Dear Prime Minister, Merry Christmas!

Dear Prime Minister,
Merry Christmas! I mean it. All that "Happy Holiday Season" stuff, with "holiday" cards and "holiday" presents, is a tiresome import from the US, where it has long been fostered more by rival religions than by atheists. A cultural Anglican (whose family has been part of the Chipping Norton Set since 1727, as you'll see if you look around you in the parish church), I recoil from secular carols such as "White Christmas", "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and the loathsome "Jingle Bells", but I'm happy to sing real carols, and in the unlikely event that anyone wants me to read a lesson I'll gladly oblige - only from the King James Version, of course. ... Richard Dawkins. newstatesman.


Creative People Cheat

Questo è quanto ha appurato una ricerca fatta a Harvard: "creative people are more likely to cheat than their less creative counterparts. Researchers at Harvard and Duke have found that creative thinkers are more likely to take unethical shortcuts for gain, possibly because their talents make them better at rationalizing bad behavior. And don't creative people also believe they can win us back with a creative apology, a creative excuse or a creative defense in court? 'This is an interesting possibility,' says the lead researcher, Dr. Francesca Gino. But the bottom line, Gino said, is that 'creativity makes people more morally flexible'." nytmag.


Hitchens insegna

che la letteratura è utile per capire la storia, la politica, la finanza, ecc. Da un bell'articolo di Ian McEwan che ricorda l'amico Christopher Hitchens, "And this was a man in constant pain. Denied drinking or eating, he sucked on tiny ice chips. Where others might have beguiled themselves with thoughts of divine purpose (why me?) and dreams of an afterlife, Christopher had all of literature. Over the three days of my final visit I took a note of his subjects. Not long after he stole my Ackroyd, he was talking to me of a Slovakian novelist; whether Dreiser in his novels about finance was a guide to the current crisis; Chesterton's Catholicism; Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese, which I had brought for him on a previous visit; Mann's The Magic Mountain – he'd reread it for reflections on German imperial ambitions towards Turkey; and because we had started to talk about old times in Manhattan, he wanted to quote and celebrate James Fenton's A German Requiem: 'How comforting it is, once or twice a year,/To get together and forget the old times." guardian.


Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011. In Memoriam

Proprio ieri stavo contemplando di postare quel che adesso suppongo sia l'ultimo articolo di Christopher Hitchens: una cronaca da Tumorland, come chiamava il luogo in cui era finito, scritta per Vanity Fair. Confutava un detto diventato comune, "Tutto quel che non ammazza, rafforza", che pare sia di Nietzsche. Poi ho pensato - che sciocchezza - di non pubblicare un articolo così triste in tempi natalizi. Non è un articolo per niente triste. E' lucido, intelligente, colto e spiritoso. Come al solito.
Ieri Christopher Hitchens è morto.
Mi è capitato spesso di tradurre Hitchens per il Corriere (anche oggi pomeriggio, per l'ultima volta). Mi innervosiva sempre un po'. Hitchens non è facile da rendere. Ha un modo di scrivere molto libero, piuttosto tortuoso. A volte aggressivo. Non sempre chiarissimo di primo acchito.
Lo voglio ricordare con queste parole, prese dal necrologio di William Grimes sul New York Times: "He also professed to have no regrets for a lifetime of heavy smoking and drinking. 'Writing is what's important to me, and anything that helps me do that - or enhances and prolongs and deepens and sometimes intensifies argument and conversation - is worth it to me,' he told Charlie Rose in a television interview in 2010, adding that it was 'impossible for me to imagine having my life without going to those parties, without having those late nights, without that second bottle." nyt.


Why Trilling Matters

E' il titolo del saggio di Adam Kirsch dedicato al noto critico letterario Lionel Trilling (Yale University Press). "What makes Trilling such a complex subject is not his outstanding intellect that insisted on complexity and pluralism, but his steadfast resistance to being pigeonholed and his seeming contradictions of character. A career academic and critic, he was also, in Barzun's words, 'the very negation of an academic critic' in his freedom from Eliotic dogmatizing and method-making. A cloistered, lifelong New Yorker who got itchy whenever he left the five boroughs, he deigned to speak for all of human society in his infamous use of 'we.' An unbelieving Jew reared in a conservatively Jewish household, Trilling held that being Jewish was a social rather than religious or cultural enterprise. An apolitical citizen who walked the middle road because 'between is the only honest place to be,' he was a powerfully political reader and writer who contended that literature offered badly needed political and moral instruction. And, most splitting of all, Trilling the Apollonian critic of refinement yearned to be a Dionysian artist up to his elbows in the sweet blood of creativity". thedailybeast.


Stone Mattress

E' il titolo del racconto, bello, di Margaret Atwood, uscito sull'ultimo numero del New Yorker. Della genesi del racconto Atwood dice, "Over the past ten years, Graeme Gibson [il compagno di Atwood, anche lui scrittore, n.d.r.] and I have voyaged frequently with a group called Adventure Canada. We travel as resource staff - this company shares our interest in conservation, as do most who travel with the company - so we ourselves give talks about the North and related matters. I did write the story on board, after some idle conversation about whether one could murder someone on such a cruise and get away with it. Graeme, who has a devious mind, said it would depend on the tag-turning. I read part of the story aloud to my fellow passengers, who appeared amused and wanted to read the rest; so now they will!" Se, anche voi, volete sapere come la storia va a finire (e come comincia), clicclate qui.


What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank è il titolo del racconto di Nathan Englander uscito sull'ultimo numero del New Yorker. Cressidra Leyshon parla con l'autore:
Your characters, drunk and high, end up playing the Anne Frank game—deciding who might hide them and who might betray them were there to be another Holocaust. Is this something you invented for the story? Did you always know the story was going to close with this game?
I think I did always know that the story would close with this game, yes. As for the invention of the game, it would be very easy to couch the answer in a way that was honest but less revealing. The truth is that the idea for the game comes from the fact that my sister and I have played the game forever and ever. She is older. And she invented it. newyorker.

Morte, lutto, sepoltura

Due nuovi libri si occupano di questo argomento, ancora tabù. Si tratta di Michael Kammen, Digging Up the Dead: A History of Notable American Reburials (University of Chicago Press) e David Shields and Bradford Morrow, eds., The Inevitable: Contemporary Writers Confront Death (Norton)."There are, in other words, two aspects to the phenomenon of death. On the one hand, there is death itself — immutable, the single certainty all of us face, unchanging as it has always been. On the other hand, though, is how we living face the death of others, which is constantly changing, composed of ritual, emotion, and something that each culture and each generation must define — and redefine — for itself". LAT.


Una lezione di traduzione

Ce la dà Tim Parks. "Now imagine that, having a poet friend who wishes to translate these authors, you offer a literal translation of their poems in your second language. Maybe you read The Four Quartets out loud, line by line, to give him the cadence. But does our translator friend, who doesn’t know our language well, hear what we hear when we read aloud? The onomatopoeia, perhaps. But a dying fall in one tongue may not be the same in another, not to mention the echoes of other texts, or simply of voices in the air in our language. Over my thirty years in Italy I have often been told by uninitiated English friends what a beautiful and harmonious language Italian is; but that is Italian as heard by an ear accustomed to English sound patterns. To the Italian ear, and to mine these days, much of what is said in Italian grates. One hears the language differently when one knows it". nybooks.


The New Inquiry

Thinkers and writers of our generation face an unprecedented set of cultural realities. The growing supply of career academics has flooded the university job market, and 21st century technologies have thrown traditional media into crisis. Although the future of higher education and print remains obscure, these cultural sea changes have yielded one definite side effect: an abundance of young writers and thinkers resolved to pursue a public intellectual life for its own sake—a pursuit ordered and enabled by Internet technology.
The New Inquiry is a space for discussion that aspires to enrich cultural and public life by putting all available resources—both digital and material—toward the promotion and exploration of ideas. thenewinquiry. Interessante, no?


Haikus for Safer Streets

"Curbside Haiku," a DOT safety education and public art campaign launched in November 2011, is a set of twelve bright, eye-catching designs by artist John Morse that mimic the style of traditional street safety signs.  Each sign is accompanied by a haiku poem. The "Curbside Haiku" installation can be seen citywide on 144 signs to promote road safety. Each design and haiku delivers a safety message by focusing on a transportation mode.

Placed near eye level in high-crash locations near cultural institutions and schools, the colorful signs draw attention to the critical importance of shared responsibility among pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists in keeping New York City's streets safe. L'haiku dell'immagine è il seguente: Cars  crossing  sidewalk/ Worst New York City hotspot/ To run into friends. cliccare qui per vedere tutti i segnali haiku.


Le menorah di Maurice Sendak

Il Jewish Museum di New York ha invitato Maurice Sendak a scegliere delle menorah dalla sua collezione da esibire per Hanukkah. Nella mostra sono anche esposti due disegni originali di Sendak (uno è In Grandpa's House della foto). La mostra inizia oggi e finisce il 29 gennaio. jewishmuseum.