Books have always played essential parts in horror films. There is the book of spells (or ancient tome of forbidden knowledge); there is the diary or journal which reveals that a character is completely mad; and then there’s the book whose plot starts to actually come to life.
But what I hadn’t expected as I watched The Ninth Gate during AMC’s Monsterfest, was that a book could be a new kind of character in a scary movie: a victim.
Believe me, there’s nothing scarier than seeing a leather-bound book, supposedly over a century old, being handled by an alleged book collector who noisily turns its pages without gloves, while smoking. You just keep telling yourself, it’s only a movie.
“A man can’t serve two masters.”
“You mean business and literature?”
“No; I mean theory and instinct. The gray tree and the green. You’ve got to choose which fruit you’ll try; and you don’t know till afterward which of the two has the dead core.”
“How can anybody be sure that only one of them has?”
“I’m sure,” said Merrick sharply.
Edith Wharton, from “The Long Run” in The New York Stories of Edith Wharton
This summer postal rates for small- and medium-sized periodical publications went up between 20% and 30%. For a magazine like The Nation, this means an increase in postage of about $500,000 a year. Maybe The Nation (and The New York Review of Books for that matter) will be able to carry on despite the hike—though not without being forced to pass along at least a portion of the increase to subscribers—but what about journals without such large, dedicated bases?
Thanks to lobbying by conglomerates like TimeWarner (or did they write the bill in the first place?) large publishers are unaffected by the increase.
But there's something we can all do to help. Congress will be holding hearings on the matter on October 30th. To quote a letter sent out today by the publisher of The New York Review of Books:
Free Press, working with a wide variety of small publishers, is hoping to collect well over 100,000 signatures by the end of this week in order to get the attention of the committee members prior to the hearing.
We hope you will join in this effort. These new postal rates threaten the existence of the small independent magazines and journals that are so important to a free press and a vibrant democracy.
So, please take a moment to sign the petition at Free Press.
Listen to the npr story on the issue.
Read what Bill Moyers had to say about it.
"When she was alone, it was always the past that occupied her. She couldn’t get away from it, and she didn’t any longer care to. During her long years of exile she had made her terms with it, had learned to accept the fact that it would always be there, huge, obstructing, encumbering, bigger and more dominant than anything the future could ever conjure up. And, at any rate, she was sure of it, she understood it, knew how to reckon with it; she had learned to screen and manage and protect it as one does an afflicted member of one’s family.—“Autres Temps...”
“I had no commitments except, in a vague way, to remain uncommitted. I had no wife, no job, no ambition, no bank account, no use for large sums of money, no appetite for prestige, and no temptation to acquire any of them. I had, at that time, I think, already unconsciously assessed them all as so many pairs of weighted diver’s shoes—of no use to anyone who wanted to remain on the surface of life. If they had been wings I would have assumed them gladly; but now...I had once again the salutary sense of the abyss that yawns for everyone who has embraced the literary profession—everyone from Molière to George Gissing: literature, like every other form of gainful employment, was just another trap.”
—John Glassco, Memoirs of Montparnasse
Doris Lessing on...
The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian by Nirad C. Chaudhuri
"Reading this book is to be immersed in India, you feel you are living that life, such is the power of this acute, stubbornly honest, capaciously minded writer to recreate his times."
"A marvellous novelist who's grossly neglected…I'm continually amazed that there's a kind of roll call of OK names from the 1930s, sort of Auden, Isherwood, etc. But Hamilton is never on them and he's a much better writer than any of them... [he] was very much outside the tradition of an upperclass or middle-class writer of that time. He wrote novels about ordinary people. He wrote more sense about England and what was going on in England in the 1930s than anybody else I can think of, and his novels are true now. You can go into any pub and see it going on."—The Times (London), 1968
The Education of a Gardener by Russell Page
“Page has written an astonishingly beautiful book about his craft.”
Shamelessness aside, the Classics list does boast two books written by bona-fide Nobel Prize–winners. Identify the laureate by his words:
1. Some of his favorite things: “Silence, the company of friends, unexpected honesty, reading, going to the pictures, dreams, uncluttered landscapes, city streets, faces, good food, cooking small meals, whisky, sex, pugs, the thought of an Australian republic, my ashes floating off at last.” [Answer]
2. "I think that life is a very sad piece of buffoonery; because we have in ourselves, without being able to know why, wherefore or whence, the need to deceive ourselves constantly by creating a reality (one for each and never the same for all), which from time to time is discovered to be vain and illusory.... My art is full of bitter compassion for all those who deceive themselves; but this compassion cannot fail to be followed by the ferocious derision of destiny which condemns man to deception." [Answer]
Today one of my very favorite weblogs, Bibliodyssey, announced that a book based on the site was just published (with an introduction by shock-artiste Dinos Chapman). In case you aren't familiar with the site, Bibliodyssey is devoted to uncovering all sorts of printed matter buried in image archives, libraries, and museums throughout the world. I don't know how the proprietor, PK, manages to find all the astonishing things he does, but I'm glad that he does the detective work for us lazy types. Most of what's posted is in the public domain, although there's a fair amount of newer book-art represented.
The book's been published by Fuel Design Publishing. I didn't know the press, but I'm certainly familiar with the ubiquitous Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia. The other books they offer look equally offbeat and arty.
So nice to see something that began as an avocation become a printed book. Just like that rainbow-striped 80s gem counseled us: "Do what you love, the money will follow."
"The souls of short thick-set men, with chubby features, mutton-chop whiskers, and pale eyes peering between folds of fat like almond kernels in half-split shells—souls thus encased do not reveal themselves to the casual scrutiny as delicate emotional instruments. But in spite of the disguise in which he walked Mr. Grew vibrated exquisitely in response to every imaginative appeal."
Edith Wharton, from "His Father's Son" in The New York Stories of Edith Wharton