From Gareth Smit's article in The New Yorker:
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The Berg Collection’s roughly two thousand linear feet of manuscripts and archival materials were donated to the library, in 1940, by two brothers, Henry W. and Albert A. Berg. The brothers, both doctors who lived on the Upper East Side, were avid collectors of English and American literature—and of literary paraphernalia.
The library categorizes these items as “Realia”—objects from everyday life. The Berg Collection includes Charlotte Brontë’s writing desk, with a lock of her hair inside; trinkets belonging to Jack Kerouac, including his harmonicas, and a card upon which he wrote “blood” in his own blood; typewriters belonging to S. J. Perelman and Paul Metcalf; Mark Twain’s pen and wire-rimmed glasses; Vladimir Nabokov’s butterfly drawings; and the death masks of the poets James Merrill and E. E. Cummings.
Although the Berg Collection is intended to cater to researchers, curators are always keeping an eye out for items that complement the existing archive. Virginia Woolf’s cane may be of little interest to scholars, but it’s an important artifact that was likely the last thing she used before her death.
Tom Wolfe, the highly influential journalist at Rolling Stone and Esquire and author of such fantastic works as The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Right Stuff, and The Bonfire of the Vanities, has died at age 88. From the New York Times
In his use of novelistic techniques in his nonfiction, Mr. Wolfe, beginning in the 1960s, helped create the enormously influential hybrid known as the New Journalism...
His talent as a writer and caricaturist was evident from the start in his verbal pyrotechnics and perfect mimicry of speech patterns, his meticulous reporting, and his creative use of pop language and explosive punctuation.
“As a titlist of flamboyance he is without peer in the Western world,” Joseph Epstein wrote in the The New Republic. “His prose style is normally shotgun baroque, sometimes edging over into machine-gun rococo, as in his article on Las Vegas which begins by repeating the word ‘hernia’ 57 times.”
William F. Buckley Jr., writing in National Review, put it more simply: “He is probably the most skillful writer in America — I mean by that he can do more things with words than anyone else.”
Image: White House Photo by Susan Sterner Read the rest
Women have had to deal with the shitty end of the employment stick since, well, forever. Sexual harassment, rampant misogyny and pay disparity are but a few of the crap things they frequently have to put up with. Apparently, you can add being screwed out of equal pay for authoring a frigging book to the list: researchers at Queens College have discovered that books written by female authors are, on average, sold for just over 50% less than those written by a dude.
The study looked at sales data for titles released by large publishing houses in North America between 2002 and 2012. Looking to the gender of the authors of the books reviewed, cross factoring this with data on the price, genre and how the books were published brought the study's authors to a lousy conclusion: Books written by women that are released by mainstream publishing houses sell, on average, for 45% less than those written by men.
The study's authors, Dana Beth Weinberg and Adam Kapelner, a sociologist and mathematician, respectively, found that even when you looked at book genres that are dominated by female authors, the percentages only go up by an average of 9% – so, even if hardly any men are writing, say, romance novels, the women who are writing them are still getting screwed out of equal pay.
From The Guardian:
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It was little surprise to see evidence of segregation by genre and the differing values placed on each genre, Weinberg added, but the researchers were very surprised at how clear this discrimination was.
At the end of S. E. Hinton's classic 1967 novel The Outsiders, both Johnny and Dally die tragically. But what do their deaths mean? Is it a narrative device that pushes on the novel's themes of class conflict, the meaning of family, and the transition to adulthood? Nope, tweets S.E. Hinton in response to a reader's query. The reason for their deaths is much simpler than all that:
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A year after Hunter S. Thompson published his pioneering gonzo journalism book "Hell's Angels," he appeared on the wonderful TV game show "To Tell The Truth." Bud Collyer hosted with a panel of actors/entertainers Tom Poston, Peggy Cass, Barry Nelson, Kitty Carlisle.
On the show, three people claim to be a particularly interesting or notable person described by the host. One is really that person, the other two are imposters. The panelists must ask questions to identify who isn't lying.
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While digging into Kurt Vonnegut's archives at Indiana University, Dan Wakefield and Jerome Klinkowitz found five short stories that had never been published before. The Atlantic has posted one of them, The Drone King, in its entirety. The others are included in a new collection, Kurt Vonnegut: Complete Stories. From Kurt Vonnegut's "The Drone King:"
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One thing about the investment-counseling business: The surroundings are almost always nice. Wherever my work takes me, prosperity has beat me there.
Prosperity beat me to the Millennium Club by about 100 years. As I walked through the door for the first time, my cares dropped away. I felt as though I’d just finished two brandies and a good cigar. Here was peace.
It was a club downtown—six stories of snug hideaways and playthings and apartments for rich gentlemen. It overlooked a park.
The foyer was guarded by an elegant old man behind a rosewood desk.
I gave him my card. “Mr. Quick? Mr. Sheldon Quick?,” I said. “He asked me to come over.”
He examined the card for a long time. “Yes,” he said at last. “Mr. Quick is expecting you. You’ll find him in the small library—second door on the left, by the grandfather clock.”
“Thank you,” I said, and I started past him.
He caught my sleeve. “Sir—”
“Yes?,” I said.
“You aren’t wearing a boutonniere, are you?”
“No,” I said guiltily. “Should I be?”
“If you were,” he said, “I’d have to ask you to check it. No women or flowers allowed past the front desk.”
I paused by the door of the small library.
In 2007, Fight Club and Snuff author Chuck Palahniuk sold his home in Portland, Oregon. Recently, the current owner Jolynn Winter was having some work done in a bathroom and when the contractors opened up the ceiling, they found a time capsule that Palahniuk left behind. Inside was a letter he wrote about the house, a signed copy of Fight Club, family photos, and his original renovation drawings for the bathroom. From Winter's post on Facebook:
SO,THIS WAS A FUN REMODEL FIND!!! We bought our house from Fight Club author, Chuck Palahniuk, 10 years ago. While my contractors were tearing out the ceiling, they found this old Backgammon box full of stuff. It contained the design of Chuck's bathroom remodel, a letter to whoever found the box, an autographed copy of Fight Club, photos and newspaper articles from the date they put the box in the ceiling. Very cool. Thanks Chuck Palahniuk!!! We'll pay it forward!
(via Atlas Obscura)
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A friend of mine on Facebook posted a link to this wonderfully twisted and funny Twitter exchange between the brilliant Chuck Wendig (author of Zer0es, the Star Wars Aftermath trilogy, and one of my all-time fave books on scrivener-craft, The Kick-Ass Writer) and Sam Sykes (author of The City Stained Red).
Cue the backwards violin music and read the rest of the exchange here.
[H/t Andrew Terranova] Read the rest
The first law of futurism is that there are no facts about the future, only fictions.
(Blank on Blank)
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"The truth knocks on the door and you say, ‘Go away, I’m looking for the truth,’ and so it goes away. Puzzling." -- Robert M. Pirsig
I was saddened to learn that Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance author Robert M. Pirsig died today at the age of 88.
I read the pop philosophy treatise Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in college and thought it was the greatest book ever. I read it again 15 years later and didn't get as much out of it the second time around. It's been another 15 years since I re-read it and I no longer remember why I had those opinions (I have a lousy memory when it comes to books and movies). I think I should give it another try and see what my current nervous system thinks of his exploration into the nature of quality.
One thing is for certain, the title of the book is one of the best ever (and has been imitated ever since the book came out in 1974), and the paperback cover design is absolutely iconic. [UPDATE: reader Simenzo corrected me. Zen in the Art of Archery, by Eugen Herrigel, was published in 1948]
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Zen was published in 1974, after being rejected by 121 publishing houses. "The book is brilliant beyond belief," wrote Morrow editor James Landis before publication. "It is probably a work of genius and will, I'll wager, attain classic status."
Indeed, the book quickly became a best-seller, and has proved enduring as a work of popular philosophy.
I first encountered Grant Morrison at the Disinfo.com conference of 2000, organized by Disinfo's founder, media magician, Richard Metzger [founder of Dangerous Minds]. As I walked upstairs from the basement hangout zone of NYC's Hammerstein Ballroom, at the beginning of his now legendary lecture, I heard Morrison's bone-chilling scream into the microphone, which reminded me of another Morrison, and thought "Who the fuck is this guy?' He then announced that he was drunk and had just eaten some hash and it was about to kick it in, all with a thick Scottish accent. Such punk rock antics won the rapt attention of the wild crowd, myself included, and over the course of the next hour or so, he voiced all the countercultural excitement of the moment. During that cold February day in New York City, Morrison's message was clear, Magick works, but you should not take his word for it, you have do it yourself to learn how it works.
What originally brought me to this two day conference was the fact that Robert Anton Wilson was the headlining speaker. Throughout the late 90s, and especially 2000, I was completely immersed in the works of three psychedelic philosophers, Timothy Leary, John C. Lilly, and most of all, Robert Anton Wilson. RAW was more than just a psychedelic philosopher, he was the greatest living writer that I'd discovered up to that point.
During his talk, Morrison exuded such optimism and joy that I immediately went out and read as many of his comics I could find. Read the rest
Writer and director William Peter Blatty, creator of The Exorcist, has died at age 89. Batty is best known for writing the story of poor, possessed Regan and her demonic resident Captain Howdy. He won an academy award for writing the screenplay for The Exorcist film in 1973.
Here is Blatty on The Tonight Show, January 17, 1974, talking about the surprisingly polarizing response to his classic novel of occult horror:
Tweet from William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist:
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In a 1958 interview, author, philosopher, and futurist Aldous Huxley (Brave New World, The Doors of Perception) shares his grim predictions that are unfortunately quite relevant today. From Blank on Blank:
"This is Aldous Huxley, a man haunted by a vision of hell on earth. Mr. Huxley wrote a Brave New World, a novel that predicted that some day the entire world would live under a frightful dictatorship. Today Mr. Huxley says that his fictional world of horror is probably just around the corner for all of us." - Mike Wallace
In this remarkable interview, Huxley foretells a future when telegenic presidential hopefuls use television to rise to power, technology takes over, drugs grab hold, and frightful dictatorships rule us all.
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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:
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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.
Elie Wiesel was a Holocaust survivor, Nobel Peace Prize winner, a prolific author, and an outspoken activist for peace and human rights. He died Saturday, at 87 years old. Read the rest
"Future shock is the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time," according to Alvin Toffler, who died on June 27 at the age of 87. Toffler wrote a massively best selling book of the same called Future Shock, which made him a celebrity.
I saw Alvin Toffler at a Chin Chin Chinese restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood 20 years ago. I stared at him, slack jawed, until he finally said, "Yes, it's me!" He seemed friendly, so I approached him and we talked for about 20 minutes. I was impressed with his energy level. I told him I was an editor at Wired magazine, and mentioned that we had just backed out of an IPO. "Sometimes, retreat is the smart thing to do," he said.
Some Toffler quotes:
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"You can use all the quantitative data you can get, but you still have to distrust it and use your own intelligence and judgment."
"It is better to err on the side of daring than the side of caution."
"One of the definitions of sanity is the ability to tell real from unreal. Soon we'll need a new definition."
"Anyone nit-picking enough to write a letter of correction to an editor doubtless deserves the error that provoked it."
"Technology feeds on itself. Technology makes more technology possible."
"Science fiction is held in low regard as a branch of literature, and perhaps it deserves this critical contempt.
Anne Rice, of The Vampire Chronicles fame, posted on Facebook her concern that novelists "are facing a new era of censorship, in the name of political correctness." Read the rest