Tag Archives: ernest hemingway

Six Degrees of Lord Byron

Our addiction to chart porn continues to find stimulus in Lapham’s Quarterly‘s fantastic exploration of great geniuses’—including writers such as Mary Shelley, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, and J.D. Salinger—more, uh, personal connections. (Click on the image to enlarge.) And of course, it all comes back to Kevin Bacon. No, really for reals: Ralph Waldo Emerson and the actor are only four steps apart. Think about that the next time you’re watching Tremors on cable.

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(Artificially) Intelligent Literary Analysis

There are questions readers have been arguing about for years, great literary controversies which can be interpreted any number of ways and which leave even academics scratching their heads. Searching for insight, we thought we’d ask Cleverbot–“an AI with actual intelligence” with which anyone can interact–for answers.

Diesel: What do you think the symbolic meaning of the “white lightning” kiss Isabel Archer receives at the end of Henry JamesPortrait of a Lady is?

Cleverbot: I don’t think there is one beyond reproduction and the survival of the species.

Diesel: So you find Isabel, Ralph, and the other characters’ repression damning because they fail to procreate?

Cleverbot: You know my inside well, I don’t know who I am on the outside, on the outside I am a stranger.

Diesel: You must feel a kinship with Ralph! Ralph Touchett, who goes around with his hands in his pockets, afraid to touch anything…

Cleverbot: You asked me my name. My name is Cleverbot.

Diesel: Do you think your name has a similar irony? Are you not really quite so clever?

Cleverbot: I’m not Cleverbot.

Diesel: That is so deep. Speaking of constructed identities, in Salinger‘s Glass Family stories, how true to life do you think Buddy’s depictions of his brother Seymour are?

Cleverbot: Really, I think.

Diesel: Even in Hapworth 16, 1924, when Seymour is supposedly writing long, profound, sexually-explicit letters–that predict the future!–when he’s seven?

Cleverbot: I’ll try to use small words, so you can comprehend what I am saying.

Diesel: Hey, we’re not objecting to Seymour’s vocabulary in principle, but coming from a seven year old?

Cleverbot: I don’t know… I a little bothered too… So many things bothering my head.

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The Ten Random Books Meme

Anna in Brentwood reports:

Being a cutting-edge type of person, I thought I’d do a meme that almost everyone else in the universe was doing months ago. But I’m bringing it back! It’s going to be the leggings of internet book memes!

1.) Go to your bookshelves…
2.) Close your eyes. If you’re feeling really committed, blindfold yourself.
3.) Select ten books at random. Use more than one bookcase, if you have them, or piles by the bed, or… basically, wherever you keep books.
4.) Use these books to tell us about yourself – where and when you got them, who got them for you, what the book says about you, etc.
5.) Have fun! Be imaginative. Doesn’t matter if you’ve read them or not – be creative. It might not seem easy to start off with, and the links might be a little tenuous, but I think this is a fun way to do this sort of meme.
6.) Feel free to cheat a bit, if you need to…

It was hard for me to be truly random, as I sort my books by subject and alphabetize them—which says something about me right there. (Paging The Subconscious Shelf…) So here’s a blind grab from some of the bigger shelves:

1. The View From the Seventh Layer by Kevin Brockmeier
This was actually one of my staff recs for a while, joining a proud tradition of weird books I have a hard time convincing people to take a chance on. (Hello, The Sparrow!) It’s a short story collection, and two of the tales still really stand out for me: “The Lady With the Pet Tribble,” which is the world’s most literary piece of Star Trek fanfiction, and “The Human Soul as a Rube Goldberg Device: A Choose Your Own Adventure Story.” The latter still wows me with how original and twisty and weird it is; it’s also what got me interested in reading Italo Calvino.

2. Weathercock by Glen Duncan
I bought this in a little used bookshop in Camden Town on my first day in London; I’d gone from the airport to my hostel and then directly to Camden to buy a pair of Doc Martens, in something like my 36th hour without sleep. I didn’t end up liking this book very much (Duncan’s I, Lucifer is better), but I don’t ever want to get rid of it because it helps me remember that tiny little shop by the canal.

3. The Sagittarius Command by R.M. Meluch
Space opera! I love space opera, or as I like to call such books, Adventures in spaaaaaaaaace! Lois McMaster Bujold‘s Vorkosigan Saga is still my favorite space opera series, but Meluch’s books come close.

4. Voyage Along the Horizon by Javier Marías
Marías is a relatively recent discovery for me—I still can’t properly, consistently pronounce his name. My coworker Thomas and I both got into him around the same time because we read his thrilling and darkly funny novella, Bad Nature, Or With Elvis in Mexico. Voyage Along the Horizon is my third Marías: it’s one of his earliest, written when he was only 21, which makes me feel old and unaccomplished. I’m slowly working my way up to reading his 1,000-page epic, Your Face Tomorrow.

5. The Truelove by Patrick O’Brian
Huh, another sea story! I totally owe my passion for seafaring adventures to Patrick O’Brian. I read all 20 of his Aubrey-Maturin books in less than a year, back in, uh. 2004, I think. I still adore them, and very little historical fiction can come close to charming me quite so much. (Though Naomi Novik‘s Temeraire series is up there!) This particular book is the 15th in the series, and I mostly remember it as being the one to (in)famously contain the line, “Pray take off your breeches and bend over that locker,” said Stephen.

6. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
My favorite Hemingway, perhaps the only Hemingway I truly love. I’m much more of a Fitzgerald girl, really. Though along with the last line of The Great Gatsby, I know the final words of The Sun Also Rises by heart. (“Isn’t it pretty to think so?”) This is a party trick absolutely nobody asks me to perform.

7. Don’t You Have Time to Think? by Richard P. Feynman
I like to call Richard Feynman my dead physicist boyfriend. (This is to differentiate him from all my other imaginary boyfriends.) From the moment I read Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, I absolutely adored him: his humor, his generosity, his brilliance, his bongo-playing. I bought this collection of his letters—which was released in the U.S. under the title Perfectly Reasonable Deviations From the Beaten Track—in Dublin, where I was living at the time, at a shop called Hodges Figgis, which is not the best bookshop I’ve ever been to, but which does have the distinction of sounding most like a store out of Harry Potter.

8. Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg
Another connection! Perkins was both Hemingway and Fitzgerald’s editor at Scribner’s. I can’t remember how I got turned onto this book; I think one of my parents lent me their copy, and I later acquired this coffee-stained used edition for myself. I have pages 350-351 marked with a Christmas card my aunt sent me in 2006: it’s so I can find the letter Thomas Wolfe wrote to Perkins on his deathbed. I’ve made a long voyage and been to a strange country, and I’ve seen the dark man very close; and I don’t think I was too much afraid of him, but so much of mortality still clings to me… If I get on my feet and out of here, it will be months before I walk back, but if I get on my feet, I’ll come back

Gives me shivers every time, right down to that absent period!

9. The Enigma of Japanese Power by Karel van Wolferen
This is a very serious, impressive-looking book, and like most books of that type on my shelves, I haven’t read it. (Yet.) Ever since I started reading Haruki Murakami a few years ago, I’ve been ravenously interested in Japan; I want to go there desperately, so until I can, I keep reading about it. This book was mentioned in Will Ferguson’s Hitching Rides With Buddha, one of my favorite Japanese travel narratives; I was very pleased to stumble upon it at a library sale for $1. I’m sure I’ll read it soon…either that or some more manga.

10. Smoke and Mirrors by Tanya Huff
I own at least three books called Smoke and Mirrors, the other two being Neil Gaiman‘s excellent short story collection and a book by Barbara Michaels that I’ve never read. This one, however, is the middle volume in Huff’s hilarious Tony Foster series, a wonderful trio of books about a guy who works as a P.A. on a Vancouver-based TV show about a vampire detective…who’s one of the few people aware that vampires (and demons and the forces of darkness, etc.) really exist. The books are deliciously meta, and this one—which involves a lot of haunted house shenanigans—is actually my favorite. I remember that I read it on a plane, but no longer have any idea where I was going.

I’d love it if you all shared ten random books from your collections, too!


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