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In an afterword to the 25th anniversary edition of Portnoy’s Complaint, Philip Roth tells a story about the first lines of his novels. When he was living in Chicago in the late 1950’s, he says, he once went to a … Continue reading
In 1895, King Njoya of the Bamum, an ethnic group from what is now western Cameroon, invented an alphabet to record the history of his people. Njoya, who traced his linaege back 16 or 17 generations of kings, was insipred … Continue reading
In Martin Amis’s 1991 novel, Time’s Arrow, time flows backwards. It’s not simply that the events are narrated in reverse order; rather, it’s as if the characters were in a film being show in reverse. Here’s how eating works, for … Continue reading
Tobias Smollett dedicated his third novel to himself: TO DOCTOR ——— You and I, my good friend, have often deliberated on the difficulty of writing such a dedication as might gratify the self-complacency of a patron, without exposing the author … Continue reading
Ernest Vincent Wright’s 1939 novel, Gadsby, was written without words that contain the letter “e.” Here is the opening: If youth, throughout all history, had had a champion to stand up for it; to show a doubting world that a … Continue reading
On May 20, 1927, James Joyce wrote to Harriet Shaw Weaver about what should happen if he were unable to complete Finnegans Wake. Another writer, Joyce said, should take it up and finish it; he had the person in mind: … Continue reading
This giant Underwood typewriter was on display in the Business Systems and Insurance Building at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. It weighed 14 tons and worked—letters could be typed on stationery measuring 9 by 12 feet.
Here we are, alone again. It’s all so slow, so heavy, so sad … I’ll be old soon. Then at last it will be over. So many people have come into my room. They’ve talked. They haven’t said much. They’ve … Continue reading
As for his feet, sometimes he wore on each a sock, or on the one a sock and on the other a stocking, or a boot, or a shoe, or a slipper, or a sock and a boot, or a … Continue reading