Sheila Heti Second Novel

How Should a Person Be?, il secondo romanzo di Sheila Heti è uscito in Canada presso House of Anansi, ma non riesce a trovare un editore in America. Strano, perché il primo romanzo della giovane e talentuosa scrittrice candadese, Ticknor, era stato pubblicato dalla prestigiosa Farrar, Straus & Giroux. O forse non è così strano, visto l'incipit, "We live in an age of some really great blow-job artists".
How Should a Person Be? is a novel about a woman in her late twenties living in Toronto, trying to figure out how make art (she's working on a play commissioned by a feminist theater) and, more important, how to be an artist. ... Unable to make the play come together, the protagonist, also named Sheila, displaces her aesthetic ambitions into giving perfect haircuts and performing perfect oral sex. observer.

A proposito di blow-job (non è un argomento propriamente natalizio, ma comunque piccante, come il panpepato), Books Ngram Viewer, è uno dei molteplici, interessanti tools di Google: traccia il grafico della popolarità di una parola o frase nel tempo. L'espressione citata sopra non dà risultati, ahimè, allora ho riprovato con un'altra parola, "wow", e ho scoperto che è nata nell'800 e ha avuto un picco di popolarità intorno agli anni Trenta.


L'orco cattivo

Norton Juster e Jules Feiffer, The Odious Ogre (Scholastic). Juster, un archetetto, e Feiffer, il noto disegnatore di comic strips hanno collaborato a scrivere e illustrare questo delizioso (e terrificante, a seconda dell'età da cui lo si legge) libretto, da regalare assolutamente a Natale.


Jaimy Gordon

Charles McGrath traccia un profilo, sul New York Times, della scrittrice che ha recentemente vinto il National Book Award con il suo ultimo romanzo, Lord of Misrule (McPherson), ambientato nel mondo delle gare di cavalli in West Virginia. "Ms. Gordon, 66, has taught writing for almost 30 years at Western Michigan University and lives by herself in a two-story house next to a lake here. Her husband, Peter Blickle, 17 years her junior, teaches German at the university and lives by another lake, about a 20-minute walk away. His wife goes over there most evenings with her dog and they have a glass of schnapps.

Ms. Gordon, who has a graduate degree in writing from Brown but also spent time working at a racetrack and briefly lived with an ex-convict who set fire to their apartment, has never been very conventional. She has a huge corona of springy, tightly curled hair that suggests prolonged exposure to a light socket, and a personality to match: forthright, disarming, uncensored. She is a wiser, chastened version of the reckless young female character who turns up in many of her books and never misses a chance to endanger herself".


David Wondrich, Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl (Perigee Trade). Storia del punch, raccontata in modo molto spiritoso e corredata da numerose ricette. Un must per natale.
Can you say a little bit more about the relationship between punch and class? Do you think it has some kind of inherently democratic appeal (because everyone is drinking from the same bowl)?

Punch began as a sailors' drink, where everyone onboard - officers and ordinary seamen alike - would partake together. It didn't always exercise that equalizing force, but it’s inherent in the format. A bowl of punch is a group effort, and people who choose not to partake find themselves at odds with the community. Most will put aside their standoffish ways and join in, but if they can’t or won’t, the nice thing is that nobody cares: all the more punch for us.


Steve Martin: An Object of Beauty

E' l'ultimo romanzo (Grand Central Publishing) dell'attore diventato scrittore, ed è ambientato nel mondo del collezionismo d'arte newyorchese (Martin stesso è un grande e appassionato collezionista) negli anni Novanta. "Martin is remarkably even-handed in his depiction of the art world, describing its leaps and plunges, how taste and culture and money affect it, as if he were writing about physics: 'Just as gravity distorts space, an important collector distorts aesthetics. The difference is that gravity distorts space eternally, and a collector distorts space for only a few years." Susan Salter Reynolds sul lat.


Reasons to Love New York

Ragione numero 10: perché è una città che rispetta e ama le mamme ebree. Woody Allen ricorda Elaine, la patron del noto ristorante sull'Upper West Side, che compare spesso nei suoi film di ambientati a Manhattan. Elaine è morta qualche giorno fa a 81 anni. "People didn't come for the food. That's for sure. I always had the theory that Elaine wouldn't have gotten as big a crowd if the food had been superb. They went up there to chat and socialize and because of Elaine's personality. She ran the place in a unique way. She was always there. You could go up and talk to her, but she also wandered around, going table to table. She'd sit down and chat with you and always had interesting things to say or funny anecdotes, because she knew everybody". nymag.


Le battaglie sull'Atlantico

Turner, The Wreck of the Minotaur
Simon Winchester, Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories (HarperCollins). Il ruolo dell'oceano Atlantico nella storia e la storia delle grandi battaglie sull'Atlantico. "The Atlantic has been the vehicle of wars and explorations since the time of the Phoenicians, who around 700 BC were the first to successfully strike out into the unknown from the relative bathtub of the Mediterranean, establishing trading posts on the Western coast of present-day Spain. Empires were born". lat.


Who will save the octothorpe?

The Big O is a sign with deep historical and cultural roots, part of our heritage. It didn't deserve the neglect it suffered in recent times. It's lived under many names: the hash, the crunch, the hex (that's in Singapore), the flash, the grid. In some circles it's called tic-tactoe, in others pig-pen. From a distance it looks like the sharp sign on a musical score. Whether you call it a pound sign or a number sign or anything else, it retains its identity. It's so majestically simple that it always looks good, even if drawn by someone utterly without graphic talent. Good old #. It can't go wrong. nationalpost.



In Harlem: A Century in Images (Skira Rizzoli), Thelma Golden, the enterprising director of the Studio Museum in Harlem, has, along with members of her staff - Thomas J, Lax, Lauren Haynes, and Elizabeth Gwinn - compiled a handsome and rich photographic collection that amounts as much to a study of a place as it is a study of black style. newyorker.


Google e-book shop

Google launched its long-awaited e-book venture yesterday, cleverly integrating their new e-book shop within the already popular Google Books. The three million e-books already available can be read on most devices that aren’t a Kindle. Google's e-book rating system will be based on reviews from the online bookworm community Goodreads.


L'uomo più letto del mondo (e insulti letterari)

E' Matthew Carter, l'ideatore di Verdana e Georgia. "Mr Carter conjured up both fonts in the 1990s for Microsoft, which released them with its Internet Explorer in the late 1990s and bundled them into Windows, before disseminating them as a free download." economist.

Virginia Woolf su Henry James: "I am reading Henry James…and feel myself as one entombed in a block of smooth amber", Teddy Roosevelt su Henry James: "A little emasculated mass of inanity", Mark Twain su Jane Austen: "Every time I read Pride and Prejudice, I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone", e Capote su Faulkner: "He was a great friend of mine. Well, as much as you could be a friend of his, unless you were a fourteen-year-old nymphet". Lawrence Dorfman, The Snark Handbook: Insult Edition: Comebacks, Taunts, and Effronteries (Skyhorse Publishing).


Hitchens da Tumortown

Continua la cronaca di Hitchens - sempre lucida, intelligente e sorprendentemente spiritosa - sulla sua malattia . Qui il grande giornalista si occupa di tracciare una sorta di etichetta su come parlare agli ammalati. "It's normally agreed that the question 'How are you?' doesn’t put you on your oath to give a full or honest answer. So when asked these days, I tend to say something cryptic like 'A bit early to say.' ... But it’s not really possible to adopt a stance of 'Don’t ask, don’t tell,' either. Like its original, this is a prescription for hypocrisy and double standards. Friends and relatives, obviously, don't really have the option of not making kind inquiries. One way of trying to put them at their ease is to be as candid as possible and not to adopt any sort of euphemism or denial. So I get straight to the point and say what the odds are. The swiftest way of doing this is to note that the thing about Stage Four is that there is no such thing as Stage Five." vanityfair.


Scrivere e cucinare

Back in the early 1970s, when I was teaching in California, I had a colleague named Bob Williams who taught fiction writing and was famous for beginning each semester with a lecture on the art of cooking. He'd tell his students, for example, how to prepare a dish of sausages, onions, and peppers - elaborately describing how to chose the right frying pan, olive oil, and sausages, explaining next how they ought to be cooked till browned and then removed from the pan - so that the sliced onions, garlic and peppers, and whatever fresh herbs could be introduced in their own proper order - until he had the entire class salivating. The point, of course, was not just to stimulate their appetites, but to show them the degree of love and devotion to the smallest detail required to turn this simple Italian dish, often poorly made, into a culinary masterpiece. Writing stories and poems was like that too, he told them. Instead of the ingredients he had just conjured, there would be words, experiences, and imaginings to combine. Actually, what he demonstrated to his students was the ancient relationship between cooking, eating well, and storytelling. Charles Simic sul nybooks.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Menù di Thanksgiving: 1900, da Good Housekeeping Cookbook: "Tomato soup, Croutons, Roast turkey, Cranberry sauce, Mashed potatoes, Onions in Cream, Mince and pumpkin pie, Cheese, Coffee".

1905: sulla tavola di Mark Twain: Oysters - Consommé Souveraine, Green Turtle - Timbales Perigourdine - Filets of Kingfish Meunière, Cucumbers, Persillade Potatoes - Saddle of Lamb Colbert, Stuffed Tomatoes - Baltimore Terrapin, Mushrooms on Toast with Cream, Sherbet with Kirsch - Quail, Red Head Duck, Fried Hominy and Currant Jelly - Salad: Celery Mayonnaise - Fancy Ice Cream, Assorted Cakes, Bonbons, Coffee

Served with Sherry, Sauterne, Champagne, Mineral Water, and Liqueurs. newyorker.


Dirty Life

Ho scelto il post di oggi per l'immagine di questa copertina. Sembra un quadro di Hopper. The Dirty Life. On Farming, Food, and Love di Kristin Kimball (Scribner). Kristin Kimball era una giornalista newyorkese, quando, nel 2003, ha avuto l'incarico di intervistare un agricoltore "molto alto e carismatico" che gestiva un'azienda agricola sostenibile Upstate New York. Si è innamorata, l'ha sposato e gli si è affiancata nel lavoro in fattoria. "As much as you transform the land by farming, farming transforms you. It seeps into your skin along with the dirt that abides permanently in the creases of your thickened hands, the beds of your nails. It asks so much of your body that if you’re not careful it can wreck you as surely as any vice by the time you’re fifty, when you wake up and find yourself with ruined knees and dysfunctional shoulders, deaf from the constant clank and rattle of your machinery, and broke to boot. But farming takes root in you and crowds out other endeavors, makes them seem paltry. Your acres become a world." newyorker.


The Anti-Kindle

E' il nuovo libro di Jonathan Safran Foer, Tree of Codes (Visual Editions), in uscita il prossimo gennaio. Partendo dal suo libro preferito, The Street of Crocodiles di Bruno Schulz, e tagliuzzandolo, Foer ne ricava un'altra storia. "Imagine a book - in this case the 1934 novel The Street of Crocodiles, a surrealistic set of linked stories by the Polish Holocaust victim Bruno Schulz - whose pages have been cut out to form a latticework of words. The result is a new, much shorter story and a paper sculpture, a remarkable piece of inert, unclickable technology: the anti-Kindle. Reading it is a little like going through an FBI document full of blacked-out passages, except that the excised portions are now holes through which you get glimpses of subsequent text. The format slows your eye down (though it helps if you slightly lift the page you're on), but the book is so brief that it can still be read in half an hour." Boris Kachka su nymag.


Mark Twain's Autobiography

Mark Twain, Autobiography of Mark Twain. Volume 1. Edited by Harriet Elinor Smith, et al. (University of California Press). Twain's Autobiography offers a mélange of childhood reminisces, vitriolic diatribes, portraits of individuals admired and despised, eulogies (most movingly of his daughters Susy and Jean), political and religious exegesis and, everywhere, evidence of his astonishing, lightning-quick wit. We learn what emotionally moved him: his elegy of his youngest daughter, Jean, is heartbreaking in its expressed anguish; what angered him: Countess Massiglia apparently was the most corrupt and evil landlady in history; and of his delight with the eccentricities of language, in particular the beauties and beasts of German.

Lend Me Your Ears. Oxford Dictionary of Political Quotations. Edited by Anthony Jay (Oxford UP). Da Spiro Agnew, "If you've seen one city slum, you've seen them all", a Tom Wolfe, "A liberal is a conservative who's been arrested". wp.


Dante a fumetti

"I, Dante, will tell you the story of my trip to the after world... but will I come back?" So begins Seymour Chwast's noirish graphic adaptation of what is perhaps the world's most famous tale of spiritual tourism, the Divine Comedy. The list of artists who have tried their hand at visually interpreting Dante's epic is both long and distinguished, but it would be safe to say that Chwast, a co-founder of Push Pin Studios and a longtime contributor to The New Yorker, may have had the most fun with the subject since Dante himself. newyorker.


Cynthia Ozick e la storia della parola "gay"

Cynthia Ozick, il cui ultimo romanzo, Foreign Bodies (Houghton Mifflin), si rifa a The Ambassadors, parla del suo rapporto con Henry James. "My first encounter with James was when I was seventeen. My brother brought home from the public library a science fiction anthology, which included 'The Beast in the Jungle'. It swept me away. I had a strange, somewhat uncanny feeling that it was the story of my life. thedailybeast.

E la storia della parola gay. "As far as we can tell, 'gay' only started meaning homosexual in the early 1940s. Earlier citations only appear that way retroactively, like this 1922 quotation from Gertrude Stein: 'Helen Furr and Georgina Keene lived together then ... They were together then and traveled to another place and stayed there and were gay there ... not very gay there, just gay there. They were both gay there'." good.


Keith Richards, Oliver Sacks e la storia del cancro

Keith Richards
Oliver Sacks, The Mind's Eye (Knopf). Raccolta di saggi su piccoli e grandi problemi neurologici che affligono molti. nytbr.

Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies. A Biography of Cancer (Scribner). La storia del cancro e delle cure. nytbr.

Keith Richards with James Fox, Life (Little, Brown & Company). Da boy-scout a chitarrista dei Rolling Stones. nytbr.


Scrivere in esilio

Azar Nafisi, Chenjerai Hove, e Edwidge Danticat parlano dei vantaggi dello scrivere in esilio. Azar Nafisi: "... you have to feel a little bit restless, a little bit not at home to begin with in order to be able to write. And then the feeling of exile and lost of home is all about loss and absence. And through memory, and through literature, you retrieve what you have lost. You make presence then absence and you create a portable world that neither tyrants nor nature can take away from you. And I think that, for me, that's the safest place to be." npr.

Refudiate: è la parola dell'anno per l'Oxford American Dictionary. E' stata coniata da Sarah Palin, combinando i termini "refuse" e "repudiate". Anni fa Bush aveva coniato con lo stesso processo il termine "misunderstimate". urbandictionary.


Paul Auster, Sunset Park

Paul Auster, Sunset Park (Henry Holt). "Sunset Park, like many of Paul Auster's books, is full of stories about destiny and chance, stories about 'the imponderables of fate, the strangeness of life, the what-ifs-and-what-might-have-beens'." Troy Jollimore sul sfc. Da leggere anche l'intervista allo scrittore sull'Indipendent, in cui Auster racconta del proprio passato.


Idiot's Books

E' una piccola casa editrice di libri per bambini, fondata da Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr, ex graphic designers, che la gestiscono dalla loro casa di campagna in Maryland. "There they live, work and raise two children. Swanson writes and Behr illustrates, and together they distribute their snide, satirical works through a bimonthly subscription service. (Titles include The Baby Is Disappointing, a sarcastic paean to parenting, and Facial Features of French Explorers, a microanalysis of the craniofacial quirks of adventurers like Samuel de Champlain.) They also maintain a blog about their lives." papercuts.


The Social Network

Zadie Smith commenta il film su Mark Zuckerberg, il creatore di Facebook, The Social Network, e anche You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto (Knopf), un libro di Jaron Lanier. Del film dice, tra l'altro, "Watching this movie, even though you know Sorkin [lo sceneggiatore] wants your disapproval, you can't help feel a little swell of pride in this 2.0 generation. They've spent a decade being berated for not making the right sorts of paintings or novels or music or politics. Turns out the brightest 2.0 kids have been doing something else extraordinary. They've been making a world".
Mentre del libro, che sembra molto interessante, dice, "Lanier is interested in the ways in which people 'reduce themselves' in order to make a computer's description of them appear more accurate. 'Information systems,' he writes, 'need to have information in order to run, but information underrepresents reality. In Lanier's view, there is no perfect computer analogue for what we call a 'person.' In life, we all profess to know this, but when we get online it becomes easy to forget. In Facebook, as it is with other online social networks, life is turned into a database, and this is a degradation, Lanier argues, which is based on [a] philosophical mistake…the belief that computers can presently represent human thought or human relationships. These are things computers cannot currently do."



Nora Ephron, I Remember Nothing

I think there's always a portrait of you as very unflappable and impermeable. This is a very warm book. I'm wondering if that's something you've read about yourself from other people and you've taken notice of it.

Well, I think you know this: That very few people end up knowing who you are. I don't mean me. I just mean that most people are misunderstood in some way. I don't mean in a bad way. I just mean that they're not comprehended. But I don't really think about it a whole lot. And if I do think about it, I think I must do something to make them misunderstand me. But, what's for dinner?
La spiritosa Nora Ephron intervistata da Kerry Lauerman sul suo ultimo libro in uscita in questi giorni, I Remember Nothing: and Other Reflections (Knopf). salon.


The Nutty Professor and the "Institutional Fit" Professor

Dove sono finiti i professori un po' pazzi? In un articolo divertente Robert Klose si lamenta del fatto che siano scomparsi. E dopo un colorito elenco di esempi della sua gioventù, cerca di dare una spiegazione: "But I miss these people. Or better said, I lament not having colleagues like them in my teaching environment. Where have the outlandish characters gone? My sense is that the nature of the university beast has changed and has had a leveling effect on the spectrum of personalities. As higher education has striven to define itself as a business ('Students are our customers!' chirps a perky poster), there is less tolerance for professors who might — heaven forbid — embarrass the institution and drive the paying public away. The result has been a more rigid screening of applicants for conformity, or, in the lingo of current hiring practices, 'institutional fit.' This is a catch-all phrase that colleges and universities use to trump all other qualifications and acquire the person they had their eye on all along. In other words, a brilliant eccentric who can simultaneously write Greek with one hand and Latin with the other while captivating his students has less institutional fit than a bland monotone who sticks to the text and is grateful to the administration for giving him a job. insidehighered.


La storia del mondo in 100 oggetti

Neil MacGregor, A History of the World in 100 Objects (Allen Lane). MacGregor è il direttore del British Museum di Londra da otto anni e ne ha profondamente modificato la concezione. "This year, first with a radio series and now with a book, Neil MacGregor has set the seal on his vision of the British Musem as the world's supreme memory palace. One hundred objects have been selected from its unrivalled collections to illustrate the entire sweep of humanity's history: from a 2-million-year-old stone chopping tool [nella foto], ... to a solar-powered lamp, which McGregor optimistically casts as embodying the technology of tomorrow. g/o.

Steven Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation (Allen Lane). Such "Eureka" moments are controversial. Steven Johnson's new book ... argues strongly against epiphanies and flashes of inspiration. Chance breakthroughs, says Johnson, come from "the connected mind", operating in a kind of intellectual coffee house. He convincingly demonstrates that ideas, especially scientific ideas, derive from networks. But he never gets to grips with the wellsprings of literary motivation, or with the most poignant truth of literary life ... g/o.


Toni Judt's New York

Toni Judt è morto lo scorso agosto per la sclerosi laterale amiotrofica. Anche durante la paralisi causata dalla malattia ha continuato a lavorare e a dettare dei brevi saggi basati su ricordi, capitoli di un libro di memorie che viene ora stampato da Penguin con il titolo di The Memory Chalet, uno chalet svizzero che aveva molto amato da bambino e in cui idealmente riponeva i suoi ricordi per poterli ritrovare meglio. Il New York Times di oggi pubblica uno di questi testi in cui Judt parla di New York, città che amava molto e in cui si era trasferito nel 1987 per andare a insegnare a NYU. "And yet, New York remains a world city. It is not the great American city — that will always be Chicago. New York sits at the edge: like Istanbul or Mumbai, it has a distinctive appeal that lies precisely in its cantankerous relationship to the metropolitan territory beyond. It looks outward, and is thus attractive to people who would not feel comfortable further inland. It has never been American in the way that Paris is French: New York has always been about something else as well." nyt.


Blue Roses

"Blue Roses" è un racconto di Frances Hwang, uscito recentemente sul New Yorker.
Decisamente bello e pieno di humor. Lin Fanghui, la narratrice, una signora anzianotta, grassoccia, benestante, di origini cinesi, distrugge con toni pacati il legame con i figli e si permette di amare un'amica nevrotica e malata che le apre un mondo di sogni. Del suo racconto Hwang dice: "For me, the humor of this story arises from the characters. There's something funny to me about people being who they are and behaving the way that they do. They can't escape themselves and betray their biases, fears, and obsessions with their every word and action." newyorker.



In un recente, bel libro, FashionEast: The Spectre that Haunted Socialism (MIT Press), Djurdja Bartlett ha studiato la moda in Unione Sovietica e nei paesi che le ruotavano intorno. "The Bolshevik revolution in 1917 was in many ways a modernist project. Lenin’s Western suit and his tie demonstrated a dynamic and still open relationship with the West, while Stalin’s uniform, resembling a traditional Russian peasant tunic tolstovka, was an iconographic symbol of the society freezing back into conservative and immutable forms. Socialism eventually dressed men in conservative, monumental suits, which visually corresponded to its totalitarian ideology and aesthetics. Men's fashion was much less controversial, as it is, in general, less prone to change. Socialism was mostly afraid of women’s fashion and its penchant for seasonal changes. As a system, socialism could not deal with change. Once the revolutions settled into quiet societal patterns, the regimes were not interested in change any longer." newyorker.


In difesa delle Humanities

Il presidente di Cornell, David Skorton, ha affermato di voler lanciare una campagna nazionale in favore delle Humanities. "I have been disappointed not to see sufficient national dialogue on the humanities - he said - I don't hear a national conversation about funding for the humanities." As a result, Skorton said he would focus on humanities issues in major public addresses like Friday's on campus and in others off campus, and that he would be working to involve leaders of other universities in doing the same. For a start, he said that it was time for university leaders to push for a halt to the erosion of the budgets of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, and to articulate a vision for the importance of the humanities. insidehighered.


Sex, Ok, Chatwin

Todd Levin, Scott Jacobson, Jason Roeder, Ted Travelstead and Mike Sacks, Sex: Our Bodies, Our Junk (Broadway). Parodia dei manuali sul sesso. "Sex is really the most ridiculous thing you can do, - Levin says - The mechanics of sex are kind of funny. ... It seems funnier the more you try to explain it and the more you try to take it seriously." sfc.

Allan Metcalf
, Ok. The Improbable History of America's Greatest Word (Oxford UP). Le strane e vaghe origini della paroletta più nota dell'americano, e le sue evoluzioni.

Bruce Chatwin, Under the Sun. The letters of Bruce Chatwin, edited by Elizabeth Chatwin and Nicholas Shakespeare (Cape). Nonostante i vari amori omosessuali, queste lettere rivelano il profondo legame tra Chatwin e la moglie Elizabeth. tls.


Alice Munro

Lisa Dickler Awano intervista Alice Munro sulla Virginia Quarterly Review.
LDA: It seems as though in your more recent collections, when you use material from your own life, the resulting story is less directly autobiographical than it was in your earlier stories, such as Miles City, Montana, or Walker Brothers Cowboy, or The Ottawa Valley, or Who Do you think You Are . . . .

AM: That's right. Those stories are more nakedly personal. I think this is a matter of age. When youre younger theres a kind of breathlessness about 'I can write about this.' It's very exciting to realize what you can do. You're discovering, along with the reader, what you felt. But I think now I'm writing - not at all in a more guarded way, but just in a way of having seen more, or maybe retreating a little from the personal. There's not been any decision to do this. You never know why you do what you're doing. And you don't know what you're doing until either someone points it out, or you see it yourself.


Corsi universitari sul web

M.I.T.'s announcement in 2001 that it was going to put its entire course catalog online gave a jump-start to what has now become a global Open Educational Resources Movement whose goal, said Susan D’Antoni of Athabasca University, in Canada, is "to try to share the world’s knowledge."
Harvard, Yale, Stanford and the University of Michigan all now offer substantial portions of their courses online. In Britain, the Open University, which has been delivering distance learning for over 40 years, offers free online courses in every discipline on the OpenLearn Web site; the Open University also maintains a dedicated YouTube channel and has often had courses listed on the top 10 downloads at iTunes University. There, students can gain access to beginner courses in French, Spanish and German as well as courses in history, philosophy and astronomy — all free. nyt.



Rannygazoo: nonsense, irrelevant, irritating activity. Green’s Dictionary of Slang (Chambers). Jeremy Noel-Tod, uno dei collaboratori di quest'opera monumentale (3 volumi, 6000 pagine), che riporta termini e espressioni slang degli ultimi 500 anni, parla del progetto: "Training began with a pile of early PG Wodehouse novels. These related the adventures of Psmith, the man about town who revelled in such phrases as 'last night's rannygazoo' several years before Bertie Wooster began to bounce them off the silver-plated English of Jeeves. telegraph.

Agli aspiranti poeti (in inglese) consigliamo questo rimario online: http://www.rhymer.com/.


Doonesbury compie 40 anni

Doonesbury compie 40 anni e per l'occasione Slate intervista l'autore, Garry Trudeau. Slate: How have you avoided burnout? Garry Trudeau: I suppose it's just curiosity. I'm still passionately interested in what my fellow humans are up to. For me, a day spent monitoring the passing parade is a day well-spent. And if someone wants to pay me to do that (plus a little drawing), what could be better? slate.


The Honor Code

Kwame Anthony Appiah, Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen (Norton). "I soon found myself realizing that honor, especially once I started looking at the duel, is really separate from morality. It's not part of morality, but it interacts with moral demands. You know, when you then think about honor, one thought you might have - once you see that it can be independent of morality and can lead people to do things that are actively immoral - one thought you might have is, Why don’t you just give it up? Why don't you just say that people should not care about honor, they should just care about morality? ... And then finally, it turns out that once you start thinking about it, honor is profoundly connected with identity. First of all, the code, what honor requires of you, depends on your identity. Honor requires different things of men and women in many societies. It requires one thing of princes and another thing of ordinary people. Also - and this is a second and separate way in which identity matters to honor - we share in the honor and shame of groups through our identity." Da un'intervista a Appiah uscita su Bookforum.


Cruel and Benevolent

Cruel and Benevolent: è la definizione del nuovo romanzo di Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad (Knopf), da parte di Cathleen Schine che ne parla sulla New York Review of Books. "Jennifer Egan's new novel is a moving humanistic saga, an enormous nineteenth-century-style epic brilliantly disguised as ironic postmodern pastiche. It has thirteen chapters, each an accomplished short story in its own right; characters who meander in and out of these chapters, brushing up against one another's lives in unexpected ways; a time frame that runs from 1979 to the near, but still sci-fi, future; jolting shifts in time and points of view - first person, second person, third person, Powerpoint person..."


Jane Austen e la punteggiatura

Di nuovo sugli errori di punteggiatura. Questa volta a usarla scorrettamente pare fosse Jane Austen. "The truth universally acknowledged, that Jane Austen was one of the most pristine literary stylists of all time, has been exploded: her punctuation was erratic, her use of capital letters eclectic and her paragraph breaks often nonexistent. ... In fact much of the credit for her elegant prose must go to publisher's reader and editor William Gifford, according to an academic who has compared the manuscripts and the published versions line by line. Gifford, a much more obscure figure who was said to be shy and awkward, polished up Austen's manuscripts, smoothing out the style, regularising the punctuation, introducing the famous exquisitely placed semicolons and eliminating her blizzards of dashes. ... 'Does it make her less of a genius?' said Professor Kathryn Sutherland of the English language and literature faculty at Oxford University. 'I don't think so,' she said, answering her own question. 'Indeed I think it makes her more interesting, and a much more modern and innovative writer than had been thought. In particular, her use of dashes to heighten the emotional impact of what she is writing is striking: you have to wait for Virginia Woolf to see anything comparable." g/o.


Woody Allen e la punteggiatura

In un articoletto molto divertente Nathan Heller nota con sgomento che un certo peggioramento nelle opere di Woody Allen va di pari passo con l'uso scorretto della punteggiatura nei titoli dei film. "At some point in the mid-1990s, though, curious things began to happen. First, Allen made a musical film called Everyone Says I Love You, using a title that shifts, with no punctuation, from third-person citation to first-person direct quotation. It also required Julia Roberts to sing. By 2000, the director had inflicted on the world something called Small Time Crooks—not, in fact, a film about dwarf ne'er-do-wells who steal time, although Copy-Editing the Culture might have found that premise more rewarding. Soon, the comic auteur had turned his Gotham-loving lens to Europe; recent years have brought such Continentally styled, bafflingly mispunctuated works as Vicky Cristina Barcelona. The golden age of Allen—for the grammar-minded moviegoer, at least—was over. slate.


Leopardi in inglese

Little old white-haired man,
weak, half naked, barefoot,
with an enorous burden on his back,
up mountain and down valley,
over sharp rocks, across deep sands and
bracken, ...

Sta per uscire presso Farrar, Straus & Giroux, una bella edizione di poesie di Leopardi, Canti: Poems / A Bilingual Edition, tradotte da Jonathan Galassi, il bravo traduttore di Montale. Della traduzione Adam Kirsh dice, "He is one of those poets who are often said to be untranslatable. Galassi ... has taken the tactful and intelligent approach of translating primarily for sense, rather than trying to re-create Leopardi's metres and rhymes. By using unaffected words and a natural movement in his English versions, Galassi loses the acoustic density of the Italian, but preserves Leopardi’s classical directness. newyorker.


Lingue in via di estinzione

Tre nuovi libri sulle lingue che stanno scomparendo: David Harrison, The Last Speakers: The Quest to Save the World's Most Endangered Languages (National Geographic), Leslie Dunton-Downer, The English Is Coming! How One Language is Sweeping the World (Touchstone), Guy Deutscher, Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages (Metropolitan). wp.


Hitchens in Tumortown

Continuano i coraggiosi, lucidi e anche ironici reportage di Christopher Hitchens da Tumortown. Qui ce l'ha con i consigli che piovono a raffica sui malati, "... in Tumortown you sometimes feel that you may expire from sheer advice. A lot of it comes free and unsolicited. I must, without delay, begin ingesting the granulated essence of the peach pit (or is it the apricot?), a sovereign remedy known to ancient civilizations but now covered up by greedy modern doctors. Another correspondent urges heaping doses of testosterone supplements, perhaps as a morale booster. Or I must find ways of opening certain chakras and putting myself in an appropriately receptive mental state. Macrobiotic or vegan diets will be all I require for nourishment during this experience. And don’t laugh ... somebody has written to me from a famous university to suggest that I have myself cryonically or cryogenically frozen against the day when the magic bullet, or whatever it is, has been devised". vanityfair.


Rushdie, Krauss, Rice e Talese

Salman RushdieLuka and the Fire of Life (Cape). Una meravigliosa favola. g/o.

Nicole Krauss, Great House (Norton). Una scrivania collega una serie di racconti. nytbr.

Condoleezza Rice, Extraordinary, Ordinary People. A Memoir of Family (Crown). Il memoriale del segretario di stato di Bush. nytbr.

Gay Talese, The Silent Season of a Hero (Walker). Gli articoli sullo sport di un grande giornalista. lat.



M.L.Nesbitt, Grammar-Land: Grammar in Fun for the Children of Schoolroom-shire (British Library). Pubblicato per la prima volta intorno al 1870, questo bel libretto che insegna la grammatica ai bambini viene ora ristampato in facsimile dalla British Library. Nesbitt immagina i nove componenti di una frase come signori in lotta, le cui dispute vengono risolte dalla Grammatica. "They are funny fellows, these nine Parts-of-Speech. You will find out by-and-by which you like best amongst them all. There is rich Mr. Noun, and his useful friend Pronoun; little ragged Article, and talkative Adjective; busy Dr. Verb, and Adverb; perky Preposition, convenient Conjunction, and that tiresome Interjection, the oddest of them all. Now, as some of these Parts-of-Speech are richer, that is, have more words than others, and as they all like to have as many as they can get, it follows, I am sorry to say, that they are rather given to quarrelling."


Marilyn Monroe, Fragments

On the stage—I will not be punished for it
or be whipped
or be threatened
or not be loved
or sent to hell to burn with bad people
feeling that I am also bad.
or be afraid of my genitals being
exposed known and seen
or ashamed -

Marilyn Monroe, Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters (FS&G). vanityfair.


Philip Roth visto da Coetzee

L'ultimo romanzo di Philip Roth Nemesis (Houghton Mifflin) viene recensito in modo molto colto e non del tutto benevolo da Coetzee. Lo scrittore sudafricano denuncia qualche ambiguità nell'uso del narratore, qualche caduta di stile e anche una certa mancanza di respiro nell'ultimo romanzo di Roth. Ma alla fine prende il sopravvento lo scrittore e Coetzee riconosce con emozione quella magia della prosa di Roth che riesce a penetrare nel profondo del nostro essere rendendolo un grandissimo scrittore, qualsiasi cosa descriva. Anzi forse proprio quando descrive qualcosa che apparentemente è tangenziale al corpo di un romanzo. "If the intensity of the Roth of old, the 'major' Roth, has died down, has anything new come in its place? Toward the end of his life on earth, 'he,' the protagonist of Everyman, visits the graveyard where his parents lie buried and strikes up a conversation with a gravedigger, a man who takes a solid, professional pride in his work. From him 'he' elicits a full, clear, and concise account of how a good grave is dug. (Among the subsidiary pleasures Roth provides are the expert little how-to essays embedded in the novels: how to make a good glove, how to dress a butcher's display window.) This is the man, 'he' reflects, who when the time comes will dig his grave, see to it that his coffin is well seated, and, once the mourners have dispersed, fill in the earth over him. He bids farewell to the gravedigger - his gravedigger - in a curiously lightened mood: 'I want to thank you…. You couldn’t have made things more concrete. It's a good education for an older person.' This modest but beautifully composed little ten-page episode does indeed provide a good education, and not just for older persons: how to dig a grave, how to write, how to face death, all in one." nybooks.


Artisti haitiani, mura domestiche, onde e credenze africane

Edwidge Danticat, Create Dangerously. The Immigrant Artist at Work (Princeton University). Saggi sulla diaspora degli artisti haitiani. nytbr.

Bill Bryson, At Home. A Short History of Private Life (Doubleday). La storia di quel che le mura domestiche direbbero se potessero parlare. nytbr.

Susan Casey, The Wave. In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean (Doubleday). Mi sembra affascinante, quest'idea di andare alla ricerca delle onde più grandi che ci siano state. wp.

V. S. Naipaul, The Masque of Africa. Glimpses of African belief (Picador). Rabbia, derisione, gatti morti ed erbe per scimmie; note sull'Africa di un viaggiatore misantropo. William Boyd su timesonline.