Wednesday, November 30, 2011
From the Beinecke Library. Read it, here.
From the site...http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif
Written in Central Europe at the end of the 15th or during the 16th century, the origin, language, and date of the Voynich Manuscript—named after the Polish-American antiquarian bookseller, Wilfrid M. Voynich, who acquired it in 1912—are still being debated as vigorously as its puzzling drawings and undeciphered text. Described as a magical or scientific text, nearly every page contains botanical, figurative, and scientific drawings of a provincial but lively character, drawn in ink with vibrant washes in various shades of green, brown, yellow, blue, and red.
Oh, by the way, the mystery of the writing has been solved. So says Fox News, here.
Pat McInally has a collection. A big one. One worth thousands upon thousands of dollars. He's putting it up for auction.
From a story in the Telegraph...
It is an unlikely place to find a man who has devoted the past two decades of his life to building one of the finest stockpiles of children’s literature and related memorabilia in the world. On Wednesday, McInally’s Winnie-the-Pooh collection - a treasure trove of pristine first-edition copies of AA Milne’s books, original drawings, manuscripts, letters and photographs valued at about £2 million - will be exhibited and put on sale at the London bookshop of Pom Harrington, the dealer through whom McInally purchased much of it.
There is no such thing as a typical collector, but if there is an atypical collector, McInally is surely it. A celebrated former American football player and a proud, God-fearing Republican, he has an American flag flying outside his house. Now 58, he is 6ft 7in and retains the broad shoulders and imposing presence of his football days. Latterly his main pursuit is coaching a high school team.
McInally has put virtually his entire collection up for sale, but there are a couple of pieces he simply cannot part with. One is a photograph of Milne’s son – Christopher Robin himself – sitting in a tree with Pooh Bear. It is signed by the child. “It’s Christopher Robin, in 1926, when he was six years old, playing with Winnie-the-Pooh, in a tree!” McInally exclaims, struggling to contain his excitement. “You could not make that up!”
You need ANOTHER reason to keep libraries around? How about the fact that they're arts incubators.
From a story in Good Magazine...
The Library as Incubator Project was founded by University of Wisconsin library science students Christina Endres, Erin Batykefer, and Laura Damon-Moore, whose studies led them to understand the significant but often unsung role that libraries play in the lives of artists and writers as sources of inspiration and creative refuges. “The project is about connecting libraries and artists of all kinds: visual artists, performing artists, writers—anybody who uses the libraries in their community,” says Batykefer. “It’s not only to make known that artists and art organizations can use libraries as resources, but highlight the ways which libraries contribute to communities all the time. “ The LIP’s site, which officially launched last month, features the work of artists who have relied on the support of libraries during their careers, as well as libraries that have supported the arts through unique collections or initiatives, like those hosting communal “write-ins” for November’s National Novel Writing Month.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Some literary humor, care of McSweeney's.
From the piece...
“I ate a sandwich and looked out the window.”
“I placed the allotted nutrition capsules on my tongue bed and looked to the Nahin VI-8373 space podhole.”
“My dragon, Ralfarus, and I, Genflowfla’ii, choked down the hardened cheese curd and two-part-moons-old bread as we peered out of the meeting cavern.”
Despite such a rich literary heritage, novels — both by Catholics and non-Catholics — grappling with what used to be called “the drama of salvation” are no longer just rare, but almost unthinkable nowadays.
From a piece on the Millions...
Percy, whose novel The Moviegoer won the 1962 National Book Award, in a way articulated a Catholic artistic vision when he described his pursuit of “…A theory of man, man as more than organism, more than consumer – man the wayfarer, man the pilgrim, man in transit, on a journey.”
Yet despite such a rich Catholic literary heritage with many contemporary admirers — one can’t help thinking of how passionately the MFA/Creative Writing/Workshop establishment venerates the stories of Flannery O’Connor — there has not been a new generation of Catholic writers to take up Percy’s vision, one where their inherent “otherness” is not edged to the margins, but is at the very heart of their craft.
The obvious reason for this literary vacuum is that the Christian faith, and the Catholic Church in particular, have been in full-cultural retreat since the 1960s. In the wake of the sexual revolution and the women’s movement, many Catholics left the Church over its opposition to abortion, artificial contraception, and the ordination of women, to name just a few hot-button topics. And then, beginning in the late 1990s, a wave of priest sex-abuse crimes came to light that have scandalized untold numbers of Catholics.
Yet there was another revolution in the 1960s — an internal Catholic one — that was in many ways as profound as the one taking place in the streets of Paris, New York, and London. It was a liturgical revolution, and it impacted each and every Catholic at that most fundamental unit of faith — Sunday morning Mass.
Monday, November 28, 2011
The list, care of University Reviews Online.
From the piece...
5. You fight to diversify the literary canon.
Great writing can come from anyone, anywhere. And a true bibliophile knows that the real literary canon is made up of far more than just a bunch of dead, high strung white guys. Oh, they contributed alright! But they are not the entirety.
6. You often find yourself wondering about whatever happened to Zadie Smith.
She’s still around, just not as prolific as the literati would like. Being a parent does that sometimes.
7. You have a little vein in your forehead that throbs whenever you hear about sparkly vampires.
If Sheridan Le Fanu and Bram Stoker came back to life and found out what became of their genuinely horrifying creations, they would probably crawl back into their graves and beg for the swift, cold mercy of death once more.
8. You laughed at the Thomas Pynchon episode of The Simpsons.
Because you got the jokes, of course. Not because you were pretending to get the jokes just to seem all intellectual.
9. Your loved ones tire of you spouting clichéd “The book was better” diatribes.
But you know better. Yes, yes you do. It’s not your fault the philistines haven’t picked up a work of fine literature since the Carter administration!
So is yoga.
From a piece on the Telegraph...
Father Gabriele Amorth, who for years was the Vatican’s chief exorcist and claims to have cleansed hundreds of people of evil spirits, said yoga is Satanic because it leads to a worship of Hinduism and “all eastern religions are based on a false belief in reincarnation”.
Reading JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books is no less dangerous, said the 86-year-old priest, who is the honorary president for life of the International Association of Exorcists, which he founded in 1990, and whose favourite film is the 1973 horror classic, The Exorcist.
The Harry Potter books, which have sold millions of copies worldwide, “seem innocuous” but in fact encourage children to believe in black magic and wizardry, Father Amorth said.
Robot 6 discusses the works and importance of comic book artist Grant Morrison.
From the piece...
Why he’s important
If nothing else, Grant Morrison is a writer with a definitive vision. A big believer in the power of the superhero genre to inspire hope and change, his stories often — despite his considerable ability to frighten and disturb – are optimistic affairs, suggesting that even in one’s darkest moments, things are never as bad as they seem. That he can frequently pull this type of sincere optimism without seeming saccharine or winsome is a testament to his skill as a writer.
Morrison is not always an easy writer to read. He’ll frequently break the fourth wall, indulge in non-linear storytelling or throw out obscure references. He expects his readers to meet him halfway and often a bit of work is required to suss out exactly how everyone moved from plot point A to B. Usually this type of effort is rewarded, however, as at his best his writing blends surreal, dense and sometimes elliptical storytelling with a fondness for humanity and a yen for crafting likable, fully rounded characters.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Arthur Phillips, for the New York Times, takes a look at a few new books on Hemingway.
From the article...
This abiding interest in the man, as opposed to his books, has three causes: the undeniably adventurous and outsize details of his tragic life; his intentional cultivation of celebrity (and the resulting mountain of documentary records); and the fact that he wrote fiction so closely tied to the actual places, people and details of his life. We feel we know him because we have read his stories of protagonists very much like him doing things he actually did in places he really lived with characters very much like his family and friends.
This is unfortunate, though, because it kills — or at least weakens — the power of his fiction, limits how we think of it. We start to read it small, view it as merely well-pruned memoir. It becomes an illustration of his life (“Oh, that character’s really his first wife”), when of course the best of his fiction is unique because it is not just one man’s story. It is great art because of its range of possible meanings and effects. His finest fiction is vast, universal, open to interpretation, changeable and debatable, intentionally opaque, impersonal. It is ours, not his.
Three recent books in that tide of Hemingway iconography present different glimpses of him, and imply different relationships between his life and his art.
The Wall Street Journal travels to literary hotels, here.
From the piece...
Sheer Poetry in Miami
Literature isn't the first thing that comes to mind when you think South Beach. But at the Betsy hotel, guests can expect poetry readings, as well as art openings and concerts. The owner's father was poet Hyam Plutzik, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and bookmarks embedded with flower seeds and inscribed with lines of his poetry are left on pillows at turndown. The Betsy has beach reading covered, too: Every room has a selection of books, and the on-site bookstore sells works by the likes of Malcolm Gladwell and Rick Moody. From $325 per night, 1440 Ocean Dr.; thebetsyhotel.com
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Jack Kerouac's first ever novel, which was thought to be lost, has been published 40 years after his death.
From a piece on BBC...
It features correspondence with his best friend Sebastian Sampas and recalls his "life and experiences" at sea, says the book's editor Dawn Ward.
"This book is really quite important as it shows how Jack developed his writing process," she says.
"The letters that support this period, show that he and Sebastian were reading very important writers and playwrights of the time. They were paying attention to changes in literature styles and autobiographical works."
Ms Ward says the work is especially poignant as he "opens up and shows a side to him that we don't normally see in his books."
The manuscript, which was was discovered in the writer's archive by his brother-in-law, came as a surprise to Kerouac experts, Ms Ward says.
"It was referred to briefly in letters, but nothing that led anyone to believe that there was this really large volume."
That's what Novel-T did.
From the post...
Moby Dick – Leviathan Series Stout from Harpoon Brewery – deep, dark, and bold…call me Ishm-Ale.
The Encyclopedia of Herbs – Saison du Buff – a collaboration between Dogfish Head, Victory, and Stone breweries that is made with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
The Book of Genesis as illustrated by R. Crumb – A little more off-centered than the King James version – R. Crumb’s illustrations bring the good book to life – I recommend pairing this with a vintage Sierra Nevada Bigfoot barley – I like to think Jesus actually turned water into BARLEY wine.
Lolita – a Belgian White Beer or German hefe - something enjoyed really young and fresh by the half-gallon jug from your most local brewpub. “Oh Wheat beer, light of my life, fire of my loins.”
Friday, November 25, 2011
Thursday, November 24, 2011
AbeBooks revels in them.
From a piece on their site...
Amazing Stories Magazine (also sometimes known as Amazing Science Fiction Magazine) was an American science fiction pulp magazine which ran monthly - if occasionally intermittently - from its inception for almost 80 years. Brought to life in April 1926 by Hugo Gernsback, an American (originally from Luxembourg) inventor and writer, Amazing Stories was the first magazine dedicated exclusively to science fiction. Gernsback’s contributions to the genre were so extensive that he was honored by having a literary prize named for him – the Hugo Awards, still selected every year.
Nowadays Amazing Stories is well-known for its colorful, often kitschy covers featuring everything from little green men and alien spacecraft to berserk robots and gargantuan oversized lizards and beyond. And naturally, a healthy dose of voluptuous vixens ranging from villainous to vulnerable.
From early on, Amazing Stories was not without problems – it first changed hands in 1929 when Gernsback lost rights to the magazine after a bankruptcy lawsuit. The publication went through 17 editors and changed hands numerous times during its run, finally being bought by Paizo Publishing in 2004.
What are the worst sex scenes in literature in the past year? That's what the U.K.'s Literary Review wants to unzip.
From a piece in the Huffington Post...
Nominated authors for the 19th annual award, which celebrates the most embarrassing passage describing sex in a novel - not including porn or erotica - include luminaries such as Stephen King, Haruki Murakami and James Frey.
"In a year in which literary awards have come under fire for parochialism and dumbing-down, Literary Review is proud to uphold and recognise literary excellence from around the world," the Literary Review said. "Authors in the running hail from, among other nations, the USA, Hungary, Japan and Australia. Two are annually mentioned in the same breath as the Nobel Prize."
A couple of the entries...
"In the shower, Ed stood with his hands at the back of his head, like someone just arrested, while she abused him with a bar of soap." (Ed King/Guterson)
"She was wearing jeans. The fabric whispered under my palm. She leaned back and her head bonked on the door. 'Ouch!' I said. 'Are you all right?'" (11.22.63/King)
Why do we make up languages?
From a piece in Time Magazine...
How many invented languages are there, and how do you count them?
We look at the remains of the languages, from books and pamphlets and manuscripts, so it’s probably a very partial count. There are about a thousand of them if you count the ones like Elvish or Esperanto that you could actually, fully use as a language because they have grammar and enough vocabulary. But that doesn’t count revitalized languages, like Hawaiian; or Na’vi, the language of Avatar; or languages from video games or novels like 1984. If you start to add all those up, you come up with more invented languages than we have natural languages in the world.
Why do people invent languages?
The basic reason is some dissatisfaction with the languages that are around us. Then that branches off. In Tolkien’s case, it had something to do with beauty and what was personal to him. He thought he could produce something that you couldn’t find naturally in the world. Other people, like the folks who are [trying to] revitalize a language, are doing it to preserve an ethnic identity. Or building a national identity. In the case of Modern Hebrew, you’re bringing old language into the modern world, where it has to respond to things like toaster ovens. For games, they’re invented partly to make money and partly for the experience of playing the game, creating that integral reality that is so satisfying to players.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
The First Lady helped launch a new student poetry program recently.
From a piece on Yahoo News...
First Lady Michelle Obama on Monday helped launched a new arts program to pick five student poets from high schools who will spend one year promoting poetry through readings, workshops and other activities.
The National Student Poets program is created by the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, of which the first lady is honorary chair, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services through a partnership with nonprofit group, the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.
"What you learn through reading and writing poetry will stay with you throughout your life," Obama said in a statement. "It will spark your imagination and broaden your horizons and even help your performance in the classroom."
There's a beautiful book at the Morgan Library. You can see it online now.
From a piece on their website...
This Book of Hours, referred to as the Black Hours, is one of a small handful of manuscripts written and illuminated on vellum that is stained or painted black. The result is quite arresting. The text is written in silver and gold, with gilt initials and line endings composed of chartreuse panels enlivened with yellow filigree. Gold foliage on a monochromatic blue background makes up the borders. The miniatures are executed in a restricted palette of blue, old rose, and light flesh tones, with dashes of green, gray, and white. The solid black background is utilized to great advantage, especially by means of gold highlighting.
The anonymous painter of the Black Hours is an artist whose style depended mainly upon that of Willem Vrelant, one of the dominant illuminators working in Bruges from the late 1450s until his death in 1481.
Seventy years after The Grapes of Wrath was published, its themes – corporate greed, joblessness – are back with a vengeance. Melvyn Bragg writes of John Steinbeck's remarkable legacy in the Guardian.
From the piece...
I read The Grapes of Wrath in that fierce span of adolescence when reading was a frenzy. I was all but drowned in the pity and anger John Steinbeck evoked for these people, fleeing Oklahoma to seek work but finding nothing save cruelty, violence, the enmity of immoral banks and businesses, and the neglect by the state of its own people in the Land of the Free. The novel was published in 1939 and delivered a shock to the English reading world.
But for years I did not read him. Earlier this year, when asked to make a film about Steinbeck for the BBC, I went back with apprehension. The peaks of one's adolescent reading can prove troughs in late middle age. Life moves on; not all books do. But 50 years later, The Grapes of Wrath seems as savage as ever, and richer for my greater awareness of what Steinbeck did with the Oklahoma dialect and with his characters. It is just as alive, with its fine anger against the banks: "The bank – the monster – has to have profit all the time. It can't wait … It'll die when the monster stops growing. It can't stay in one place."
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
The new issue of National Geographic has a cover story about the King James Bible.
From the article...
Here is the miracle of the King James Bible in action. Words from a doubly alien culture, not an original text but a translation of ancient Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, made centuries ago and thousands of miles away, arrive in a dusty corner of the New World and sound as they were meant to—majestic but intimate, the voice of the universe somehow heard in the innermost part of the ear.
You don't have to be a Christian to hear the power of those words—simple in vocabulary, cosmic in scale, stately in their rhythms, deeply emotional in their impact. Most of us might think we have forgotten its words, but the King James Bible has sewn itself into the fabric of the language. If a child is ever the apple of her parents' eye or an idea seems as old as the hills, if we are at death's door or at our wits' end, if we have gone through a baptism of fire or are about to bite the dust, if it seems at times that the blind are leading the blind or we are casting pearls before swine, if you are either buttering someone up or casting the first stone, the King James Bible, whether we know it or not, is speaking through us. The haves and have-nots, heads on plates, thieves in the night, scum of the earth, best until last, sackcloth and ashes, streets paved in gold, and the skin of one's teeth: All of them have been transmitted to us by the translators who did their magnificent work 400 years ago.
Monday, November 21, 2011
That's the question recently posed by Big Think.
From the post...
I thought of Woolf’s pronouncement last December, when I read this New York Times article about neuroscientists’ quest to map the human brain in its entirety. The project is only the latest to signal a scientific revolution in our understanding of the self—one that puts Freud’s essentially literary revolution to shame. A century after Woolf’s epochal moment, I wonder if we're witnessing an even greater cultural watershed.
The implications stagger the mind, or at least engorge the frontal lobe. How will a deterministic, neurological account of motivation change our notions of “guilt” or “innocence” before the law? How will a precise grasp of the neurobiology of attraction affect the human mating dance? (I can’t wait for that pharmaceutical arms race.) And most compelling from Woolf’s perspective: how will knowing our own brains so well change literature?
All fiction has, at its heart, the enigma of character. Its most basic pleasures involve analyzing how human beings act, speculating as to what motivates their actions, and, ultimately, judging those actions. What happens if science largely co-opts the first two projects, and undermines the legitimacy of the third?
Children risk growing up with a poor understanding of literature and history as rising numbers of pupils ditch traditional academic disciplines at secondary school, it is claimed today.
From a piece in the Telegraph...
Addressing teachers at a conference in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, she says: “You have a challenge on your hands… to renew and reinforce your own convictions about the value of your subject; for instance, the ways in which literature and history help us to understand what it is to be human and to appreciate the diversity of human experience, while geography explains how we are placed in relation to our physical and social environment and thereby points us towards solutions of some of the biggest problems of our age.
“These are hardly unimportant matters. They are things that the children of the rising generation need to have a knowledge of if they are to make a success of managing their own lives, contributing to their communities, governing their country and husbanding their resources.”
Sunday, November 20, 2011
The Atlantic travels to Forks, Washington (right near me, actually) to take in all the Twilight hoo-haw.
From the piece...
Forks, where the books and movies are supposedly set, is a sleepy town sandwiched between segments of Olympic National Park, most of the way up the northern tip of Washington (Not a single scene of the movies have actually been filmed in Forks, in part because Oregon, and then B.C., had more appealing tax concessions, and in part because producers feared Forks was too small to accommodate the film's housing and culinary needs). Before Twilight (hereafter designated as BT), Forks was one of those post-timber towns that most people didn't know existed, the kind of town where if you knew where it was, chances were you lived there and wanted to leave. Twilight's Bella herself disdained the place, saying, "Forks was literally my personal hell on Earth."
It's a rainforest settlement, a conglomeration of clapboard houses lining wide, mostly deserted streets, the air always feeling like it's about to rain, that is, if it's not already raining. Forks' economy, as the last place you can find a supermarket before entering the Olympics, used to revolve around selling socks and matches to intrepid hikers who'd forgotten theirs. That is, BT. Since Stephanie Meyers set her best-selling novels there, Forks has transformed.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Smithsonian Magazine interviews Alan Alda about his new work.
From the piece...
What got you interested in Marie Curie?
What got me interested was that this part of her life is such a dramatic story. But what kept me interested and what kept me going for the four years I’ve been working on the play was her amazing ability not to let anything stop her. The more I learn, the more I realize what she had to struggle against, and she has become my hero because of that. For most of my life, I couldn’t say I had any heroes—I never really came across somebody like this who was so remarkable in her ability to keep going no matter what. It really had an effect on me.
How did you decide to write a play about her life?
I started out thinking it would be interesting to have a reading of her letters at the World Science Festival in New York, which I help put on every year. Then, I found out that the letters were radioactive—they are all collected in a library in Paris and you have to sign a waiver that you realize you’re handling radioactive material. I just wasn’t brave enough to do it. So [in 2008] I put together a nice one-act play about Einstein. But I became so interested in researching Curie that I really wanted to write about her in a full-length play.
Friday, November 18, 2011
Is yours next?
From a piece on the Huffington Post...
Indeed, all libraries, with their familiar rows of bookshelves and busy, helpful librarians, have remained reliably stable, as ubiquitous in towns throughout the U.S as the local firehouse or the post office. But it is perhaps this familiarity that makes the American library as an institution more vulnerable than ever, and has many wondering: What is in store for its future?
These days, the library's very existence is a question mark, and they face some of the steepest budget cuts in history. According to a Harris/Reader's Digest Poll from late 2010, nearly 40 percent of American mayors plan to reduce hours, shed employees or make other cutbacks in the coming months, while many county libraries have already eliminated branches entirely.
The South Branch Library in Evanston, Illinois, had been open since 1917. One Evanston resident, Barbara Lewis, told Patch that she had originally moved to the neighborhood only so she could walk to her local library. It closed last February.
The books Gadhafi once banned are banned no more.
From an article in the Toronto Star...
With a fanfare of Libyan bagpipers in full ceremonial flourish, the VIP crowd made its way to the top for of the palace, heaped with table upon table of books deemed unreadable during Moammar Gadhafi’s 42-year rule.
There, Arabic titles including The Secret Life of Saddam Hussein and The CIA Files of Arab Rulers sat alongside censored troves of Islamic literature, theology and philosophy. Books about Israel, Hezbollah, books by Salmon Rushdie. One slim volume was titled Sex In The Arab World.
The palace, converted to a library and museum during Gadhafi’s post-royalist rule, grew quiet as half dozen speakers took turns remembering the dead and wounded that sacrificed for this day.
“Here in this historic place, knowledge was banned. The previous regime called it a national library, but it was more like an indoctrination centre to control our thinking,” said Dr. Salah Abdallah Rajeb al-Aghab, a senior official with the Libyan government archeology section.
“This place was used to distort culture. It was used to terrorize. And so this is the proper place to say Libya now is ready to embrace knowledge and thought without limits.”
Thursday, November 17, 2011
That's the question recently posed by Let it Read.
From the piece...
In replying to the question of why apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic narratives have become so popular in American culture in recent years, one may seek the causes in the major events of the past ten years – the newfound sense of vulnerability caused by the attacks of 9-11, the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression, and the destruction which overtook New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. But I was recently at a conference where I got into a conversation about the subject with a professor of politics, who argued that the apocalyptic mood of the culture is nevertheless not quite commensurate with actual events in the world. The US might be undergoing a diminution of geopolitical influence, but this loss of power is relative, not absolute. The US is still the most powerful and influential country in the world, even if it is less capable of projecting its power in certain regions of the globe. Indeed, the scaling down of US power is taking place largely on its own initiative — its hand is not being forced by a military disaster on the scale of the annihilation of the Athenian expedition on Sicily. While the economic crisis has disrupted the lives of millions across the globe, there is no immediate prospect of famine or the loss of other necessities in the industrialized world. A global pandemic poses a serious threat, but it remains at present one fear among many drifting through the clouds of an interconnected globe. The industrialized nations might be faced with economic and possibly political readjustments that are painful for many, but on a historical scale, these changes are quite minor beside such upheavals as the fall of the Roman empire, the coming of the Black Death, or the French revolution.
So does the glut of films, novels, and TV shows in the US dedicated to portraying the apocalyptic collapse of industrial society amount to an overreaction to our current predicaments? In my book I consider the popularity of apocalyptic narratives as a symptom of the waning of historical consciousness, by which I mean not only historical memory but also the loss of the capacity to believe the possibility of enacting change on the stage of history. This sense of helplessness turns the specter of historical change into a nightmarish prospect, something which is unwilled, an inhuman force which reveals the vanity and hopelessness of human efforts to control their fates.