Category Archives: strange

£83,000 Book Bought by British Library

The British Library has purchased a 27-page Futurist book made of metal:

The library has spent £83,000 on this pivotal work in the development
of the Italian Futurist art movement. Entitled Parole in Libertá
Futuriste Olfattive Tattili Termiche (Words in Futurist, Olfactory,
Tactile, Thermal Freedom), it may not have the snappiest of titles, but
the 27-page metal book is a thing of considerable beauty and
exemplifies the mad dynamism and energy of the Futurists.

Surrealist Love Poems

If you’re looking to send an ambiguous message to your loved one tomorrow, this book might just do it. From the University of Chicago press blog:

Editor and translator Mary Ann Caws brings together sixty poems—many of them translated into English for the first time—by Surrealists who charged their work through with all forms of eroticism. Within these pages you will read the magnificent love poems of Desnos, which rank among the greatest in twentieth-century poetry, and hear the voices of lesser known "poets" such as Salvador Dalí and Frida Kahlo. Poems by familiar Surrealists such as Breton, the movement’s leader, and Paul Eluard join work by Octavio Paz and Philippe Soupault. Interspersed with the poetry are photographs by Man Ray, Lee Miller, and Claude Cahun. Surrealist Love Poems seeks to demonstrate the truth of Breton’s words, that "the embrace of poetry like that of bodies/As long as it lasts/Shuts out all the woes of the world."

The University of Chicago Press has also made available three poems from the book, including the no-nonsense entry "I want to sleep with you."

Literary Holiday Gifts

Litkicks offers an interesting list of literary-themed holiday gift items. Some of these, like the "eco" gift wrap, are pretty cool, whereas others make me wonder who would buy them.

For instance, the Museum of Modern Art’s "Coonley Playhouse Bookmark
by Frank Lloyd Wright
." This will almost surely be the first bookmark you buy that costs more than a sizable fraction of the books it will sit within.


The description is also precious:

The festive abstract balloon-and-confetti theme of the leaded-glass windows designed by Wright for the Avery Coonley Playhouse (c. 1912), Riverside, Illinois, and a similar one for the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo, have inspired generations of designers. Their lively combinations of line, form, and color are newly reinterpreted here. An openwork pattern of Palladium-plated brass is accented with colored enamel panels and silk tassel. Palladium, a derivative of platinum, will not easily scratch or tarnish.

Because we all know what a pain it is when our bookmarks tarnish.

The Infinite Language

I had no idea Chinese was capable of this.

It is essential to point out that there will never be an end to the
compilation of ever larger single character dictionaries, since the
Chinese writing system is essentially open-ended. People invent new
characters for their own names; every time a new element is discovered,
a new character is created for it (e.g., LAO2 鐒 for lawrencium);
special graphs must be coined for topolect morphemes; etc. This vast
proliferation of characters poses numerous challenges and problems,
including the following:

1. how to order and locate them
2. how to identify each of them with a specific code designation (not
even Unicode — which has assigned the vast majority of its code points
to Chinese — can keep up)
3. the fact that many of these "different" characters are actually just
variants of other characters, including forms that were popular at
diverse moments in history, but then became obsolete

The entire post is rather fascinating, especially when it goes on to describe the frequency of these special characters:

If the cumulative coverage continues to grow at the same rate (a factor
of 10 per 1,400 characters after the first thousand), then the
characters ranked around 20,000 would be expected to occur once in
2.7×1015 characters of text (once per 2.7 million billion
characters), and the characters ranked around 85,000 would be expected
to occur once in 1061 characters of text. (For comparison, Archimedes calculated that it would take 1063 grains of sand to fill the universe as he thought it to be — a sphere about two light years in diameter — just 100 times more.)

via Language Hat

This Listing for One Trillion Dollars

With a 6% commission, anyone who buys artist Robert The’s "Amazon Listing as a Work of Art" through my link will have pretty much settled my finances for life. And if you wondering, I find the items bought by those who viewed this listing somewhat bewildering and a little off-putting . . . I didn’t know Amazon sold medical supplied.

I you can also find The’s listing for nothing, improbably out of stock and with a model number.

Fans of The and his book art can find more on this strange artist in our article on three book artists.

Kafka Asks for a Little Workers’ Comp

Wow. This sounds like some kind of metafictional, postmodern romp, but it’s actually exactly what it claims to be: Franz Kafka: The Office Writings.

Per This Space, it is:

A 440-page book made up of "articles on workmen’s compensation and
workplace safety; appeals for the founding of a psychiatric hospital
for shell-shocked veterans; and letters arguing relentlessly for a
salary adequate to his merit." They were composed, Princeton UP says,
during Kafka’s years as a lawyer with the Workmen’s Accident Insurance

Strange eBay Listings

From the LRB’s history of eBay:

The site has made the headlines most often for the wacky merchandise
that has been sold or listed over the years. The most famous instance
is probably the ten-year-old toasted cheese sandwich bearing the image
of the Virgin Mary that went for $28,000 in November 2004. In March
this year, two sisters from Virginia sold a cornflake shaped like the
state of Illinois for $1350. It was removed at first, since foodstuffs
have to be sold in sealed containers with best-before dates, but the
sisters got round that restriction by selling a voucher for the thing
instead. In May, a jealous husband from Bletchley put his wife up for
sale. He began the auction at a penny, but bids surpassed half a
million pounds before eBay removed the listing. A CD of the ‘income-tax
returns for 2005 of the entire Italian people’, which had been briefly
posted online by the tax authorities, was removed after a few hours.
Cohen mentions the ‘fully functional kidney’ that was listed on 26
August 1999, and shut down as a hoax eight days later, with bidding at
$5.7 million. In July 1999, bidding for a ‘young man’s virginity’
reached $10 million before it was pulled. Shipments of cocaine, votes
and souls have also often been listed. In 2001, the artist Keith
Obadike put his blackness up for sale (the description is reproduced in
Everyday eBay): ‘This heirloom has been in the possession of the seller for 28 years.’

They might have added book and conceptual artist Robert The’s listing for "the present moment," which went for $13.81.

Empty Page

JSF asks famous authors for an empty page. They respond.

Richard Powers was the first to respond. "The favor is indeed strange," he wrote, "but wonderful. The more I think about it, the more resonance it gets: a museum of pure potential, the unfilled page!" He sent along the next sheet from the yellow legal pad on which he writes. When I held it to my face, I could see the indentations from the writing on the page that was once above it. Within a week the indentations had disappeared – the ghost words were gone – and the page was again perfectly flat.

I received a piece of paper from Susan Sontag. It was slightly smaller than the standard 8 1/2" x 11", and her name was printed across the top – for archival purposes, I imagined. John Barth sent me an empty page. It was classic three-hole style with the red strip up the margin. (How strange, I thought, that America’s most famous metafictionist should compose on the most traditional, childlike paper.) His note: "Yours takes the prize for odd requests and quite intrigues me."

A sheet of empty graph paper came from Paul Auster, which evoked his style. An absolutely gorgeous mathematician’s log from Helen DeWitt, accompanied by advice to the young writer about getting to know one’s typesetter. A page ripped from David Grossman’s notebook – small, worn even in its newness, somehow strong. He sent along a beautiful letter filled with observations, opinions, regrets, hopes and no mention of blank paper. A clean white page from Arthur Miller, no accompanying note. Paper from Zadie Smith, Victor Pelevin, David Foster Wallace ("You are a weird bird JSF"), Peter Carey, John Updike. . .

I find this at Der Tagesspiegel. Has this been previously printed elsewhere?


The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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