Non-Fiction Feed

"A Comparative Study of Ghost Stories" (1885)

GhostsWe seem to need a name for a new branch of the science of Man, the Comparative Study of Ghost Stories. Neither sciology, from σκιά, nor idolology, from εἴδωλον, appears a very convenient term, and as the science is yet in its infancy, perhaps it may go unnamed, for the time, like a colt before it has won its maiden race. But, though nameless, the researches which I wish to introduce are by no means lacking in curious interest.

Continue reading ""A Comparative Study of Ghost Stories" (1885)" »


George Lucas on Storytelling

Star-wars-episode-iv-a-new-hope-george-lucas

George Lucas interviewed by Dasha Zhukova (Garage, Fall/Winter 2016):

The art of telling stories began even before language, with images. Before humans could talk, we drew pictures. In the beginning, the pictures were of animals, because we worshipped animals. Our whole existence depended on an antelope coming at the right time of year. Our world was defined by these great mysteries, and the mysteries were shared through art.

Continue reading "George Lucas on Storytelling" »


"A defence of detective stories" by G.K. Chesterton

Detection

In attempting to reach the genuine psychological reason for the popularity of detective stories, it is necessary to rid ourselves of many mere phrases. It is not true, for example, that the populace prefer bad literature to good, and accept detective stories because they are bad literature. The mere absence of artistic subtlety does not make a book popular.

Continue reading ""A defence of detective stories" by G.K. Chesterton" »


"I'm Through with Science Fiction" by Henry Hasse

I'm through

The editor of this magazine [Ray Bradbury], under the impression that I am still one of that queer tribe known as science-fiction fans, has asked me to write an article. I am no longer a science-fiction fan. I'm through! However, I have decided to do the article and explain with my chin leading just why I am through.

Continue reading ""I'm Through with Science Fiction" by Henry Hasse" »


"A defense of historical fiction" by Jonathan Nield

Charles_Landseer_Cromwell_Battle_of_Naseby

Most of us, I suppose, at one time or another have experienced a thrill of interest when some prominent personage, whom we knew well by repute, came before us in the flesh. We watched his manner, and noted all those shades of expression which in another's countenance we should have passed by unheeded. Well, it seems to me that, parallel with this experience, is that which we gain, when, reading some first-rank romance, we encounter in its pages a figure with which History has made us more or less familiar.

Continue reading ""A defense of historical fiction" by Jonathan Nield" »


"On spies through the ages" by Hamil Grant

Capturing the Trojan Spy Dolon © The Trustees of the British Museum

In the course of a work entitled Strategems, Frontinus, a military writer in the time of Vespasian, records how Cornelius Lelius, having been sent by Scipio Africanus in the capacity of envoy to Syphax, King of Numidia, but in reality for the purposes of espionage, took with him several officers of high rank in the Roman army, all disguised.

A general in the camp of Syphax, recognising one of these companions, Manlius, as having studied with him at Corinth, and well knowing him to be an officer in the Roman army, began to put awkward questions. Thereupon Lelius fell upon Manlius and thrashed him, declaring the fellow to be a pushful valet and nothing better. On the same occasion, the envoy allowed a high-spirited and richly caparisoned horse to escape from his suite in order to be given the opportunity of going through the camp to recover it.

Continue reading ""On spies through the ages" by Hamil Grant" »


"On book illustration and decoration" by Reginald Blomfield

Arts and CraftsBook illustration is supposed to have made a great advance in the last few years. No doubt it has, but this advance has not been made on any definite principle, but, as it were, in and out of a network of cross-purposes. No attempt has been made to classify illustration in relation to the purpose it has to fulfil.

Broadly speaking, this purpose is threefold. It is either utilitarian, or partly utilitarian partly artistic, or purely artistic. The first may be dismissed at once. Such drawings as technical diagrams must be clear and accurate, but by their very nature they are non-artistic, and in regard to art it is a case of "hands off" to the draughtsman.

Illustration as an art, that is, book decoration, begins with the second class. From this standpoint an illustration involves something more than mere drawing. In the first place, the drawing must illustrate the subject, but as the drawing will not be set in a plain mount, but surrounded or bordered by printed type, there is the further problem of the relation of the drawing to the printed type. The relative importance attached to the printed type or the drawing is the crucial point for the illustrator. If all his thoughts are concentrated on his own drawing, one line to him will be much as another; but if he considers his illustration as going with the type to form one homogeneous design, each line becomes a matter of deliberate intention.

Continue reading ""On book illustration and decoration" by Reginald Blomfield" »


"Some Famous Ghosts of the National Capitol" (1898)

Senate_Chamber,_U.S._Capitol_Washington,_D.C.,_U.S.A.,_from_Robert_N._Dennis_collection_of_stereoscopic_views

The Capitol at Washington is probably the most thoroughly haunted building in the world.

Not less than fifteen well-authenticated ghosts infest it, and some of them are of a more than ordinarily alarming character.

What particularly inspires this last remark is the fact that the Demon Cat is said to have made its appearance again, after many years of absence. This is a truly horrific apparition, and no viewless specter such as the invisible grimalkin that even now trips people up on the stairs of the old mansion which President Madison and his wife, Dolly, occupied, at the corner of Eighteenth Street and New York Avenue, after the White House was burned by the British. That, indeed, is altogether another story; but the feline spook of the Capitol possesses attributes much more remarkable, inasmuch as it has the appearance of an ordinary pussy when first seen, and presently swells up to the size of an elephant before the eyes of the terrified observer.

Continue reading ""Some Famous Ghosts of the National Capitol" (1898)" »


"On the fiction of Amelia Edwards" by Katharine S. Macquoid

It has seemed to us that value as well as interest would attach to critical estimates of and biographical notes upon, these representative Novelists, supplied by living mistresses of the craft; and we are glad to have been able to secure for the purpose, the services of the contributors to this volume, all of whom may claim to discourse with some authority upon the art they cultivate. [From the introduction to Women Novelists of Queen Victoria's Reign]

Amelia EdwardsIn Barbara's History, in Lord Brackenbury, and in other stories by Miss [Amelia B] Edwards, there are beautiful and graphic descriptions of foreign scenery, and we meet plenty of foreign people; but we feel that the latter are described by an Englishwoman who has taken an immense amount of pains to make herself acquainted with their ways and their speech - they somewhat lack spontaneity. In the two novels named there are chapters so full of local history and association that one thinks it might be well to have the books for companions when visiting the places described; they are full of talent - in some places near akin to genius.

Barbara's History contains a great deal of genuine humour. It is a most interesting and exciting story, though in parts stagey; the opening chapters, indeed the whole of Barbara's stay at her great-aunt's farm of Stoneycroft, are so excellent that one cannot wonder the book was a great success. Now and again passages and characters remind one of Dickens; the great-aunt, Mrs. Sandyshaft, is a thorough Dickens woman, with a touch of the great master's exaggeration; Barbara's father is another Dickens character. There are power and passion as well as humour in this book, but in spite of its interest it becomes fatiguing when Barbara leaves her aunt and the hundred pigs.

Continue reading ""On the fiction of Amelia Edwards" by Katharine S. Macquoid" »


"On books for young folks" by James Baldwin

George_Romney_Child_Reading_(possibly_Mrs_Cumberland_and_her_son)The greatest problem presented to the consideration of parents and teachers now-a-days is how properly to regulate and direct the reading of the children. There is no scarcity of reading-matter. The poorest child may have free access to books and papers, more than he can read. The publication of periodicals and cheap books especially designed to meet the tastes of young people has developed into an enterprise of vast proportions. Every day, millions of pages of reading matter designed for children are printed and scattered broadcast over the land. But unlimited opportunities often prove to be a damage and a detriment; and over-abundance, rather than scarcity, is to be deplored.

As a general rule, the books read by young people are not such as lead to studious habits, or induce correct ideas of right living. They are intended simply to amuse; there are no elements of strength in them, leading up to a noble manhood. I doubt if in the future it can be said of any great statesman or scholar that his tastes had been formed, and his energies directed and sustained, through the influence of his early reading; but rather that he had attained success, and whatever of true nobility there is in him, in spite of such influence.

How then shall we so order the child’s reading as to avoid the formation of desultory and aimless habits?

Continue reading ""On books for young folks" by James Baldwin" »