After 60 years, man returns library book that clearly influenced his life

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Larry Murdock just returned a library book that he checked out from the Linton, Indiana Public Library in 1956, when he was just 8 years old. The book is "Moths of the Limberlost." Murdock is now a Purdue University professor of entomology who specializes in the study of moths. He said the book turned up in a box.

"(Returning) it was the right thing to do," he said. "Maybe after all those years there are kids out there who might get some benefit" from the book.

Murdock paid a $436.44 fine.

(AP) Read the rest

They're making a Twits ale from Roald Dahl's body-yeast

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Roald Dahl spent the last of his days in a special armchair that he modded to help him with back pain from a WWII injury; now, in honour of the Dinner at the Twits interactive theatre events, the craft 40FT Brewery has swabbed some yeast from Dahl's chair and cultured it to brew Mr. Twit's Odious Ale, which will be served at the event. Read the rest

Starve #2: Brian Wood lands the tale in a screaming dive and a perfect touchdown

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Brian Wood's Starve, Volume One (collecting issues 1-5) was the best, meanest new graphic novel debut since Transmetropolitan; now, with Starve, Volume Two (issues 6-10), Wood brings the story in for a conclusion that is triumphant and wicked and eminently satisfying, without being pat.

Lovely watercolor illustrations of The Silmarillion's first chapter

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Evan Palmer's reverent watercolors capture the verbal harmonies and surprising glories of J.R.R. Tolkien's origin story for the universe he created. Read the rest

George Orwell's letter from his former French teacher, Aldous Huxley, about Nineteen Eighty-Four

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Shortly after George Orwell published Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1949, he received a letter from his onetime high school French teacher, Aldous Huxley, who had published Brave New Work 17 years earlier. Here are Huxley's comments, via Letters of Note:

Wrightwood. Cal. 21 October, 1949

Dear Mr. Orwell,

It was very kind of you to tell your publishers to send me a copy of your book. It arrived as I was in the midst of a piece of work that required much reading and consulting of references; and since poor sight makes it necessary for me to ration my reading, I had to wait a long time before being able to embark on Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Agreeing with all that the critics have written of it, I need not tell you, yet once more, how fine and how profoundly important the book is. May I speak instead of the thing with which the book deals --- the ultimate revolution? The first hints of a philosophy of the ultimate revolution --- the revolution which lies beyond politics and economics, and which aims at total subversion of the individual's psychology and physiology --- are to be found in the Marquis de Sade, who regarded himself as the continuator, the consummator, of Robespierre and Babeuf. The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it. Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful.

Read the rest

How the New York Public Library made ebooks open, and thus one trillion times better

Leonard Richardson isn't just the author of Constellation Games, one of the best debut novels I ever read and certainly one of the best books I read in 2013; he's also an extremely talented free/open source server-software developer who has been working for the New York Public Library on a software project that liberates every part of the electronic book lending system from any kind of proprietary lock-in, and, in the process, made reading library ebooks one trillion times better. Read the rest

Hugo Award Winners 2016

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Tonight in Kansas City, MO, at Midamericon II, the 74th World Science Fiction Convention, the Hugo Awards were presented to a rapt audience in person and online, with voters weighing on a ballot that had been partially sabotaged by a small clique of people who objected to stories about wowen and people who weren't white. Read the rest

The 13 Clocks: Grimm's Fairytales meet The Phantom Tollbooth

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I discovered The 13 Clocks by reading Neil Gaiman's introduction to the 2008 New York Review of Books edition (which I found in The View from the Cheap Seats, a massive collection of Gaiman's nonfiction), where he calls it "Probably the best book in the world" -- how could I resist?

Neil Gaiman's nonfiction: what makes everything so great

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The View from the Cheap Seats, Neil Gaiman's mammoth collection of nonfiction essays, introductions, and speeches, is a remarkable explanatory volume in which Gaiman explains not just why he loves the things he loves, but also what makes them great.

The Greatest of Marlys! is the Lynda Barry book we've been waiting for

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I started reading Lynda Barry's "Ernie Pook's Comeek" in the back pages of NOW Magazine as a teenager, and it is forever linked in my mind with Matt Groening's Life in Hell, which ran on the next page over. Today, Drawn and Quarterly publishes The Greatest of Marlys, the expanded and updated version of the giant collection that, 16 years ago, was the definitive record of one of the most extraordinary comics ever to grace newsprint.

Paperback Paradise: remixing vintage book-covers to reveal their hilarious, lewd subtext

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Since March, the unnamed genius behind Paperback Paradise has been remixing the often dreadful covers of vintage paperback novels, refining their base material into golden lewd, hilarious new work. (via Richard Kadrey) Read the rest

How about we fix America by just turning Oklahoma into a giant lake?

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In this time of national trauma and political chaos where everyone is being a total shit to each other and the only thing all the sides can agree on is that they can’t agree on anything - we need something to unify us. Something that, as a country, we can shed partisan differences and rally behind. Something like building the railroads, sending a man to the moon. Something that crosses party lines and is pure and perfect, like inside plumbing and laughing at people who call soccer football. Here, our politicians and political parties have failed us.

My friend Morgen and I have an answer.

Turn Oklahoma into a lake. Read the rest

A Wild Swan plucks at familiar fairy tales with a voice that's sardonic, salacious, or brimming with empathy

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

A Wild Swan and Other Tales by Michael Cunningham (author) and Yuko Shimizu (illustrator) Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2015, 144 pages, 6.4 x 8.5 x 0.7 inches $16 Buy a copy on Amazon

A few pages into A Wild Swan and Other Tales we’re stopped short by a narrator who is either supremely cynical or just brutally honest: “End of story. ‘Happily ever after’ fell on everyone like a guillotine’s blade.” But that abrupt point of stoppage, it turns out, is the vulnerable moment onto which Michael Cunningham can graft fresh possibilities. In this case, he builds on Hans Christian Andersen’s version of “The Wild Swans” by imagining a trajectory for the least fortunate swan-brother, the one whose incomplete coat of nettles transformed him back into a man but left him with a “linty, dispiriting” wing where his arm should be.

In this collection of eleven stories, the Pulitzer-winning author of The Hours plucks and tweaks at familiar fairy tales in a variety of ways – through POV changes, time shifts, reimagined elements, and most especially an irresistible voice that’s by turns sardonic, salacious, or brimming with empathy. “Little Man” gives us the motivations behind Rumpelstiltskin’s baby mania. “Jacked” believably paints the beanstalk climber as dumb and lucky. “The Monkey’s Paw” locates another haunting angle on W.W. Jacobs’ tale about the cruel side of wishes.

Based only on its literary merits, A Wild Swan would already be worth your time – but this book is special. Read the rest

Your microbial nation: how bacteria went from menace to superfood

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British science writer Ed Yong's new book I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life is a history of gut flora and bacteria, which first entered our consciousness as a scourge to be eliminated and has lately become something between a cure-all (see the universe of "probiotic" food supplements) and a superfood (think of the fecal transplants that have shown such promise in treating a variety of debilitating and dangerous health conditions). Read the rest

To do in San Francisco: Cecil Castellucci and Ben Loory at SF in SF

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The next SF in SF event features Cecil Castellucci (previously), author of books as varied as Odd Duck and Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure and Ben Loory, author of The Baseball Player and the Walrus and many other titles. Read the rest

Bonnie Burton's next book: "Crafting with Feminism: 25 Girl-Powered Projects to Smash the Patriarchy"

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Bonnie Burton (previously) is a favorite around these parts, thanks both to her keen eye for awesomeness, and her next book, Crafting with Feminism: 25 Girl-Powered Projects to Smash the Patriarchy (Oct 18), looks like a big ole ball of perfect. (with a foreword by Felicia! Day! (never weird!)) Read the rest

Building Stories – Chris Ware's magnum opus includes 14 lavishly presented stories in different formats, all in one box

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Building Stories by Chris Ware Pantheon 2012, 260 pages, 11.7 x 16.6 x 1.9 inches (hardcover, softcovers, boxed) $31 Buy a copy on Amazon

Chris Ware is renowned as the kind of comic artist who makes you expect more from the genre. For nearly three decades, his unfussy, formalized style has given birth to cult strips such as Rusty Brown and Quimby The MouseM. Despite his style being modeled after the simplicity of Tintin in order to express emotion in as universal a way as possible, his style is a vehicle for the minutiae of human struggle. Building Stories is no different.

Largely comprised of strips previously published in national newspapers, but also featuring unreleased material, Building Stories is Ware's magnum opus – 14 lavishly presented stories in one beautifully designed box, itself adorned with extra strips and illustrations. The separation of the stories into physically distinct objects is intended to allow the reader to acquaint themselves with the characters in any order they choose.

Revolving around the lives of the inhabitants of an apartment block in Chicago, his pet themes of social alienation, excessive rumination and the pervasive feeling of being railroaded by mundanity are all present and correct. A number of archetypes populate the building – the lonely old lady, the bickering couple, the single young woman, but Ware imbues each with its own identity.

Arguably the most prominent character is the young woman who has a prosthetic leg, observed at various unassuming yet pivotal moments in her life, whether she's summer house sitting, lying awake at night thinking of her newborn child, or trying to overcome her anxiety in a writing class. Read the rest

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