Sunday, June 30, 2013

Write "suffrage" backwards.

"This week’s Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder overturned Section 4(b) of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which mandated federal oversight of changes in voting procedure in jurisdictions that have a history of using a “test or device” to impede enfranchisement…. After the end of the Civil War, would-be black voters in the South faced an array of disproportionate barriers to enfranchisement. The literacy test—supposedly applicable to both white and black prospective voters who couldn’t prove a certain level of education but in actuality disproportionately administered to black voters—was a classic example of one of these barriers….
     There was little room for befuddlement. The test was to be taken in 10 minutes flat, and a single wrong answer meant a failing grade."
— Rebecca Onion, Slate
Read more, and try the test yourself...

“I believe the dead are at peace, but it is not right to speak of them with levity.” ― Emily Bronté, Wuthering Heights

"Yes, A Questionable Shape is that zombie novel you’ve been hearing about, but don’t believe the publicity: Bennett Sims, the book’s author, is barely interested in genre at all. This isn’t even The Keep or Motherless Brooklyn—something that stokes the intellect while still delivering generic thrills. I get no sense Bennett Sims loves zombies.
     Mostly, this book is concerned with memory. The undead 'return to the familiar,' wandering 'to nostalgically charged sites from their former lives.' Do they understand why they remember what they remember? Do any of us? For all the talk about the undead, Sims uses very few tropes from zombie narratives—not even to subvert them. He demonstrates little affection for genre….
     Over and over again, Sims demonstrates astonishing skill with image. Shadows sweep 'back and forth, like a massive phantasmal broom.' The wax at the base of a candlestick looks 'as if a congregation of gnarled ghosts was kneeling in prayer before the flame.' These similes transform the familiar world into surreal gems, so concrete that I can feel each in my hand."
— Benjamin Rybeck, ElectricLiterature
Read more…

"Quirk Books’s spring catalog [2009] features at least one title I’d like to get my hands on: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. Like a DVD loaded with extras, the book includes the original text of the Regency classic, juiced up with 'all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem.'”
— Jennifer Schuessler, The New York Times

stop the presses, please...

"The Internet democratized writing. Obviously.
     Nearly anyone can string together a few sentences and try to find an audience. Writing seems like an easy gig, or at least one for which no additional knowledge base is required. There's a reason Will Hunting's intelligence is shown through his math prowess, not his ability to pen a paragraph. The number of 'writers' exploded, even while one estimate for the number of official jobs for full-time journalists decreased from 61,000 in 1997 to 45,500 in 2012.
     But the destruction of the job market hurts not only the quantity, but the quality. For one thing, it reduces the number of mentors. 'There's a whole generation of kids who are really bright and who are interested in this work. None of them have been trained as reporters and it's disastrous,' said David Samuels, who writes frequently for Harper's Magazine, The Atlantic, and the New Yorker. 'Reporting is a craft. Like other crafts, you learn it through apprenticeship and by doing the job. You can't substitute blogging on the Huffington Post for writing long reported pieces for magazines or working your way up from the Quad Cities Times to the Chicago Tribune….
     Alana Newhouse is the editor-in-chief of Tablet and a frequent speaker on panels about the state of the media and longform journalism. She argues that the issue is not the increase in people putting pen to paper or keypad to blog, but the lack of a mechanism for separating those who should remain amateurs from those who should make a living from writing.'"
— Noah Davis, The Awl
Read more…

Saturday, June 29, 2013


"…In theory, writing a thriller is simple. The basic formula reaches back through the ages, to the Odyssey and the Bible. Take a flawed but likable hero, send him on a perilous journey where he is forced to confront his inner demons, increase the danger at every stage, have an ally or two betray him, but ensure that he eventually vanquishes the enemy, emerging bruised, wiser and triumphant.
     The practice, however, is rather more complicated….

First UK edition (from: Wikipedia)

     Writing fiction, I soon realized, required not so much a steep learning curve of mastering plot and pacing, character and narrative drive, as a steep unlearning curve. And once the urge to explain has been conquered, other hazards await: overuse of research (male action writers are especially prone wherever guns are involved), overt signposting for readers assumed to be too dim to make the necessary connections (they are not) and didactic dialogue."
— Adam LeBor, The New York Times
Read more…

See a related post here...

Buy The Budapest Protocol and all of John Le Carré's books here...

Book Surgery

From: Colt + Rane

Go here for more...

Friday, June 28, 2013

"…writing a book is a collision between what one wants and what one gets." — Craig Nova

"Craig Nova, author of All the Dead Yale Men, is a manic rewriter. He showed me a picture of what he calls his 'slag heap'—a huge stack of manuscript pages, piled several feet high, that accumulated as he wrote his latest book. Nova does not merely tinker with word choice the way some editors do; instead, he writes again from scratch. Sometimes he'll approach a first draft in radical new ways, adopting new points of view—even trying again in different genres—to learn more about a character or scene. Directly contradicting the 'first thought, best thought' code of spontaneity espoused by the Beats, Nova feels his work's not done until he explores each scene or section from every possible angle.  
     All the Dead Yale Men continues the Boston family saga that began with The Good Son (1982), which John Irving called 'the richest and most expert novel in my recent reading by any writer now under 40.' Nova's work has appeared in Esquire, The Paris Review, and The New York Times Magazine; he teaches writing at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro."
— Joe Fraser, The Atlantic
Read more…

"...letting the pen ramble"

"To love the novels of César Aira you must have a taste for the absurd, a tolerance for the obscurely philosophical and a willingness to laugh out loud against your better judgment. His latest novel to be translated into English, The Hare, is set in the Argentine pampas at the end of the 19th century.
     But don't let any veneer of realism fool you. Despite its gauchos, Indians and lyrical descriptions of Argentina's sprawling plains, The Hare doesn't approach the accuracy of An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter, Aira's last pampas novel to be published here. It's more like an episode of Star Trek, crossed with Lawrence of Arabia."
OPB (via NPR)
Read more…

"The ultra-experimental, madly prolific Argentine novelist César Aira doesn’t believe in explanations. Not surprisingly, his third novel translated to English, How I Became a Nun, puzzled some U.S. reviewers. The book begins with a hilarious episode in which a child is disgusted by a first taste of strawberry ice cream. In the span of its ensuing 120-odd pages, the novel describes a 6-year-old child’s anxieties, delusions, metaphysical discoveries and rites of passage, including a first friendship.
...critics praised the book’s dark humour, its elegant prose, its inventive subversion of reality, but they asked—what is this all about? They wanted a justification, an explanation or contextualization that might make the novel, as the second critic put it, 'a credible story.'
     But that is exactly what Aira’s brief but extravagant books tend to avoid delivering. In fact, Aira has staked out a very cogent and immensely influential (in Latin America) artistic position that basically says 'storytelling at its finest avoids explanations, information, interpretation, etc.' In a series of 1988 lectures delivered at the University of Buenos Aires, Aira was clear on this point: 'The real story, which we have grown unaccustomed to, is chemically free of explanation. . . . The story is always about something unexplainable. The art of narration declines as explanations are added.'
     Aira says that when he sits down to write his daily page or two, he writes pretty much whatever comes into his head, with no strictures except that of continuing the previous day’s work. (The spontaneous feel of his stories would seem to back up this claim, but I’ve always asked, can anyone write as well as Aira does while simply letting the pen ramble?)"
— Marcello Ballvé, The Quarterly Conversation

Buy some of César Aira's books here...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

More or less...

"Genealogy and population fascinate us all. Who are we? Where do we come from? And crucially nowadays, how many more of us can we accommodate? Can we survive the impending crisis and, if so, how?
     Danny Dorling, one of the UK's leading experts, tells us not to worry. His latest of several books on population [Population 10 Billion] takes to task the United Nations and its recent predictions of a world that will explode to 10 billion people….
     This 10 billion mark is proving talismanic, with a spate of doom-laden books presaging the moment. One eagerly awaited tome, by Stephen Emmott, will be published shortly, with a message to be very scared. Dorling, by contrast, is more sanguine.

Coney Island, 1950 (from: Ptak Science Books)
     Several factors, he argues, are driving down fertility rates. One is education. Another is public health. More intriguing is his contention about migration: 'People tend to rapidly adopt the fertility rates of the places they move to. If Europeans want to be well cared for in our old age, and we also want fewer future people in the world, the last thing we should be doing is trying to reduce migration to Europe.'"
— John Kampfner, The Guardian
Read more…

Zusammenarbeit Macht Frei

From: Wikipedia

"In The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact With Hitler, Ben Urwand draws on a wealth of previously uncited documents to argue that Hollywood studios, in an effort to protect the German market for their movies, not only acquiesced to Nazi censorship but also actively and enthusiastically cooperated with that regime’s global propaganda effort.
     In the 1930s 'Hollywood is not just collaborating with Nazi Germany,' Mr. Urwand said by telephone from Cambridge, Mass., where he is currently at Harvard’s prestigious Society of Fellows. 'It’s also collaborating with Adolf Hitler, the person and human being.'…
     Mr. Urwand strongly defended the notion of 'collaboration,' noting that the word (and its German equivalent, Zusammenarbeit) occurs repeatedly in documents on both sides.
     And he bristled at the suggestion that Hollywood had a better record against Nazism than other major industries, to say nothing of the State Department, which repeatedly blocked efforts to expand visas for Jewish refugees.
     'The State Department’s record is atrocious,' he said. 'But the State Department did not finance the production of Nazi armaments. It did not distribute pro-Nazi newsreels in Germany. It did not meet with Nazi officials and do secret deals.'
     'Collaboration,' he added, 'is what the studios were doing, and how they describe it.'”
— Jennifer Schuessler, The New York Times
Read more…

Mr. Urwand's book will be released in October; preorder it here...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"pro bono"

"It is no surprise that Bono and Bob Geldof, the two leading celebrity philanthropists of our time, are both Irish. The Ireland into which they were born in the 1960s was caught between third and first worlds, and so was more likely to sympathise with the wretched of the earth than were the natives of Hampstead. As a devoutly Christian nation, it also had a long missionary tradition. Black babies were a familiar object of charity in Ireland long before Hollywood movie stars began snapping them up. Bono himself was a member of a prayer group in the 1970s, before he stumbled on leather trousers and wrap-around shades. Scattered across the globe by hunger and turmoil at home, the Irish have long been a cosmopolitan people, far less parochial than their former proprietors. Small nations cannot afford the insularity of the great….

     Like Geldof, he inherited the social conscience of the 1960s without its political radicalism, which is why he has proved so convenient a front man for the neo-liberals.   
     In fact, as [Harry] Browne points out, he has cosied up to racists such as Jesse Helms, whitewashed architects of the Iraqi adventure such as Tony Blair and Paul Wolfowitz, and discovered a soulmate in the shock-doctrine economist Jeffrey Sachs. He has also brownnosed the Queen, sucked up to the Israelis, grovelled at the feet of corporate bullies and allied himself with rightwing anti-condom US evangelicals in Africa. The man who seems to flash a peace sign every four seconds apparently has no problem with the sponsorship of the arms corporation BAE."
– Terry Eagleton, The Guardian
Read more…

Buy this book here...

( ☐ Black ☐ White ) House

U.S. paperback cover on the left; U.K. paperback cover
on the right.

"Barack Obama's candidacy has got me thinking of Irving Wallace's 1964 novel The Man, which imagines an America led by a black president. But Wallace's hero, Douglas Dillman, isn't elected; he's a Midwestern senator who inherits the White House after the president and the speaker of the House are killed in a freak accident. The vice president has recently died, and since the novel was published before the adoption of the 25th amendment the office remains vacant. As president pro tempore of the Senate (a ceremonial post he was chosen for to appease the party's liberal wing), Dillman is therefore next in line.
     Unlike with Truman and LBJ, the country doesn't rally around the new president: sixty-one percent disapprove of him. Dillman can't fault them; he holds a low opinion of himself too. Racial insecurity bedevils him. 'I am a black man,' he says, 'not yet qualified for human being, let alone for President.'"
— Ariel Gonzalez, Huffington Post (May 19, 2008)

"No justice, no peace. In the most devastating and detrimental blow to Americans, the electoral process and our Constitutional right to vote, the Supreme Court has struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Section 4, which maps the areas that must have pre-clearance from the federal government before making any changes to their voting laws, was ruled 'unconstitutional' in a 5-4 decision today, and the ball was thrown into Congress' court. Eliminating Section 4 is just a slick, polished way of eliminating pre-clearance all together — the very basis of the Voting Rights Act. This outrageous ruling puts African Americans, other minorities, the poor and all oppressed groups now at the mercy of state governments, yet again. It's as if we're in pre-1965 America….
     Almost immediately following the Court's reprehensible ruling, we see voter suppression tactics at play. According to the latest news reports, Texas' Attorney General Greg Abbott announced: 'With today's decision, the State's voter ID law will take effect immediately. Redistricting maps passed by the Legislature may also take effect without approval from the federal government.' In other words, those that are impacted the most by carefully concocted methods of disenfranchisement, will now be at the mercy of the states creating those schemes."
— Rev. Al Sharpton, Huffington Post (June 25, 2013)

Buy all of Irving Wallace's books here...

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Crunched By The Numbers

"This chart illustrates very clearly something that agents have been arguing for several years now, and that publishers have been saying just isn’t true: that their savings on printing, binding and distribution make up for the lower revenue from lower e-book prices– and that increased profitability is coming entirely off the backs of authors.
     Look at Harper’s own numbers: $27.99 hardcover generates $5.67 profit to publisher and $4.20 royalty to author $14.99 agency priced e-book generates $7.87 profit to publisher and $2.62 royalty to author.
     So, in other words, at these average price points, every time a hardcover sale is replaced by an e-book sale, the publisher makes $2.20 more per copy and the author makes $1.58 less. If the author made the same $4.20 royalty on the e-book sale as he/she would have on a hardcover, the publisher would STILL be making an improved profit of $6.28."
— Brain DeFiore, AARdvark
Read more…

"I was inspired to write this post by a couple of recent articles lamenting how the e-book revolution is making things tougher on authors: a WSJ article about the plight of authors, and a Futurebook description of a panel discussion about the future of books. My first thought was that the e-book revolution has increased my sales and income almost a thousandfold (OK, so it wasn’t very high to begin with!), and that the lower costs of e-books, the worldwide digital distribution they afford me, and the ability to reach readers without going through layers of middlemen (publishers and agents) has allowed me to price my e-books competitively and sell more books in a month than I used to in a decade. How can this be bad?"
— David Derrico, David
Read more…

"DEBAUCHEE, n. One who has so earnestly pursued pleasure that he has had the misfortune to overtake it." — Ambrose Bierce, (The Devil's Dictionary)

"In the San Francisco of 1876, Ambrose Bierce reigned as unchallenged literary king, the best known writer west of the Rockies. Some of the contemporaries who nourished their lights in Bierce's shadow are much better known today. Bret Harte, Jack London, and Joaquin Miller not only rate larger space in the textbooks, but their works remain easily available. Of Bierce's voluminous writings, only a collection of short stories, In the Midst of Life, and fragments of The Devil's Dictionary are easily obtainable. But if Bierce's literary endeavors have not stood the test of time as well as those of certain of his contemporaries, he still enjoys a last laugh, because the mystery of his strange disappearance is better known than the entire life histories of Harte, London, and Miller….
     Some researchers have speculated that in the tales summarized above [The Spook House, The Difficulty of Crossing a Field, An Unfinished Race, and Charles Ashmore's Trail] Bierce was writing horror fiction, Edgar Allan Poe-style. However, none of the accounts were presented as short stories, but as journalistic reports.
     In the collection that I obtained as a teenager [Tales of Haunted Houses], Bierce followed these accounts with a postscript entitled, 'Science to the Front.'
     It seemed to Bierce that the theory of Dr. Hern of Leipzig, which was expounded in the scientist's own book, Verschwindend und Seine Theorie, might offer an explanation for the subject of mysterious disappearances, '… of which every memory is stored with abundant example.'
     According to Bierce, the theories of Dr. Hern had attracted some attention 'particularly among the followers of Hegel, and mathematicians who hold to the actual existence of a so-called non·Euclidean space—that is to say, of space which has more dimensions than length, breadth, and thickness... space in which it would be possible to tie a knot in an endless cord and to turn a rubber ball inside out without a solution of its continuity, or, in other words, without breaking or cracking it.'"
— Brad Steiger, Rense
Read more…

Buy Roy Morris Jr.'s book about Ambrose Bierce, and all of Brad Steiger's books here...

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Questlove Code

"The walkover, or walk-on, for those who don’t speak backstage, is the song that the band plays as a guest comes out from behind the curtain and walks over to the host’s desk. Once upon a time, maybe, it was straightforward, a little musical cue or song associated with the artist. But then came Paul Shaffer’s work on 'Letterman,' and the walkover became its own little art form — an obscure musical reference that the audience (and sometimes even the guest) had to decode….
     And then, in late 2011 — November 21, to be exact, at the height of the Republican primary season — we found out that Michele Bachmann, representative from Minnesota, was coming on the show. Bachmann had been offending people left and right with her comments about gay rights and Muslims in America, and she also seemed to have a casual relationship with the truth. I learned that at one point fact-checkers had set a time limit for themselves on how many of her evasions and misrepresentations they were going to catch. That was my starting point, and I set out on a mission to find the best song about politics and evasion and untruth. I considered 'Lies,' either the En Vogue one or the McFly one, but we don’t generally sing any lyrics, so I ended up picking Fishbone’s Lyin’ Ass Bitch,' a ska number from their 1985 debut. It had a good little melody and lots of energy. It seemed funny to me. I figured it would be another exhibit in Ahmir’s Hall of Snark, and not much more than that."
— Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson and Ben Greenman
(from Mo' Meta Blues) via Salon
Read more…

Get this book here...

alone at the top

'Sad news, for fans of Alice Munro, the short-story author whom Margaret Atwood once described as en route to 'international literary sainthood,' and whose writing Jane Smiley, awarding her the Man Booker international prize, said was 'practically perfect.' She has told Canadian press that she's retiring – and this time she sounds definite.
     Winning the Trillium book award for Dear Life, Munro told the National Post that the prize was 'a little more special in that I'm probably not going to write any more. And, so, it's nice to go out with a bang,' adding that this was definitely it for her, and she has 'very much' come to terms with the decision.
     'I'm delighted. Not that I didn't love writing, but I think you do get to a stage where you sort of think about your life in a different way. And perhaps, when you're my age, you don't wish to be alone as much as a writer has to be. It's like, at the wrong end of life, sort of becoming very sociable,' she said."
— Alison Flood, The Guardian
Read more…

Buy all of Alice Munro's books here...

Friday, June 21, 2013

Book Me a Room

"In 1889, British Prime Minister William Gladstone got out a wheelbarrow and began moving his personal collection of 32,000 books from Hawarden Castle in Wales to their new home about a quarter of a mile away. The new building, now known as Gladstone’s Library, was intended to make his collection available to the public, to scholar’s, readers, and writers of all kinds. Gladstone envisioned it as a 'residential' library, where patrons could stay overnight, take their meals, and get immersed in the collection and their own projects…
     Guest rooms are clean, simple, and recently renovated. Most importantly, they are also very reasonable at about $75 a night, which includes dinner and breakfast. (Though who is going to spend much time in there with all of those books just waiting?)"
Read more…

"The Algonquin Hotel, known for its rich literary roots and famous former Round Table regulars (including Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley) and Simon & Schuster announced a partnership that will bring hotel guests and New Yorkers an enhanced visit.
     The two brands are celebrating the partnership by unveiling the Simon & Schuster Suite and a series of author events. A Simon & Schuster package will offer guests the chance to book a stay in the suite to enjoy its creature comforts from its well-stocked bookcase of classics and advanced copies of new releases as well as book memorabilia."
Publishers Weekly

The life and works of the late Iain Banks to be celebrated at the Edinborough International Book Festival

From: eBay

"The lineup of over 700 events for this year's [Edinborough international book] festival was announced today, with appearances at the festival site in Charlotte Square Gardens from major literary names including Roddy Doyle, Kate Atkinson, John Banville, Antonia Fraser and Edna O'Brien.
     As the festival marks its 30th anniversary, Salman Rushdie – chosen for the 1983 Granta best of young British novelists list – will be looking back on his career over the last 30 years, Margaret Atwood will be chairing a series of events on genre, and Colm Tóibín will be tackling Sons and Lovers as part of a new series of workshops in which the audience is guided through a close reading of a favourite book."
— Alison Flood, The Guardian

Buy all of Ian Banks' books here...

A Touchy Subject

"Nicola Marter has a secret. The young Englishwoman, who works for a dealer who specializes in Russian art, has a specialized psychic ability: When she touches an object, she can catch glimpses of its previous owners in disjointed, often incomprehensible images. While some might regard such an ability as a gift to be nurtured and developed, Nicola sees it as a curse, something to be concealed and denied. As the novel begins, in fact, she has deliberately been avoiding using her abilities for more than two years….
     The Firebird is the sort of book one wants to curl up within and savour. In this, it’s somewhat out of season: Perfectly suited for a long winter’s night with a warm drink, it will, however, be just as effective on a summer afternoon."
— Robert E. Wiersema, The Globe and Mail
Read more…

But this and all of Susanna Kearsley's books here...

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

War of Words

From: LikeCool

"As new, pirated ebooks of Stephen King's print-only new novel Joyland begin to circulate online, researchers in Germany are investigating a new piracy prevention method which could alter a story's text to deter illegal copying. Joyland, the coming-of-age story of a college student who works at a fun fair where a murder has been committed, was released earlier this month through small press Hard Case Crime. King said last year that he 'loved the paperbacks I grew up with as a kid, and for that reason, we're going to hold off on e-publishing this one for the time being,' a move which attracted predictable criticism from readers online, who have given the well-reviewed novel one-star write-ups on without having read it. And despite King's wishes to focus on the paperback, pirated ebook copies are already available online….
     At Germany's Fraunhofer Institut, meanwhile, researchers are looking into new protection measures for ebooks. The new ebook digital rights management (DRM) system would, reported PaidContent, change certain words in the text of a pirated ebook – 'invisible' could become 'not visible,' for example, and 'unhealthy' become 'not healthy' – so that an individualized copy could be traced."
— Alison Flood, The Guardian

See a related post here...

Buy all of Stephen King's books made of paper here...

Monday, June 17, 2013

Stories everywhere...

"Michael Beschloss posted this remarkable photograph of the Lower East Side on Mulberry Street, a rare color photo made around 1900. There is a lot of life going on here--people posing for the photographer (standing on an elevated platform with a large view camera, no telling who or what he was imaging), people caught in their daily lives, people. Under the Paper Microscope the image reveals all sorts of sub-images, photos-within-photos, making it a fascinating exercise in exploration."
Ptak Science Books
Read more…

And here's a stroll down Market Street in San Francisco (1906).

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Yours very truly...

From: Retronaut

stick to shades of grey...

From: Buzzhunt

"Are you uncomfortable with ambiguity? It’s a common condition, but a highly problematic one. The compulsion to quell that unease can inspire snap judgments, rigid thinking, and bad decision-making.
     Fortunately, new research suggests a simple antidote for this affliction: Read more literary fiction.
     A trio of University of Toronto scholars, led by psychologist Maja Djikic, report that people who have just read a short story have less need for what psychologists call 'cognitive closure.' Compared with peers who have just read an essay, they expressed more comfort with disorder and uncertainty—attitudes that allow for both sophisticated thinking and greater creativity."
– Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard
Read more…

Fish quills, feathers and Sushi

Yesterday (June 15, 2013), local poetry fans shared a wonderful afternoon at Beaver House, the home of the Elora Poetry Centre, with the Fish Quill Poetry Boat crew (Linda Besner, Leigh Kotsilidis, Andy McGuire, Gillian Savigny, and David Seymour) and First Nations singers and drummers the Mino Ode Kwewak N’gamowak (The Good-Hearted Women Singers).
     And thanks go out to hosts Carol and Daniel Bratton for allowing us all to explore their magical property on the Grand River.

For more about Daniel Bratton go here...

"Linda Besner’s poems are seriously playful. The title of her book, with its pair of rhyming words, suggests that rhymes can echo at point-blank range. Children love playing with such sounds. Northrop Frye – a critic we don’t think of as playful – said that lyric poetry was built on two principles from early childhood experiments with language: 'babble' and 'doodle,' or sound play and structural play."
— Bert Almon, mRb
Read more…

You can find out more about when and where you can see and hear Linda Besner and all of the other Fish Quill poets here…

And find a related article here...

Buy books by all the authors mentioned in this post here...

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Funny you should write that...

"The British sense of humour is famous around the world but what kind of literature makes them laugh? It seems the ideal amusing read for Brits would be a mind-boggling combination of P.G. Wodehouse's sublime wit, a liberal dose of Joseph Heller's black humour and a slice of Douglas Adams' galactic comedy.
     Our UK website, recently asked 555 of its customers to name the funniest book they had ever read. Right Ho, Jeeves, Catch-22 and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy were the top three. Eight of the top 10 authors were British but Americans Heller and John Kennedy Toole also featured prominently."
— Richard Davies, Abe Books
Read more…

"What do the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour judges find so funny about a couple of murderers?
     For the past two years, the prestigious medal has been won by works of dark humour.
     'People are saying "What’s so funny about The Sisters Brothers (by Patrick deWitt) when it’s about a couple of murderers?”' Mike Hill, president of the Stephen Leacock Association, said. 'It’s really dark material.'
     The Sisters Brothers won the medal this year while Practical Jean, by Trevor Cole, won in 2011.
     'It’s about a woman who goes around murdering her friends,' Hill said of Practical Jean. 'We’ve had two years in a row of very dark material winning.'
     Prompted by the public’s reaction, the Stephen Leacock Association will be having a discussion on defining humour at its annual general meeting Sunday.
     Joseph Kertes, dean of the school of creative and performing arts at Humber College in Toronto and a former Leacock Medal winner, will be leading the discussion.
     'Humour is very subjective,' Hill said. 'I think it changes over the decades. The Leacock Medal has reflected that evolution.'"
— Sara Ross, Orillia Packet & Times
Read more…

Friday, June 14, 2013

Elmore Leonard: "Tizwin"

Get all of Elmore Leonard's books here...

"Because your beauty seduced you, and made of you a prankster. Because the prankster always goes too far, that is the essence of prank." — Joyce Carol Oates

Peter Manso's
Brando: The Biography (1994)

Because you suffocated your beauty in fat.
Because you made of our adoration, mockery.
Because you were the predator male, without remorse.

Because you were the greatest of our actors, and you threw away greatness like trash.
Because you could not take seriously what others took as their lives.
Because in this you made mockery of our lives […]
— Joyce Carol Oates, Port

Read all of "To Brando in Hell" here…

"The phrase 'beyond words' does not roll lightly from the lips of Joyce Carol Oates. In fact, it lands on the table between us like a brick.
     This is not because the expression, which the 74-year-old author has just used to describe the experience of coming to terms with her late husband Raymond Smith’s sudden death in 2008, is insincere. It’s because if anyone knows about words, if anyone has generated an incredible number of them, it’s the wraithlike woman who now sits in front of me, solemnly sipping from a large cup of herbal tea.
     Oates is the legendarily prolific author of more than 50 books of fiction, non-fiction and now memoir. For her to describe anything as beyond words is, well, beyond comprehension."
— Jeff Pevere, The Star
Read more…

Buy Manso's Brando and all of Joyce Carol Oates' books here...

Thursday, June 13, 2013

"Hammett's freakish knack for making neutrality interesting"

"A few years ago in Paris I happened to pick up, at one of the bookstalls along the Seine, a shabby volume in English. It was an old paperback collection of American crime stories. I barely remember the titles or the authors now. But I've never forgotten the atmosphere—gloomy, monotone, cynical, as emotionally austere as Formica. It made me intensely homesick....
     It was an ideal introduction to a peculiarly American literary genre: the hard-boiled story. People think 'hard-boiled' automatically means a wisecracking private eye and an icy femme fatale (or, more often lately, a wisecracking private eye who is an icy femme fatale), but the genre used to be a lot more interesting. The Library of America has an excellent two-volume set called Crime Novels, which surveys the field in its glory years—roughly from its first sproutings in the pulp magazines of the late 1920s through its efflorescence in the cheap original paperbacks of the 1950s—and there isn't a private eye in sight. The 11 novels collected in the set are about small-time chicanery and shuffling criminality—a seedy panorama of con men, carnies, outlaws and losers. It's less like The Maltese Falcon than a WPA documentary on American hard times….
...What he couldn't duplicate was [Dashiell] Hammett's freakish knack for making neutrality interesting. Every object in a Hammett novel registers with unnerving clarity, even when it doesn't appear to signify anything at all—as in this aria to an office desk:
Ragged gray flakes of cigarette-ash dotted the yellow top of the desk and the green blotter and the papers that were there. A buff-curtained window, eight or ten inches open, let in from the court a current of air faintly scented with ammonia. The ashes on the desk twitched and crawled in the current.
     It's as radiant as an Edward Hopper painting, and as eerie. It means nothing in particular, and yet it seems to hold within it the silence of the entire American landscape. Hammett's deadpan brutality inspired generations of truculent, thuggish, bullying private eyes; because of his influence, the average hard-boiled novel is like the world's surliest Internet comment thread. But his more enduring legacy is in the way he was able to infuse the flatness of the American vernacular with this strange visionary cool."
— Lee Sandlin, The Wall Street Journal
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Wednesday, June 12, 2013


“'I tell my publisher he’s not allowed to send me even positive reviews,' wrote [Maria] Calloway over email. 'I find it to be very boring (after a while you kind of read it all and criticism or even positive feedback becomes just the same few things rehashed endlessly, it seems) and it interferes with my creative process.'
    Calloway says she writes every day and has done so since childhood. She doesn’t regret either her first-person work or its consequences, though — after all, it was at least somewhat a project of persona. Contradicting [Stephen] Marche’s read of her as a girl seeking experience at all costs, Calloway said, 'I don’t regret anything. I would have written things differently now, and I feel more protective of revealing certain things, but with this book I often played with things like affected naïveté.'
     But from what literary tradition did this writer of the Internet age, so seemingly sui generis, spring forth? Tao Lin, author of Taipei, disavows responsibility, telling Salon, 'I don’t see my influence. I saw similarities with Jean Rhys, particularly Good Morning, Midnight, but not strong similarities and I know Marie wasn’t influenced by Jean Rhys who she hadn’t read until having written most of the book.'
     The poet Robert Gluck, a fan of Calloway’s, locates her forbears a bit earlier: 'She makes a performance of writing. The reader is wondering how far she will go, just as a live performance. You could say Baudelaire was doing that. You could say that Rimbaud was doing that.'”
— Daneil D'Addario, Salon
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Never. Mind. Reading. Mind. Never. Reading.

Photo: Storesonline
"... However, readers who pick up Nineteen Eighty-Four because of the current worries over the Prism programme would be wrong just to see it as a novel about the dangers of overweening technology.
     The all-seeing telescreen in the corner of the room is an important device for allowing the state to exercise control, but Orwell's real concern is about far more insidious threats to liberty. The Big Brother state aims at nothing less than the control of language and thought. According to the slogans repeated by the Ministry of Truth, 'War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.' Deprive people of the words with which to resist, and you will crush resistance.
     In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston Smith's defining act of rebellion is to keep a diary, to attempt to record his thoughts and feelings accurately – not easy when the expressions you need have been obliterated or perverted. The greatest inhibition, to use Senator [Bernie] Sanders's word, is mental rather than physical."
The Guardian

"German, British and Japanese scientists were able to 'read minds' using sophisticated functional magnetic imaging (fMRI) and computer programs.
     Current Biology reported people were asked to think about adding or subtracting — scientists were able to read intentions in 70% of cases….
     Professor Colin Blakemore, director of the Medical Research Council, said: 'We shouldn't go overboard about the power of these technologies at the moment.
     'But what you can be absolutely sure of is that these will continue to roll out and we will have more and more ability to probe people's intentions, minds, background thoughts, hopes and emotions.' He added: 'Some of that is extremely desirable, because it will help with diagnosis, education and so on, but we need to be thinking the ethical issues through.'"
BBC News
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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"... that’s five zettabytes that they can put into Bluffdale."

From: Modcult

"Well, what they’re putting together there in Bluffdale is a million-square-foot storage facility, of which only 100,000 is really going to have equipment to store data. But the rest of it, the peripherals, then are power generation, cooling and so on. So, but in there, there’s 100,000 square feet of storage capacity. And at current capabilities that are advertised on the web with, they can put 10 exabytes in about 200 feet—square feet of storage space in 21 racks. What that means is, when you divide that out, is you—that even at current capacity to store information, that’s five zettabytes that they can put into Bluffdale. And if you—and my estimate of the data they would be collecting, which would include the targeted audio and perhaps all of the text in the world, that would be on the order of 20 terabytes a minute—or, yeah, 20 terabytes a minute. So if you figure out from that how much they could collect, it would be like 500 years of the world’s communications. But I only estimated a hundred, because really they want space for parallel processors to go at cryptanalysis and breaking codes.
     …Well, they came in, and there were like 12 FBI agents with their guns drawn, and came in. My son opened the door, let them in, and they pushed him out of the way at gunpoint. And they came upstairs to where my wife was getting dressed, and I was in the shower, and they were pointing guns at her, and then they—one of the agents came into the shower and pointed a gun directly at me, at my head, and of course pulled me out of the shower. So I had a towel, at least, to wrap around, but—so that’s what they did."
— William Binney, former senior NSA crypto-mathematician
(in an interview with Amy Goodman) Democracy Now!
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A Brief Flourishing

"Despite the absence of jazz in Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of The Great Gatsby, its release is bound to be accompanied by a rash of books about the jazz age, of which Judith Mackrell's Flappers is likely to be one of the better ones. Between the first world war and the great depression, a new breed of woman briefly flourished, rebelling against traditional female roles: the flapper. 'In their various attempts to live and die in their own way, the flappers represented a genuinely subversive force,' writes Mackrell, and by profiling six of the most celebrated women of the Roaring Twenties she captures something of that force beneath the trademark shingled bobs, short straight dresses and gin-fuelled exuberance."
— Helen Zaitzman, The Guardian
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Grammar Hound

From: Can It Be Saturday Now

"Bring and take are two common, simple words that have gotten more than their share of attention by people unsure if they're using them correctly. The words are distinct in meaning, but—and this is a big but—much of the time the context makes it irrelevant which you use, and that's why there's a problem.
     Insofar as bring and take are distinguished, bring is used for movement towards the speaker or the speaker's point of reference, and take is used for movement away from or accompanying the speaker or the speaker's point of reference. Thus, two sentences that shouldn't cause much trouble are: 'Please bring me a cup of coffee' and 'Take that smelly dog away from me!' Neither of these examples could have the other word substituted."
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"Chaser isn’t just a 9-year-old border collie with her breed’s boundless energy, intense focus and love of herding virtually anything. She’s a grammar hound. In experiments directed by her owner, psychologist John Pilley of Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., Chaser demonstrated her grasp of the basic elements of grammar by responding correctly to commands such as 'to ball take Frisbee' and its reverse, 'to Frisbee take ball.' The dog had previous, extensive training to recognize classes of words including nouns, verbs and prepositions."
— Bruce Bower, ScienceNews
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Monday, June 10, 2013

"The cruelest lies are often told in silence."

“Beekeeper Albert Honig was finishing breakfast when he heard the bees along the utility wires. Following the agitated noise to his estranged neighbors’ house, he found the Bee Ladies, Claire and Hilda Straussman, bound and dead on the floor and bees swarming down their chimney….
     Telling the Bees is more than nominally a mystery, but [Peggy] Hesketh is also conducting an exploration into a now-vanished southern California world of almond, citrus, and walnut groves, where people knew their neighbors, but politeness meant not disturbing the surface to see the horror underneath.
     After the murders, Albert finds himself haunted by a quote from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: '“The cruelest lies are often told in silence."... And kept in darkness, I should like to add.'
     The investigation is headed up by the highly competent, sardonic Detective Grayson, who musters a startling amount of patience in the face of Albert’s arcane facts about apiaries. More than dithering, Albert uses his tangents to conceal facts about the Straussmans in an effort to protect the reputation of the dead.
     Not having a double murder to solve, this reader couldn’t get enough of the mixture of folklore and science. The title comes from the folk custom of 'telling the bees' when their keeper has died. In a sign of how out of joint the time has become, no one tells the Bee Ladies’ hives that their mistress is gone."
— Yvonne Zip, The Christian Science Monitor
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Battle Babble

The compulsion to be verbally creative in the face of an intrinsically absurd pursuit probably comes out of a deep need to veneer chaos with poetic order.

"The U.S. military’s nickname for the no-fly zone in Libya sounds like the beginning of a long adventure. But Defense Department officials insist that there’s no hidden meaning behind 'Operation Odyssey Dawn.' It’s just the product of the Pentagon’s semi-random name-generating system….
     The modern system… came out of bad PR experiences in the Korean and Vietnam wars, according to Lt. Col. Gregory Sieminski’s brief history of 'The Art of Naming Operations,' published in Parameters in 1995.
     Nicknames like 'Operation Killer' during the Korean war and Vietnam’s 'Operation Masher,' Sieminski wrote, caused controversy when reported in the press….
     Coalition partners in the no-fly zone [Libya] have their own operation names. Britain’s Ministry of Defence labeled its participation in the no-fly zone 'Operation Ellamy'*; Canada’s efforts are called 'Operation Mobile.' Ever a patron of the arts, France seems to be the only coalition partner going for the poetic route. It calls its operations in Libya 'Harmattan,' referring to a 'hot, dry wind that blows from the northeast or east in the western Sahara.'”
— Adam Rawnsley, Wired

*"The randomly generated codename, 'Ellamy,' is an alternate spelling of the Early Modern English word, Elami (E-la-mi), a musical solmisation designating the note E in the context of a tetrachord.[19] The spelling 'Ellamy' is found in a poem frequently attributed to John Skelton, The Harmony of Birds."
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"[Joseph] Heller’s twisted logic is best instantiated by a description of the many difficulties facing a pilot named Orr:
      'There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. If he flew them, he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to, he was sane and had to.'
     Joseph Heller, it seems, created something transcendental, for Catch-22 applies everywhere. Its brilliantly absurd logic permeates the very fabric of life. It walks among us, cloaked in the veils of respectability and regulation, waiting to madden and infuriate. Anyone who has ever had dealings with the innermost bowels of government bureaucracy will know exactly what I mean."
— Alex MacPherson, the Sheaf

Buy Catch-22 by Joseph Heller here...

Sunday, June 9, 2013

“an undertone of blueberries.”

"What’s the difference between an African-American and an American-African? From such a distinction springs a deep-seated discussion of race in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s third novel, Americanah. Adichie, born in Nigeria but now living both in her homeland and in the United States, is an extraordinarily self-aware thinker and writer, possessing the ability to lambaste society without sneering or patronizing or polemicizing. For her, it seems no great feat to balance high-literary intentions with broad social critique. Americanah examines blackness in America, Nigeria and Britain, but it’s also a steady-handed dissection of the universal human experience — a platitude made fresh by the accuracy of Adichie’s observations."
— Mike Peed, The New York Times
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Buy all of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s books here...

"Love is a many-splendored thing." — Paul Francis Webster

"In Romancing God, [Lynn] Neal describes how evangelical romance novels (or inspirational fiction) overlay the basic plot structures of secular romance novels with the theology of conservative Christianity. In addition to sanitized language and censored sex scenes that rely upon euphemism, these works differ from their secular counterparts by presenting obstacles somehow related to the characters' religious beliefs (or lack thereof) that separate the male and female protagonists. In turn, heroines and heroes overcome these problems not through fate or their own designs but rather through faith and the power of God's love. The focus of Neal's book, however, is not upon the explicit plots and implicit theology of inspirational fiction. Instead, through interviews with both authors and readers, she primarily analyzes why women (who are the main readers of these books) choose to read evangelical romance novels and how these works shape readers' religious imaginations and experiences."
— Brantley Gasaway, Religion in American History
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From: Retronaut
"Research in romance fiction also reveals information about women as both consumers and producers of consumer culture. [Lynn] Neal says that warnings against romance novels date as far back as 1566. In American culture, fiction, especially women's fiction, has long been seen as a corruptive and dangerous force.
     In the 19th century, women were thought to be susceptible to the powers of fiction and were urged not to read it — but read it they did. 'Our culture's deeply entrenched stereotype of romance novels and their readers reflect a deep-seated anxiety about the relationship between women and sexuality and how women use their leisure time,' says Neal, the author of Romancing God: Evangelical Women and Inspirational Fiction."
— Kim McGrath, Wake Forest University (Window on Wake Forest)
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Friday, June 7, 2013

A Thousand Years in Five Minutes

Here's a wonderful little "Typography Primer" for all you budding graphic designers and writers out there. Those odd font names are more than just branding; they're signposts along our technological journey out of the Dark Ages.

"Dissatisfied with other typography tutorials out there, Ben Barrett-Forrest created his own take on the history of typography through a stop-motion animation, telling the beginning of type tracing back from Johannes Gutenburg, the grandfather of printed type until the creation of modern typefaces today. Aside from the mouthful of information you get in five minutes, Ben’s awesome animation of cut-out letters makes it not just your ordinary video tutorial."

Thanks go out to Victoria Gaitskell and John Negru, my all-time favorite typesetter, for alerting me to this video.

Check out Victoria's Printing Blog here...

and find out more about John Negru here...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

platform-agnostic... have faith

From: alsacréations

"While readers have enthusiastically embraced digital publishing, the book industry itself has continually dragged its heels. Even those who’ve embraced digital review platforms like NetGalley have been reluctant to make similar leaps for retail sales of digital books, and their reticence has limited consumer access to digital titles, particularly backlist–the same books consumers have the most difficulty finding in print. Add in the fact that many day-and-date releases cost nearly as much as their physical counterparts, and the e-market, while substantial, seems unlikely to take the place of print anytime soon….
     On some levels, their reluctance is pragmatic. The technology of digital publishing is awkward and inconsistent. The closest thing to a single file standard, e-pub, is still far from platform-agnostic and notorious for destroying formatting elements, which limits what writers and designers can do structurally if they’re planning for digital….
     Real progress on the digital front would require companies like Apple and Amazon to collaborate to create a consistent format – and for now, they won’t, thanks to a combination of paranoia and proprietary and competitive concerns."
— Rachel Edidin, Wired
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Gnome Project

From: The Great Gnome Press Science
Fiction Odyssey

"Hard to believe today, but before World War II not a single mainstream publisher in America would publish a genre science fiction or fantasy novel. H. G. Wells had once been so fanatically popular that publishers would pirate his works if they couldn’t get them legitimately, but the coming of the pulp magazine era destroyed the reputation of the field. Science fiction was written by subliterates for subliterates, or so went the opinion of the literary world.
From: The Great Gnome Press Science
Fiction Odyssey
     The forceful introduction to the Atomic Era in 1945 may have made those crazy Buck Rogers ideas a bit more respectable, but not to publishing. Mysteries sold in the millions, westerns remained popular, and romances had steady sales but fantasy and science fiction couldn’t even get a foothold in the paperback world, let alone mainstream hardbacks of the type sold in bookstores….
From: Modern Mechanix

    In its first five years, Gnome would publish Robert Heinlein’s Sixth Column, The Sands of Mars and Against the Fall of Night by Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot and the three volumes of the Foundation trilogy, Clifford M. Simak’s award-winner City and his Cosmic Engineers, reprints of Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories, and works by L. Ron Hubbard, Jack Williamson, C. L. Moore, A. E. van Vogt, Leigh Brackett, Henry Kuttner, Hal Clement and half a dozen others. That’s Golden Age science fiction in a nutshell."
The Gnome Press Release
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"... where on earth can Homes go now?

"An often breathtakingly dark and crazy satire on modern American life caused a literary upset on Wednesday night  [June 5, 2013] when [May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes] won the women's prize for fiction beating novels by Zadie Smith, Kate Atkinson and the bookies' favourite, Hilary Mantel.
     AM Homes became the fifth American in a row to be named winner of the £30,000 prize, formerly known as the Orange, for her sixth novel, May We Be Forgiven. The actor Miranda Richardson, who chaired the judging panel, said the book went beyond the prize's criteria of originality, accessibility and excellence. 'It was so fresh and so funny – darkly funny – and so unexpectedly moving,' she said.'
— Mark Brown, The Guardian
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"The first section is a tour-de-force of pitch-black comedy.... The story begins at Thanksgiving: Harry Silver, an under-achieving Nixon scholar, describes his hatred for his taller, richer, more aggressive brother George, a TV network boss, who sits 'at the head of the big table, picking turkey out of his teeth, talking about himself.' George's children, aged 10 and 11, are 'sat like lumps at the table, hunched, or more like curled, as if poured into their chairs, truly spineless, eyes focused on their small screens, the only thing in motion their thumbs – one texting friends no one had ever seen and the other killing digitised terrorists.' Harry is picking the stuffing out of the 'heirloom' turkey carcass in the kitchen, his lips smeared with grease, when his sister-in-law Jane suddenly kisses him on the lips.
     A few months later George is arrested. He has run a red light and smashed into a people carrier, killing a couple and leaving their son orphaned; it's not clear that it was an accident. Then, in startlingly quick succession, all sorts of bad things happen: an affair, a murder, a divorce; and Harry suddenly finds himself in sole charge of his niece and nephew. After the first exhilarating 50 pages, the reader wonders: where on earth can Homes go now?"
—Theo Tait, The Guardian
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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"... a world that never stops lustering"

MacBook Air "Suprem Fire" Edition: $360,648.00
(from: Elite Choice)
For you all you blocked writers out there, desperate for something to break the logjam, here's a setting for you: made to order, and full of tangential impressions of the creatures who inhabit it.

"For some, the relentless tyranny of luxury rolls on from business class lounge to hotel lobby via restaurant interior and beachside condo. A continuous experience of glistening surfaces, with the spaces in between plugged with walnut-dashed limos.
     These are the weird scenes inside the goldmine of a world that never stops lustering, glistening and shimmering. A world made up of a continuous interior space polished entirely smooth. Each hermetic bubble annexed to another equally high spec bubble. Exterior-less, with no threshold to the un-luxe world the rest of us live in.
     This is the world described in the Robb Report, the self proclaimed 'global luxury resource,' which has just released what it calls its 2013 Luxury Portfolio….
     If we are to believe that a Robb Report world actually exists, it might like to read an edit of American Psycho containing extended descriptions of embossed Silian Rail on business cards. Or Fifty Shades of Grey minus the sex, with page after page in which Anastasia goes wild over the technical specifications of Christian's latest gift…"
— Sam Jacob, dezeen magazine
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