Tag Archives | Literature

Nevermore? No Mystery Visitor to Poe’s Grave for First Time in 60 Years

You can get a more detailed description of the mystery on Wikipedia. Here’s the report from the Baltimore Sun:

Poe Mystery VisitorA longtime tribute to Edgar Allan Poe may have come to an end with the absence of the “Poe Toaster,” who for more than half a century has marked the poet’s birthday by laying roses and a bottle of cognac at his original grave site.

This is the first time since Jan. 19, 1949 that the person, whose identity is unknown, failed to arrive, said Jeff Jerome, curator of the Edgar Allan Poe House.

“I was very annoyed,” he said. “I’ve been doing this since 1977, and there was no indication he wasn’t going to show up,” Jerome said.

The curator said the toaster usually arrives between midnight and 5:30 a.m. He said he arrived at Westminster Hall at 10:30 p.m., because one year the toaster left his offerings at 11:30 p.m.

He sometimes kneels at the tombstone or puts his hands on it, Jerome said. “There’s no elaborate ceremony — it’s very short and touching,” he said.

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The Red Laugh

red_laughForgive me, I realize that literature isn’t often posted on this site… However, anyone intrepid enough to actually finish reading this short story will surely agree that The Red Laugh is supremely relevant to today’s world… From Amagamatedspooks.com:

LEONID ANDREYEV (1871-1919) became the foremost literary figure in Russia between the revolution of 1905 and the communist revolution of 1917. Originally studying and training as a lawyer, he abandoned that career soon after its beginning and dedicated himself wholly to his writing. His first story,“In the Fog,” was published in 1902 and won him immediate critical recognition. His new career, that of an author, had begun.

A pessimistic, moody man (who had already tried to end his life by shooting in 1894), he soon turned this dark sentiment over to an analysis of the predicament of the existentialistic situation of mankind in a series of socially aware works that included To the Stars, Savva, King-Hunger, and Anathema.

Read the rest

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Books You Can Live Without

Now here’s an end of the year/decade literary debate that’s actually quite interesting, versus the morass of “best of lists”, courtesy of the New York Times. Here’s an excerpt from author David Matthews:

Things I will never, ever read:

The authors who get to stay did something the others did not — they saved me.

The biography of Willem de Kooning. Ditto the 600 pages devoted to Wittgenstein’s life and thought. Malraux’s “The Voices of Silence” will remain mute, its spine un-cracked, the book’s presence meant to imply to anyone perusing my “library” that I’m a man of serious ideas and scholarship.

Sadly, I’m too far along to absorb whatever Bertrand Russell’s history of philosophy has to teach me, so out it goes. For that matter, what with the urgency of global warming and recession and deadly flus, I might as well live in the moment, so anything with the words, “The History of…” in the title is, well, history.

Read the rest

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William S. Burroughs: A Man Within (Documentary)

Via www.burroughsthemovie.com:

The film investigates the life of legendary beat author and American icon, William S. Burroughs. Born the heir of the Burroughs’ adding machine estate, he struggled throughout his life with addiction, control systems and self. He was forced to deal with the tragedy of killing his wife and the repercussions of neglecting his son. His novel, Naked Lunch, was one of the last books to be banned by the U.S. government. Allen Ginsberg and Norman Mailer testified on behalf of the book. The courts eventually overturned their decision in 1966, ruling that the book had important social value. It remains one of the most recognized literary works of the 20th century.

William Burroughs was one of the first to cross the dangerous boundaries of queer and drug culture in the 1950s, and write about his experiences. Eventually he was hailed the godfather of the beat generation and influenced artists for generations to come. However, his friends were left wondering, did William ever find happiness? This extremely personal documentary breaks the surface of the troubled and brilliant world of one of the greatest authors of all time.

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How Philip K. Dick Predicted The Future

Author Jonathan Lethem is also the man who edited Philip K. Dick’s anthologies for the Library of America. In this new interview, Lethem notes that Philip K. Dick correctly predicted our future.

“I think that Dick saw the makings of the contemporary reality we experience so profoundly. And this speaks to the different layers of reality in his work — the way time moves at one clip according to the calendar, but other ways in terms of mental time, psychological time, social time, American historical time.

“Like if you look at the terms of this absurd, hysterical healthcare debate — it’s basically McCarthyism again, the Red Scare. Socialism is coming to get us. ”

“Mid-50s America was overwhelmingly alive in his vision, in such a way that he saw it simultaneously as a present and as a future. He saw the makings of the late capitalist experience embedded in that mid-century triumphalist post-war moment.… Read the rest

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Anais Nin on LSD’s value

via Arthur

anais_nin

[Huxley] reminded me that drugs are beneficial if they provide the only access to our nightlife. I realized that the expression “blow my mind” was born of the fact that America had cemented access to imagination and fantasy and that it would take dynamite to remove this block! I believed Leary’s emphasis on the fact we use only one percent of our mind or potential, that everything in our education conspires to restrict and constrict us. I only wished people had had time to study drugs as they studied religion or philosophy and to adapt to this chemical alteration of our bodies.

[LSD's] value is in being a shortcut to the unconscious, so that one enters the realm of intuition unhampered, pure as it is in children, of direct emotional reaction to nature, to other human beings. In a sense it is the return to the spontaneity and freshness of childhood vision which makes every child able to paint or sing.… Read the rest

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Action Camus, the Superman of Nihilism

Was reading Boldtype’s “10 Awesome Books to Give Your Nonreading Friends” where I came across the work of cartoonist R. Sikoryak. Here’a an article about him from The New Yorker:

For twenty years, the cartoonist R. Sikoryak has been creating parody strips of literary masterpieces, casting familiar cartoon characters in classic roles — Little Lulu as Pearl Prynne, Little Nemo as Dorian Gray, Charlie Brown as Gregor Samsa. If you’re like me, and you sometimes like your serious literature with a side of Beavis and Butthead (see Sikoryak’s take on “Waiting for Godot”), you will probably laugh out loud over Masterpiece Comics, a collection of thirteen of these strips, just out from Drawn & Quarterly.

Here is R. Sikoryak’s take on an existentialist superhero:

ActionCamus

Check out the The New Yorker link for a Kafkaesque Charlie Brown tale.

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Winner Of Bad Sex Award Announced

From Reuters:

Jonathan Littell, who won France’s prestigious Prix Goncourt in 2006 for “The Kindly Ones,” has picked up another prize for the same work — the Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award.

The annual prize was contested this year by literary heavyweights Philip Roth for “The Humbling,” John Banville for “The Infinites” and Paul Theroux for “A Dead Hand.”

The judges praised what they called Littell’s “ambitious and impressive” novel, which was originally published in French.

“It is in part a work of genius,” they said.

“However, a mythologically inspired passage and lines such as ‘I came suddenly, a jolt that emptied my head like a spoon scraping the inside of a soft-boiled egg’ clinched the award for The Kindly Ones

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Kurt Vonnegut in Slaughterhouse Five

On the fascinating site Letters of Note:

In December of 1944, whilst behind enemy lines during the Rhineland Campaign, Private Kurt Vonnegut was captured by Wehrmacht troops and subsequently became a prisoner of war. A month later, Vonnegut and his fellow POWs reached a Dresden work camp where they were imprisoned in an underground slaughterhouse known by German soldiers as Schlachthof Fünf (Slaughterhouse Five). The next month — February — the subterranean nature of the prison saved their lives during the highly controversial and devastating bombing of Dresden, the aftermath of which Vonnegut and the remaining survivors helped to clear up.

Vonnegut released the book Slaughterhouse-Five in 1969.

Below is a letter he wrote to his family that May from a repatriation camp, in which he informs them of his capture and survival:

VonnegutSlaughterhouseFive

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