About the time that A.A.Milne began writing his tales of Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin, and 12 years before the arrival of Curious George, the Minnesotan artists Wanda Gag, the daughter of impoverished immigrants from Bohemia, was quietly, almost inadvertently, launching a revolution in book publishing. Her first title, Millions of Cats, the oldest American picture book still in print, was the touch paper for a new era in which children’s book were conceived, written, and illustrated by a single artist. Not many books, for children or otherwise, become a classic overnight, but Gag’s tale of “thousands and millions and billions and trillions of cats,” was a hit from the moment it came off the presses. Read More Children’s Author of the Month: Wanda Gag
“I really only do one thing,’ the writer Toni Morrison, who has died at the age of 88, told Hilton Als in 2003, when she was profiled for The New Yorker. “I read books. I teach books. I write books. I think about books. It’s one job.” Read More Remembering Toni Morrison
If Peter Buttigieg was only the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Twitter would care less about what he reads. But he is running for the highest office in the land, and that makes a difference.
People love lists almost as much as they love to hate them. Take our latest, by the Democratic candidate for President, Pete Buttigieg. I was heading to LAX airport to catch the redeye last Thursday when I noticed some unusual activity on Twitter. Many of the people in my feed were tweeting about Ulysses, the novel that is widely considered a cornerstone of modernist literature, and which Buttigieg had just selected as one of his ten favorite reads for One Grand Books. “James Joyce is trending, so I have to give Pete Buttigieg credit for that,” tweeted Jeet Heer, a contributing editor for The New Republic.
The famous opening line of Slaughterhouse-Five, is a tease of a sentence. Is Vonnegut giving us a memoir, or fiction? Or is he challenging the very nature of memoir? Who says that fiction is any less true than non-fiction? In an era when memoirs are frequently unmasked as fiction, why do we even bother with the distinction? To quote Oscar Wilde in his essay, The Decay of Lying, “There is such a thing as robbing a story of its reality by trying to make it too true.” Read More Wheels Within Wheels: Revisiting Slaughterhouse-Five
In his book Fascination, his memoir of gay life in 1970s Long Island, a leading proponent of the New Narrative movement recalls his coming-of-age in a “seedy, Burroughs kind of place.”
I grew up in Smithtown, a suburb of New York, a town so invidious that still I speak of it in Proustian terms—or Miltonic terms, a kind of paradise I feel evicted from. Smithtown, Long Island, kind of an MGM Norman Rockwell hometown, a place so boring they gave it a boring name . . . When I was 14 I began to go to New York on a regular basis, sometimes on the train, sometimes hitchhiking there, looking for a jungly eroticism I supposed Smithtown, with its manicured lawns and its country club airs, couldn’t afford me. I was right and wrong at the same time.
Vote for ten books you want to read (or reread) from the year of Woodstock, Stonewall and Nixon’s inauguration – and join us on a literary journey.
One Grand Books is launching its first book club, and we’re inviting you to join us—whether local or long-distance readers. In the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, Stonewall, and Neil Armstrong’s “small step for mankind,” the 1969 Book Club will look at novels published in that momentous year – which began with the inauguration of Richard Nixon. What, if anything, do they reveal about the concerns of the age, and how do they speak to us today? In literary terms, it was an extraordinary year, with groundbreaking novels by Philip Roth, Ursula LeGuin, and Kurt Vonnegut, as well as some enduring bestsellers, among them Mario Puzzo’s The Godfather and Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain. It was also a year in which second wave feminism made its influence clear in novels by Margaret Atwood and Iris Murdoch, among others, and when the singular talent of Maya Angelou was announced with the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. What’s more, all of these titles have all had five decades to demonstrate their longevity and worth.
Televisions and movies would have us believe that the time from late November to the new year is a run on love, togetherness, and eggnog sipped in front of an open fire, but real-life seldom plays out so nicely. There are a multitude of reasons to dread the holidays, but whom amongst us hasn’t inwardly groaned about the family visit? Between the awkward conversations around the dinner table, or the long played out family feud, the holidays can invoke dread in the best of us.
This Sunday marks the 152nd anniversary of Charles Dickens first visit to the United State, to read before a packed audience at Boston’s Tremont Temple. In a gushing story at the time, the New York Times reported that the hall was filled “by perhaps one of the most appreciative, fashionable, and brilliant audiences ever assembled in New England.” These days that kind of language is largely reserved for the peacock parade that is the annual Met Ball, or the Oscars red carpet. Try to imagine such a dandy crowd taking even a moment out of their self-absorption to listen, as they did in the Tremont Temple, to a recital of The Pickwick Papers (unless that person was Hugh Dancy, who chose the book for his bookshelf). Yet in 1867, such was the fervor for Dickens that police were drafted in to prevent, as the Times put it, “any confusion or disturbance attendant upon the grand rush into the hall.” Within three years the writer would be dead from a stroke, at the age of 58, brought on it was suggested, by an emotional reading he’d given of the death of Nancy in his novel, Oliver Twist. Even if apocryphal, it’s a fitting finale for one of the most enduring of all writers.
Roger Ebert called Bernardo Bertolucci one of the great painters of the screen. It’s a distinction the director—who has succumbed to cancer at 77—proved many times over, from his sprawling Oscar favorite The Last Emperor (1987) to the lush and undervalued Stealing Beauty (1996). In The Dreamers (2003), an audacious big screen adaptation of the novel by film critic Gilbert Adair, Bertolucci unleashes his painterly instincts right out of the gate with the graphic design of his opening credits. Scored to a guitar-rock soundtrack, the sequence sees the camera descend the Eiffel Tower, with arbitrary, architectural color blocking a la Mondrian. The names of cast and crew are alternately obscured and revealed amid the tower’s bolted beams, and the emergence of the title itself points to a definite ’60s Mod influence—the font suggesting it leapt from a Euro band’s vinyl album cover.
EVERYONE’S KIND OF STUPID ABOUT LOVE, OR ATTRACTION MAGIC
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.
Can you believe I just quoted Rumi? What nerve! Who am I, Oprah? What is this, yoga? I’ve finally gone too far. But just because I had the chutzpah to bust out the ancient Persian mystic poetry doesn’t mean you don’t have to reckon with the realness of my Rumi quote, because that’s what the love chapter of this book is all about. If you’re here for the secret to getting cute Jane or hot Johnny to be obsessed with you, you’re probably not going to like what I have to say: your idea is a bad idea, and your plan is a bad plan. It’s an eminently doable sort of magic but also some of the most fuck-up-able. I’ll outline some better ideas and plans so that you can get what you actually want, which, it turns out, is not just more attention from the person who chooses not to spend their attention on you. This is a hard truth that a lot of us end up banging our heads against again and again, like a locker door in a 1980s rom-com, but that’s okay. We’re all burdened with juvenile-flavored fantasy when it comes to love and romance; there have been a lot of movies, you guys! So much bullshit messaging coming through and gumming up the works.