Gli ebrei di San Nicandro

John Davis, The Jews of San Nicandro (Yale). San Nicandro Garganico is a modest agrarian township of some 16,000 inhabitants on the edge of the spur of the boot-shaped Italian peninsula. It has been somewhat bypassed by Italy's postwar development and has never been on the tourist circuit, or indeed had anything about it that might attract outsiders. The railway didn't even reach it until 1931. To judge by the photo in the current Italian Wikipedia entry, it looks pretty much the same as it did in 1957, when I visited it, curious about the subject on which John Davis has now given us a first-rate, concise and attractively written book. San Nicandro has made only two entrances onto the historical stage. It was an early centre of Italian socialism and agrarian struggle in the grain-fields of northern Apulia, whose local political head, Domenico Fioritto, became its deputy and subsequently leader of the Italian Socialist Party. The former Communist Party (now the Democratic Party) continues to supply its mayor. The second appearance of the town in the wider world was less relevant to Italian politics, but globally more prominent, though the postwar headlines would soon be forgotten. It linked the town to a group of local peasants who decided in the 1930s to convert to Judaism and eventually emigrated to Israel. John Davis has not only rescued the 'Jews of San Nicandro' from more than a half-century of oblivion, but used them to illuminate 20th-century Europe's extraordinary history. Eric Hobsbawm, lrb.


The Literarian

The Center for Fiction ha lanciato una nuova rivista letteraria che sembra molto promettente, The Literarian. Si presentano così, "We'd love to develop an online community that is as crazy about The Center as our NY members and audiences are. So whether you are a reader, a writer, a book-group member, or a publishing type, welcome! Take some time to explore the site, read all the great content, and share your thoughts. If you like what you see - and we think you will! - please return often and, please, help us spread the word about this new online resource for readers and writers." Lo faccio con piacere e con i migliori auguri, perché effettivamente mi sembra molto interessante.

Il primo numero contiene, "New stories by Alan Cheuse (a rude - and heartbreakingly funny - awakening), Terese Svoboda (a hell of a honeymoon), Stuart Dybek (the poetry of laundry) and more... interviews with Cynthia Ozick and Yiyun Li... Martha McPhee's five favorite books about women behaving badly... " centerforfiction.


Come cambiare il mondo

Eric Hobsbawm, How to Change the World: Tales of Marx and Marxism (Little, Brown). Sedicesimo libro dello storico che ha compiuto  93 anni. Si tratta di una raccolta di articoli e saggi che "come close to providing an overview of the fortunes of Marxism in the (almost) 130 years since Marx's death in 1883". guardian.


The Voice

James Kaplan, Frank: The Voice (Doubleday).
"James Kaplan’s Frank: The Voice is authentically a page-turner, a strident tabloid epic constructed out of facts - or more precisely out of the disparate and sometimes contradictory testimony of scores of participants in Frank Sinatra’s early life". Geoffrey O’Brien, nybooks.


We Had It So Good

Linda Grant, We Had It So Good (Virago Press). Una grande scrittrice poco conosciuta in Italia in un romanzo frammentato e complesso su una coppia che si forma alla fine degli anni Sessanta - sex and drug and rock'n roll - e procede tutto sommato in maniera convenzionale. guardian.



Whether or not you believe there is any connection between the first assassination attempt ever made on an American female politician and the gun-slinging rhetoric of the first Republican woman ever nominated for the vice presidency, what's undeniably true is that despite the vast philosophical and intellectual chasms between them, Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona and the former Alaska governor Sarah Palin have something in common: they are both cowgirl politicians. In this, they are symptomatic of the too-narrow ways in which the United States is willing to accept women as leaders.
America has no tales of Amazons or of Atalanta; our national narrative does not chronicle the defeat of an armada by a virgin queen nor a teenage Joan leading her army into battle.
What we do have, to serve as the foundational fantasy of female strength and individualism we've agreed upon as embodying American power, are cowgirls: Annie Oakley, Calamity Jane, the outlaws, frontier women and pioneers who pushed West, shot sharp, talked tough and sometimes drew blood. nytmag.


Chicago Literary Hall of Fame

Chicago has a newly inaugurated Chicago Literary Hall of Fame. The idea for the Hall of Fame came out of a meeting of the Chicago Writers' Association.
On November 20th, the Hall inducted its first six authors - Lorraine Hansberry, Studs Terkel, Gwendolyn Brooks, Nelson Algren, Saul Bellow, and Richard Wright - at an auditorium in Northeast Illinois University.

The first round of inductees were "obvious choices," said Evans, the Hall of Fame's executive director (in addition to its chauffeur). But, he said, it's "going to get tricky going forward.” For instance, would Hemingway be eligible? He was born in Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago, and he attended school there, but "he only wrote one story about Chicago." The fate of L. Frank Baum, who lived in Chicago while he wrote about the land of Oz, was similarly undecided. Evans debated whether a "literary" hall of fame could include more popular writers, like Scott Turrow, or screenwriters, like Ben Hecht. newyorker.


A Writing Workshop

10 Thoughts on Academia Novel Crisis. Cathy Day, scrittrice e prof. di creative writing, elenca in modo molto spiritoso i problemi dei corsi di creative writing. "5. This is Not How You Do It. I know some people who took a novel workshop in college. This is how it went down. First, they studied the first sentences of a bunch of novels and wrote one of their own, then workshopped it. Then they studied first paragraphs of novels and expanded their first sentences into first paragraphs and workshopped those. Then they studied first chapters of a few novels and wrote one of their own, then workshopped their chapters. And then the semester was over". themillions.

Molti modi di leggere. What good to a Nook is a hook-cook Vook? "And so: Vook! The invention of Brad Inman, Vook — a software application that combines video and text — was introduced as a programming platform in 2009. Promptly people started mixing it up with the Nook, the Barnes and Noble e-reader. They're different. Vooks are not physical devices; they’re digital video books. Vook apps are available through the App Store for iPad and iPhone; at vook.com for reading on the Internet; through the iBookstore; and through the Amazon Kindle application for iPad and iPhone. (Android applications are in the works.) nyt.


New York Knicks

FreeDarko Presents: The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History (Bloomsbury), di Bethlehem Shoals, Dr. Lawyer IndianChief, Silverbird 5000 e con le bellissime illustrazioni di Jacob Weinstein (autori del blog FreeDarko). Ed è per mostrare una delle sue illustrazioni che ho deciso di presentare questo libro (per gli appassionati un must).


Tiger Mother

Il libro della Tiger Mother, Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (Penguin Press), la mamma cinese, docente di Yale, che spinge con ogni mezzo le figlie a ottenere il primo posto a scuola e nella musica, sta suscitando una vasta eco in America (e anche in Italia). Oggi sul New York Times si pronuncia David Brooks, e rivolta il caso: la signora Chua proteggerebbe le figlie dall'affrontare vere prove sociali: "I have the opposite problem with Chua. I believe she's coddling her children. She's protecting them from the most intellectually demanding activities because she doesn't understand what's cognitively difficult and what isn't.

Practicing a piece of music for four hours requires focused attention, but it is nowhere near as cognitively demanding as a sleepover with 14-year-old girls. Managing status rivalries, negotiating group dynamics, understanding social norms, navigating the distinction between self and group - these and other social tests impose cognitive demands that blow away any intense tutoring session or a class at Yale. ... 
I have the opposite problem with Chua. I believe she's coddling her children. She's protecting them from the most intellectually demanding activities because she doesn't understand what's cognitively difficult and what isn't.

Practicing a piece of music for four hours requires focused attention, but it is nowhere near as cognitively demanding as a sleepover with 14-year-old girls. Managing status rivalries, negotiating group dynamics, understanding social norms, navigating the distinction between self and group - these and other social tests impose cognitive demands that blow away any intense tutoring session or a class at Yale". nyt.



Un  saggio illuminante sulla parola "elitism". Il termine "elitism", dalla connotazione negativa, è migrato dall'area della politica a quello della cultura. "There are two opposed explanations for this situation. One would be that access to political, economic, and military power is today more meritocratic and open than access to filmmaking, humanistic academia, freelance writing, wine criticism, and so on. Do people no longer complain about the power elite because those with power are no longer elitist? Culture, in that case, would constitute a last vestige of unearned prestige in an otherwise democratically constituted society. The other explanation would be that it simply goes without saying these days that the materially consequential areas of life are lorded over by self-recruiting elites. You wouldn’t speak of a business elite, a governing elite, or a firepower elite because, now, that would be redundant. Complaints about cultural elitism would then be merely a sign that in the world of culture (unlike that of power) there is still an ongoing contest between elitism and equality that in all other realms has already been decided. By the deciders." n+1.


Why Criticism Matters

The critic participates in the world of literature not as a lawgiver or a team captain for this or that school of writing, but as a writer, a colleague of the poet and the novelist. Novelists interpret experience through the medium of plot and character, poets through the medium of rhythm and metaphor, and critics through the medium of other texts. Adam Kirsch, nyt.



E' un sito dove si discutono le "grandi questioni". E' stato creato da Rainn Wilson, l'attore che fa la parte di Dwight nello show televisivo "The Office". Wilson spiega il perché del sito, "I grew up in a bohemian household and read a lot about great thinkers and great religions. ... Contemplating the big questions is something I've always been passionate about, but it's kind of missing from our cultural discourse, and I wanted to find a way to make it cool and fun and not so precious." SoulPancake: Chew on Life's Big Questions è anche un libro, scritto da Wilson con Devon Gundry, Golriz Lucina e Shabnam Mogharabi e edito da Hyperion.  SFC.


The Finger

La gestualità è un modo di comunicare in via di estinzione. Lo sostiene Angus Trumble in un curioso libro intitolato The Finger. A handbook (Yale UP). "An old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon male can go through life with his hands in his pockets. Almost the only times he is on the receiving end of a significant hand movement are when the priest blesses him in church (index and middle fingers together and turned outward), or the umpire gives him out at the crease (index finger raised solus), or he is abused by an angry cyclist (index and middle finger splayed and turned inward).
This last was the original form of Churchill’s V-sign, until delicate-minded advisers advised him to do it palm outward. Trumble himself admits that we live in a gesture-impoverished world where hand signals are disappearing as fast as many minority word-languages. Only perhaps in Italy does the full panoply still flourish, from the corni and the mano fica to the minaccia by way of a dozen variants of the raised digit, the clenched fist and the smacked palm. TLS.


Iosif Brodskij o Joseph Brodsky

Adam Kirsch scrive un bel ritratto di Iosif Brodskij (anglicizzato in Joseph Brodsky) in cui affronta varie questioni: il fatto che le sue poesie non si traducano bene in inglese (molte le ha tradotte il poeta stesso) e che di conseguenza la sua fama in America non sia del tutto solida (Yet few English readers have been really satisfied with Brodsky’s own translations. His desire to make them is understandable—by turning himself into an American poet, after a fashion, he was saved from the obscurity and resentment that is the usual lot of the literary émigré. But he never became a master of English, in the way that, say, Vladimir Nabokov did); le sue origini ebraiche e il suo cosmopolitismo (But his essential identity, as he created it in his poems and essays, was universalist and cosmopolitan. Its key ingredients were the Russian language, European art and literature, and classical history); e alcuni punti della sua biografia, presi da un nuovo libro uscito presso Yale UP, Joseph Brodsky: A Literary Life, di Lev Loseff, tradotto in inglese da Jane Ann Miller. Tablet.


NY letteraria

"For writers, New York City has always been a magnet with two poles, one that attracts, another that repels", così inizia il lungo articolo di Stefan Kanfer che passa in rassegna tutti gli scrittori che hanno dimorato per qualche tempo a NYC. cityjournal