Posts Tagged ‘literature’
History tells us that Walter Benjamin, the influential German critic of literature, art, and culture, died more than seventy years ago. So how is it that he’s now out doing lectures and has published a new book?
The fascinating tale in its entirety at “An Investigation Into the Reappearance of Walter Benjamin.”
[TotH to Tyler Hellard's Pop Loser]
* Walter Benjamin
As we celebrate simulacra, we might recall that it was on this date in 1969 that “Sugar, Sugar” hit the top of the U.S. pop charts. Written by Jeff Berry and Andy Kim as one of 16 musical segments performed by “The Archies” (a group of studio musicians) in the CBS “The Archie Comedy Hour,” the tune went on to become the number-one single of the year.
A mash-up of fine art and current SMS messages…
From the sacred…
…to the profane…
… readers will find oh so many more at If Paintings Could Text…
[TotH to @mattiekahn]
* Pablo Picasso (whose paintings-with-texts are here)
As we just hit “send,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1545 that François Rabelais received the permission of King François I to publish the Gargantua series– Gargantua and Pantagruel as we know it. In fact, Rabelais’ wild mix of fantasy, satire, the grotesque, bawdy jokes, and songs had been circulating pseudonymously for years.
Rabelais wrote at a time of great ferment in the French language, and contributed mightily to it– both in coinage and in usage. But his influence was even broader (Tristram Shandy, e.g., is full of quotes from Rabelais) and continues to this day via writers including Milan Kundera, Robertson Davies, and Kenzaburō Ōe.
In fact, some schoolchildren do have to work really hard for their educations…
More perilous paths at “25 Of The Most Dangerous And Unusual Journeys To School In The World.”
Lest we wonder if it’s worth it, we might spare a memorial moment for Michel Eyquem de Montaigne; he died on this date in 1592. Best known during his lifetime as a statesman, Montaigne is remembered for popularizing the essay as a literary form. His effortless merger of serious intellectual exercises with casual anecdotes and autobiography– and his massive volume Essais (translated literally as “Attempts” or “Trials”)– contain what are, to this day, some of the most widely influential essays ever written. Montaigne had a powerful influence on writers ever after, from Descartes, Pascal, and Rousseau, through Hazlitt, Emerson, and Nietzsche, to Zweig, Hoffer, and Asimov. Indeed, he’s believed to have been an influence on the later works of Shakespeare.
A collaboration of data scientists at the University of Vermont and the Mitre Corporation, the Hedonometer was created to gauge happiness by assessing word use. It was first applied to Twitter, as readers can see here. More lately, it has been turned on the repository at Project Gutenberg, so that users can test the “happiness” of thousands of classic books… as above. The chart in the top left shows happiness metrics through the whole of the book; the chart on the right shows a comparison of book sections, which one can select in the first chart.
As our friends at Flowing Data observe, “I wish I could say this meant something to me…” Still, it makes one happy to know that they’re on the case.
* Dalai Lama
As we search for word replacements codes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1977 that Hamida Djandoubi became the last person to be legally executed in France by guillotine.
How to get an 11-year-old interested in the works of David Foster Wallace? Crack out your copy of Infinite Jest, and recreate it in Lego. That was the project embarked upon back in April by American English professor Kevin Griffith and his 11-year-old son Sebastian. They’ve just finished, and – running to more than 100 scenes, as I guess any recreation of a 1,000-plus page novel would have to – it’s something of a masterpiece. It certainly puts these Lego scenes of classic literature to shame.
Griffith and his son had the idea to “translate” Infinite Jest into Lego after reading Brendan Powell Smith’s The Brick Bible, which takes on the New Testament. “Wallace’s novel is probably the only contemporary text to offer a similar challenge to artists working in the medium of Lego”…
Read the more at “David Foster Wallace novel translated by an 11-year-old – into Lego,” and see more at at the Griffiths’ web site, Brickjest.
* David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest
As we piece it all together, we might send transformational birthday greetings to Paul Goodman; he was born on this date in 1911. A man of many parts, Goodman earned a PhD in literature from the University of Chicago, where he taught until he was fired for insisting on his rights openly to avow his bisexuality and to fall in love with his students. He went on to become a novelist, playwright, lay therapist (he co-founded the Gestalt Therapy movement), social critic, anarchist philosopher, and public intellectual. The author of dozens of books, he’s probably best remembered for Growing Up Absurd and The Community of Scholars. Part of the group known as “the New York intellectuals” (which included Daniel Bell, Norman Mailer, Irving Howe, Alfred Kazin, Norman Podhoretz, Mary McCarthy, Lionel Trilling, and Philip Rahv) he was a regular contributor to Politics, Partisan Review, The New Republic, Commentary, The New Leader, Dissent and The New York Review of Books.
Any page of Paul Goodman will give you not only originality and brilliance but wisdom – that is, something to think about. He is our peculiar, urban, twentieth-century Thoreau, the quintessential American mind of our time.
“I have had UFO experiences, and yet, at the same time, I can easily be convinced that none of it is true”*…
In 1995, as part of the Walt Disney Company Presents series (that was hosted by Michael Eisner, doing his not-very-successful best to channel Walt), Disney aired “Alien Encounters.” A documentary that opens with footage of “an actual spacecraft from another world, piloted by alien intelligence,” and the pronouncement that “intelligent life from distant galaxies is now attempting to make open contact with the human race,” it only aired once.
* Frank Black (AKA Black Francis, of the Pixies)
As we look to the skies, we might spare a thought for Gertrude Stein; she died on this date in 1946. An American ex-pat, Stein was an author, poet, and memoirist (The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas). But she was probably most impactful and is best remembered as a hostess and mentor to a generation of writers (e.g., Hemingway,described her salon in A Moveable Feast) and artists (e.g., Picasso) in Paris, where– “the mother of us all”**– she held court for forty years.
** The Mother of Us All was the title of a Virgil Thomson opera for which Stein wrote the libretto. And while the subject of the opera, Susan B. Anthony, certainly deserves the epithet, so, many have observed, did its author.
Long before the lights from Pittsburgh’s PNC Park began illuminating the North Shore every summer, a local corporation gave the city an art show every night on the same grounds.
The Westinghouse Electric Supply Company (a subsidiary of the Westinghouse Electric Corporation, or Wesco), based in Pittsburgh, moved into a warehouse facing the Allegheny River in 1948. On its roof, a giant orange and blue sign spelled out the the company’s tag line, “You can be sure … if it’s Westinghouse.”
As modernist design trickled down from the Bauhaus to Madison Avenue, most noticeably in the 1960s, corporate giants like Westinghouse began leaning towards minimalist visual identities. In 1960, Paul Rand gave the company a logo that looked like an electrical socket that also spelled out the letter W.
Six years later, Richard Huppertz, head of Westinghouse’s Corporate Design Center, wanted to emphasize the company’s sleek new identity with text-free signage on top of their North Shore warehouse. Huppertz ran the idea by Rand, who then came up with the country’s first computer-controlled sign…
Read the rest of this illuminating story at “Remembering Pittsburgh’s Most Mesmerizing Sign.”
* Walt Whitman
As we celebrate bright ideas, we might turn to the noir side and send hard-boiled birthday greetings to Raymond Chandler, novelist (The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely, et al.) and screenwriter (Double Indemnity, with Billy Wilder, e.g.), whose Philip Marlowe was (with Hammett’s Sam Spade) synonymous with “private detective,” whose style (with Hammett’s) defined a genre, and who was (unlike Hammett) born on this date in 1888.
Love interest nearly always weakens a mystery because it introduces a type of suspense that is antagonistic to the detective’s struggle to solve the problem. It stacks the cards, and in nine cases out of ten, it eliminates at least two useful suspects. The only effective love interest is that which creates a personal hazard for the detective – but which, at the same time, you instinctively feel to be a mere episode. A really good detective never gets married.
- Raymond Chandler, “Casual Notes on the Mystery Novel” (essay, 1949)