How to Write a Bestselling Page Turner: Learn from The Da Vinci Code Author Dan Brown’s New Masterclass

“Dan Brown vis­it­ed my Eng­lish class,” remem­bers the New York­er’s Joshua Roth­man. “It hap­pened in the spring of 1998,” five years before Brown hit the big­time with The Da Vin­ci Code, a thriller best known for its colos­sal sales num­bers. “None of us had heard of Brown, or of his book” — his debut nov­el, Dig­i­tal Fortress — “and we were annoy­ing, arty lit­tle snooty-snoots. Why would we want to talk with the author of a ‘tech­no-thriller’ about com­put­er hack­ers?” But the class’ atti­tude did­n’t stop Brown from shar­ing the writ­ing wis­dom he had to offer, deliv­ered in the form of such guide­lines (in Roth­man’s mem­o­ry) as “Set your sto­ry in an exot­ic loca­tion,” “Make your char­ac­ters inter­est­ing peo­ple with secrets,” “Have lots of plot twists,” and “End each chap­ter with a cliffhang­er.”

At the time, Roth­man did­n’t under­stand why Brown would come to his class to “give a bunch of arty high-school kids advice about how to write cheesy thrillers.” But now, as a pro­fes­sion­al writer him­self, Roth­man real­izes “why Brown’s advice was so prac­ti­cal,” and what it had to teach them about the prac­ti­cal con­sid­er­a­tions, even rig­ors, of “how to write for a liv­ing.”

Though he does­n’t men­tion any of his class­mates grow­ing up to become the kind of nov­el­ists Brown is, a great many oth­ers dream of such a writ­ing life, few of whom ever had the chance to ben­e­fit from a class­room vis­it by the man him­self. But they can now enroll in “Dan Brown Teach­es Writ­ing Thrillers,” a new course from online edu­ca­tion com­pa­ny Mas­ter­class whose trail­er you can watch above.

Any fan of Brown’s writ­ing — or the block­buster movies that have been made out of it — knows that, as far as exot­ic loca­tions, char­ac­ters with secrets, plot twists, and cliffhang­ers go, he has hard­ly aban­doned his prin­ci­ples. His Mas­ter­class cov­ers all of those aspects in depth and more besides, from “The Anato­my of a Thriller” to “Cre­at­ing Heroes and Vil­lains” to “Cre­at­ing Sus­pense” to “Pro­tect­ing Your Process.” Brown also devotes two sec­tions to research, which he once called in a Goodreads ques­tion-and-answer ses­sion “the most over­looked facet of writ­ing a suc­cess­ful page turn­er.” If any liv­ing writer knows how to come up with a suc­cess­ful page turn­er, Brown does, and unlike in his nov­els them­selves, he cer­tain­ly does­n’t seem inclined to bury the secret under lay­ers of his­to­ry, sym­bol­ism, con­spir­a­cy, and mur­der. You can enroll in Brown’s new thriller-writ­ing class (which runs $90) here. You can also pay $180 to get an annu­al pass to all of Mas­ter­class’ cours­es.

FYI: If you sign up for a Mas­ter­Class course by click­ing on the affil­i­ate links in this post, Open Cul­ture will receive a small fee that helps sup­port our oper­a­tion.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

1,600 Occult Books Now Dig­i­tized & Put Online, Thanks to the Rit­man Library and Da Vin­ci Code Author Dan Brown

Mal­colm Glad­well Teach­ing His First Online Course: A Mas­ter Class on How to Turn Big Ideas into Pow­er­ful Sto­ries

Mar­garet Atwood Offers a New Online Class on Cre­ative Writ­ing

Judy Blume Now Teach­ing an Online Course on Writ­ing

Stephen King’s 20 Rules for Writ­ers

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Free: Download 15,000+ Free Golden Age Comics from the Digital Comic Museum

The Dig­i­tal Com­ic Muse­um offers free access to hun­dreds of pre-1959 com­ic books, uploaded by users who often offer his­tor­i­cal research and com­men­tary along­side high-qual­i­ty scans.

The site’s mod­er­a­tors and admin­is­tra­tors are par­tic­u­lar­ly care­ful to avoid post­ing non-pub­lic-domain comics (a com­pli­cat­ed des­ig­na­tion, as described in this forum thread). The result­ing archive is devoid of many famil­iar com­ic-book char­ac­ters, like those from Mar­vel, D.C., or Dis­ney.

On the oth­er hand, because of this restric­tion, the archive offers an inter­est­ing win­dow into the themes of less­er-known comics in the Gold­en Age—romance, West­erns, com­bat, crime, super­nat­ur­al and hor­ror. The cov­ers of the romance comics are great exam­ples of pop­u­lar art.

Inter­est­ed in under­stand­ing how home­front Amer­i­can cul­ture reflect­ed fight­ing in World War II and Korea, and the anx­i­eties of the Cold War? The archive is full of titles like “Fight­ing Yank”  (or “War­front”) that trade on true sto­ries of past com­bat and present-day engage­ments. Many, like these “Atom­ic Attack” books from the ear­ly 1950s, have a dis­tinc­tive Cold War fla­vor, with sci­ence-fic­tion­al imag­in­ings of futur­is­tic com­bat. (“See how the war of 1972 will be fought! The war that YOU, your­self, might have to take part in…”)

The muse­um holds some unex­pect­ed and for­got­ten titles, like the Mad Mag­a­zine knock-off “Eh.” Here you can see how look­ing at a com­ic that was­n’t suc­cess­ful enough to have a last­ing lega­cy (and, there­fore, a renewed copy­right) can be enlight­en­ing in and of itself. What sub­jects did “Eh” cov­er that Mad might have avoid­ed?

The DCM asks users to reg­is­ter and log in before down­load­ing com­ic files. Reg­is­tra­tion is free, and—for now—there’s no lim­it on the num­ber of titles you can down­load. You can enter the archive here.

When you’re there, make sure you vis­it the site’s ever-grow­ing col­lec­tion of those noto­ri­ous ‘Pre-Code’ Hor­ror comics of the 50s. Also see the Archives and Col­lec­tions area where artists of note have been giv­en their own indi­vid­ual spot­light.

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in March, 2013.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Com­ic Books Turn Kids Onto Physics: Start with the Adven­tures of Niko­la Tes­la

Read Mar­tin Luther King and The Mont­gomery Sto­ry: The Influ­en­tial 1957 Civ­il Rights Com­ic Book

The Pulp Fic­tion Archive: The Cheap, Thrilling Sto­ries That Enter­tained a Gen­er­a­tion of Read­ers (1896–1946) 

Rebec­ca Onion is a writer and aca­d­e­m­ic liv­ing in Philadel­phia. She runs’s his­to­ry blog, The Vault. Fol­low her on Twit­ter: @rebeccaonion.

The Psychedelic 1970s Animations of Keiichi Tanaami: A Music Video for John Lennon’s “Oh Yoko!,” Surreal Tributes to Elvis & Marilyn Monroe, and More

If you want to see the West as you’ve nev­er seen it before, go to Japan. Since the end of the Sec­ond World War, there have been few big West­ern phe­nom­e­na in which Japan­ese cre­ators have not tak­en an inter­est, then turned around and made their own. One of the most pow­er­ful imag­i­na­tions among those cre­ators belongs to Kei­ichi Tanaa­mi, who came of age sur­round­ed by the likes of Mick­ey Mouse and Elvis after doing much of his grow­ing up amid the chaos and dev­as­ta­tion of war. Born in 1936 and still active today, he’s pro­duced a body of work whose ear­li­est pieces go back to the 1950s, and even the vari­ety of media he’s used — illus­tra­tion, graph­ic design, paint­ings, comics, ani­ma­tion — can bare­ly con­tain his ever-expand­ing vision, a mix­ture of pop cul­ture and and sym­bol­ic iconog­ra­phy drawn from Amer­i­ca, Japan, and deep down in his own psy­che.

“A mag­a­zine that is packed to the brim with human inter­ests and desires bears a strong resem­blance to who I am as a per­son,” Tanaa­mi once wrote, a descrip­tion reflect­ed by his cur­rent work as well as that of pre­vi­ous eras. Take these short ani­mat­ed films, three of which come from the ear­ly 1970s — an aus­pi­cious time indeed for his brand of psy­che­delia to break through in the West.

In 1971’s Good-Bye Mar­i­lyn, Tanaa­mi pays trib­ute to per­haps the most icon­ic woman Amer­i­ca has ever pro­duced; that same year’s Good-Bye Elvis and USA draws its inspi­ra­tion from quite pos­si­bly Amer­i­ca’s most icon­ic man. Tana­mi makes use of the imagery of Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe and Elvis Pres­ley in a way no oth­er artist has, though he was hard­ly alone in his fas­ci­na­tion with the very fas­ci­na­tion those fig­ures com­mand­ed: Andy Warhol, for instance, also got artis­tic mileage out of them.

It was Warhol who showed Tanaa­mi how artists of their sen­si­bil­i­ty could make a career. Tanaa­mi first saw Warhol’s work on a trip to New York City in 1967. “Warhol was in the process of shift­ing from com­mer­cial illus­tra­tor to artist, and I both wit­nessed and expe­ri­enced first­hand his tac­tics, his method of inci­sion into the art world,” Tanaa­mi once recalled. “He used con­tem­po­rary icons as motifs in his works and for his oth­er activ­i­ties put togeth­er media such as films, news­pa­pers and rock bands.” In 1975, after becom­ing the first art direc­tor of the Japan­ese edi­tion of Play­boy, he returned to New York to vis­it the mag­a­zine’s head office and took a side trip to Warhol’s Fac­to­ry and took in what Warhol and his col­lab­o­ra­tors had been up to with exper­i­men­tal film. But Tanaa­mi had already been mak­ing seri­ous inroads into that field him­self, as evi­denced by the two afore­men­tioned shorts as well as his 1973 ani­ma­tion of John Lennon’s “Oh, Yoko!” — a kind of ear­ly music video — up top.

Few artists of any nation­al­i­ty have hybridized the thor­ough­ly com­mer­cial and the deeply per­son­al as Tanaa­mi, who got his start in adver­tis­ing and not long there­after was design­ing the cov­ers for Japan­ese edi­tions of albums by Jef­fer­son Air­plane and The Mon­kees. But as he also said in a recent Hype­beast inter­view, “a lot of my work is dri­ven by old mem­o­ries of the past, espe­cial­ly the fear that I felt as a child dur­ing the sev­er­al wars that took place. The fear I felt see­ing a per­son dying. But then there’s also the good feel­ings I have from play­ing as a child. I inte­grate all aspects of my mind and mem­o­ries into my work.” You can see oth­er exam­ples of it at Ubuweb, and Tanaami’s 2013 ani­ma­tion Adven­tures in Beau­ty Won­der­land above shows how that inte­gra­tion has con­tin­ued, tak­ing as it does just as much from tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese sym­bols and design motifs as it does from the work of Lewis Car­roll — a char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly thrilling and elab­o­rate aes­thet­ic jour­ney, all of it com­mis­sioned by the cos­met­ics com­pa­ny Sepho­ra.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch “The Mid­night Par­a­sites,” a Sur­re­al Japan­ese Ani­ma­tion Set in the World of Hierony­mus Bosch’s The Gar­den of Earth­ly Delights (1972)

Japan­ese Com­put­er Artist Makes “Dig­i­tal Mon­dri­ans” in 1964: When Giant Main­frame Com­put­ers Were First Used to Cre­ate Art

Japan­ese Priest Tries to Revive Bud­dhism by Bring­ing Tech­no Music into the Tem­ple: Attend a Psy­che­del­ic 23-Minute Ser­vice

Psy­che­del­ic Ani­ma­tion Takes You Inside the Mind of Stephen Hawk­ing

Watch HD Ver­sions of The Bea­t­les’ Pio­neer­ing Music Videos: “Hey Jude,” “Pen­ny Lane,” “Rev­o­lu­tion” & More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

These Four Manuscripts Contain All of the Literature Written in Old English–and Beyond That, There’s Nothing More

Book his­to­ri­ans and rare man­u­script librar­i­ans do not have the most glam­orous jobs by the usu­al stan­dards. They deal with weath­ered, tat­tered, frag­men­tary scraps of text in archa­ic lan­guages and let­ter­ing. It’s work unlike­ly to receive the Hol­ly­wood (or Net­flix) treat­ment unless wiz­ards, witch­es, or occult detec­tives are involved. But the rel­a­tive obscu­ri­ty of these pro­fes­sions does not make the work any less valu­able. With­out ded­i­cat­ed archivists and preser­va­tion­ists, a slow col­lec­tive amne­sia, or worse, can set in.

One might call this atti­tude pre­cious. Spe­cial­ists are use­ful, art is great, but with sophis­ti­cat­ed machine learn­ing, we can make, store, and print copies of every his­tor­i­cal arti­fact in the world, along with all of the accu­mu­lat­ed knowl­edge about them. What need to dote on crum­bling man­u­scripts? Why the spe­cial sta­tus of the orig­i­nal? The ques­tion, tak­en up by Wal­ter Ben­jamin in his 1936 essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechan­i­cal Repro­duc­tion,” comes down in part to some­thing he called “aura.”

Take the case of four man­u­scripts, all of which recent­ly appeared togeth­er at the British Library’s exten­sive exhi­bi­tion Anglo-Sax­on King­doms: Art, Word, War: The Ver­cel­li Book, the Junius Man­u­script, the Exeter Book, and the Beowulf Man­u­script con­tain rid­dles, reli­gious texts, ele­gies, and the old­est man­u­script of the old­est known poem in Eng­lish. These rep­re­sent the sum total of extant orig­i­nal lit­er­ary man­u­scripts in Old Eng­lish, a tongue sev­er­al cen­turies dis­tant from our own but still embed­ded deep with­in the struc­ture of every mod­ern ver­sion of the lan­guage.

Each man­u­script has what, as Ben­jamin wrote, “even the most per­fect repro­duc­tion of a work of art is lack­ing… its pres­ence in time and space, its unique exis­tence at the place where it hap­pens to be.” Josephine Liv­ing­stone puts the mat­ter more plain­ly at The New Repub­lic.

Why are these four books so spe­cial? It has to do, I think, with the con­cept of the original—a con­cept we have almost entire­ly lost touch with. The Beowulf Man­u­script… is not mere­ly a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of a sto­ry; it is the sto­ry…. The man­u­scripts con­front us with a for­mer ver­sion of our lit­er­ary selves; iden­ti­ties that we bare­ly rec­og­nize, and which estrange us from our­selves.

We can repro­duce his­to­ry infi­nite­ly, but the only way to expe­ri­ence the hum­bling oth­er­world­li­ness that dwarfs our cramped ideas about it is through its phys­i­cal remain­ders. Liv­ing­stone doesn’t clar­i­fy whom she includes in the phrase “our lit­er­ary selves,” but we might as well say, at min­i­mum, this means every speak­er of Eng­lish and every­one who has read Eng­lish lit­er­a­ture in trans­la­tion or felt the influ­ence of Eng­lish words and phras­es in oth­er lan­guages.

We acquire the lan­guage we hear and read from lit­er­ary sources, how­ev­er remote; they are con­sti­tu­tive, the threads that weave togeth­er cul­tur­al nar­ra­tives into a larg­er pat­tern. The orig­i­nal work of art, Ben­jamin argued, like the rel­ic, has reli­gious sig­nif­i­cance. And where the rel­ic grounds the cult, art grounds mate­r­i­al cul­ture in such a way, he thought, that it repels fas­cis­m’s aes­thet­ic obses­sion with destruc­tion.

Orig­i­nal arti­facts “must restore the instinc­tu­al pow­er of the human bod­i­ly sens­es,” lit­er­ary schol­ar Susan Buck-Morss elab­o­rates, “for the sake of humanity’s self-preser­va­tion.” The state­ment may sound less grandiose in the con­text of Europe in 1936, or we might con­sid­er it just as rel­e­vant today (and expand it to include not only art but nature).

We can rely on the fact that, should the Beowulf Man­u­script be destroyed, Liv­ing­stone grants, “the poem would still sur­vive,” as would the image of the man­u­script in very fine detail. That is “the hope con­tained in Benjamin’s dirge.” But what is lost can nev­er appear in the world again. You can view most of these rare texts—The Ver­cel­li Book, the Junius Man­u­script, and the Beowulf Manuscript—in high res­o­lu­tion scans at the British and Bodleian Libraries.

The texts are a minus­cule sam­pling of the num­ber of cul­tur­al arti­facts around the world wor­thy of preser­va­tion, and pub­lic­i­ty. And they are a tiny sam­pling of the lit­er­ary pro­duc­tion of Old Eng­lish. But on them rests a great deal of our under­stand­ing about the lin­guis­tic ances­tors of the lan­guage, with more to learn, per­haps, as scan­ning tech­nol­o­gy becomes even more advanced, illu­mi­nat­ing rather than replac­ing the orig­i­nal.

via The New Repub­lic

Relat­ed Con­tent:

1,000-Year-Old Man­u­script of Beowulf Dig­i­tized and Now Online

Europe’s Old­est Intact Book Was Pre­served and Found in the Cof­fin of a Saint

One of the Best Pre­served Ancient Man­u­scripts of The Ili­ad Is Now Dig­i­tized: See the “Bankes Homer” Man­u­script in High Res­o­lu­tion (Cir­ca 150 C.E.)

Wikipedia Leads Effort to Cre­ate a Dig­i­tal Archive of 20 Mil­lion Arti­facts Lost in the Brazil­ian Muse­um Fire

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Classic Radiohead Songs Re-Imagined as a Sci-Fi Book, Pulp Fiction Magazine & Other Nostalgic Artifacts

When we first checked in with artist and screen­writer Todd Alcott, he was immor­tal­iz­ing the work of stars who hit their stride in the 70s and 80s, as high­ly con­vinc­ing pulp nov­el and mag­a­zine cov­ers inspired by their most famous songs and lyrics. David Bowie’s “Young Amer­i­cans” yields an East of Eden-like blonde cou­ple reclin­ing in the grass. Talk­ing Heads’ “Life Dur­ing Wartime” becomes an erot­i­cal­ly vio­lent, or vio­lent­ly erot­ic, mag­a­zine that ain’t fool­ing around.

Next, we took a look at Alcott’s series of pulp cov­ers drawn from the work of Mr. Bob Dylan, bona fide god­fa­ther of clas­sic rock, a peri­od that gets a lion’s share of cov­ers in Alcott’s imag­i­na­tive Etsy rack, along­side oth­er new wave and punk bands like The Clash, The Smiths, and Joy Divi­sion. Look­ing at these devot­ed trib­utes to musi­cal giants of yore, ren­dered in ador­ing trib­utes to an even ear­li­er era’s aes­thet­ic, pro­duces the kind of “of course!” reac­tion that makes Alcott’s work so enjoy­able.

After all, pulp mag­a­zines and books are per­haps as respon­si­ble for the coun­ter­cul­ture as LSD, with their proud­ly sexy pos­es, over­heat­ed teen fan­tasies, and bondage gear. (Prince gets his own series, a true joy.) But Alcott has moved on to a crop of artists who first appeared in the 90s class of alter­na­tive bands—from PJ Har­vey, to Fiona Apple, to Nir­vana, to Neu­tral Milk Hotel, to, as you can see here, Radio­head, the most long-lived and inno­v­a­tive stars of the era.

How well does Alcot­t’s approach work with artists who hit the scene when pulp fic­tion turned into Pulp Fic­tion, appro­pri­at­ed in a wink­ing, exple­tive-filled splat­ter-fest that didn’t, tech­ni­cal­ly, require its audi­ence to know any­thing about pulp fic­tion? You’ll notice that Alcott has tak­en a nov­el approach to the con­cept in many cas­es (reimag­in­ing PJ Harvey’s “This is Love!” as a 50s grind­house flick, anoth­er genre that has been heav­i­ly Taran­ti­no-ized).

He con­verts Radiohead’s “Kid A” into that most trea­sured pub­li­ca­tion for futon-surf­ing hip­sters cir­ca 2000, the IKEA cat­a­log. “Video­tape” man­i­fests in lit­er­al fash­ion as one of the oughties’ many objects of con­sumer elec­tron­ics nos­tal­gia, the 120-minute VHS. And “Myx­o­mato­sis,” from 2003’s Hail to the Thief, appears as a 1970s cat book, an arti­fact many Radio­head fans at the turn of the mil­len­ni­um might trea­sure as both an iron­ic Tum­blr goof and a poignant reminder of child­hood.

The Radio­head series does not ful­ly aban­don the pulp look—“Karma Police,” for exam­ple, gets the detec­tive mag­a­zine treat­ment. But it does lean more heav­i­ly on lat­er-20th cen­tu­ry pro­duc­tions, like the 70s sci-fi cov­er of “Para­noid Android,” clear­ly inspired by Michael Crichton’s West­world. Moon-Shaped Pool’s “Burn the Witch,” on the oth­er hand, looks like a clas­sic 50s Ham­mer Hor­ror poster, but with a nod to Robin Hardy’s 1973 Wick­er Man. (Both Crich­ton and Hardy have like­wise been re-imag­ined for audi­ences who may nev­er have seen the orig­i­nals.)

Per­haps the least inter­est­ing of Alcott’s riffs on the Radio­head cat­a­log, “Jig­saw Falling into Place,” goes right for the obvi­ous, though its idyl­lic, Bob Ross-like scene strikes a dis­so­nant chord in illus­trat­ing a song that ref­er­ences closed cir­cuit cam­eras and sawn-off shot­guns. Speak­ing of obvi­ous, maybe it seemed too on the nose to turn “Creep” into creepy pulp erot­i­ca. Still, I won­der how Alcott resist­ed. View and pur­chase in hand­made print form all of Alcott’s songs-as-book cov­ers, etc. at Etsy.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Songs by David Bowie, Elvis Costel­lo, Talk­ing Heads & More Re-Imag­ined as Pulp Fic­tion Book Cov­ers

Clas­sic Songs by Bob Dylan Re-Imag­ined as Pulp Fic­tion Book Cov­ers: “Like a Rolling Stone,” “A Hard Rain’s A‑Gonna Fall” & More

7 Rock Album Cov­ers Designed by Icon­ic Artists: Warhol, Rauschen­berg, Dalí, Richter, Map­plethor­pe & More

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Download 586 Free Art Books from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Met 1

You could pay $118 on Ama­zon for the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art’s cat­a­log The Art of Illu­mi­na­tion: The Lim­bourg Broth­ers and the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry. Or you could pay $0 to down­load it at Met­Pub­li­ca­tions, the site offer­ing “five decades of Met Muse­um pub­li­ca­tions on art his­to­ry avail­able to read, down­load, and/or search for free.”

If that strikes you as an obvi­ous choice, pre­pare to spend some seri­ous time brows­ing Met­Pub­li­ca­tions’ col­lec­tion of free art books and cat­a­logs.

You may remem­ber that we fea­tured the site a few years ago, back when it offered 397 whole books free for the read­ing, includ­ing Amer­i­can Impres­sion­ism and Real­ism: The Paint­ing of Mod­ern Life, 1885–1915; Leonar­do da Vin­ci: Anatom­i­cal Draw­ings from the Roy­al Library; and Wis­dom Embod­ied: Chi­nese Bud­dhist and Daoist Sculp­ture in The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art

But the Met has kept adding to their dig­i­tal trove since then, and, as a result, you can now find there no few­er than 586 art cat­a­logs and oth­er books besides. Those sit along­side the 400,000 free art images the muse­um put online last year.

met museum free art books

So have a look at Met­Pub­li­ca­tions’ cur­rent col­lec­tion and you’ll find you now have unlim­it­ed access to such lush as well as artis­ti­cal­ly, cul­tur­al­ly, and his­tor­i­cal­ly var­ied vol­umes as African IvoriesChess: East and West, Past and PresentMod­ern Design in The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art, 1890–1990; Vin­cent Van Gogh: The Draw­ings; French Art Deco; or even a guide to the muse­um itself (vin­tage 1972).

Since I haven’t yet turned to art col­lec­tion — I sup­pose you need mon­ey for that — these books don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly make me cov­et the vast sweep of art­works they depict and con­tex­tu­al­ize. But they do make me wish for some­thing even less prob­a­ble: a time machine so I could go back and see all these exhibits first­hand.

Note: This is an updat­ed ver­sion of a post that orig­i­nal­ly appeared on our site in March 2015.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

1.8 Mil­lion Free Works of Art from World-Class Muse­ums: A Meta List of Great Art Avail­able Online

Down­load Over 250 Free Art Books From the Get­ty Muse­um

2,000+ Archi­tec­ture & Art Books You Can Read Free at the Inter­net Archive

The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art Puts 400,000 High-Res Images Online & Makes Them Free to Use

The Guggen­heim Puts 109 Free Mod­ern Art Books Online

800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kin­dle & Oth­er Devices

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Hear the Sounds of World War I: A Gas Attack Recorded on the Front Line, and the Moment the Armistice Ended the War

The world recent­ly com­mem­o­rat­ed the 100th anniver­sary of end of World War I, which came to its close on Novem­ber 11th, 1918. The last vet­er­ans of that unprece­dent­ed­ly large-scale mil­i­tary con­flict, all of them cen­te­nar­i­ans or super­cente­nar­i­ans, died in the late 2000s and ear­ly 2010s. Though his­tor­i­cal schol­ar­ship on the sub­ject con­tin­ues, the Great War, as it was wide­ly known at the time, has now well and tru­ly passed out of liv­ing mem­o­ry. No one alive saw World War I for them­selves, though we do have pho­tographs, some of them in col­or; and no one alive heard World War I for them­selves, though we do have a lit­tle record­ed audio: in the clip above, you can hear the sounds of a gas shell bom­bard­ment in the war’s final year.

“Just before the end of the Great War, William Gais­berg, a sound recordist of the pre-elec­tric era, took record­ing equip­ment to the West­ern Front in order to cap­ture the sound of British artillery shelling Ger­man lines with poi­son gas,” writes media his­to­ri­an Bri­an Han­ra­han at Sound­ing Out!. The “Gas Shell Bom­bard­ment” record, “a 12-inch HMV shel­lac disc, just over 2 min­utes at 78 rpm,” came out just as the war end­ed, a few weeks after Gais­berg’s own death (prob­a­bly of Span­ish flu) and just after the end of the war itself. “Ini­tial­ly intend­ed to pro­mote War Bonds,” Han­ra­han explains, ulti­mate­ly the record was used to raise mon­ey for dis­abled vet­er­ans.”

Long billed as one of the first “actu­al­i­ty record­ings” (the kind “doc­u­ment­ing a real loca­tion and event beyond the per­for­ma­tive space of the stu­dio, imprint­ed with the audi­ble mate­r­i­al trace of an actu­al moment in space and time”), the record lat­er came under scruti­ny, which Han­ra­han writes about in detail: “Close lis­ten­ing at slow speeds – just care­ful atten­tion and nota­tion, noth­ing more elab­o­rate – revealed incon­sis­ten­cies and odd­i­ties in the fir­ing nois­es.” These and oth­er qual­i­ties sug­gest lay­ers of sound added after the fact, on top of the ini­tial record­ing in the field, much like live con­cert record­ings now get “sweet­ened” with addi­tion­al lay­ers of instru­men­ta­tion (and even audi­ence enthu­si­asm).

But we can hard­ly expect per­fect fideli­ty from audio record­ings of the events of a cen­tu­ry ago, a time when audio record­ing itself was still in its infan­cy. You can hear anoth­er approach to the task of hear­ing World War I in the clip just above, an “inter­pre­ta­tion” of the sound of the armistice caus­ing the guns to fall silent. This real­is­tic minute of sound was based on sound infor­ma­tion col­lect­ed in the field, using a tech­nique called “sound rang­ing” in which, as Smith­son­ian’s Jason Daley explains, “tech­ni­cians set up strings of micro­phones — actu­al­ly bar­rels of oil dug into the ground — a cer­tain dis­tance apart, then used a piece of pho­to­graph­ic film to visu­al­ly record noise inten­si­ty,” much as “a seis­mome­ter records an earth­quake.”

As part of its com­mem­o­ra­tion of the armistice’s cen­ten­ni­al, London’s Impe­r­i­al War Muse­um “com­mis­sioned the sound pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny Coda to Coda to use the film strip of the guns fir­ing away at 10:58 A.M. on Novem­ber 11, 1918, then going silent when the clock strikes 11, the sym­bol­ic moment politi­cians deter­mined the war would end, to try and recre­ate what that instant may have sound­ed like.” Though you can hear the result on the inter­net, you can also go to the Impe­r­i­al War Muse­um exhi­bi­tion Mak­ing a New World in per­son and more intense­ly expe­ri­ence it through the “sound­bar” installed there, on which “vis­i­tors to the exhib­it lean their elbows on the bar and place their hands on their ears. The sound is then con­duct­ed through their arms to their skulls where they can both hear and feel the moment,” the moment that birthed that “New World” — in not just the polit­i­cal sense but the tech­no­log­i­cal one, and many oth­ers besides — in which we still live today.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Peter Jackson’s New Film on World War I Fea­tures Incred­i­ble Dig­i­tal­ly-Restored Footage From the Front Lines: Get a Glimpse

Watch World War I Unfold in a 6 Minute Time-Lapse Film: Every Day From 1914 to 1918

The Great War: Video Series Will Doc­u­ment How WWI Unfold­ed, Week-by-Week, for the Next 4 Years

The First Col­or Pho­tos From World War I: The Ger­man Front

British Actors Read Poignant Poet­ry from World War I

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Watch “The Midnight Parasites,” a Surreal Japanese Animation Set in the World of Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights (1972)

Hierony­mus Bosch’s bizarre paint­ings might have looked per­fect­ly ordi­nary to his con­tem­po­raries, argues Stan­ley Meisler in “The World of Bosch.” Mod­ern view­ers may find this very hard to believe. We approach Bosch through lay­ers of Freudi­an inter­pre­ta­tion and Sur­re­al­ist appre­ci­a­tion. We can­not help “regard­ing the scores of bizarre monsters”—allegories for sins and pun­ish­ments far more leg­i­ble in 15th-cen­tu­ry Netherlands—“as a kind of dark and cru­el com­ic relief.”

While Bosch might have intend­ed his work as seri­ous ser­mo­niz­ing, it is impos­si­ble for us to inhab­it the medieval con­scious­ness of his time and place. There’s just no get­ting around the fact that Bosch is real­ly weird—weird­er even (or more imag­i­na­tive­ly alle­gor­i­cal) than near­ly any oth­er artist of his time. In some very impor­tant ways, he belongs to a 20th-cen­tu­ry aes­thet­ic of post-Freudi­an dream log­ic as much as he belonged to pecu­liar medieval visions of heav­en and hell.

Bosch “described ter­ri­ble, unbear­able holo­causts crush­ing mankind for its sins,” writes Meisler, visions that seemed both stranger and more famil­iar in the wake of so many man-made holo­causts whose absur­di­ties defy rea­son. What mod­ern hor­rors does famed Japan­ese ani­ma­tor Yōji Kuri invoke in his psy­che­del­ic 1972 film “The Mid­night Par­a­sites,” above, a sur­re­al­ist short set in the world of Bosch?

Dan­ger­ous Minds’ Paul Gal­lagher describes the plot, such as it is:

Here Kuri imag­ines what would life might be like if we all lived in Bosch’s paint­ing “Gar­den of Earth­ly Delights.” It’s a basi­cal­ly shit and death or rather a cycle of life where blue fig­ures live and die; eat shit and shit gold; are skew­ered, and devoured; are regur­gi­tat­ed and reborn to car­ry on the cycle once again.

Kuri’s satir­i­cal vision, in films long favored by counter-cul­tur­al audi­ences, has “bite,” writes Ani­ma­tion World Network’s Chris Robin­son: “he helped lift Japan­ese ani­ma­tion out of decades of cozy nar­ra­tive car­toons into a new era of graph­ic and con­cep­tu­al exper­i­men­ta­tion. His films mock and shock, attack­ing tech­nol­o­gy, pop­u­la­tion expan­sion, monot­o­ny of mod­ern soci­ety… Wit­ness­ing the sur­ren­der of Japan dur­ing WW2, the dev­as­ta­tion of his coun­try fol­lowed by the quick rise of West­ern inspired mate­ri­al­ist cul­ture and ram­pant con­sump­tion, Kuri, like many of his col­leagues at the time, ques­tioned the state and direc­tion of his soci­ety and world.”

His cre­ative appro­pri­a­tion of Bosch, “dark, dirty, odd­ly beau­ti­ful, with a groovy sound­track,” Gal­lagher writes, may not, as Meisler wor­ries of many mod­ern takes, get Bosch wrong at all. Though the Dutch artist’s sym­bol­ism may nev­er be comprehensible—or any­thing less than hallucinatory—to us mod­erns, Kuri’s half-play­ful reimag­in­ing uses Boschi­an fig­ures for some seri­ous mor­al­iz­ing, show­ing us a hell world gov­erned by grave laps­es and cru­el­ties Bosch could nev­er have imag­ined.

via Dan­ger­ous Minds

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Fig­ures from Hierony­mus Bosch’s “The Gar­den of Earth­ly Delights” Come to Life as Fine Art Piñatas

Hierony­mus Bosch Fig­urines: Col­lect Sur­re­al Char­ac­ters from Bosch’s Paint­ings & Put Them on Your Book­shelf

Take a Vir­tu­al Tour of Hierony­mus Bosch’s Bewil­der­ing Mas­ter­piece The Gar­den of Earth­ly Delights

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

« Go BackMore in this category... »
Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.