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) 

Consigliati da  


Il mistero delle mappe medioevali

Come facevano a essere così accurate? Un cartografo cerca nella matematica un metodo per spiegarlo. "That first portolan mapmaker also created an enormous puzzle for historians to come, because he left behind few hints of his method: no rough drafts, no sketches, no descriptions of his work. “Even with all the information he had — every sailor’s notebook, every description in every journal — I wouldn’t know how to make the map he made,” says John Hessler, a specialist in modern cartography at the Library of Congress.
But Hessler has approached the question using a tool that is foreign to most historians: mathematics. By systematically analyzing the discrepancies between the portolan charts and modern ones, Hessler has begun to trace the mapmaker’s tracks within the maps themselves". Julie Rehmeyer, discovermagazine.


Sarah Braunstein

Sarah Braunstein è l'autrice del racconto della scorsa settimana sul New Yorker, "All You Have to Do". Dall'intervista di Willing Davidson:

In “All You Have to Do,” your story in this week’s issue, Sid Baumwell is a sixteen-year-old in a small town, who, as he puts it, needs “a grievance.” Why is Sid so perplexed by, and worried about, his own mildness?
I think Sid’s desire to leave this town, to grow up, is quite strong—and yet it’s not matched by his day-to-day affect. Isn’t this the scariest thing for a teen-ager, that brand of cognitive dissonance? A desire to run that’s matched only by a desire to be comfortable? He loves his mom. His mom loves him. How does one grow up, and manage the violence implicit in the act of growing, in the face of such steadiness and equilibrium? It may seem to Sid (and, sometimes, to me) that it’s only hysteria—in the form of grievance, or longing, or pain, or trangression—that motivates one, finally, to change. And by change I mean simply to move beyond the town, to become someone new. To grow up. newyorker.


Consigli a un aspirante scrittore

"When I had just finished my schooling and was looking for a job, a friend put me in touch with an absurdly well-connected British biographer who, she assured me, would help me find the professional position of my dreams. I wrote and asked him whether we might meet, explaining that I would appreciate his advice on securing literary work and enclosing some of my early efforts. He duly invited me for tea. The advice I had in mind sounded like this: “You must call so-and-so at this number and say I suggested it and he will publish you and give you loads of money.” After giving me a cup of weak tea—no sandwiches, no pastry, not even sugar or milk—he said, “I have only one piece of advice for you. Have a vision and cleave to it.” We then discussed the weather for twenty minutes". Andrew Solomon, newyorker.

Se continuate a leggere, troverete anche altri saggi consigli.


Bob Hope

Ora dimenticato, Bob Hope sembra fosse un grande comedian. "When Bob Hope died in 2003 at the age of one hundred, attention was not widely paid. The “entertainer of the century,” as his biographer Richard Zoglin calls him, had long been regarded by many Americans (if they regarded him at all) “as a cue-card-reading antique, cracking dated jokes about buxom beauty queens and Gerald Ford’s golf game.” A year before his death, The Onion had published the fake headline “World’s Last Bob Hope Fan Dies of Old Age.” Though Hope still had champions among comedy luminaries who had grown up idolizing him—Woody Allen and Dick Cavett, most prominently—Christopher Hitchens was in sync with the new century’s consensus when he memorialized him as “paralyzingly, painfully, hopelessly unfunny". Frank Rich, nybooks.

Hope: Entertainer of the Century, Richard Zoglin (Simon and Schuster).


Jane Austen's Juvenilia

Escono gli scritti giovanili di Jane Austen, che, come scrive la curatrice Kathryn Sutherland  nell'introduzione ai volumi, sono "violent, restless, anarchic and exuberantly expressionistic. Drunkenness, female brawling, sexual misdemeanour and murder run riot across their pages”.

Jane Austen, VOLUME THE FIRST, VOLUME THE SECOND, VOLUME THE THIRD. In Her Own Hand. Edited by Kathryn Sutherland (Abbeville Press).
LOVE AND FREINDSHIP AND OTHER YOUTHFUL WRITINGS. Edited by Christine Alexander (Penguin). Paula Byrne, tls.



Landmarks è il titolo di un libro di Robert Macfarlane, naturalista e scrittore di viaggi (Hamish Hamilton). "Landmarks is about the language of landscape, built around glossaries, words concerned with water, mountains, woods, plains, edgelands, and so on. Inspired by a collection of peat vocabulary, then expanded into a trove of place-language from The Hebrides, the book arranges and displays a cornucopia of terms from Gaelic, Irish, Manx, Welsh and dozens of British county dialects. The languages of forestry, mountaineering, archaeology and geology mix with the coinages of poets". Horatio Clare, telegraph.


Sprezzatura and the Sincere Mustache

Un divertente racconto sullo scrivere, per il New Yorker soprattutto. "I said of a person I was writing about that he had a “sincere” mustache. This brought Bingham, manuscript in hand, out of his office and down the hall to mine, as I had hoped it would. A sincere mustache, Mr. McPhee, a sincere mustache? What does that mean? Was I implying that it is possible to have an insincere mustache?
I said I could not imagine anything said more plainly.
The mustache made it into the magazine and caused me to feel self-established as The New Yorkers nonfiction mustache specialist. Across time, someone came along who had “a no-nonsense mustache,” and a Great Lakes ship captain who had “a gyroscopic mustache,” and a North Woodsman who had “a timber-cruiser’s guileless mustache.” A family practitioner in Maine had “an analgesic mustache,” another doctor “a soothing mustache,” and another a mustache that “seems medical, in that it spreads flat beyond the corners of his mouth and suggests no prognosis, positive or negative". John McPhee, newyorker.


Il sesso nelle università

Se ne parla molto, in questi giorni, da quando Harvard ha proibito i rapporti sessuali tra professori e studenti. Ne parla Laura Kipnis, docente di comunicazione alla Northwestern University.
"These days the desire persists, but what’s shifted is the direction of the arrows. Now it’s parents—or their surrogates, teachers—who do all the desiring; children are conveniently returned to innocence. So long to childhood sexuality, the most irksome part of the Freudian story. So too with the new campus dating codes, which also excise student desire from the story, extending the presumption of the innocent child well into his or her collegiate career. Except that students aren’t children.
Among the problems with treating students like children is that they become increasingly childlike in response. ...
Lastly: The new codes sweeping American campuses aren’t just a striking abridgment of everyone’s freedom, they’re also intellectually embarrassing. Sexual paranoia reigns; students are trauma cases waiting to happen. If you wanted to produce a pacified, cowering citizenry, this would be the method. And in that sense, we’re all the victims". chronicleofhighereducation.


The Novel as Protestant Art

Un saggio interessante, ma non riconosce il ruolo fondamentale avuto dalla cultura ebraica - dall'abitudine di cercare risposte alle grandi domande attraverso storie. 
"So, here's a proposition: The novel was an art form—the art form—of the modern Protestant West, and as the main strength of established Protestant Christendom began to fail in Europe and the United States in recent decades, so did the cultural importance of the novel". Joseph Bottum, books&culture.



Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story, Michael Rosen (Counterpoint).
“Alphabetical” is organized into 26 chapters (surprise), each devoted to one letter. They begin  identically, with a brief explanation of a letter’s origins, name, uses and pronunciations. ...
But with each letter, Rosen also veers off course, using the chapters as excuses to explore whatever he finds instructive or entertaining. In the chapter “D is for Disappeared Letters,” for example, he uses the opening lines of “Beowulf” to show how letters such as “yogh” and “wynn” have left us. In “J is for Jokes,” he explains why the alphabet has only 25 letters at Christmastime (“No-el, no-el, no-el, no-e-e-el”). And in “U is for Umlaut,” he destroys my faith in ice cream by explaining that the corporate name Häagen-Dazs “doesn’t mean anything to anyone anywhere in any language.” There’s a scoop for you". Carlos Lozada, wp.