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jerryking : literature   25

Where is San Francisco’s Bonfire of the Vanities?
December 21, 2108 | | Financial Times | by Janan Ganesh.

Victor Hugo’s Paris. Tom Wolfe’s New York. Charles Dickens’s London. Whose San Francisco? Even a brief visit confirms its resemblance to these other cities at their most feverishly written-about. It has the same street-level squalor, the same inventive genius, the same jittery, barricaded rich.....Careering down the Bay Bridge in an Uber (founded in San Francisco), I gawp at the superior physical setting. The raw materials for a classic, a Les Misérables of the Tenderloin, are all here. And yet 18 years into a century that it has shaped, and almost 50 since the journalistic coinage of “Silicon Valley”, this place remains near-absent from literature. What fiction there is about modern San Francisco, including the first novel published on Medium, by former Google executive Jessica Powell, tends not to detain the Nobel committee.....The biggest story in American commerce and, when you think of tech’s displacing effects, in American society too, has been left to journalists and the occasional biopic to tell. The result is a story half-told. We have the numbers but not the anthropological nuance. Imagine trying to understand 1980s New York with stock indices and crime data, but without Bonfire of the Vanities. Except, an east-coast powerhouse would never suffer a literary snub. That a western one does suggests more about the writers, perhaps, than about the subject.....Seven of America’s 10 biggest cities are now west of the Mississippi River. .....Where San Francisco blends into the low-rise Anyplace of Santa Clara, you can see their point. But the city itself, with its layers of desperation and opulence, is Dickensian. It just lacks a Dickens, or even a lesser chronicler.....A planet-moulding capital of technology deserves its due, too. The stories are there, if writers can accept the western drift of their nation’s energies.
Bonfire_of_the_Vanities  fiction  Janan_Ganesh  literature  San_Francisco  Silicon_Valley  Tom_Wolfe  writers 
december 2018 by jerryking
Black Male Writers for Our Time - The New York Times
...... A surge of mainstream attention to blackness and its literature isn’t unprecedented in periods of American crisis. The first strains of the Harlem Renaissance began at the tail end of World War I and gained momentum in the 1920s, as the racial makeup of American cities metamorphosed through the Great Migration. The Harlem of the 1930s became home to a concentration of black writers whose work piqued white interest. In the 1960s and ’70s, the Black Arts Movement erupted during the turbulent years of America’s freedom protests. Black voices received heightened attention then, too......
African-Americans  books  James_Baldwin  literature  men  male  writers 
december 2018 by jerryking
Open books, open borders
OCTOBER 20, 2017 | FT| Janan Ganesh.

The globalised Booker also confirms this medium-sized country’s knack for cultural decorations — degrees from its universities, air time on the BBC — that are coveted worldwide. The unfakeable emotion from Saunders and Beatty upon receipt of the prize was a larger compliment to Britain and its soft power than a Booker for one of its own would have been.....There is a strategic imperative to open up that goes beyond the aesthetic one. As the gap narrows between the superpower and the rest, it becomes more important for America to understand the outside world. Better foreign news coverage can help, but mere politics is downstream of culture. The real prize is to comprehend another country’s thought patterns, speech rhythms, historic ghosts and unconscious biases — and these seep out from the stories it tells and the way it tells them....Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker cites the spread of literacy as a reason for the long-term decline of human violence. To read another person’s story is to end up with a larger “circle of sympathy”. But even if America’s concern is the narrowest raison d’état, rather than world peace, it would profit from reading beyond its borders.

The minimum return is that more American readers would have more fun. The headiest writing tends to come from places that are ascendant enough to matter but raw enough to retain some measure of dramatic chaos: 19th-century Britain and Russia, mid-20th-century America, and now, perhaps, early 21st-century Asia. It is not just in economics that protectionism stifles.
books  cosmopolitan  cross-cultural  cultural_products  empathy  fiction  George_Saunders  Janan_Ganesh  literature  Man_Booker  middle-powers  national_identity  novels  open_borders  open_mind  parochialism  prizes  protectionism  reading  soft_power  storytelling  United_Kingdom  writers 
november 2017 by jerryking
Remembering David Livingstone: The man who knew outfits and interviews inside out - The Globe and Mail
BERNADETTE MORRA
Special to The Globe and Mail (includes correction)
Published Friday, Apr. 21, 2017

Many times we would be watching an outfit come down the runway and he would lean over and say something like, “those shoes remind me of that song …” and then he would quote the lyrics of a jazz tune sung by someone I’d never heard of. Long before there was an Internet or easy access to databases, Livingstone was salting his copy with obscure references from films and literature.

Photographers and publicists who sat in on his interviews with designers, actors and models all have stories of the depth and breadth of his knowledge, and how he applied it to the seemingly trite world of fashion.....“He was a massive fan of cinema – he would see one film by a Hungarian director then hunt down their entire library. He was always so well-prepared at interviews, he would form an instant, genuine connection. He put his heart and soul into everything he did.”

Livingstone’s dedication to editorial excellence was both staggering and maddening.....his prose was unbeatable. A diamond cuff bracelet was “as wide as a crosswalk.” The lighting in his overpriced European hotel was so bad, reading his laptop was “like trying to read the marks left by a stick in dirty water.”...“He asked questions no one else asked,” notes Dawn Bellini, senior director of marketing and public relations for Hugo Boss Canada. “Often it was about the button stance or why you had to have something on a lapel. Interviews went way over time. He took much longer than anyone else. But to him details and the back story mattered.”....“He didn’t want to talk about skirt lengths. The conversation was about books and movies. He always made us think. And afterward, we would reflect and grow from that.”....The lack of accuracy and context in today’s 140-character world irked my friend and colleague to no end. But that didn’t stop him from mentoring young talent when he saw potential.
books  cinema  detail_oriented  fashion  films  industry_expertise  inside_out  journalists  journalism  literature  mentoring  movies  obituaries  questions  smart_people  thinking  tributes 
april 2017 by jerryking
Are book publishers blockbustering themselves into oblivion? - The Globe and Mail
RUSSELL SMITH
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Nov. 28 2014

Whatever they mean, they certainly cannot mean a shrinking talent pool.

So they must mean that they are not, in fact, interested in the real talent pool, or in a wide variety of literature. What they are looking for are bestsellers, which tend to be particularly narrow kinds of books. Most of the gargantuan advances that have made headlines in the U.S. recently are for science-fiction and fantasy books. Every publisher is looking for exactly the same book – basically, they are looking for The Hunger Games again and again. When they say “quality,” they mean “mass appeal.”...But in concentrating on bestsellers to the detriment of other literature, the publishers are simply following the model of all the entertainment industries. Providing an eclectic variety of entertainments to please a diverse audience, as the free Internet can do, just hasn’t been lucrative for the conglomerates that own film studios and recording labels. They are in constant search of blockbusters.

As they grow larger and concentrate their efforts and investments on massive, sure-fire hits – the next Marvel movie, the next Taylor Swift album – the cultural landscape seems paradoxically smaller. It becomes even more difficult to get an indie film made – the huge projects suck the oxygen (financing, distribution, media coverage) out of the biosphere.

In following this larger trend, book publishers are shortsighted. By reducing their involvement in original and challenging art, they relinquish literary fiction to the tiny presses and online magazines, and so become artistically irrelevant and, in the long run, uninteresting even as suppliers of entertainment. Pursuing mainstream popularity with ever-larger sums of money is ultimately self-destructive....Yes, such high-mindedness is all very well for someone who doesn’t have to keep a money-losing, employment-providing company afloat. And Le Guin’s vague rejection of capitalism is not a solution to the immediate problems facing publishers. But her point about taking the long view – about concentrating on valuable literature for the sake of the industry’s general health – is surely a practical one as well.
books  publishing  Russell_Smith  literature  blockbusters  art  short-sightedness  conglomerates  indie  winner-take-all  Amazon  writers  long-term  self-destructive  talent_pools 
november 2014 by jerryking
Want to get rich? Read fiction -
Nov. 22, 2013 | MarketWatch | By Jeremy Olshan.
Want to get rich? Read fiction. 5 financial lessons from famous novels.

Literature has always been a vessel for nuggets of practical wisdom — Homer’s epics contained a Wikipedia’s worth of ancient schooling, oral poetry being the original textbook. Fiction provides us “equipment for living,” in the words of the theorist Kenneth Burke, an assertion supported by a recent study linking literary reading to greater empathy.

1. Read Defoe to understand money.
2. Read Trollope and Dickens to spot the next Bernie Madoff.
3. Read Eliot and Flaubert before swiping that credit card.
4. Read Dickens to learn the difference between saving and hoarding.
5. Read Tolstoy before heading to the car dealership.

The old poker player’s adage that if, after a few minutes at the table, you can’t tell who the sucker is, it’s you, is more or less true in every financial transaction. Whether it’s the purchase of a horse, a car, a stock or a house, there’s a fair chance either the buyer or seller is getting the shorter end of the deal.

This is why it’s essential that before buying — or selling — anything one read “Anna Karenina.” Though the Tolstoy novel is better remembered as, yes, another novel of adultery, it’s also a highly useful manual for negotiating with car salesmen.

Stepan Oblonsky, a Moscow nobleman, visits his friend Konstantin Levin’s country estate, and tells how he sold a parcel of land — a wood — and wants to know whether he got a good deal.

Levin replies with a simple question: “Did you count the trees?”

“How can I count the trees?” Stepan Arkadyich said with a laugh, still wishing to get his friend out of his bad mood. “To count the sands, the planets’ rays, a lofty mind well may...” .....In other words, only a fool buys or sells something without knowing what it’s really worth. It sounds simple, but I’ve been that fool many times. How often do we fail to count the trees? How often do we sit with the car salesman and not know the real value of the car?

So always count the trees. Count them with calculators, with Excel spreadsheets or with iPhone apps, if you must. Or count them in their ideal form, after they’re churned into pulp and bound together as the pages of a good book.
fiction  books  lessons_learned  empathy  wisdom  literature  reading  wealth_creation  personal_enrichment 
november 2013 by jerryking
Who will preserve the past for future generations? - The Globe and Mail
J.L. Granatstein

The Globe and Mail

Published Tuesday, Jun. 12 2012,

A national library is by definition national, the repository of the nation’s past and its treasures. It makes available the record of triumphs and failures, of glories and disasters, the sources for literature and history now and forever. But in Canada, for fear that the government be seen as elitist and Ottawa-centric, LAC’s priceless collection is to be broken up and dispersed.
libraries  literature  history  institutions  Canadian  archives  decentralization  heritage  J.L._Granatstein  preservation  digitalization 
june 2012 by jerryking
Digital Humanities Boots Up on Some Campuses - NYTimes.com
March 21, 2011| NYT | By PATRICIA COHEN. Humanities courses
are being deeply influenced by a new array of powerful digital tools and
vast online archives allowing for the digital visualization of historic
library collections, allowing virtual re-creation of the historic
events .... examine how cyberspace reflects and shapes the portrayal of
minorities.

“Until you get Shakespeare on its feet, you’re doing it an injustice,”
Ms. Cook said. “The plays are in 3-D, not 2-D.”

Many teachers and administrators are only beginning to figure out the
contours of this emerging field of digital humanities, and how it should
be taught. In the classroom, however, digitally savvy undergraduates
are not just ready to adapt to the tools but also to explore how new
media may alter the very process of reading, interpretation and
analysis.
humanities  literature  William_Shakespeare  3-D  Colleges_&_Universities  tools  digital_media  visualization  infographics  liberal_arts  digital_archives  digital_humanities  digital_savvy 
march 2011 by jerryking
Stephen Maturin: The Ideal Intelligence Officer for Our Times
November 12, 2010 | The Dear Surprise | By Nicholas Dujmovic.

When Maturin needs to, he can kill an enemy, or lie to a friend, but
both sicken him. He is curious, always looking to enlarge his knowledge,
and he is compassionate about his fellow human beings (as long as they
do not serve Napoleon!). His analytic mind serves him well in
intelligence work—he has a strong counterintelligence sense about
him—and he is happiest when writing “a clear statement of a complex
situation.”

Maturin constantly and imaginatively takes the initiative in collecting
and producing intelligence since he has few specific taskings from the
Admiralty, which allows him a free hand to act.
espionage  spycraft  training  literature  United_Kingdom  security_&_intelligence  books  fiction  intelligence_analysts 
february 2011 by jerryking
Michael Eisner - WSJ. Magazine - WSJ
December 2, 2010 » |Edited from Alan Deutschman’s interview
with Eisner. The former Disney CEO has reinvented himself as author
and new-media entrepreneur. Seeing the potential to reach larger
audiences than ever before via the Web, the complex mogul talks about
the transformation of media from caveman days to those ahead and how
content really is king...`I would much rather hire an executive who has
taken courses in history and philosophy and language and art, and
English and Russian literature than somebody who has only studied a
single element of one subject.``
media  Michael_Eisner  Disney  entrepreneur  hiring  liberal_arts  humanities  content  literature  reinvention  moguls  digital_media 
december 2010 by jerryking
The Great Migration and Isabel Wilkerson book review : The New Yorker
September 6, 2010 | The New Yorker | by Jill Lepore who
reviews “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great
Migration” (Random House; $30); Isabel Wilkerson;
migrants  African-Americans  book_reviews  literature  history  Jim_Crow  internal_migration  Isabel_Wilkerson  Great_Migration 
september 2010 by jerryking
Science Fiction, the Only Literature of Ideas Today
January 24, 2008 | - The Informed Reader - WSJ | by Robin Moroney.

Science fiction has become the last bastion for the literature of ideas, says journalist Clive Thompson in Wired......By questioning society’s basic rules and speculating on how other worlds might work, on the other hand, science fiction can raise fresher, more provocative questions. The authors’ alternative realities serve as thought experiments in the tradition of Socrates, Thomas Hobbes and Simone de Beauvoir. In Cory Doctorow’s “After the Siege,” rich countries try to violently stop poor ones from using a technology that can duplicate objects, posing fundamental questions about international law, justice and property. Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy examines the foundations of religious authority.

Given the philosophical potential of science fiction, it is no wonder that the genre recently has lured away such high-profile literary writers as Philip Roth (“The Plot Against America”) and Cormac McCarthy (“The Road”) from the realistic, contemporary plots for which they are better known.
science_fiction  literature  fiction  books  ideas  alternative_realities  thought_experiments  questions  Socrates  writers 
january 2010 by jerryking
William Amelia on Gogol's Masterpiece The Overcoat - WSJ.com
OCTOBER 3, 2009 | Wall Street Journal | by WILLIAM AMELIA.
Reviews Russian novelist Nikolai Vassilyevich Gogol's (1809-1852) "The
Overcoat," --the last story that Gogol wrote.
Russian  literature  book_reviews  William_Amelia 
october 2009 by jerryking
In Tough Times, the Humanities Must Justify Their Worth - NYTimes.com
February 24, 2009 | New York Times | By PATRICIA COHEN.. This
article tackles the perennial debate about the importance of the
humanities in a complex and technologically demanding world have taken
on new urgency in the current economic downturn.

Previous economic downturns have often led to decreased enrollment in
the disciplines loosely grouped under the term “humanities” — which
generally include languages, literature, the arts, history, cultural
studies, philosophy and religion.
humanities  liberal_arts  literature  economic_downturn  Colleges_&_Universities  curriculum  hard_times 
may 2009 by jerryking

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