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Alvin Langdon Coburn / New York Public Library via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Alvin Langdon Coburn / New York Public Library via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

One of the World’s First Audio Books Discovered in Canada

Alvin Langdon Coburn / New York Public Library via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Alvin Langdon Coburn / New York Public Library via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

A recording of one of the world’s earliest audiobooks has been discovered by a collector in Canada, according to the Los Angeles Times. The 1935 recording of an audio version of the novella “Typhoon” by Joseph Conrad was the world’s first audiobook of a long literary work, though a Bible recording and one of an Agatha Christie mystery novel had already been released.

Conrad's “Typhoon,” released in 1902 (he's pictured in 1915 in the image above), was part of the first wave of audiobooks, then designed for blind literature fans rather than today’s road trippers. Before that time, audio recordings of literature was mostly limited to short works like poetry. The four LPs of the book were discovered by a Canadian collector who contacted a teacher at Queen Mary University of London, Matthew Rubery, whose book The Untold Story of the Talking Book was just released.

The UK’s Royal National Institute of Blind People started making its “Talking Books” in 1935 as a service to blind veterans of World War I. The institution already produced braille books, started a braille magazine in 1871—it’s still published today—and created an Arabic braille code and a dictionary of braille contractions over the subsequent few decades. Though the organization now has digital downloads of books, it’s extremely rare to find one of the original vinyl recordings.

[h/t Los Angeles Times]

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A Limited Edition, Handwritten Manuscript of The Great Gatsby Can Be Yours for $249
SP Books
SP Books

Fans of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby need to put this on their holiday wish list: The French manuscript publisher SP Books is releasing a deluxe, limited-edition version of Fitzgerald’s handwritten Gatsby manuscript.

A handwritten manuscript of 'The Great Gatsby' open to a page
SP Books

The 328-page, large-format edition is cloth-bound and features an ornamental, iron-gilded cover. The facsimile of Fitzgerald’s original manuscript shows how the author reworked, rewrote, and otherwise altered the book throughout his writing process, changing character’s names (Nick was named “Dud” at one point), cutting down scenes, and moving around where certain information was introduced to the plot, like where the reader finds out how Gatsby became wealthy, which in the original manuscript wasn’t revealed until the end of the book. For Fitzgerald superfans, it's also signed.

A page of the handwritten manuscript with a pen on it
SP Books

The publisher is only selling 1800 copies of the manuscript, so if you’re a lover of literary history, you’d better act fast.

It’s available from SP Books for $249.

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Pop Culture
An AI Program Wrote Harry Potter Fan Fiction—and the Results Are Hilarious
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

“The castle ground snarled with a wave of magically magnified wind.”

So begins the 13th chapter of the latest Harry Potter installment, a text called Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash. OK, so it’s not a J.K. Rowling original—it was written by artificial intelligence. As The Verge explains, the computer-science whizzes at Botnik Studios created this three-page work of fan fiction after training an algorithm on the text of all seven Harry Potter books.

The short chapter was made with the help of a predictive text algorithm designed to churn out phrases similar in style and content to what you’d find in one of the Harry Potter novels it "read." The story isn’t totally nonsensical, though. Twenty human editors chose which AI-generated suggestions to put into the chapter, wrangling the predictive text into a linear(ish) tale.

While magnified wind doesn’t seem so crazy for the Harry Potter universe, the text immediately takes a turn for the absurd after that first sentence. Ron starts doing a “frenzied tap dance,” and then he eats Hermione’s family. And that’s just on the first page. Harry and his friends spy on Death Eaters and tussle with Voldemort—all very spot-on Rowling plot points—but then Harry dips Hermione in hot sauce, and “several long pumpkins” fall out of Professor McGonagall.

Some parts are far more simplistic than Rowling would write them, but aren’t exactly wrong with regards to the Harry Potter universe. Like: “Magic: it was something Harry Potter thought was very good.” Indeed he does!

It ends with another bit of prose that’s not exactly Rowling’s style, but it’s certainly an accurate analysis of the main current that runs throughout all the Harry Potter books. It reads: “‘I’m Harry Potter,’ Harry began yelling. ‘The dark arts better be worried, oh boy!’”

Harry Potter isn’t the only work of fiction that Jamie Brew—a former head writer for ClickHole and the creator of Botnik’s predictive keyboard—and other Botnik writers have turned their attention to. Botnik has previously created AI-generated scripts for TV shows like The X-Files and Scrubs, among other ridiculous machine-written parodies.

To delve into all the magical fiction that Botnik users have dreamed up, follow the studio on Twitter.

[h/t The Verge]

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