La storia delle password

Le password dicono molto di noi, creano problemi e li risolvono, sono sbarramenti o porte di accesso a mondi segreti. Possono avviare storie... come questa: "Howard Lutnick, the chief executive of Cantor Fitzgerald, one of the world’s largest financial-services firms, still cries when he talks about it. Not long after the planes struck the twin towers, killing 658 of his co-workers and friends, including his brother, one of the first things on Lutnick’s mind was passwords. This may seem callous, but it was not ...". Ian Urbina, newyorktimesmagazine.


When Did the Art World Get So Conservative?

Un titolo interessante, che pone una domanda che anch'io mi sono chiesta molte volte (in Italia il clima intellettuale è particolarmente soffocante). Vale la pena leggere l'articolo del critico d'arte newyorkese Jerry Saltz.
"First and foremost, the art world is a place that says it wants people to be free. This extraordinary openness is what gives art its ever-changing adaptable agency. Or gave.
Flexibility is life, but lately I keep thinking that the art world has gotten a lot less flexible, and the freedom that I've always thought of as completely foundational — freedom to let our freak flags fly and express ourselves, even bizarrely — has constricted considerably. And it’s happening at such mutated and extreme rates that we must ask if the art world is not now one of the more self-policing areas of contemporary culture. How did we come to live in an insular tribal sphere where unwritten rules and rigid moralities — about whom to like and dislike, what is permissible to say and what must remain unsaid — are strictly enforced via social media and online disapproval, much of it anonymous? When did this band of gypsies and relentless radicals get so conservative?" volture.


La Moby Dick Marathon

La "Moby Dick Marathon" si è tenuta dal 14 al 16 novembre in vari locali di Manhattan dove scrittori e non hanno letto l'intero romanzo di Melville. A Joshua Ferris è toccato leggere un punto particolarmente ostico. "The novelist Joshua Ferris was standing in the basement of the Ace Hotel in Midtown on Friday night, looking frustrated. He had just read ten minutes of “Moby-Dick” to a crowd of more than a hundred devotees. He was pretty sure he hadn’t nailed his passage. “I was confronted with a shit-ton of tribal names!” Ferris said. He opened his copy of the book and pointed to the passage, which read: “But, besides the Feegeeans, Tongatobooarrs, Erromanggoans, Pannangians, and Brighggians, and, besides the wild specimens of the whaling-craft which unheeded reel about the streets, you will see other sights still more curious, certainly more comical.” He shook his head. “That word has three ‘g’ ’s in it and only three consonants! And this one has four ‘e’ ’s in it.” newyorker.


Internet of Things

Jeremy Rifkin, The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism (Palgrave Macmillan)

David Rose, Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire, and the Internet of Things (Scribner)

Robert Scoble and Shel Israel, Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy (Patrick Brewster)

Jim Dwyer, More Awesome Than Money: Four Boys and Their Heroic Quest to Save Your Privacy from Facebook (Viking)

Strano non ci sia Morozov. Comunque, se volete saperne di più sull'argomento, leggetevi Sue Halpern,  nybooks.


Elogio del pettegolezzo

Social topics—personal relationships, likes and dislikes, anecdotes about social activities—made up about two-thirds of all conversations in analyses done by evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar. The remaining one-third of their time not spent talking about other people was devoted to discussing everything else: sports, music, politics, etc.
“Language in freely forming natural conversations is principally used for the exchange of social information,” Dunbar writes. “That such topics are so overwhelmingly important to us suggests that this is a primary function of language.” He even goes so far as to say: “Gossip is what makes human society as we know it possible.”  Julie Beck, theatlantic.


First Editions/Second Thoughts

PEN America has launched a new website for First Editions/Second Thoughts, for which seventy-five authors and artists personally annotated their own books. Highlights include Philip Roth’s American Pastoral, Angela Davis’s If They Come in the Morning, John Ashbery’s The Tennis Court Oath, Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, Don DeLillo’s Underworld, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, and Ed Ruscha’s Past Stuff. Some of the handwritten annotations are quite elaborate, such as the ones on the TOC page of George Saunders’s Civilwarland in Bad Decline, which incorporates footnotes and various colors of ink. The works will be auctioned at Christie’s on December 2.


Richard Ford parla del suo nuovo libro

Richard Ford parla del suo nuovo libro, Let Me Be Frank with You (Ecco) con Deborah Treisman. 

Eight years ago, you thought “The Lay of the Land” would be the final book in the Frank Bascombe series. What do you think has made you go back to Frank again (and again)?
A number of forces were acting on me. First, of course, was the force that Thoreau was referring to when he said that a writer is someone with nothing to do who finds something to do. I qualified, as I mostly have for years. Second was that during the promotional tour for my last novel, “Canada,” a surprising number of people who showed up to have books signed said, quite touchingly (to me), that they wished I’d write another Frank Bascombe book. Now, neither of these things ought to compel anybody to write a book, and they probably didn’t. But they affected me.

What did compel me was Hurricane Sandy. My wife, Kristina, and I were in New York when the storm came along, though we didn’t suffer. Afterward, we drove down to the Jersey Shore—the scene of many Bascombe episodes—and I was so affected by the storm’s destruction of human life and expectancy. I drove home that day with sentences skirling in my head—sentences that I recognized as Frank Bascombe sentences. Neruda said of the instigating experience of a piece of imaginative writing, “Something kicked in my soul.” And, although I don’t believe in souls, I do believe in something kicking somewhere that becomes a call to language. That happened to me. And what that kicking was about, I decided, was a curiosity regarding the effects of the storm on peoples’ lives—effects that the broadcast media wouldn’t uncover. And that’s what I set out to do with these four stories. Emerson said that “nature does not like to be observed.” I thought that the imagination—mine, in this case—could perhaps do some observing of what otherwise wouldn’t be noticed. newyorker.


Philip Roth rilegge Portnoy's Complaint

Rereading “Portnoy’s Complaint” 45 years on, I am shocked and pleased: shocked that I could have been so reckless, pleased that I was so reckless. I certainly didn’t understand while at work that henceforth I was never to be free of this psychoanalytic patient I was calling Alexander Portnoy — indeed, that I was on the brink of swapping my identity for his and that, subsequently, in many minds, his persona and all its paraphernalia would be understood to be mine and that my relations with people known and unknown would shift accordingly. Philip Roth, nytimesmagazine.


Letters to Véra

Letters to Véra è una raccolta di lettere di Vladimir Nabokov alla moglie da poco sposata e ricoverata in una casa di cura nella Foresta Nera per un esaurimento nervoso. Sono tradotte dal russo da Olga Voronina e Brian Boyd e sono uscite presso Penguin Classics. Contengono delle bellissime descrizioni del paesaggio, del tempo, di animali. “The weather this morning was soso: dullish, but warm, a boiled milk sky, with skin – but if you pushed it aside with a teaspoon, the sun was really nice, so I wore my white trousers”. Eric Naiman, tls.


La storia dello slang

Jonathon Green, The Vulgar Tongue: Green's History of Slang (Oxford UP), "But what counts as slang? Where does it come from? And why does it exert such a powerful hold on the middle--class imagination? Jonathon Green sets out to answer these questions in the course of charting the development of slang as it is recorded in literature, from medieval beggar-books to World War II soldiers’ pornography". Sara Lodge, weeklystandard.


Primum Non Nocere

Deborah Treisman intervista Antonya Nelson sul suo ultimo - bel - racconto per il New Yorker.
Your story in this week’s issue, “Primum Non Nocere,” is about the teen-age daughter of a therapist, who is surprised at home by one of her mother’s former patients. Why throw these two characters—the disgruntled “borderline” and the vulnerable adolescent—together? 

The teen-ager, Jewel, is at her own “borderline”—of burgeoning adulthood—and the fact that she’s ready to transform, willingly or not, makes her ripe for exposure. Her transformation is less dramatic than her brother’s was, which also means that it’s more surprising—to her, and probably to her parents. I like the way that psychological extremity can illuminate more “normal” characters by forcing a comparison. How is adolescence a borderline experience? To be poised between worlds, to be “teetering” and vulnerable to forces beyond one’s control? The two characters seem, to me, complementary. newyorker.


We tell ourselves stories in order to live

We tell ourselves stories in order to live” is one of Joan Didion’s most resonant lines and it is now also the name of a documentary in progress about her life. The movie is being made by her nephew, Griffin Dunne, the longtime actor and filmmaker, together with the documentarian Susanne Rostock. Dunne began filming his aunt Joan a few years ago, when he made the short for her latest book, Blue Nights. Fortunately for us he kept on filming. Today Dunne is releasing a trailer for the documentary on Vogue.com, above, to coincide with the launch of a Kickstarter campaign to help complete the project. Abby Aguirre, vogue.