius in the studio does not translate to genius elsewhere.
Published April 30, 2009 by Molly
Savagery, erotic diddling, death and pajamas: these are the primary subjects of Bruno’s Dream, the 1969 novel by Iris Murdoch. You could close your eyes, throw a dart at one of Murdoch’s 26 novels, and find yourself absorbed in its pages for several weeks. Bruno’s Dream is an especially good target.
It isn’t one of Murdoch’s most famous novels, nor one of her best. But there is a character named “Nigel”, and there are mackintoshes, and there is intrigue. And you can buy it for two dollars off Amazon.
Here is a video of the author discussing literature and philosophy. Note the accent.