It’s Always Winter Somewhere

 HBO’s Game of Thrones reached its dramatic conclusion yesterday, but the Folio Society is encouraging fans to go back to the original source by releasing collector editions of George R.R. Martin’s original Song of Ice and Fire novels, beginning with A Game of Thrones.Last week, the publisher revealed the full cover art for the planned re-release of Martin’s first book in the fantasy epic, which will come July 16 in two volumes for $195.

The cover of one of the volumes features a raven perched atop the corpse of a mother direwolf, the one fatally gored by a stag in Winterfell but whose pups would grow up to become the direwolves of the Stark family. The other cover shows a lion, the sigil of House Lannister, attacking a stag, the sigil of House Baratheon.

These new covers — accompanied by eight illustrated chapter openers, nine illustrated house sigils, and nine family trees — were illustrated by artist Jonathan Burton, a regular collaborator with Folio who previously designed special edition covers for Cover Her Face, by P. D. James; Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell; and the entire Hitchhikers series.

Fantasy author Joe Abercrombie also wrote an introduction for this release of A Game of Thrones. A Game of Thrones also comes with a fold-out map of “the Known World” that arrives as a separately bound volume, and a gold-blocked slipcase with a secret illustration of a White Walker inside.


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Eat Across America

The curious folks at The Pudding did a deep dive into data on U.S. restaurant visits. They then created some fascinating maps and charts exploring the geographic patterns and regional preferences across the states. There aren’t many surprises. But what’s up with New Jersey and sandwiches?

Sandwich restaurant visits.


BBQ restaurant visits.

Mexican restaurant visits.

Italian restaurant visits.


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Literary Ecosystem


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Hope For All Of Us

The Bookseller has reported that Silence Under a Stone, by the 81-year-old Irish writer Norma MacMaster, has been shortlisted for the Society of Authors’ Awards. What is noteworthy is that it is also Norma’s debut novel.

The book, which the Independent (Ireland) describes as a “traditional novel” that “frames the ‘burning fervour’ of a mother’s love with the scourge of fundamentalism and division,” is just MacMaster’s second book. Her only other publication was a memoir published in 2008.

The Society of Authors’ Award is for debut novels by writers over the age of 40. Maybe there’s hope for me yet? Time to dust of that old novel and try again?

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Don’t be that tourist

In many cities in Europe it’s become an asinine tourist tradition for couples to purchase overpriced padlocks, scratch their initials in them, and then attach them to bridges. Not only does this annoying habit visually blight historic architecture,but many of old bridges weren’t built to withstand the weight of so many locks. In 2014 the Des Arts bridge in Paris collapsed from the weight of padlocks people attached to it. It’s now against the law in Paris to put locks on bridges. In the video below, the folks at Honest Guide (A YouTube channel about Prague for tourists) got a bunch of bolt cutters and an angle grinder and went to work removing love locks, inviting others to share in the merriment. While you’re at it, check out their excellent and very helpful series of travel videos on Youtube and maybe buy their new Prague guidebook.

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Global Dickens

I’m hoping that I will be able to catch the just opened exhibition called Global Dickens: For Every Nation Upon Earth this Fall at London’s excellent Dickens Museum. The show runs from this week through November 3, 2019. Here’s what the museum curator has to say about the exhibit:

“When we think of Charles Dickens we often think of a quintessentially British writer but Dickens wasn’t just inspired by London, his beloved ‘magic lantern’, Dickens was writing about – and writing for – the world. This new exhibition presents a global picture of this famous author, exploring the impact of his travels on his life and his writing, and it examines how he has gone on to shape the lives of people around the globe.

Using magnificent exhibits from the Museum’s unparalleled collection – including Dickens’s travelling bag, holiday souvenirs, and a spectacular copy of David Copperfield that went to the Antarctic on the 1910 Scott expedition – we present Dickens as he saw himself: as a truly global writer.

I was reminded of the heartbreaking saga of Captain Scott’s ill-fated South Pole expedition when half of the crew reached the Pole only to discover that they had been beaten there by the Norwegian team and then all died on the way back to their ship. The remaining crew survived by living in a cave and eating penguins and seals. To cope with the boredom, each night they read one chapter of David Copperfield aloud. The crew managed to survive and actually brought the copy of the book (see below) back with them to New Zealand.


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Bookstore Tourism: Manhattan

It seems that every week I read about the closing of another independent bookstore in New York City, so it’s a relief to discover a shop that’s thriving. Chartwell Booksellers is celebrating its 36th anniversary this year in its unique midtown Manhattan location. Casually shoppers are not likely to stumble across this unusual shop because it is well hidden inside of the lobby of the Park Avenue Plaza Building on East 52nd Street. However, book lovers who make the effort to seek out Chartwell will be rewarded by an old-school bookshop with style and substance.

Chartwell Booksellers maintains a well curated stock of new fiction and nonfiction, with specialization in history, art, music,photography, and militaria. But the shop is unique in the world for its collection of books by and about Winston Churchill.  The store’s name itself derives from Churchill’s country estate in Kent, England. You’ll also find Churchill memorabilia, an excellent selection of literary and history first editions, and lots of books to warm any Anglophile’s heart.




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Poetry Generator

Last week, Google launched its AI poem generator, PoemPortraits.  How  does it work? It’s really quite simple. The generator asks you to input, or “donate,” a word to be produced into an algorithmic couplet, as lifted from millions of words supplied by 19th century poetry.The generator is the latest in the exploration of how storytelling can be automated, expanded, and experimented on using technologies of the present and future.

I tried it out with two words: spring and star. The results were not impressive, and even a bit amusing. Give it a spin yourself right here.


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Used Book Simulation

h/t Tom Gauld

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Airport Security Woes

I recently received an email from TPTP reader Martin from Spain who had some unpleasant experiences with the airport security procedures during a trip in the United States. Martin explained that on three different occasions he had been pulled aside for a “swab test.”  Being  “chosen”  is supposed to be random and it’s basically harmless enough – they swab your hands (and/or your electronic devices, shoes, bags, etc.) with a cotton cloth and check for explosive residue in an Explosives Trace Detector (ETD). If you read negative, you’re free to go. But if you’re positive, you have to go to the next step of security.

Unfortunately, Martin felt that he was not randomly selected for swabbing, but was chosen because of his Hispanic name and/or physical appearance. And to make it worse, every time that his swab was read by the ETD machine it came back positive and he then had to go through extensive searches, pat downs, and “rude” questioning.

My response to Martin was that yes he probably was ethnically profiled because of his Latinx name and appearance. It’s not surprising for people of color, South Asians, Muslims, and other minorities to be targeted for heavier surveillance by the TSA. This is how we live now. However, I also pointed out to him that some folks do get false positive tests which must be explored. It’s happened to me at least once. But here’s why there are so many false positive readings: the test is looking for the materials bombs are made of and the two chemical compounds that are often used are nitrates and glycerin. Hundreds of everyday items contain those chemicals. For example:

  • hand soaps that contain glycerin
  • lotions that contain glycerin
  • cosmetics, hair products, etc. which may contain glycerin
  • baby wipes which may contain glycerin
  • certain medications (e.g., nitroglycerin and other nitrates)
  • lawn fertilizers
  • munitions
  • fireworks and other pyrotechnics

What can you do to avoid false positives? Before you get to airport security thoroughly wash your hands. Make sure there is no residual soap or lotion on them. If you recently used a  cleansing cloth or baby wipe, again, make sure your hands have been washed afterwards. Same thing goes for your shoes, and if your baggage or electronic devices, or anything else may have somehow come in contact with any of those chemicals, clean them off as well.

If you get flagged with a  positive reading ,be calm, don’t act out– most likely you’re going to get patted down by a TSA worker of the same gender as you and your belongings will be searched.  Be sure to politely inform the TSA agent if you have been on a farm or a golf course recently, or if you’ve been playing with fireworks. Such is life, if you want to fly in these United States.

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