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Posts Tagged ‘literature

“The law of unintended consequences pushes us ceaselessly through the years”*…

 

Much has been said about the ways we expect our oncoming fleet of driverless cars to change the way we live—remaking us all into passengers, rewiring our economy, retooling our views of ownership, and reshaping our cities and roads.

They will also change the way we die. As technology takes the wheel, road deaths due to driver error will begin to diminish. It’s a transformative advancement, but one that comes with consequences in an unexpected place: organ donation…

* Richard Schickel

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As we get to the heart of the matter, we might spare a thought for a wicked bender of English words, James Augustine Aloysius Joyce; he died on this date in 1941.  A poet and novelist best known for Ulysses, he was the preeminent figure in the Modernist avant-garde, and a formative influence on writers as various as (Joyce’s protege) Samuel Becket, Jorge Luis Borges, Salmon Rushdie, and Joesph Campbell.

In 1998, the Modern Library ranked Ulysses No. 1, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man No. 3, and Finnegans Wake No. 77, on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.  The next year, Time Magazine named Joyce one of its 100 Most Important People of the 20th century, observing that “Joyce … revolutionized 20th century fiction.”  And illustrating that Joyce’s influence was not confined to the arts: physicist Murray Gell-Mann used the sentence “Three quarks for Muster Mark!” (in Joyce’s Finnegans Wake) as source for the elementary particle he was naming– the quark.

A portrait of the artist as a 38 year old man: the image of Joyce included in a printed subscription order form for the 1921 Paris edition of Ulysses. The image itself dates from 1918,

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Written by LW

January 13, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Nostalgia is, ‘Hey, remember the other mall that used to be there?'”*…

 

Built in the early 1970s, a decaying Midwestern relic of throw-away consumer architecture will be torn down and developed into an updated outdoor shopping space. What is lost in the process?

An era is coming to its end in a mid-size Illinois city few Americans might recognize. Sandburg Mall, the four-anchor shopping arena constructed in 1974 on the northwest corner of Galesburg, is finally being torn down after decades of decline. Located near the intersection of Henderson street and Carl Sandburg Drive, just off the US-34 exit, the shopping center was built during Galesburg’s population apex — nearly 38,000 citizens were registered in 1960 census, dropping only about 1,000 by 1970. Per the city’s most recent census report, that number has dropped to just above 32,000…

Sandburg Mall is now a relic about to disintegrate, albeit one few citizens will probably miss. Its existence has been maligned for most of my teenage and adult life. It taunts and reminds most of a better, more colorful economic past in a town still struggling — and in some places, succeeding — to get back on its feet…

Tag Hartman-Simkins‘ haunting photo essay: “Baby Come Back: Images of an American Shopping Mall Before Its Death.”

* Charles Saunders

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As we shop til we drop, we might send fabulous birthday greetings to Charles Perrault; he was born on this date in 1628.  A member of the Académie Française, he laid the foundations for a new literary genre, the fairy tale, deriving his work from extant folk tales.  He is best known for Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (Little Red Riding Hood), Cendrillon (Cinderella), Le Chat Botté (Puss in Boots), La Belle au bois Dormant (The Sleeping Beauty), and Barbe Bleue (Bluebeard).

Hugely influential (e.g., on The Brothers Grimm, who wrote over 100 years later), his versions became canonical– and thus the basis for other literary tellings, operas, play, and ultimately movies… which is why Disney’s Cinderella (among other incarnations) has to contend with fragile footwear:  Perrault is believed to have confused vair for verre (the commonly-used descriptor in earlier versions), and thus to have given his princess-to-be “glass” slippers instead of “squirrel fur slippers.”

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Written by LW

January 12, 2017 at 1:01 am

“I just enjoy translating, it’s like opening one’s mouth and hearing someone else’s voice emerge”*…

 

The Highbrow Struggles of Translating Modern Children’s Books Into Latin.”

* Iris Murdoch

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As we try transliteration, we might send thoughtful birthday greetings to Umberto Eco; he was born on this date in 1932.  Most widely known as a novelist (primarily for his international best seller The Name of the Rose), Eco was also a literary critic, philosopher, and university professor highly-regarded in academic circles for his contributions to semiology.

An occasional translator, Eco once remarked, “translation is the art of failure.”

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Written by LW

January 5, 2017 at 1:01 am

“All we are not stares back at what we are”*…

 

I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, “Where’s the self-help section?” She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.

– George Carlin

Napoleon Hill is the most famous conman you’ve probably never heard of. Born into poverty in rural Virginia at the end of the 19th century, Hill went on to write one of the most successful self-help books of the 20th century: Think and Grow Rich. In fact, he helped invent the genre. But it’s the untold story of Hill’s fraudulent business practices, tawdry sex life, and membership in a New York cult that makes him so fascinating…

Modern readers are probably familiar with the 2006 sensation The Secret, but the concepts in that book were essentially plagiarized from Napoleon Hill’s 1937 classic Think and Grow Rich, which has reportedly sold over 15 million copies to date. The big idea in both: The material universe is governed quite directly by our thoughts. If you simply visualize what you want out of life, those things and more will be delivered to you. Especially if those things involve money…

You can see the influence of Hill in everything from the success sermons of Tony Robbins to the crooked business dealings of Trump University. In fact, you can draw a direct line to Donald Trump’s way of thinking through Norman Vincent Peale, an ardent follower of Napoleon Hill. Reverend Peale, author of the 1952 book The Power of Positive Thinking, was Donald Trump’s pastor as a child [c.f. here]…

I’m not here to say that there’s nothing to be learned from some of Hill’s writings—especially those that speak of self-confidence, being kind to others, and going the extra mile for something you believe in. But the real story behind Napoleon Hill’s life is long past due…

That fascinating tale in full at “The Untold Story of Napoleon Hill, the Greatest Self-Help Scammer of All Time.”

* W.H. Auden

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As we tell ourselves that we’re OK, we might send speculative birthday greetings to the anti-Hill, Philip Kindred Dick; he was born on this date in 1928.  A novelist, short story writer, essayist and philosopher, Dick published 44 novels and 121 short stories, nearly all in the Science Fiction genre.  While he was recognized only within his field in his lifetime, and lived near poverty for much of his adult life, twelve popular films and TV series have been based on his work since his death in 1982 (including Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Paycheck, Next, Screamers, The Adjustment BureauImpostor, and the Netflix series The Man in the High Castle).  In 2005, Time magazine named Ubik one of the hundred greatest English-language novels published since 1923; and in 2007, Dick became the first science fiction writer to be included in The Library of America series.

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“Remembrance and reflection how allied!”*…

 

Via @christhebarker, an update of an iconic photo collage…  what a year. (Larger here)

* Alexander Pope, Essay on Man and Other Poems

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As we count the days, we might send thoughtful birthday greetings to Naguib Mahfouz; he was born on this date in 1911.  A prolific writer– he published 34 novels, over 350 short stories, dozens of movie scripts, and five plays over a 70-year career– he was one of the first writers in Arabic to explore Existentialist themes (e.g., the Cairo Trilogy, Adrift on the Nile).  He was awarded the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature.

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Written by LW

December 11, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Much of the conversation in the country consisted of lines from television shows, both present and past”*…

 

One of the videos that stream on end at Tyler Hellard‘s PopLoser.tv.  As he explains in his newsletter, the always-illuminating Pop Loser

A couple years ago, I briefly had a site at poploser.tv. I filled it with weird videos and movies from around the Internet, but never kept it up and eventually it lapsed (that’s the story of most of my web projects). Last week I was reminded that YouTube really is a treasure. There’s just so much… stuff. YouTube has a whole weird sub-culture (several, actually), but the site is most amazing as an archive and a look at what TV used to be, which seems less, but more, than what TV has become.

While re-watching old episodes of Twitch City (the greatest TV show ever made), I thought about PLTV and what I wanted to do with it and decided to try again. I’m working out some bugs and trying to get the perfect mix of videos, but the new site is mostly designed just to be left on. You can go there and let it play (auto-play isn’t working on mobile yet), enjoying the ephemera of what television was in all its wonderful weirdness.

In a [few days] I’m going to flip a switch so it’ll only show only Christmas content through the holidays…

Couch surf down memory lane at PopLoser.tv

* Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions

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As we lean back, we might send elegantly composed birthday greetings to Emily Dickinson, who was better known during her life as a gardener and botanist than as a poet; only 7 of her 1775 poems were published in her lifetime– which began on this date in 1830.

The Maid of Amherst

Written by LW

December 10, 2016 at 1:01 am

“The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made”*…

 

Hoss Cartwright, a former editor of the International Journal of Agricultural Innovations and Research, had a good excuse for missing the 5th World Congress on Virology last year: He doesn’t exist…

As grant funding and career advancement depend ever more heavily on publishing metrics, scientists are inventing “co-authors” with prestigious-sounding affiliations to give their papers more credibility with the journals to which they submit:  “Why fake data when you can fake a scientist?

* Groucho Marx

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As we prune the pretenders, we might spare a thought for Persian polymath Omar Khayyam; the mathematician, philosopher, astronomer, epigrammatist, and poet died on this date in 1131.  While he’s probably best known to English-speakers as a poet, via Edward FitzGerald’s famous translation of the quatrains that comprise the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Omar was one of the major mathematicians and astronomers of the medieval period.  He is the author of one of the most important works on algebra written before modern times, the Treatise on Demonstration of Problems of Algebra (which includes a geometric method for solving cubic equations by intersecting a hyperbola with a circle).  His astronomical observations contributed to the reform of the Persian calendar.  And he made important contributions to mechanics, geography, mineralogy, music, climatology, and Islamic theology.

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Written by LW

December 4, 2016 at 1:01 am

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