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Literature and mobility
An archive of ideas about how literature moves--and is moved in turn by social and psychic responses..
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Writers’ Private Lives – The Los Angeles Review of Books

Writers’ Private Lives – The Los Angeles Review of Books | Literature and mobility | Scoop.it
In the end, neither Beller nor Mills deserves the title of “publishing scoundrel.” They have been too respectful of their subjects for that. Perhaps that is why both of these writers leave us wanting more. Would we have them be what Salinger called the “shitty literary kids,” who elicited his wrath for prying into his life and the sources of his fiction? Yes and no. We would not have them cross the line into irresponsible gossip. Yet their guilt about being biographers at all has prevented them from truly engaging with their subjects and has left them — and us — stranded in some kind of no man’s land somewhere between biography and memoir without the satisfactions of either.
Judith Robertson's insight:

The Los Angeles Review of Books brings us two new biographies, neither of which, in the reviewer's opinion, manages to get into the life of the subject.  The writing lives of both Harper Lee and J.D. Salinger come under scrutiny here, but in the final instance it seems we know little more about either of them.  In the words of Leon Edel, these are "quest biographies".... biographies in search of their subjects.   "In the end, neither Beller nor Mills deserves the title of “publishing scoundrel.” They have been too respectful of their subjects for that. Perhaps that is why both of these writers leave us wanting more. Would we have them be what Salinger called the “shitty literary kids,” who elicited his wrath for prying into his life and the sources of his fiction? Yes and no. We would not have them cross the line into irresponsible gossip. Yet their guilt about being biographers at all has prevented them from truly engaging with their subjects and has left them — and us — stranded in some kind of no man’s land somewhere between biography and memoir without the satisfactions of either."

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The card catalog: birth and death of a technology | Reading, Writing, Research

The card catalog: birth and death of a technology | Reading, Writing, Research | Literature and mobility | Scoop.it
The card catalog, once a feature in every library, has become part of the nostalgic past. It was once exciting and new, a great improvement over older catalogs.
Judith Robertson's insight:

I remember as a child growing up in rural Ontario in the 1950s the pure excitement of walking into town, opening the heavy library door, and then trawling for hours through the yellowing cards of the old library classification system.  What bliss to enter those labyrinthine joys.

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Why Academics' Writing Stinks

Why Academics' Writing Stinks | Literature and mobility | Scoop.it
Scholars aren't penalized for convoluted prose. But the problem runs deeper.
Judith Robertson's insight:

An esteemed cognitive psychologist takes on the paradox of good thinkers who deploy bad academic writing (i.e., abstractness, obscurity, bloated language, unpleasant sentences), and argues that the root causes lie not necessarily "in hoping to bamboozle their audiences with highfalutin gobbledygook", but rather, the reality that big challenges really do accompany communicating about complex things.  Steven Pinker argues that instead of practicing a classic style (intended to help readers see clearly into a world), the deep mental processes of analysis and explanation trick up university professors in their efforts at clear writing.  You'll have to read the article in full, but in short, Pinker says that academic writers resort by default in their prose to  "chunking", "functional fixity", and--in the end--succumb to the absence (in journals, disciplines, university cultures) of real incentives to write clearly. 

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Fifty Shades of Grey is really a self-help book, says academic

Fifty Shades of Grey is really a self-help book, says academic | Literature and mobility | Scoop.it
EL James's multimillion selling series of novels 'encodes the aporias of heterosexual relationships', according to Professor Eva Illouz
Judith Robertson's insight:

Eva Illouz, a Hebrew University sociology professor, has coined the term "Hard-Core Romance" and made this the title of a new academic treatise released by the University of Chicago Press.  Dr. Illouz embraces the question of why particular culture texts, such as Fifty Shades of Grey, become (despite being badly written) instant best-sellers (to the tune of 40 million copies world-wide), and what the trend says about social conditions of readership over the past century.  Her conclusion is that hard-core romances serve as self-help manuals for readers, both symbolically and practically.

 

"It's a dramatic shift since Kate Chopin's 1899 story of a married woman who discovers sexual desire with a lover, The Awakening, was greeted with "general moral disgust" on publication", Illouz points out. "That a soft pornographic novel dealing with the intense absorption of two individuals in sadomasochistic sexuality could become such a worldwide bestseller a mere 100 years after The Awakening gives us a glimpse at the immense change in values that must have occurred in western culture – as dramatic a change, one might say, as electricity and indoor plumbing".

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Doris Pilkington Garimara, Aboriginal Novelist, Dies at 76

Doris Pilkington Garimara, Aboriginal Novelist, Dies at 76 | Literature and mobility | Scoop.it
Ms. Garimara was best known for her 1996 novel “Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence,” which helped awaken Australians to the plight of the Aborigines and was later made into a film.
Judith Robertson's insight:

A literary and life warrior is laid to rest. "When she was 45, Ms. Pilkington Garimara returned to her mother’s village to research a possible book. For years, she came back for periods of six to eight weeks. She relearned her original language. Her mother showed her the tree under which she was born. Ms. Pilkington Garimara extensively interviewed her Aunt Daisy, who had accompanied her mother on her 1,000-mile journey."

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Libraries Without Borders unveils a library in a box designed for refugees

Libraries Without Borders unveils a library in a box designed for refugees | Literature and mobility | Scoop.it
Libraries Without Borders will unveil its latest project at the New York Public Library: The Ideas Box, a library in a box designed by Philippe Starck to be packed onto shipping pallets and sent to refugee camps.
Judith Robertson's insight:

Libraries Without Borders--a collective literacy venture encompassing digital readers, e-tablets, and good old-fashioned books of the paper kind--has just been launched at NY Public Library, with designer Phillipe Starck working front and centre. Two "Idea Boxes" have already been sent to refugee camps abroad. "The so-called Ideas Box, designed by Philippe Starck, contains 15 tablet computers and four laptops with satellite Internet connections; 50 e-readers and 5,000 e-books; 250 printed books; a movie projector, screen and 100 films; chairs, tables and board games..."

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Purge of Canada’s fisheries libraries a ‘historic’ loss, scientists say

Purge of Canada’s fisheries libraries a ‘historic’ loss, scientists say | Literature and mobility | Scoop.it
Fisheries Department says it will save $430,000 annually by consolidating material in two primary locations in B.C. and Nova Scotia
Judith Robertson's insight:

Shame shame shame upon the Government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for denuding Newfoundland yet one more time of its cultural capital and access to collective memory.  A pox upon him.

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Revisiting a Scholar Unmasked by Scandal

Revisiting a Scholar Unmasked by Scandal | Literature and mobility | Scoop.it
“The Double Life of Paul de Man,” by Evelyn Barish, is the first full biography of the Yale literary theorist who helped turn deconstruction into an insurgent force in American intellectual life.
Judith Robertson's insight:

Another NYT review of Evelyn Barish's new biography "The Double Life of Paul de Man" (this one by Jennifer Schuessler) again takes issue with Barish's intellectual engagement with de Man's theories of Deconstruction, but it praises her diligence in unearthing primary documentation attesting to de Man's sustained history of personal and professional fudges and cover ups.  “He was a shape-shifter who could slip and fall and find his footing again... .He was an enormously persuasive reinventor of himself."  Despite such shape-shifting, Schuessler notes that de Man's popularity is on the rise with new researchers in culture and philosophy.  She writes about "an uptick in Ph.D. dissertations touching on de Man, as well as recent books like “Theory and the Disappearing Future,”a joint effort by older and younger scholars that draws on a previously unpublished de Man lecture to analyze the narratives of crisis surrounding terrorism, financial collapse and climate change. “What we’re doing is a de Man reboot, sort of like a ‘Star Trek’ reboot...” "  I find myself thinking about how Paul de Man developed his ideas on Deconstruction on an ethical plane so Other to those of Jacques Derrida...  It is as though de Man never stopped confessing in some way through his theoretical writings, never stopped daring the world to find him out.


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‘The Long Voyage,’ a Collection of Malcolm Cowley’s Thoughts

‘The Long Voyage,’ a Collection of Malcolm Cowley’s Thoughts | Literature and mobility | Scoop.it
Hundreds of Malcolm Cowley’s letters, with ruminations on many things over several decades, make up “The Long Voyage.”
Judith Robertson's insight:

He was central to the establishment of literary recognition for a host of American male writers whose works could have remained peripheral: Faulkner, Whitman, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Crane, Kerouac, Cheever (father not daughter) and Kesey.  He intervened when his pen-friends were broke.  He possessed a mean talent as an editor The Nation, The New Republic), and as a poet (although his lyrics never took off).  His poetic talent languished because of a deeply entrenched middle class ethic that drove him to believe he should be able to support himself.  Welcome The Long Voyage, a Collection of Malcolm Cowley's letters and thoughts.

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Book review: 'The Bloomsbury Group Memoir Club' by S P Rosenbaum (edited James M Haule)

Book review: 'The Bloomsbury Group Memoir Club' by S P Rosenbaum (edited James M Haule) | Literature and mobility | Scoop.it
“I don’t think those people are little; but they belittle all who come into their power unless the comer is strong, which I am not.
Judith Robertson's insight:

This is an important piece of literary journalism, not the least because it engages with historical and cultural mores that played a role in how we understand The Bloomsbury Club and its sense of honest intimacy and absolute condour.

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Random House Acquires 1800s Prison Memoir

Random House Acquires 1800s Prison Memoir | Literature and mobility | Scoop.it
The work, believed to be the first prison memoir by an African-American, was recently authenticated by scholars at Yale University.
Judith Robertson's insight:

A tragic chapter of American history--a prison memoir by an African American--will be presented in 2014, published by Random House who paid in the 6 figures for the original manuscript.  "The book is expected to be released in early 2016, with a foreword by David Blight, a professor of American history at Yale, and an introduction by Caleb Smith, an English professor at Yale. “It is the story of a hard life, told with anger and with irony, exploring some of the deep connections between race and incarceration in America,” Mr. Smith said in a statement. David Ebershoff, an executive editor at Random House, will edit the book."

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The Romance of Falling Temperatures

The Romance of Falling Temperatures | Literature and mobility | Scoop.it
Poems about encounters in the snow were “found” last week in the Missed Connections section of newyork.craigslist.org.
Judith Robertson's insight:

I can't say enough good things about falling in love in really bad weather. Except that one of you may so traumatized that you want to live your afterlife in Florida.

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Rare Biblical Texts From Bodleian and Vatican Libraries Digitized

Rare Biblical Texts From Bodleian and Vatican Libraries Digitized | Literature and mobility | Scoop.it
The site with rare Biblical texts went live on Tuesday.
Judith Robertson's insight:

A rare display of courtship between the Vatican and Oxford University's Bodleian Library has resulted in the creation of digital access to rare, sacred manuscripts dating from the 13th Century.  The images are spectacular....and just in time for Hannukah and Christmas!

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Homeless Outreach in Volumes: Books by Bike for ‘Outside’ People in Oregon

Homeless Outreach in Volumes: Books by Bike for ‘Outside’ People in Oregon | Literature and mobility | Scoop.it
Portland’s fondness for bikes, literary culture and liberal impulses have come together with Street Books, a nonprofit book service for “people living outside.”
Judith Robertson's insight:

Fabulous feel good and do good story about librarians taking to the streets.

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Violette: ‘Anything unattainable, she wanted’

Violette: ‘Anything unattainable, she wanted’ | Literature and mobility | Scoop.it
Unlike Genet, whose erotically charged work unfolds in prison cells and public toilets, Leduc’s sexual frankness was greeted with the same reflexive French literary chauvinism that accompanied De Beauvoir’s The Second Sex in 1949. Her early works were bowdlerised and censored, and it was not until the publication of her memoir, La Bâtarde, in 1964, that she made a penny from her work. As De Beauvoir said of her that year: “I know of no finer salvation through literature.”
Judith Robertson's insight:

Hungry for a new film about a writer's life, having never quite recovered from Jane Campion's Angel at My Table?  A new biopic ushers us into the fragile and contingent reality of Violette Leduc, "a key figure in the postwar Left Bank literary and philosophical intelligentsia, who consorted with Sartre, Cocteau, Camus, Jean Genet and Simone de Beauvoir (with whom she had a debilitating and unrequited romantic obsession)."

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What's On | Southbank Centre

What's On | Southbank Centre | Literature and mobility | Scoop.it
Judith Robertson's insight:

One of these times, I am going to make it to this great literary gig.  With the line-up featured here, am wishing it could be this year!

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Why Google Maps gets Africa wrong

Why Google Maps gets Africa wrong | Literature and mobility | Scoop.it
From colonial cartographers to digital depictions, the continent is being sold short, says Think Africa Press
Judith Robertson's insight:

First appearing in Think Africa Press, James Wan offers a gripping tale of the history of cartography from pre-Mercator to Google Maps.  Wan succeeds in reminding us not only of the provisional and iconic nature of all cartographic representation (for example, the biases that consistently succeed in situating "North" at the top of most world maps, and the impossibility of accurately representing our spherical planet on a 2-dimensional plane, with the subsequent "errors" in distorting huge landmasses like Africa), as well as the political and economic motives that drive all map-making efforts, including those generated by Google.  "As was the case a century ago, it is still just a small group of western individuals with specific views of the world who have the resources to map it." He makes the interesting point of noting that the blank spaces that populate Google Maps pertain directly to the fact that some regions of the world come very low on the pecking order of map makers.  I'll remember this point the next time I go seeking my community in Newfoundland on a Google map: it simply wasn't there the last time I looked.

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Surging Rents Force Booksellers From Manhattan

Surging Rents Force Booksellers From Manhattan | Literature and mobility | Scoop.it
The rising cost of doing business in Manhattan is driving out many of its remaining bookstores, threatening the city’s sense of self as the center of the literary universe.
Judith Robertson's insight:

As sky rocketing rents threaten to turn Manhattan into a bookstore desert, book bums pine for the good old days when the island fed the reading delights of people from all demographics, including the grassroots, idiosyncratic, miserly, and poor.  At the unsustainable cost of $40,000.00 for a small store space, indies are now having to migrate across the rivers and into the boroughs.  What startles most about Julie Bosman's media report from the NYT is the vast number of bookstores forced to close their doors in just the past months.

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Life on Books: The Naked Bookseller Goes to New York - The LARB Blog

Life on Books: The Naked Bookseller Goes to New York - The LARB Blog | Literature and mobility | Scoop.it
A few weeks ago, the Naked Bookseller went to New York City. Skidding across icy, treacherous conditions, everyone we ran into seemed to have a grisly tale of a sidewalk wipe-out. No doubt, it’s been a long, hard winter in the City. Still, despite the windsheer of chilling sub-zero gusts, everywhere we turned there seemed […]
Judith Robertson's insight:

A life on books: measuring contentment in decibels.

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Cell Phone Diaries -

Cell Phone Diaries - | Literature and mobility | Scoop.it
What Emily Post can't tell us: cell phones in the bathroom stall and other conundrums.
Judith Robertson's insight:

I love this because it captures perfectly the cringing I feel when surrounded by people shouting into their cellphones.  And I thought I was the only one.

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‘The Double Life of Paul de Man,’ by Evelyn Barish

‘The Double Life of Paul de Man,’ by Evelyn Barish | Literature and mobility | Scoop.it
A study of a literary scholar who was also a World War II collaborator, bigamist and con man.
Judith Robertson's insight:

Susan Rubin Suleiman holds a narrow regard for her subject, "The Double Life of Paul de Man" by Evelyn Barish.   In Suleiman's NYT Review of a biographical narrative ostensibly riddled with errors and misinformation, she accuses Barish of startling ineptitude.  De Man, who rose to be an intellectual superstar of deconstruction and post-modern literary theory was discovered during the 1980s to have collaborated with Nazis.  Barish (the biographer) will not forgive de Man this significant ethical lapse, but neither, it seems, can Suleiman (the reviewer) forgive the biographer's contempt, or anguish.  Suleiman goes after Barish, accusing her of conducting reckless research and writing a mangled biographical narrative riddled with errors.  She writes, "There are too many of them, and they tend to distort an already complicated story. That’s not to mention the ham-fisted explanations when Barish ventures into philosophy, or intellectual and literary history. Reading her comments on de Man’s ideas, or on Bataille’s or Sartre’s, is like watching a film out of focus — it’s all there, but very approximate."  Certainly neither Barish nor Suleiman provide much insight into how and why it is that the substantial outward things that happen to people like Paul de Man are more mysterious really than all the invisible turmoil that must have characterized the great man's inner life.

 

 

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A Chilean Dictator’s Secret Book Collection: Heavy on Napoleon, Light on Fiction

A Chilean Dictator’s Secret Book Collection: Heavy on Napoleon, Light on Fiction | Literature and mobility | Scoop.it
General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, known for his brutal 17-year rule, amassed about 50,000 volumes for his private library, using public money.
Judith Robertson's insight:

The one thing that really interests me from this post is this:

“Pinochet was intellectually mediocre but very cunning, often hiding his eyes behind dark glasses,” said Heraldo Muñoz, 65, a senior official at the United Nations who was an official in the Allende government before the 1973 coup. His 2008 memoir, “The Dictator’s Shadow,” depicts life in post-Allende Chile and assesses General Pinochet and his legacy.

Mr. Muñoz, who owns a signed copy of General Pinochet’s “Geopolitics” and is no great admirer, said the general was capable of some dumbfounding mistakes. In the first edition, Mr. Muñoz said, “He confused Washington State with Washington, D.C.”

 

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Print Starts to Settle Into Its Niches

Print Starts to Settle Into Its Niches | Literature and mobility | Scoop.it
At a time when e-book sales seem to be flattening, there is something to be learned from Kevin Kelly’s self-published print catalog, a collection of reviews accrued from a website over the years.
Judith Robertson's insight:

The artist has 70 metric tons of books headed his way, books that read in part like the Sears Catalogue and in part like an artifact out of the third industrial revolution.  I love this article about how a literate entrepreneur is making new post-print technologies work for him, in a really surprising way.

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The Literary Journal and the Small Press Live On in Austin

The Literary Journal and the Small Press Live On in Austin | Literature and mobility | Scoop.it
These are supposed to be bad times for the publishing world, but a new countermovement has sprung up that may or may not make Texas’ capital city a literary hotbed like Brooklyn or San Francisco.
Judith Robertson's insight:

In truth, I can't figure out the economics of it all, but am delighted that these Austin small presses can make a living on producing 1500 copies of their 3 most highly regarded texts.  Still, it's not much for a writer to live on...

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‘My Crazy Century,’ by Ivan Klima

‘My Crazy Century,’ by Ivan Klima | Literature and mobility | Scoop.it
Ivan Klima, the Czech novelist and playwright, reflects on a life spent under Nazi and Communist regimes.
Judith Robertson's insight:

Paul Berman, Senior Editor of The New Republic, and author of "A Tale of Two Utopias" (about the Velvet Revolution) delivers a strong punch in this wonderful review of Ivan Klima's "My Crazy Century."

 

“My Crazy Century” contains a final section of more than 100 pages of brief and variously tedious and brilliant philosophical essays on the nature of supremely oppressive political movements, with shrewd comparative remarks about Nazism and Communism, occasionally touching on Italian and Spanish fascism, too, and on the Islamic radicals of our own time. The essays tag along somewhat oddly after the memoir, and yet, considered from an artistic standpoint, they have the effect of amplifying, as if through giant loudspeakers, an emotion that Klima is otherwise intent on expressing in a modest tone. This is a bellowing anger at what has happened to many millions of people, himself included, victims of the serial horrors that used to be known, and maybe still are known, as totalitarianism."

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