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21 Jul 20:59

Character Art Painted on Stacks of Books by Mike Stilkey

by EDW Lynch

Character Art Painted on Stacks of Books by Mike Stilkey

Artist Mike Stilkey has created a series of book sculptures in which he paints fantastical animal and human characters directly on stacks of books. Stilkey uses a combination of ink, colored pencil, paint, and lacquer on the sculptures. They range in size from a few books to wall-sized installations. He talks about his process in this 3-part interview with Fully Booked (part 1, part 2, and part 3). His book sculptures are available at Gilman Contemporary gallery in Ketchum, Idaho.

Character Art Painted on Stacks of Books by Mike Stilkey

Character Art Painted on Stacks of Books by Mike Stilkey

Character Art Painted on Stacks of Books by Mike Stilkey

Character Art Painted on Stacks of Books by Mike Stilkey

photos via Mike Stilkey

via Art Is A Way, Lustik, Colossal

25 Oct 22:16

Lars and the Voodoo Cocktail

By Lars Theriot

“What’s that sound?”
“It’s dead people… SCREAMIN’!!!!”

I was probably 16 when I heard that line for the first time, and I think I surprised myself by laughing out loud.  I wouldn’t have thought it was possible to laugh like that when you were already scared out of your mind.

There are a lot of theories about why we love zombie movies… I believe we love them for the same reason we love Westerns.  Here at the beginning of the 21st century we are a pampered and sheltered people.  Like caged lions desperate to roam and hunt free of fences and zookeepers, we are at odds with the endless layers of protection that exist between us and our problems (or our prey).  Got a fire? Call the fire dept.  Someone breaking into your house?  Call the cops.  Someone bullying you at school?  Talk to the Principal.  Next door neighbor building a fence over the property line?  Call a lawyer.  In zombie movies, as in Westerns, all those layers of “officials” whom we call to deal with our issues have been stripped away.  We stand naked – just us and our wits against a deadly existential threat.  As a fantasy, it’s both exhilarating and terrifying.

After the seminal zombie flick Night of the Living Dead, director George Romero and his writing partner John Russo parted ways.  Russo walked away with the rights to the title “Living Dead” and eventually a sequel was born – Return of the Living Dead.  For a brief period, the production was planned as a 3D movie with Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s Tobe Hooper set to direct.  Eventually Hooper left the project and writer Dan O’Bannon (Alien, Heavy Metal, Dead & Buried) signed on to not only pen but direct the film.  Not wanting to retread the same territory so brilliantly pioneered by Romero’s original film, O’Bannon stipulated that he must be able to craft the project into something very different than Night of the Living Dead. The result of O’Bannon’s re-imagining is a nearly perfect zombie movie.  It’s as scary as Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later and Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake, while also being funnier than any other zombie movie made before or since.

“How do you kill something that’s already dead?”
“It’s not a bad question, Bert.”

 

It’s got fantastic actors like James Karen, only two years away from Wall Street and absolutely refusing to mail it in.  Watch the scene where he calls his boss to let him know they’ve accidentally released zombies on the city. He takes the time to smooth his hair, wipe the sweat from his brow, and take a sip of water before sing-songing “Oh, Bert – we’ve got a little problem here.”

No other zombie movie has ever worked so hard to come up with a plausible reason why zombies eat people.  The scene where Ernie the mortician interviews a captured zombie is mesmerizing and horrifying all at the same time.  It somehow manages to make you sympathize with the zombies even as you are disgusted by their callous disregard for the lives they take and the ruthlessness with which they take them.

“Why do you eat people?”
“Not people, BRAINS!”
“Brains only?”
“Yessssssssss”
“Why?”
“The pain of being dead – I can feel myself rot!”
“Eating brains… how does that make you feel?”
“It makes the pain… go away!”

 

Perhaps O’Bannon meant for his zombies to serve as an allegory for drug addiction, which was just starting to dominate the news in the mid-80’s (Return certainly contains a strong element borrowed from the juvenile delinquent films of the late 1960s).  Just as an addict, strung out on heroin and desperate to head off the pain of withdrawal, will lie, cheat, and steal to get that next fix, these zombies seem capable of any atrocity, as long as “it makes the pain go away”.

 

“Send. More. Cops!”

Did I mention that Dan O’Bannon’s zombies can talk?  They can also use machinery and tools.  And strategize.  But most importantly, they can’t be killed.  You can destroy their brains, remove their heads, cut them to pieces, and the pieces will still come after you.  The only way to permanently dispose of one of these zombies is to burn them to ashes in an industrial crematorium.  You don’t have a crematorium handy, do you?

 

In the pantheon of the zombie mythos, just about every movie made gives its terrified audiences a thin ray of hope:  if you’re fast, you can outrun the zombies (Romero); if you can shoot well, you can kill the zombies (Snyder, Romero); if you can hole up somewhere with supplies, you can outlast the zombies (Boyle).  But this is where Return of the Living Dead is different.  It’s downright merciless.

Return removes any hope of salvation.  Every single one of the characters in the film is doomed from the minute James Karen unwittingly releases the plague – it’s only a matter of how and when.  I think that’s what terrified me most as a boy, and that’s why the film has stuck with me all these years.  Most horror films have the good sense to let the audience off the hook.  Return of the Living Dead, on the other hand, is fiendishly ruthless.  At the risk of spoiling things, that’s all I’ll say.

For today’s companion drink, we turn to the heart of zombie lore – the voodoo of the West Indian nation of Haiti. Haiti has long been associated with voodoo and the walking dead.  From William Seabrook’s The Magic Island (1929) to anthropologist Zora Huston’s photographs in the late 1930s of Felicia Felix-Mentor, a purported zombie who had originally died in 1907, to the more recent work of ethnobotanist Wade Davis, who journeyed to Haiti to investigate similar claims of reanimation being performed by local voodoo practitioners as well as by Tonton Macoutes, members of President “Papa Doc” Duvalier’s death squads.  The stories Davis had heard were horrible.  It was said that the Macoutes were using plant and animal extracts to create a potent drug – a cocktail, if you will – which would simulate death in anyone who came into contact with it.  With all of this in mind, we chose the Voodoo Cocktail.

 

Voodoo Cocktail

4 oz Apple Juice
2 oz Gold Rum
1 oz Fresh Lime Juice
1 oz Basic (1:1) Simple Syrup
1 oz Spiced Sweet Vermouth

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass
Shake with ice and double strain into a highball glass over large ice
Pre-Zombiepocalypse, garnish with a lime wedge or voodoo charm
Post-Zombiepocalypse, you shouldn’t be worried about garnishes

Featured Glassware: Boston Double Old-Fashioned by Villeroy & Boch

 

We found the Voodoo Cocktail on absolutdrinks.com, and, unfortunately, the provenance isn’t given.  The same drink (one of many called “Voodoo”) appears elsewhere with Appleton rum specifically called for, a choice which makes thematic sense, if nothing else.  We checked the Appleton site to see if they claimed it, but it was not among their recipes.  From wherever it originally hails, the drink is outstanding, especially if made with the Spiced Sweet Vermouth from the Bloodbath (you’ll want the spices to be more cinnamon than cardamom).  While on paper it may look a little thin, the Voodoo reveals itself to be a very balanced autumnal cooler (I’d call it a cooler rather than a cocktail), which can be successfully scaled into a bowl of punch (finish with a grating of nutmeg and cinnamon).  Of course, if you’re looking for something even more Living Dead like, please click on over to our recent Laughing Zombie.

While the Voodoo Cocktail won’t bring any long lost relatives back to life, do heed a word of warning:  it’s a deceptive drink, and more than two may have you slipping into a walking dead state yourself.  Of course, if your Halloween plans include a bowl of dip shaped like a brain – well, then you’ll be ready to rock n’ roll.

 

Esoterica: There is a right way and a wrong way to clean a dusty voodoo chicken foot.

 

27 Oct 16:02

David and the Ward Eight

Since we’re talking horror films, I think it’s only appropriate that we talk Scooby-Doo.  Like most adults my age, the misadventures of the Mystery Machine were my first exposure to ghosts, ghouls, and things that go bump in the night (at abandoned amusement parks).  It’s safe to say that, as a kid, Scooby-Doo was by far my favorite cartoon (until that punk Scrappy came along, that is), but when the live action movies arrived, I was at a loss.  Despite a nostalgia-fueled desire to want to want to see the Scooby-Doo Movie, I had an even greater urge to avoid it.  At the time, Lars summarized this succinctly by observing that the film “wasn’t made for me” – that I simply wasn’t its target audience.  I had grown up; Scooby hadn’t.  Point conceded.

Over the years, there have been plenty of movies “made for me” that I still had no desire to see or, if I did, that I failed to appreciate.  Since our focus right now is on horror, I’ll specifically limit that list to films like The Blair Witch Project, Saw, Paranormal Activity, and, most recently, Insidious – films that all have their ardent supporters and that all were marketed to “me” but which will never make my short list.  My first thought was maybe that I was getting too old or too fickle for my own good, but then films like Let the Right One In and The Human Centipede come along and I enjoy them both, each on its own very different terms.    Perhaps I’ve just seen so many horror films that it takes more and more to get my blood moving;  yet, every repeated viewing of The Exorcist or The Shining is as good and chilling as the first.

What I came to realize is that – much as with sex, food, and vacation spots – I’ve developed certain horror predilections over the years.  Fortunately, I’ve narrowed them down to a short list.  Haunted houses and/or spooky environments are key.  Whether it’s the Overlook Hotel or the demonic coal town of Silent Hill, surround me with terror that can come from any angle.  Next, give me smart and proactive protagonists, not screaming, twitchy idiots.  One of my favorite horror films is The Changeling because I’ve always held that if George C. Scott is scared, I should be scared too.  Also, the less CGI, the better.  (If you need proof that “state of the art” doesn’t necessarily mean scarier, see Jan de Bont’s modern remake of The Haunting.)  Finally, know how to dish out both surprise and suspense.  Here’s the difference between the two:  surprise is when the hero backs into an unseen killer and leaps into the air, suspense is when audience knows that the killer is in the room but the hero doesn’t.  Suspense builds tension; surprise releases it.

Given that most of our esteemed Halloween guests have picked older films, I decided to go with something more contemporary.  Something which not only met all of my requirements — and then some — but which was somewhat obscure.  And so, I give you Session 9.

 

Unfortunately, there’s not much that I can say about the plot of the film without treading into spoiler territory, but I think that a simple logline (cribbed from IMDb) will be enough to grab you (or not):   Tensions rise within an asbestos cleaning crew as they work in an abandoned mental hospital with a horrific past that seems to be coming back.  That the team is composed of not-easily-scared actors the likes of Peter Mullan, David Caruso, and Josh Lucas makes the proceedings all the more unsettling, but the real star of the movie is Danvers State Insane Asylum itself.

 

Founded in 1878, the State Hospital for the Insane at Danvers was built on Hathorne Hill in the rural outskirts of Boston.  In the 19th century, there was an explosion in state-funded mental health programs, with each asylum seemingly trying to outdo the last.  One of the most popular styles of institutional architecture was the Kirkbride building, with its “bat wing” design of two wings (one for the men, the other for the ladies) extending in opposite directions from a central administration building.  Pioneered by Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride, superintendent of the Philadelphia Hospital for the Insane, the concept was intended to promote a more comfortable, natural, and productive environment for the patients.  At the time of its construction, some believed that the sprawling Danvers hospital would never be filled, but as government-run facilities have a tendency of doing, the hospital eventually became overcrowded multiple times over.  During the second half of the 20th century, psychiatric policies and methodologies changed while budgets were repeatedly cut.  In 1992, after more than 100 years, Danvers closed its doors forever.

Just looking at the photo above, it’s not hard to imagine that Danvers, in all its raw, decrepit beauty, would make an amazing setting for a horror film.  Of course, if you’re a Boston-based, rising independent filmmaker who just happens to drive by the hospital each day, you make the natural leap and actually start working on said film.   Up until that point, director Brad Anderson (who would next go on to make The Machinist) was mostly known for the indie romantic comedies Next Stop Wonderland and Happy Accidents, so a horror film would certainly buck the direction in which his career was naturally heading (although Anderson’s first film credit is Frankenstein’s Planet of Monsters!).  The first step for Anderson was to call friend and Happy Accidents star Stephen Gevedon and piggy back on a group of “urban spelunking” teens for a look inside the cordoned off Danvers.  From there, all it took was a unique but reasonable reason to introduce characters into the situation – a hazmat team cleaning up the building prior to its demolition – some history of misbegotten psychiatric practices, and inspiration from a famous Boston murder case, and Anderson and Gevendon had themselves a story worth telling.

What makes Session 9 work so well, outside of the magnificent setting, is the extremely grounded and adult nature of the proceedings.  There are no shrieking teens, wise-talking sidekicks explaining “the rules”, or lumbering superhuman killers.  No, these are characters weary of parenthood, worried about paying the mortgage, and contemplating the wrong turns they’ve taken in life.  Moreover, they are characters made real by some of the finest actors alive, in particular Peter Mullan and David Caruso.  It’s a sparse movie that not only lets the tension and the suspense build, but also leaves much of the mystery open to the viewer’s interpretation.  The result is a true masterpiece of adult horror – a creepy, unnerving film that, among haunted house movies, ranks up with The Shining for me.

 

Session 9 was released in 2001.  Unfortunately, in 2005, the Danvers hospital property was sold to a developer and the vast majority of the buildings were torn down.  A portion of the main brick shell was kept and turned into apartments.  Interestingly, some claim that the hospital’s vast network of underground tunnels still exists.

As for the drink, not only is the Ward Eight remarkably tasty, it makes for a very fitting companion to the film.  At its core, we have a classic whiskey sour that adds a nice splash of grenadine in place of the sugar and orange juice in place of half of the lemon juice.  Our recipe comes from the Robert Vermiere version courtesy of Erik Ellestad over at Savoy Stomp, which scales the whiskey down a bit from David Wondrich’s version at Esquire.com (Wondrich offers a quite different recipe in his book Imbibe! ).   Variations on the Ward Eight are so plentiful, Wondrich tells us, that when the drinks reporter for the New York Sun called for recipes many a year ago, he received 400 replies.

 

Ward Eight

1.5 oz Rye Whiskey
0.75 oz Lemon Juice
0.75 oz Orange Juice
1 tsp Grenadine

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass
Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass

 

Despite the multitude of conflicting recipes, there are a few points about the drink on which most everyone seems to agree.  It comes from Boston and originated just before the dawn of the 20th century.  As luck would have it – just like Danvers Asylum.  Unfortunately, the drink doesn’t take its name from the hospital’s eight wards but from Boston’s eight political districts, also called wards.  But, really, is there any difference between a political ward and one in an asylum?

So, when the kids are out trick-or-treating or safely tucked away for the night, having surrendered to sugar comas, turn down the lights, whip up a few Ward Eights (actually, make the drinks, then turn down the lights), and check into one of the creepiest places that ever existed.  They have a room waiting for you.

 

 

 

Esoterica:  Speaking of misbegotten psychiatric practices, here’s some PBS footage on the origins of the lobotomy:

 

16 Jun 20:07

W.B. Yeats’s order form for Ulysses (he wanted the least...



W.B. Yeats’s order form for Ulysses (he wanted the least expensive edition). via The National Library of Ireland

18 Apr 21:01

The Evil Dead - Sam Raimi’s low budget camera rigs

















The Evil Dead - Sam Raimi’s low budget camera rigs

24 Mar 14:48

Requiem for an Engine: A comic board’s legacy

by Maddie Greene
Madolan

I wrote this!

It was a strange and fruitful blip in the online comic community. Writer Warren Ellis’s comic book message board The Engine ran from early September 2005 to Aug. 31, 2007, birthing in its short life new comic books, ongoing collaborative superteams, Eisner and Harvey Award-winning projects, and at least one marriage. My affectionate memories are […]

The post Requiem for an Engine: A comic board’s legacy appeared first on The Shared Universe.

18 Mar 18:20

Brooches Made from Pages Salvaged from Old Classic Books

by EDW Lynch

Classic Book Brooches by House of Ismay

Sarah of House of Ismay hand crafts brooches out of pages from worn out classic books and salvaged wood scraps. Her brooches and other upcycled products are available for purchase.

Classic Book Brooches by House of Ismay

Classic Book Brooches by House of Ismay

Classic Book Brooches by House of Ismay

Classic Book Brooches by House of Ismay

photos via House of Ismay

via My Modern Metropolis

26 Feb 23:37

Wonderfully Bizarre Embroidered Found Photos by Mana Morimoto

by EDW Lynch

Embroidered Photos by Mana Morimoto

Artist Mana Morimoto uses embroidery to add colorful, often wonderfully bizarre flourishes to found photographs. She has more embroidery art on her website.

Embroidered Photos by Mana Morimoto

Embroidered Photos by Mana Morimoto

Embroidered Photos by Mana Morimoto

Embroidered Photos by Mana Morimoto

via Hi-Fructose

07 Feb 11:00

Style Sheet: A Conversation with My Copyeditor

by Edan Lepucki

style

I’ve fallen in love with my copyeditor Susan Bradanini Betz.  Not only did she find all the mantle/mantel homonym errors in my novel manuscript, she also helped me with my commas and discovered a couple of embarrassing inconsistencies.  (“First she had a briefcase,” one of her notes reads.  “Now it’s a suitcase.”)  She is both respectful of style and sharp as knives about grammar.  Also, she said she’d read a sequel to my book — if not a whole series! — so of course I love her.

I’ve always been curious about a copyeditor’s process and Susan was kind enough to answer a few questions of mine.  Susan has been in the publishing business for, as she puts it, a zillion years.  She’s worked in-house as both a copyeditor and an acquisitions editor, and currently freelances, mostly for Knopf and Soho Press.  She recently started working with Little, Brown again, which was one of her main clients in the 1980s and 1990s.  She lives in Chicago.

The Millions: You have worked in book publishing for years, not only as a copyeditor but as an in-house editor doing acquisitions and all that.  You told me copyediting is your favorite of these jobs. Why? 

Susan Bradanini Betz: When I copyedit, I get closer to the manuscript than I was ever able to as an acquisitions editor. I read every single word, looking at each word and tracking the syntax, not skimming over sentences. It’s not my job as a copyeditor to suggest big-picture changes or comment on quality, so I am focused on the story and the language at the word and sentence level. I keep the reader in mind and try to anticipate what might be confusing or problematic; I check facts and dates, track characters and events for consistency; and I do the most thorough read I possibly can, coming away with an in-depth understanding of the work that wasn’t possible for me in acquisitions.

As a freelance copyeditor, I work for publishers who expect me to do a thorough job. And when I find an error in a novel’s chronology or an incorrect date in a nonfiction book, I feel that is as important to the integrity of the book as when I used to suggest switching chapters around.

TM: What are the copyeditor’s particular pleasures and challenges?

SBB: I love being able to read a manuscript closely, word by word or even, when something is particularly dense, syllable by syllable. (Yes, I have done that.) The main challenge, other than the usual one of balancing deadlines with quality, is making a sustainable living as a freelance copyeditor. With Obamacare, I’ll have health insurance for the first time in quite a while.

TM: Can you describe how you go about copyediting a manuscript?  That is, what’s your reading process like?  How in the hell do you manage to catch the smallest of errors?

SBB: Ideally, I’d have time to read through every manuscript twice: once to mark everything and once just to read and find whatever I missed the first time through. But the schedules don’t allow for that. Plus, I usually end up reading each sentence multiple times anyway.

So, when I get a manuscript, I just start right in on page one. I don’t page through or skim the manuscript first because I want be aware of the evolution of the story and the order in which information is presented. That way, if some detail important to the reader’s understanding was inadvertently dropped in the author’s revision process, I’m more likely to catch it.

I usually read the first 60 to 100 pages without marking anything but the most cut-and-dried items — serial commas, typos, backward quotation marks, those sorts of things. I start my style sheets right away on page one, keeping track of the author’s existing style for thoughts, words, dialogue, and so on, and noting what seems intentional and what seems unintentional.

Once I’m familiar with the author’s style and voice, which usually happens around page 60, I begin making copyediting changes that I hope are consistent with the author’s intent and the publisher’s expectations. I query a lot rather than changing a lot. When I reach the end of the manuscript, I go back and copyedit those first sixty pages.

Creating style sheets is the secret to catching small errors. I am obsessed with my style sheets. I keep a word list, a character list, a list of places (fictional and real), a chronology, a general style sheet, a list of hyphenated modifiers, and any other list that helps me keep track of everything. I usually fact check as I go, although when I’m pressed for time I make a list of items to look up later, sometimes after I’ve returned the manuscript to the publisher. In those cases, I send a list of corrections that can be added by the production editor to the first pass. (Ha-ha, if someone else wrote this paragraph, I’d query the repeat of “list” — I used it seven times in five sentences.)

Because I read slowly, I also remember odd little details that provide a strong visual image, and so as I read along, if my visual image is jarred by a description, I’ll backtrack to figure out if there’s some inconsistency. I remember more details about characters in novels I’ve copyedited than I remember from my own life.

TM: Can you turn off your copyediting mind when you’re reading for pleasure? 

SBB: No, I can’t turn it off, but believe it or not, that mind-set makes pleasure reading more pleasurable for me. When reading for pleasure I don’t read as slowly as when I copyedit, but I am not a fast reader. Often I will read a sentence more than once, then flip back and forth comparing it with other sentences, just like I do when copyediting. I think I’ve always read like a copyeditor, even way back before I knew what a copyeditor was. One of my favorite authors is Proust, and when I was young I would read some of his sentences over and over trying to make sure I understood how every word related to the other words and just to make sure I understood what he was saying.

TM: So I guess it’s possible to have fun reading while you’re copyediting…

SBB: Yes! I have fun reading nearly all the manuscripts that come to me — maybe all. I think of my job as publishers setting up an amazing reading list for me.

I try not to read ahead of my editing, but sometimes it’s impossible not to because I’m so caught up in the story. Many things can only be noticed when you are reading slowly and reading something for the first time. If I read ahead, I have to go back and reread everything at a copyediting pace. But because I already know what’s going to happen, I might make assumptions that don’t take into account the reader’s limited information at that point in the story

TM: In a conversation between Michael Pietsch and Donna Tartt that ran in Slate, Pietsch quoted from the letter Tartt sent to her copyeditor for The Goldfinch:

I am terribly troubled by the ever-growing tendency to standardized and prescriptive usage, and I think that the Twentieth century, American-invented conventions of House Rules and House Style, to say nothing of automatic computer functions like Spellcheck and AutoCorrect, have exacted an abrasive, narrowing, and destructive effect on the way writers use language and ultimately on the language itself. Journalism and newspaper writing are one thing; House Style indubitably very valuable there; but as a literary novelist who writes by hand, in a notebook, I want to be able to use language for texture and I’ve intentionally employed a looser, pre-twentieth century model rather than running my work through any one House Style mill.

What are your thoughts on Tartt’s argument? (And were you the copyeditor to receive this note?!)

SBB: Yikes — no, fortunately, I wasn’t the copyeditor to receive that note. But often, when an author has that kind of reaction, it’s a result of misunderstanding. Most copyeditors don’t want to alter anything in a manuscript that the author has done on purpose.

The house style is set by the publisher, and copyeditors generally receive a manuscript without any guidelines other than to follow the house style for that publisher. And “house style” doesn’t refer to writing style but to mechanics such as capitalization, hyphenation, spelling (most often the house dictionary is Webster’s 11th), and so on. In addition, copyeditors watch for dangling modifiers, subject-verb and antecedent-pronoun agreement, repeating words, chronology, consistent names and dates, among other things. And they are expected minimally to verify dates, proper nouns (personal names, place-names, streets and highways, institutions, etc.), foreign words, brand names, slogans or advertisements — really, to verify as much as possible within the allotted time. Add to that that freelancers have no benefits and work for an hourly rate, so getting continual work from a publisher is important. What all that means is that the copyeditor is pressed for time and is unlikely to go against house style unless instructed to do so, for fear that the publisher will think she just doesn’t know how to copyedit.

Copyeditors are always guessing at the author’s intentionality, and a copyeditor who assumes everything the author has done is inadvertent does come off as a harsh schoolmarm. For example, in the note the author writes “Twentieth century, American-invented conventions.” A copyeditor would revise that as “twentieth-century, American-invented conventions,” assuming that the cap T in “Twentieth” was a typo, and the inconsistent hyphenation of compound modifiers was an oversight. However, “House Style,” which is not a proper noun, is capped three times in one paragraph. For me, that would be a signal that the author might have a personal cap style that I shouldn’t mess with. So I’d probably query the author about her intentionality regarding caps, calling out the occurrences so she can double-check that everything is as she wants it. If the copyeditor doesn’t at least call out the nonstandard style with a query, someone will do it later — either the production editor or the proofreader or even someone in publicity. And if the issue is raised after typesetting, the publisher is perfectly justified in asking why the copyeditor hadn’t settled that question earlier.

But that said, as an acquisitions editor, I saw copyeditors make all sorts of unjustified changes. And when I was acquiring poetry and fiction, I would sometimes lose it myself when I saw what copyeditors would do. I once had a copyeditor rewrite the last paragraph in a novel, which made the author (and me) go ballistic. The final paragraph! As if the author hadn’t given it considerable thought.

And sometimes a copyeditor is just mismatched to a project. Last year a publisher asked me to do a second copyedit on a memoir that had been thoroughly (way too thoroughly) copyedited already. The first copyeditor had changed so much that the author became paralyzed about a third of the way through his review of her changes. According to what the publisher told me, and from what I could tell from the author’s comments on her comments, he not only felt the copyeditor didn’t understand his work, but he started doubting his own choices. When I looked at the first copyedit, I understood the reasons behind nearly all of her changes, but I also saw that she clearly did not get this author’s humor or his unique voice, which often involved nonstandard syntax. She had done a ton of work recasting passive sentences and paring down “awkward” (and by “awkward” I mean “hilarious”) sentences. And in many places he had agreed to a change that honestly purged all the humor and personality from a passage. So then I would query if it was OK to reinstate his original as it was better than the copyedited version. That was a case of a complete mismatch.

TM: Is there a tension between what you know to be “correct” and the artistic license of the writer?  How do you handle that tension?

SBB: I see my job as a copyeditor less about enforcing rules than about making sure the author is aware of anything in the manuscript that is nonstandard and confirming that any variations from standard grammar and punctuation are intentional. In my queries, I try to get across the idea that just because I’m asking a question doesn’t mean that something needs to be changed. As you know, I often qualify my questions by saying something like “just checking” or “it might be just me” or “not really necessary to change.”  Especially with poetry, I love when an author responds with “yes, that is intentional,” because it means he or she truly thought through the style, so I don’t have to be so OCD about it.

TM: Have you noticed any new style and grammar trends in the last five years? 

coverSBB: New copyediting trends generally pop up after a new edition of The Chicago Manual of Style is published, and the 16th edition came out in 2010. New guidelines in CMOS cause publishers to reevaluate their current house style, because they have to decide what changes they will incorporate from the new edition. These are changes like what to do about capping a generic geographic noun when it follows more than one proper noun — so is it “Illinois and Chicago rivers” or “Illinois and Chicago Rivers”? The style has changed back and forth over the last editions of CMOS, but it’s something really only copyeditors get excited about.

For informative and entertaining updates on the state of copyediting, I keep up with Washington Post copyeditor Bill Walsh’s Twitter feed.

Just anecdotally, in the manuscripts I receive, I’ve noticed a lot of two-word proper nouns closed up (like “SpongeBob”), a result of tech product names, I guess. So when an author creates a fictional product or company now, it’s often one word made up of two.

I’ve noticed, too, that a lot of authors are omitting the word “that” and putting a comma in its place in dialogue or first-person narratives in fiction. I think that’s because many throwaway phrases currently used in conversation omit “that,” and the speaker pauses — for example, “I mean, I had a really good time at the party.” Almost every novel I’ve worked on in the past few years had at least one “I mean, . . .” in dialogue. And in just about every conversation I have in real life someone uses the phrase. But the comma for an omitted “that” happens with other constructions, too, as in “She was so late, she missed the show” rather than “She was so late she missed the show” or “She was so late that she missed the show.”

TM: What are your favorite errors to fix?

SBB: I love to find errors that are important to the accuracy or quality of the manuscript, because then I feel as if my copyediting is contributing something more than tiny details. So, for example, things like a character being described as not having visitation with his kids later taking them somewhere on “his” weekend, or someone beginning a scene sitting on a couch, then rising from a chair, or a character drinking a shot of whiskey but getting a refill on her red wine. Those are errors that usually result from the author’s revisions and multiple drafts, and they can slip past easily. I also like to catch dangling modifiers, because we all miss those, so it means I’m paying attention. I never change any of these, though, without querying, and most often I will just call them out to the author with a query. And, yes, I have had authors who say that dangling modifiers are part of their style and don’t want to change them.

TM: I am proud that you said my manuscript was “clean,” but I was also appalled by my misuse of the comma!  Can you provide three rules for comma use to put in my back pocket for the next book?

SBB: It isn’t so much that commas are misused as that authors often don’t realize their phrasing is effective enough to make the addition of nonstandard commas unnecessary. A comma isn’t always needed to make the reader catch the pause in dialogue or narrative; often the syntax does that just fine, and an unnecessary comma slows the reader down too much.

So, in addition to the serial comma (“I adopted a lab mix, a poodle, and a Lhasa mix”), here are the three commas that I think work best when handled per standard punctuation style:

1. Avoid a comma between elements of a series connected by conjunctions.

I adopted a lab mix and a poodle and a Lhasa mix.

2. Add a comma between independent clauses connected by a conjunction unless each clause is short, especially if the conjunction is “but.”

I used to foster dogs, but I had to stop after I adopted Frank.

3. Avoid using a comma between compound predicates or objects.

I brought Frank home as a foster dog and just couldn’t return him to the shelter.

I’ve had many dogs but never bought a puppy from a pet store.

I feed my dogs kibble and homemade treats.

4. And a bonus tip: Always add a comma after a phrase or clause ending in a preposition to avoid “reading on.”

After I put my coat on, the dogs knew it was time to go out. (Even “After I put on my coat, the dogs knew it was time to go out” reads better with the comma, though there’s no chance of reading on.)

Image Credit: LPW

24 Jan 20:08

Reverse Listening Device Swaps the Sound Coming to a Person’s Right and Left Sides

by EDW Lynch

Reverse Listening Device
photo by Piotr Gaska

The Reverse Listening Device is a wearable device that reroutes sound from a person’s left side to their right ear and vice versa. The device is a conceptual object by British artist and designer Dominic Wilcox. He reports that it does indeed work and it’s “a very strange experience wearing it.” The device is on display at the Selfridges store in London for the next four weeks.


video via Dominic Wilcox

Reverse Listening Device
photo via Dominic Wilcox

via Boing Boing

25 Jan 17:03

Spice Tile

by Nicola

Laurent_Mareschal_Beiti

IMAGE: “Beiti” (detail from a 2011 installation at CAPC in Bordeaux, France), Laurent Mareschal. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Marie Cini. Photo by Tami Notsani.

2013GV2410

IMAGE: “Beiti,” Laurent Mareschal, installation shot at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

Laurent Mareschal’s “Beiti” is a carpet made of spice, carefully sieved through stencils into tiled patterns inspired by Arabic geometry. I saw it last month at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, on display as part of the Jameel Prize shortlist of Islamic-influenced contemporary art, craft, and design.

In the exhibit’s low light, the carpet seems to float above the black floor, warming up its corner with a slightly fuzzy glow and a faint gingery, spicy scent. In an accompanying video, Mareschal, whose work typically deals impermanence and, in particular, the Palestinian condition, explains that the spice tiles are a deliberate play between ephemerality and the almost subliminal longevity of olfactory memory.

“I want people to look and think [...] wow, this guy is completely nuts, he has been working for a week and it will just vanish in a second,” Mareschal said, before adding that:

There is something about the smell that you can’t really refuse. It gets inside of you and makes you remember something. You can play with the colour and the smell and what it makes you remember and I am playing with that.

Laurent_Mareschal_Beiti_Detail

IMAGE: “Beiti” (detail from a 2011 installation at CAPC in Bordeaux, France), Laurent Mareschal. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Marie Cini. Photo by Tami Notsani.

With its Proustian olfactory powers, capable of transporting exhibition viewers to a remembered or imagined romantic Orient—a Moroccan souk or Egyptian spice bazaar—Mareschal’s spice carpet is perhaps also something of a magic carpet, that standard device of Eastern storytelling.

But the installation also reminded me of Paul Freedman’s fascinating book, Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination, which examines the incredible popularity of nutmeg, clove, pepper, cinnamon, and ginger in Europe during the Middle Ages—and their sudden fall from fashion in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Curiously, while their mysterious Oriental origins formed part of the allure of spice for European consumers, Freedman notes that, “alone among the great world religions, Islam has consistently resisted the use of incense in both public and private worship.” Meanwhile, for their Christian consumers, the uses of aromatic spices went beyond food flavouring and medicinal tonic to become a sort of medieval air freshener:

It was customary that the rooms of a comfortable house should be not merely airy and unscented but redolent of actual healthy scents from spices that might be scattered about or resins that were burned as incense.

Rooms were perfumed with spices to promote health (“Avicenna, the authoritative Arab physician whose work was known in Christian Europe by the late twelfth century, recommended that ambergris, frankincense, cloves, and even theriac be employed to dry out the air and make it smell sweet,” writes Freedman), but also for spiritual and aesthetic reasons.

As Freedman explains, the theological consensus at the time was that the Garden of Eden was located in eastern Asia, most likely in India. For medieval Europeans, exotic aromatics thus literally represented the scent of earthly paradise—a prelapsarian idyll of intoxicating beauty and freedom from decay.

Terre Promesse 460

IMAGE: “Terre Promesse 2″ (detail from a 2008 installation using za’atar and cumin), Laurent Mareschal.

Of course, Freedman points out, it was this passion for spices that launched Europe on its path to overseas conquest and colonialism. The great expeditions of Vasco de Gama and Christopher Columbus were motivated by the desire to control the lucrative spice trade by finding and conquering its Asian source. The irony is that, by the time Europe’s colonial expansion truly hit its stride in the nineteenth century, spices had long since fallen out of fashion, all but disappearing from the continent’s cuisines.

Mounir_Fatmi_Modern_Times_-_A_History_of_the_Machine_Detail

IMAGE: “Modern Times: A History of the Machine” (detail), Mounir Fatmi, 2010–12, (video). Courtesy of the artist and Shoshana Wayne Gallery, photo by Mounir Fatmi.

In any case, the Jameel Prize exhibition is on display at the V&A until April 21, and is well worth a visit if you’re in London. Florie Salnot’s plastic bottle jewellery, the mesmerising calligraphic gears and cogs of Mounir Fatmi’s video projection, and Faig Ahmed’s pixellated rugs are some of its other, non-edible, delights.

06 Jan 14:55

Hedi Xandt’s Dark Emotions

by Vanessa Ruiz

“I could stare into the face of a skull for hours, for example, and always see new things.” – Hedi Xandt

Hedi Xandt God of the Grove

The God Of The Grove, 2013. gold-plated brass, polymer, distressed black finish, marble.

Hedi Xandt God of the Grove

Hedi Xandt My Die-Cast Soul

“My Die-Cast Soul” is part one in a series of filigree skull-ptures that combine the aesthetics of naturally shaped bone with state-of-the-art and experimental production techniques.

Hedi Xandt Longer You Last

The Longer You Last, 2013 gold-plated cast of an 18th century skull with inserted nails, custom-made black-red perspex fixture

Hedi Xandt Longer You Last

Hedi Xandt Lizards

I admire the range of work by Hamburg-based communication designer and conceptual artist Hedi Xandt. His combination of design, concept, and execution is extremely impressive and gives his work a level of sophistication that I haven’t come across in a while. Here I’ve showcased a few of his dark, slightly morbid pieces for you.

Hedi explains his dark aesthetic in an interview with Trendland,

Darkness is rich of emotions. I love the blur, the mist in our heads when we experience things we cannot explain. Have you ever held a skull in your hands? It’s magical. So light, but strong. Intricate and almost fragile in appearance, yet it serves us a lifetime as support, a case for our mind. I will never understand how someone can not find it beautiful. Things like that fascinate me, the layers of our existance, but also the almost godly alienation from nature that comes with knowledge and technology.

I think that you have to infuse something known, something from the “real world” with a new, abstract “spark” in order to create a work that people can – emotionally and intellectually – relate to.

To me, that “abstract spark” that Hedi talks about is precisely why I and so many others like yourselves love anatomical art. It’s the human body, the common thread we all share enhanced by art that manipulates and abstracts it making anatomy even more fascinating.

Not willing to label himself as solely a graphic designer nor an artist he simply sees himself as a creative person experimenting and creating. Hedi’s portfolio includes work for companies like Landcome, Chanel, and Apple and ranges across a variety of media and subjects. I encourage you to view all of Hedi’s incredible work at hedixandt.com!

 

 

[spotted by Peter]

16 Dec 22:03

Reading Food: 2013

by Nicola

Don’t let its name fool you: in between shiny “phablets” and robot armies, Gizmodo still makes time for the ultimate old-school entertainment and educational device, the book. When Gizmodo‘s new editor-in-chief (and my Venue collaborator), Geoff Manaugh, asked me to contribute my top ten books of 2013 to their end-of-year “Best Books” list, I agonised for a very long time, and came up with the following.

Edible Geography’s Best Books of 2013

Forget quick-and-easy dinner suggestions: the Edible Geography top ten books of 2013 all sit firmly within the growing genre of writing about food as a way of writing about ideas, though you will find the odd recipe for bioluminescent durian sauce and a sauerkraut-kimchi hybrid. But what you lose in kitchen instructions, you gain in an awe-inspiring mix of gene-hacking, container shipping, fecal humor, and food porn wizardry.

From The New York Times best-seller that even your mum has heard of (Michael Pollan’s Cooked) to the artist-published manifesto for a new, open-source food-tech movement (the Center for Genomic Gastronomy’s Food Phreaking), this list compiles the most exciting ways of thinking about, and with, food that crossed my plate in 2013.

FP0_G9_800

IMAGE: A spread from Food Phreaking. Photograph via the Center for Genomic Gastronomy.

Food Phreaking: Issue #00
This short but bold manifesto, published by the Center for Genomic Gastronomy, is available both as a free PDF and also as a rather gorgeous neon-pink-and-gold booklet. In it, artists Cat Kramer and Zack Denfield provide 38 examples of “what Food Phreaking might be, and what it most definitely is not.” From DIY suggestions such as Colony Collapse Cuisine (“Why not limit yourself to a diet of non-bee-pollinated ingredients? Taste the future, today. And be prepared for bio-adversity.”) to examples of culinary civil disobedience and outlaw ingredients (grey market raw milk vending machines, seed saving clubs, and beans tattooed with DNA-laced ink), the result is a mini-encyclopedia of stories at the fertile intersection of food, technology, and open culture.

Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal
Although it inexplicably received much less attention that Michael Moss’s simultaneously released Salt, Sugar, Fat, Melanie Warner’s Pandora’s Lunchbox is the behind-the-scenes look at the food processing industry that will truly blow your mind. Who knew that the world’s largest manufacturer of Vitamin D, which is added into nearly all the milk that Americans consume (including organic varieties), is a factory in Dongyang, China, whose raw material is grease derived from Australian sheep’s wool? Or that genetically engineered enzymes are routinely used to boost apple juice yield, stop cookie batters from clogging factory nozzles, and make soybean oil transfat-free — and they don’t have to be declared on the end product label? Warner makes a convincing case that these industrially engineered food-like substances (which make up an estimated 70 percent of the American diet) are an entirely alien form of nutrition, and “if we really are what we eat, then Americans are a different dietary species from what we were at the turn of the twentieth century.”

Laudan Warner covers

IMAGE: Cover art for Pandora’s Lunchbox and Cuisine & Empire.

Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History
This is a weighty book, spanning three thousand years of human culinary history from the steamed millet mush of 1000 BCE to the foams, spheres, and encapsulations of the present day, and it starts very slowly indeed. The patient reader, however, is rewarded: Laudan’s broad scope allows her to draw out previously obscure linkages and patterns (for example, she identifies the last lonely traces of Islamic culinary techniques in European cookery: Italian salsa verde, English mint sauce, and Catalonian picada), as well as convey the enormous (and, now, often overlooked) benefits of industrial food processing, as a release from the inadequate diets and hours spent grinding wheat or corn that characterized life for 99 percent of the world before the nineteenth century.

In the end, Cuisine and Empire reveals that the way we cook is a kind of a code — a set of repeated, shared, evolving actions through which we embody and enact our shifting relationship with natural world, our ideas of personal health and social hierarchy, and our religious or ethical values. Show me how you cook, says Laudan, and I’ll tell you who you are.

Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
Like Laudan, Pollan thinks that cooking has everything to do with who we were, are, and could yet be. In Cooked, however, Pollan’s scope is simultaneously smaller than Laudan’s (personally, geographically, technically, and historically) and wider — his adventures in braising, hog-barbecuing, and bread-baking are opportunities to explore elemental themes: air, water, fire, earth, and the human relationship with each, and each other. With the exception of the microbial adventures in the fermentation chapter, this book won’t necessarily surprise you, but although Pollan may be telling you things you already know, when they’re as well written as this, they have a freshness and force you won’t forget.

Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, The Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate
Journalist Rose George’s new book on the overlooked world of freight shipping is about much more than food — there are Somali pirates, Filipino crew (a third of all seafarers are from the Philippines), and Liberian flags of convenience. But the 90 percent of everything that is transported by container ship includes food, and, while she spends thirty-nine days and nights aboard the Maersk Kendal, traveling from Felixstowe to Singapore, George notes that “shipping is so cheap that it makes more financial sense for Scottish cod to be sent ten thousand miles to be filleted, then sent back to Scottish shops and restaurants, than to pay Scottish filleters.” While shipping has remade the contents of our plates and farms, a modern container crew has no idea what they’re carrying (only flammable, toxic, or refrigerated goods are listed), and modern consumers have even less idea of the shadowy, floating world that George reveals, lying behind our endless retail abundance.

Trading Pit hand signals

IMAGE: A photographic guide to open-outcry trading pit hand signals, from a book to look forward to in 2014. Images via the Trading Pit Blog.

The Secret Financial Life of Food: From Commodities Markets to Supermarkets
Sadly, The Secret Financial Life of Food is not a terrifically well-written book. Still, it made my list because its subject matter is unique and completely fascinating: in it, author Kara Newman examines the role that the commodities market has played in shaping culinary history, unpacking such arcane curiosities as the corn derivatives market, cheddar cheese futures (cheddar is the only cheese variety traded on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange), and the Great Salad Oil Swindle of November 1963, which caused hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, but was overlooked in the drama surrounding JFK’s assassination later the same month. Arcane, indeed, but increasingly relevant: as Newman points out, the amount of money invested in food commodities increased from $13 billion in 2003 to $260 billion in 2008, spurred by the profits to be made in a world of increasing food demand and, as climate change kicks in, decreasing supply.

Food: An Atlas
What do you see when you map the world through food? According to Food: An Atlas, a crowd-sourced, crowd-funded, “guerrilla cartography” project led by UC Berkeley professor Darin Jensen, you see the distribution patterns of the global almond trade but also the lost agrarian landscapes of Los Angeles, the geography of taco trucks of East Oakland and the United States beershed, as well as the rise of foodbanks in the UK, and much more besides. Available as a free PDF as well as in print form, this compilation of more than seventy food maps is less of a definitive atlas and more of an inspiring guidebook to the kinds of cartographic questions you can ask about food: it’s hard to read it without coming up with ten more foodscape maps you can’t wait to create.

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal
The prolific Mary Roach, fresh from tackling the science of corpses, sex, and space travel, takes the reader along on the journey our food makes every day, from nose to tail (or, to be precise, to Elvis Presley’s constipated mega-colon). Gulp is stuffed full of enjoyably peculiar details, from a section on how dogs and cats taste food, to the fact that human hair is (a) Kosher, and (b) as much as 14 percent L-cysteine, an amino acid used to make meat flavorings and ersatz soy sauce. Although Roach’s endless, schoolboy-humor footnotes (making fun of EneMan, the world’s only enema mascot, for instance, or academic papers on “fecal odorgrams”) can get a tiny bit tiring after a while, it’s hard not to enjoy her infectious curiosity.

Tutti Frutti with Bompas & Parr and Friends
Full disclosure, I contributed a short essay (about spaces of banana control) to this exuberant collection of fruit eclectica. Still, at the risk of self-promotion, I couldn’t leave out a book that contains a recipe for bioluminescent durian sauce, a guide to the pineapple as architectural ornament, and, perhaps most thrillingly, a sustained meditation on the reason artificial raspberry-flavored sweets and soda are blue. You will never look at your fruit bowl the same way again.

barbeque_hamburger-cutaway_460

IMAGE: Photograph courtesy The Cooking Lab/Modernist Cuisine.

Blueberries Modernist Cuisine

IMAGE: Photograph courtesy The Cooking Lab/Modernist Cuisine.

The Photography of Modernist Cuisine
Nathan Myrhvold may be a patent troll, but he certainly knows how to take an amazing food photograph.When Modernist Cuisine, his six volume, $450 encyclopedia unpacking the mysteries of sous-vide cuisine and the relationship between ultrasonic cavitation and crispy French fries, came out in 2011, reviewers spent more time marveling at the incredible images of a Weber grill sliced in half to reveal glowing coals and the browning base of the burgers, or a planet-sized blueberry, so close-up you could see its normally invisible orange seeds, than discussing its contents. Released this autumn, The Photography of Modernist Cuisine reproduces some of the best images at an even larger scale, and, best of all, reveals exactly how they were made. That Weber grill? Thirty separate photos, cropped and combined. Pins, toothpicks, Plexiglass, and a band saw all play an important role, but there are also lighting and backdrop techniques you can copy at home. No more Martha Stewart-style #fails for your food snaps!

• • •

This list only includes books that were published in 2013, but, even so, I’m sure I’ve missed a few gems (let me know in the comments). Gizmodo’s full list is well worth a read: it includes Venue favourites The End of Night and Wild Ones, as well as some fantastic-sounding recommendations for books about secret plutonium-manufacturing cities, hot-air ballooning, New York City’s Sanitation Department, and much more. Time to get reading!

17 Dec 14:00

Christmas: Day 17

by Sleestak
via Annie Shapiro
 
THE WREATH OF KHAAAAAAAAN!
03 Dec 02:21

AUSGEZEICHNET!!!! These two German nerds dressed up as Victorian...

by ajlobster


AUSGEZEICHNET!!!!

These two German nerds dressed up as Victorian Janeway and Lady Data for a sneak preview of Star Trek Into Darkness. Why? I don’t know. And not because I don’t read German, because I DO. She talks about how they saw the sneak preview, and how she did her hair, and how the insignia on the skirt doesn’t exactly match the uniform but there is not really an explanation of why this happened.

BUT DOES THERE NEED TO BE??? 

Thanks, Amy, for the heads up!

26 Nov 06:11

Also-Ran

by Greg Ross

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Georg_Nicolaus_Nissens_gravsten.JPG

The tombstone of Constanze Mozart’s second husband calls him “the husband of Mozart’s widow.”

25 Nov 22:41

2D Or Not 2D, Photos of Faces Painted With Colorful Designs That Look 2-Dimensional

by EDW Lynch

2D Or Not 2D by Alexander Khokhlov and Valeriya Kutsan

In the photo series “2D or not 2D,” the faces of models are transformed with strikingly colorful face paint designs that are intended to appear two-dimensional. The series is a collaborative project by photographer Alexander Khokhlov, make-up artist Valeriya Kutsan, and photo retoucher Veronica Ershova. Last year we posted about Khokhlov and Kutsan’s collaborative series of black and white face paint designs. Khokhlov talks about his work with Kutsan in this 2012 interview with Thrash Lab.

2D Or Not 2D by Alexander Khokhlov and Valeriya Kutsan

2D Or Not 2D by Alexander Khokhlov and Valeriya Kutsan

2D Or Not 2D by Alexander Khokhlov and Valeriya Kutsan

via Visual News

04 Nov 02:54

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

by John

whalitc7.jpg

Penguin, 2009. Photo by Lisa Johansson.

Having recently re-read Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House (1959) I thought it was about time I read her final novel, We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962), and I’m very pleased that I did. I was less pleased, however, with the cover of the current edition from Penguin which, like many of the recent Penguin Classics, aspires to a kind of evasive blandness. There are recurrent problems in designing covers for books of exceptional quality: the more the writing opens itself to interpretation, and refuses to be easily categorised, the greater the challenge of finding a single design or image which might represent the book. It’s this that leads literary novels, classics especially, down the road of the text-only cover.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle may be of exceptional quality but it’s also very strange, dark and disturbing, something which the Penguin cover does little to communicate. The opening paragraph doesn’t match the justly celebrated opening of The Haunting of Hill House but it still sets out its stall in no uncertain terms:

My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.

Merricat (as her sister calls her) neglects to mention that they live with one other member of the family, Uncle Julian, a wheelchair-bound survivor of an unresolved poisoning that killed the rest of the family six years earlier. Julian devotes himself to obsessively writing an account of that fatal day while Constance works equally obsessively in the kitchen of the house they share. Mary does little except run errands to the nearby village (whose populace she hates and fears), and play outdoors with her cat, Jonas. Mary is the focus of the novel, a character as painfully introverted as Eleanor in Hill House but with more self-possession and some dangerous obsessions of her own. Joyce Carol Oates in the afterword to the current Penguin edition calls her a witch, which she is in a very diffuse sense. She protects the house with objects that she turns into charms, buries other significant objects, and selects words at random which she believes will protect her. Unlike Hill House there’s nothing at all supernatural in We Have Always Lived in the Castle but Merricat successfully predicts that change is going to disrupt the happily insular household which it does with the arrival of boorish cousin Charles.

whalitc1.jpg

First edition, Viking Press, 1962.

What’s notable for me when looking at earlier cover designs is seeing how much more successful the original covers are compared to later editions. The drawing of Jonas on the jacket of the first edition is suitably wary and even baleful, as Merricat is where strangers are concerned. The lurching, uneven script reflects the skewed lives of the novel’s characters. The cover could have been the work of Merricat herself.

whalitc4.jpg

Popular Library, 1963. Illustration by William Teason.

And it’s Merricat who appears on the first paperback edition. I tend to disapprove of the depiction of central characters on book covers but this addresses the challenge brilliantly: the wild hair, the suspicious eye, the charred wood (there is a fire in the second half of the book), and the spikes which give her cat-like ears.

whalitc2.jpg

Viking Books, 1970. Cover by Gail Garrity.

Foreign-language editions have shown the isolated New England house on their covers but this is one of the few US editions to do so. (Note the cat-head door-knocker.) This is surprising considering that the house is the “castle” of the title, and the narrative hardly leaves its grounds. The more common trend, as shown below, is to try to depict the two sisters, with varying results.

whalitc3.jpg

Popular Library, 1982 (?)

This edition is from a set of Jackson paperbacks with uniform covers. If you have to show Merricat then this one works well enough. Whoever the artist was they seemed to have looked at William Teason’s cover: she’s holding a plant (a raspberry branch?) and has two ear-like fractures poised above her head.

whalitc5.jpg

Penguin, 1984.

This edition, on the other hand, gives the wrong impression where the characters are concerned. Constance looks too old, and wouldn’t go near the window like this.

whalitc6.jpg

Penguin, 2007. Art direction by Herb Thornby, illustration by Thomas Ott.

This is the kind of careful, detailed design and illustration I hate to dismiss but I don’t think it works for this novel. It may be the only one to include the crowd of angry villagers—the malevolence of crowds was a recurrent Jackson theme—but the drawing style is too light and cartoony for the subject. I’ll damn it with faint praise and say it’s better than the bland 2009 edition.

There are many more Shirley Jackson covers at The Shirley Jackson Book Cover Project, and more covers for We Have Always Lived in the Castle at GoodReads. And now I want to read some of her earlier novels.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The book covers archive

31 Oct 23:00

Redrum: The Unauthorized Musical Parody Of The Shining

by EDW Lynch

The classic Stanley Kubrick horror film The Shining gets a tongue-in-cheek musical makeover in the upcoming stage play Redrum: The Unauthorized Musical Parody Of The Shining. The play is written and directed by Joe Lovero and stars Marc Kudisch as Jack. There’s no word on a premiere date, but in the mean time you can watch this teaser.

submitted via Laughing Squid Tips

30 Oct 15:22

Fabric Pattern Based on the Iconic Carpet in the Movie ‘The Shining’

by Justin Page

Shining Hallway Carpet

Artist Sal Giliberto has designed a fabric pattern based on carpet seen throughout the hallways of the Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 psychological horror film The Shining. The pattern is available to purchase online in many different fabric choices and sizes from Spoonflower.

image via Spoonflower

via Seth Porges

04 Oct 00:51

Bay Area zombies invade Mythbusters

by Jesse Russell

Mythbusters has posted the trailer for their “Zombie Special” which was filmed on the grounds of Alameda’s retired Navel Air Station using many zombies from the Bay Area. The episode will explore zombie myths with the help of Michael Rooker who played “Merle Dixon” in AMC’s The Walking Dead. The Mythbusters zombie special comes out […]

The post Bay Area zombies invade Mythbusters appeared first on The Shared Universe.

30 Sep 17:05

While discussing ROGUE and GAMBIT'S relationship...

by MRTIM

27 Sep 18:00

geekcubed: 8bitmonkey: Rey Arzeno | DA This is awesome! 



geekcubed:

8bitmonkey:

Rey Arzeno | DA

This is awesome! 

28 Aug 19:00

Artist Uses Her Hypersensitive Skin as a Canvas

by EDW Lynch

Ariana Page Russell skin art

Artist Ariana Page Russell has hypersensitive skin that allows her to create art on her body in angry-looking red welts. Russell has dermatographism, a condition that causes her skin to break out in short-lived painless welts when it is scratched. In her art, she scratches patterns and even lettering on her body and photographs the inflamed welts that result.

Ariana Page Russell skin art

Ariana Page Russell skin art

via Razorshapes, My Modern Metropolis

26 Aug 13:45

sfmola: All the great reasons why books should and will never...

by everythingontheinternetistrue


sfmola:

All the great reasons why books should and will never die

Follow Bookshelf Porn on FacebookTwitterInstagram & Pinterest.

24 Aug 15:00

kurtbusiek: He’s the Best There Is at What He Does. Art by...



kurtbusiek:

He’s the Best There Is at What He Does.

Art by Miller & Rubinstein, logo rearrangement and paste-up by me, colors by…Paul Becton, I think. Done back in my MARVEL AGE days, on a slow afternoon.

17 Aug 06:54

mollycrabapple: Things we draw at night when we think about...



mollycrabapple:

Things we draw at night when we think about Yeats and burning things down

17 Jul 06:26

He gasped so violently — shocked that the bar’s...



He gasped so violently — shocked that the bar’s tonic water wasn’t made in-house — that he threw out his back.

(Photo: We Are The Rhoads)

15 Aug 20:10

Anthony Bourdain on Why "Grand Forks" Kills Snark Dead

by Mari Malcolm

Grand-ForksIn our Yelp!-obsessed era, when everyone's a withering (or overzealous) food critic, it's darn refreshing to find the rare voices of civility among restaurant critics. For an astonishing 27 years, Marilyn Hagerty has covered the restaurants in her hometown of Grand Forks, North Dakota, in a weekly column--including an Olive Garden review that incited snark, followed by an anti-snark backlash that catapulted her to the national stage.

In spring of 2012, Ecco Books invited the Amazon Books Editors to the East Village speakeasy PDT to meet a "special guest" who, to our immense delight, turned out to be Tony Bourdain.

Over Crif dogs and cocktails, we talked cookbooks, food lit and graphic novels, and he gave us a preview of his personal imprint, set to debut in 2013 with The Prophets of Smoked Meat.

The book that stood out most in my memory and notes was Hagerty's Grand Forks: A History of American Dining in 128 Reviews. It's coming out at the end of August, and it's every bit as marvelous as imagined, even without hotdogs and cocktails.

To give you a taste, we share Bourdain's intro from the book.

Grand Forks will be available August 27, 2013.


An INTRODUCTION to Marilyn Hagerty's Grand Forks

by Anthony Bourdain

If you’re looking for the kind of rapturous food porn you’d find in a book by M.F.K. Fisher, or lusty descriptions of sizzling kidneys a la Liebling—or even the knife-edged criticism of an A.A. Gill or a Sam Sifton—you will not find it here.

The territory covered here is not New York or Paris or London or San Francisco. And Marilyn Hagerty is none of those people.

For 27 years, Marilyn Hagerty has been covering the restaurant scene in and around the city of Grand Forks, North Dakota, population 52,000. She also, it should be pointed out, writes a total of five columns a week, about history and local personalities and events, in addition to her writing about restaurants and food. As one might expect, she knows personally many of her subjects. Given the size of her territory, it is not unusual for her to write about the same restaurant two or more times in a single year. In short, she is writing about a community that she is very much a part of.

If you knew her name before picking up this book, it was probably because of her infamously guileless Olive Garden review which went viral, caused first a tidal wave of snarky derision--followed by an even stronger anti-snark backlash--followed by invitations to appear on Anderson Cooper and The TODAY Show, dinner at Le Bernardin, an appearance on Top Chef, an Al Neuharth Award, a publishing deal--a sudden and unexpected elevation to media darling.

Why was that?

What is it about the 86-year old Ms. Hagerty that inspired such attention and affection?

Why should you read this book?

Of the 7,000 pages of articles and reviews I read while assembling this collection, there is little of what one would call pyrotechnical prose. Ms. Hagerty’s choices of food are shockingly consistent: A “Clubhouse sandwich,” coleslaw, wild rice soup, salads assembled from a salad bar, baked potatoes. She is not what you’d call an adventurous diner, exploring the dark recesses of menus. Far from it. Of one lunch, she writes:

“There were signs saying the luncheon special was soup and a Denver sandwich for $2.25. In places where food service is limited, I tend to take the special. I wasn’t born yesterday.”

She is never mean—even when circumstances would clearly excuse a sharp elbow, a cruel remark. In fact, watching Marilyn struggle to find something nice to say about a place she clearly loathes is part of the fun. She is, unfailingly, a good neighbor and good citizen first—and entertainer second.

But what she HAS given us, over all these years, is a fascinating picture of dining in America, a gradual, cumulative overview of how we got from there... to here.

Grand Forks is NOT New York City. We forget that—until we read her earlier reviews and remember, some of us, when you’d find sloppy Joe, steak Diane, turkey noodle soup, three bean salad, red Jell-o in OUR neighborhoods. When the tuft of curly parsley and lemon wedge, or a leaf of lettuce and an orange segment, or three spears of asparagus fashioned into a wagon wheel, were state of the art garnishes. When you could order a half sandwich, a cup of soup. A pre-hipster world where lefse, potato dumplings and walleye were far more likely to appear on a menu than pork belly.

Reading these reviews, we can see, we can watch over the course of time, who makes it and who doesn’t. Which bold, undercapitalized pioneers survived—and who, no matter how ahead of their time, just couldn’t hang on until the neighborhood caught up. You will get to know the names of owners and chefs like Warren LeClerc, whose homey lunch restaurant, The Pantry, turned down the lights to become the sophisticated French restaurant Le Pantre by night. And Chef Nardane of Touch of Magic Ballroom who, in his 6,200-square foot ballroom, served cheesecakes inspired by Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor, and envisioned an exclusive private membership club with frequent celebrity entertainment. And Steve Novak of Beaver's Family Restaurant, who when Marilyn visited his establishment, spoke of reviving his beaver act, complete with costume, for birthday parties.

And you will understand why the opening of an Olive Garden might be earnestly anticipated as an exciting and much welcome event.

Ms. Hagerty is not naïve about her work, her newfound fame, or the world. She has travelled widely in her life.

In person, she has a flinty, dry, very sharp sense of humor. She misses nothing. I would not want to play poker with her for money.

This is a straightforward account of what people have been eating—still ARE eating—in much of America. As related by a kind, good-hearted reporter looking to pass along as much useful information as she can—while hurting no one.

Anyone who comes away from this work anything less than charmed by Ms. Hagerty—and the places and characters she describes—has a heart of stone.

This book kills snark dead. --Anthony Bourdain

08 Aug 17:00

Great Literary Insults from "How Not to Read"

Feel free to use these insults. They make you sound mean and well-read at the same time (from How Not to Read):

“Last time I saw a mouth that big, it was dragging Captain Ahab to his watery grave!”


“I haven’t seen a face this ugly since Perseus killed the Cracken!”


“The only thing sadder than you is a Joycean epiphany!”


“You’re as weak as a passive sentence written in negative form. And probably not considered by anyone to be worth more than an adverb.”


“Is your Dewey Decimal number in the 521s, because you’re fat enough to be listed under ‘celestial mechanics.’”


“Last time I talked to someone this brain-dead, he was walking out of Room 101.”


“If ignorance is strength, then you must be going after the ‘strongest person in the world’ award!”


“Last time I saw someone this brain-dead, I pity-smothered him with a pillow and escaped the psych ward.”


“The only person who would enjoy being near you is Oedipus. He’s blind and only hangs out with the inbred.”


“Yo Mama so fat when Atlas shrugged, it was so she would fall off.”


“Hey, Harold Bloom called. He cited a number of Shakespeare quotes that describe you, including: ‘a wretch whose natural gifts are poor,’ ‘thou bloodier villain than terms can give thee out,’ and ‘cock-face.’”


“Last time I saw a guy this ugly, he was calling on his father Poseidon to punish Odysseus.”


“Why don’t you make like a Tolstoy character, and kill yourself?”


“When your mom was pregnant with you, she said she would treat it like the best Coleridge poem: She was going to end it prematurely while on opium.”


“If my dog were as ugly as you, I’d bury it in a magical cemetery and wait for it to come back to life and kill me. That’s how ugly you are. Just seeing you makes me want to die by the fangs of a ghost-dog.”

Find out more ways to sound smart by reading How Not to Read!