Buone vacanze

Providence, WaterFire
Usalibri va in vacanza. Buone vacanze a tutti e a rivederci verso la metà di settembre!


The Strand

The Strand, uno dei luoghi cult di Manhattan, ha subito un rinnovamento e non è più quello di una volta. "Concerned with the persistent competition from online booksellers and chain stores, the Strand recently hired a design company to advise them as to “what customers want now and in the future,” Eddie Sutton, the store’s manager, who has been there since 1991, said. What many customers want turns out to be the convenience and variety found online. And so the Strand traded the bag check for video cameras and plainclothes security. The book-buying counter was moved from the front to the back of the store. The leather-bound sets (Will and Ariel Durant, the complete works of Dickens, Toynbee) behind the cashier were pushed aside to fit books arranged by the color of their spines. The non-book section was expanded to sell socks, lollipops, and greeting cards alongside T-shirts, refrigerator magnets, and totes bearing slogans like “Prose Before Hoes.” You can now mail letters from inside the store. Rachel Shteir, newyorker.


Lost NY

Today in New York there are more than 1,300 individual landmarks, and 114 historic districts encompassing some 33,000 landmarked properties. 

Other landmarked sites include about a hundred lampposts, seven cast-iron sidewalk clocks, three Coney Island amusement park rides, and a Magnolia grandiflora tree planted in Brooklyn in 1885.

Yet prior to the landmarks law there was no legal means for protecting historic sites like the Roxy. Many had fallen into disrepair. Alex Straub, nybooks.



Un lungo articolo sulle riviste letterarie che sembrerebbero sparite, almeno dal panorama editoriale italiano, e invece pare siano ancora fiorenti in America. 
"Why on Earth would you start a literary magazine? You won’t get rich, or even very famous. You’ll have to keep your day job, unless you’re a student or so rich you don’t need a day job. You and your lucky friends and the people you hire—if you can afford to pay them—will use their time and energy on page layouts, bookkeeping, distribution, Web site coding and digital upkeep, and public readings and parties and Kickstarters and ways to wheedle big donors or grant applications so that you can put out issue two, and then three. You’ll lose time you could devote to your own essays or fiction or poems. Once your journal exists, it will wing its way into a world already full of journals, like a paper airplane into a recycling bin, or onto a Web already crowded with literary sites. Why would you do such a thing?" Stephen Burt, newyorker.


The Odd Woman and the City, Gornick’s brief new collection of meditations and anecdotes, shows her still wrestling in old age with the same basic problems that have always animated her work. The need for, and the impossibility of, romantic connection; the erotic embrace of the city, as a substitute for personal intimacy; the consolations and frustrations of friendship; above all, the moral struggle to make an independent self—these have been, and still are, Gornick’s great subjects. What gives Gornick’s writing its disturbing charge is the way she never comes to the end of these subjects—never achieves the kind of self-understanding or resignation that might lead to wisdom. Adam Kirsch, tablet.

Vivian Gornick, The Odd Woman and the City (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).


Ornette Coleman

Coleman spoke little of himself, and dismissed the idea that he was exceptional. The ‘autobiography of my life is like everyone else’s’, he wrote in the liner notes to his 1960 album This Is Our Music. ‘Born, work, sad and happy and etc.’ But the journey that led Coleman from Fort Worth, Texas, where he was born to a ‘poorer than poor’ family in 1930, to international fame as a free jazz innovator was anything but ordinary, and required no small amount of courage. The world of saloons, honky tonk clubs and travelling minstrel bands in which he performed in his teens was dangerous. Coleman was jailed for having long hair. When a white woman raised her dress over his head in the back of a Texas club, he knew he could be lynched if a white man saw them. In Baton Rouge, a group of thugs smashed his saxophone case, and left him with a collarbone injury that took years to heal. Adam Shatz. lrb.


Essere scrittori cattolici

Un saggio interessante di William Giraldi sull'essere uno scrittore cattolico. "It’s not altogether easy being a Catholic, and it’s immeasurably harder being a novelist, so you might imagine the myriad conundrums of being both. ... In Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, Mary McCarthy admits: “I am not sorry to have been a Catholic”—“this sensuous life,” she calls it, and like Percy and O’Connor she speaks of “the sense of mystery and wonder,” of how in certain “exalted moments of altruism the soul was fired with reverence.” newrepublic.



My husband and I got married last fall because we wanted to have a party. ...
We represent the demographic (white, heterosexual, college-educated) that looked poised to lead an exodus from marriage and its fusty shackles as the family-values debate raged. But now, when data suggest that fewer Americans—across the income spectrum—are getting married than ever before, our cohort is playing the opposite role. We are the group most likely to wed, as marriage rates among lower-income men and women without college degrees rapidly decline. We’re also among those who count least on the symbolic and actual benefits of the institution: my husband and I aren’t battling for social validation of our love or for the conditions of middle-class stability. ... Alice Gregory, theatlantic.


Lo scrittore vuole essere letto?

Questa domanda, più o meno, viene fatta ad Adam Kirsch, il quale risponde di sì, naturalmente, ma poi articola la sua risposta in molti modi, per esempio, "Once indifference to audience is ruled out, however, we are left with the two choices DeLillo describes: The artist can lead or follow. This way of thinking about art is characteristic of modernity ...
The difference between leading and following partly overlaps the distinction between fine art and commercial art, but the two are not identical. It is easy to assume that a bad best seller is written cynically, that anyone could master the formula and please a large audience. In fact, artists who are immensely popular in their day are not “following” the audience in a mercenary sense. They are, rather, people whose spirits happen to find full expression in established, conventional forms. Such artists take their reward in the present, while the others, the “leaders,” have no choice but to postpone their reward into the hypothetical future. But the kingdom of this world and the kingdom to come are both kingdoms; and it might be impossible to be an artist without dreaming, however quietly, of sovereignty". nytbooks.


Tradurre l'Iliade

"But the magically appearing bathtubs at the end of Book 10 are a marker of a very deep-seated feature of Homeric poetry. Objects can be conjured out of the air by a set of rules for narrative plausibility which are not ours. Diomedes and Odysseus are rich and powerful. They are exhausted and they have been successful. Rich and powerful warriors have baths, so the bathtubs have to be there and must be ‘polished’. The way Homeric narrative deals with objects is determined not by probability or the laws of physics, but by social ambience, and by what a poet thinks an audience is likely to expect". Colin Burrow, LRB.

Homer: ‘The Iliad’ translated by Peter Green (University of California Press).


Nabokov in Utah

The slender Russian man is on vacation. He has an arrogantly beautiful face and is accompanied by an oddly tall little boy, as he stalks up and down a trout stream in the Wasatch Range, a few miles east of Sandy, Utah. They deploy butterfly nets. “I walk from 12 to 18 miles a day,” he writes in a letter mailed in July of 1943, “wearing only shorts and tennis shoes … always a cold wind blowing in this particular cañon.” Da Robert Roper, Nabokov in America (Bloomsbury USA), theamericanscholar.


Our Universities: The Outrageous Reality

by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa
University of Chicago Press, 246 pp., $18.00 (paper)

Segue un interessante articolo sullo stato delle università americane di Andrew Delbanco, nybooks.


Sulla traduzione, ancora e ancora

Il titolo di questo articolo è particolarmente attraente, "Is Translation an Art or a Math Problem?"
"Translation is possible, and yet we are still bedeviled by conflict. This fallen state of affairs is often attributed to the translators, who must not be doing a properly faithful job. The most succinct expression of this suspicion is “traduttore, traditore,” a common Italian saying that’s really an argument masked as a proverb. It means, literally, “translator, traitor,” but even though that is semantically on target, it doesn’t match the syllabic harmoniousness of the original, and thus proves the impossibility it asserts". Gideon Lewis-Kraus, nytmagazine.


The Sketchbook Project

The Sketchbook Project è un interessante progetto della Brooklyn Art Library. "Zucker and Peterman started the Sketchbook Project out of frustration with a gallery culture that seemed exploitative and exclusive. “We wanted to create a community anti-gallery space that was inclusive of everyone that wanted to be a part of it,” Peterman told me. They were working on a few crowdsourced art projects at the time (they also tried soliciting photos, and mailing out canvases for people to paint on), but the sketchbook collection attracted a surprising amount of enthusiasm and quickly took over their business: now roughly thirty-four thousand sketchbooks line the walls of the Brooklyn Art Library, and about half of those are scanned in the online archive. In the project’s busiest years, the number of people requesting blank books has neared fourteen thousand". Jordan Kisner, newyorker.


Lavorare a casa

There is something embarrassing about working from home. You wonder what the UPS man thinks of you when he delivers advance copies of new books. So this guy just reads all day? You worry that the prominent figure you are interviewing by phone can hear the refrigerator door or the neighbors’ kids upstairs. (Skype video interviews are even worse; the trick is finding a camera angle that doesn’t reveal anything blatantly domestic.) Evan Hughes, newyorker.


Joshua Cohen, Book of Numbers

Book of Numbers (Random House), the new book by Joshua Cohen, is the first novel I can think of that manages to be both auto-fictional and hysterically realistic at the same time. This feat of genre-straddling ambition speaks both to Cohen’s enormous talent and to his continuing faith in the possibilities of the novel. As in an auto-fiction, this is a book by a writer called Joshua Cohen about a writer called Joshua Cohen, though how close the fictional Cohen is to his creator remains impossible to know. Both grew up on the Jersey Shore in the 1980s, and each is the author of a big book about a Jewish subject: The real Cohen wrote Witz, a 1,000-page fantasia about the end of American Jewry; while the fictional Cohen wrote a family memoir about his mother, a Holocaust survivor. These similarities are enough to pique the kind of interest that—as David Shields has written in Reality Hunger—only arises when the reader is unsure how much of what he is reading is truth and how much fiction. Adam Kirsch, tablet.


Il Whitney Museum di Renzo Piano

Il Whitney Museum di Renzo Piano non piace a James Panero. 
"The new Whitney Museum, designed by Renzo Piano and Renzo Piano Building Workshop, along with Cooper Robertson, at a cost of $422 million, opened to much fanfare on May 1. From the outside, it is a jumble of pipes, stairs, HVAC units, portholes, bending planes of enameled steel, and what look like a few stone corners hauled off as spoils from the old Whitney building, that crystalline fortress of solitude on Madison Avenue designed by Marcel Breuer in 1966, which the new Whitney now metaphorically explodes, reprocesses, and repackages. Beyond the mere display of art, this new cultural factory serves double duty as an incinerator of the museum’s own unwanted past. And unlike the waste-transfer facility next door, with its idling trucks and utilitarian sheds parked along the water, which will soon be renewed as parkland, the Whitney’s new exterior is not a holdover of industrial blight but the aggressive, purpose-built pastiche of blight. newcriterion.


Tutto su Hitchcock

Even the biographers, watching the life ‘start at zero’, have struggled to establish where the motivation for the inventiveness came from. The most popular hypothesis, not least because Hitchcock himself promoted it so vigorously, concerns timidity. ‘The man who excels at filming fear is himself a very fearful person,’ Truffaut observed, ‘and I suspect that this trait of his personality has a direct bearing on his success.’ The most substantial biography to date, by Patrick McGilligan, includes plenty of anecdotes about fear ... David Trotter, lrb.

Ecco le nuove biografie su Hitchcock:
  • Peter Ackroyd, Alfred Hitchcock (Chatto)
  • Michael Wood, Alfred Hitchcock: The Man Who Knew Too Much (New Harvest)
  • Jan Olsson, Hitchcock à la carte (Duke)
  • Hitchcock on Hitchcock: Selected Writings and Interviews, Vol. II, a cura di Sidney Gottlieb


William Zinsser

William Zinsser, a New York City newspaperman turned freelance magazine writer who had reinvented himself as a teacher of writing. ...
What Bill Zinsser had to offer was unlike anything else in the Yale course catalogue. He had arrived in 1970 ...
Officially, “Nonfiction Workshop” was a residential-college seminar, independent of the English department or any other department. Before long, word got around about this cheerful fellow Zinsser, not another eyebrow-arching pipe smoker in an elbow-patched tweed jacket but a real professional craftsman who had sneaked in the side entrance of the academy from the real world. Actually, Bill did own a tweed jacket (or maybe it was polished twill), and he favored button-down shirts, narrow neckties, unfancy shoes, and unironic hats (felt Borsalino or straw Panama). He wore glasses and was slightly built, a pleasant-looking, engaging, well-mannered optimist steeped in the tribal codes of privileged Wasp self-effacement.
We met for two hours every Thursday afternoon in a comfortably furnished lounge in Calhoun College. In that room, we mostly listened, as Bill read, along with examples from his own work, passages from writers I’d read but hadn’t properly considered (Thoreau, Orwell, Twain, E. B. White, Red Smith), or knew of but hadn’t much read (Mencken, Perelman, Wills, Didion, Talese). Some I already revered for their supreme coolness (Norman Mailer, Hunter Thompson, Tom Wolfe). Others, previously unknown to me (Alan Moorehead, Michael Arlen, Joseph Mitchell), proved to be more enduring influences. Mark Singer, newyorker.



Bell'articolo sull'immigrazione di David Brooks, che sfata molti luoghi comuni, "The nature of global migration is slowly evolving, too. We have an image of immigrants as the poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free. According to this stereotype, immigrants are driven from their homes by poverty and move elsewhere to compete against the lowest-skilled workers.
But immigrants do not come from the poorest countries. Nations like Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Niger — some of the poorest countries in the world — have some of the lowest outmigration rates. Less than 3 percent of their populations live outside their borders. Their citizens don’t have the resources to move.
Instead, immigrants tend to come from middle-class countries, and they migrate to rich, open ones.  ... Meanwhile, globalization, with all its stresses and strains, has created a large international class of middle-class dreamers: university graduates who can’t fulfill their aspirations at home and who would enrich whatever nation is lucky enough to have them". nyt.


Su Philip Roth

The phenomenon of Philip Roth’s “retirement”—and that seems to be what it is now, a phenomenon—is not about a writer’s vanity, an ego grown so massive it’s like a publicity black hole sucking up limelight that might have shined warmly on other equally deserving authors. Nor is it about an inability to shut up, even though Roth admitted that his decision to quit writing, announced abruptly in 2012, had triggered in him an impulse to “chatter.” ...
No, Roth’s announcement that he would leave the literary stage, followed by his conspicuous failure to do so in favor of a series of curtain calls, is about us—Roth’s audience, a community of readers. We’re the ones endlessly fascinated by Roth’s penchant to pontificate about himself in public, from an interview with the BBC aired last spring (titled “Philip Roth Unleashed”) to a promised appearance on The Colbert Report (reportedly scheduled for last summer, but apparently scrapped). Through it all, Roth continues to insist that he’s retreating into full Garbo mode. “You can write it down,” he told a reporter last May after a star turn at the 92nd Street Y. “This was absolutely the last public appearance I will make on any public stage, anywhere”—this just a week before collecting an award from the Yaddo writer’s retreat and two weeks before accepting an honorary doctorate at the conservative Jewish Theological Seminary. J.C. Hallman, thebaffler.


Does it pay to be nice?

Does it pay to be nice? Or is there an advantage to being a jerk?
So it was a breath of fresh air when, in 2013, there appeared a book that brought data into the debate. The author, Adam Grant, is a 33-year-old Wharton professor, and his best-selling book, Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, offers evidence that “givers”—people who share their time, contacts, or know-how without expectation of payback—dominate the top of their fields. “This pattern holds up across the board,” Grant wrote—from engineers in California to salespeople in North Carolina to medical students in Belgium.  Jerry Useem, theatlantic.


Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama mi piace molto, più del marito. Nel suo discorso al Commencement della Tuskegee University, un'istituzione storicamente nera in Alabama, ha detto di essere nera, infrangendo le regole. 
"How dare she? The right wing does not allow such a reference. “We” let “you people” win the White House, which meant that racism is over with and gone. Difference was abolished. Any mention of it now is “playing the race card”—and was denounced as such by all the many mouths of the Right—by Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, and Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh shuddered melodramatically at a speech that could “lead to racial strife unlike any that we who are alive today remember.” How could an inspiring speech to students lead to such a doomsday? In her own quiet way Ms. Obama was breaking all of the four rules of racial discourse the right wing now wants to enforce". 
Poi seguono le quattro regole. Garry Wills, nybooks.



WHEN our family moved from the West Village to the Upper East Side in 2004, seeking proximity to Central Park, my in-laws and a good public school, I thought it unlikely that the neighborhood would hold any big surprises. For many years I had immersed myself — through interviews, reviews of the anthropological literature and participant-observation — in the lives of women from the Amazon basin to sororities at a Big Ten school. I thought I knew from foreign.
Then I met the women I came to call the Glam SAHMs, for glamorous stay-at-home-moms, of my new habitat. My culture shock was immediate and comprehensive. In a country where women now outpace men in college completion, continue to increase their participation in the labor force and make gains toward equal pay, it was a shock to discover that the most elite stratum of all is a glittering, moneyed backwater. Wednesday Martin, nyt.



Aiuto! Stiamo perdendo il vocabolario della natura.
"The substitutions made in the dictionary—the outdoor and the natural being displaced by the indoor and the virtual—are a small but significant symptom of the simulated life we increasingly live. Children are now (and valuably) adept ecologists of the technoscape, with numerous terms for file types but few for differ-ent trees and creatures. A basic literacy of landscape is falling away up and down the ages. And what is lost along with this literacy is something precious: a kind of word magic, the power that certain terms possess to enchant our relations with nature and place. As the writer Henry Porter observed, the OUP deletions removed the “euphonious vocabulary of the natural world—words which do not simply label an object or action but in some mysterious and beautiful way become part of it.” Robert MacFarlane, orionmagazine.



Emilie Chatelet portrait by Latour
Molto lavoro ancora da fare per i giovani studenti di filosofia.
"In his first work, published in 1747, Immanuel Kant cites the ideas of another philosopher: a scholar of Newton, religion, science, and mathematics. The philosopher, whose work had been translated into several languages, is Émilie Du Châtelet.
Yet despite her powerhouse accomplishments—and the shout-out from no less a luminary than Kant—her work won’t be found in the 1,000-plus pages of the new edition of The Norton Introduction to Philosophy. In the anthology, which claims to trace 2,400 years of philosophy, the first female philosopher doesn’t appear until the section on writing from the mid-20th century. Or in any of the other leading anthologies used in university classrooms, scholars say.
Also absent are these 17th-century English thinkers: Margaret Cavendish, a prolific writer and natural philosopher; Anne Conway, who discusses the philosophy of Descartes, Hobbes, and Spinoza in The Principles of the Most Ancient and Modern Philosophy (which is influenced by the Kabbalah); and “Lady” Damaris Masham—the daughter of a Cambridge Platonist and a close friend of John Locke who published several works and debated ideas in letters she exchanged with the German mathematician and philosopher G.W. Leibniz.
Despite the spread of feminism and multiculturalism, and their impact on fields from literature to anthropology, it is possible to major in philosophy without hearing anything about the historical contributions of women philosophers". Susan Price, theatlantic.



The first time I read Fran Ross’s hilarious, badass novel, “Oreo,” I was living on Fort Greene Place, in Brooklyn, in a community of people I thought of as “the dreadlocked élite.” It was the late nineteen-nineties, and the artisanal cheese shops and organic juice bars had not yet fully arrived in the boroughs, though there were hints of what was to come. Poor people and artists could still afford to live there. We were young and black, and we’d moved to the neighborhood armed with graduate degrees and creative ambitions. There was a quiet storm of what the musician and writer Greg Tate described as “Black Genius” brewing in our midst. Spike Lee had set up a production studio inside the old firehouse on DeKalb Avenue. Around the corner, on Lafayette Street, was Kokobar, a black-owned espresso shop decorated with Basquiat-inspired paintings; there were whispers that Tracy Chapman and Alice Walker were investors. Around the corner, on Elliott Street, Lisa Price, a.k.a. Carol’s Daughter, sold organic hair oils and creams for kinky-curly hair out of a brownstone storefront. Danzy Senna, newyorker.

Fran Ross, Oreo (Northeastern University Press), un libro che bisognerebbe tradurre!



Much of contemporary fiction has slimmed down, become more performative, single-minded, and direct. Portnoy’s Complaint, ahead of its time, can almost be sung aloud. But Saul Bellow’s novels are digressive, dripping with intellectual and physical life simultaneously, what one film producer described to me as “high/low.” When I assign Herzog to my students, I am essentially bringing a slab of foie gras to a vegan party. 
Dall'introduzione di Gary Shteyngart alla nuova edizione di Ravelstein di Saul Bellow da parte di Penguin Books. nybooks.


The Perfection of the Paper Clip

It takes a confident writer to begin a book with a long discussion of the evolution of paper clips, push pins, and binder fasteners before even touching on sexier subjects like glue, sticky tape, and pencil erasers. Fortunately, James Ward, the author of the quirky history of stationery The Perfection of the Paper Clip (Touchstone), has a gift for isolating the kind of odd detail that counteracts the human eye’s tendency to glaze over. June Thomas, slate.


Trollope e l'arte del pettegolezzo

If we want to understand why e-mail arguments are dangerous (“The word that is written is a thing capable of permanent life, and lives frequently to the confusion of its parent. A man should make his confessions always by word of mouth if it were possible”), or if we want to understand why professional politicians hate “principled” stands (not because they hate principles but because they believe that the cost of the principles is already priced into the politics), or if we want to know how scurrilous gossip can eat away at its subject without actually damaging his reputation—for all the permanent, practical questions of the politics of existence, Trollope remains the man. Adam Gopnik, newyorker.


Wasting Time on the Internet

The 15 undergraduate students in “Wasting Time on the Internet,” an English course offered by the University of Pennsylvania, plus professor Kenneth Goldsmith, plus me, are participating in an activity. Actually, a few students opt out, but I don’t. For the exercise, which Goldsmith calls “30 seconds of heaven,” we rotate our laptops Lazy Susan-style around the long conference table. Everyone has 30 seconds with each laptop, to open whatever files they choose. The experience—surreal, funny, nerve-wracking—falls halfway between regretting an email and seeing a therapist. When I get my computer back, almost all of my applications are running. Katy Waldman, slate.
Un'altra idea, per un racconto, forse.


Sulla pazzia

"The number of those who actually do go insane is small. For Barbara Taylor, the trouble began when she got it into her head that her dissertation was going to be, in a literary sense, really good. Then a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Sussex in England, Taylor was writing about the Owenites, a minor group of nineteenth-century English utopians. As a socialist, a feminist, and a Canadian, she felt an affinity for these obscure and decent people. However, she didn’t know just what to say about them, which caused her great anxiety. This situation lasted for months, with the anxiety getting worse. Finally, in a scene reminiscent of the Muses inspiring a poet, her idea came to her, with dazzling suddenness; in her memoir, The Last Asylum: A Memoir of Madness in Our Times (University of Chicago, $20), Taylor dates the epiphany to a November evening in 1977, “at about eleven.” James Camp, bookforum.

Potrebbe essere l'inizio di un romanzo, no?


La crisi del romanzo

More than 150 years later [l'articolo si riferisce a Dickens], the publishing industry is in the doldrums, yet the novel shows few signs of digging into its past and resurrecting the techniques that drove fans wild and juiced sales figures. The novel is now decidedly a single object, a mass entity packaged and moved as a whole. That’s not, of course, a bad thing, but it does create a barrier to entry that the publishing world can’t seem to overcome. Meanwhile, consumers gladly gobble up other media in segments — whether it’s a “Walking Dead” episode, a series of Karl Ove Knausgaard ’s travelogues or a public-radio show (it’s called “Serial” for a reason, people) — so there’s reason to believe they would do the same with fiction. What the novel needs again is tension. And the best source for that tension is serialization.


Love and Merit

There are two great defining features of child-rearing today. First, children are now praised to an unprecedented degree. ...
The second defining feature is that children are honed to an unprecedented degree. The meritocracy is more competitive than ever before. Parents are more anxious about their kids getting into good colleges and onto good career paths. ...
These two great trends — greater praise and greater honing — combine in intense ways. Children are bathed in love, but it is often directional love. Parents shower their kids with affection, but it is meritocratic affection. It is intermingled with the desire to help their children achieve worldly success.
Very frequently it is manipulative. David Brooks, nyt.


Kertzer wins Pulitzer

David Kertzer, the Paul R. Dupee Jr. Professor of Social Science and professor of anthropology and Italian studies, and a 1969 graduate of Brown, has been awarded the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for biography-autobiography for his book The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe.
Pulitzer judges described Kertzer’s 2014 book as “an engrossing dual biography that uses recently opened Vatican archives to shed light on two men who exercised nearly absolute power over their realms.”
Kertzer expressed surprise at the win.
“I had no idea the Pulitizer Prizes were about to be announced nor any hint they were considering The Pope and Mussolini, so this is quite a shock. Like any author, I hope that the news leads many new readers to the book.” brown.


Old Books Old Social Values

Reading racist literature. Old books promote old social values. But historical insults can be transformed into artistic strength... Elif Batuman su come leggere i commenti razzisti dei classici. newyorker.


Intervista a Renata Adler

In occasione dell'uscita di una raccolta di saggi di Renata Adler, After the Tall Timber (New York Review Books), Catherine Lacey intervista la scrittrice.

Yes, but it happens faster and you can get lost. There's always something and we can forget who we were supposed to hate last year.
Exactly. What used to be, for me and I think still is, the test of the critic is whether he quotes from the source or not. That's what's fair. I once got a review that said, "She writes so badly that it sets my teeth on edge." And then she quoted stuff. And I thought, Wait a minute. That's the best I can do. If she thinks that's bad, OK. [Laughs] And that's fair. vice.


The Slow Death of the University

Un articolo molto interessante sul lento declino delle università, asservite ai bisogni della società e non più liberi centri di pensiero e sperimentazione. "Universities, which in Britain have an 800-year history, have traditionally been derided as ivory towers, and there was always some truth in the accusation. Yet the distance they established between themselves and society at large could prove enabling as well as disabling, allowing them to reflect on the values, goals, and interests of a social order too frenetically bound up in its own short-term practical pursuits to be capable of much self-criticism. Across the globe, that critical distance is now being diminished almost to nothing, as the institutions that produced Erasmus and John Milton, Einstein and Monty Python, capitulate to the hard-faced priorities of global capitalism". Terry Eagleton, chronicle.



Andrew Scull, Madness in Civilization: A Cultural History of Insanity from the Bible to Freud, from the Madhouse to Modern Medicine (Thames & Hudson).

'Civilization', the other noun in Scull's title, also invites of the reader a healthy dose of doubt. The title is perhaps intended as a reference to the history of debate on whether or not insanity increased or decreased over the centuries, rather than to display the writer's own assumption (in the manner of, say, Kenneth Clark in his celebrated television series and book Civilisation) that certain societies definitely deserve our approbation. Given the desperate history of abuses that this book explores, the title might rather evoke a remark, attributed to Gandhi, after an inquiry into his opinion of 'Western civilisation': 'I think it would be a good idea.' Daniel Pick, literaryreview.


Distant Reading

Un'altra, interessante e fondamentalmente positiva, critica al metodo di analisi letteraria di Moretti. Difficile selezionare una frase significativa dall'articolo. Vado con questa, anche se piuttosto banale, "We need to embrace the new technologies Moretti and the Stanford Literary Lab are exploring because they do offer incredibly powerful tools for understanding the phenomenon of literature, and will clearly enable us to say certain things about it which are just at the dawning of being explorable.  Who knows what Moretti will come up with next?" Jonathan Freedman, thenewrambler.



According to website Know Your Meme, which documents viral Internet phenomena, a meme is “a piece of content or an idea that’s passed from person to person, changing and evolving along the way.” ...
But trawling the Internet, I found a strange paradox: While memes were everywhere, serious meme theory was almost nowhere. Richard Dawkins, the famous evolutionary biologist who coined the word “meme” in his classic 1976 book, The Selfish Gene, seemed bent on disowning the Internet variety, calling it a “hijacking” of the original term.  Abby Rabinowitz, nautilus.


A Book in the Darkness

One of the compensations of being an insomniac in a snowbound house full of books is that I can always find something to read and distract myself from whatever mood I’m in. When it gets real bad, I roam the dark house with a flashlight like Hamlet’s father’s ghost, pull books off the shelves, open them at random or thumb the pages until I find something of interest, and after reading it, either go back to bed happy or grope for another book... Charles Simic, nybooks.


James Wood sul suo nuovo libro

Il nuovo libro di James Wood - The Nearest Thing to Life (Jonathan Cape) - è quasi un'autobiografia: "Wood’s new book is as much autobiographical as critical: why should there be a difference, because the books whose vital “lifeness” he extols saved his own life when he was growing up as a minister’s son in Durham? The atmosphere at home was strict, high-minded, earnestly evangelical. “I was escaping from things,” Wood said, “hiding from things, but also discovering things that might be prohibited. Though my parents didn’t run a despotic regime, novels gave me a freedom to think and to be that was not found within the gospels.” Peter Conrad, guardian.



Invisible: The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen (Chicago), by the British science writer Philip Ball. A former editor of Nature and the author of nineteen previous books (he should write about that superpower), Ball leads us on a very fun, largely chronological journey through invisibility, beginning with myth and early magicians, ending with quantum physics, and stopping along the way at Newton, Leibniz, microscopy, photography, spiritualism, B movies, and science fiction. He is lucid and interesting on every topic he touches, from the ghost in “Hamlet” to those unseen extra dimensions posited by string theory. But he is more a tour guide than a theorist, and he never entirely succeeds at pulling the category together, or illuminating our own ambivalent relationship to the prospect of becoming invisible. Kathryn Schulz, newyorker.



Will Self on the meaning of skyscraper. "When it comes to skyscrapers I am, in the proper sense of the word, ambivalent: I hate them for all the obvious reasons ... Yet I also love them – truly, I do. I love their Promethean swagger; I love their ability to transform our perception of the city by proposing a new parallax around which we instantly reorient as we tunnel along at ground level. And I love the way that they are seemingly purpose-built to accompany what Marshall McLuhan described as the “instantaneous medium” of electricity". theguardian.


Arendt sul pensare

"Education provides us with a protected space within which to think against the grain of received opinion: a space to question and challenge, to imagine the world from different standpoints and perspectives, to reflect upon ourselves in relation to others and, in so doing, to understand what it means to “assume responsibility”. She had observed at first hand how such opinion can solidify into ideology. For her, thinking was diametrically opposed to ideology: ideology demands assent, is founded on certainty, and determines our behaviours within fixed horizons of expectation; thinking, on the other hand, requires dissent, dwells in uncertainty and expands our horizons by acknowledging our agency. It is the task of education – and therefore of the university – to ensure that a space for such thinking remains open and accessible.
But the university can fulfil that task only if the space it provides remains uncluttered by what Arendt saw as barriers to thought". Da un bell'articolo su Hannah Arendt di Jon Nixon, timeshighereducation.


Libri d'arte gratis

Dal sito del Metropolitan Museum si possono scaricare più di 400 libri d'arte gratuitamente. Come:
The Art of Illumination: The Limbourg Brothers and the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry
Husband, Timothy Bates, with an essay by Margaret Lawson (2008)
This title is out of print. 


Una nuova biografia di Saul Bellow

This spring, on the centennial of his birth and the tenth anniversary of his death, Bellow will burst from posthumous detention. ... But the main event will be Zachary Leader’s biography The Life of Saul Bellow: To Fame and Fortune [Knopf], coming out in May, which portrays Bellow up to 1964. Orchestrated by Bellow’s literary executor, literary superagent Andrew Wylie (who replaced Wasserman), this massive life by Leader, also Wylie’s client, is transparently meant as a corrective to the authorized biography published by Atlas in 2000, which presented Bellow as a racist and a woman-hater, among other things, and accelerated Bellow’s fall from literary grace. Lee Siegel, volture.


8 libri da leggere a marzo

The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro (Knopf)
The Sellout, Paul Beatty (FSG)
A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara (Doubleday)
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, Erik Larson (Crown)  
Crow Fair, by Thomas McGuane (Knopf) 
Hausfrau, Jill Alexander Essbaum (Random House) 
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson (Riverhead) 
Ordinary Light, Tracy K. Smith (Knopf) 

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