The Ethicist se ne va

Che tristezza! Randy Cohen, The Ethicist del New York Times Magazine, lascia il giornale. Mi spiace moltissimo perché leggevo la sua rubrica settimanale con grande piacere. Rispondeva, in modo sempre molto spiritoso e umano, a lettere di lettori che gli sottoponevano problemi etici. "I say with some shame, there has been no such gradual change in my own behavior. Writing the column has not made me even slightly more virtuous. And I didn’t have to be: it was in my contract. O.K., it wasn't. But it should have been. I wasn't hired to personify virtue, to be a role model for the kids, but to write about virtue in a way readers might find engaging." Nel suo commiato dice però che sta sviluppando un programma sulla radio pubblica dal titolo A Question of Ethics. A presto, spero! nytmag.


Civilization: the West and the Rest

E' il titolo del nuovo libro di Niall Ferguson, edito da Allen Lane. William Skidelsky parla con il noto storico sul Guardian. "... it's a book that belongs at the more populist end of the Ferguson oeuvre. In fact, he [Ferguson] says, he wrote it largely with his children in mind. (He has three, two sons and a daughter, ranging from 11 to 17.) 'The book is partly designed so a 17-year-old boy or girl will get a lot of history in a very digestible way, and be able to relate to it,' ... Civilization sets out to answer a question that Ferguson identifies as the 'most interesting' facing historians of the modern era: 'Why, beginning around 1500, did a few small polities on the western end of the Eurasian landmass come to dominate the rest of the world?' In other words, the book attempts to explain the roots of something – western power – that has long fascinated its author." guardian.


My Mom Is a Fob

Fob stands for 'fresh off the boat,' and is a term often used to describe Asian immigrants who just aren't quite on track with American culture. My Mom Is a Fob è un divertente libro di Teresa e Serena Wu (non imparentate), che come sottotitolo fa: Earnest Advice in Broken English from Your Asian-American Mom, ed è pubblicato da Perigee Trade. E' anche un blog tenuto dalle stesse autrici. newyorker.

Shady Characters è un blog dedicato alla punteggiatura.


Saïd Sayrafiezadeh

E' uno scrittore e sceneggiatore americano di origini iraniane. Questa settimana sul New Yorker è uscito un suo bel racconto, "Paranoia" sull'amicizia di due uomini. Cressida Leyshon lo intervista: "Q. When you started thinking about the story were you drawn first to the friendship, or to the idea of young men facing the prospect of a war, or to something else altogether? A. But when I began working on “Paranoia” I was most strongly drawn to the idea of a city and the ways in which it responds to war. In this particular case, a mid-sized, post-industrial city. newyorker.


La guerra è noiosa

War is Boring: Bored Stiff, Scared to Death in the World's Worst War Zones è il titolo di un graphic novel del corrispondente di guerra David Axe e del disegnatore Matt Bors (NAL Trade) e anche il titolo di un sito web molto popolare. "The tragedy of Axe's book is not the actual tragedy of war, nor his boredom with it. It's his boredom with himself and the rest of humanity, and for this reason his account should be read by budding war reporters, so that they might safeguard themselves against developing his outlook. Axe does offer a bit of wisdom at the end, but it is cold comfort. 'The more of the world I see, the less sense it makes,' he writes: 'The more different people I meet, the less I believe in their humanity. The older I get, the less comfortable I am in my own skin….the things we can believe in shrink into a space smaller than our own bodies. To preserve them, for as long as you might, arm yourself, and be afraid." Elissa Lerner sul newyorker.


Che cosa fa di un grande romanzo il grande romanzo?

Se lo chiede Gabriel Brownstein e cerca di rispondere esaminando due romanzi usciti recentemente, Freedom di Jonathan Franzen e The Cookbook Collector di Allegra Goodman.
Verso la fine del suo lungo articolo Brownstein dice, "Twenty years ago, David Foster Wallace wrote an essay called 'E Unibus Plurum: Television and U.S. Fiction,' in which he worried that the irony of his favorite post-moderns (Pynchon, Delillo, Gaddis, Barth) had been co-opted in his generation of post-modernists' lives by television, in particular leering, cynical 'I know this is just an ad' kind of TV ads.  Wallace worried that his generation of post-modernists had fallen into a trap, a reflexive, cold irony he called 'televisual,' and he described this irony’s gaze as 'the girl who’s dancing with you but who would rather be dancing with someone else.'  Allegra Goodman, of course, is in no danger of falling into this trap. ... Meanwhile Franzen's novel - his whole career, really - is a struggle with this postmodern ironical trap, a struggle to inhabit it and get out of it, to be humane and to be ironic. ... Franzen is dancing with you, sure, ... but he's not wholeheartedly on the floor with his partners.  Allegra Goodman loves her characters - they absorb her attention as if she could wish for nothing more, and she offers them intimately to her readers, so much so that the author herself all but vanishes.  Franzen's characters meanwhile exist somewhere beneath the glory of his prose.  His book is not so much addressed to the intimate reader, it's addressed to the judges and the crowds.  themillions.


Elizabeth Bishop and the New Yorker

E' il titolo di un nuovo libro uscito anche per commemorare il centenario della nascita della poetessa. Raccoglie la corrispondeza tra Elizabeth Bishop e il New Yorker, è curato da Joelle Biele e pubblicato da Farrar Straus & Giroux. E' pieno di aneddoti divertenti, tipo, "What I think about The New Yorker, can only be expressed like this: *!@!!!@!*!!" Bishop lo scrive a Marianne Moore nel 1940, quando aveva 29 anni e aveva da poco pubblicato la prima poesia sulla rivista. nyt.


King James Bible

La King James Bible compie 400 anni. "King James’s offer to commission a new Bible translation had been made quite casually at the Hampton Court Conference in 1604, chiefly, it seems, to console the Puritans for their failure to secure any other changes to the religious settlement. To many contemporaries, it seemed little more than a royal vanity project. In the preface to the first edition of 1611, the translators admitted that many people saw no need for a new translation at all ..." TLS.


A proposito di Salinger

Sull'ultimo numero della Paris Review Blair Fuller racconta di una strana serata dell'inverno del 1952 passata in compagnia di J.D. Salinger a New York. "For a considerable time Jill and Joe and Salinger and I were all sitting on the living room’s carpet. He asked us to call him Jerry, then asked some routine questions about what we were doing and why, but with a pleasing sympathetic intensity. He made several comments that put him on our side, the side of people starting out rather than the people settled in to lifelong careers. The conversation warmed, and we found that we could make each other laugh." parisreview.

Kenneth Slawenski, J. D. Salinger. A Life (Random House). "J. D. Salinger spent the first third of his life trying to get noticed and the rest of it trying to disappear. He would have hated J. D. Salinger: A Life, Kenneth Slawenski's reverent new biography, which comes to us just a year after the writer's death and creditably unearths and aggregates the facts and reads them into the fiction -  reanimating the corpse without quite making it sing. If you really want to hear about it, what's missing ... is Salinger's voice", dice Jay McInernay della nuova biobrafia di Salinger. nytbr.


Natura estrema

Escono due nuovi bei libri di viaggi in regioni estreme: Sara Wheeler, The Magnetic North. Notes from the Arctic Circle (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), su un viaggio attraverso Siberia, Alaska, Canada, e Groenlandia nella speranza di catturare gli enigmi dell'Artico, nytbr; e Colin Thubron, To a Mountain in Tibet (Chatto & Windus), un pellegrinaggio laicosulle sponde del monte Kailash, una delle vette più sacre dell'Himalaya, con un cuoco, una guida, un assistente e un cavallo. guardian.


Critic vs Reviewer

Il 2 febbraio, Harper’s Magazine e NYU hanno festeggiato Zadie Smith che da marzo inizierà a recensire libri per Harper’s Magazine. Zadie Smith ha parlato della differenza tra "critico" e "recensore". "She insisted on being called a reviewer, in fact, and not a critic, a distinction I understood as being between an all-powerful and hoity-toity judge-type (the critic) and a sort of fellow-traveller (the reviewer), one who approaches a book in a spirit of camaraderie and aims to represent that book in a piece of writing as carefully crafted as the book itself (which is not to say “softly”). newyorker.


Banville a Brown

Ieri John Banville ha letto un brano del libro che sta scrivendo a Brown University. Alex Beam del Boston Globe l'ha intervistato.
Q. What will you be reading at Brown?

A. I’ll be reading from a John Banville book that I've been working on for four years, not a Benjamin Black. It's part of a novel about a retired stage actor who is recalling an affair he had when he was 15, with the 35 year-old mother of his best friend, in a small town in Ireland. Not a very frequent occurrence, I would think. The passage describes his first seduction, and his appearance at confession afterward. It's quite funny and moving.

Q. How do Black and Banville divide their time?
A. I've got a schedule now. I do a Benjamin Black in the spring and early summer. I hate summer so this is a wonderful excuse to sit in my room and pound away at a crime book. I write those quickly on the computer, in three to four months. What I want from Benjamin Black is spontaneity; John Banville writes in longhand with a fountain pen. I can't do them both at the same time. Banville was never much interested in character, dialogue, and plot, and Black is entirely character and dialogue and plot. With the crime novels, it's delightful to have protagonists I can revisit in book after book. It's like having a fictitious family. bg.

Due nuovi dizionari dello slang: Jonathon Green, Green's Dictionary of Slang. Three volumes (Chambers); e John Simpson, The First English Dictionary of Slang (Oxford). TLS.


Elogio della città

Edward Glaeser, Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier (Penguin Press). "Cities magnify people's strengths, Glaeser argues, because ideas spread more easily in dense environments. If you want to compete in a global marketplace it really helps to be near a downtown. Companies that are near the geographic center of their industry are more productive. Year by year, workers in cities see their wages grow faster than workers outside of cities because their skills grow faster. Inventors disproportionately cite ideas from others who live physically close to them", David Brooks recensisce entusiasticamente il saggio di Glaeser, professore di economia a Harvard, che è un elogio alla città in generale, e a Chicago in particolare. nyt.


Indefinte Words

I have no idea how many indefinite words there are, but certainly there are gobs - perhaps even oodles, especially when you consider words for thingamajigs such as "thingumbob" and "whangydoodle." Like euphemisms, nicknames, and slang in general, indefinite words are a testament to our collective creativity, which can never be contained by numbers or knowledge.

"Spillion" - coined in 2010 to express the enormity of the BP oil spill - is only the latest fanciful word to play on real numbers such as "million" and "billion." good.


Libro oggetto

Isaac Salazar, scultore del New Mexico, trasforma libri vecchi in sculture. "I like to take a book that would otherwise end up in a landfill and turn it into art. Rarely do I use new books, unless I am commissioned to. I like to watch Planet Green, and am into alternative energy, recycling and repurposing so it’s a good feeling to know my art can contribute to reducing waste. flickr.

Storigami: storie in forma di origami. E' il formato ideato da una piccola casa editrice indipendente, Featherproof Books, per dei libretti per bambini. Si possono scaricare da Internet, e poi costruire seguendo le istruzioni. Ma pare sia un'operazione piuttosto complicata.