Wednesday, November 25, 2015

It was all a dream

Mrs. Todds my English teacher gives an automatic "F" if anyone ever writes "I woke up and it was all a dream" at the end of a story. She says it violates the deal between reader and writer; that it's a cop-out, it's the Boy Who Cried Wolf. But every single morning we really do wake up and it really was all a dream.
— from Slade House, by David Mitchell.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Three library things

The Library at Night
A virtual exploration of the great libraries of the world, inspired by Alberto Manguel's essay.

Step into a recreation of Manguel's own library. "The library in the morning suggests an echo of the severe and reasonably wishful order of the world, the library at night seems to rejoice in the world's essential, joyful muddle."

Exhibition at the Grande Bibliothèque (Bibliothèque et archives nationales du Québec) until August 28, 2016. (I'll review it when I see it, but sadly that may not be for a while.)

Fallout 4
Disclaimer: I've never played Fallout, but I've logged several hours watching other people play Fallout.

In the latest installment, players can return overdue library books, strewn about the wasteland, for valuable tokens.

"There's certainly no harm in including a library in an imagined dystopian future — if anything, it's a great reminder that overwhelming violence can destroy valuable culture and knowledge."

The Library
A short film about the romance of books.

"It still carries a magical feeling for me, this special kind of sanctuary full of knowledge, full of stories, all covered in a sense of quiet respect and revery." (via)

Monday, October 26, 2015

Science in the service of Fiction

La Science au service de la Fiction:

Premier prototype d'écriture automatique avec images, typographies et pourcentages. Carte postale extraite du livre «Lapsus Mordicus», 2013.

A friend of mine recently sent me this fabulous postcard from France. It oozes cool, but I can't be entirely certain how the machine works.

The retro-futuristic computer appears to be designed to generate fiction according to the input configuration of narrative elements.

I'm not convinced that this machine covers all the components required for a satisfying read: violence, suspense, emotion, and femme fatale. I might add the elements of comedy, character, and cats.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Cat, book

Local street art, on the wall of a used book shop.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Notebooks, neckties, and homework

For one and half school years, between sixth and seventh grade, Mevlut worried constantly about where to sit in the classroom. The inner turmoil he endured while grappling with this question was as intense as the ancient philosophers' worries over how to live a moral life. Within a month of starting school, Mevlut already knew that if wanted to become "a scientist Atatürk would be proud of," as the principal liked to say, he would have to befriend the boys from good families and nice neighbourhoods, whose notebooks, neckties, and homework were always in good order. Out of the two-thirds of the student body who, like Mevlut, lived in a poor neighbourhood, he had yet to meet anyone who did well in school. Once or twice in the school yard, he'd bumped into boys from other classes who took school seriously because they, too, had heard it said, "This one's really clever, he should be sent to school," but in the apocalyptically overcrowded school, he had never managed to communicate with these lost and lonely souls who, like the quiz team, were belittled by the rest as nerds. This was partly because the nerds themselves regarded Mevlut with some suspicion, as he, too, was from a poor neighborhood. He rightly suspected that their rosy worldview was fatally flawed: deep down, he felt that these "clever" boys, who thought they would become rich one day if only they could learn the sixth-grade geography textbook by heart, were, in fact, fools, and the last thing he wanted was to be anything like them.
— from A Strangeness in My Mind, by Orhan Pamuk.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

There was no prize

When she sat back down at her table she found that a group of men dresses as condoms were staggering across St Helen's Square. They were in one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe and they were dressed as condoms. What was wrong with Benidorm? Or Magaluf? ("You want everyone to behave better, but you don't behave better yourself," Bertie said.)

One of the condom men squashed himself like an insect against the large plate-glass of Bettys and leered at the diners. The pianist glanced up from his keyboard and then continued serenely with Debussy. A van drew up in the centre of St Helen's Square and disgorged several people dressed as zombies. The zombies proceeded to chase the men who were dressed as condoms. The condom men didn't seem very surprised, as if they were expecting to be chased by zombies. ("They pay for it," Bertie said.) Was this fun? Viola despaired. It was possible, she thought, that she had won the race to reach the end of civilization. There was no prize. Obviously.
— from A God in Ruins, by Kate Atkinson.

It's a devastatingly lovely book. The above excerpt should not considered representative, but it did make me laugh amid the general bleakness of war, and of life in general.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

All alike, perhaps just because they all wanted to be different

Here the pavements were swarming with feet wearing shoes, boots, high boots, shoes with heels and shoes without, and some in sandals, which, to look at them, make one's head go round; here the people were strolling up and down in couples, or in groups of men, women and children, or alone: some slow, some in a hurry, all alike, perhaps just because they all wanted to be different, with the same clothes, the same hair, the same faces, eyes, and mouths. Here were the furriers, bootmakers, stationers, jewelers, watchmakers, booksellers, florists, drapers, toyshops, hardware stores, milliners, hosiers, glove shops, cafés, theaters, banks; here were the lighted windows of the buildings with people walking up and down or working at desks; the electric signs, always the same; on the street corners stood the newspaper kiosks, the chestnut sellers, the unemployed selling ruban de Bruges and rubber fins for umbrellas. Here were the beggars, a blind man with black spectacles, cap in hand at the top of the street, his head thrown back against the wall, lower down an elderly woman suckling a child at her shrunken breast, and lower still an idiot with a shiny yellow stump like a knee-joint where his hand should have been. As I ground myself once more in that street, among such familiar things, I had a funereal impression of immobility, which made me shudder profoundly and feel momentarily naked, as if the icy breath of fear had passed between my body and my clothes.
— from The Woman of Rome, by Alberto Moravia.