Most Well-Read Cities

Childrens Garden at the Atlanta Botanical Garden
Amazon ha pubblicato l'elenco delle città con più di 100.000 abitanti che hanno ordinato più libri  e quindi, si suppone, i cui abitanti leggono di più. In cima alla lista c'è Cambridge, Mass. Seguita da Alexandria, Va., Berkeley, Calif., Ann Arbor, Mich.,  Boulder, Colo. Ma la ragione per cui pubblico questa notizia è l'immagine che compare in cima all'articolo del New Yorker da dove l'ho tratta. Bella, vero? newyorker.


What Is Left the Daughter

Howard Norman
Quanti romanzi interessanti e quanto poco tempo per leggerli! What Is Left the Daughter, di Howard Norman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) sembra uno di questi, almeno dalla bella recensione che ne fanno Martin Greenberg e Paula Fox. Un libro pieno di passioni forti, di amore e morte e confusione, ambientato a Witless Bay, nelle Newfoundlands."What Is Left the Daughter consists of a long letter written by Wyatt Hillyer to his daughter Marlais, whom he last saw when she was six. It begins: Marlais, today is March 27, 1967, your twenty-first birthday. I'm writing because I refuse any longer to have my life defined by what I haven't told you. I've waited until now to relate the terrible incident that I took part in on October 16, 1942, when I was nineteen". nyrb.


Figlie della rivoluzione

Carolyn Cooke
Carolyn Cooke, Daughters of the Revolution  (Knopf). Sembra un romanzo interessante. E' ambientato in una prep school del New England (mi piacciono molto i romanzi ambientati nelle scuole e nei college), la Goode School, una scuola molto snob, solo maschile e cristiana, il cui direttore, Goddard Byrd, è chiamato God. Per questioni finanziarie viene deciso di aprire la scuola anche alle ragazze, di renderla coed(ucational), e poi, per errore di una segretaria, viene accettata la prima ragazza, Carole Faust, una brillante e intrattabile quindicenne nera. Jonathan Yardley, wp.


Love Child

Katie Roiphe
Come si direbbe in italiano? Figlio naturale? Figlio dell'amore? Katie Roiphe traccia la storia di quest'espressione, "The word itself dates back to at least 1805. In The Nuns of the Desert, Eugenia De Acton writes of a 'Miss Blenheim' being 'what in that country is denominated a love-child,' and the term appears again a little later in Percy Bysshe Shelley's Posthumous Poems. Another important touchstone in the word's history is, of course, the 1968 Diana Ross and the Supremes song Love Child, with the truly transcendent rhyme 'Love child never meant to be/ Love child scorned by society'." 
Ne commenta le ambigue connotazioni, "Since our bigotries are less openly and exuberantly expressed than they were in past decades, they take refuge in subtle, shifting word choices. Love child is definitely more friendly or tactful than the more Shakespearean bastard but it nonetheless cloaks a certain discomfort with the facts. Love child is both tolerant (that is, more tolerant than other terms) and mocking; it contains within it our contradictions; it passes judgment in an ironic way - indirectly, playfully, but also plainly".  
E il potenziale trasgressivo, "Stepping back, though, what is a tiny bit subversive and possibly appealing about the term is the faint suggestion that the love child has something more to do with love than the baby born in wedlock, who is in a certain sense just doing his job, fulfilling the natural and upstanding function of holy matrimony. On some level, the existence of the love child is testimony to some special energy on the planet ..." slate.


In difesa di una parola tabù

La grande Jenny Diski scrive sul NYT in difesa di una parola che il NYT non pubblicherebbe neppure in forma di lettera iniziale/asterischi/lettera finale. E si augura che le donne se ne riapproprino. "What have writers got but words? And what have people got but their own bodies to inhabit? What then if you're a writer and the kind of person who has a body part that could be named by a word that can't be used? At any rate, the word can't be used in this magazine, nor can it be represented by a couple of letters with asterisks in between (too risqué, those stars) ... Its that dangerous, that offensive. So for a writer and a woman, what could be more alluring and commanding than to write and vocalize the private part that dare not speak its name except in Latin and/or euphemism?" nyt.


Di che college sei?

In America il college ha un ruolo importante nel definire l'identità sociale. Lo stesso avviene in letteratura, dove il college è spesso usato per definire la personalità dei personaggi. Daniel de Vise del Washington Post traccia una mappa interessante degli stereotipi umani legati ai college: "Real colleges pop up all over our fictional landscapes, their names invoked to breathe life and depth into characters. The universities of Minnesota and Virginia serve as backdrops in Freedom, Jonathan Franzen's celebrated novel. The Simpsons caricatured the Seven Sisters in an episode touching on the collegiate aspirations of bookish daughter Lisa. ("Come to Radcliffe and meet Harvard men," they beckon. "Or come to Wellesley and marry them.") And the Oscar-winning film The Social Network essentially stars Harvard University ... A citation in fiction means an institution's brand is sufficiently familiar to help define a fictional character: Princeton preppy. Penn State party boy. MIT brainiac. Harvard kingmaker. Berkeley radical. Notre Dame jock". wp.


The Anatomy of Influence

E' il titolo del nuovo libro di Harold Bloom, uscito presso Yale UP. "For me, Shakespeare is God", dice Bloom a un certo punto. "Twice he asserts that Shakespeare's greatest creations are Falstaff, Hamlet, Iago and Cleopatra; twice that The Tempest and The Winter's Tale are tragicomedies and not ro­mances; three times that Titus Andronicus parodies the tragedies of Shakespeare's defeated rival Marlowe. Prospero, Bloom shrewdly observes, 'is one of those teachers who is always convinced his auditors are not quite attentive.' So too Bloom, himself a 'professional teacher' for 55 years now, has perhaps learned that the most efficient way to get your point across is to keep making it, the classroom sage's version of staying on message. But a repetitive Bloom, even in his late season of garrulity, still has many arresting things to say and says them, often, with exquisite precision. He is, by any reckoning, one of the most stimulating literary presences of the last half-century - and one of the most protean, a singular breed of scholar-teacher-critic-prose-poet-­pamphleteer... Sam Tanenhaus sul nytbr.


Una donna singolare

Questa settimana il libro di cui si è parlato di più è A Singular Woman (Riverhead), di Janny Scott, una biografia della madre di Barak Obama, Stanley Ann Dunham. "Twice, she married men from different cultures and races, then divorced them. With the help of her parents, she raised two biracial children as a single mother on the Pacific islands of two nations, got degrees in math and anthropology, spent years in peasant villages studying Javanese cottage industries, and pieced together grants and development work to make money and provide for her children’s education. Colleagues credit her with helping pioneer microcredit as a tool for lifting women out of poverty", Ann Gerhart sul Washington Post. Vedi anche Ian Buruma sulla New York Review of Books e Jacob Weisberg su Slate.


Un secondo addio a Elaine's

E' il titolo di un post di Macy Halford che con dispiacere comunica che il noto ristorante newyorchese - immortalato anche da Woody Allen in alcuni dei suoi film - ha tentato di sopravvivere alla morte della proprietaria, Elaine Kaufmann, ma non ce l'ha fatta. Chiuderà definitivamente il 26 maggio. La caratteristica principale di Elaine's era di essere un locale senza pretese, se così si può dire di un posto frequentato dalla miglior intellighenzia di Manhattan. Ecco quel che dice Halford, "As the Times puts it, 'Elaine's had become an anomaly, a single-owner restaurant in an age of deep-pocketed investors and celebrity chefs.' The triumph of such restaurants strikes me as in fact one of the chief disasters of this (New York) age. Soon, we could very well have no place where reading at the bar while sipping a martini or eating with books piled up next to the bread basket is 'appropriate,' since one's focus is expected to be always on the 'specialness' of the place itself. Elaine let her customers focus on what they wanted - which happened to be books and the literary life - and that's what made it special. Elaine's, you will be missed". newyorker.
In effetti, che noia questi locali milanesi con chef super blasonati.


40 termini letterari

che bisogna conoscere. Secondo The Centered Librarian. Al n. 6 c'è: Bowdlerize: Because of his numerous silly cuts and edits to Shakespeare (SHAKESPEARE!), Thomas Bowdler has become immortalized as the unintentional founder of yet another word for censorship and needless meddling. When American The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy editions replaced the f-dash-dash-dash word with "Belgium," it found itself on the receiving end of a serious bowdlerizing. centeredlibrarian.

Il punto va prima o dopo le virgolette? Dipende dal paese, e dal tipo di documento. Comunque si legga The Rise of "Logical Punctuation" di Ben Yagoda su Slate, "For at least two centuries, it has been standard practice in the United States to place commas and periods inside of quotation marks. This rule still holds for professionally edited prose: what you'll find in Slate, the New York Times, the Washington Post - almost any place adhering to Modern Language Association (MLA) or AP guidelines. But in copy-editor-free zones - the Web and emails, student papers, business memos - with increasing frequency, commas and periods find themselves on the outside of quotation marks, looking in.  A punctuation paradigm is shifting. slate.



E' tempo di correggere papers, alas. Noam Shpancer professore di psicologia all'Otterbein College, dà agli studenti dei suggerimenti per scrivere dei buoni papers, evitando grandi sofferenze ai professori. Il suo articolo, "Seven Tips for Writing a Good Paper" è molto divertente, e utile, e decisamente da leggere. "Big words are often hollow. Like large bills, they are better to have than to use. Einstein said, 'Make everything as simple as possible, but not more so.' So think twice before you use 'existence' to mean 'life,' 'conceptualization' to mean 'idea,' 'human beings' to mean 'people.' And never, ever, use the word 'paradigm,' even if you know what it means. Moreover, unlike money, writing is not a 'more is better' proposition. More words can't make a bad essay better. They just make it longer". psychologytoday.

Sempre a proposito dello scrivere bene, uno studio ha dimostrato che le recensioni ben scritte in Internet attraggono più clienti - anche quando sono negative - di quelle scritte male: "According to Panos Ipeirotis, a professor at NYU's Stern School of Business who studies consumer reviews on the Internet, the first review [quella scritta in modo corretto] will lure more travelers. In a recent blog post, Ipeirotis discussed his research showing that well-written reviews help sell products, even when the write-ups are negative". slate.


Sulla noia

Peter Toohey, docente di Greek and Roman Studies all'University of Calgary ha scritto un libro sulla noia che mi sembra interessante, Boredom: A Lively History (Yale UP). La maggior parte di noi teme la noia, invece è una condizione dotata di qualche utilità, almeno quando non è cronica, secondo Toohey. "Short-term boredom is something that should direct you away from dodgy situations. It acts like an early warning signal to show that some situations may be dangerous to your well-being. It’s just like disgust, another emotion that is there to help us prosper. Disgust alerts you to what can be injurious, if eaten, to your health. Boredom, a social emotion, can alert you to situations that can be psychologically harmful". newyorker.


Mappe dell'immaginazione

Su un blog letterario interessante, Nick's Café Canadien, ho trovato un lungo e affascinante articolo sulle mappe dell'immaginazione. "It is hard | to imagine a world | without maps. Maps govern the way we think about space, and that extends to imaginary or hypothetical spaces. Without a graphic representation on paper or in our heads, our plans for things not yet built - homes, roads, electric circuits - may be cloudy and ambiguous. They may lack precision in the same way we have trouble with describing things that are outside our linguistic abilities. This is a negative definition of maps as a form of language: to be without a map is to be without language, and it impedes us from communicating ideas in the mind - to others, yes, but also to ourselves". nicolastam.


Letteratura internazionale

Tim Parks discute delle contraddizioni della "letteratura internazionale" e del sempre più indispensabile (e più ignorato) traduttore. "Translation thus becomes an all-important part of the initial promotion of a novel, which may well find fewer readers in its original language than in its many translations. Yet translators are becoming less rather than more visible. Few readers will be aware who translates their favourite foreign novelist, even though that person will have a huge influence on the tone and feel of every page". tls.


Qualche domanda su Osama Bin Laden. "Why was he in Abbottabad? Did Pakistan protect him? Who was the woman with him? And what’s next for Al Qaeda?
Dexter Filkins, "Now that Osama is dead, the most intriguing question is this: Did any Pakistani officials help hide him? ... Could Pakistani officials have helped hide Osama?... who was taking care of him, and how? ...
Jeffrey Toobin, "Killing Osama: Was it Legal? ... 
David Remnick, "But what of Obama’s history with Osama bin Laden?
Tutto questo sul New Yorker.


L'uomo impossibile

E' il poeta inglese Philip Larkin, secondo Christopher Hitchens. "I once attempted a comparison and contrast between Larkin and Orwell, as exemplars of a certain style of 'Englishness.' Both men had an abiding love for the English countryside and a haunting fear of its obliteration at the hands of 'developers.' Both were openly scornful of Christianity but maintained a profound respect for the scripture and the Anglican liturgy, as well as for the masterpieces of English ecclesiastical architecture. They each cherished the famous English affection for animals ...
In somewhat different ways, Orwell and Larkin were phlegmatically pessimistic and at times almost misanthropic, not to say misogynistic. Both also originated from dire family backgrounds that inculcated prejudice against Jews, the colored subjects of the British Empire, and the working class. ... Orwell educated himself, not without difficulty, out of racial prejudice and took a stalwart position on the side of the workers. Larkin energetically hated the labour movement and was appalled at the arrival of immigrants from the Caribbean and Asia. Orwell traveled as widely as his health permitted and learned several foreign languages, while Larkin's insularity and loathing for 'abroad' were almost parodic. In consequence, Orwell has left us a memory that elevates English decency to one of humanity's versions of grace under pressure, whereas the publication of Larkin’s Selected Letters in 1992, and a biography by Andrew Motion in 1993, posthumously drenched the poet in a tide of cloacal filth and petty bigotry that was at least somewhat self-generated."
The Atlantic.