Literary Imagination
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Literary Imagination
A curatorial extravaganza of the centrality of literature in human thought, action, and creative life.
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New exhibition of J.D. Salinger letters shows a young writer balancing cynicism and hope

New exhibition of J.D. Salinger letters shows a young writer balancing cynicism and hope | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
Between 1941 and 1943 J. D. Salinger sent nine letters and postcards to Marjorie Sheard, an aspiring Canadian writer. This important collection of doc
Judith Robertson's insight:

I find it interesting to see J. D. Salinger dependent upon the responses and opinions of this young unpublished Canadian female author.

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Daniel Tammet’s ‘Thinking in Numbers’ Dwells on a Pure Love

Daniel Tammet’s ‘Thinking in Numbers’ Dwells on a Pure Love | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
Daniel Tammet, a prodigious savant with synesthesia, dwells on his love for numbers, offering some revelatory glimpses into a highly unusual brain.
Judith Robertson's insight:

I love this story of mathematical romance, most likely because I always longed to have a good relationship with the science of numbers.  Even though I do not, I can well appreciate a thinker who responds to Pi the way I would to Shakespeare.  Maybe even there's a connection.  Who knows?

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George Johnson’s ‘Cancer Chronicles’

George Johnson’s ‘Cancer Chronicles’ | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
A journalist’s report on what cancer is and how it occurs illuminates deep biological processes.
Judith Robertson's insight:

It's not often that scientific writing also gets touted for its literariness, but this is the case in George Johnson's "Cancer Chronicles", which--among other things--narrates a journalist's intimate story of his wife's experience of ovarian cancer.  Along the way he delivers compelling insights into the dynamics (i.e., mitosis and entropy) that ensure that cancer will strike almost anyone who lives into old age.  David Quammen writing in the NYT gives Johnson's book a big thumbs up for interest, factualness, and poignancy.

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Top seven books about school

Top seven books about school | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
Parents might well be breathing a sigh of relief as their offspring have to actually start wearing shoes again and brushing their hair in the mornings as they start a new term.
Judith Robertson's insight:

So, what's your favourite back to school narrative?  Who could forget the hilarious hair pulling scene in Lucy Maud Montgomery's classic Anne of Green Gables?  Isak Dineson pens memorable colonial scenes of teaching children at her coffee farm in Kenya.  Film makers and screen writers have perhaps gleaned greatest footage from the topic by casting our gaze on power relations in the classroom: amorous (To Sir With Love; Sylvia), sadistic (Maedchen in Uniform; Hets), politically saturated (Conrack), and apocalyptic (In Another Country). On the island of Newfoundland where I live, many talented writers have strutted their pens against the terrors and occasional affections handed out by school teachers and peers: Michael Harris (Uncommon Orders), Kathleen Winter (Annabel), and Robin McGrath (Donovan's Station) among others.  On this new day of a new school year, I appreciate and remember well scenes from the list offered here.  Wishing all of my teacher friends equanimity and uncommon strength as the new school year begins.

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Fanni Bogdanow obituary

Fanni Bogdanow obituary | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
Other lives: Scholar of medieval literature who was an expert on Malory and the Arthurian story
Judith Robertson's insight:

Until today, I had never heard of Fanni Bogdanow, who came to Britain from Germany in 1939 as a kindertransport child, and who blessedly lived to meet up with both of her parents (who survived three concentration camps) after the war.  This aspect of her life story is in and of itself compelling.  But the real gist of the woman's genius resides in her monumental translations of Malory's 15th C. Aruthurian legend Le Morte d'Arthur.  To read what Bogdanow went through in order to mobilize her life's ambition is to stand back in awe:  her brilliant perseverance to learn medieval romance languages and her tenacity to seek out, re-create and disseminate versions of the old story ultimately made it possible for the Arthurian legends survive today, and to be read/visualized/recreated by contemporary audiences.  Being a sucker for romance, I, for one, am grateful. 

 

Here's what The Guardian reviewer has to say:

"Perhaps no one other than Fanni would have had the stubborn commitment to complete the edition: when the publishers got her typescript, but told her that unless the romance was in camera-ready form they could not contemplate it, she taught herself to word-process and produced – perhaps to their dismay – thousands of perfectly accurate pages. Every page, every word of this magnum opus required her to compare and collate; she needed to master two further romance languages; she scurried across Europe in pursuit of manuscripts; and she published hundreds of articles, many of them entitled "Another Undiscovered Manuscript of ...", which charted her crusading exploration of her chosen texts.

All this industry, all this dedication, meant that she was not the easiest of colleagues. She had little or no sympathy for anything written later than 1300 and if driven to teach subsidiary students elementary French, or approaches to Gide or Sartre, she would do so with amiable but determined perplexity.

Medieval literature she taught with a bright-eyed enthusiasm that mystified generations of undergraduates – but they remember her vividly, when they have long forgotten more tedious conventional seminars."

 

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From MaddAddam to The Orenda to Luminaries: Just some of the books in store for you this fall | Toronto Star

From MaddAddam to The Orenda to Luminaries: Just some of the books in store for you this fall | Toronto Star | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
Reviewer Alex Good picks some of the best reads of the season
Judith Robertson's insight:

If I had world enough and time... 

 

I am so proud to be a Canadian reader, writer, and artist, and in the lineup pros like Atwood, Johnston, and Boyden I am hungry to digest new reads. Here they are.

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Seamus Heaney's books were events in our lives

Seamus Heaney's books were events in our lives | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
Colm Tóibín: In a time of burnings and bombings Heaney used poetry to offer an alternative world; he gave example by his seriousness, his honesty, his thoughtfulness, his generosity
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10 of the Most Fascinating 'Playboy' Interviews

10 of the Most Fascinating 'Playboy' Interviews | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
Playboy magazine is known for its sexy centerfolds and covers, but the gentleman's glossy has a long history of publishing short stories and interviews with notable personalities. The eternal joke ...
Judith Robertson's insight:

I especially connect with the 1965 interview with Martin Luther Kin, Jr., in which he says, “If I were constantly worried about death, I couldn’t function. After a while, if your life is more or less constantly in peril, you come to a point where you accept the possibility philosophically. I must face the fact, as all others in positions of leadership must do, that America today is an extremely sick nation, and that something could well happen to me at any time. I feel, though, that my cause is so right, so moral, that if I should lose my life, in some way it would aid the cause.”

 

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Judith Butler, DLitt - McGill 2013 Honorary Doctorate Address

Judith Butler, Doctor of Letters, honoris causa BA, MA MPhil, PhD (Yale University) Faculty of Arts, Thursday, May 30, 10 a.m.

Via Mary-Catherine Harrison
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Mary-Catherine Harrison's curator insight, June 2, 2013 1:54 PM

The inimitable Judith Butler on the IMmeasurable values of the humanities.

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The 25 Best Websites for Literature Lovers

The 25 Best Websites for Literature Lovers | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
It's an interesting relationship that book lovers have with the Internet: most would rather read a physical book than something on an iPad or Kindle, and even though an Amazon purchase is just two ...
Judith Robertson's insight:

This is a must-have list of great literary websites for die hard literary enthusiasts, along with esoteric links just a click away.

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Elmore Leonard's rules for writers

Elmore Leonard's rules for writers | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
Next month, the doyen of hardboiled crime writers is publishing a new book, 10 Rules of Writing. The following is a brief summary of his advice
Judith Robertson's insight:

Good reminders about good writing (presented with reasonable defenses for why a rule may be worth following) from a seasoned writer.

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Book review: The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink, By Olivia Laing

Book review: The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink, By Olivia Laing | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
Olivia Laing's first book, To The River, was called both "erudite and wacky", its author acclaimed for the beauty of her prose and compared to WG Sebald and Richard Mabey.
Judith Robertson's insight:

If I were Ms. Laing, I would be delighted with this erudite review of her latest intriguing book (about why writers drink), about which Bowker writes the following:

 

"The beauty of Laing's book lies not just in the poetry of her prose, the rich array of images, and literary allusions to her chosen subjects evoked during her transcontinental ghost-hunt, but intriguing links she makes to a wider literary landscape – to Shakespeare, Chekhov, Poe, Hart Crane, Lawrence, Evelyn Waugh, Laurie Lee, and even The Wind in the Willows. Whether, on her occasional plunges into the depths of psychosocial research, she finds clear water – explanations to illuminate her search - the reader will have to judge, but when poetry gives way to scientific jargon inevitably there is a sense of loss. Perhaps I'm missing something, and this is Laing's subtle (or "erudite and wacky") way of mimicking the alcoholic experience – the warm pleasures of intoxication overtaken by the cold discomfort of withdrawal."

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The Guts, by Roddy Doyle reviewed by Gabriel Byrne

The Guts, by Roddy Doyle reviewed by Gabriel Byrne | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
Roddy Doyle returns to his Commitments hero and his familiar themes of love and family

 

Rereading The Commitments (published all of 25 years ago), I found the novel has lost none of its humour and joyful hope. It hasn’t dated, unlike the film by Alan Parker (which seems by comparison now slow and heavy-handed). Since then Roddy Doyle has gone on to prove himself one of the greatest of Irish writers.


Via Gerard Beirne
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2 Held in Afghanistan in Indian Writer’s Murder

2 Held in Afghanistan in Indian Writer’s Murder | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
The Afghan police said two insurgents had confessed to having killed the writer, Sushmita Banerjee, who had written critically about the Taliban.
Judith Robertson's insight:

The patriarchal hatred of women is strengthened and supported by organized religion.  When minority women write, their potential power becomes even more of a threat.  My post today relays a shameful and repugnant story of the ongoing war against journalistic women in today's world.

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The Short Sentence as Gospel Truth

The Short Sentence as Gospel Truth | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
Express your most powerful thought in the fewest words.
Judith Robertson's insight:

I am not keen on all of the examples used, but I do subscribe wholeheartedly to Roy Peter Clark's (NYT) argument that a well placed sentence with 5 or less words drives a hard punch.  I would go a notch further to argue that using anglo saxon words of a single beat can also build a kind of archaic strength that holds well.  In the words of the author, though:

"I thank Tom Wolfe for that 1975 lesson on the disproportional power of the short sentence. It stuck. I owe it to him to restore his original context, that writers can use it to give even preposterous statements the ring of truth. The bigot can use it to foment hate. The propagandist can slap it on a bumper sticker. But for the writer with good intent, the short sentence proves a reliable method for delivering the practical truth. With punch."

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From the Stacks: Crediting Poetry

From the Stacks: Crediting Poetry | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
The 1995 Nobel Lecture
Judith Robertson's insight:

From the stacks of the New Republic comes Seamus Heaney's dazzling acceptance speech for the 1995 Nobel Prize for literature, in which he credits Poetry for his capacity to recognize in the world potential for the marvellous as well as the murderous...

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Doomsday Machine

Doomsday Machine | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
The end is nigh in her new novel, but Margaret Atwood feels right at home among tweet-bots and zombies.
Judith Robertson's insight:

Margaret Atwood, Canada's beloved literary "elder" (a self-ascribed identifier) comes of age in this fabulous interview regarding her latest foray into post-apocalptic literature.  Her sustained interest in moral choices comes through loud and clear, here, as she argues that even within the most dystopic of regimes there is a room for a tiny utopia.  It's a brave and  thoughtful notion that is worthwhile holding onto, not the least because it serves as a reminder of the need for common action, everyday vigilance, voice, and will.  With such a philosophy, Atwood is even capable of viewing a weird upside to The Black Plague.  An uncommon thinker with an acute vision.  Long may she write (and tweet)!

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Readers Recall Their First Creative Crush

Readers Recall Their First Creative Crush | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
Readers from the worlds of television, classical music, dance, pop music, video games, art and theater share experiences that kindled their first creative and professional sparks.
Judith Robertson's insight:

This set of responses from artists about early influences reinforces what all lovers of Freud already know:  that the favourite objects of childhood imagination and experience persist in fantasy and structure our lives in fundamental ways.

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Burial Rites by Hannah Kent – review

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent – review | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
Hannah Kent's tightly plotted debut leaves its reader immersed in the Icelandic winter of 1829, says Sarah Moss
Judith Robertson's insight:

Another debut novel, this one by Hannah Kent (shortlisted for a Guardian Review Book Prize). "The allure of the tale is obvious and one can see why Kent was haunted by it. The dynamics of a small group of people on an isolated farmstead are disrupted by the arrival of a disturbing stranger who turns out to be uncomfortably familiar. The landscape of northern Iceland casts its spell and the tension of Agnes Magnúsdóttir's approaching death builds from the first sentence: "They said I must die. They said that I stole the breath from the men, and now they must steal mine." However, there are also the challenges of writing a novel set nearly 200 years ago, in a country foreign to the writer and based on an infamous and thoroughly documented event. Kent further compounds these problems by using multiple narrators and presenting chunks of archival material as epigraphs in an already deliberately disjointed narrative."

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Why The Best Crime Fiction Is Written By Women

Why The Best Crime Fiction Is Written By Women | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
The following is an excerpt from the introduction ofTroubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: Stories from the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense [Penguin, $16.00], an anthology of 14 crime stories, all written by women in the 40s through 70s.
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What Is Economics Good For?

What Is Economics Good For? | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
A Fed leader has to know that economics is not yet a science, and may never be.
Judith Robertson's insight:

I have often questioned the predictive value of economic theory, a muddle nicely explored by blogger and philosophy professor Dr. Alex Rosenberg.  He argues that economic theory is not a science.  It fails on fthe fronts of predictive success because it founds itself on idealized assumptions that dismiss dynamics of greed, price setting, irrationality, and so on.  Rosenberg writes, "Which brings us back to the Fed. An effective chair of the central bank will be one who understands that economics is not yet a science and may never be. At this point it is a craft, to be executed with wisdom, not algorithms, in the design and management of institutions. What made Ben S. Bernanke, the current chairman, successful was his willingness to use methods — like “quantitative easing,” buying bonds to lower long-term interest rates — that demanded a feeling for the economy, one that mere rational-expectations macroeconomics would have denied him.

For the foreseeable future economic theory should be understood more on the model of music theory than Newtonian theory. The Fed chairman must, like a first violinist tuning the orchestra, have the rare ear to fine-tune complexity (probably a Keynesian ability to fine-tune at that). Like musicians’, economists’ expertise is still a matter of craft. They must avoid the hubris of thinking their theory is perfectly suited to the task, while employing it wisely enough to produce some harmony amid the cacophony."

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Poetry Is the Best Medicine

Poetry Is the Best Medicine | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
Rafael Campo, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard, just won a major international prize. It wasn’t for his excellence in internal medicine, or his decades of teaching, or his scholarship. It was for a poem.

Via Mary-Catherine Harrison
Judith Robertson's insight:

There is something elemental about saying or hearing a poem, having to do with the rich lyrical ensemble of voice, symbol, rhythm, and shared intimacy.  One of my favourite things is to read a poem to a person I love.

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Mary-Catherine Harrison's curator insight, July 10, 2013 2:08 PM

"“When we read or hear a poem that’s truly effective,” says Campo, “we feel what the speaker is feeling. We experience an entire immersion of ourselves in another’s consciousness.”

For those of us faced with the challenging task of teaching—or preserving—empathy with the next generation of doctors, this experiential definition of empathy nails it in a way that no PowerPoint lecture could. "

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Ruth Rendell: 'Withholding information from the reader should be part of any story'

Ruth Rendell: 'Withholding information from the reader should be part of any story' | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
As Inspector Wexford returns, Ruth Rendell tells Vanessa Thorpe about politics, her influences and the secret to keeping the reader intrigued
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The Writing Tools of 20 Famous Authors

The Writing Tools of 20 Famous Authors | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
It's no secret that writers can be quite particular about their writing tools. Some might call it an obsession or fetish, but the pens, pencils, notebooks, and other implements that authors have us...
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Jewish Review of Books » Proust Between Aggada and Halakha

Jewish Review of Books » Proust Between Aggada and Halakha | Literary Imagination | Scoop.it
The Jewish Review of Books is a quarterly publication in print and on the web for serious readers with Jewish interests.
Judith Robertson's insight:

"Yet it is possible to see Proust’s life, too, as an archetypal Jewish story. His father, Adrien Proust, was a French Catholic. Proust was baptized and raised a Catholic and always considered himself one. But his mother, Jeanne Weil, was the descendant of German Jews, originally from Wurttemberg. It was Proust’s great-grandfather, Baruch Weil, who first moved the family to France, during the Napoleonic period, when he came to Paris to become a successful manufacturer of porcelain. As any reader of Proust knows, it was his mother who was his closest companion throughout his life and the deepest emotional and intellectual influence on him. He also resembled her physically, which explains why his friends often referred to his “Persian” or “Assyrian” looks, both of which were euphemisms for Jewish."

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