Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
... the format — text shimmering on the screen of an electronic deviceversus handheld codex — may have less to do with what is happening than ebook enthusiasts like to think.
What's required is keeping faith - faith too not being about confidently asserting metaphysical propositions but rather developing the capacity to trust yourself, others, God.
Monday, August 29, 2011
... the company offers a treasure trove of traditional academic content that undergraduates paying $50,000 a year may find nowhere on their Club Med–like campuses. This past academic year, for example, a Bowdoin College student interested in American history courses could have taken “Black Women in Atlantic New Orleans,” “Women in American History, 1600–1900,” or “Lawn Boy Meets Valley Girl: Gender and the Suburbs,” but if he wanted a course in American political history, the colonial and revolutionary periods, or the Civil War, he would have been out of luck. A Great Courses customer, by contrast, can choose from a cornucopia of American history not yet divvied up into the fiefdoms of race, gender, and sexual orientation, with multiple offerings in the American Revolution, the constitutional period, the Civil War, the Bill of Rights, and the intellectual influences on the country’s founding. There are lessons here for the academy, if it will only pay them heed.
I believe that readers who deny the many excellent qualities of Banville's The Sea have not read carefully enough, or thought sufficiently about it.
... I found the storyline of his faith progression from atheist to advocate even more compelling than the canon of his literature. It's a story not widely known and quite improbable; it's as if the leading atheist of our age, say Richard Dawkins, also of Oxford, suddenly reversed himself to become a Christian evangelist.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Saturday, August 27, 2011
In the beginning
There weren’t any words,
Only sounds and smells,
Shapes and colors,
In motion or at rest,
Weaving a pattern,
Woven into one.
Grunts and sighs prevailed,
Murmurs, cries, until
The flexible tongue warbled
A name, syllables
Designating a wonder
In a world of wonders.
Syllables begot syllables,
Wonder after wonder. Soon
There were as many
Words as wonders
And the world was cast
In doubt. Words should be
Exceptional. In the beginning …
As the national unemployment rate doubled from around 5 percent to nearly 10 percent, the property-crime rate, far from spiking, fell significantly. For 2009, the FBI reported an 8 percent drop in the nationwide robbery rate and a 17 percent reduction in the auto-theft rate from the previous year. Big-city reports show the same thing. Between 2008 and 2010, New York City experienced a 4 percent decline in the robbery rate and a 10 percent fall in the burglary rate. Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles witnessed similar declines. The FBI’s latest numbers, for 2010, show that the national crime rate fell again.
... through the magic of dull and faulty prose, the contributors to "The Cambridge History of the American Novel" have been able to make these presumably worldly subjects seem parochial in the extreme—of concern only to one another, which is certainly one derogatory definition of the academic. These scholars may teach English, but they do not always write it, at least not quite. A novelist, we are told, "tasks himself" with this or that; things tend to get "problematized"; the adjectives "global" and "post"-this-or-that receive a good workout; "alterity" and "intertexuality" pop up their homely heads; the "poetics of ineffability" come into play; and "agency" is used in ways one hadn't hitherto noticed, so that "readers in groups demonstrate agency." About the term "non-heteronormativity" let us not speak.
Being, belief and reason are pure relations, which cannot be dealt with absolutely, and are not things but pure scholastic concepts, signs for understanding, not for worshipping, aids to awaken our attention, not to fetter it.- Johann Georg Hamann, born on this date in 1730
Friday, August 26, 2011
It is 1930. Maurice is 16. The Great Depression looms. Fatherless and dependent on the meager kindness of a grandmother for a home along with his mother, brother’s and sisters, our hero answers the call of the Hudson’s Bay Company for trainees to man the trading posts of arctic Canada. The adventure begins.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Whilst it may be very hard to say what an ‘I’ is – and it is surely multiple and porous – it is foolish to rush to concluding there’s no ‘I’ at all. It is less reactionary, surely, to rest with the notion that we are something of a mystery to ourselves – a mystery deepened in meditative analysis, not dissolved in it.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
In my most recent published book, I defended a particular moral theory – my own version of deontological ethics – and then “applied” that theory to defend a particular moral claim: that other animals have an inherent right not to be eaten or otherwise used by humans.
Like Google, Robert Levine’s book has an agenda but it is the opposite of Eric Schmidt’s. Levine, an American technology and music journalist, is on the side of the decently rewarded creators against the utopians. Free Ride is flatly written and hard going, but it is important, not least because it concludes by offering some possible solutions to the problem.
Critics and fans of The Help question whether a white woman in 1963, like the main character Skeeter Phelan, would be brave enough to rebel against the white establishment. But there were women like Skeeter, though they were few and far between. In the same year in which The Help is set, Eudora Welty wrote "Where Is the Voice Coming From?" bravely capturing the feelings that were in the air in Jackson that year. They were feelings unspoken by many at the time, just as they were missing on-screen in The Help.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
I know the world is filled with troubles and many injustices. But reality is as beautiful as it is ugly. I think it is just as important to sing about beautiful mornings as it is to talk about slums. I just couldn't write anything without hope.- Oscar Hammerstein II, who died on this date in 1960
Monday, August 22, 2011
Elif’s saga takes her through Florence, to Pisa, where she meets the forensic paleontologist Francesco Mallegni, who has reconstructed a facial likeness of Dante based on a “bootleg model” of the poet’s skull when the skeleton was exhumed in 1921. Mallegni also found and studied the body of the Inferno‘s imprisoned Count Ugolino, presumed cannibal who devoured the bodies of his own children in hunger. His conclusion? “The septuagenarian count, not having a tooth in his head, couldn’t possibly have eaten a child, let alone four grown men,” Elif writes.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Saturday, August 20, 2011
His greatest stanzas, for all their unexpectedness, make you feel that a part of your mind was already prepared to receive them – was anxiously awaiting them. They seem ineluctable, or predestined. Larkin, often, is more than memorable. He is instantly unforgettable.
Friday, August 19, 2011
He was a superb self-publicist, one of the earliest of literary entrepreneurs. When one of The Sculler verses poked fun at the more established poet Thomas Coryate, the pair became embroiled in a pamphlet war. There were rival petitions to the King and one of Taylor’s pamphlets was burnt by the common hangman. It was all good for the Taylor brand.
... the full value of Barnes’ collection would not be apparent for years. As he was putting it together, Barnes suffered a stinging humiliation from Philadelphia’s establishment art critics. In April and May of 1923, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts hosted an exhibit for some 75 of Barnes’ pieces, including sculptures by Lipchitz and paintings by Soutine, Modigliani, Matisse, Pascin, and Picasso. Critical reaction was almost uniformly brutal. It was a “series of seemingly incomprehensible masses of paint, known as landscapes” (Philadelphia Inquirer). “It is as if the room were infested with some infectious scourge” (the North American). “It is hard to see why the Academy should sponsor this sort of trash” (Philadelphia Record).
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Who is Richard Bachman? In early tests, Book Genome Project researchers noted that he kept popping up as a match for readers who liked Stephen King. Turns out that Richard Bachman is the pen name that Stephen King used to publish the “Running Man” series of science fiction books between 1977 and 1982. “He wanted to see if he could recreate breaking into the mainstream,” Stanton said. “He sold maybe 30,000 copies as Richard Bachman. When he became public as Stephen King, he sold millions. From our perspective, if you’re looking for a perfect Stephen King-like book, Richard Bachman would be the best possible match. But a social network would never have recommended it. That is an ideal use case.”
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
... Moser's book struck me as much more like Georgette Heyer than it did Barbara Cartland. And even the Heyer comparison does justice to neither author because this book is emphatically NOT a romance in any define sense--it is the story of a person.
With all its importance, the economic crisis is only part of our sad story—and probably not even the decisive one. For the present debacle is also one of an apparent lack of a common European identity and values, of national interests prevailing over a shared European interest. It is a crisis of lack of solidarity, leadership and—perhaps above all—political will. It is a crisis of internal tensions, of failed integration at home (as shown, for instance, by recent events in Britain). For many years European elites lived in a state of denial; they wanted more democracy but were unprepared for the erosion of authority that led to anarchy.
So many ecologists set the historical baseline as the condition of ecosystems before Europeans arrived. Why? The fact is that primitive peoples killed off the largest species in North and South America, Australia and Pacific Islands thousands of years ago. For example, after people showed up about 14,000 years ago, North America lost 60 or so species of tasty mammals that weighed over 100 pounds, including giant ground sloths, mammoths, mastodons, cheetahs, camels, and glyptodonts.
... another effect of the Blair-Brown years has been a huge increase in inequality. The same thing has happened in America where working and middle class incomes have been falling for years and all the fruits of growth have gone into the hands of the rich.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Watching this little puppet play, it occurred to me that all artistic appreciation and criticism comes down to personal thresholds. This is one of those ideas that makes me fear I am flirting with the obvious or with something that has already been said a hundred times. But this idea makes sharing artistic opinions a bit complicated, if not ineffective. It is really the measure of what “taste” is. Can there be “good taste” when we all have different thresholds for elements of art?
Defoe's eyewitness account is valuable, but his real innovation was to collect the observations of others. Journalism was then in its infancy, and there was nothing like systematic and objective reporting on contemporary events. Within a week of the storm's strike, however, Defoe was running newspaper ads that asked readers to submit stories. He and his publisher, John Nutt, must have regarded this invitation as an investment, knowing that they would absorb the cost of correspondence: In those days, the recipients of mail paid for postage.
Monday, August 15, 2011
Panic doesn’t turn an unworkable policy agenda into something that people can actually do. It can waste a lot of energy and time and cause otherwise capable people to sink months or years of their lives into leprechaun chases, and it can cause pandering politicians to gesture in the direction of your agenda without ever actually doing anything significant — but that is all. And it is not much.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
It’s hard to tell, taking those quotes together, whether Goldman played loosely with the facts or is just such an honorable stickler for accuracy that he’s more comfortable calling his memories a fiction. The book itself suggests that something closer to the latter is going on.
What I ... intend to write about is the more typical Swedish crime fiction (in my experience), which is not usually a genre of breathlessly exciting, casually expressed thrillers, but is a more suspenseful, psychological and, yes, often gloomy world.
Lutz’s biggest oversight — a blunder likely inadvertent, but one nevertheless insulting to the many journalists currently toiling online for free — was his failure to acknowledge the countless outlets that have sprouted up in response to a diminishing book reviewing climate.
Martin possesses two virtues in abundance. First, he’s unapologetically coldblooded. Westeros is a dangerous place governed by the whims of men, not the rule of law, and the first novel in his series is famous for (spoilers follow!) dispatching a thoroughly admirable major character with whom readers have been identifying for most of the book. ... Martin’s second virtue is a nearly supernatural gift for storytelling. All of his hundreds of characters have grace notes of history and personality that advance a plot line. Every town has an elaborately recalled series of triumphs and troubles. Moreover, historical asides are inseparable from the books’ larger narratives, so as you’re propelled through the story, the sensation is like riding a wave that’s somehow moving away from shore, with the water beneath you growing deeper and more shadowed as your speed increases.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
As the US's first small steps out of recession appear to falter, with 9% unemployment, the lowest rate of home ownership for decades, a downgrading of its credit rating and a growing Chinese challenge to US global supremacy, this tale of frustrated ambition, lost love and death seems to strike a chord.