Bookish Sentiment du Jour

From Joe Queenan’s new book, One for the Books:

Books possess alchemical powers, imbued with the ability to turn darkness into light, ennui into ecstasy, a drab, predictable life behind the Iron Curtain into something stealthily euphoric. Or so book lovers believe. The tangible reality of books defines us, just as the handwritten scrolls of the Middle Ages defined the monks who concealed them from barbarians. We believe that the objects themselves have magical powers.

People who prefer e-books may find this baffling or silly. They think that books merely take up space. This is true, but so do your children and Prague and the Sistine Chapel. A noted scientific writer recently argued that the physical copy of a book was an unimportant fetish, that books were “like the coffin at a funeral.” Despite such comments, I am not all that worried about the future of books. If books survived the Huns, the Vandals, and the Nazis, they can surely survive noted scientific writers.

For another recent bookish observation, from an essay adapted by Queenan from his new book, see this earlier post.

Found via The Huffington Post

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Writing Under the Influence

At least since the days of Samuel Coleridge, one of the recurrent themes of literary gossip has been various famous writers’ experiments with (or sucumbings to) chemicals.

For those of us who long ago lost track of who experimented with (or succumbed to) what, the following handy chart was recently posted to the Lapham Quarterly.

This is only one among many such handy charts produced by the Quarterly. Others include a graphic summarizing what room of the house various writers preferred to work ina list of books written in prison; and a diagram of physical handicaps overcome by writers and musicians.

Suggested by alert reader Stephanie Atkinson

Blogger Sam Miller Interviews Writer Stephen Elliott

You may not be familiar with either Mr. Miller or Mr. Elliott, but after reading this interview, you may want to get familiar with both of them. 

This interview is easily the most interesting Internet-based author interview we’ve read in some time. We’ve also just subscribed to Elliott’s online discussion group, The Daily Rumpus, as other booklovers might want to do after reading Elliott’s description of its purpose in the interview.

P.S. The Atlanta-Fulton Public Library owns some of Elliott’s books (though, alas, not all of them, including The Adderall Diaries highlighted in Miller’s interview).

Found at Maud Newton

Annie Dillard, Painter

After after publishing her novel The Maytrees (2007), U.S. writer Annie Dillard announced that she was giving up writing.

Booklovers everywhere were as disappointed as they were astonished.

The good news is that literature’s loss is painting’s gain: Dillard is now funneling her creativity into painting.

Wicked Local Wellfleet.com  has some details, and a sample of Dillard’s work.

Meanwhile, back at the library, you are in for a series of rare treats if you haven’t already read – or re-read – Dillard’s thirteen books, one of which, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, won the Pulitzer Prize.

Found at a tweet posted by Maud Newton

Gazing at Writers’ Rooms

Is there any avid reader anywhere who hasn’t occasionally wondered about what some beloved writer was looking at, or was surrounded by, as he/she penned, typed, or word-processed the beloved novel in question?

One of the marvels of the United Kingdom’s Guardian is its ongoing series of photographs of writers’ rooms and the photographer’s accompanying commentaries. Most of the writers are contemporary Britishers, but the series also offers photos and descriptions of the writing rooms of long-dead greats like Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Virignia Woolf, Rudyard Kipling, Bernard Shaw, and Charles Darwin.

The photo above is the room where Dublin-based novelist Colm Toibin writes. It reminds him of a cave, and says he hopes they’ll bury him in it.