Hiding Man: A Biography of Donald Barthelme


Tracy Daugherty - 2009
    He worked as an editor, a designer, a curator, a news reporter, and a teacher. He was at the forefront of literary Greenwich Village which saw him develop lasting friendships with Thomas Pynchon, Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Wolfe, Grace Paley, and Norman Mailer. Married four times, he had a volatile private life. He died of cancer in 1989. The recipient of many prestigious literary awards, he is best remembered for the classic novels Snow White, The Dead Father, and many short stories, all of which remain in print today.  This is the first biography of Donald Barthelme, and it is nothing short of a masterpiece.

The Daemon Knows: Literary Greatness and the American Sublime


Harold Bloom - 2015
    Now he turns at long last to his beloved writers of our national literature in an expansive and mesmerizing book that is one of his most incisive and profoundly personal to date. A product of five years of writing and a lifetime of reading and scholarship, The Daemon Knows maybe Bloom’s most masterly book yet. Pairing Walt Whitman with Herman Melville, Ralph Waldo Emerson with Emily Dickinson, Nathaniel Hawthorne with Henry James, Mark Twain with Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens with T. S. Eliot, and William Faulkner with Hart Crane, Bloom places these writers’ works in conversation with one another, exploring their relationship to the “daemon”—the spark of genius or Orphic muse—in their creation and helping us understand their writing with new immediacy and relevance. It is the intensity of their preoccupation with the sublime, Bloom proposes, that distinguishes these American writers from their European predecessors. As he reflects on a lifetime lived among the works explored in this book, Bloom has himself, in this magnificent achievement, created a work touched by the daemon.

Writing on Drugs


Sadie Plant - 1999
    . . these drugs have always affected far more than the perceptions, minds and moods of their users. Writing on Drugs explores the profound and pervasive nature of their influence on contemporary culture. It reads Coleridge on opium, Freud on cocaine, Michaux on mescaline and Burroughs on them all, and with such writers it begins to understand the many ways in which the modern world has found itself on drugs. Psychoactive substances have been integral to its economic history, its politics, media and technologies. They have influenced its poetry and stories, and shaped some of its most fundamental philosophies. They have even exposed the neurochemistry of a human brain which, like its cultures, has never been drug-free.

1001 Books for Every Mood


Hallie Ephron - 2007
    However you feel (or want to feel), let 1001 Books for Every Mood be your guide. Acclaimed critic and novelist Hallie Ephron serves up a literary feast, sure to satisfy your emotional appetite. Whether you want to cry or laugh, remember or forget, behave or misbehave-it's all here. It's your must-have guide to hours and hours of reading pleasure, now and forever-no matter what your mood!Want even more?

Damp Squid: The English Language Laid Bare


Jeremy Butterfield - 2008
    Today, linguists use massive computer power--including the world's largest language databank, the Oxford Corpus, which contains more than two billion words--to determine for the first time definitively how the English language is used. From evidence contained in the gargantuan Oxford Corpus, Jeremy Butterfield here uncovers a wealth of fascinating facts about the English language. Where does our vocabulary come from? How do word meanings change? How is our language really being used? This entertaining book has the up-to-date and authoritative answers to all the key questions about our language. Butterfield takes a thorough look at the English language and exposes its peculiarities and penchants, its development and difficulties, revealing exactly how it operates. We learn, for instance, that we use language in chunks of words--as one linguist put it, "we know words by the company that they keep." For instance, the word quintessentially is joined half the time with a nationality--something is "quintessentially American" or "quintessentially British." Likewise, in comparing eccentric with quirky, the Corpus reveals that eccentric almost always appears in reference to people, as an "eccentric uncle," while quirky usually refers to the actions of people, as in "quirky behavior." Using such observations, Butterfield explains how dictionary makers decide which words to include, how they find definitions, and how the Corpus influences the process. Covering all areas of English, from spelling and idioms to the future of English, and with entertaining examples and useful charts throughout, this compelling and lively book will delight word lovers everywhere.

The Secret Library: A Book-Lovers' Journey Through Curiosities of History


Oliver Tearle - 2016
    As well as leafing through the well-known titles that have helped shape the world in which we live, Oliver Tearle also dusts off some of the more neglected items to be found hidden among the bookshelves of the past.You’ll learn about the forgotten Victorian novelist who outsold Dickens, the woman who became the first published poet in America and the eccentric traveller who introduced the table-fork to England. Through exploring a variety of books – novels, plays, travel books, science books, cookbooks, joke books and sports almanacs – The Secret Library highlights some of the most fascinating aspects of our history. It also reveals the surprising connections between various works and historical figures. What links Homer’s Iliad to Aesop’s Fables? Or Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack to the creator of Sherlock Holmes?The Secret Library brings these little-known stories to light, exploring the intersections between books of all kinds and the history of the Western world over 3,000 years.

Lives of the Novelists: A History of Fiction in 294 Lives


John Sutherland - 2007
    In the spirit of Dr. Johnson’s Lives of the Poets, acclaimed critic and scholar John Sutherland selects 294 writers whose works illustrate the best of every kind of fiction—from gothic, penny dreadful, and pornography to fantasy, romance, and high literature. Each author was chosen, Professor Sutherland explains, because his or her books are well worth reading and are likely to remain so for at least another century. Sutherland presents these authors in chronological order, in each case deftly combining a lively and informative biographical sketch with an opinionated assessment of the writer's work. Taken together, these novelists provide both a history of the novel and a guide to its rich variety. Always entertaining, and sometimes shocking, Sutherland considers writers as diverse as Daniel Defoe, Henry James, James Joyce, Edgar Allan Poe, Virginia Woolf, Michael Crichton, Jeffrey Archer, and Jacqueline Susann.Written for all lovers of fiction, Lives of the Novelists succeeds both as introduction and re-introduction, as Sutherland presents favorite and familiar novelists in new ways and transforms the less favored and less familiar through his relentlessly fascinating readings.

Faulks on Fiction


Sebastian Faulks - 2011
    But it's also true, as Sebastian Faulks argues in this remarkable book, that the novel helped invent the British: for the first time we had stories that reflected the experiences of ordinary people, with characters in which we could find our reality, our understanding and our escape.In Faulks on Fiction, Faulks examines many of these enduring fictional characters from over the centuries -- Heroes from Tom Jones to John Self, Lovers from Mr Darcy to Lady Chatterly, Villains from Fagin to Barbara Covett, and Snobs from Emma Woodhouse to James Bond -- and shows us how they mapped and inspired the British psyche, and continue to do so.Published to coincide with a major BBC series, Faulks on Fiction is an engaging and opinionated look at the psychology of the British through their literature, and a unique social history of Britain from one of our most respected writers.From the Trade Paperback edition.

Slow Reading in a Hurried Age


David Mikics - 2013
    We glance for a brief moment at whatever catches our eye and then move on. Slow Reading in a Hurried Age reminds us of another mode of reading--the kind that requires our full attention and that has as its goal not the mere gathering of information but the deeper understanding that only good books can offer.Slow Reading in a Hurried Age is a practical guide for anyone who yearns for a more meaningful and satisfying reading experience, and who wants to sharpen reading skills and improve concentration. David Mikics, a noted literary scholar, demonstrates exactly how the tried-and-true methods of slow reading can provide a more immersive, fulfilling experience. He begins with fourteen preliminary rules for slow reading and shows us how to apply them. The rules are followed by excursions into key genres, including short stories, novels, poems, plays, and essays.Reading, Mikics says, should not be drudgery, and not mere escape either, but a way to live life at a higher pitch. A good book is a pathway to finding ourselves, by getting lost in the words and works of others.

The Global Novel: Writing the World in the 21st Century


Adam Kirsch - 2017
    Whether its stories take place on the scale of the species or the small town, the global novel situates its characters against the widest background of the imagination. The way we live now demands nothing less than the global perspective our best novelists have to offer.

Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time


Hilary Spurling - 2017
    He was a prolific literary critic and book reviewer. Between the two world wars, before making his name, he kept company with rowdy, hard-up writers and painters--and painters' models--in the London where Augustus John and Wyndham Lewis loomed large. He counted Evelyn Waugh and Henry Green among his lifelong friends, and his circle included the Sitwells, Graham Greene, George Orwell, Philip Larkin, and Kingsley Amis, among many others. Now, drawing on his letters, diaries, and interviews, Hilary Spurling--herself a longtime friend of Powell's-- has written a fresh and masterful portrait of the man, his work, and his time. Insightful, poignant, and cinematic in scope, this biography is as much a brilliant tapestry of a seminal moment in London's literary life as it is a revelation of an iconic literary figure.

The Traveler, the Tower, and the Worm: The Reader as Metaphor


Alberto Manguel - 2013
    We read the book of the world in many guises: we may be travelers, advancing through its pages like pilgrims heading toward enlightenment. We may be recluses, withdrawing through our reading into our own ivory towers. Or we may devour our books like burrowing worms, not to benefit from the wisdom they contain but merely to stuff ourselves with countless words.With consummate grace and extraordinary breadth, the best-selling author of A History of Reading and The Library at Night considers the chain of metaphors that have described readers and their relationships to the text-that-is-the-world over a span of four millennia. In figures as familiar and diverse as the book-addled Don Quixote and the pilgrim Dante who carries us through the depths of hell up to the brilliance of heaven, as well as Prince Hamlet paralyzed by his learning, and Emma Bovary who mistakes what she has read for the life she might one day lead, Manguel charts the ways in which literary characters and their interpretations reflect both shifting attitudes toward readers and reading, and certain recurrent notions on the role of the intellectual: "We are reading creatures. We ingest words, we are made of words. . . . It is through words that we identify our reality and by means of words that we ourselves are identified."

Who We're Reading When We're Reading Murakami


David Karashima - 2020
    Today his books are in fifty languages and have won prizes and sold millions of copies globally. How did a loner destined for a niche domestic audience become one of the most famous writers alive? This book tells one key part of the story. Its cast includes an expat trained in art history who never intended to become a translator; a Chinese-American ex-academic who never planned to work as an editor; and other publishing professionals in New York, London, and Tokyo who together introduced an understated, pop-inflected, unexpected Japanese voice to the wider literary world.David Karashima synthesizes research, correspondence, and interviews with dozens of individuals—including Murakami himself—to examine how countless behind-the-scenes choices over the course of many years worked to build an internationally celebrated author's persona and oeuvre. He looks beyond the "Murakami Industry" toward larger questions: How active a role should translators and editors play in framing their writers' texts? What does it mean to translate and edit "for a market"? How does Japanese culture get packaged and exported for the West?

Suppose a Sentence


Brian Dillon - 2020
    It is both an experiment in the attentive form of the essay - asking what happens, and where one might wander, when as readers and writers we pay minute attention to the language before us - and a polemic for certain kinds of experiment in prose. In a series of essays, each taking a single sentence as its starting point, the book explores style, voice and context. But it also uses its subjects - from George Eliot to Joan Didion, John Donne to Annie Dillard - to ask what the sentence is today and what it might become next.

On Histories and Stories: Selected Essays


A.S. Byatt - 2000
    A. S. Byatt does, and her case is persuasive. In a series of essays on the complicated relations between reading, writing, and remembering, the gifted novelist and critic sorts the modish from the merely interesting and the truly good to arrive at a new view of British writing in our time.Whether writing about the renaissance of the historical novel, discussing her own translation of historical fact into fiction, or exploring the recent European revival of interest in myth, folklore, and fairytale, Byatt's abiding concern here is with the interplay of fiction and history. Her essays amount to an eloquent and often moving meditation on the commitment to historical narrative and storytelling that she shares with many of her British and European contemporaries. With copious illustration and abundant insights into writers from Elizabeth Bowen and Henry Green to Anthony Burgess, William Golding, Muriel Spark, Penelope Fitzgerald, Julian Barnes, Martin Amis, Hilary Mantel, and Pat Barker, On Histories and Stories is an oblique defense of the art Byatt practices and a map of the complex affiliations of British and European narrative since 1945.