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.