The I.O.U., a short, previously unpublished story, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Wednesday, 15 March, 2017

Brilliant, a hitherto unpublished short story by US novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, titled “The I.O.U.”, and written in 1920, has only now been published by The New Yorker. A chance to lift my reading rate a little this year, I think. I hope.

The above is not my real name – the fellow it belongs to gave me his permission to sign it to this story. My real name I shall not divulge. I am a publisher. I accept long novels about young love written by old maids in South Dakota, detective stories concerning wealthy clubmen and female apaches with “wide dark eyes,” essays about the menace of this and that and the color of the moon in Tahiti by college professors and other unemployed. I accept no novels by authors under fifteen years old. All the columnists and communists (I can never get these two words straight) abuse me because they say I want money. I do – I want it terribly.

Fitzgerald had written the story for Harper’s Bazaar magazine, but later asked for the draft back, so he could revise it. And there it remained on his desk, becoming forgotten. The full story behind its rediscovery is here.

Via Kottke.

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Self publishing a book in 2017, a guide by US author Zack Hubert

Friday, 3 March, 2017

Zack Hubert, a Seattle based developer, and science fiction aficionado, is self publishing his first novel, Singular, on 31 March.

Writers who have thought about self-publishing, as I have, but been deterred by the apparent enormity of the process, as I have, ought to familiarise themselves with Hubert’s methods, which he has set out in detail.

Advice on writing software, publishing in paper and ebook formats, and listing on Amazon, are among points he covers. This is great stuff. Now to get back to writing my novel, which has been a work in progress for the merest two and a bit years.

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Watercolor Romance, a short story

Monday, 29 February, 2016

I’ve recently been re-reading Lawrence Durrell’s 1957 novel Justine, set just prior to World War II, in Alexandria, Egypt. I always drawn in by its sometimes surreal prose, and the vividness with which Durrell describes the city, a place I once visited briefly.

Watercolor Romance, a short story I found on Medium, while quite unrelated to Durrell’s work, does share a certain similarity with Justine however. I won’t say any more about either story, lest I reveal too much about both, but readers of Justine will know what I’m alluding to.

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A formula for cracking Agatha Christie’s whodunnits?

Tuesday, 11 August, 2015

Here’s what might be a handy deductive tool for readers of late British crime novelist Agatha Christie’s whodunnits, who wish to identify the murderer in a story before its conclusion.

Researchers studying her works, picked out patterns that pointed to the culprit, and then developed a mathematical formula that can be used to unmask the guilty party in each book.

Many of the results concerned the gender of the killer. For example, they found that if the victim was strangled, the killer was more likely to be male (or male with a female accomplice), whereas if the setting was a country house – not uncommon for a Christie novel – there was a 75% chance the killer would be female. Female culprits were usually discovered thanks to a domestic item, while males were normally found out through information or logic.

All good fun, I’m sure, but this might be something best to the mathematicians, rather than fans of whodunnit novels.

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“Go Set a Watchman”, a first look

Monday, 20 July, 2015

Go Set a Watchman, the much anticipated follow-up to Harper Lee’s iconic 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird, was released last week, although some of the first reviews aren’t exactly flattering.

I have no idea when I’ll get to it, since I only read “To Kill a Mockingbird” for first time last year, but if you’re keen for a taste, here is the book’s first chapter, along with some animated illustrations. There’s also a recording of US actor Reese Witherspoon reading the chapter aloud, if you’d rather listen instead.

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Welcome to computer aided novel writing

Tuesday, 2 December, 2014

Might this be an easier way to write a book? Write a program, or an app, instead to write the book for you…

It’s November and aspiring writers are plugging away at their novels for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, an annual event that encourages people to churn out a 50,000-word book on deadline. But a hundred or so people are taking a very different approach to the challenge, writing computer programs that will write their texts for them. It’s called NaNoGenMo, for National Novel Generation Month, and the results are a strange, often funny look at what automatic text generation can do.

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The autobiographical story behind classic works of fiction

Tuesday, 7 October, 2014

Harper Lee’s 1960 novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”, a book that I am finally reading now, may not be strictly autobiographical, but it appears to be based in part on Lee’s life. I wonder though, what work of fiction is not, in some way, autobiographical?

Not too many, it could be.

She wrote the book in the years following the death of her mother in 1951, and in the story Scout too has lost her mother. And even the character of Dill, who lives next door to the Finch family during the summer, is modelled on her childhood friend Truman Capote, who would spend the summer with his aunt in Alabama while his mother visited New York.

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Not all science fiction fans like all science fiction literature

Monday, 24 October, 2011

A flowchart, which is a little like a choose your own adventure in itself, to assist sci-fi fans find agreeable titles that were included in the top 100 list of science fiction and fantasy books ever published, which was put together by US public radio network NPR earlier this year.

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50 of the best Australian novels published to date

Wednesday, 13 July, 2011

The Booktopia Blog has put together a list of 50 must read Australian novels.

On a whim I asked the twittersphere and facebookland what they thought were the “must read” Australian novels. In a matter of hours hundreds of titles were suggested. I then made a long list of these offerings and asked the world to vote for their favourites. A fellow on twitter suggested I allow one title per author, to ensure the list wasn’t swamped by Wintons, Careys, McCulloughs and Courtenays. The title which received the most votes would be that author’s single listing. I thought this a good idea.

Via Two Flat Whites.

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Can’t put it down… does Stockholm syndrome apply to long books?

Monday, 23 May, 2011

It could be a variation of Stockholm syndrome applies when it comes to reading novels that are extra long (think “War and Peace”)… why else would anyone devote the large blocks of time that are required to read them when they could go through any number of other, shorter, books in the same time frame?

My own first experience of it – or at least my first conscious experience of it – was, again, with The Recognitions. With any novel of that difficulty and length (976 pages in my prestigiously scuffed and battered Penguin edition), the reader’s aggregate experience is bound to be composed of a mixture of frustrations and pleasures. But what I found with Gaddis’s gigantic exploration of fraudulence and creativity was that, though they were greatly outnumbered by the frustrations, the pleasures seemed to register much more firmly. If I were fully honest with myself, I would have had to admit that I was finding the novel gruelingly, unsparingly tedious. But I wasn’t prepared to be fully honest with myself. Because every couple of hundred pages or so, Gaddis would take pity on me and throw me a bone in the form of an engaging, genuinely compelling set piece.

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