02 October 2005


The BBC announces, "Classic English literature should remain central to the teaching of English, a study suggests." As Mr. Champion so aptly quips, "In other groundbreaking news, it is believed that the theory of relativity might just help you sort out electromagnetic waves. And maybe, just maybe, 3.141592675 might have something to do with circles."


Michael Dirda reviews the new Melville biography:
Long ago, Borges recognized in Melville a precursor of Kafka, especially in the great short story "Bartleby, the Scrivener" (1853), that tale of the mousy clerk who one day, when asked to perform a simple clerical task, quietly says, "I would prefer not to." The result is an unforgettable account of existential loneliness and of our failure to connect with the less fortunate among us, but also a study in the (all too contemporary) frustration resulting when people in power, people of goodwill who view themselves as "civilized" or as upholders of propriety and tradition, must suddenly confront those who adamantly refuse to recognize their values, their authority.
(Via Arts & Letters Daily)


Carlos Fuentes sings the praises of the novel:
By multiplying both authorship and readership, the novel, from the times of Cervantes to our own, became a democratic vehicle, a space of choice, of alternate interpretations of the self, of the world, and of the relationship between myself and others, between you and me, between we and they.

Religion is dogmatic. Politics is ideological. Reason must be logical. But literature has the privilege of being equivocal. The quality of doubt in a novel is perhaps a manner of telling us that since authorship (and thus authority) are uncertain and susceptible of many explanations, so it goes with the world itself.
(Via A&L Daily)


The new Self-Made issue of Boldtype, guest edited by Maud Newton and Mark Sarvas is out. Looking forward to following the discussion...


Ron Silliman shares some wonderful observations about Martin Scorsese's Dylan documentary, No Direction Home:
One of the more interesting moments in the film is Allen Ginsberg choking up as he recounts his experience of first hearing “Hard Rain,” played for him at a party in Bolinas by Charlie Plymell. “I wept,” Ginsberg says, clearly recognizing the reflection of his own influence in Dylan’s lyrics, “The torch had been passed.” I remember my own experience, first hearing that song. Lacking Ginsberg panoptic reading (he was 37 in 1963, I was 17), I can clearly recall the hair on the back of my neck standing up: I had never heard anything like that before anywhere. It was an announcement that the world was going to be different very very soon – in spite of its apocalyptic message, the song gave me an unshakeable optimism that I would return to often over the next couple of years.

Ginsberg’s presence on the film makes great sense, not simply because he knew Dylan. Nor is he the only writer in the film – James Baldwin shows up twice, we hear a snatch of Kerouac & in a shot of heads at the Cedar Bar you can make out Frank O’Hara as he blurs past, unannounced & unquoted.
(Via wood s lot)

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