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.