21.12.12

Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo

Con questa foto del presidente Obama che ha portato le figlie Sasha e Malia a fare compere di Natale a One More Page, una libreria indipendente di Arlington, in Virginia, facciamo a tutti i nostri più cari auguri di Buon Natale e di un Felicissimo Anno Nuovo

Arrivederci al 2013. Il blog riprenderà gli aggiornamenti verso il 7 gennaio prossimi. mhpbooks.

17.12.12

Detroit City Is the Place to Be

Cass Technical High School, foto di Andrew Moore
Detroit City Is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis (Metropolitan Books), di Mark Benelli, parla del possibile futuro di Detroit.
Q. You write extensively about “ruin porn” — photographs of the area’s crumbling and abandoned structures. Does this trend of taking aesthetic pleasure from Detroit’s troubles offend you as a native of the place?
A. I’m not offended by photographers like, say, Andrew Moore, even though he’s not from Detroit and spent very little time in the city – technically his work is stunning, and when you see some of these buildings up close, or sneak inside, there is a majesty and an aesthetic validity. I also sympathize with the point of view of people who have lived among these ruins for years, sometimes decades, and would happily see them all bulldozed tomorrow. I just hope a balance can be struck. Some of the industrial history, especially, is worthy of preservation, and could become tourist attractions — as opposed to, say, strip malls or stadium parking lots. nyt.

14.12.12

Zoë Heller on Salman Rushdie

Rushdie in 1988
Zoë Heller pubblica sul New York Book Review un'affilatissima critica all'ultimo libro di Salman Rushdie, il memoriale scritto in terza persona, Joseph Anton. Tanto da meritarsi The Best Hatchet Job of 2012 (Hatchet Job of the Year is a crusade against dullness, deference and lazy thinking. It rewards critics who have the courage to overturn received opinion, and who do so with style. Most of all, it is a public celebration of that most underpaid and undervalued form of journalism: the book review).
Assolutamente da leggere. Ecco quel che dice, tra le altre cose, "At various points, Rushdie seems to grow tired of defending the special rights of fiction and moves on to advocating for the extra-special rights of serious, or important, fiction. “He hoped for, he often felt he needed, a more particular defense like the quality defense made in the case of other assaulted books, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Ulysses, Lolita….
One is struck here, not just by the implied disregard for the free speech of other writers who might not qualify for “the quality defense,” but also by the lordly nonchalance with which Rushdie places himself alongside Lawrence, Joyce, and Nabokov in the ranks of literary merit. Throughout this memoir, Rushdie claims kinship with any number of great literary men—men who, like him, suffered for their genius, but whose fame was destined to outlast that of their oppressors ..." nybooks.

13.12.12

Chris Hughes e The New Republic

Di Chris Hughes - cofondatore di Facebook, e ora a 29 anni, proprietario e direttore di The New Republic che spera di rivitalizzare - parla Carl Swanson sul New York magazine. "For Hughes, the advantage of trying to fix journalism by fixing The New Republic is that, in addition to its good breeding, it’s always been small and will remain small: He wasn’t taking the helm of a grand, listing superliner like, say, Newsweek. (Though, a source says, he did ask around first about buying The New York Review of Books, which isn’t for sale and is, actually, profitable.)
Certainly he can afford this experiment. But it is an experiment, his goals noble if abstract. Hughes wants to produce what thoughtful people ought to read, as opposed to churning out what most people like to “like.” And while he’s completely upfront about not having a business-side “silver bullet,” he has confidence that there’s a way to make it work and faith that the magazine’s relaunch, scheduled for February, will make enough influential people want to pay to read it on their phones. nymag.

12.12.12

Bad Sex in Fiction Award

Il premio per il Bad Sex in Fiction è stato vinto dalla scrittrice canadese Nancy Huston per il suo ultimo romanzo Infrared (Grove Press), in cui una fotografa fa foto a raggi infrarossi agli amanti mentre fanno sesso. Nel romanzo ci sono frasi tipo, "Kamal and I are totally immersed in flesh, that archaic kingdom that brings forth tears and terrors, nightmares, babies and bedazzlements". bbc.

11.12.12

In ricordo di Dave Brubeck

Desmond e Brubeck negli anni 40
During the war both Desmond and Brubeck served in army bands. Brubeck was asked to organize one, which spared him from fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. He insisted that the band be racially integrated. He had met Desmond (who had tried out for a band and was rejected) in 1944. After the war they hooked up briefly but had a falling out. Desmond had gone to New York, but then heard a Brubeck trio on the radio. He decided to seek out Brubeck in California and offer his services. It was a hard sell until Desmond offered to babysit Brubeck’s children. Eventually there were six—five boys and a girl. Their quartet began in 1951 and “Take Five” became its signature. Their sound was different from any other jazz group and was influenced by the training that Brubeck had received from people like Darius Milhaud. He named one of his boys “Darius.” Jeremy Bernstein, nybooks.

10.12.12

Manhattan's Forgotten Film Studio

Keaton, Arbuckle e St. John, 1917 circa
In un simpatico articolo, Charles Simic ricorda lo studio cinematografico di Manhattan di Buster Keaton: "Here, briefly, is the story. In March, 1917, while walking on Broadway, Buster Keaton bumped into a friend from vaudeville who happened to know Fatty Arbuckle, the famous silent movie comedian and Chaplin’s rival. Asked if he had ever acted in motion pictures, Keaton said no, and was invited to drop by Arbuckle’s studio on 48th Street the following Monday. Keaton first declined, because Arbuckle had stolen one of his vaudeville routines in the past, but then changed his mind because his curiosity was piqued by the opportunity to see how movies are made and especially how the gags are filmed.
The Comique Film Studio was located in a warehouse at 318-320 East 48th Street, in the tough neighborhood west of the elevated subway tracks on First Avenue. ..." nybooks.

6.12.12

Perché i businessmen dovrebbero leggere poesia

Ce lo spiega dettagliatamente John Coleman:
I've written in the past about how business leaders should be readers, but even those of us prone to read avidly often restrict ourselves to contemporary nonfiction or novels. By doing so, we overlook a genre that could be valuable to our personal and professional development: poetry. Here's why we shouldn't.
For one, poetry teaches us to wrestle with and simplify complexity.
Poetry can also help users develop a more acute sense of empathy.
Reading and writing poetry also develops creativity.
Finally, poetry can teach us to infuse life with beauty and meaning. ... harvardbusinessreview.

5.12.12

Creamy and Crunchy

Che cos'è se non il peanut butter? Se volete saperne la storia, andate a leggervi, Creamy and Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All American Food, di Jon Krampner (Columbia UP).

Like other all-American foods such as the hamburger, the hot dog, and the ice-cream cone, peanut butter first emerged as a retail item at the end of the nineteenth century. With the assistance of corporations like ConAgra and Procter & Gamble, it was transformed into a billion-dollar business in the middle of the twentieth century. Peanut-butter sales, which dipped in the nineteen-eighties and nineties, because of health concerns, have steadily risen in recent years, particularly since the start of the recession. Cheap and nutritious, it’s the perfect food for hard times. The twenty-first century has also seen the increasing popularity and availability of alternatives to peanut butter’s Big Three: Jif, Skippy, and Peter Pan. Artisanal and organic varieties are easier than ever to find as food entrepreneurs try to do to peanut butter what Starbucks did to coffee. newyorker.

4.12.12

Dogfight

Il 19 novembre Michiko Kakutani, critica letteraria del New York Times, ha pubblicato la sua recensione al libro di Calvin Trillin, Dogfight (Random House) - una divertente satira delle ultime elezioni americane in versi - anch'essa in versi. Eccone un assaggio:

This book lacks a certain je ne sais quoi
Some Trillin rhymes are unnecessarily blah.
Maybe the poet’s tired of pols and their game
And so fallen back on lines that are lame.
Still, a weary Trillin is better than none,
So this isn’t a book the reader should shun. nyt.

3.12.12

Shani Boianjiu

Di Shani Boianjiu avevo parlato in un post del 19/6/12. Avevo presentato un suo racconto uscito sul New Yorker del 25/6/12, "Means of Suppressing Demonstrations". Mi era piaciuto molto, parla di una ragazza e un ragazzo israeliani che prestano servizio militare a un checkpoint. Ora di Shani Boianjiu è uscito un libro (di cui quel racconto era una parte, come spesso avviene per i racconti del New Yorker), The People of Forever Are Not Afraid (Hogarth). Secondo un'amica americana che ha consciuto bene Shani quando studiava a Harvard, sia la giovane scrittrice che il suo libro sono stati molto osteggiati a Harvard. 
In occasione dell'uscita del libro, lo scorso settembre, il New York Times intervista la scrittrice. Per leggere l'intervista cliccare qui, per leggere o rileggere il racconto qui.

30.11.12

Over the Wall

Leggo con ritardo un bell'articolo di Roger Angell - 92enne redattore e collaboratore del New Yorker - sulla moglie morta di recente. Si intitola "Over the Wall", ed è uscito sulla rivista il 19 di novembre, ma purtroppo non è disponibile on-line. Esprime con garbo sentimenti sinceri; sentimenti che riconosco, primo fra tutti lo stupore, soprattutto al tempo che passa di fronte all'eternità. E poi cita una bella poesiola del suo step-father, E.B. White (nella foto Roger Angell con la moglie Carol nel 1966):


Hold a baby to your ear
As you would a shell:
Sounds of centuries you hear
New centuries foretell.

Who can break a baby's code?
And which is the older -
The listener or his small load?
The held or the holder?

29.11.12

Alice Munro sul suo nuovo libro

Alice Munro parla del suo nuovo libro di racconti, Dear Life (Knopf), con Deborah Treisman.


You’ve written so much about young women who feel trapped in marriage and motherhood and cast around for something more to life. You also married very young and had two daughters by the time you were in your mid-twenties. How difficult was it to balance your obligations as a wife and a mother and your ambitions as a writer?

It wasn’t the housework or the children that dragged me down. I’d done housework all my life. It was the sort of open rule that women who tried to do anything so weird as writing were unseemly and possibly neglectful. I did, however, find friends—other women who joked and read covertly and we had a very good time.
The trouble was the writing itself, which was often NO GOOD. I was going through an apprenticeship I hadn’t expected. Luck had it that there was a big cry at the time about WHERE IS OUR CANADIAN LITERATURE? So some people in Toronto noticed my uneasy offerings and helped me along. newyorker.
It wasn’t the housework or the children that dragged me down. I’d done housework all my life. It was the sort of open rule that women who tried to do anything so weird as writing were unseemly and possibly neglectful. I did, however, find friends—other women who joked and read covertly and we had a very good time.
The trouble was the writing itself, which was often NO GOOD. I was going through an apprenticeship I hadn’t expected. Luck had it that there was a big cry at the time about WHERE IS OUR CANADIAN LITERATURE? So some people in Toronto noticed my uneasy offerings and helped me along.


Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/11/on-dear-life-an-interview-with-alice-munro.html#ixzz2D9SwUSv3

You’ve written so much about young women who feel trapped in marriage and motherhood and cast around for something more to life. You also married very young and had two daughters by the time you were in your mid-twenties. How difficult was it to balance your obligations as a wife and a mother and your ambitions as a writer?

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/11/on-dear-life-an-interview-with-alice-munro.html#ixzz2D9Smn8SJ

You’ve written so much about young women who feel trapped in marriage and motherhood and cast around for something more to life. You also married very young and had two daughters by the time you were in your mid-twenties. How difficult was it to balance your obligations as a wife and a mother and your ambitions as a writer?
It wasn’t the housework or the children that dragged me down. I’d done housework all my life. It was the sort of open rule that women who tried to do anything so weird as writing were unseemly and possibly neglectful. I did, however, find friends—other women who joked and read covertly and we had a very good time.
The trouble was the writing itself, which was often NO GOOD. I was going through an apprenticeship I hadn’t expected. Luck had it that there was a big cry at the time about WHERE IS OUR CANADIAN LITERATURE? So some people in Toronto noticed my uneasy offerings and helped me along.


Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/11/on-dear-life-an-interview-with-alice-munro.html#ixzz2D9S5FoZY
You’ve written so much about young women who feel trapped in marriage and motherhood and cast around for something more to life. You also married very young and had two daughters by the time you were in your mid-twenties. How difficult was it to balance your obligations as a wife and a mother and your ambitions as a writer?
It wasn’t the housework or the children that dragged me down. I’d done housework all my life. It was the sort of open rule that women who tried to do anything so weird as writing were unseemly and possibly neglectful. I did, however, find friends—other women who joked and read covertly and we had a very good time.
The trouble was the writing itself, which was often NO GOOD. I was going through an apprenticeship I hadn’t expected. Luck had it that there was a big cry at the time about WHERE IS OUR CANADIAN LITERATURE? So some people in Toronto noticed my uneasy offerings and helped me along.


Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/11/on-dear-life-an-interview-with-alice-munro.html#ixzz2D9S5FoZY
You’ve written so much about young women who feel trapped in marriage and motherhood and cast around for something more to life. You also married very young and had two daughters by the time you were in your mid-twenties. How difficult was it to balance your obligations as a wife and a mother and your ambitions as a writer?
It wasn’t the housework or the children that dragged me down. I’d done housework all my life. It was the sort of open rule that women who tried to do anything so weird as writing were unseemly and possibly neglectful. I did, however, find friends—other women who joked and read covertly and we had a very good time.
The trouble was the writing itself, which was often NO GOOD. I was going through an apprenticeship I hadn’t expected. Luck had it that there was a big cry at the time about WHERE IS OUR CANADIAN LITERATURE? So some people in Toronto noticed my uneasy offerings and helped me along.


Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/11/on-dear-life-an-interview-with-alice-munro.html#ixzz2D9S5FoZY

28.11.12

Guida alla punteggiatura

Molto carina la guida alla punteggiatura di Elodie Olson-Coons:

Hyphen. An incredibly popular mark, particularly amongst hipsters and domesticated fowl. This is the sexiest punctuation mark. Use generously, especially if you might self-define as ‘sinewy,’ ‘urbane’ or ‘saturnine.’
 mcsweeneys.

27.11.12

Word's We Are Thankful For

Here on the OxfordWords blog we’re constantly awed and impressed by the breadth and depth of the English language. As this is a great week to be appreciative, we’ve asked some fellow language-lovers which word they’re most thankful for. From quark to quotidian, ych a fi to robot, here’s what they said:
stillicide
Of incredible value to the crime writer or anybody else wishing to build suspense into a landscape, stillicide is the falling of water, especially in drops, or a succession of drops. Inexplicably underused — every day brings a new way to employ it.
- Zadie Smith, author. oupblog.

26.11.12

Tradizioni natalizie

Our post-prandial Thanksgiving stroll, around 9:30, took my daughter and me up Broadway from 63rd. Every few blocks we passed pairs of big flatbed trucks with North Carolina plates, loaded with pine trees to create an instant mini street-forest. (Copse? Spinney?) Through year’s end, Christmas tree sellers line the avenue. There is a precise starting time for this amiable institution: midnight after Thanksgiving. Green Friday. All the way home the air was redolent of pine. I’ve smelled a lot worse along this stretch of Broadway. 
Randy Cohen, l'ex ethicist del New York Times, ve lo ricordate? Questo è un suo post su Facebook.

E a Milano, quando innalzano l'albero di Natale in piazza Duomo?

23.11.12

Terry Eagleton on Derrida

Benoit Peters, Derrida (Wiley): di questa recente biografia sul filosofo francese, Terry Eagleton dice, "I suspect that one reason Derrida enjoyed travelling the world so much was because it allowed him some respite from the bitchy, sectarian, backstabbing, backscratching climate of Parisian intellectual life, which this superb biography faithfully records. What the book fails to underline quite as heavily is how waspish the maitre himself could be". guardian.

22.11.12

Names in Fiction

Alastair Fowler, Literary Names: Personal Names in English Literature (Oxford UP). "More than most literary phenomena, names in fiction seem very straightforward until you start to think about them. The simple question, ‘why does a name sound right?’ leads to a whole range of questions. Are there rules about how names are given to characters? Do naming practices differ in different periods? Are they specific to particular genres? Do different authors use names in entirely different ways... One of the many things Alastair Fowler shows in the course of this fantastically learned and occasionally perverse book is that to think about literary names you have to think about more or less the whole literary system; and when you do so, individual instances of literary names rarely turn out to exemplify general tendencies". LRB.

21.11.12

A Short History of Decay

A Short History of Decay è il titolo di un film che Michael Maren - giornalista e sceneggiatore per film - sta girando, e che contiene una scena al Kos Kaffe di Park Slope, Brooklyn, in cui è riunita una decina di scrittori. "At one table, Jennifer Egan sat scribbling on a yellow legal pad, not far from Roxana Robinson, Philip Gourevitch, John Burnham Schwartz and Jane Green. Across the room, Michael Cunningham chatted with Nick Flynn, while Mary Morris sat with a battered notebook and a pile of printouts and Darin Strauss checked ESPN.com on his laptop.
The occasion was the shooting of a scene in Michael Maren’s forthcoming film, “A Short History of Decay,” that aims to show off the most impressive mass literary cameo in recent film history. ... And that doesn’t even count the reporters who were on hand to document this very meta Brooklyn literary moment. As Ms. Egan put it, “Someone should write about all the writers who have come to write about us writing.” nyt.

20.11.12

Reading in Electronic Times

Leggere ai tempi dell'elettronica ovviamente non è la stessa cosa. Lo dice Andrew Piper nel suo libro, Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times (University of Chicago Press), argomentando la sua tesi in modo interessante, "Amid the seemingly endless debates today about the future of reading, there remains one salient, yet often overlooked fact: Reading isn’t only a matter of our brains; it’s something that we do with our bodies. Reading is an integral part of our lived experience, our sense of being in the world, even if at times this can mean feeling intensely apart from it. How we hold our reading materials, how we look at them, navigate them, take notes on them, share them, play with them, even where we read them—these are the categories that have mattered most to us as readers throughout the long and varied history of reading. They will no doubt continue to do so into the future ..." slate.

19.11.12

A Roman Cat Fight

Sulla New York Review of Books si occupano della lotta che Repubblica sta ingaggiando contro le cat ladies. Massimo Gatto si chiede il perché, "Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi must have finally lost all claim to our attention, because La Repubblica has decided to change the target of its latest crusade. Since 1993, a former opera singer named Silvia Viviani has maintained a sanctuary for cats in the center of town, in a Fascist-era archaeological excavation called the Area Sacra di Largo Argentina, or Largo di Torre Argentina. The cat sanctuary has sterilized tens of thousands of animals, healed and vaccinated thousands more. But La Repubblica has suddenly decided to be outraged that cats might find refuge among these unprepossessing ruins. ... " nybooks.

16.11.12

The Duke in His Domain

"The Duke in His Domain" è il titolo del profilo di Marlon Brando scritto da Truman Capote per il New Yorker e uscito sulla rivista il 9 novembre del 1957. 
"What transpired between Brando and Capote over the course of their hours alone together in that hotel room has long been a subject of historical curiosity. Just how did Capote get the taciturn Brando to talk? Was Brando (as he later claimed) tricked by the devious Capote? Or was the star a willing participant in the unmaking of his own image? Was there (as Capote dubiously claimed) some sort of sexual history between the two? What is clear is that more than a half-century after it appeared, "The Duke in His Domain" remains the yardstick by which celebrity profiles are measured—an early harbinger of the New Journalism that would come into full flower in the 1960s. With its profusion of intimate details, confessional tone, and novelistic observation of Brando’s character, the story marked a clear evolution of celebrity journalism and heralded the arrival of the invasive, full-immersion pop culture of today", dice Douglas McCollam in "In Cold Type", uscito sul numero di novembre-dicembre della Columbia Journalism Review (v. il post di ieri). 
Per leggere "The Duke in His Domain", cliccare qui.

15.11.12

In Cold Type

Una lezione di giornalismo: Douglas McCollam parla di come Truman Capote sia riuscito a intervistare Marlon Brando, in Giappone, sul set di Sayonara, nel lontano 1957, e di come il profilo della star - apparso sul New Yorker del 9 novembre 1957 - abbia cambiato il giornalismo.

"Two nights after arriving in Japan, Capote showed up at Brando’s door wearing a tan cardigan and carrying a bottle of vodka for what in Brando’s estimation was to be a quick dinner and an early night (indeed, Brando instructed his assistant to call in an hour so he’d have an excuse to get rid of Capote). Instead, when Capote left Brando’s room six hours later, he was convinced that he had the raw material for a groundbreaking profile of the reclusive star".

sorpresa, sorpresa... Anche Marella Agnelli era un'amica e confidente di Truman Capote. "One of his female confidants, Marella Agnelli, would later recall how Capote observed people, probing for their soft spots. “I found myself telling him things I never dreamed of telling him”. columbiajournalismreview.

14.11.12

Katie Roiphe su Sweet Tooth

Le recensioni di Katie Roiphe (nella foto) sono sempre molto intelligenti, mai banali. Ecco quel che dice dell'ultimo romanzo di Ian McEwan (anche lui sempre molto intelligente e mai banale), Sweet Tooth: "There is no shortage of excellent, richly imagined books about female protagonists written by male novelists (think of Gustav Flaubert’s Madame Bovary or Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady, or Norman Rush’s Mating, or Ian McEwan’s Atonement), but there are very few instances of male novelists writing about writing about female protagonists.
In Ian McEwan’s tricky and captivating new novel Sweet Tooth, he takes as his complex subject the male writer entering a woman’s consciousness (or it might be more accurate in this case to say breaking and entering a woman’s consciousness). ...
Even the sensitive, artistically attuned, intellectually sophisticated male writer sees a woman in a very different way than she would see herself. The gap McEwan investigates is enormous and fascinating, and if we truly want to understand sexual politics, we need to read, instead of ironic blogs and Caitlin Moran and faux sociology, more novels like this one". slate.

13.11.12

Demeter

Aggiungi didascalia
"Demeter" è la storia del New Yorker di questa settimana. E' di Maile Meloy ed è così descritta dalla scrittrice: "I first read the Demeter and Persephone story as a kid, in the D’Aulaires’ “Book of Greek Myths,” when my brother and I—and all our friends—were shuttling back and forth between our divorced parents’ houses, and it always struck me as a joint custody story. This summer, the writer and editor Kate Bernheimer asked me to contribute to a collection of stories based on myths (forthcoming, Penguin 2013), and Demeter seemed like the obvious choice. In the myth, as I understood and remembered it, the harvest goddess goes into mourning when she has to give up her daughter, and in her grief she lets the world go barren. It’s an origin story about the seasons, but also a story about separation and compromise. Joint custody, when I was a kid, seemed like the great solution to the problem of divorce, and it was, but it had its own consequences: it set up opposition, and produced ingrained habits, and carved up the year very vividly in your brain..." newyorker.

12.11.12

“Yachts and Things”

A small piece of Truman Capote’s famously unfinished novel “Answered Prayers” has come to light. The six-page story, “Yachts and Things,” found among Capote’s papers in the Manuscripts and Archives Division of the New York Public Library, is published in the December issue of Vanity Fair, out now in New York and nationally next week. The story will be available online in mid-November.
Issued three years after Capote’s death, “Answered Prayers” was composed of three excerpts that had been separately published in Esquire in 1975 and 1976. Full of the thinly veiled (and unveiled) rich and famous, including Peggy Guggenheim, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Gloria Vanderbilt, the book lost Capote many friends. Before his death at 59 in 1984, he spoke of several other fragments that have never been found or published.
In Vanity Fair, Sam Kashner writes that, “In ['Yachts and Things'], the narrator is clearly Truman, and ‘Mrs. Williams’ is possibly The Washington Post’s publisher Katharine Graham.”  (nella foto con Capote). nyt.

9.11.12

Prendere appunti

"Take Note" è il titolo di un congresso che si è svolto a Harvard all'inizio di novembre. Dice Jennifer Schuessler, "The study of notes — whether pasted into commonplace books, inscribed on index cards or scribbled in textbooks — is part of a broader scholarly investigation into the history of reading, a field that has gained ground as the rise of digital technology has made the encounter between book and reader seem more fragile and ghostly than ever.
“The note is the record a historian has of past reading,” said Ann Blair, a professor of history at Harvard and one of the conference organizers. “What is reading, after all? Even if you look introspectively, it’s hard to really know what you’re taking away at any given time. But notes give us hope of getting close to an intellectual process.” nyt.

8.11.12

Autumnal Tints

E' un bellissimo saggio scritto da Thoreau 150 anni fa, mentre stava morendo di tubercolosi. Ne parla John-Manuel Andriote, "First published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1862, Autumnal Tints is a naturalist's guide to truly seeing nature. "We have only to elevate our view a little," wrote Thoreau, "to see the whole forest as a garden." Those who merely look will observe a maple, while those who see will marvel at "a living liberty-pole on which a thousand bright flags are waving." theatlantic.

7.11.12

La saga del meteo

Sulla saga del meteo e il suo linguaggio è dedicato un bel post di Avi Steinberg. "I was struck in particular by one of these descriptions. A satellite image of Manhattan appeared on the screen, and we were told that the bump at the southeast part of the island was being “reclaimed” by the water.
The word reclaim came up more than once to describe the rising tide. It is a revealing word, more narrative than simply descriptive: it hints at some larger backstory, some plot twist in a longer saga about our claims and the water’s counterclaims to the earth. It isn’t an accident that we give human names to our storms, that we regard them as identifiable characters. ..." newyorker.

5.11.12

Why Writers Should Learn Math

Perché la matematica diventa - dopo i primi passi - un linguaggio estremamente creativo e metaforico, come spiega bene Alexander Nazaryan, citando molti scrittori e qualche matematico. "As the mathematician Terence Tao has written, math study has three stages: the “pre-rigorous,” in which basic rules are learned, the theoretical “rigorous” stage, and, last and most intriguing, “the post-rigorous,” in which intuition suddenly starts to play a part. As Tao notes, “It is only with a combination of both rigorous formalism and good intuition that one can tackle complex mathematical problems; one needs the former to correctly deal with the fine details, and the latter to correctly deal with the big picture. Without one or the other, you will spend a lot of time blundering around in the dark.” newyorker.

2.11.12

Letture estive. Middlesex di Eugenides

Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (Mondadori, 2003), traduzione di Katia Bagnoli. Probabilmente il romanzone americano - letto con colpevole ritardo - che ho amato di più la scorsa estate. Mi sembra che catturi bene il ventre dell'America, quella vitalità fatta dal desiderio di ricominciare daccapo, mescolando culture, abilità, furbizia, energia, curiosità, fantasia che provengono soprattutto da gente comune. Molta fantasia e forti legami con il romanzo americano doc, tipo Twain. Personaggi e ambienti rimangono impressi, per esempio l'Oggetto.

1.11.12

E infine il romanzo...

In un'intervista A.M Homes parla del suo nuovo romanzo, May We Be Forgiven (Viking), che è nato da un racconto dallo stesso titolo uscito su Granta nel 2007.
To me it’s almost as if the book has the compression and intensity of a short story, but happens to be five hundred pages.
That goes back to the difference between grape juice and wine. If you let it sit for the right amount of time and add the right things and rotate the bottles in the right direction, hopefully it turns out not just drinkable but quite fine. granta.

31.10.12

In difesa del racconto

Lorin Stein, il direttore della Paris Review, parla delle virtù del racconto e soprattutto del suo personale rapporto con il racconto. "Short stories bring you up short. They demand a wakeful attention; a good one keeps you thinking when it’s over. They take the subjects of the night and expose them to the bright light of day. They run counter to our yearnings for immersion, companionship, distraction … and for all of these reasons, in my mind they’ve come to stand for a kind of difficulty, emotional difficulty, that we are in danger of losing when we fetishize the charms of the long novel. Reading groups dive into White Teeth, Middlemarch, or Freedom, when they might find discussions deeper and more specific -- and everyone actually on the same page -- if they read a little magazine, an anthology, or a collection of stories.
There is a time for multi-tasking and a time for losing yourself. The short story offers something else: a chance to pay close attention -- and have that attention rewarded because, for once, every little plot twist, every sentence, counts. In my life, I'm happy to report, there is a time for that kind of attention too". pw.

30.10.12

In difesa del romanzo breve

O novella, come si chiama in inglese. A prenderne le difese è Ian McEwan, la cui prima "novella" è stata criticata in maniera antipatica. Lui addirittura definisce la "novella", "the perfect form of prose fiction". Non so se sono d'accordo. Amo i romanzoni, ma anche i romanzi corti e i racconti. Sono tutte forme possibili e non intercambiabili di narrativa. Dettate da esigenze interne, direi. La "novella" ha comunque una tradizione gloriosa. "It is the beautiful daughter of a rambling, bloated ill-shaven giant (but a giant who’s a genius on his best days). And this child is the means by which many first know our greatest writers. Readers come to Thomas Mann by way of “Death in Venice,” Henry James by “The Turn of the Screw,” Kafka by “Metamorphosis,” Joseph Conrad by “Heart of Darkness,” Albert Camus by “L’Etranger.” I could go on: Voltaire, Tolstoy, Joyce, Solzhenitsyn. And Orwell, Steinbeck, Pynchon. And Melville, Lawrence, Munro. newyorker.

29.10.12

Joyce Carol Oates on Norman Mailer

Norman represented not only the most passionate and ambitious writing of his generation but the spirit of a kind of American writer who will possibly not come again. Norman was the very antithesis of minimalism—he was a maximalist. thedailybeast.

26.10.12

Poetry Magazine

Ho letto con grande piacere l'articolo di Liesl Olson su Poetry magazine, la rivista di poesia fondata a Chicago da Harriet Monroe 100 anni fa e diretta in gran parte da donne. Poetry ha avuto un ruolo importante nel diffondere il modernismo negli Stati Uniti e ha contribuito a fare di Chicago un centro culturale. "Monroe is the most celebrated woman of Poetry magazine—and arguably its most important editor—though many women helped to edit Poetry both in Monroe’s time and throughout the magazine’s 100-year history. They include Monroe’s indispensible first assistant, Alice Corbin Henderson; writer and war correspondent Eunice Tietjens; poets Jessica Nelson North and Marion Strobel; and Margaret Danner, a highly successful African American poet who worked with Karl Shapiro and Henry Rago in the 1950s and 1960s. Like Monroe, these women navigated a larger literary culture dominated by men. poetryfoundation.
Nella foto da sinistra a destra: Harriet Monroe, Alice Corbin Henderson, Eunice Tietjens, Marion Strobel, Margaret Danner.

24.10.12

Jim Shepard e The Milan Review

Leggendo un'interessante intervista allo scrittore Jim Shepard, uscita sulla Paris Review, scopro che l'intervistatore, Tim Small, è il traduttore in italiano di Shepard e intervista lo scrittore "on Skype, from my ex-girlfriend's kitchen in Milan, Italy". Vado a cercare Tim Small e scopro che è il fondatore e il direttore editoriale di The Milan Review, una rivista letteraria che così si definisce sul web "The Milan Review is a semi-annual litmag which is vaguely thematic and definitely in English. It is distributed pretty much all over the world but conceived and printed in Italy.
It includes only short stories and hand-made artworks, such as paintings, drawings, collages and the like. No photographs—not for now, at least. Every issue is radically different from the others in size, form, concept, shape, color and taste.
It is almost certainly the best Italian-American literary journal in the world". themilanreview.

23.10.12

Yoko Tawada e Rivka Galchen

Tawada writes about … well … it’s not easy to give a “whatness” to her writing. But language and perception are always central, problematic and vivid. Consider Tawada’s short story, “Where Europe Begins” (the title story of one of her collections). In it, the narrator, a foreigner living in Germany, starts off the story with an earache, which a doctor later diagnoses as a pregnancy; at a flea market, she picks up a book, which the vendor says is not a book but a mirror, and then when she brings the object home, it turns out to be a box containing four cassette tapes—a book on tape. She plays it. She “tries to listen to the voice without losing my distance from it. But I couldn’t. Either I heard nothing at all, or I was plunged into the novel.“

Non so se mi piacerebbe leggere questa Yoko Tawada - scrittrice giapponese che vive a Berlino e scrive sia in giapponese che in tedesco e da noi non è ancora tradotta. Ma mi piace molto la recensione dei suoi racconti che fa Rivka Galchen. newyorker.

22.10.12

Critical Thinking

Post dedicato ai docenti di scuole americane, che devono essere challenging (che significa poi in pratica?) e sviluppare il critical thinking (che è?). Ecco come quest'ultimo concetto viene definito da Paul Gary Wyckoff, professore di scienze politiche all'Hamiltono College, NY.
1. The ability to think empirically, not theoretically.
2.  The ability to think in terms of multiple, rather than single, causes.
3. The ability to think in terms of the sizes of things, rather than only in terms of their direction.
4. The ability to think like foxes, not hedgehogs. 5. The ability to understand one's own biases. insidehighered.


19.10.12

The Comfort of Bad Books

... the most allegedly “difficult” novelist of our generation [David Foster Wallace] spending time with a crap paperback thriller. You could say that Wallace, here, was just doing the same kind of thing he did when he spent hours watching television, a medium he once likened, in its pure embodiment of desire, to “sugar in human food.” But he seemed to think there was something else there. In his syllabi, which are all over the web, it turns out he assigned these books to his students. He assigned Joan Collins and Mary Higgins Clark and Thomas Harris. And he cautioned students: “Don’t let any potential lightweightish-looking qualities of the texts delude you into thinking this is a blow-off type class. These ‘popular’ texts will end up being harder than more conventionally ‘literary’ works to unpack and read critically.”Even if we are not talking “literary merit,” whatever that is, the soothing effect of getting lost might in itself have critical value. Some people, when they’re lost, read the Bible; others go for a walk; still others houseclean. Me, like Wallace and his mother, I read an allegedly “bad” book, often one I’ve read before. Michelle Dean, therumpus.

18.10.12

Oyster

Oyster è un'app per leggere libri sul proprio telefono. E' un spotify for books. "Members receive unlimited access to an ever-growing collection of books for a single monthly price", dicono i fondatori - Eric Stromberg, Andrew Brown, e Willem Van Lanckersul loro blog.
When we started working this summer, we were inspired by the belief that the transformation from the print book to digital is still in its earliest phase. We knew it was important to find partners who feel the same way and believe in our vision as much as we do".

17.10.12

Twitter Fiction

Non è un esperimento nuovo, ma è pur sempre divertente. Il Guardian ha sfidato alcuni scrittori a scrivere un racconto in 140 caratteri. Eccone alcuni: 
David Lodge:
"Your money or your life!" "I'm sorry, my dear, but you know it would kill me to lose my money," said the partially deaf miser to his wife.
Hari Kunzru:
I'm here w/ disk. Where ru? Mall too crowded to see. I don't feel safe. What do you mean you didn't send any text? Those aren't your guys? theguardian.

16.10.12

Daniel Mendelsohn di nuovo sulle recensioni

The Millions (TM) intervista Daniel Mendelsohn (DM) sulle recensioni.

TM: There is a formula for criticism in the piece which says that knowledge + taste = meaningful judgment, with an emphasis on meaningful.  What makes a critique meaningful? As you point out, a lot of people have opinions who are not really critics and there are lots of people who are experts on subjects who don’t write good criticism. If everyone is not really a critic, where is the magic?
DM: It’s a very interesting question. It is magic, it’s a kind of alchemy. We all have opinions, and many people have intelligent opinions. But that’s not the same. Nor is it the case that great experts are good critics. I come out of an academic background so I’m very familiar with that end of the spectrum of knowledge. I spent a lot of my journalistic career as a professional explainer of the Classics—when I first started writing whenever there was some Greek toga-and-sandals movie they would always call me in—so I developed the sense of what it means to mediate between expertise and accessibility.
You use the word magic, which I very well might make part of my stock Homeric epithet about criticism. It’s intangible, what goes on. I know a good critic when I read one.
It’s a hard thing to nail down, but that’s why I described it as a kind of recipe. Look, it’s exactly like a recipe. Three people can make grandma’s noodle kugel but only Grandma’s noodle kugel tastes like Grandma’s noodle kugel. themillions.

15.10.12

Updike on Mo Yan

This author [Mo Yan], born in 1955 into a peasant family in northern China, sets a groaning table of brutal incident, magic realism, woman-worship, nature description, and far-flung metaphor. The Chinese novel, perhaps, had no Victorian heyday to teach it decorum; certainly both Su Tong and Mo Yan are cheerfully free with the physical details that accompany sex, birth, illness, and violent death.
New Yorker, 9 maggio 2005.

12.10.12

Letture estive. Casa

Marilynne Robinson, Casa (Einaudi), traduzione di Eva Kampmann. Un romanzo molto bello, e duro che mette in scena il brutale scontro tra la debolezza umana e la spietatezza della bontà puntando l'attenzione - quasi maniacalmente - sul contorno delle azioni quotidiani in cui ha luogo. L'azione si svolge a Gilead, Iowa, negli anni Cinquanta e i personaggi sono più o meno gli stessi del romanzo precedente che prendeva il nome dalla cittadina. Cambiano le prospettive e i toni.

11.10.12

Novels Without Redemption

Un lungo articolo di Howard Jacobson (di cui è appena uscito il nuovo romanzo, Zoo Time, Bloomsbury), sui bad boy's books, ovviamente a favore, e spiritoso. Inizia così, "I was once told by a publisher that a novel I'd submitted "lacked redemption". I could not contain my excitement. At last, I said to my agent, I'd written, and been recognised for writing, a bad boys' book. She looked at the carpet for what seemed like hours. "I think what they're trying to say," she replied, when the silence could go on no longer, "is that they don't like it." guardian.

10.10.12

OED Appeals

Today the Oxford English Dictionary announces the launch of OED Appeals, a dedicated community space on the OED website where OED editors solicit help in unearthing new information about the history and usage of English. The website will enable the public to post evidence in direct response to editors, fostering a collective effort to record the English language and find the true roots of our vocabulary. oup.

9.10.12

Marina Keegan, Cold Pastoral

When Marina Keegan died, tragically, at the age of twenty-two, in a car accident in May, she had just graduated from Yale University and was about to start a job on the editorial staff of The New Yorker. ... She was also at the beginning of a promising career as a writer—of plays, of journalism, and of fiction. ... Her story “Cold Pastoral,” in which a college student is forced to reassess her relationship and herself when she reads her boyfriend’s diary after his death, has a skillfully controlled comedy to it ...  At the same time, it shows an acute, almost clinical understanding of the mixture of arrogance and vulnerability, of pretense and emotion, with which its twenty-something characters pursue and evade real attachment.

Per leggere questo bel racconto cliccare qui.

8.10.12

Il bunker di Gay Talese

Under the townhouse where the legendary writer Gay Talese and his wife, Nan, have lived for over half a century is what Talese calls his “subterranean think tank.” Every day, Talese leaves his home, locks his door, walks down an elegantly curved outdoor staircase through a separate entrance, and enters this lush underground office.
There are no windows, and no phones. It is, he says, “one place where I think a writer can work without any distractions.” 
Per vedere Gay Talese che ci fa fare un giretto nel suo bunker cliccare qui.