12/29/2009 11:16:47 AM
There’s a book out there for everyone who’s ever wondered about the thermodynamics of pizza, how to survive a robot uprising, or the mechanics of do-it-yourself coffins. Barnes and Noble might not carry these literary oddities, but the AbeBooks website has compiled them into one of the strangest book collections on the web. Authors have already explored The Bible Cure for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and The Romance of Proctology. Now people can decide whether or not they want to read about it.
(Thanks, Very Short List.)
12/22/2009 5:43:25 PM
Oh the joys of enumeration. In the recent issue of Bookforum, Albert Mobilio waxes poetic about the benefits of lists and list-making with the sort of reverence only a true list lover could put forth. He touches on Umberto Eco’s book, The Infinity of Lists, but Mobilio’s own musings are surely worth the read if you’re fond of the subject. Herewith, some favorite excerpts:
“The mind’s associative reflex is as rapid as it is circuitous, myriad things and things-to-do always unspooling in the brainpan. If you get out of bed, though, and grab a pen, you can at least slow it down by making a list. You can rank items in importance, annotate, categorize, and subcategorize—in short you can give some material shape to and make some order of what Samuel Beckett dubbed ‘the big blooming buzzing confusion.’ So somewhere between penciling ‘pick up prescription’ and ‘live a more examined life,’ a portion of calm might be found.”
“A list is an intimation of totality, a simulacrum of knowing much, of knowing the right much. We select our ten best big-band recordings, all-time basketball starting fives, mysteries to read this summer; add up the people we've slept with or people we wish we had; index our movie-memorabilia collection; count our blessings; list reasons for not getting out of bed. We jot these accounts on envelopes, store them on hard drives, murmur them under our breath as we ride home from work—it's no accident that many prayers are really nothing more than lists.”
12/21/2009 11:25:55 AM
Having an unusual name can be a great source of pride, until Nicole Richie gives her baby the same name. For Sparrow, a poet writing for the Morning News, the experience is a chance to reflect on the cyclical popularity of the moniker, and its “embarrassing cuteness.” Sparrow defends his name writing,
‘Sparrow’ is a bit wimpy, even I admit. Nicole Richie and Joel Madden recognized this flaw by contriving the elaborate name Sparrow James Midnight Madden. (What are the odds the kid will eventually call himself James?) But Sparrow is not pretentious. And it’s loaded with literary connotations.
For more on Sparrow, read some of his proverbs, and a profile of the poet by former Utne Reader librarian Chris Dodge.
Source: The Morning News
12/15/2009 3:04:31 PM
Vintage International recently unveiled its beautifully redesigned Vladimir Nabokov backlist, with fresh covers for Nabokov classics like The Enchanter and The Luzhin Defense.
“Every so often, a dream project lands on your desk,” writes Vintage art director John Gall at the Design Observer blog. “Here's one: redesign Vladimir Nabokov's book covers. All twenty-one of them. Let me rephrase. Every so often the most daunting project of your entire life arrives on your desk.”
Gall enlisted a number of artists (including Utne visionary Dave Eggers, who designed the new Laughter in the Dark cover) to play on the concept of specimen boxes, as a way to honor Nabokov’s passion for collecting butterflies.
“Each box would be filled with paper, ephemera, and insect pins, selected to somehow evoke the book's content,” Gall writes. “And to make it more interesting for readers—and less daunting for me—I thought it would be fun to ask a group of talented designers to help create the boxes.” The final covers aren’t the actual boxes, of course (they’re photographs of the finished projects), though perhaps those will resurface as extra-extra-special collectors’ editions?
Source: Design Observer
12/4/2009 5:36:03 PM
Back in October, the Oxford University Press released a 4,448-page two-volume super reference book: the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s not only the biggest thesaurus, racking up more than 920,000 entries, but it’s also the first historical thesaurus. Poets & Writers has the fascinating history behind the project, which almost went up in flames:
Begun in 1965 under the auspices of the University of Glasgow, the project has passed through several technological incarnations—moving from paper slips to microfilm to computer files—and survived the death of founders and dodgy financial backing. Christian Kay, one of the work’s four coeditors, was twenty-seven when she joined the endeavor as a research assistant. She’s now a sixty-nine-year-old professor.
Work in the early years progressed slowly, with researchers combing the twenty volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary and transcribing lists of synonyms on 6 x 4–inch cards. In 1978, things nearly went up in smoke when the building housing the sole copy of the work-in-progress caught fire. The nineteenth-century structure was burned to a shell, but the thesaurus—safely ensconced in metal cabinets—survived the blaze.“We were always very good about putting things away at night,” Kay told the Daily Mail, “and the Victorian doorsstood up well, although you can still see singe marks on some of the documents.”
Source: Poets and Writers
12/3/2009 3:01:48 PM
According to legend, the Ghanaian dish pepper soup is able to protect people who eat it from influenza epidemics. The overwhelming heat of the peppers is enough to scare away most people of European dissent, but it can also reward those who can stomach the spice. In the latest issue of Gastronomica, Adela (Mary) Blay Brody writes a touching ode to her beloved pepper soup. She includes stories from her grandmother of how the dish warded off European colonialists (for a time) and she also explains how she acclimated her husband to the spicy African food. She also provides a recipe for a variation of the dish, with the spice dialed down for the faint hearted. She writes:
Dear reader, please don’t fear to come to my house for dinner. I have learned over four decades how to modify my dishes for every palate. Starting with my husband, I have cooked to make non-Africans weep tears of pleasure, not pain, as I adapt my recipes and add new ideas from around the world.
Source: Gastronomica (article not available online)
Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.
Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!
Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $6 and get 6 issues of Utne Reader for only $29.95 (USA only).
Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 6 issues of Utne Reader!