* In writing about the battle to keep Fernando Pessoa’s correspondence in Portugal, the NYT does a pretty good job of discussing the writer and his major works
* Borders becomes the latest online bookseller to offer downloadable audio books. Unfortunately, they force you to download through a clunky "media console" that’s Windows-only. And we wonder why Borders is going out of business.
* Max has some great news for Alvaro Mutis fans. If you’re not familiar with him, see The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll, something along the links of Don Quixote meets Proust. In more Mutis fun, Max also has a review of his collection The Mansion.
* I think the U.S> should invest more in foreign fiction. Mukoma Wa Ngugi argues that Africa should invest more in its own fiction.
* The Complete Review has released its regular self-analysis: How International Are We? As always, good reading.
* They dig up an old Garcia Marquez screenplay, and someone decides to film it
A million words and some 400 characters: That’s what
you face when you decide to read Anthony Powell’s "A Dance to the Music
of Time." You must be a patient reader with a high tolerance for
punctuation, willing to scan some of the author’s labyrinthine
sentences two or even three times. By the time you’re finished, you may
have read a million and a half words.
I have just finished the first two books in the 12-volume cycle, and I’m definitely going to read the rest. . . .
By the year 2100, many linguists estimate, half of the world’s
6,912 distinct languages will be extinct. At present, 548 of them
retain fewer than ninety-nine speakers. We can expect to lose a
language every ten days; and behind each of these disappearances lies a
story of cultural loss, sadness and isolation. K. David Harrison embeds
his accounts of linguistic decay within the experiences of individuals
who must endure it. When Languages Die
is not, however, a study of the pressures which extinguish languages:
we can look elsewhere for an analysis of the effects of globalization,
urbanization and the conformist pressures exerted by the speakers of
majority languages. Harrison focuses instead on what happens as a
result of language death to the cultural and ecological understanding
of the affected peoples, and what these losses signify for humanity as
Harrison considers the ecological knowledge that is encoded in small,
indigenous languages — the kind of knowledge, acquired over centuries,
which is worth an estimated $85 billion to those pharmaceutical
companies that have mined it. . . .
Still, as a sweeping eulogy to one of the gilded eras of Western
culture — Russia from the late 19th- to the mid-20th century — The Magical Chorus
rewards readers with a gold mine of insider anecdotes and a story of
sorts. Despite the subtitle, that story really begins not with the
death of Tolstoy but with the Bolshevik seduction of early 20th-century
modernist icons: Mayakovsky, Blok and Gorky in literature, Malevich and
Rodchenko in art. These radical outsiders responded to the decorous
realism of the czarist era with a "burn baby burn" mentality, a
militant aesthetic of renewal that, at least early on, conveniently
served the Bolshevik agenda. "Blow up, destroy, and wipe the old
artistic forms from the face of the earth," thundered the art critic
Nikolai Punin. "How could the new artist, the proletarian artist, the
new man not dream of this?"
unremarkable, but insightful in its own way
I’m sorry to say, but Murakami just doesn’t seem inspired these days. As he himself said:
I’d say my readers are in a certain way addicted to my style of
writing. They are loyal readers. That’s why I know that they will put
up with reading my next novel, even if it’s just so-so. Although they
probably wouldn’t buy my book if it’s really bad, I at least have
confidence in myself that what I write won’t be that bad.
* The Guardian on updating the dictionary
* There’s a lot to argue with in this latest death of the critic essay. Take, for instance, this:
The old media have, predictably, been outraged. After all, their jobs are on the line. ‘People who make these decisions,’ says Sean Means of the host of sackings, ‘get it into their heads that people who want to read about new movies have lots of places to do so, from fan sites, through blogs to critical aggregators, but they are being short-sighted. The reason people buy newspapers is to hear that particular voice.’ So is he saying that the opinions expressed for free on blogs are not of value? Not necessarily, he says. ‘The truth is, though, that there are very few amateurs who are better than professionals. If you really are good at it you figure out some way to get paid for it.
Of course . . . the best way to demonstrate your love of and aptitude for a discipline is to get paid for it. Like Kafka, Wallace Stevens, Camus, Borges, Perec, Proust, B.S. Johnson . . .
* The Australians have some strange book laws
* Yes, The Cover was a dumb idea. Yes, it would have been a whole lot less offensive and plainly foolish if it had contained the least bit of intelligent satire.
* Wow, I didn’t think I’d find something this week that could rival The Cover for sheer dumbness, but this is definitely it. When Maureen Down is comparing your book to Primary Colors as a defense of it, you know you’ve gone off course.
* Now the government can use your laser printer to spy on you. Excellent!