Monday, August 18, 2014

The Free Bin: Cliffhangers, Notebook Hacks, and the Worst Possible Opening Lines

It’s been a busy week at Book Dirt HQ. If you don’t believe it, check out Film Dirt, the new sister blog to this one, which will feature research and stories related to lost films (the subject of the book at which I’ve been hammering away). Posts will still be aplenty here, such as last week’s posts on a rediscovered pulp novel how-to, and an analysis of the latest reason people are freaking out about a book cover. 

If you have a few more moments, have a cup of coffee and scrounge around in the Free Bin, where I've collected some of the best links I've found of late.

A Hamlet caricature, possibly by George Cruikshank. One of the thousands of images recently uploaded by the Folger Library.

  • The Folger Shakespeare Library (whose exhibit hall is always worth a visit in DC—they constantly rotate the displays) has released over 80,000 images into the digital commons. The collection includes not only Shakespearean material, but plenty of images related to history, art, and everyday life in the Renaissance.

  • The results of the 2014 Bulwer Lytton contest are in, and there are plenty of laughs among the winners, each of whom have outdone themselves in crafting the worst possible opening sentence. Some of the runner-ups are as good (or better) than the top picks, depending on your sense of humor. Example: "Cole kissed Anastasia, not in a lingering manner as a connoisseur might sip a glass of ‘82 La Pin, but open-mouthed and desperate, like a hobo wrapping his mouth around a bottle of Strawberry Ripple in the alley behind the 7-11."

  • The Interesting Adventures Of A Hackney Coach, (As Related By The Coachman). How It Happened That I Was Born. Nubilia In Search Of A Husband.The Three Perils Of Man, Or, War, Women, And Witchcraft. —Just a few of the fun titles on a list of 18th century novels compiled by The Toast. 

  • If you're a note-taker like I am (I'm never without one of my Moleskines), you might appreciate this notebook hack. It's a clever way to quickly find what you're looking for in a jumble of scrawled text. 

  • The New Yorker has a fantastic piece on the history of the cliffhanger, from Dickens to Mad Men, with stops along the way including Twin Peaks and the Perils of Pauline. Most exciting of all, though, is ... [tune in next week].



  1. Kelly, I'm not a note-taker but the prospect of taking notes has always interested me. Ideas and thoughts often come to me when I don't have even a paper napkin to write on. I think note-taking instills discipline in writing.

    1. I'm never without a pen and my notebook. (I have a mini-Moleskine for when it's not convenient to carry stuff—it fits in my pocket.) I get anxious if I have an idea and can't document it. I don't know that it has anything to do with discipline, as the notes are often a mess, and I'm always behind on doing anything with them.

  2. Thanks for that link to cliffhanger-dom especially Kelly, great fun!

    1. I thought it was well done and pretty comprehensive for its length. Glad you enjoyed it.