- In France, 40 percent of TV programming comes from America, which means dubbing is a major industry, and voice-over actors have enough work to collect a following of their own: meet the French Jennifer Lawrence and the French Daniel Radcliffe, for instance.
- The Brothers Grimm published seven editions of their famous tales—the last edition is best known today. But the first edition sounds a lot more fun: “Rapunzel is impregnated by her prince, the evil queen in Snow White is the princess’s biological mother, plotting to murder her own child, and a hungry mother in another story is so ‘unhinged and desperate’ that she tells her daughters: ‘I’ve got to kill you so I can have something to eat.’ ”
- In the nineties, Bob Dylan pursued a gutsy alternative career: “After binge-watching Jerry Lewis movies on his tour bus, Dylan came to the conclusion that slapstick comedy was where he wanted to put his artistic stamp … ‘We finally wrote … a very elaborate treatment for this slapstick comedy, which is filled with surrealism and all kinds of things from his songs and stuff.’ ” HBO bought the show, but Dylan’s interest waned soon after.
- The Gothic is “having a moment” now—and a new exhibition at the British Library explores 250 years of the Gothic tradition. But what does it mean to be Gothic, anyway? “The term suffers from its implicit pluralism: Are we talking about novels, horror films, flying buttresses, Alice Cooper, black-painted fingernails or a specific period in North-European history? On the one hand, it seems fair to say that John Ruskin’s famous comments on the architecture—that most of us know Gothic when we see it, without being able to identify exactly what makes it so—still have something to say about the thing as a whole. On the other, the Gothic really does just mean the spooky and the titillating.”
- “I’m not a cynic. I prefer irony, which depends on the ability to hold contradictory ideas, which probably springs from ambivalence. People confuse and conflate irony with insincerity and dishonesty; they believe an ironist isn’t serious. But saying the opposite of what is meant allows for at least two meanings to fly. Irony couples and uncouples statements, while revealing the hidden agendas of language and its conventions.”
- “Jonathan Franzen gripe” or “YouTube comment about saggy pants”? You be the judge.
- Forget condoms and turn instead to Chekhov, Tolstoy, and Gogol, according to a Russian children’s ombudsman. Says Pavel Astakhov, “The best sex education that exists is Russian literature.”
- The little-known original ending of “The Frog Prince” (spoiler: there was no kiss) sheds insight on why the Brothers Grimm were so grim.
- A Stanford University study shows evidence that today’s kids are actually writing longer and better essays than people in Twitter-less 1917. However, according to a recent Pew Research poll of teachers, children are also writing too informally.
- A defense of buying books and never reading them.
- A Texas crime writer has been sentenced to thirty years for paying to have her husband murdered.
- Ten things you may not have known about the Brothers Grimm.
- Is horror a genre beyond redemption? Or, as The Guardian puts it, damned to literary hell?
- “Don’t worry about growing up,” and other advice from F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter.
- Behold: the bibliochaise.
A writer stands outside a story yelling, “Open Sesame!” and the story, as if a seed, opens. And treasure is found inside. That treasure, of course, is just another story, and it all begins again…
Or else, say the writer is no different from any other of his tribe—say he’s actually a thief. And the story is no story, but really a mountain. “Open Sesame!” (this writer continues)—the mountain opens and my meaning is revealed.
A version of this nonsense—this magician’s stage business—occurs in the tale “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” popularly known from the One Thousand and One Nights.
But Ali’s tale is not to be found in the oldest manuscripts of that collection. Some scholars believe it to be the invention of one Youhenna Diab, known as Hanna of Aleppo, an Arab Christian storyteller said to have communicated it to Antoine Galland, the first translator of the Nights into French. Others argue for a purely Western source, and believe that Ali is the incorrupt fiction of Galland himself (though Richard Burton, the first translator of an unexpurgated Nights into English, claimed that Ali was to be found in an Arabic original, a mythical manuscript often forged but never found).
Michelangelo Antonioni was not happy with the grass. This was the summer of 1966, and London was experiencing an extreme drought. The director had shot the pivotal scene in Blow-Up where David Hemmings photographs an unconsenting Vanessa Redgrave and her lover, and maybe, or maybe not, a murder at Maryon Park. But the grass looked terrible, scraggy and yellow, so Antonioni had the crew spray-paint it green, and then shot the whole sequence again.
Antonioni would’ve approved of the grass in Kassel, though. It was incredibly green, food-coloring green. The leaves, too. The city, at the northern tip of the province of Hesse, in the middle of Germany, is known for having been nearly obliterated by Allied bombs in World War II and for Documenta, the hundred-day international exhibition of 150 contemporary artists that takes place every five years. I was there with my girlfriend, Liza, for the event’s thirteenth incarnation, but at some point, everyone I met would mention the destruction—whether to explain the city’s history of manufacturing weapons or the blocky postwar architecture.
The painter and professor Arnold Bode organized the first Documenta in 1955 in order to exhibit publicly the “degenerate” art that had been banned under the Third Reich. The work of prewar and wartime modernism was displayed in the ruins of the Fridericianum Museum, not just as an act of recovery but of testimony, too. This year, the director is Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, and the exhibition spread beyond the renovated Fridericianum to the main square, the train station, the Brothers Grimm Museum, the sprawling Karslaue Park, and more. There were paintings, installations, films, performances, lectures, seminars, and, as described in the press packet, “periodic activity.” I was there for three days, which is enough time to realize how little time that is, especially since this year Documenta extends beyond Kassel to Alexandria, Cairo, and Kabul, where ruins, recovery, and testimony are not distant concepts.
Literary tourism is as old as time (or at least as old as the Lake District), but, due to a combination of new technology and easy travel, we seem to be living in its Golden Age. Last year, Wendy McClure reported from the Little House pilgrim trail, and Oxford, Mississippi, has drawn fans of Southern Gothic since Faulkner’s 1950 Nobel. On this site, you’ll recall Margaret Eby’s paeon to Eudora Welty’s Jackson garden. If you want to reenact The Canterbury Tales, well, you can. In recent years, readers have flocked to the Pacific Northwest to get a taste of Twilight; lovers of The Help have tried to get a taste of the 1960s in Greenwood, MS; and now, you can even experience the survivalist thrill of The Hunger Games in North Carolina.
Over the weekend, the FT reported live from Germany’s “Fairy Tale Road,” on which one can walk in the steps of Pied Pipers (Hamlin), the Musicians of Bremen, and the sites where Grimm scholars believe Sleeping Beauty might have actually pricked her finger and Rapunzel let down her hair. (More easily verifiable are locales that figured in the brothers’ lives.) Of course, in real life, all is not fairy-tale perfect. Explains Günther Koseck, the German noble who inhabits Dornröschenschloss (“Sleeping Beauty’s castle”) during the castle’s weekly Sleeping Beauty reenactments, his enchanted princesses “have to always be young and beautiful, and that means they have to be replaced occasionally.”