Tag Archives: Fun Stuff

‘Ulysses’ in Pie Chart Form

Gabe Habash -- September 27th, 2012

Here’s a steaming, segmented pie chart for Joyce’s steaming, segmented masterpiece. If you’re keeping track, we’ve already baked pies for Underworld (shepherd’s pie), Madame Bovary (strawberry rhubarb), Crime and Punishment (mince), and The Metamorphosis (apple).

As always, we bake our PWxyz pies fresh and leave them out on our windowsill for your olfactory enjoyment, before digging into that fresh Gorgonzola and mustard pie. As a bonus, we’ve made a second mini pie, because, let’s be honest, Ulysses probably could have about 10 pies.

 

*Here’s a sub-pie chart for Ulysses’ references.

The Worst Book Ever Is ‘What Are These Strawberries Doing on My Nipples? … I Need Them for the Fruit Salad!’

Gabe Habash -- September 6th, 2012

Oh, dear friends, it’s been a while since we last entered these hallowed halls of plunging mediocrity. So long that there is dust on How To Avoid Huge Ships. Cobwebs on Dildo Cay. Mold on Microwave for One. Some other sign of disuse on Moon People. But back into the Worst Book Ever Castle we must go, because there is a new book to add to the gallery. We must do our duty and place it where it belongs, for the circle must be closed.

What Are These Strawberries Doing on My Nipples? … I Need Them for the Fruit Salad! isn’t just notable because it has both an exclamation point and a question mark in it–what you’ll discover upon digging deeper within it is a tale of vast sadness and infinite strangeness.

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Ugly Covers for Great Books

Gabe Habash -- July 19th, 2012

Scribner just released this gorgeous new edition of A Farewell to Arms, complete with all of Hemingway’s alternate endings. If you ask most people with eyes, they’ll tell you the cover is a significant upgrade from the other two most common editions (here and here). So–what other books need saving from their old jackets? Here are six great books with spotty cover histories and solutions for those…ahem…aesthetically challenged titles.

Click any of the jackets below for higher-res.

1. Evelyn Waugh

These unappealing cartoon drawings could be trying to convey the prodding and farcical elements of Waugh’s novels, illustrated representations of Waugh’s playful personality, which, as Nancy Mitford stated, was as follows: “What nobody remembers about Evelyn is that everything with him was jokes. Everything.”

But I’m not buying it. The style (which was also used, among others, for Scoop and Vile Bodies) don’t make me want to read any of them–the fonts are all over the place and nothing about the color or composition is particularly pleasing. It’s also curious that the green-shirted, tweed-suited figure seems to appear on both the Brideshead cover and the Handful of Dust cover.

Though I’m not wild about the Dust cover, let’s take these two instead:

 

2. William Faulkner

Ah, yes. Those distinguished gold-bronze editions with spines the glare out from across the room. I’m not sure Faulkner’s had a good cover printed since he was alive. The photos aren’t bad, and I’m actually pretty fond of the red sky, but goldbronze doesn’t look good with anything.

Worse for Faulkner: his books were published with a new look recently and look like this:

The background and title on the bottom half clashes with the top-half photo (the purple/photo of the ground combo for Sound is particularly bad), but the real issue here is the cheap frame box around Faulkner’s name. I think that box was a menu button option on the first version of iDVD. Even the goldenbronze of the older editions is better than the box.

It would be nice to see Sound get rereleased with its original cover (like the Hemingway rerelease), but instead I’ll go with the pulpier covers, which contrast nicely with Faulkner’s serious Biblical-gothic operas.

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‘Crime and Punishment’ in Pie Chart Form

Gabe Habash -- June 12th, 2012

If you were some kind of wise guy, you could pie chart Crime and Punishment like this: 95% punishment, and 5% crime. But PWxyz takes pie charts seriously, and we didn’t spend all that money on all this hi-tech pie-making equipment just to mail our pies in. We carefully craft our pies (previously, Underworld pie and Madame Bovary pie) with the finest ingredients.

Raskolnikov said: “The fear of aesthetics is the first symptom of powerlessness.” Well, then we are powerless, Mr. Raskolnikov, for we care about aesthetics. Ah, put down that axe!

Can You Guess These Classic Books From Their Phantom Covers (Round 2)?

Gabe Habash -- May 23rd, 2012

PWxyz wants to play a game with you. It is a game we’ve played before, but it was so fun the first time that milk shot out of both our noses. You remember how to play, yes? We put our PWxyz SuperVAC (which looks like this) to the covers of famous books and vacuum the words right up off them. Then you, dear friend, guess what the books are by their image alone.  Then you get 10 out 10 books. When you succeed, you make us like this.

Answers at the bottom!

1.

2.

3.

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More Kids Hating Classic Books On Twitter at #worstbookever

Gabe Habash -- May 2nd, 2012

Back in December, we featured some tweets from teenagers–ranging from annoyed to furious–all directed at classic books at the hashtag #worstbookever. If you thought the blood feud between required reading and teenagers was a 2011 phenomenon, I’ve got news for you. Here are the latest attacks by kids on books.

@hkrachhhy:

Gonna be up all night because of adventures of huckleberry Finn #worstbookever

@JessieGream:

I just wasted 10 minutes of my life reading spark notes for The Stranger. #worstbookever

@ohheyimjazzy:

I strongly dislike with a passion Frankenstein. End of story. No pun intended #worstbookever

@raychgreenwood:

I am not even kidding I will pay somebody large sums of cash if they read The Chrysalids and do my assignment for me #worstbookever

@miranduhhh3:

I would rather shoot myself in the face than read siddhartha. #worstbookever#torture

@NessieeD:

I’m only on page 12 of to kill a mocking bird … I’m suppose to be on chapter 11 . #worstbookever !

@kcdismukes:

Sheldon and Penny just quoted Heart of Darkness. #notcool#worstbookever

@juliakathleeeen:

Thank god Gatsby is finally over!  #worstbookever

@AnnieeElmerr:

I don’t want to read Jane Eyre, so I’m cleaning the house. #itscometothis #worstbookever

@JuliaHeartsYou_:

I am surprised that I actually wrote this pearl essay on time #ThePearl is the #WorstBookEver

@callibarta:

S/O to Mark Twain for writing the most pointless piece of literature out there!! #worstbookever#huckfinncankissmyass

@lexiorch:

romeo romeo- why art so f***ing stupideth? #worstbookever @_yvonnel

 

‘Madame Bovary’ in Pie Chart Form

Gabe Habash -- May 1st, 2012

Do you hear that? That bubbling sound? That’s just the row of many beakers bubbling that PWxyz uses to break down and calculate the exact component parts of famous literary works, which we in turn share with you in the form of a pie chart. Think of them as a much cleaner version of a cow’s stomach. That produces pie. Anyway, today’s pie breakdown is Madame Bovary (aka Madame Bovary: A Tale of Provincial Life, Provincial Manners, Provincial Lives, Patterns of Provincial Life, and Provincial Manners of a Patterned Life), not to be confused with Madman Bovary. Interesting fact: if Madame Bovary were a real pie, it’d be strawberry rhubarb pie. It’s true.

Previously we pie-charted Don DeLillo’s Underworld, which was sort of a shepherd’s pie.

 

100 Books Called ‘The Man Who…’

Gabe Habash -- April 23rd, 2012

If you’re writing a book and want to title it some iteration of The Man Who…, that makes you the man or woman who titles your book like everyone else. That’s because typing in “the man who” into a Goodreads search yields 2,567 results–and that’s not including titles that being with “the man in” (The Man in the High Castle, The Man in the Iron Mask). The only title template more common is “_____ & _____” (War & Peace, Sense and Sensibility). But PWxyz will admit a soft spot for a book named The Man Who Loved Clowns.

The Man Who Was Thursday

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

The Man Who Had Everything

The Man Who Ate Everything

The Man Who Ate the 747

The Man Who Couldn’t Eat

The Man Who Ate His Boots

The Man Who Ate the World

The Man Who Cycled the World

The Man Who Sold the World Continue reading

Can You Guess These Classic Books From Their Phantom Covers?

Gabe Habash -- April 19th, 2012

PWxyz thinks you should play this game where we vacuumed up the words from the covers of famous books and you have to guess the book just by the art. Special bonus points if you can get #10. Actually, if you get all 10, we’ll write a song for you and it’ll be super heartfelt. We like to use falsetto.

Answers at the bottom!

1.

2.

3.

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The Top 10 Infinite Jest Characters: #10 Barry Loach

Gabe Habash -- April 2nd, 2012

One of the many joys of Infinite Jest, made possible because of its tremendous length, is its massive cast of characters. The deeper you go, the more characters you encounter and, as you go even deeper, the intersecting lines between the characters become apparent. Just take a look at this diagram. To celebrate the book’s huge ensemble, we’re counting down the 10 best characters over the next two weeks, culminating with the #1 character on Friday, April 13. On that day, we’ll post one giant composite article with all 10 characters. For the list, we’re excluding the book’s two “main” characters, Hal and Gately, because they’re given time and consideration that the rest of the characters don’t get, and thus can’t be evaluated in the same way. So join us as we reveal our favorites and be sure to tell us whether you agree of disagree with our selections in the comments!

Today, we’ll look at the E.T.A. trainer with the strong moral compass.

10.  Barry Loach

Loach’s own soul began to sprout little fungal patches of necrotic rot, and his upbeat view of the so-called normal and respectable human race began to undergo dark revision.

E.T.A. trainer Barry Loach is mentioned only two or three times in the first 900 pages of Infinite Jest. But then, on page 966, in a scene with Hal and the other players readying for Fundraising tennis matches, the narrative zooms in on Loach, who is shaving Hal’s ankle and readying it for athletic tape (“everybody’s had his hands on Loach’s shoulders at one time or another”). From there, in two fat paragraphs that span five pages, we get the long and short of Loach’s life.

Resembling “a blunt and scuttly wingless fly,” Loach comes from an enormous Catholic family. His mother, more than anything, wants one of her children to enter the Roman Catholic clergy. For the following reasons, Loach child after Loach child does not fulfill her wishes:

First-born Loach: Killed in the Brazilian O.N.A.N./U.N. joint action

Second-born Loach: Poisoned by ciguatoxins from a tainted blackfin grouper

Third-born Loach (Therese): Becomes a ring girl in a sequined leotard for professional fights in Atlantic City

Another Loach: Falls helplessly in love and marries right out of high school

Still Another Loach: Burned to play the cymbals; fulfilled wish

And all the way down the line until it’s just Barry (the youngest) and the second-youngest brother. Luckily for Barry, his older brother:

“Was always a pious and contemplative and big-hearted kid, brimming over with abstract love and an innate faith in the indwelling goodness of all men’s souls, [and he] began to show evidence of a true spiritual calling to a life of service in the R.C. clergy.”

But then, not-so-luckily:

“He suffered at age twenty-five a sudden and dire spiritual decline in which his basic faith in the innate indwelling goodness of men like spontaneously combusted and disappeared–and for no apparent or dramatic reason; it just seemed as if the brother had suddenly contracted a black misanthropic spiritual outlook the way some twenty-five-year-old men contract Sanger-Brown’s ataxia or M.S., a kind of degenerative Lou Gehrig’s Disease of the spirit–and his interest in serving man and God-in-man and nurturing the indwelling Christ in people through Jesuitical pursuits underwent an understandable nosedive.”

This is a problem for Barry, the very last Loach, whose “true vocation of splints and flexion” would become nullified should his older brother change his mind and stop his religious pursuit. So, Barry heads down to the seminary to do some convincing. And the two brothers, after “heated and high-level debates on spirituality and the soul’s potential, not unlike Alyosha and Ivan’s conversations in the good old Brothers K.,” settle on this experiment: Barry is to make himself look squalid and stand outside the Park Street T-station and hold out his hand and instead of asking for change from passerbys, he is to ask them just to touch him. If one person touches him, just one, Barry’s brother will re-enter the seminary.

It turns out that “holding out his hand and asking people to touch him ensured that just about the last thing any passerby in his right mind would want to do was touch him.” However, saying “Touch me, just touch me, please,” while not an effective way to get a stranger to touch you, is an effective way to panhandle, and Barry begins to make a good deal of money, “significantly more than he was earning at his work-study job wrapping ankles and sterilizing dental prostheses for Boston College lacrosse players.”

But no touching. Months pass. Barry’s brother stops coming to watch, Barry himself gets fired from his work-study, and basically turns into a bum himself in his quest to get someone to touch him. Despair reigns. He “falls in with the absolute silt at the very bottom of the metro Boston socioeconomic duck-pond.”

But then, in the ninth month, just when Barry is “dangerously close to disappearing forever into the fringes and dregs of metro Boston street life,” something happens, courtesy of Mario Incandenza:

Mario, being alone and only fourteen and largely clueless about anti-stem defensive strategies outside T-stations, had had no one worldly or adult along with him there to explain to him why the request of men with outstretched hands for a simple handshake or High Five shouldn’t automatically be honored and granted, and Mario had extended his clawlike hand and touched and heartily shaken Loach’s own fuliginous hand, which led through convoluted but kind of heartwarming and faith-reaffirming series of circumstances to B. Loach, even w/o an official B.A., being given an Asst. Trainer’s job at E.T.A.

Loach’s memorability is a product of his story’s placement. The fact that Wallace puts his story, which is one of the book’s main arguments for the good of human nature, at the very tail of the narrative is quite significant. In fact, the image of Mario and Loach shaking hands is the third-to-last passage of the book (the only following scenes are Orin revealing the Master’s location and Gately’s climactic vision of Facklemann’s death). Infinite Jest is both comedy and tragedy, and it makes cases for both the good of human nature (Mario, Bruce Green, Joelle Van Dyne) and the evil of human nature (Lenz, the A.F.R. [the broomstick moment], The M.P.), and maybe the book isn’t about one winning out over the other. But in Loach’s particular case, it actually does boil down to good vs. evil, and the simple (yet miraculous) appearance of Mario, resolving the question in the favor of good, makes for one of the book’s most touching moments.