the whole world burns

Archive for category 'books'

One Book, Many Readings


Discussion, analysis and visualizations of Choose Your Own Adventure books.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

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"[T]he original text of Jane Austen's beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action."

The Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges' Library of Babel

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Sounds fantastic. From a review by Brian Hayes in American Scientist:

In William Goldbloom Bloch’s mathematical companion to “The Library of Babel,” the first task is to calculate the number of distinct books that can be created in this way. There’s not much to it. Borges tells us that the alphabet of the books is restricted to 25 symbols (22 letters, the comma, the period and the word space). He also mentions that each book has 410 pages, with 40 lines of 80 characters on each page. Thus a book consists of 410 × 40 × 80 = 1,312,000 symbols. [...]

These combinatorial exercises are the most obvious instances where mathematics can illuminate the Borges story, but Bloch finds much else to comment on as well. [...] Borges describes the library as a close-packed array of hexagonal rooms. Four walls of each hexagon are lined with bookshelves, holding a total of 640 books; the other two walls provide portals to adjacent hexagons. Vertically, the levels of the library are connected by ventilation shafts and spiral stairways. This design has some curious consequences. For example, Bloch points out that somewhere in the library there must be at least one hexagon whose shelves are not full. The reason is that 251,312,000 is not evenly divisible by 640

For me the biggest surprise in Bloch’s commentary comes in a chapter that applies ideas from graph theory to the layout of the library. [...]

Ben Joseph @ McSweeney's: Lit 101 Class in Three Lines or Less.


Paradise Lost

ADAM: Paradise has arbitrary dietary restrictions?

DEVIL: They're really more like guidelines.

GOD: Incorrect.

Trajectories of Fascism: the fiction of Nazi triumph


An intriguing look at speculative fiction which asks, "what if Hitler had won?"

The World's Longest Novel


So, whose book is the biggest? The controversy will soon be put to rest, possibly for all time, when writer Richard Grossman installs his 3 million-page novel Breeze Avenue on a remote mountain in Kaha, Hawaii. Although it is unclear how many words Breeze Avenue comprises, an educated guess puts the count at over 1 billion.

Robert Jordan has passed away


As we always feared, without finishing The Wheel of Time.

Adam Roberts on the woeful state of Jules Verne translations


But when I checked the 1877 translation against the original my heart sank. It was garbage. On almost every page the English translator, whoever he, or she, was (their name is not recorded), collapsed Verne's actual dialogue into a condensed summary, missed out sentences or whole paragraphs. She or he messed up the technical aspects of the book. She or he was evidently much more anti-Semitic than Verne, and tended to translate what were in the original fairly neutral phrases such as "...said Isaac Hakkabut" with idioms such as "...said the repulsive old Jew." And at one point in the novel she or he simply omitted an entire chapter (number 30) - quite a long one, too - presumably because she or he wasn't interested in, or couldn't be bothered to, turn it into English.

How Shit Became Shinola: Definition and Redefinition of Space Opera


One might go so far as to say that the Hugo award for best novel has always gone primarily to space opera, as currently defined, though many of the earlier winners, up to the end of the 1970s, would have been mortally offended to have their books so-labelled. Space opera used to be a pejorative locution designating not a subgenre or mode at all, but the worst form of formulaic hackwork: really bad SF.

Angus & Robertson blackmails small publishers

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I'm not surprised: they're already the worst bookseller by far in my local market. If they buy the Borders stores then they'll probably ruin them too.

Harry Potter 7 leaked online


If the photos were better I'd probably be reading it right now...

(FAKE?) SPOILERS: poster purports to have hacked Bloomsbury, stolen final Harry Potter book

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After the quality of the last couple of books, I thought that spoilers, even fake ones, couldn't possibly make my expectations for this one any lower. I was wrong.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell


Finally got around to reading it -- thousand-page novels always look daunting -- and was utterly delighted. It's up there with the very best fantasy novels I've ever read.

Bonus link: Crooked Timber "seminar", including a long response by the author.

Small things, links and miscellany, sparkling with light. Sam's tumblelog.

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