A Broken Hallelujah

A Broken Hallelujah: Rock and Roll, Redemption, and the Life of Leonard Cohen è il titolo della biografia di Leonard Cohen, scritta da Liel Leibovitz (Norton). "How do you write a Leonard Cohen song? That’s a difficult question, even for Leonard Cohen. The lyrics aren’t the problem; Cohen was a poet long before he wrote his first song. Nor has it been a question of finding the right melody. The challenge in writing a Leonard Cohen song came later, in the studio, when it was time to figure out how the whole thing should sound". tablet.


The New Academic Celebrity

Today, we are more likely to bestow the aura and perks of stardom on speakers at "ideas" conferences like TED, which held its 30th-anniversary gathering last month, in Vancouver.
Among the speakers was Daniel Gilbert, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, who seems to have been born to give a TED talk. He was one of a few dozen "all-stars" that TED’s curators invited to Vancouver, to give hyper-compressed updates on their work. TED talks are normally 18 minutes or so, but the all-stars got about five on the stage, standing before blocky red stage-prop letters spelling out T-E-D, wearing conspicuous headset mikes and peering through the bright stage lights into the crowd of 1,200, each of whom had paid at least $7,500 to attend. ... The newest versions of that lecture circuit hold out the prospect of delivering ideas to a broader range of people, but they also privilege some kinds of ideas over others. This year’s TED, for example, featured research psychologists, analysts of technology, scientists, and a couple of philosophers (David Chalmers, Daniel Dennett) with an interest in neuroscience, the academic field du jour. But there were no literary scholars or academic historians or political scientists. chronicle.


What Would Lynne Tillman Do?

What Would Lynne Tillman Do? è il titolo dell'ultimo libro di Lynne Tillman, una raccolta di saggi, edito da Red Lemonade. L'introduzione, apparsa sul New Yorker, è di Colm Tóibín. "Her aura as she moved onto the stage was both casual and nervous. It was clear that she had done this before. She was not going to stumble or fumble to get the audience on her side, but that confidence was matched by a guardedness, an unease, and a way of maintaining a distance that might have been theatrical. I was not sure. In one of her books, she writes of a character: “Once she dreamed, on the night before a reading she was to give, that rather than words on paper, there were tiny objects linked one to another, which she had to decipher instantly, and turn into words, sentences, a story, flawlessly, of course.”
She was wearing black; she had a glass of whiskey on the rocks in her hand. Her delivery was dry, deadpan, deliberate". newyorker.


Felicia Nimue Ackerman

“Felicia Nimue is a double first name like Mary Jane, and I’m called the whole thing”—is a short-story writer and a philosophy professor at Brown, and she excels at crafting arguments concisely. Since 1987, the Times has printed more than two hundred of her letters, which is either a record or close to one. Tom Feyer, the letters editor, doesn’t keep count, but he named Ackerman as a top contender for first place. ...
She responds to articles on a variety of topics—ageism, fatism, “society’s tendency to medicalize virtually everything”—but her underlying interest is in personal freedom. Employers should stop telling employees what to do with their free time; self-righteous people should stop “monitoring their friends and neighbors for environmental purity”; parents should stop worrying about whether violent video games have redeeming social value (“Isn’t it high time we directed our attention to the world’s real ills and stopped policing people’s fantasy lives?”). The most fundamental freedom is the freedom to stay alive, and Ackerman argues that “death with dignity” is often a euphemism for coercion. She insists that everyone, no matter how ill or decrepit, is equally justified in clinging to life. (March 13, 2005: “I would like to know why so many of my fellow bioethicists are so ready to say that someone else’s life is not worth living.”). Andrew Marantz, newyorker.


She loved lightning

She loved lightning. It wasn’t her favorite weapon—fire was, or knives. But lightning has a brutal, beautiful efficiency, and she used it to good effect, once frying alive a pair of lovers. Lightning seemed to seek her out, too. It struck her houses repeatedly, and on one occasion caused a nearby bell tower to come crashing down into her bathroom. The lightning entered her bedroom, she said, and danced across her upper lip. 

Si tratta di Muriel Spark, nel bel ritratto che ne fa Parul Seghal sul newyorker.



One of the most enjoyable parts of the Passover ceremony is the singing, invariably full-throated in my experience, of all 15 verses of “Dayenu”: ... 
… Enough already!
The Dayenu is a series of self-generating conditional clauses, composed, if you like, in that most kop-dreying of all tenses, the Judaeo-hypothetic-preconditional, in which problems are imagined in advance of their occurring, imagined, indeed, in spite of their having been averted, and there is no fathoming the sequence of causation: Do our travails precede our giving thanks, or does our giving thanks occasion our travails? In one sense, our gratitude is forever playing catch-up with His infinite magnanimity; but in another—driven on by the rhythmic expectations of those clauses—it is we who are pushing Him to go on showering us with more favors. ...
Howard Jacobson. Che poi va avanti legando il dayenu con la visione del mondo - e l'umorismo - ebraici. Bello. Buon Pesach. tablet.


Peter Matthiessen

Lo scrittore Peter Matthiessen è morto a 86 anni il 5 aprile. Jeff Jimmelman ne fa un bel ritratto sul NYT. Come spesso mi accade, sono attratta in particolare dalla descrizione della casa: "The home used to be the garage and outbuildings of a larger estate, and there is an improvised, of-the-earth sprawl to the place. One side of the main house is grown over with ivy, and under the portico, in between two piles of chopped firewood, an immense finback whale skull balances on blocks. Just to the left of the front door sits a tree stump covered stupalike with shells and other found objects. After I ring the doorbell and rap a few times on the glass, Matthiessen emerges from his living room and waves me in". nyt.


Il caso Ayaan Hirsi Ali e Brandeis University

Brandeis University’s decision to withdraw an honorary degree from the activist and writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali is yet another shameful reminder of how limp the commitment of Jewish institutions to open discourse has grown, and how threatened we’ve all become by a public conversation that permits the expression of nuanced, complicated, even at times offensive ideas—meaning, any ideas at all worth their salt. tablet


Vera Nabokov

Tutti gli scrittori avrebbero bisogno di una Vera Nabokov. "Vera not only performed all the duties expected of a wife of her era—that is, being a free live-in cook, babysitter, laundress, and maid (albeit, she considered herself a “terrible housewife”)—but also acted as her husband’s round-the-clock editor, assistant, and secretary. In addition to teaching his classes on occasion (in which Nabokov openly referred to her as “my assistant”), Vera also famously saved Lolita, the work that would define her husband’s career, several times from incineration, according to Stacy Schiff ‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning 2000 biography, Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov). With Vera by his side, Nabokov published 18 novels between 1926 and 1974 (both in Russian and English)". Koa Beck, theatlantic.


Woman of Valor

Lihi Lapid, Woman of Valor (Gefen Publishing House). “I realized I have two women living inside of me. One is the donut from Hanukkah, and the other is the champagne from New Year’s. The champagne wants to party all night and the donut needs to wake up tomorrow for the kids. The donut wants the kids to eat only food that she made. And the champagne stopped on the way and bought cold pizza, because she didn’t have time.” 
Lihi Lapid ha 46 anni, è israeliana ed è la moglie del ministro delle finanze di Israele. Tiene una rubrica per Yediot Aharonot che parla di ricette e aneddoti di amore e bambini (un'idea che mi piace molto).  tablet.



Mona Simpson, Casebook (Knopf): In the opening scene of Simpson’s new novel, Miles Adler-Hart is hiding under his parents’ bed. He’s trying to eavesdrop on his mother (“the Mims,” he calls her), convinced that she is having vital conversations with the moms of the other kids in his fourth-grade class to decide how much TV he will be allowed to watch. Instead, he stumbles into the breakup of his parents’ marriage. Their divorce and relationships with new partners are shown through the eyes of Miles, who snoops deep into his parents’ adult lives, but has limited understanding of what he discovers there. There’s warm humor and deep feeling in its portrayal of the vulnerability and messiness of family life. newyorker.



Amir Alexander, Infinitesimal: How a Dangerous Mathematical Theory Shaped the Modern World (Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux): The paradoxical idea of infinitesimal quantities preoccupied ancient Greek mathematicians, especially Archimedes, who used the concept to calculate volumes of circles, cylinders, and spheres. But the mathematical mysteries the idea presented were largely ignored until the fifteen-hundreds, when the problem of the infinitesimal became a source of philosophical dispute. In his new book, Alexander, a professor of history at U.C.L.A., explains how the mathematical debate was a battle over differing visions for modern Europe, between those who sought to protect the status quo and those who embraced progress and reform. newyorker.


Odd Job Man

Odd Job Man: Some Confessions of a Slang Lexicographer (Cape), è il memoriale di Jonathon Green, lessicografo britannico appassionato di slang. "Slang represents humanity at its most human - writes Jonathon Green in one of his signature declarative sentences, which leave a slight sense of the author looking around, whiskers a-quiver, to see if anyone is going to yell out “scuzzball” or “swamp-breath”, before he plunges on to supply us with a further definition: slang is the lexis of “our less admirable but absolutely unavoidable selves”. telegraph.