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Kurt Vonnegut claimed that his prettiest contribution to culture wasn’t a popular novel like “Cat’s Cradle” or “Slaughterhouse-Five,” but a largely forgotten master’s thesis he wrote while studying anthropology at the University of Chicago. The thesis argued that a main character has ups and downs that can be graphed to reveal the taxonomy of a story, as well as something about the culture it comes from. “The fundamental idea is that stories have shapes which can be drawn on graph paper, and that the shape of a given society’s stories is at least as interesting as the shape of its pots or spearheads,” Vonnegut said.
In addition to churning out novels, Vonnegut was deeply interested in the practice of writing. The tips he wrote for other writers – including “How to write with style” and “Eight rules for writing fiction” — are concise, funny, and still very useful.
Tag Archives | Books
Can books afford to be so picky about who reads them? Yahoo investigates:
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You might not want to admit it, but deep down every bookstore shopper knows that picking a new book to read is a fairly superficial process. We’re tuned to judge books by their covers, despite the advice of clichés. But what happens when the tables are turned, and the covers are judging us?
This is the question at hand for Thijs Biersteker, a Dutch artist who created a book that uses facial recognition to decide whether you are worthy of reading it. As demonstrated in the video below, the book scans your face for your emotional state; if it senses that you are either too excited or in a sour mode, it will lock itself shut, preventing you from reading in the wrong frame of mind.
It works like this: You first align your face with the book’s built-in screen, which intentionally resembles the face of a robot out of Fritz Lang‘s 1927 dystopian film Metropolis.
In case you hadn’t heard, there will finally be a second book from Harper Lee, the famously reclusive author of To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s called Go Set A Watchman and the events it depicts take place after those in To Kill a Mockingbird, although it was actually written first according to the New York Times:
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…On Tuesday, Ms. Lee’s publisher announced its plans to release that novel, recently rediscovered, which Ms. Lee completed in the mid-1950s, before she wrote “To Kill A Mockingbird.” The 304-page book, “Go Set a Watchman,” takes place 20 years later in the same fictional town, Maycomb, Ala., and unfolds as Jean Louise Finch, or Scout, the feisty child heroine of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” returns to visit her father. The novel, which is scheduled for release this July, tackles the racial tensions brewing in the South in the 1950s and delves into the complex relationship between father and daughter.
I know how much everyone loves to call out fallacious arguments — especially on the Internet. So here’s a book illustrating and detailing some of the better known logical fallacies. You can read it in its entirety for free at the website or buy the hardcover book.
According to the author, Ali Almossawi:
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I go on two solitary walks every day. There is a small park off the Embarcadero that is tucked away in a quiet spot. It has a pleasant stream flowing through it and an unassuming bench beside that stream. I have made walking to that frail bench a ritual, and the half an hour or so spent daydreaming on it amid the cool San Francisco breeze, an article of faith.
It was on a day in October of last year when, during one of those quiet moments on that bench, I recalled my college years and how outspoken I happened to be during them, an observation only made interesting by the fact that I have since turned into the quietest of beings.
Yet another intriguing Charles Bukowski letter. I think I still prefer the letter he wrote to his publisher, John Martin. But this one is also a gem.
A library in Holland banned Bukowski’s book, Tales of Ordinary Madness. Well Bukowski apparently felt the need to not exactly defend his writing, but to explain how honored he was to have written something so prolific. Though, he rightfully condemns the librarian’s censorship.
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Dear Hans van den Broek:
Thank you for your letter telling me of the removal of one of my books from the Nijmegen library. And that it is accused of discrimination against black people, homosexuals and women. And that it is sadism because of the sadism.
The thing that I fear discriminating against is humor and truth.
If I write badly about blacks, homosexuals and women it is because of these who I met were that. There are many “bads”–bad dogs, bad censorship; there are even “bad” white males.
[Excerpted from Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice: A Treatise, Critique, and Call to Action (Manifesto) by JF Martel]
Published in 1927, H. P. Lovecraft’s story “The Colour Out of Space“ can be read as a prophecy of this new spectral age that isolates the properly aesthetic component of the social order that would rise in the postwar era. An unnamed narrator attempts to uncover the truth behind a “blasted heath” shunned by the people of a rural New England county. From a possibly insane old man, he learns that a meteorite fell at that spot several decades ago, bringing with it a diabolical entity from outer space. Interestingly the creature does not take the form of the usual space invader but of a mass of unearthly color. As the story unfolds we learn how this malignant color warped and withered the surrounding vegetation, mutated wildlife and livestock, and caused the madness or death of the unfortunate souls who lived closest to its lair.… Read the rest
Librarians at Hamilton City Libraries have noticed an interesting trend. Books by occultist Aleister Crowley keep disappearing from their shelves.
Nancy El-Gamel writes at the Waikato Times,
Whether it’s due to theft or something more sinister, Hamilton libraries cannot keep Sex Magick or Dramatic Ritual on their shelves.
Works by a long-dead British occultist keep vanishing, not quite in smoke. Aleister Crowley, clearly, refuses to die. Or, at least, his fans do.
And people just keep asking for the books, despite their publication in the far reaches of the previous century, Hamilton City Libraries Director Su Scott said.
Among other popular disappearing titles at Hamilton Libaries are cookbooks, Children DVDs, and books about tattoos and crafts.
After I did some digging, I found out that books about the occult are often hot items at libraries. Library book thieves also like titles about UFOs and astrology.
However, bookstores appear to attract a different type of book thief.… Read the rest
R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell are the authors of Transcendence: The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity. Transhumanism has been a hot but divisive topic on disinformation, so we felt there was a need to foster greater understanding of just what transhumanism is, and is not, hence the format of the book is an A-Z encyclopedia.
We asked Jay and R.U. to answer a few questions about the book and the topic in general:
RU, you have long been associated with the transhumanism movement; can you tell us how you got hooked and what your personal interest in transhumanism is?
RU: In a sense, I go way back to the 1970s, although I wasn’t familiar with the term transhumanism then. I think the only person using it at that time was a guy named F.M. Esfandiary. I was, if you will, turned on and tuned in by Timothy Leary and his cohort in conscious evolution Robert Anton Wilson.… Read the rest
Michel Houllebecq, France’s famously controversial novelist, has a new book (Soumission) – published this week in extraordinary timing – depicting a possible future for France with a Muslim president. Both the book and the interview below in the Paris Review were carried out before the Charlie Hebdo massacre, but it’s clear that Houellebecq has zeroed in on the religious versus secularist tension in France.
After the attack, The French prime minister, Manuel Valls, stated: “France is not Houellebecq. It’s not intolerance, hatred and fear.” Houellebecq is apparently in hiding and his publisher’s office is under police protection. Regarding the book itself, he tells interviewer Sylvain Bourmeau:
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Is this a satirical novel?
No. Maybe a small part of the book satirizes political journalists—politicians a little bit, too, to be honest. But the main characters are not satirical.
Where did you get the idea for a presidential election, in 2022, that came down to Marine Le Pen and the leader of a Muslim party?
Earlier posts have verified that Harvard University’s library contains books bound in human skin, but in case you missed it Rob Velella has summarized what you need to know about the somewhat bizarre practice, at Atlas Obscura:
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There are a few urban legends that poke up here and there that certain libraries — usually dusty, private, or academic ones which are not easily accessible by the public — hold books bound in human skin. Few of these stories turn out to be true: the “human” skin is often proven to be lamb, sheep, or deer. But Harvard University’s Houghton Library was recently surprised — and somewhat taken aback — to find one of its books was absolutely an example of the practice known as anthropodermic bibliopegy.
The book in question (pictured here courtesy Houghton Library, Harvard University), a French volume titled Des destinées de l’ameby Arsène Houssaye, is also relatively recent, dating only to the 1880s.