The Wire

Lorrie Moore analizza The Wire, una serie televisiva molto popolare, dura e bella (anche secondo Moore), andata in onda negli USA qualche anno fa e mai approdata, a quel che mi sembra, in Italia. Dice Moore, facendo anche una lezione di scrittura, "So confident are Simon and Burns [gli autori] in their enterprise that they have with much justification called the program 'not television' but a 'novel.' Certainly the series's creators know what novelists know: that it takes time to transform a social type into a human being, demography into dramaturgy, whether time comes in the form of pages or hours. With time as a medium rather than a constraint one can show a profound and unexpected aspect of a character, and discover what that character might decide to do because of it. With time one can show the surprising interconnections within a chaotic, patchworked metropolis". nybooks.


Elif Batuman e l'ultimo processo di Kafka

Elif Batuman racconta il suo viaggio in Israele alla ricerca di un bandolo nel groviglio legale che si è creato intorno alle carte di Kafka salvate da Brod (Etgar Keret così riassume il garbuglio - cito dall'articolo di Batuman - "Kafka, on the other hand, might be O.K. with it: 'The next best thing to having your stuff burned, if you’re ambivalent, is giving it to some guy who gives it to some lady who gives it to her daughters who keep it in an apartment full of cats, right?'").

E lo racconta con la consueta eleganza e un gran gusto nel vagare, prendere differenti sentieri narrativi ispirandosi a dettagli, intuizioni, scoperte marginali lungo il percorso principale. Un bel pezzo di letteratura. nytmagazine. (Nella foto, una pagina del Processo)


Diritti umani, islamismo e rock and roll

Samuel Moyn, The Last Utopia. Human Rights in History (The Belknap Press/Harvard University Press). "The modern concept of human rights, - secondo Moyn, professore di storia alla Columbia - differs radically from older claims of rights, like those that arose out of the American and French Revolutions. ... human rights in their current form - applicable to all and internationally protected - can be traced not to the Enlightenment, nor to the humanitarian impulses of the 19th century nor to the impact of the Holocaust after World War II. Instead, he sees them as dating from the 1970s, exemplified by President Jimmy Carter's effort to make human rights a pillar of United States foreign policy". nytbr.

Graham Fuller, A World Without Islam (Little, Brown). Graham Fuller sostiene che l'animosità tra parti del mondo musulmano e gli USA non è dovuta all'Islam o al fervore religioso, ma ha radici storiche. lat.

Steven Kasher, Max’s Kansas City: Art, Glamour, Rock and Roll (Abrams Image). Il mitico luogo di incontro dei personaggi del rock e dell'arte a NYC negli anni Sessanta. (Nella foto Paul Morrissey, Andy Warhol, Janis Joplin, e Tim Buckley al Max's l'8 marzo del 1968.) nymag.


The Paris Review

Novità in casa della Paris Review: un nuovo direttore, Lorin Stein, e un nuovo web site per il numero d'autunno.


Harold Bloom rilegge Isaac Bashevis Singer

Recentemente è stato ristampato The Magician of Lublin (FS&G), il romanzo di Isaac Bashevis Singer uscito cinquant'anni fa, di cui Harold Bloom dice: "The book set the formula for all his narratives long or short. They are prurient sagas of the flesh and of repentance, marked by the ambivalences of a vegetarian satyr". nybooks


Lo stato del romanzo in America

David Brooks, che non è un critico letterario, ma un fine osservatore della società americana e un politologo moderatamente di destra, editorialista del New York Times, commenta il nuovo romanzo di Jonathan Franzen, Freedom come emblematico dello stato del romanzo in America, e dice cose molto interessanti (questo articolo è da leggere insieme a quello di Batuman sulle scuole di scrittura creativa), tra cui: "Sometime long ago, a writer by the side of Walden Pond decided that middle-class Americans may seem happy and successful on the outside, but deep down they are leading lives of quiet desperation. This message caught on (it’s flattering to writers and other dissidents), and it became the basis of nearly every depiction of small-town and suburban America since. If you judged by American literature, there are no happy people in the suburbs, and certainly no fulfilled ones. ...
By now, writers have become trapped in the confines of this orthodoxy. So even a writer as talented as Franzen has apt descriptions of neighborhood cattiness and self-medicating housewives, but ignores anything that might complicate the Quiet Desperation dogma. ... The serious parts of life get lopped off and readers have to stoop to inhabit a low-ceilinged world. Everyone gets to feel superior to the characters they are reading about (always pleasant in a society famously anxious about status), but there’s something missing.

Social critics from Thoreau to Allan Bloom to the S.D.S. authors of The Port Huron Statement also made critiques about the flatness of bourgeois life, but at least they tried to induce their readers to long for serious things. Freedom is a brilliantly written book that is nonetheless trapped in an intellectual cul de sac - overly gimlet-eyed about American life and lacking an alternative vision of higher ground. nyt.


Emma Donoghue, Joyce Carol Oates e Yiyun Li

Emma Donoghue, Room (Little, Brown & Company). Bellissimo libro narrato da un bambino di 5 anni relegato in una camera con la madre. nytbr.

Joyce Carol Oates, Sourland. Stories (Ecco/HarperCollins). Raccolta di racconti in cui Oates esplora il tema di donne in lutto che diventano facilmente preda di violenza. nytbr.

Yiyun Li (nella foto), Gold Boy, Emerald Girl (Random House). "While the circumstances in which Yiyun Li’s characters find themselves have much to do with the strictures and the simultaneously casual and calculated cruelties of an authoritarian regime, the feelings these men and women must endure — longing, regret, loneliness, the desperate desire to bridge the gap that divides them from others — will be familiar, perhaps all too familiar, to everyone, everywhere. Indeed, the damage inflicted on these hapless souls by their political history — a professor is made to clean toilets, a girl enamored of English literature is drafted into the army — begins to seem emblematic of the misfortunes and unjust turns of fate that are beyond human control, regardless of the economic system under which one happens to live", dice Francine Prose di questo libro. nytbr


Creative Writing

Elif Batuman, nuova e vigorosa voce della letteratura americana, critica i programmi di creative writing, partendo da un libro uscito recentemente, The Programme Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing, di Mark McGurl (Harvard UP). La tesi di Batuman è interessante e coglie un punto importante che avevo notato senza veramente riuscire a esprimerlo con chiarezza: la mancanza di cultura letteraria e storico letteraria dei programmi di scrittura creativa. "Like many aspiring writers in America, I enrolled in graduate school after college, but I went for a PhD rather than an MFA. I had high hopes that McGurl, who made the same choice, might explain to me the value of contemporary American fiction in a way I could understand, but was disappointed to find in The Programme Era traces of the quality I find most exasperating about programme writing itself: oversophistication combined with an air of autodidacticism, creating the impression of some hyperliterate author who has been tragically and systematically deprived of access to the masterpieces of Western literature, or any other sustained literary tradition. McGurl himself observes that a limited historical consciousness is 'endemic to the discipline of creative writing, whose ultimate commitment is not to knowledge but to what Donald Barthelme called 'Not-Knowing'. Formed in the shadow of New Criticism, the creative writing discourse still displays 'not a commitment to ignorance, exactly, but … a commitment to innocence'. This commitment, this sense of writing being produced in a knowledge vacuum, is what turned me off the programme to begin with. Contemporary fiction seldom refers to any of the literary developments of the past 20, 50 or a hundred years. It rarely refers to other books at all. Literary scholarship may not be an undiluted joy to its readers, but at least it's usually founded on an ideal of the collaborative accretion of human knowledge." LRB.


Buone abitudini di studio

Un interessante articolo illustra i risultati delle recenti ricerche della psicologia cognitivi sui migliori metodi di studio - che non sono quelli che di solito genitori e insegnanti predicano. "The findings ... directly contradict much of the common wisdom about good study habits, and they have not caught on. For instance, instead of sticking to one study location, simply alternating the room where a person studies improves retention. So does studying distinct but related skills or concepts in one sitting, rather than focusing intensely on a single thing". nyt.


Constitution Day

Oggi è Constitution Day, in onore della Costituzione americana, firmata a Filadelfia il 17 settembre 1787. In quest'occasione presso Welcome Books esce in edizione economica The Constitution of the United States of America, illustrata (con grande rispetto, ma anche molto humor) da Sam Fink.


Drive-By Shooting

L'America vista dalla strada (una delle prospettive migliori): dall'Interstate 69, un'autostrada controversa e non ancora completata la cui storia è raccontata in Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway (Scribner) da Matt Dellinger, che l'ha anche percorsa scattando belle foto.
E al Whitney Museum di NYC è in corso la mostra fotografica, "Lee Friedlander: America by Car".


Oxford Chinese Dictionary

Ieri è uscito un nuovo Oxford Chinese Dicionary per la Oxford University Press; ha 2064 pagine, 300.000 voci e costa 75 sterline.

Hipster Faith

Un indovinello, "A young man walks into a building. From the outside, it looks like a nondescript, run-down, abandoned warehouse. Inside he finds mood lighting, music with throbbing bass, and young people wearing skinny jeans and superfluous scarves. A bar off to the side offers drinks of some sort, and a frenetically lit stage is shrouded in fog. Jumbo screens display what appear to be music videos. Everywhere people text on their iPhones." Domanda: è un bar o una chiesa? Questo indovinello è proposto dalla rivista evangelica Christianity Today, all'inizio di un'indagine sulla chiesa "hipster". Sull'argomento è anche uscito un libro, Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide, di Brett McCracken (Baker Books). Ma questa non è una tendenza nuova. Negli anni Ottanta, quando risiedevo negli SU, ricordo di aver assistito a una messa rock, dove la comunione era costituita da panini lanciati dall'officiante ai presenti mentre tutti ballavano.


Ghe pensi mi, I’ll take care of it

Quel che pensa della situazione politica italiana  Ingrid D. Rowland, docente all'University of Notre Dame School of Architecture di Roma, "In any event, Berlusconi is no longer in control of Italy (it has been clear at least since his wife announced that she was divorcing him a year ago that he has lost control of himself); he may even have lost touch with his own times. Over the course of the summer, two brave, stubborn old-style statesman, the courtly President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano - a former Communist - and the implacably cool Gianfranco Fini - a former Neofascist - have united to insist that Italy is a constitutional democracy rather than a populist circus, and that insistence (along with their very different but exceptional abilities to bide their time) has confounded a Prime Minister no longer accustomed to being confounded..." nyrb.


Il Grande Gigante non sempre Gentile

Donald Sturrock, Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl (Simon & Schuster). In occasione del trentesimo anniversario della morte del noto autore per bambini esce questa nuova biografia, che ne mette in luce anche gli aspetti tremendi, tipo, "But Dahl was also, much of the time, world-historically unpleasant. As a boy he wrapped his sister in pillows and shot BBs at her. As an adult he picked loud fights at dinner parties just to create a spectacle. He bullied editors, sold out friends, and insulted his children. ... He was, in many ways, a stereotypical mid-century wealthy imperial Brit - a bullhorn of prejudice and entitlement whose gaffes could be almost touchingly clueless. 'Even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason,' he once said about Jews, while attempting to defend himself from accusations of anti-Semitism". nymag.


C di Tom McCarthy

Tom McCarthy, C (Knopf). "Un'inchiesta rigorosa sul significato del significato: il nostro bisogno di trovarlo nel mondo che ci circonda e di comunicarcelo, i metodi per farlo; le connessioni, le reti e i grovigli di interazione che ne risultato", dice la scrittrice Jennifer Egan sul nytbr. Serge, il protagonista del romanzo, cerca il messaggio dietro ogni messaggio: un segnale originario, primordiale, unificante.


Usalibri va in vacanza per una settimana

Dal 1 settembre al 9 usalibri è in vacanza.
Gli aggiornamenti riprenderanno il 10.
Arrivederci a presto.