Campus Novel and More

"... the university has been the key institution in Lodge’s life, and here his biography is a microcosm of the much vaunted social mobility experienced by many of those who came to adulthood in the decades immediately after 1945. At first sight, it would be tempting to say that he is not an academic novelist but a novelist who happens to be an academic. However, that not only understates the extent to which his critical and theoretical work has informed his fiction (his skilful exposition of the role of metaphor and metonymy in Nice Work is an obvious instance): it may also misrepresent his identity. Lodge doesn’t just ‘happen to be’ an academic: he owed his writing voice to the university, just as in a more material way he owed the opportunity to establish himself as a writer to the financial security provided by his academic career". Stefan Collini su due nuovi libri di David Lodge, un'autobiografia e una raccolta di saggi, Quite a Good Time to Be Born: A Memoir (Harvill Secker), Lives in Writing: Essays (Vintage). lrb.


Oliver Sacks My Own Life

"A MONTH ago, I felt that I was in good health, even robust health. At 81, I still swim a mile a day. But my luck has run out — a few weeks ago I learned that I have multiple metastases in the liver. ...
It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can. In this I am encouraged by the words of one of my favorite philosophers, David Hume, who, upon learning that he was mortally ill at age 65, wrote a short autobiography in a single day in April of 1776. He titled it “My Own Life.”
“I now reckon upon a speedy dissolution,” he wrote. “I have suffered very little pain from my disorder; and what is more strange, have, notwithstanding the great decline of my person, never suffered a moment’s abatement of my spirits. I possess the same ardour as ever in study, and the same gaiety in company.” nyt.



Francine Prose discute sui recenti film biografici e sulle polemiche che hanno suscitato, a causa di errori storici. Ma i biopics devono veramente essere fedeli alla realtà storica?
"Meanwhile I can’t help noticing the difference between historical films whose veracity stirs up a controversy and historical films about which nobody seems to care if they’re true or not. One need only compare the tenor of the conversations generated by the mistakes in Selma and (to a somewhat lesser extent) The Imitation Game with those kicked up by the question of what Mike Leigh did and didn’t get right in his brilliant Mr. Turner; in fact, it would seem, not many people went to see Leigh’s biopic about the landscape painybooks.
nter, J.M.W. Turner, though it was one of the best films of last year". (Nella foto, Timothy Spall as J.M.W. Turner in Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner, 2014).


Lincoln’s War of Words

"It is clear that writing was a form of self-therapy for Lincoln, and before he could save the nation, he needed to find the right words, to save himself. His stepmother remembered that as a child, Lincoln would laboriously write out the words he had heard adults use, and grow frustrated when he did not understand them. His comprehension grew quickly, in part because of the books he was able to find on a frontier that was not as remote as his later myth-makers would have us believe". Ted Widmere, nybooks.
Alla Morgan Library and Museum di New York c'è una mostra dei manoscritti di Lincoln, Lincoln Speaks: Words That Transformed a Nation. (Nella foto, Lincoln writing the Proclamation of Freedom; lithograph based on a painting by David Gilmour Blythe, circa 1863)


McCulloch e Pitts

Una storia molto interessante, quella dell'incontro e della collaborazione di McCulloch e Pitts, il primo uno dei fondatori delle neuroscienze e il secondo un matematico. Il primo un intellettuale proveniente da una ricca famiglia della East Coast, il secondo una sorta di barbone senza un'istruzione istituzionale.
"McCulloch explained to Pitts that he was trying to model the brain with a Leibnizian logical calculus. He had been inspired by the Principia, in which Russell and Whitehead tried to show that all of mathematics could be built from the ground up using basic, indisputable logic. Their building block was the proposition—the simplest possible statement, either true or false. From there, they employed the fundamental operations of logic, like the conjunction (“and”), disjunction (“or”), and negation (“not”), to link propositions into increasingly complicated networks. From these simple propositions, they derived the full complexity of modern mathematics". Amanda Gefter, nautilus.


Absolute English

Science once communicated in a polyglot of tongues, but now English rules alone. How did this happen – and at what cost?

"... contemporary science is monoglot: everyone uses English almost to the exclusion of other languages. A century ago, the majority of researchers in Western science knew at least some English, but they also read, wrote and spoke in French and German, and sometimes in other ‘minor’ languages, such as the newly emergent Russian or the rapidly fading Italian".


Loving to Read

"If anything, the fervor of the Janeites [i folli amanti di Jane Austen] puts into relief a fact almost too obvious to notice: the world of books is a romantic world. Romance structures literary life, and to be a reader is, often, to follow its choreography, from susceptibility and discovery (“I just saw it there in the bookstore!”) to infatuation, intimacy, identification, and obsession. We connect with books in an intellectual way, but the most valuable relationships we have with them are emotional; to say that you merely admire or respect a book is, on some level, to insult it. Feelings are so fundamental to literary life that it can be hard to imagine a way of relating to literature that doesn’t involve loving it. Without all those emotions, what would reading be?" Joshua Rothman, newyorker.
Nell'articolo sono citati gli autori cult del momento e, sorpresa sorpresa, c'è la nostra Elena Ferrante! insieme a Karl Ove Knausgaard. Il libro recensito è Loving Literature: A Cultural History di Deidre Shauna Lynch (University of Chicago Press). (La bella foto è di Ferdinando Scianna)


The Killing of the Creative Class

Scott Timberg, Culture Crash: The Killing of the Creative Class (Yale University Press). Ecco qualche dato sconcertante, e triste: "Over the past two decades, the number of English majors graduating from Yale University has plummeted by 60 percent; at Stanford University in 2013, only 15 percent of students majored in the humanities. In American universities, more than 50 percent of faculty is adjuncts, pittance-paid laborers with no medical insurance and barely a prayer to bolster them. In the publishing and journalism trades, 260,000 jobs were nixed between 2007 and 2009. Since the turn of the century, around 80 percent of cultural critics writing for newspapers have lost their jobs. There are only two remaining full-time dance critics in the entire United States of America. A not untypical yearly salary in 2008 for a professional dancer was $15,000". William Giraldi, newrepublic.


Academic Publishing

Un articolo molto interessante sul presente e il probabile futuro della stampa accademica. "Publishing is evolving very rapidly,” says the Harvard Library’s Sarah Thomas. “We’re having a kind of shift away from formal publications that are relatively static. In the old days, a published book would be bound between covers and sit on the shelf for centuries, maybe with some marginalia added. Now publishing has become dynamic: not individual authors, but multiple authors acting to create across geographical regions and across time. Think about scientific publication. For centuries, the journal article has been the form in which scientists communicated. Now, it’s more likely to be an idea put out online by multiple labs, and it may change from day to day. You get alerts; there will be new information added; you’ll get corrections.” And academic careers may assume new forms. A few years ago, art historian Shearer West, now head of the humanities division at the University of Oxford, observed that in the future, scholars will publish one great book, and one great digital project". Craig A. Lambert, harvardmagazine.


La fine dei prof.

Insegnare è una carriera che nessuno vuol più fare. "My undergraduates’ career plans are a peculiar mix of naked ambition and hair-shirt altruism. If they pursue investment banking, they do so not merely to make money. Rather, they wish to use their eventual wealth to distribute solar light bulbs to every resident of a developing nation. They’ll apply to the finest law schools in hopes of some day judging war criminals at The Hague. Countless want to code. They dream of engineering an app that will make tequila flow out of thin air into your outstretched shot glass. My students, I suspect, are receiving their professional advice from a council of emojis. There is one occupation, however, that rarely figures in their reveries. Few of these kids hanker to become professors". A scrivere è Jacques Berlinerblau, professore di Jewish civilization a Georgetown University. chronicleof highereducation.


In Memory of Primo Levi

Eileen Battersby dell'Irish Times racconta il suo incontro con Primo Levi, un anno prima della morte dello scrittore. "So Levi at 66 had asked me if I was Jewish and on hearing no, he smiled and said that the Jewish community had always criticised him for not being Jewish enough. “I see myself as Italian, or at least I did before.” It was obvious what he meant by “before”. irishtimes.


Le traduttrici di Isaac Bashevis Singer

Pare che Isaac Bashevis Singer avesse molte traduttrici (48) che fungevano anche da muse e probabilmente da amanti. The Muses of Isaac Bashevis Singer è un documentario girato dai registi israeliani Asaf Galay e Shaul Betser che ne racconta la storia anche raccogliendo le testimonianze di chi tra loro è ancora in vita. "Isaac Bashevis Singer, the famous Yiddish writer and Nobel Prize winner wrote with a 'harem' of dozens of translators behind him. Beyond simple translation, these women were a vital source of his creativity. The inspiration he drew from them came in many forms, often mixing romance with professional aspirations. Today nine remain to tell his story". mosaicmagazine.