The Most Literary City That Never Existed

Can you tell me how to get Animal Farm? Turns out it’s just down from Cold Mountain, right off Wuthering Heights road.

The British design firm Dorothy has taken 600+ classic novels and mapped them onto an imaginary city. We can only imagine what happens you go to visit The Fountainhead in Lunar Park. Best to get off shore, to Treasure Island or even To The Lighthouse. They’re all there on Dorothy’s incredibly detailed, and occasionally obscure, guide to the most literary city that doesn’t exist.

A quick jaunt down to Jurassic Park, anyone?

If you’re British, you can buy the map here.

Dorothy_0050b_Book Map

The incredibly meticulous work of Dorothy. Click to enlarge.

Write Like The CIA

StrunkWhiteStrunk & White may sound like a law firm or a men’s clothing line, but English majors knows they’re the reigning kings of writing style. Their influential book, Elements of Style, sits in the tweed jacket pocket of many an academic.

Thanks to the release of some previously classified documents, we now know the dynamic duo had quite the interesting side job: helping the CIA develop its own style guide. For the intelligence agent sitting down to type out a report, Strunk & White were there to help make sure it was well-composed.


The guide, called The Style Manual & Writers Guide for Intelligence Publications, offers some helpful tips for spies at the typewriter:

  • Keep the language crisp and pungent; prefer the forthright to the pompous and ornate.
  • Do not stray from the subject; omit the extraneous, no matter how brilliant it may seem or even be.
  • Favor the active voice and shun streams of polysyllables and prepositional phrases.
  • Keep sentences and paragraphs short, and vary the structure of both.
  • Be frugal in the use of adjectives and adverbs; let nouns and verbs show their own power.

Keep that writing crisp and pungent, CIA!

More here.


What Does Thomas Pynchon Look Like?

Pynchon-simpsonsWho doesn’t love a good reclusive author story?

Thomas Pynchon doesn’t come close to reaching Salinger-status, but he’s cut quite the mysterious figure since his early success in the 1960s.

The media recluse shocked fans in 2004 when he made an appearance on The Simpsons, but he did it in typical Pynchon fashion: his yellow Simpsons incarnation wore a bag on his head.

He surprised people again in 2009, when he narrated the book trailer for Inherent Vice.

Inherent Vice is now being made into a film by Paul Thomas Anderson; it’s the first of Pynchon’s books ever to be adapted. Rumor has it Pynchon himself will make a cameo. But here’s the all-important question: how will anyone know it’s him?

The unrecognizable cameo of a long-sought after cult figure is exactly the kind of device Pynchon would love.

Amazon To Start Charging Sales Tax In Minnesota

That online behemoth with the lowest book prices around is about to start charging sales tax for all purchases in Minnesota, starting October 1st. Better stock up on your reading materials, now! Here’s how you do it:

1. Head to

2. Put all the books you’ve been meaning to read in your shopping cart

3. Print that list and go to your local indie bookshop (or check a Little Free Library – you’ll be surprised by what you find there.)

Shop indie.

Ban Them! Burn Them! Rewrite Them?

It’s Banned Books Week! Time to browse the American Library Association’s list of banned classics and get outraged all over again. Who’s trying to ban Gatsby? Or To Kill A Mockingbird? (For the record, 46 of the most challenged books also make the Top 100 Novel of the 20th Century List.)

Definitely don’t let your children read The Lord of the Rings, I hear it’s a gateway book to the rest of the series — a slippery slope! Before you know it, they might read all four of Tolkien’s books. What will you do then?

Some interesting news broke this year during Banned Books Week: one parent’s unique approach to what she deemed the “questionable content” of Harry Potter. Instead of burning the book at the stake, she just decided to rewrite it. She scrubbed all that troublesome magic right off the page and left it…well, you can decide for yourself. A sample passage of her new spin on Potter-mania:

“My father says that dark times are coming,” Hermione spoke worriedly. “There is a man named Voldomort [sic] who wants to destroy all that we stand for. He is pushing an agenda in congress which will stop us from practicing our faith freely.”

“But that is what our founding fathers built this nation for!” Harry cried indignantly. “The freedom of religion!”

Dumbledore gets a re-write too; the beloved British wizard becomes a Southern preacher. Just a little creative license in action.

Is this the new trend for challenged books? If so, can’t wait to see what she does with Lolita.

What Do We Hear When We Read?

Poets Dylan Thomas and Robert Frost used to tour the country like rock stars, before there were rock stars. If you’ve ever heard Dylan Thomas read, you’ll understand the crowds of thousands that packed arenas to hear him.

The latest episode of The Organist podcast gives you a primer in the poetic voices of Dylan Thomas, Eza Pound and James Joyce. They play snippets of the literary legends and discuss what exactly it is we hear when we read. Think about that one: what do you hear when you read? If you read the phrase “screaming rockets,” do you hear the rockets or just the words?

Listen and wonder: What Do We Hear When We Read?

Literary Names For Your Dog

Why not turn to your bookshelf when naming your new dog? There’s so many inspired options for your furry friend:

Cujo – Great for the spirited pup.

The Hound of the Baskervilles – A tad formal, but there’s always Baskey for short.

Godot – For the dog that never comes when he’s called.

Old Yeller – How charming and nostalgic! Right out of your childhood – you read this one in fourth grade but just can’t quite remember the ending…


No, I didn’t forget.