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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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".


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Calvin Trillin

Calvin Trillin ha recentemente vinto il Thurber Prize for American Humor. Ecco quel che dice in un'intervista:
Who are your favorite contemporary humorists?
I enjoy Sandy (Ian) Frazier from the New Yorker. He's already won a Thurber or two I believe. Garrison Keillor is funny, Dave Barry always makes me laugh. My daughters and I have a special appreciation for David Sedaris. ...
Is immaturity essential for writers of humor?
If you're asking if all humor writers are childish, it reminds me of something they say Woody Allen said. And I don't know that he said it, but something about humor writers always have to eat at the children's table. In our family people fight to eat at the children's table. There are food fights at the children's table. We recently had to tell my 35-year-old daughter that she couldn't sit at the children's table anymore. We had to make room for children. clevelandcom.


Shulamith Firestone

Su n+1 magazine c'è un bel ritratto di Shulamith Firestone, l'autrice di The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution (1970), trovata morta la scorsa estate, il 28 agosto, nel suo appartamento a Manhattan, a 67 anni. "Although in later years a private and often isolated person, the writer, artist, and feminist thinker Shulamith Firestone was at one time a formidable public force. A founder of the first radical feminist organizations in New York and co-editor of the first theoretical journals of the Women’s Liberation Movement, she was one of the most memorable characters of the second wave. Brilliant, passionate, aggressive, and uncompromising in her beliefs, possessing an intellectual confidence that lives on in her work, Firestone embodied much of the radical energy of her era. She “dared to be bad”—as she declared women ought to in an editorial for Notes from the Second Year—which meant not just disobedient, but willing to fail". Dayna Tortorici, nplusonemag


Tastes Like Chicken

Jackson Lander cerca l'origine evolutiva di questa comune espressione "tastes like chicken". "The range of species I’ve heard compared to chicken, flavor-wise, is very broad across the evolutionary spectrum: various birds, of course, but also snakes, lizards, small mammals, certain fish. Which made me wonder: Can we trace the taste of chicken back down the evolutionary tree to a common ancestor? What was the first creature in evolutionary history that tasted like chicken? And for how long in the Earth’s history has life been tasting like chicken? Something had to come first, and I don’t think it was either the chicken or the egg". slate.


How are character names chosen?

Are literary names always meaningful, or are some characters named quite casually? Does each genre have a list of first names available only for that sort of writing? Corydon, a stock-name for a shepherd, is obviously pastoral, whilst Hodge is clearly georgic. (Thomas Hardy wrote of the farm labourer ‘personified by the pitiable picture known as Hodge’.) Is it necessary for fictional characters to be named at all? After all, in romances a name can be withheld for much or all of the story. When it does emerge it may not be a full name. (Full names, complete with surname, have a history of their own and deserve a dedicated blog post in their own right.) Alastair Fowler su oupblog.


The Scientists: A Family Romance

The Scientists: A Family Romance è il titolo del nuovo romanzo di Marco Roth (fondatore del magazine n+1), edito da Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Adam Kirsch lo definisce "magnificamente intelligente e commovente". "Roth’s childhood, he reveals, was the source of a double trauma, one dramatic, one so subtle that it takes him much of the book to fully understand it. The obvious trauma came when he was 14 years old and learned that his father had AIDS. Eugene Roth had been infected, his son was told, in a laboratory accident: A medical researcher working on sickle-cell anemia, he accidentally pricked himself with a used needle. Four years later, Roth’s father died, too early to be helped by the later-generation drugs that have made AIDS into a manageable condition. In the interim, Roth writes, his life was dominated by the need for secrecy: He had been instructed never to mention to anyone that his father had this stigmatizing disease. ... This is the second trauma that Roth endured as a child: the sense that he was growing up in a home that was secretive and hypocritical". tabletmag.