Friday, May 31, 2013

Bodleian Magic

"The new display, ‘Magical Books: from the Middle Ages to Middle-earth’, focuses on five celebrated children’s fantasy authors. As well as Tolkien, it will include work by CS Lewis, Susan Cooper, Alan Garner and Philip Pullman.
     Delving into its collection of authors’ papers, the Bodleian display includes some of the original artwork for The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, as well as the manuscript of The Fall of Arthur, a little known Tolkien poem that was unfinished when he died. It is published for the first time today [May 23, 2013] to coincide with the opening of the exhibition.
     Other 'magical' objects on show include Philip Pullman’s alethiometer (the golden compass from His Dark Materials trilogy), and one of Alan Garner’s original 'owl service' plates from the book of the same name."
— Jolyon Attwooll, The Telegraph
Read more…

"A new JRR Tolkien epic is being published today. The Oxford University professor wrote The Fall of Arthur in the 1930s, before he started work on The Hobbit.
     The story starts with the legendary King Arthur going to war in ‘Saxon lands’ before returning home.
     Its existence was revealed in the 1970s but its publication was then overtaken by other posthumous releases.
     Shaun Gunner, chairman of the Tolkien Society, said: 'We’re all used to seeing Tolkien’s stories set in Middle Earth, but this is the first time we’ve ever seen Tolkien write about legendary Britain.'"
Oxford Mail
Read more…

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

"...the landscape of his imagining."

"In an era of political cynicism fuelled by attack ads and character assassination as currency, it’s a relief to escape into a Guy Gavriel Kay novel and be reminded of the values of honour, valour and sacrifice for one’s country.
     River of Stars, Kay’s latest epic, is a captivating and beautiful story of an empire on the verge of destruction. The political figures of the plot scheme and contrive over real assassination attempts, and Kay’s portrait of court intrigue and the strings the plotting prime ministers pull to orchestrate events is a marvel of craftsmanship.
     For readers unfamiliar with Kay, he is a Toronto writer — one of Canada’s best. He’s often underestimated in serious literary circles because he chooses to combine history with fantasy. His first trilogy, The Fionavar Tapestry, does fit solidly into the fantasy section of bookstores. But the majority of his other books transcend categorization. Each is based on a region of the world during a pivotal time period, which Kay then adapts to set his characters free in the landscape of his imagining. He calls this process 'both ethically and creatively liberating.'”
— Laura Eggerton, The Star
Read more…

See a related article here…

Buy all of Guy Gavriel Kay's books here...

Oh Canada

"A social media victory is being claimed on behalf of the leading Palestinian poet Ghassan Zaqtan after his visa to enter Canada to attend a prestigious poetry award ceremony - initially denied - was granted on Thursday.
     Zaqtan was shortlisted for the C$65,000 (£41,000) Griffin poetry prize in April for his 10th collection Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me, described by judges as poetry which 'reminds us why we live and how, in the midst of war, despair, global changes.' But the Palestinian poet and novelist, who is also founding director of the House of Poetry in Ramallah, found that his request for a visa to travel to Canada to attend the ceremony was denied by the Canadian embassy in Cairo, according to his translator Fady Joudah, on the grounds that "the reason for the visit is unconvincing".
      'There was another reason for the rejection: Zaqtan's employment and financial status. This and the purpose of the visit did not "satisfy" the officer that Mr Zaqtan would return to his place of origin after a temporary visa is granted,' said Joudah, an award-winning poet and translator, and a doctor, who lives in Houston."
— Alison Flood, The Guardian
Read more…

"Some people are not allowed to come to Canada. They are known as 'inadmissible' under Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA). There are a number of reasons you can be found inadmissible, denied a visa or refused entry to Canada under IRPA, such as:
     human or international rights violations
     criminality organized criminality
     health grounds
     financial reasons
     non-compliance with IRPA or having an inadmissible family member
...Normally, if you are inadmissible to Canada, you will not be allowed to enter. If you have a reason to travel to Canada that is justified in the circumstances, you may be issued a temporary resident permit."
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Read more…

Thursday, May 30, 2013

"...massive money sink of a mausoleum."

"In a Q+A session with Bloomberg Businessweek writer Brad Stone, the Canadian author of The Tipping Point and Blink [Malcolm Gladwell of Elmira, Ontario] described the flagship NYPL building in Manhattan as a 'massive money sink of a mausoleum.'
     'Every time I turn around, there's some new extravagant renovation going on in the main building. Why? In my mind, the New York Public Library should be focused on keeping small libraries open, on its branches all over the city.'
     The NYPL announced a major $300 million renovation of its flagship location last year, to be completed in 2018.
     Gladwell continued, 'Luxury condos would look wonderful there. Go back into the business of reaching people who do not have access to books. And that is not on the corner of 42nd and Fifth [Avenue].'
     ...A little earlier in the discussion, Gladwell spoke about libraries as 'the only place where you can browse [books]. A world in which you can only find things that you have chosen to pursue is an incredibly impoverished one.
     'Libraries are also safe havens for people who are not from privileged backgrounds, who do not have access to books and where there is no quiet space to work.'"
Huffington Post
Read more…

Buy all of Malcolm Gladwell's books here...

Live first; write later...

From: Etsy

"It's curious. As every writer in America who's ever had to do other things to earn a living knows (that would be almost every writer in America), this lava flow of writing instruction has erupted inversely to the number of book, magazine, newspaper, and online publishers who will actually pay writers a decent wage for their words…Why are there so many student writers at a time when the death of literature has become accepted wisdom? I'd argue it's a paradox that, like many others, can be explained by the Internet.
     There have long been three kinds of writers: writers who write for readers (novelists, poets, memoirists, essayists, journalists, etc.); writers who write for other writers (students); and writers who write for themselves (diarists, shipwreck survivors). The digital age has screwed with the dynamics of that trilogy by turning writing from a solitary, exclusive, private act into a collaborative, inclusive, public one. Anyone with a WordPress account can write for readers, and the mushrooming of the number and type of writing programs has been a field crop for that revolution. If you're going to be a writer, you might as well know something about how to do it, right?
     This all crystallized for me when I saw the reaction to an essay I wrote for last month. In it, I used the case of a student writer placing an unexceptionally written but promising piece in The New Yorker online to exemplify the movement of publishers and readers privileging 'story' over the craft of writing. That cultural shift has felt like a door blown open to people bursting with tales to tell, and a freshly dug grave for writers who tear at their flesh trying to sculpt perfect sentences (to invoke Truman Capote) while the digital world zips by."
— Jon Reiner, The Atlantic
Read more…

"a mix of online, performance and print…"

Hogarth Press edition of The Waste Land
(from: Wake Forest University)

"...The stark truth is that poetry publishing is not going to be particularly commercially viable, given that the total value of UK poetry sales has gone from £8.4m in 2009 to £6.7m last year. Mind you, Salt [Publishing] seems to have been particularly severely affected if you compare its fall of 25% last year to the overall 15.9% drop. In one sense, it could be argued that Salt's decision is good news for Faber, Bloodaxe, Carcanet, Shearsman and all those Saboteur shortlisted indies, since it means that there are fewer big fish swimming round a shrinking pool.
     However, it would be a serious error to equate the demise of a single publisher with the overall state of health of poetry. Even Salt director Chris Hamilton-Emery has noted the 'massive increase in the number of poetry publications coming out,' and he's right.
     Jim Bennet's extremely useful Poetry Kit website lists more than 400 UK poetry publishers, and while the list is broad (it includes Faber) and perhaps a bit out of date (it also includes Salt) it shows the range of publishers around. As for the US, a quick look at the SPD [Small Press Distribution] site indicates that the situation there isn't much different."
The Guardian
Read more…

"The Hogarth Press was founded by the Woolfs in 1917. In the early years it was a hand press in the dining room at Hogarth House in Richmond, England, on which Leonard and Virginia hand set and printed their own works and those of their friends and associates.
     Between 1917 and 1946, the Hogarth Press published 525 titles (34 hand-printed by the Woolfs), including works by T.S. Eliot, E.M. Forster, Katherine Mansfield, Robert Graves, H.G. Wells, and many others. Leonard Woolf later wrote that 'The publication of T.S. Eliot’s Poems must be marked as a red letter day for the Press and for us.'"
— Megan Mulder, Z. Smith Reynolds Library Blog
Read more…
From: Longbarrow Press

''Edgelands [by Matthew Clegg] is a sequence of poems adapted from the classical Japanese tanka form. On one level the sequence is about a man dealing with a painful separation by taking a series of walks into his locale – the edge of north Sheffield. On another, it is a work of what is now being called ‘psychogeography.’ How do our built environments express elements of our consciousness or unconsciousness?"
Longbarrow Press

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


The Tandy TRS 80 model 1, launched in 1977 (from: Old-Computers)

"In late 1999, Microsoft created an ad for its upcoming 'Microsoft Reader' software. The headline blared, 'This is a story about the future of reading,' and underneath the story about the company's actual product, the marketers inserted a timeline based on 'the best estimates of Microsoft researchers and developers' of what was going to happen to books in the future.
     The Microsoft Reader product was unremarkable and did not drive a revolution in the book marketplace. But the predictions! They're fascinating, particularly in how they attempt to anticipate the backlash and counterarguments to the increasing ubiquity of e-books that they forecast. It will not surprise you that they were overly optimistic, but interestingly, these are some of the few specific predictions that seem to have gotten better as they reached further into the future. Normally, the opposite is true. Let's go through them…."
— Alexis Madrigal, The Atlantic, (via Yahoo!)

Rocket-eBook (from: Lybrary)
"In 1998 an innovative startup, NuvoMedia, introduced the Rocket-eBook, the first successful true ebook reader. Before the Rocket-eBook the only option were PDAs [Personal Digital Assistants] such as the line of PalmPilots, Franklin's eBookMan (a somewhat more ebook friendly PDA), etc.
     The Rocket-eBook was overall a big success and largely responsible for the first wave of ebook enthusiasm riding along the Internet bubble. The screen was about the size of today's popular e-ink readers from Sony and Amazon. At that time E-ink was in its infancy and NuvoMedia had to resort to standard LCD screens. However, for 1998 the b/w screen was pretty nifty and very good for reading purposes. Remember the only other option were tiny PDA screens or heavy 'schlepptops'. They even had a touch screen and it worked for 10 to 20 hours on one charge."

Paper's back

"The idea from the start was to replicate a pleasure from the past – not just the type of stories told in those old books but the physical artifact itself. Painted covers, and not digitally painted ones either. (One of our painters offered to digitally clean up some schmutz on his canvas and I told him I’d break both his arms if he did.) Old typefaces that existed in the hot-metal-type days. Graphic design that isn’t arch or ironic or campy but rather duplicates in a proper and workmanlike fashion what books looked like back in the day.
     Our goal was to give the impression that Hard Case Crime had started publishing sometime around 1945 and just somehow never stopped. We didn’t want to look old-fashioned -- we wanted to look old. And if no one but us gave a damn about books like that, well, fine. We’d publish half a dozen of the things, sell no copies, and hang up our hats proud of a job well done.
     ...Which brings us to Joyland, and the decision to tell readers they’re going to have to read it the old way, as ink on paper, not pixels on a screen. We did wind up expanding beyond just the paperback, though that will still be the book’s true first edition, more than a million copies strong. A bit later, we’ll also put out a tiny hardcover run for collectors, about two thousand copies, featuring special art and other catnip. But that’s it – you’ve got your paperback and you’ve got your hardcover, the same two choices you had for books when Steve was growing up and when I was. There may be an ebook edition down the road, but for now it’s paper or…paper."
— Charles Ardai, bOING bOING
Read more…

In June you can get Stephen King's new book Joyland here…

Attention Deficit and the Balance Sheet of Being

"To pay attention, to attend. To be present, not merely in body — it is an action of the spirit. ‘Attend my words’ means incline your spirit to my words. Heed them. A sentence is a track along which heeding is drawn. A painting is a visual path that looking follows. A musical composition does the same for listening. Art is a summoning of attention. To create it requires the highest directed focus, as does experiencing it.
     The French philosopher Simone Weil said: ‘Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.’ To attend, etymologically, is to ‘stretch toward,' to seek with one’s mind and senses. Paying attention is striving toward, thus presupposing a prior wanting, an expectation. We look at a work of art and hope to meet it with our looking; we already have a notion of something to be had, gotten. Reading, at those times when reading matters, we let the words condition an expectation and move toward it.
     …Marcel Proust wrote somewhere that love begins with looking, and the idea is suggestive. But if that’s the case, the reverse might also be: that true looking begins with love.
     There’s the quote that I used to repeat like a mantra to writing students, from Flaubert: ‘Anything becomes interesting if you look at it long enough.’ Again, the distinctions, the questions of priority. Is it that the looked-at thing becomes interesting, or that its intrinsic interest gradually emerges? Is the power in the negotiable thing or in the act of looking? If the latter, then the things of the world are already layered with significance, and looking is merely the action that discloses."
— Sven Birkerts, Aeon
Read more…

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Sleaze Factor

Compilation from: CoverBrowser

A few paperback book covers from back when all fiction was aimed at men, it seems. Even books we now consider literary classics were dressed in the same provocative garb as their "lowly," genre fiction brethren.

The Importance of Being Constance

"No one was ever more suitably named, at birth and by marriage, than Constance Wilde. Her first name conveys her near-endless loyalty to her irresponsible, genius husband, Oscar. Even after the worst of the humiliations — after he had taken up with the pretty young Lord Alfred Douglas and been sent to prison for the affair, after her household goods had been auctioned to pay the high-living Oscar’s debts, after she had fled to the Continent and changed the family name to protect their two small sons — she could still refer to him as a 'poor, poor fellow' and write in a letter, 'What a tragedy for him who is so gifted!'
...Beautiful, well-born Constance Lloyd chose a wild man whose aestheticism and dandyish manner had already put him on the fringes of respectable society. The woman who emerges in Constance, Franny Moyle’s often flat-­footed but endlessly fascinating biography, is no hapless dishrag, but a strong-willed, forward-thinking social activist.
     As soon as they married, the Wildes became a celebrity couple. The papers called her 'Mrs. Oscar.' Some mocked her involvement in the Rational Dress Society, which advocated practical clothing, and no tightly fitting corsets; traditionalists were horrified when she wore a split skirt."
— Caryn James, The New York Times
Read more…

Buy this book here...

Lost and Found (pg. 2)

"Pearl S. Buck emerged into literary stardom in 1931 when she published a book called The Good Earth. That story of family life in a Chinese village won the novelist international acclaim, the Pulitzer and, eventually, a Nobel Prize. Her upbringing in China as the American daughter of missionaries served as inspiration for that novel and many others; by her death in 1973, Buck had written more than 100 books, including 43 novels.
     Last December, Buck's son Edgar Walsh — who manages her literary estate — received an email with some unexpected news: A 44th novel by his mother had been discovered in Texas.
     'Someone, and I do not know who, took the manuscript from the house in which [Buck] died in Vermont and went away with it,' Walsh says. 'Whoever that person was wound up in Texas, rented a storage unit and put the manuscript in there. And that's where it was found.'"
Read more…

"A newly discovered manuscript by the American Nobel prize winner Pearl S Buck is set for publication this autumn, 40 years after her death.
     Best known for her 1931 novel The Good Earth – a bestselling saga of a Chinese family which won her the Pulitzer – Buck took the Nobel in 1938, cited for 'her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces.' Over the course of her life, she wrote more than 80 books, a mix of novels, short stories, children's and non-fiction titles, and now, 40 years after her death in 1973, a new piece of work has been discovered."
— Alison Flood, The Guardian

Monday, May 27, 2013

Lilliputian, diminutive, teensy-weensy

Illustration by Tom Gauld (via DoobyBrain)

Ernest Hemingway, as a young newspaperman in the 1920s, bet his colleagues $10 that he could write a complete story in juts six words. He won the cash with this: 'For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.'
     As an example of brevity this is unsurpassed, but is it actually a story? Does it fulfill all the rules of drama which I tend to harp on about?
     Admittedly there is no plot, no structure, no protagonist or antagonist, but this is a story because it evokes an emotional response in the reader, and that is the prime aim in creative writing."
— Gurmeet Mattu, Ezine Articles

From: criggo
"... At nine pages, 'Glenn Gould,' a monologue by Lydia Davis, is longer than most of her work, which are typically between three and four; many are as brief as a paragraph, or a sentence. Most of them are not conventional 'stories'—they usually feature people who are unnamed, are often set in unnamed towns or states, and lack the formal comportment of a story that opens, rises, and closes. There is no gratuitous bulk, no 'realistic' wadding. Davis’s pieces, often narrated by a woman, sometimes apparently by the writer, are closer to soliloquy than to the story; they are essayist poems—small curiosity boxes rather than large canvasses."
— James Wood, The New Yorker

For another post about Lydia Davis, go here...


Left to right: Andrew Westoll, Ailsa Kay, Carrie Snyder, Sonia Day, Robert
Rotenberg and Terry Fallis at the EWF Reception, Elora Centre for the Arts
(photo: Jean Mills) 

Carrie Snyder, one of our readers at the 2013 Elora Writers' Festival yesterday, was awarded the Gowlings Literary Award at last night's Waterloo Region Arts Awards ceremony at Centre in the Square, Kitchener, Ontario.
     Congratulations Carrie! And thank you so much for being a part of the stunning lineup of authors at this year's Festival.
     And our thanks go out to all the authors who honoured us with readings from their recent works: Sonia Day, Ailsa Kay, Terry Fallis, Robert Rotenberg, Carrie Snyder and Andrew Westoll.
     And who can forget the packed house of enthusiastic fans? Our gratitude is immeasurable.
     Three cheers for our audience!!
     "Hap! Hap! Hap!"
     (You had ta' be there…)

"KITCHENER (May 27, 2013)— Every year, artists in Waterloo Region are recognized for both their achievements and contributions to arts in their community in a gala that attracts hundreds of audience members. Sunday night was no exception. Nearly 60 nominees in 11 categories joined the 25th annual 2012 Arts Awards Waterloo Region event at Centre in the Square, for an evening of music, food, an art auction and celebration of all that makes this community a cultural hot bed."
The Record

Learn more about Carrie here...

And buy all her books here...

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Virtual Books

From: Gift Cards Arena

"Those clinging hopefully to the old Borders books gift cards stashed in their drawers or wallets are out of luck, a Manhattan federal judge ruled Wednesday. According to Reuters, there are about $210.5 million worth of such cards that had not been used by the time the bookstore chain went out of business in September 2011. All of which are now 'equitably moot.'
     The gift card drama first entered the headlines when two frustrated shoppers who had about $125 in unused gift cards filed court papers in January 2012 arguing that Borders did not give card holders adequate notice to redeem them for books. Even though the bookstore did publish a claim deadline in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, an attorney for the claimants argued, at the time, that the average customer may not have seen it."
— Jenny Hendrix, Los Angeles Times
Read more…

What is equally annoying about this court ruling is that all this book-targeted cash ended up generating no royalties for authors.

Less Words; Fewer Meaning: Badspeak

Fist Edition cover, 1949 (from: Wikipedia)

"To paraphrase Orwell, the English of the world wide web – loose, informal, and distressingly dyspeptic – is not really the kind people want to read in a book, a magazine, or even a newspaper. But there's an assumption that that, because it's part of the all-conquering internet, we cannot do a thing about it. Twenty-first century civilisation has been transformed in a way without precedent since the invention of moveable type. English prose, so one argument runs, must adapt to the new lexicon with all its grammatical violations and banality. Language is normative; it has – some will say – no choice. The violence the internet does to the English language is simply the cost of doing business in the digital age.
     From this, any struggle against the abuse and impoverishment of English online (notably, in blogs and emails) becomes what Orwell called 'a sentimental archaism.' Behind this belief lies the recognition that language is a natural growth and not an instrument we can police for better self-expression."
— Robert McCrum, The Guardian
Read more…

"The word doublespeak was coined in the early 1950s. It is often incorrectly attributed to George Orwell and his dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. The word actually never appears in that novel; Orwell did, however, coin Newspeak, Oldspeak, duckspeak (speaking from the throat without thinking 'like a duck') and doublethink (holding '…simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them…'), and his novel made fashionable composite nouns with speak as the second element, which were previously unknown in English. It was therefore just a matter of time before someone came up with doublespeak.
     Doublespeak may be considered, in Orwell's lexicography, as the B vocabulary of Newspeak, words 'deliberately constructed for political purposes: words, that is to say, which not only had in every case a political implication, but were intended to impose a desirable mental attitude upon the person using them.'"
Read more…

From Gutenberg to Good-in-bed

"Women of the future will make the Moon a cleaner place
to live." From: Found in Mom's Basement

A little piece of speculation…
"A baby shot through the chest with a 3D printed gun made by her eleven-year-old brother was implanted with a splint that was custom-designed to match the baby’s tracheal tubes.
     Thanks to precise, digital imaging, the skills of CAD engineers and 3D printing, this baby's life was saved.
     The boy, now in custody, said that he'd read about the gun on his e-reader then downloaded it to the 3D printer in his local library."

"To make the implant, they first obtained a CT scan of Kaiba [Gionfriddo]’s trachea/broncus, then created a computer model of the splint based on that. They then used a laser-based 3D printer to convert that digital model into a physical object, made from a biopolymer known as polycaprolactone. In a surgical procedure on February 9th of last year, the ridged tube-shaped splint was sewn around Kaiba’s airway. This opened up his bronchus immediately, plus it also now serves as a skeleton to guide the proper growth of more rigid cartilage as he matures."
Read more…

Read about a library 3-D printer here…

"The race to build the first 3D-printed house has begun. Teams of architects in London and Amsterdam are competing to produce the first habitable printed structure, using technology that could transform the way buildings are made. Though they all have the same objective, the teams are investigating very different materials and fabrication methods.
     The starting pistol was fired by Dutch studio Universe Architecture, who, in January of this year, unveiled designs for a looping two-storey house that resembles a Möbius strip and will be printed on site, in concrete. Shortly after, UK architects Softkill Design announced plans for Protohouse 2.0, a single-storey dwelling with a fibrous structure resembling bone growth. It will be made of plastic and printed in a factory, in sections that are then snapped together on site...
     Universe Architecture is collaborating on its Landscape House with Italian robotics engineer Enrico Dini, inventor of an extremely large-format 3D printer that uses sand and a chemical binding agent to create a stone-like material. Dini's machine, called D-Shape, is the largest 3D printer in the world. Located in a warehouse near Pisa, it looks like a stage-lighting rig and works like a laser-sintering machine, but with sand instead of nylon powder, and chemicals instead of a laser."
deZine Magazine

"Not sure what to ask for from your guy for Christmas? Tell him you want a dildo modeled out of a 3D printout of his penis for those lonely nights when he's out of town.
   Yes, it's a thing: 3DEA—a new pop-up (ha!) shop in NYC—is now offering the service. It's pretty simple: Your guy gets a quick tutorial, then hops in the booth for a quick penis photo shoot. A 3D model is then created from the photos and shipped off to New York Toy Collective and the pros there create the one-of-a-kind dildo."
Read more…

Friday, May 24, 2013

Forgotten But Not Lost

Scripted by Charlie Kaufman, ESSM is "about an
estranged couple who have each other erased from
their memories"— Wikipedia

"…I cannot recall forgetting another novel entirely—both the contents of the book and the act of reading it. Others may be out there, lurking, waiting to spring up and surprise and dishearten. But, looking at my bookshelves, I am aware of another kind of forgetting—the spines look familiar; the names and titles bring to mind perhaps a character name, a turn of plot, often just a mood or feeling—but for the most part, the assembled books, and the hundreds of others that I’ve read and discarded, given away, or returned to libraries, represent a vast catalogue of forgetting. [...]
     This embarrassing situation raises practical questions that also become ones about identity: Do I really like reading? Perhaps it is a failure of attention—there are times when I notice my own distraction while reading, and can, in a way, feel myself forgetting. There is a scarier question, one that might seem like asking if one is good at breathing, or walking. Am I actually quite bad at reading after all?"
— Ian Crouch, The New Yorker
Read more…

Here's the intro to Sam Taylor's list of ten books about forgetting…

"Sam Taylor was born in 1970 and is the former pop culture correspondent for the Observer. His first book, The Republic of Trees, was published to high acclaim in 2005. He lives in France with his young family.
     His second novel, The Amnesiac (Faber, £12.99), tells the story of James Purdew, a man obsessed with uncovering the events of three years of his life about which he remembers nothing."
The Guardian
Read more…

Buy all the books mentioned in — or linked to — this post here...

Thank You

Festival committee member David Beynon receiving a blockbuster cheque
from the Centre Wellington Community Foundation.

Our thanks go out to the Centre Wellington Community Foundation for their generous donation to the Elora Writers' Festival through their Mini-Grant Funding Program.
     Our Festival was honoured by the CWCF at the mini-grant awards ceremony last evening (May 23, 2103) along with eleven other community projects.

"The Centre Wellington Community Foundation (CWCF) is a public, charitable foundation created by the people of Centre Wellington. Our mission is to strengthen the Centre Wellington community by helping donors to achieve their giving goals, and by helping local non-profits find resources to support their important work."— CWCF

For more information about the CWCF go here...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

"Better to sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian." — Herman Melville

"… miniatures? Anecdotes? Essays? Jokes? Parables? Fables? Texts? Aphorisms, or even apophthegms?" — Man Booker Judge, Christopher Ricks

Lydia Davis (Photo: Luke MacGregor, Reuters [via The Star])

(For a definition of "apophthegm" go here...)

"The impossible-to-categorise Lydia Davis, known for the shortest of short stories, has won the Man Booker International prize ahead of fellow American Marilynne Robinson and eight other contenders from around the world.
     The £60,000 award is for a body of work, and is intended to celebrate 'achievement in fiction on the world stage.' Cited as 'innovative and influential,' Davis becomes the biennial prize's third successive winner from North America, after fellow American Philip Roth won in 2011 – prompting a controversial walk-out from the judge Carmen Callil, partly over her disappointment in the panel's failure to choose a writer in translation – and Canadian short story writer Alice Munro took the prize in 2009.
     Best known for her short stories, most of which are less than three pages long, and some of which run to just a paragraph or a sentence, Davis has been described as 'the master of a literary form largely of her own invention.' Idea for a Short Documentary Film runs as follows: ;Representatives of different food product manufacturers try to open their own packaging.' In A Double Negative, she writes merely that: 'At a certain point in her life, she realises it is not so much that she wants to have a child as that she does not want not to have a child, or not to have had a child.'
— Alison Flood, The Guardian
Read more…

"Davis said it was Proust’s monumental work and famously long sentences that helped inspire her succinct writing style.
     'Actually, when I was translating Proust was when I thought, "how short could a short story be?'’' she told Reuters after receiving the 60,000 pound ($90,800) award in London. 'I thought "how little could you say and still have it work?"'"
Reuters (via The Star)
Read more…

Buy Lydia Davis' book here...

A Hierarchy of Snobberies

“'Among the duties of lady’s maids,' Lethbridge writes, 'was the nightly washing of their employer’s loose change, the coins having been handled by who knows how many undesirables before it made its way into her purse.'

Lucy Lethbridge is a reticent author who says nothing of the reasons that prompted her to take on the subject. But her book plainly owes something to television drama, with its emphasis on the authenticity of costumes and sets, and something to the preoccupation of academics with the abstractions of gender and class. In the end, however, she writes in a distinctive voice of her own. Servants is firmly grounded in oral testimony, novels, memoirs, academic monographs, manuals on the duties of servants and Mrs Alfred Praga’s poignantly titled Appearances: How to keep them up on a limited income (1899). Anecdotes flow freely and there is no schematic framework of the kind an academic would impose, but the evidence is deftly organized into a panorama of topics tracing the history of domestic service from its zenith in Edwardian England through two world wars to its decline and fall. Beautifully written, sparkling with insight, and a pleasure to read, Servants is social history at its most humane and perceptive."
— Paul Addison, The Times Literary Supplement
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'These days you can't go into a rural local studies library without seeing a corner dedicated to oral histories of life in the servants' hall at the Big House. On TV we have both sober documentary series (a recent excellent one by Dr Pamela Cox) and some pretty fantastical imaginative recreations (yes, Downton, I'm talking about you). Servants, then, continue to comprise a kind of psychic disturbance in our historical understanding, an intriguing puzzle to which we return in the hope that, one day, we will solve the riddle of our own curiosity.
     In this excellent addition to the history of domestic service in the 20th century, Lucy Lethbridge has swept the existing archive and added new sources of her own. The result is a richly textured account of what it felt like to spend the decades of high modernity on your knees with a dustpan and brush.'
—Kathryn Hughes, The Guardian

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Adapted for the Small Screen

Adapted from: "The Lost Weekend" movie poster

"Looking to transform Hollywood’s pile of unproduced scripts into publishable e-books, James West, a motion-picture industry entrepreneur, has launched Script Lit. The company licenses optioned, but never produced, scripts, to turn them into commercial fiction. At the end of April, Script Lit released its first e-book novella—Mom of the Year by screenwriter Denise Pischinger—and plans to offer three more titles later this year. It’s no secret that Hollywood studios option a lot of scripts that never become movies—scripts that may be quite good but are victimized by bad timing or arbitrary decisions of the studio, West said. West has been making his pitch to Hollywood studios since last fall, asking them to give him access to their scripts and hoping to sell the studios on the potential for finding bestsellers in an otherwise inert mound of content. “There are compelling stories in these scripts. The studios love the idea,” he said, though he acknowledged that some have been slow to act, adding, “there’s a lot of legal stuff to go through.”…
     West decided to launch Script Lit and publish the books himself as e-book original novellas, with POD [Print-On-Demand] paperbacks to come. West said he licenses the rights to each script directly from the writer’s agent or manager and hires a ghostwriter to create a narrative context for the story. He noted that screenwriters aren’t necessarily novelists, so he’s put together a staff with two in-house novelists who have experience writing in a variety of commercial genres.
      'We keep all the script’s original dialogue in the book—the dialogue is important—and take the setting and tone, and I have a staff of writers enrich the story and turn it into literary and narrative prose.' He emphasized that the original screenwriter is credited as the book’s author."
— Calvin Reid, Publishers Weekly
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"F. Scott Fitzgerald claimed there were no second acts in American life. Do posthumous ones count? If not, Fitzgerald himself would have been forgotten, his work being almost completely out of print by the time of his death in 1940. Charles Jackson has been forgotten, if contemporary readers ever knew him in the first place. Even his most famous work, the 1944 novel The Lost Weekend, is better known today for its film adaptation directed by Billy Wilder in 1945.
     I don't know that anything would have changed if Blake Bailey's new Jackson biography, Farther & Wilder: The Lost Weekends and Literary Dreams of Charles Jackson, hadn't prompted Vintage Books to release a new edition of The Lost Weekend and a slightly reordered version of Jackson's 1950 collection The Sunnier Side and Other Stories."
— Charles Taylor, The Phoenix
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Buy all of Charles Jackson's books here...

Dactyls on the Grand

Illustration: Ian Turner

"Join the Fish Quill Poets on June 15, the day before they launch their canoes from the low-level bridge in the Gorge Park [Elora, ON] on their usual 10-day poetry trip down the Grand River.
     They will be performing with the Good Hearted Women Singers, who will dance, sing, and drum.
     We [the Elora Poetry Centre] are also bringing the New York School poet and art critic Bill Berkson to Elora Oct. 4 & 5... As you can see from these and our previous events, we are promoting international poetry [and] making the literary scene in Centre Wellington even more vibrant and diverse."
— Daniel Bratton, Elora Poetry Centre

Find out more about the Fish Quill Poets here and on their Facebook page.

See a profile of Daniel Bratton, and learn about "Beaver House," the future home of the Elora Poetry Centre here...

From: Blue Press Books

"Born in New York in 1939, Bill Berkson is a poet, critic, teacher and sometime curator, who has been active in the art and literary worlds since his early twenties….
     He is the author of some twenty books and pamphlets of poetry, including Gloria, a portfolio of poems with etchings by Alex Katz (Arion Press, 2005); Our Friends Will Pass Among You Silently (The Owl Press, 2007); Goods and Services (Blue Press, 2008); Portrait and Dream: New & Selected Poems (Coffee House Press, 2009); and Lady Air (Perdika, 2010).
     His poems have also appeared in many magazines and anthologies."
The Poetry Foundation
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Buy all of Bill Berkson's books here...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Damaged in Transit

The Humanity Project is Jean Thompson’s sixth novel, and it is a forthright piece of social criticism in which children are victims of both their dreadful peers and their parents’ immaturity, and parents are victims of the times: the economy, the government, the banks, their own predilections for OxyContin and alcohol, the contemporary culture’s lack of — Thompson’s titular word — humanity. Thompson is also an accomplished story writer, and she presents this novel as a bleak yet strangely charming series of storylike chapters — complete mini-narratives from a kaleidoscopic range of points of view, often ending with a cliffhanger — revolving not only around the friendship between Conner and Linnea, but also around Linnea’s reunion with her hapless father, Art, a part-time academic who is forced into late-breaking parenthood when Linnea’s mother gives up on her."
— Helen Schulman, The New York Times
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"The many protagonists in Jean Thompson's The Humanity Project are, for the most part, complete messes: They're broke, lonely, adrift, and traumatized; they've seen their dreams sour and their luck dissipate. A few don't even make it past the first 50 pages alive.
     But 'humanity' isn't just a vague focus of the charitable foundation begun by one of the novel's few financially solvent characters, a slightly batty Bay Area widow named Mrs. Foster. It's something that Thompson infuses into every sentence, striking true, clear notes whether she's writing about the hissing colony of feral cats trapped inside Mrs. Foster's palatial house or the inner life of Linnea, a sullen Ohio teenager sent to live with her long-absent father in Marin County after she survives a brutal school shooting."
— Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly
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Buy all of Jean Thompson's book here...

Book Depository

When you think of all the unpublished manuscripts in the world, by writers of all descriptions and abilities, from the unsung genius (does a solitary writer screaming at a desert sky make a sound?) or the aging retiree just wanting to get it all down on paper before it's too late. All the way back to the eager and precocious child venturing into to the world of her own imaginings — wanting to make a "book": her own book, a book that she wrote) it would match the count of lost socks, no doubt: hundreds of thousands — probably millions.
     I'm reminded of a book by Richard Brautigan, The Abortion, that seems to look into the future of publishing without trying: e-books, self-publishing on a grand scale, blogs, vanity press without the stigma — new forms of "getting it out there" that are rooted simply in the need to tell a story to as many people as possible.
— Michael Hale

"In the top floor of the Fletcher Free Library in Burlington Vermont, the Brautigan Library lives as its own Library Autonomous Zone. I happened upon it by accident. I always try to stop in at the local library when I travel….
     Richard Brautigan wrote the book The Abortion. It was one of the reasons I wanted to become a librarian. In it, he creates a library full of unpublished writers. The library is always open, or never open depending how you look at it, and the author lives in the library. He never leaves. Librarian turnover is high. When someone writes a book, they bring it to the library and place it on a shelf anywhere they choose. From time to time, the books are emptied out of the library and brought to caves in Northern California."
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"[The Abortion] is based on the idea of a public library where authors can bring their manuscripts, 'the unwanted, the lyrical and haunted volumes of American writing.' Such volumes as: Growing Flowers by Candlelight in Hotel Rooms, My Trike and Love always Beautiful, a book rejected four hundred and fifty-nine times. Also mentioned is the Culinary Dostoevsky the author of which, it states, was a cookbook of recipes he had found in Dostoevsky’s novels. ‘Some of them are very good, ‘ he said. ‘I’ve eaten everything Dostoevsky ever cooked.’
     Brautigan according to his first wife Virginia Aste, never went anywhere without his Dostoyevsky."
Rolling Plinth
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See another post about Richard Brautigan here...

Buy all of Richard Brautigan's books (the published ones, at least), and Dostoevsky's here…

"I am a kind of paranoid in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy." — J. D. Salinger

From: Dallas Observer

"JD Salinger, the elusive author of The Catcher in the Rye, was one of America's most famous recluses and guarded his private life with fanatical dedication. Yet even he might have been impressed by the immense efforts being undertaken to keep details secret of a new documentary that has been made about his life and works.
     Called simply Salinger, the film is the brainchild of Shane Salerno, who has spent nine years writing, producing and directing the project, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money.

…the promise of lifting the lid on the life of one of America's most revered writers has proven a massive lure to Hollywood. Salinger has been bought up by independent film mogul Harvey Weinstein after he reportedly saw a private screening of it at 7:30 on the morning of the Oscars. Even though the screening did not apparently include all of the film's most confidential revelations, he snapped it up immediately."
— Paul Harris, The Guardian
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Buy all of J.D. Salinger's books here...

Monday, May 20, 2013

Curt Vonnadorians and Long-Winded Humans

"Professor Andrew Martin of Cambridge University, one of the great mathematical geniuses of our time, has just discovered the secret of prime numbers, thereby finding the key that will unlock the mysteries of the universe, guarantee a giant technological leap for mankind and put an end to illness and death.
     Alerted to this amazing breakthrough on the other side of the universe, and convinced that the secret of primes cannot be entrusted to such a violent and backward species as humans, the super-advanced Vonnadorians dispatch an emissary to erase Martin and all traces of his discovery.
     That's the backstory to a book that opens with our alien narrator finding himself in the body of the professor, whom he has just assassinated. But the instantaneous intergalactic travel hasn't turned out quite as expected. Instead of finding himself in Martin's office, our nameless Vonnadorian has arrived in the middle of the M11, with no understanding of human culture and wearing his victim's body but not a stitch of clothing."
— Harrie Richie, The Guardian (about Matt Haig's new book, The Humans)
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Buy this book here...

"...not wheelchair accessible"

"…[UK Prime Minister David] Cameron proceeded to cut billions of pounds from welfare benefits including support for the disabled. To try to meet Cameron’s targets, the Department for Work and Pensions hired Atos, a private French 'systems integration' firm. Atos billed the government £400 million to carry out medical evaluations of people receiving disability benefits.
     [13-year-old Kieran McArdle's] father [Brian] was scheduled for an appointment to complete Atos’s battery of 'fitness for work' tests. He was nervous. Since his stroke, he had trouble walking, and was worried about how his motorized wheelchair would get up the stairs to his appointment, as he had learned that about a quarter of Atos’s disability evaluations took place in buildings that were not wheelchair accessible. 'Even though my dad had another stroke just days before his assessment, he was determined to go,' said Kieran. 'He tried his best to walk and talk because he was a very proud man.'
     Brian did manage to reach Atos’s evaluation site, and after the evaluation, made his way home. A few weeks later, his family received a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions. The family’s Employment and Support Allowance benefits were being stopped. Atos had found Brian 'fit for work.' The next day he collapsed and died.
     It was hard for us, as public health researchers, to understand the government’s position. The Department for Work and Pensions, after all, considered cheating a relatively minor issue. The total sum of disability fraud for 'conditions of entitlement' was £2 million, far less than the contract to hire Atos, and the Department estimated that greater harm resulted from the accidental underpayment of £70 million each year. But the government’s fiscal ideology had created the impetus for radical cuts."
— David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, from their book The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills
(via Salon)
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Buy this book here...

Cure like an Egyptian (out of print)

From: suite101 (an illustration from the Ebers Papyrus)

"In the race to protect society from infectious microbes, the bugs are outrunning us. The need for new therapeutic agents is acute, given the emergence of novel pathogens as well as old foes bearing heightened antibiotic resistance.
     Shelley Haydel, a researcher at Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute has a new approach to developing effective, topical antibacterial agents -- one that draws on a naturally occurring substance recognized since antiquity for its medicinal properties: clay….
     Medical use of clay has a storied history. As early as 5000 years ago, clay was listed in the ancient tablets of Nippur as a wound-healing medicament. Around 1600 BC, the Ebers Papyrus -- recognized as the world's oldest medical text -- recommended clay for ailments including diarrhea, dysentery, tapeworm, hookworm, wounds, and abscesses. Clays came into common use in the 19th century as topical treatments for surgical wounds, demonstrating their beneficial effects for pain management, inflammation, putrefaction, and healing processes."
— Richard Harth, Arizona State University (Press Release)
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"The Ebers Papyrus (approximately 1500 BCE), one of the two oldest maintained medical documents, [has] preserved for us [a] most extensive record of Egyptian medical history. In it, the Egyptians show a degree of knowledge of the workings of the human body, its structure, the job of the heart and blood vessels. The oldest well preserved medical document from ancient Egyptian record dated from approximately 1500 BC contains 110 pages on anatomy and physiology, toxicology, spells, and treatment recorded on papyrus. The papyrus also has many prescriptions showing the treatment of many disorders by animal, plant, and mineral toxins that still occur today."

Saturday, May 18, 2013

"Then she cornered Walker Percy and, essentially, thrust the manuscript on him."

"The story behind John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces has become one of the great yard-sticks writers use to beat unsympathetic publishers.
     A genius author, shamelessly ignored by the publishing world, dies unknown and his aging mother sets about haranguing editors to read her son's masterpiece. She finds a publisher and the book, after finding its receptive public, wins the Pulitzer.
     Of course, it's a posthumous prize for Toole. He committed suicide after falling into despair that his book would ever see the light of day. On closer inspection, the story gathers more layers: an editor at a major house had shown interest but his seemingly endless calls for alterations drove Toole to the edge.
     At least, that's the now accepted myth: Toole was hounded to death by an uncaring world waged in war against all literary effort. It's a comfortable tale told by embittered writers everywhere, but how much of it is actually true?
     In his book Butterfly in the Typewriter Cory MacLauchlin uncovers a much more complicated story. It's one where family issues run deep and where none of the accepted wisdom can be taken at face value."
— Tony Black, Tony Black's Pulp Pusher

Read Tony Black's interview with the author, Cory MacLauchlin here…

Friday, May 17, 2013

Genre: "a flimsy irrelevence"

From: Retronaut

"This week, the chair of this year's Man Booker prize, Robert Macfarlane, published an introduction to a new edition of M John Harrison's Climbers. In it, he says 'let me try to express a little of the amazement I feel when standing in front of the work of Harrison, who is best known as one of the restless fathers of modern SF but who is to my mind among the most brilliant novelists writing today, and with regard to whom the question of genre is a flimsy irrelevance.' Are we witnessing the end of the genre wars? Macfarlane has written introductions as enthusiastically to the (genre) work of John Christopher and the (literary) work Edward Thomas and Charles Dickens. Before starting on this year's submissions for the Man Booker (I am also a judge), I was among those who selected the Granta Best of Young British Novelists, a list which featured a number of genre-inflected writers (Steven Hall, Naomi Alderman, Joanna Kavenna, Ned Beauman, Xiaolu Guo, Helen Oyeyemi, Jenni Fagan and Sarah Hall). Is genre, as Macfarlane says 'a flimsy irrelevance?'"
The Guardian Book Blog
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Thursday, May 16, 2013

For what it's worth

Gutenberg Bible: a complete first edition is worth
US $25-$35 million (from: Luxist)

What's a novel for? A short story? A poem? And what are they worth?
     In an age where stuff is cheap — in the 1976 Eaton's catalogue (like Sears in the U.S.)  the cheapest colour TV (14") was $399.99. That's $1,270.14 in today's dollars; on March 19, 1984 a Proctor-Silex toaster was on sale at K-Mart for $22.88; again, in todays money: $39.82). A toaster at Walmart now costs about $15.00.
     Life is cheap, too. We are all too familiar with the lot of factory workers throughout the developing world and here in North America (Bangladesh is in the news right now, finally); the resurgence of slavery and human trafficking.
     And then there's the factory in China, Foxconn, that makes iPhones and other high-end electronic goods banning their workers from committing suicide.
      In Honduras, "There is a violent death every 74 minutes... and the country has a murder rate more than four times higher than Mexico." according to an article on the BBC News Magazine website.
     In an age where everything has been devalued, except for the absolute essentials like food and fossil fuels, is it any wonder that authors of fiction can't make any money?
     Never mind poets, and writers of so-called "literature." Granted, some novelists strike it rich and become millionaires, billionaires; but these occurrences are as anomalous as winning the lottery or gazing upon the proverbial blue moon.
     So, to answer the question... questions: Entertainment, then that's why we do it; we're like court jesters — distraction, that's what we're for: the slaking of humankind's craving for escape, to suffer along with some made-up character: catharsis.
     But, you say, TV shows, computer games, the Internet, music, the theatre and movies do all that. Look at shows like "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad," and movies like "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," and "The King's Speech," to name a few. That's where the money is — for people who want to tell stories in this day and age. We must all become screenwriters and cast out lot with hordes of taxi drivers and waiters and dog walkers in L.A. who live their lives waiting for the "ka-ching" of success.
     All things considered, especially in light of the heart-warming news in the first few paragraphs of this post, I guess we should count ourselves lucky even to have the opportunity to write.
     Now I'm really depressed; or at best, just lost for words.
— Michael Hale

"main-springy; perspective-this and techno-that"

"This ribald, blustery, frank, coarse innuendo-laced tract (28 leaves long) was not terribly unusual when it was printed in 1545, celebrating as it does the low- and high-cultural private life of Renaissance Italy. Doctors, poets, gluttons, cheats and of course lots of beautiful women romp around ostensibly in an attempt to prove the usefulness of their sinful vices, relating it all somehow to the disease-improved poetic capacities of the STD-bestowed Petrarch, master of forlorn and unrequited love poetry and the father of Humanism…
     Stumbling into things like this makes you remember that the Renaissance wasn’t all stuffy and main-springy; perspective-this and techno-that; they had their fun, too, even in 1545, and put it into print."
Ptak Science Books
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"In the Renaissance, sex and sensuality were seen as the first steps towards salvation. From the Neo-Platonist philosophers under Lorenzo de Medici, it was concluded that love of the body was the first step on the long ladder towards a love of wisdom and ultimately of God and therefore it was to be embraced and not hidden away.
     The double-standard [that] existed during that time indicated that men had sexual freedom, often with courtesans and mistresses long before their marriage, whereas women were expected to be virgins at marriage and faithful to their husbands afterwards. A woman and her lover could be killed for unfaithfulness, whereas a man was expected to be unfaithful. It was thought that a woman cannot receive pleasure from anything but a man. Isabella de' Medici was strangled at the dinner table by her husband for being unfaithful. Neither Lucrezia Borgia nor Alfonso d'Este were faithful to each other and Cesare Borgia was rumoured to have at least eleven illegitimate children in his short lifetime."
The Borgias

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Loaves, Fishes, Olive Oil... and Zeno

From: Zhengzhou Amisy

A bottle of olive oil: when you get to the bottom of it, you think it's empty, but it's not. You let it sit for a while, then give it one more try, and again a day later (I hate waste) there's still some left. It's weird  the Zeno's Paradox* of olive oil.
     Okay. Try this, next time you sit down to write… it's going well, better than you thought; and before too long you have a page or two of rough-hewn, first draft. It feels good! You're on a roll! So you carry on, and then it peters out for some reason. (You're distracted by something, or the words start looking forced or crappy (the infamous, "shitty first draft"). The rush of the "roll" fades. The endorphins dry up too...
     But don't stop.
     Like the olive oil in the "empty" bottle, there's got to be one more drop. Keep typing for one more minute — what have you got to lose? Tap, tap, tap… see what happens. It's amazing sometimes how much "oil" appears our of nowhere. Enough to garnish a tiny salad, cook another mushroom... or a whole meal sometimes.
— Michael Hale

From: Philosophy Monkey

*"Suppose Homer wants to catch a stationary bus [in the picture, that bus looks a lot like a tree... maybe it's an olive tree]. Before he can get there, he must get halfway there. Before he can get halfway there, he must get a quarter of the way there. Before traveling a quarter, he must travel one-eighth; before an eighth, one-sixteenth; and so on…
     There are thus an infinite number of steps that must first be accomplished before he could reach the bus, with no way to establish the size of any 'last' step."
Wikipedia (Zeno's Dichotomy Paradox)
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