Edgar Allan Poe, Illustrated Friday, Jan 18 2013 

Literature and the visual arts have fed off of each other for as long as the two have existed. It should be no surprise to anyone reading this that the evocative imagery of the works of Edgar Allan Poe have been complemented with illustrations numerous times in their publication history. This includes several of his short stories collected as Edgar Allan Poe’s World of Fear in a 1969 issue of Weekly Shōnen Magazine, a Japanese comic anthology (note the Japanese toy ads at the bottom of the image).

valdemar japan

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The most iconic illustrations, however, come from the edition of Tales of Mystery and Imagination illustrated by Harry Clarke (the Providence Athenaeum has a copy). Both of the illustrations included depict the climax of Poe’s short story The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar which, while not the most well-known of Poe’s works, is  visually distinctive, and really shows the difference in the two art styles.


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     January 19th 2013,  Happy 204th Birthday,  E.A.P.


The Most Wonderful Time of the Year Tuesday, Oct 23 2012 

I refer, of course, to the 4th annual Boston Book Festival, which will be held this Saturday, October 27th at Copley Square in Boston. The schedule for this year is rather packed, with highlights including keynotes from Richard Ford and Lemony Snicket, a presentation by Alexander McCall Smith, several YA panels (there was only one last year), and panels on Edith Wharton and The Iliad. As in the past, all of the events, as well as the street festival, are free. I’m personally making the trip for the Hobbit panel, if nothing else.

Lots of Hobbittses Wednesday, Sep 26 2012 

The first of the movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit is set to reach theaters in mid-December, so the news about it is starting to ramp up. The biggest news, of course, is that the movie pair was recently expanded into a trilogy. The three movies will be subtitled, in order, An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug (the newly-added title), and There and Back Again. A new trailer has been released, and I think it convinced me to go to a movie theater for the first time in five years.

The trailer was released with multiple final scenes, which have been compiled by an enterprising Youtube user.

New Zealand, where the movies were being filmed, is preparing to take full advantage of the hype the movies are generating with an ad campaign for  Middle-Earth-themed tourism.

I wanted to have a punchline here, but I don’t think I’ll be able to come up with anything funnier than the “Have a Hobbit’s Holiday” slogan.

Old Book Smell Monday, May 14 2012 

If you’ve read an article about the rise of e-books anytime in the last few years, you’ve probably encountered any number of the cliches that typically riddle them (so much so that someone concocted a drinking game for them). One of these recurring components is the nearly mandatory inclusion of a quote from someone saying that they don’t like e-books because they prefer the “smell of a real book.” So beloved is the smell that there are two perfumes based on it, with a third set to be released at the end of the month. There’s even been advertisements for an aerosol spray to serve as an e-book enhancer, though it appears to either be stuck in litigation or a parody product.

Here is AbeBooks explaining where that smell comes from:

It describes the scent as “a combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness,” which sounds like the description on every wine bottle I’ve ever read.


Game of Thrones Friday, Mar 9 2012 

The second season of the Game of Thrones series, based on George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels, is set to premier on HBO on April 1st. The first season was highly regarded by both fans of the novels and critics, and was nominated for 13 Emmys, winning 2. With the debut less than a month away, the internet is bursting with trailers and, of course, videos playing the soundtrack of the trailers over other footage. I’ve included three official trailers, and viewed a re-edited trailer using Disney footage, the (Emmy award winning) opening credits for the show being sung over by three of the stars from the DVD commentary track, and a Simpson parody of the opening. It seems like a lot, but for everyone waiting for April 1st, it doesn’t feel like nearly enough.


The Raven that Inspired Poe Friday, Feb 10 2012 

Charles Dickens, whose 200th birthday was this week, provided the inspiration for Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven. Dickens had a pet raven named Grip (pictured), who was preserved via taxidermy and is currently displayed at the Free Library of Philadelphia. Grip made a guest appearance in one of Dickens’ lesser known works, Barnaby Rudge, which included a scene where Grip croaks ominously and taps at the chamber door. Poe wrote a review of the work, and made several mentions of the raven’s croaking, especially how it could be more prophetic. Poe wrote The Raven a few years later, and never made pains to hide the connection between the two.

The Voynich Manuscript Thursday, Dec 22 2011 

The Voynich Manuscript, often described as the most mysterious manuscript in the world, is now available online. Named for the bookseller who acquired it in 1912, the Voynich Manuscript has been dated to the late 15th or early 16th century, but it has never been translated, nor has the language been identified. It is generally believed to be either scientific or magical in nature due to the prominent illustrations of star charts and (largely unidentified) plants. However, one theory states that the manuscript is written entirely in anagrams of medieval Italian, and that it may be the work of a young Leonardo DaVinci. I can’t decide if that makes it more or less interesting.

Typewriters Friday, Oct 28 2011 

Over the last couple of months, there has been a surprising amount of talk about typewriters across the Internet. First, Christopher Lockett is working on a documentary about typewriters in the 21st century, their future and history.  Then  Inventor Jack Zylkin has developed a USB Typewriter (which the website describes as “a new and groundbreaking innovation in the field of obsolescence”). The project seems to have originated as a do-it-yourself kit, but the demand caused him to include pre-assembled models in his store. The video demonstration is below.

Finally, there is an article about a place where typewriters are still seeing daily use: India, where the last typewriter-manufacturing company (anywhere) survived until 2008. Back to the future.

Thanks Boingboing

Boston Book Festival This Weekend Thursday, Oct 13 2011 

The 3rd annual Boston Book Festival is on Saturday, October 15th. It will include a street festival held in Copley Square (right in front of the Boston Public Library), as well as a series of panels held in the surrounding buildings. All admittance will be free, though you can purchase tickets to reserve a seat for some of the more popular panels. I’m planning to attend the Far Out Fiction panel, though with 33 options there should be something for everyone.

Barry Duncan, Master Palindromist Tuesday, Sep 20 2011 

His title may be self-proclaimed, but there are few who would contest it; Barry Duncan is the world’s only “master palindromist.” A palindrome, of course, is a word or phrase that reads the same backwards and forward (for instance, “rats live on no evil star”). However, while most of us (or me, at least) have trouble assembling one that can be construed as a full sentence, Duncan routinely exceeds 1000 characters. His greatest work, the Greenward palindrome, has over 400 words, and can be found here.

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