"It may not be pretty or tidy, and it certainly hasn't been cleaned and the floor hasn't been swept for five years at least..."
In this 1982 interview, Roald Dahl, author of James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, takes us inside his backyard writing hut in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, England. The hut is now part of the Roald Dahl Museum.
Dahl modeled his hut on Dylan Thomas's own writing shed in Carmarthenshire, Wales. From BBC News:
Although Dahl based the design of his hut on Thomas's shed, there was one major difference - the lack of natural light. He often kept his curtains drawn (10) to block out the outside world and was dependant on an angle-poise lamp for light....
Dahl's widow Felicity said: "He realised he had to have a space of his own in the garden away from the children and the noise and the general domesticity and he remembered that Dylan had felt the same.
"And so he went down to Wales to look at Dylan's writing hut and, like everybody, fell in love with it."
Built to the same proportions, with the same angled roof - the similarities could be a coincidence. But according to his widow it was built in a similar design by Dahl's builder friend Wally Saunders, who the BFG was based on.
"He built it exactly to the same proportions as Dylan's hut, the same roof, one skin of brick," said Mrs Dahl. "Of course Dylan's hut was a garage originally, whereas Roald had nothing, it was an empty space that he built on."
"How Dylan Thomas's writing shed inspired Roald Dahl" (BBC News)
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Boing Boing pal Douglas Rushkoff's new book, Team Human, is a fiery, inspiring, and ultimately optimistic call for us to fight against the divisive, commodifying agenda built into our technology, reassert what it really means to be human, and then, as Timothy Leary urged, "find the others." Above, watch Doug lay it all out in a TED Salon talk.
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Humans are no longer valued for our creativity, says media theorist Douglas Rushkoff -- in a world dominated by digital technology, we're now just valued for our data. In a passionate talk, Rushkoff urges us to stop using technology to optimize people for the market and start using it to build a future centered on our pre-digital values of connection, creativity and respect.
Author Haruki Murakami is donating a large collection of his personal materials -- original manuscripts, letters, foreign language editions of his books, and 10,000 vinyl records -- to his alma mater Waseda University. From the Japan Times:
The donation “is a very important thing for me, so I thought I should explain clearly” by holding a news conference, said Murakami, 69. “I don’t have any children, and it would cause trouble for me if those materials became scattered or lost..."
Using the donated materials, the university in Tokyo is considering setting up an international study center featuring the author’s works. It also plans to create a space that will resemble a study room with bookshelves and music records...
In the envisioned facility to house his documents, Murakami said if possible he wants to organize a concert using his collection of vinyl records, which total more than 10,000 copies.
Murakami, who opened a cafe for jazz enthusiasts in Tokyo while still a student at Waseda University, has said music is an essential component of his career in literature.
Previously: "A Murakami playlist"
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I posted some pre-release interviews with Peter Bebergal about his latest book, Strange Frequencies: The Extraordinary Story of the Technological Quest for the Supernatural. The book examines the frequent use of science and technology in pursuit of the otherworldly.
In Strange Frequencies, Peter gets up close and hands on with such tinfoil fun stuff as ghost boxes, spirit radios, EVP recordings, spirit photography, brain toys, and more. In the following excerpt, reprinted from Strange Frequencies and used with permission from TarcherPerigree/Penguin, Random House, Peter delves into the history of the "ghost box" and sets out to try and build one of his own.
Fear and Soldering
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In 1995, the October issue of Popular Electronics offered the article “Ghost Voices: Exploring the Mysteries of Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP),” and laid out a few methods for modifying radios to be able to answer whether “the dead are trying to break through the veil between the worlds.” Various techniques are presented: a simple tape recorder with a microphone in a quiet room might record answers to questions that can be heard on playback (tried it, no luck); a circuit to build a small radio much like the Tesla radio I built; tuning a radio between stations and recording the static; and a white noise generator schematic to use instead of a radio to be sure stray transmissions are not being picked up. The tone of the piece is playful but not skeptical. The author takes no position, but Popular Electronics was written for the amateur hobbyist, and if any audience would be interested in such an article, it would certainly be this magazine’s readers.
Boing Boing pal, Peter Bebergal, has a new book coming out later this month called Strange Frequencies: The Extraordinary Story of the Technological Quest for the Supernatural. In 2015's Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock n' Roll, Peter explored what he identified as the "occult imagination" and how it had provided critical inspiration to many ground-breaking rock artists of the 60s and 70s (and beyond). In Strange Frequencies, Peter takes a hands-on look at how technology has always gone hand-in-hand with explorations of the otherworldy. He experiments with building a spirit radio, EVP (electronic voice phenomena) recordings, a brain machine, and an automaton, and examines the legend of the Golem (arguably the "programmable robot" of Jewish mysticism), spirit photography, and the relationship between stage magic and magic of the supernatural.
To give you a taste of some of what's in Strange Frequencies, Peter recently appeared on Ryan Peverly's Occulture podcast. Peverly says that Strange Frequencies is the coolest book you will read all year.
And Haute Macabre has just published an interview with Peter conducted by the poet, Janaka Stucky.
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JS: I’m glad you brought up divination because that relates to something else that was revelatory to me throughout the book, namely: that the ‘technology’ in the “technological quest for the supernatural” of the title isn’t just cameras, or televisions, or other mechanical devices, but also that crystals or sigils and other more fundamental tools external to our bodies are a kind of technology we use.
Nearly 200 personal letters by Hunter S. Thompson to a lifelong friend are up for auction today. Bidding ends today (9/27) at 5pm PDT. The minimum bid is $110,000 and there are no bids as of this writing. From Nate D. Sanders Auctions:
Archive includes Thompson's famous letter written the day of JFK's assassination (the complete letter, which was only partially published in "Proud Highway"), and other extremely controversial letters, such as brutal and unpublished details of his time at the Slates Hot Springs in Big Sur, where he patrolled the grounds, including the baths, when he served as its caretaker. Many letters deal with writing "The Rum Diary", his time with (and beating by) the Hell's Angels and the book about them that made him famous, and trying to get published in the early 1960s when he was a struggling author...
On 22 June 1965, Thompson gets a check to write "on Cycle gangs", in part, "you are thinking in terms of 40 years from now, while I hesitate to think beyond 40 days. Or -- at the moment -- six months, due to the contract I just signed: $6000 guarantee against royalties for a paperback on Cycle gangs…Things are hopping and I shouldn't be writing letters. I have to whip up an outline for the Cycle book and right now I don't have the vaguest idea what I'll write…Incredible. I've been drunk for two weeks." He continues on 6 July, "I warn you that you are going to find me a much tougher and shittier person than the one you left in Louisville 2 years go…It has finally come home to me that I am not going to be either the Fitzgerald or the Hemingway of this generation…I am going to be the Thompson of this generation, and that makes me more nervous than anything else I can think of…
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Edgar Allan Poe scholar Scott Peeples explains the black magic of Poe's work nearly 170 years after he died. From TED-Ed:
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The prisoner strapped under a descending pendulum blade. A raven who refuses to leave the narrator’s chamber. A beating heart buried under the floorboards. Poe’s macabre and innovative stories of gothic horror have left a timeless mark on literature. But just what is it that makes Edgar Allan Poe one of the greatest American authors? Scott Peeples investigates.
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.”
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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.