Best Beards in Literature (Book Riot)

Warning: This post contains graphic images of beards.

Book Riot put together this list of downright startling beards, attached to the faces of famous authors.

And just in case you’re the type to swoon over a healthy, unbridled mega-beard, instead of shuddering at such an abomination like the rest of us, consider these beard euphemisms used by Herman Melville in White-Jacket:

  • Fly-brushes
  • Plantations of hair
  • Nodding harvests
  • Love-curls
  • Carroty bunches
  • Redundant mops
  • Suburbs of the chin

Also, when are they going to make a horror film about Henrik Ibsen’s hexagonal facial hair?



Book Scanning: My Biggest Reading Pet Peeve ATM

While I had long suspected that it is common practice among publishers to scan printed books to convert them to e-books (instead of using a master text), I never sought the actual evidence. It’s out there, though, and it’s no secret, as I’ve come to find.

In theory, there’s nothing wrong with this system (known as Optical Character Recognition, or OCR). Books are scanned page by page, and the scanned images are then converted into an editable text. 

Emphasis on editable

Because the problem with this process is that a very important post-scanning step is too often (it seems) left out: proofreading for errors. E-books, particularly e-books created from older works of literature, are absolutely jam-packed with apparent “typos.” They’re not actually typos, however, and they have nothing to do with the layout of a keyboard; they are errors in character recognition. A common error, for example, is an “e” in place of a “c,” or vice versa. The combined characters “rn” may become “m.” An occasional mistake of this nature is understandable, but in my experience, these mistakes aren’t occasional. They’re on nearly every page. 

I am not criticizing publishers who use this extremely efficient tool, despite the errors it can produce. I am simply asking them to send a proofreader—one measly proofreader, who would catch 99% of these errors—through each work before it’s published and distributed. I hereby offer my proofreading services, if they genuinely cannot find anyone else. But they easily could, and simply don’t, due to time/money/effort/blah/blah/blah. 

I continue (and will continue) to read modern publications on my Kindle, but I refuse henceforth to read older books, particularly the classics, on any e-reader. The scanning errors in my most recent Kindle book, Dante’s Divine Comedy, were so frequent, so blatant, and so distracting that they became a) insulting, to me, and b) embarrassing, for Amazon. These weren’t free, public-domain downloads, by the way. I paid for the John Ciardi translation of all three parts (The Inferno, The Purgatorio, and The Paradiso)—separately, even. And when I did so, I expected the same quality I have come to anticipate in any hardback or paperback novel I pick up in a bookshop.

(I’m far from being the only reader who feels this way, either. Here’s Laura June’s stunning rant on this issue.)

I guess I should be thanking Amazon for arming me with even more excuses to visit my local bookstores. But I wish that e-book publishers respected their customers, and authors, enough to value quality as much as convenience. Dante deserves better, and I deserve better. 



Would you read “The Adventures of an Ostrich Feather of Quality”? (The Toast)

Would you read an 18th-century novel entitled The Adventures of an Ostrich Feather of Quality? How about Memoirs of an Old Wig? Because I totally would (and now intend to). The Toast compiled this list of real book titles from the 1700s, and it has suddenly made me very, very curious about a) that particular century, obviously, and b) whether writers were an even stranger breed back then than they are now.

Some of my personal favorites from the (quite long) list:

A Modern Anecdote Of The Ancient Family Of The Kinkvervankotsdarsprakengotchderns

Reft Rob; Or, The Witch Of Scot-Muir, Commonly Called Madge The Snoover

Love And Madness. A Story Too True. In A Series Of Letters Between Parties Whose Names Would Perhaps Be Mentioned Were They Less Well Known Or Less Lamented

The Egg, Or The Memoirs Of Gregory Giddy, Esq: With The Lucubrations Of Messrs. Francis Flimsy, Frederick Florid, And Ben Bombast. To Which Are Added, The Private Opinions Of Patty Pout, Lucy Luscious, And Priscilla Positive. Also The Memoirs Of A Right Honourable Puppy. Conceived By A Celebrated Hen, And Laid Before The Public By A Famous Cock-Feeder


Do you judge a book by its cover? (Don’t we all?)

I’d like to say that book covers aren’t something I get worked up about, but that wouldn’t be entirely true. I avoid movie tie-in covers as much as possible, like all normal people, and I am picky about the author’s name appearing five times larger than the book title.

Generally speaking, though, I do not begrudge publishers who slap a new cover on an old classic to draw in more, or different, readers. I just picked up this edition of Brave New World as a cool, conceptual alternative to the weird, naked baby cover. I can sympathize—even empathize—with the Roald Dahl fans who were upset by Penguin’s new cover of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, favoring social criticism over whimsy… but I loved the cover of their Deluxe Edition, which offers just as much contrast with the original, much beloved Quentin Blake illustrations.

On the other hand, I was totally freaked out by the Penguin Deluxe Edition of The Scarlet Letter. I have to imagine the marketing meeting went something like this:

Marketing Executive: Let’s do something cool and sexy—give a false sense of entertainment potential to the high school seniors forced to read this book.

Marketing Underling: OK, well, I thought that weird, naked baby cover of Brave New World was pretty cool. How about I cartoon-ize Hester and her illegitimate child?

Marketing Executive: Only if you use lots of red scarlet as symbolism.

Marketing Underling [sketching]: How’s this?

Marketing Executive: More eyeliner.

Marketing Underling: [sketching]: OK…

Marketing Executive: No, not on Hester, on the baby!

Book covers are probably the thing I miss most when I’m reading an e-book. (Well, that, and pretty much everything else about the look and feel of a paper book.) In any case, for my own bookshelf, I am admittedly choosy—in my own way—about book covers, and I’m guessing most readers would say the same. What’s on the inside counts, yes—but so does the packaging.

50 Novels by Female Writers Under 50 (Flavorwire)

Is there enough room in your week for 50 more books? I thought so. Here’s Flavorwire with 50 great novels by female authors under 50. I can say with some authority that reading (almost) exclusively books by old and/or dead men gets a little tiresome. Humanity seems to have only recently discovered that women are people, not symbols/walking wombs/elfin princesses of negligible importance.


The Habits of Great Writers (The Millions)

If you suspect that developing an idiosyncratic ritual, such as studying your dog’s fur, will improve your creative output, look here for inspiration. You could finally have an excuse for letting food rot in your desk drawer, like Friedrich Schiller.

The results of a study on my own writing habits have unfortunately revealed only a tendency toward shushing my housemate (well, technically, he’s my husband) and forgetting to shower until 3 p.m. Oh, and tea-fueled rants at my lazy-ass computer. But I have a feeling these are true of every writer…