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Tentacle | And Other Stories
"Plucked from her life on the streets of post-apocalyptic Santo Domingo, young maid Acilde Figueroa finds herself at the heart of a Santería prophecy: only she can travel back in time and save the ocean – and humanity – from disaster. But first she must become the man she always was – with the help of a sacred anemone. Tentacle is an electric novel with a big appetite and a brave vision, plunging headfirst into questions of climate change, technology, Yoruba ritual, queer politics, poverty, sex, colonialism and contemporary art. Bursting with punk energy and lyricism, it’s a restless, addictive trip: The Tempest meets the telenovela."

[See also:
https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/little-book-with-big-ambitions-rita-indianas-tentacle/
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jan/02/tentacle-by-rita-indiana-review
http://chicago.universitypressscholarship.com/view/10.7208/chicago/9780226405636.001.0001/upso-9780226405322-chapter-007
https://1streading.wordpress.com/2018/12/18/tentacle/ ]

[The original, in Spanish:

La mucama de Omicunlé
http://www.editorialperiferica.com/?s=catalogo&l=147
https://www.zonadeobras.com/apuestas/2015/05/04/la-mucama-de-omicunle-rita-indiana-203300/
https://soundsandcolours.com/articles/dominican-republic/rita-indiana-la-mucama-de-omicunle-40561/
http://remezcla.com/culture/rita-indiana-la-mucama-de-omicunle/ ]

[More on/by Rita Indiana:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rita_Indiana
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vI4Gj2w0Z0Q
https://www.pri.org/programs/radio-ambulante-unscripted/rita-indiana-taking-caribbean-music-and-literature-new-heights
https://gozamos.com/2013/12/interview-rita-indiana-hernandez/
https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=RITA+INDIANA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBVLvIjBFko
https://granta.com/on-cardi-b/http://remezcla.com/releases/music/rita-indiana-el-castigador-video/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-J_n1H2qT4 ]
books  toread  sciencefiction  sicfi  ritaindiana  andotherstories  spanish  español  srg  fiction  domincanrepublic  colonialism  santodomingo  novels  technology 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Dézafi | The University of Virginia Press
"Dézafi is no ordinary zombie novel. In the hands of the great Haitian author known simply as Frankétienne, zombification takes on a symbolic dimension that stands as a potent commentary on a country haunted by a history of slavery. Now this dynamic new translation brings this touchstone in Haitian literature to English-language readers for the first time.

Written in a provocative experimental style, with a myriad of voices and combining myth, poetry, allegory, magical realism, and social realism, Dézafi tells the tale of a plantation that is run and worked by zombies for the financial benefit of the living owner. The owner's daughter falls in love with a zombie and facilitates his transformation back into fully human form, leading to a rebellion that challenges the oppressive imbalance that had robbed the workers of their spirit. With the walking dead and bloody cockfights (the "dézafi" of the title) as cultural metaphors for Haitian existence, Frankétienne’s novel is ultimately a powerful allegory of political and social liberation."
books  toread  frankétienne  haiti  novels  1975 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Novels Are Made of Words: Moby-Dick, Emotion, and Abridgment
"Paul Valéry tells the story: The painter Edgar Degas was backhanded-bragging to his friend Stéphane Mallarmé about the poems that he, Degas, had been trying to write. He knew they weren’t great, he said, “But I’ve got lots of ideas—too many ideas.” “But my dear Degas,” the poet replied, “poems are not made out of ideas. They’re made of words.”

Paintings, for that matter, are not made of pretty ballerinas or landscapes: they’re made of paint.

Which brings us to Syuzhet, Matthew Jockers’s new program that analyzes the words of a novel for their emotional value and graphs the sentimental shape of the book. Dan Piepenbring has explained it all here and here on the Daily, with links to the original postings and the various outcries, some of them in the comments, that have blown up around Jockers.

Many people apparently find Jockers’s research the latest assault of technocratic digitocracy on the citadel of deep humanistic feelings, but that’s not how I see it. What the graphs reveal about potboiler narrative structure versus high-literary arcs, for instance—Dan Brown’s higher average positivity than James Joyce’s, and his more regular cycle of highs and lows to force the reader through the book—is insightful, useful, and great.

In some ways, it’s hard for me to even see what the fuss is about. “It’s not that it’s wrong,” one commenter writes. “It’s just that it’s an extremely poor substitute for reading, enjoying, and discussing literature.” But who said anything about a substitute? Does this commenter not notice that the discussions of the graphs rest on having read the books and seeing how the graphs shed light on them? Another: “Okay, fuck this guy for comparing Dan Brown to James Joyce.” Well, how else can you say Joyce is better and Brown is worse? That’s what’s known as a comparison. Or do you think Joyce can’t take it?

Freak-outs aside, there are substantive rebuttals, too. What seems to be the most rigorous objection is from SUNY professor and fellow digital-humanities scholar Annie Swafford, who points out some failures in the algorithm. “I am extremely happy today” and “There is no happiness left in me,” for example, read as equally positive. And:

Longer sentences may be given greater positivity or negativity than their contents warrant, merely because they have greater number of positive or negative words. For instance, “I am extremely happy!” would have a lower positivity ranking than “Well, I’m not really happy; today, I spilled my delicious, glorious coffee on my favorite shirt and it will never be clean again.”

But let’s actually compare “Well, I’m not really happy; today, I spilled my delicious, glorious coffee on my favorite shirt and it will never be clean again” to “I’m sad.” The positivity or negativity might be the same, assuming there could be some kind of galvanometer or something attached to the emotional nodes of our brain to measure the “pure” “objective” “quantity” of positivity. But the first of those sentences is more emotional—maybe not more positive, but more expressive, more histrionic. Ranking it higher than “I’m sad” or even “I am very happy” makes a certain kind of sense.

“There is no happiness left in me” and “I am all sadness from now on” are the same seven words to a logician or a hypothetical emotiomometer, but not to a novelist or a reader. Everyone in advertising and political wordsmithing knows that people absorb the content of a statement much more than the valence: to say that something “is not horrific and apocalyptic” is a downer, despite the “not.” Or consider: “Gone for eternity is the delight that once filled my heart to overflowing—the sparkle of sun on the fresh morning dew of new experience, soft envelopments of a lover’s thighs, empyrean intellectual bliss, everything that used to give my life its alpenglow of hope and wonder—never again!” and “I’m depressed.” An algorithm that rates the first piece of writing off-the-charts positive is a more useful quantification of the words than one that would rate the emotional value of the two as the same.

Some years back, Orion Books produced a book called Moby-Dick in Half the Time, in a line of Compact Editions “sympathetically edited” to “retain all the elements of the originals: the plot, the characters, the social, historical and local backgrounds and the author’s language and style.” I have nothing against abridgments—I’ve abridged books myself—but I felt that what makes Melville Melville, in particular, is digression, texture, and weirdness. If you only have time to read half the book, which half the time is more worth spending? What elements of the original do we want to abridge for?

Moby-Dick in Half the Time seemed like it would lose something more essential than would Anna Karenina in Half the Time or Vanity Fair in Half the Time or Orion’s other offerings. I decided to find out. So I compiled every chapter, word, and punctuation mark that Orion’s abridger cut from Melville’s original Moby-Dick; or The Whale, and published the result, with its inevitable title, as a book of its own: a lost work by Herman Melville called ; or The Whale.

Half the Time keeps the plot arc of Ahab’s quest, of course, but ; or The Whale arguably turns out closer to the emotional ups and downs of Melville’s novel—and that tells us something about how Melville writes. His linguistic excess erupts at moments of emotional intensity; those moments of intensity, trimmed as excess from Half the Time, are what make up the other semibook. Chapter sixty-two, for example, consists of a single word, “hapless”—the only word Orion’s abridger cut from the chapter, trimming a 105-word sentence to 104, for some reason. That’s a pretty good sentiment analysis of Melville’s chapter as a whole. Reading ; or The Whale is a bit like watching a DVD skip ahead on fast forward, and it gets at something real about Melville’s masterpiece. About the emotion in the words.

So I would defend the automated approach to novelistic sentiment on different grounds than Piepenbring’s. I take plot as seriously as he does, as opposed to valorizing only the style or ineffable poetry of a novel; I also see Béla Tarr movies or early Nicholson Baker novels as having plots, too, just not eventful ones. Jockers’s program is called Syuzhet because of the Russian Formalist distinction between fabula, what happens in chronological order in a story, and syuzhet, the order of things in the telling (diverging from the fabula in flashbacks, for instance, or when information is withheld from the reader). It’s not easy to say how “plot” arises out of the interplay between the two. But having minimal fabula is not the same as having little or no plot.

In any case, fabula is not what Syuzhet is about. Piepenbring summarizes: “algorithms assign every word in a novel a positive or negative emotional value, and in compiling these values [Jockers is] able to graph the shifts in a story’s narrative. A lot of negative words mean something bad is happening, a lot of positive words mean something good is happening.” This may or may not be true, but novels are not made of things that happen, they are made of words. Again: “When we track ‘positive sentiment,’ we do mean, I think, that things are good for the protagonist or the narrator.” Not necessarily, but we do mean—tautologically—that things are good for the reader in the warm afternoon sunshine of the book’s positive language.

Great writers, along with everything else they are doing, stage a readerly experience and lead their readers through it from first word on first page to last. Mapping out what those paths might look like is as worthy a critical approach as any."
paulvaléry  edgardegas  writing  novels  mobydick  mattherjocker  2015  digital  words  language  hermanmelville  reading  howwewrite  automation  emotions  algorithms  narrative  nicholsonbaker  bélatarr  moby-dick 
april 2018 by robertogreco
OCCULTURE: 66. Gordon White in “Breaking Kayfabe” // Ursula Le Guin, Dragons & the Story Shape of the 21st Century
"If ya hit the ol’ play button on this one, it’s probably because of the name in the title. Gordon White is in the house. Mr. White as he’s known in the metafiction that is our current cultural narrative. But Mr. White is no reservoir dog in this story. He’s the Humphrey Bogart of High Magic, the main mage behind the oh-so-popular Rune Soup blog and podcast. You’ve read it, you’ve heard it. And if ya haven’t, well, you’re in for quite the trip on this here starship.

Gordon’s mind is a cabinet of curiosities and we pull out quite a bit of them here, including how we can rearrange our reality, the magic of fiction, artistic impulses, Game of Thrones, a game of tomes, and if ya ever wanted to hear Gordon White speak in pro wrestling terminology, well, there’s a bit of that too.

So let’s do this damn thing already and cast this pod off deep into the primordial chaos, where the protocols of the elder scrolls read more like a legend on a map of Middle Earth than they do a plan of global domination."
gordonwhite  fiction  fantasy  novels  art  makingart  magic  myth  mythology  belief  creativity  ryanpeverly  nonfiction  stories  storytelling  change  homer  bible  truth  ursulaleguin  2018  occulture  westernthought  carljung  josephcampbell  starwars  culture  biology  nature  reality  heroesjourney  potency  archetypes  dragons  odyssey  anthropology  ernestodimartino  religion  christianity  flow  taoism  artmagic  artasmagic  magicofart  permaculture  plants  housemagic  love  death 
february 2018 by robertogreco
James Ryan on Twitter: "Happenthing On Travel On (1975) is a novel that integrates prose, source code, computer-generated text, and glitch art, to rhetorical effect https://t.co/Ex9zItG3xt"
"Happenthing On Travel On (1975) is a novel that integrates prose, source code, computer-generated text, and glitch art, to rhetorical effect"

[via: https://twitter.com/tealtan/status/892523355794001920 ]

"instead of making exaggerated claims about the creative (or even collaborative) role of the computer, she describes it as an expressive tool"
https://twitter.com/xfoml/status/892169553806901249

"Carole Spearin McCauley should be better recognized as a major innovator in the early period of expressive computing"
https://twitter.com/xfoml/status/892170816623751168
novels  writing  computing  computers  prose  code  coding  computer-generatedtext  text  glitchart  1975  carolespearinmccauley  collaboration  cyborgs 
august 2017 by robertogreco
When Did The Fight for Human Rights Begin? de Innovation Hub | Escúchalo gratis en SoundCloud
"Human rights are hotly-debated, but when did that debate begin? UCLA’s Lynn Hunt talks about what might have been the formative moment for human rights - and how we’re constantly changing our definition of equality."

[via: "The origins of human rights theory & its ties to the 18th c. novel. Historian Lynn Hunt on @IHubRadio:"
https://twitter.com/ablerism/status/885990212815474689

"And writers, fiction & non-fiction: take heart here about the power of words to enact new realities. Messy, asynchronous, but effectual."
https://twitter.com/ablerism/status/885992263712722945 ]

[See also:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7pD6Oogdeg

"Professorship in Historiography, with a response by Professor Sandra Fredman (Rhodes Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Human Rights for FutureGenerations),University of Oxford, May 2014.
-http://strategicdialogue.org/humanitas
-http://www.torch.ox.ac.uk/humanitas
-http://www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/programme...

Declarations of rights, Professor Hunt argues in her lecture, do not emerge from long historical developments but rather from an acute sense of outrage. In other words, rights only become rights when they are claimed, and they are only claimed when they are violated. This poses a problem for the assertions of 'timelessness' and 'self-evidence' that often accompany declarations of rights. Professor Hunt argues that in the case of universal rights, an emotional epiphany comes before reason. Professor Sandra Fredman gives a response to Professor Hunt's lecture, building on the ideas raised as a way of looking at the future of human rights."

via: "If you want more Lynn Hunt on human rights theory, here you go. Force of nature, this scholar."
https://twitter.com/ablerism/status/886046387670003713 ]
lynnhunt  humanrights  history  novels  literature  2017  writing  whywewrite  empathy  understanding  humanities  change  changemaking  progress 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Will Self: Are humans evolving beyond the need to tell stories? | Books | The Guardian
"Neuroscientists who insist technology is changing our brains may have it wrong. What if we are switching from books to digital entertainment because of a change in our need to communicate?"



"A few years ago I gave a lecture in Oxford that was reprinted in the Guardian under the heading: “The novel is dead (this time it’s for real)”. In it I argued that the novel was losing its cultural centrality due to the digitisation of print: we are entering a new era, one with a radically different form of knowledge technology, and while those of us who have what Marshal McLuhan termed “Gutenberg minds” may find it hard to comprehend – such was our sense of the solidity of the literary world – without the necessity for the physical book itself, there’s no clear requirement for the art forms it gave rise to. I never actually argued that the novel was dead, nor that narrative itself was imperilled, yet whenever I discuss these matters with bookish folk they all exclaim: “But we need stories – people will always need stories.” As if that were an end to the matter.

Non-coincidentally, in line with this shift from print to digital there’s been an increase in the number of scientific studies of narrative forms and our cognitive responses to them. There’s a nice symmetry here: just as the technology arrives to convert the actual into the virtual, so other technologies arise, making it possible for us to look inside the brain and see its actual response to the virtual worlds we fabulate and confabulate. In truth, I find much of this research – which marries arty anxiety with techno-assuredness – to be self-serving, reflecting an ability to win the grants available for modish interdisciplinary studies, rather than some new physical paradigm with which to explain highly complex mental phenomena. Really, neuroscience has taken on the sexy mantle once draped round the shoulders of genetics. A few years ago, each day seemed to bring forth a new gene for this or that. Such “discoveries” rested on a very simplistic view of how the DNA of the human genotype is expressed in us poor, individual phenotypes – and I suspect many of the current discoveries, which link alterations in our highly plastic brains to cognitive functions we can observe using sophisticated equipment, will prove to be equally ill-founded.

The neuroscientist Susan Greenfield has been prominent in arguing that our new digital lives are profoundly altering the structure of our brains. This is undoubtedly the case – but then all human activities impact upon the individual brain as they’re happening; this by no means implies a permanent alteration, let alone a heritable one. After all, so far as we can tell the gross neural anatomy of the human has remained unchanged for hundreds of millennia, while the age of bi-directional digital media only properly dates – in my view – from the inception of wireless broadband in the early 2000s, hardly enough time for natural selection to get to work on the adaptive advantages of … tweeting. Nevertheless, pioneering studies have long since shown that licensed London cab drivers, who’ve completed the exhaustive “Knowledge” (which consists of memorising every street and notable building within a six mile radius of Charing Cross), have considerably enlarged posterior hippocampi.

This is the part of brain concerned with way-finding, but it’s also strongly implicated in memory formation; neuroscientists are now discovering that at the cognitive level all three abilities – memory, location, and narration – are intimately bound up. This, too, is hardly surprising: key for humans, throughout their long pre-history as hunter-gatherers, has been the ability to find food, remember where food is and tell the others about it. It’s strange, of course, to think of Pride and Prejudice or Ulysses as simply elaborations upon our biologically determined inclination to give people directions – but then it’s perhaps stranger still to realise that sustained use of satellite navigation, combined with absorbing all our narrative requirements in pictorial rather written form, may transform us into miserable and disoriented amnesiacs.

When he lectured on literature in the 1950s, Vladimir Nabokov would draw a map on the blackboard at the beginning of each session, depicting, for example, the floor plan of Austen’s Mansfield Park, or the “two ways” of Proust’s Combray. What Nabokov seems to have understood intuitively is what neuroscience is now proving: reading fiction enables a deeply memorable engagement with our sense of space and place. What the master was perhaps less aware of – because, as yet, this phenomenon was inchoate – was that throughout the 20th century the editing techniques employed in Hollywood films were being increasingly refined. This is the so-called “tyranny of film”: editing methods that compel our attention, rather than leaving us free to absorb the narrative in our own way. Anyone now in middle age will have an intuitive understanding of this: shots are shorter nowadays, and almost all transitions are effected by crosscutting, whereby two ongoing scenes are intercut in order to force upon the viewer the idea of their synchrony. It’s in large part this tyranny that makes contemporary films something of a headache for older viewers, to whom they can seem like a hypnotic swirl of action.

It will come as no surprise to Gutenberg minds to learn that reading is a better means of forming memory than watching films, as is listening to afternoon drama on Radio 4. This is the so-called “visualisation hypothesis” that proposes that people – and children in particular – find it harder not only to remember film as against spoken or written narratives, but also to come up with novel responses to them, because the amount of information they’re given, together with its determinate nature, forecloses imaginative response.

Almost all contemporary parents – and especially those of us who class themselves as “readers” – have engaged in the Great Battle of Screen: attempting to limit our children’s consumption of films, videos, computer games and phone-based social media. We feel intuitively that it can’t be doing our kids any good – they seem mentally distracted as well as physically fidgety: unable to concentrate as they often look from one handheld screen to a second freestanding one, alternating between tweezering some images on a touchscreen and manipulating others using a remote control. Far from admonishing my younger children to “read the classics” – an utterly forlorn hope – I often find myself simply wishing they’d put their phones down long enough to have their attention compelled by the film we’re watching.

If we take seriously the conclusions of these recent neuroscientific studies, one fact is indisputable: whatever the figures for books sales (either in print or digital form), reading for pleasure has been in serious decline for over a decade. That this form of narrative absorption (if you’ll forgive the coinage) is closely correlated with high attainment and wellbeing may tell us nothing about the underlying causation, but the studies do demonstrate that the suite of cognitive aptitudes needed to decipher text and turn it into living, breathing, visible and tangible worlds seem to wither away once we stop turning the pages and start goggling at virtual tales.

Of course, the sidelining of reading narrative (and along with it the semi-retirement of all those narrative forms we love) is small potatoes compared with the loss of our capacity for episodic memory: would we be quite so quick to post those fantastic holiday photographs on Facebook if we knew that in so doing we’d imperil our ability to recall unaided our walk along the perfect crescent of sand, and our first ecstatic kiss? You might’ve thought that as a novelist who depends on fully attuned Gutenberg minds to read his increasingly complex and confusing texts I’d be dismayed by this craven new couch-based world; and, as a novelist, I am.

I began writing my books on a manual typewriter at around the same time wireless broadband became ubiquitous, sensing it was inimical not only to the act of writing, but that of reading as well: a novel should be a self-contained and self-explanatory world (at least, that’s how the form has evolved), and it needs to be created in the same cognitive mode as it’s consumed: the writer hunkering down into his own episodic memories, and using his own canonical knowledge, while imagining all the things he’s describing, rather than Googling them to see what someone else thinks they look like. I also sense the decline in committed reading among the young that these studies claim: true, the number of those who’ve ever been inclined “to get up in the morning in the fullness of youth”, as Nietzsche so eloquently put it, “and open a book” has always been small; but then it’s worth recalling the sting in the tail of his remark: “now that’s what I call vicious”.

And there is something vicious about all that book learning, especially when it had to be done by rote. There’s something vicious as well about the baby boomer generation, which, not content to dominate the cultural landscape, also demands that everyone younger than us survey it in the same way. For the past five years I’ve been working on a trilogy of novels that aim to map the connections between technological change, warfare and human psychopathology, so obviously I’m attempting to respond to the zeitgeist using this increasingly obsolete art form. My view is that we’re deluded if we think new technologies come into existence because of clearly defined human objectives – let alone benevolent ones – and it’s this that should shape our response to them. No, the history of the 20th century – and now the 21st – is replete with examples of technologies that were developed purely in order to facilitate the killing of people at … [more]
willself  communication  digital  writing  howwewrite  entertainment  books  socialmedia  neuroscience  2016  marshallmcluhan  gutenbergminds  print  change  singularity  videogames  gaming  games  poetry  novels  susangreenfield  rote  rotelearning  twitter  knowledge  education  brain  wayfinding  memory  location  narration  navigation  vladimirnabokov  proust  janeausten  film  video  attention  editing  reading  howweread  visualizationhypothesis  visualization  text  imagery  images  cognition  literacy  multiliteracies  memories  nietzsche  booklearning  technology  mobile  phones  mentalillness  ptsd  humans  humanity  digitalmedia  richardbrautigan  narrative  storytelling 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Novel City Maps: A poetic view on the city
"How do impressions of a city perceived in fiction change depending on author, time and narration?

The project Novel City Maps visualizes spatiality and its relation to the story in Berlin novels in the form of poetic maps that originate from the complex tissue of the underlying stories.

by Jan-Erik Stange"
jan-erikstange  maps  mapping  literature  cities  novels  narration  space 
october 2016 by robertogreco
Generation Anthropocene: How humans have altered the planet for ever | Books | The Guardian
"We are living in the Anthropocene age, in which human influence on the planet is so profound – and terrifying – it will leave its legacy for millennia. Politicians and scientists have had their say, but how are writers and artists responding to this crisis?"



"Warren’s exhibit makes Bateley’s crackly recording available, and her accompanying text unfolds the complexities of its sonic strata. It is, as Warren puts it, “a soundtrack of the sacred voices of extinct birds echoing in that of a dead man echoing out of a machine echoing through the world today”. The intellectual elegance of her work – and its exemplary quality as an Anthropocene-aware artefact – lies in its subtle tracing of the technological and imperial histories involved in a single extinction event and its residue."



"Perhaps the greatest challenge posed to our imagination by the Anthropocene is its inhuman organisation as an event. If the Anthropocene can be said to “take place”, it does so across huge scales of space and vast spans of time, from nanometers to planets, and from picoseconds to aeons. It involves millions of different teleconnected agents, from methane molecules to rare earth metals to magnetic fields to smartphones to mosquitoes. Its energies are interactive, its properties emergent and its structures withdrawn.

In 2010 Timothy Morton adopted the term hyperobject to denote some of the characteristic entities of the Anthropocene. Hyperobjects are “so massively distributed in time, space and dimensionality” that they defy our perception, let alone our comprehension. Among the examples Morton gives of hyperobjects are climate change, mass species extinction and radioactive plutonium. “In one sense [hyperobjects] are abstractions,” he notes, “in another they are ferociously, catastrophically real.”

Creative non-fiction, and especially reportage, has adapted most quickly to this “distributed” aspect of the Anthropocene. Episodic in assembly and dispersed in geography, some outstanding recent non-fiction has proved able to map intricate patterns of environmental cause and effect, and in this way draw hyperobjects into at least partial visibility. Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2014) and her Field Notes from a Catastrophe (2006) are landmarks here, as is Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate (2014). In 2015 Gaia Vince published Adventures in the Anthropocene, perhaps the best book so far to trace the epoch’s impacts on the world’s poor, and the slow violence that climate change metes out to them.

Last year also saw the publication of The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins, by the American anthropologist Anna Tsing. Tsing takes as her subject one of the “strangest commodity chains of our times”: that of the matsutake, supposedly the most valuable fungus in the world, which grows best in “human-disturbed forests”. Written in what she calls “a riot of short chapters, like the flushes of mushrooms that come up after rain”, Tsing’s book describes a contemporary “nature” that is hybrid and multiply interbound. Her ecosystems stretch from wood-wide webs of mycelia, through earthworms and pine roots, to logging trucks and hedge funds – as well as down into the flora of our own multispecies guts. Tsing’s account of nature thus overcomes what Jacques Rancière has called the “partition of the sensible”, by which he means the traditional division of matter into “life” and “not-life”. Like Skelton in his recent Beyond the Fell Wall (2015), and the poet Sean Borodale, Tsing is interested in a vibrant materialism that acknowledges the agency of stones, ores and atmospheres, as well as humans and other organisms.

Tsing is also concerned with the possibility of what she calls “collaborative survival” in the Anthropocene-to-come. As Evans Calder Williams notes, the Anthropocene imagination “crawls with narratives of survival”, in which varying conditions of resource scarcity exist, and varying kinds of salvage are practised. Our contemporary appetite for environmental breakdown is colossal, tending to grotesque: from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006) – now almost an Anthropocene ur-text – through films such as The Survivalist and the Mad Max franchise, to The Walking Dead and the Fallout video game series.

The worst of this collapse culture is artistically crude and politically crass. The best is vigilant and provocative: Simon Ings’ Wolves (2014), for instance, James Bradley’s strange and gripping Clade (2015), or Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake (2014), a post-apocalyptic novel set in the “blaec”, “brok” landscape of 11th-century England, that warns us not to defer our present crisis. I think also of Clare Vaye Watkins’s glittering Gold Fame Citrus (2015), which occurs in a drought-scorched American southwest and includes a field-guide to the neo-fauna of this dunescape: the “ouroboros rattlesnake”, the “Mojave ghost crab”.

Such scarcity narratives unsettle what we might call the Holocene delusion on which growth economics is founded: of the Earth as an infinite body of matter, there for the incredible ultra-machine of capitalism to process, exploit and discard without heed of limit. Meanwhile, however, speculative novelists – Andy Weir in The Martian, Kim Stanley Robinson in Red Mars – foresee how we will overcome terrestrial shortages by turning to asteroid mining or the terra-forming of Mars. To misquote Fredric Jameson, it is easier to imagine the extraction of off-planet resources than it is to imagine the end of capitalism.

The novel is the cultural form to which the Anthropocene arguably presents most difficulties, and most opportunities. Historically, the novel has been celebrated for its ability to represent human interiority: the skull-to-skull skip of free indirect style, or the vivid flow of stream-of-consciousness. But what use are such skills when addressing the enormity of this new epoch? Any Anthropocene-aware novel finds itself haunted by impersonal structures, and intimidated by the limits of individual agency. China Miéville’s 2011 short story “Covehithe” cleverly probes and parodies these anxieties. In a near-future Suffolk, animate oil rigs haul themselves out of the sea, before drilling down into the coastal strata to lay dozens of rig eggs. These techno-zombies prove impervious to military interventions: at last, all that humans can do is become spectators, snapping photos of the rigs and watching live feeds from remote cameras as they give birth – an Anthropocene Springwatch.

Most memorable to me is Jeff VanderMeer’s 2014 novel, Annihilation. It describes an expedition into an apparently poisoned region known as Area X, in which relic human structures have been not just reclaimed but wilfully redesigned by a mutated nature. A specialist team is sent to survey the zone. They discover archive caches and topographically anomalous buildings including a “Tower” that descends into the earth rather than jutting from it. The Tower’s steps are covered in golden slime, and on its walls crawls a “rich greenlike moss” that inscribes letters and words on the masonry – before entering and authoring the bodies of the explorers themselves. It gradually becomes apparent that Area X, in all its weird wildness, is actively transforming the members of the expedition who have been sent to subdue it with science. As such, VanderMeer’s novel brilliantly reverses the hubris of the Anthropocene: instead of us leaving the world post-natural, it suggests, the world will leave us post-human.



As the idea of the Anthropocene has surged in power, so its critics have grown in number and strength. Cultural and literary studies currently abound with Anthropocene titles: most from the left, and often bitingly critical of their subject. The last 12 months have seen the publication of Jedediah Purdy’s After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene, McKenzie Wark’s provocative Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene and the environmental historian Jason W Moore’s important Capitalism in the Web of Life. Last July the “revolutionary arts and letters quarterly” Salvage launched with an issue that included Daniel Hartley’s essay “Against the Anthropocene” and Miéville, superbly, on despair and environmental justice in the new epoch.

Across these texts and others, three main objections recur: that the idea of the Anthropocene is arrogant, universalist and capitalist-technocratic. Arrogant, because the designation of the Anthropocene – the “New Age of Humans” – is our crowning act of self-mythologisation (we are the super-species, we the Prometheans, we have ended nature), and as such only embeds the narcissist delusions that have produced the current crisis.

Universalist, because the Anthropocene assumes a generalised anthropos, whereby all humans are equally implicated and all equally affected. As Purdy, Miéville and Moore point out, “we” are not all in the Anthropocene together – the poor and the dispossessed are far more in it than others. “Wealthy countries,” writes Purdy, “create a global landscape of inequality in which the wealthy find their advantages multiplied … In this neoliberal Anthropocene, free contract within a global market launders inequality through voluntariness.”

And capitalist-technocratic, because the dominant narrative of the Anthropocene has technology as its driver: recent Earth history reduced to a succession of inventions (fire, the combustion engine, the synthesis of plastic, nuclear weaponry). The monolithic concept bulk of this scientific Anthropocene can crush the subtleties out of both past and future, disregarding the roles of ideology, empire and political economy. Such a technocratic narrative will also tend to encourage technocratic solutions: geoengineering as a quick-fix for climate … [more]
environment  geology  literature  anthropocene  speculativefiction  fiction  novels  juliannelutzwarren  extinction  2016  robertmacfarlane  posthumanism  capitalism  economics  systems  systemthinking  technology  sustainability  technocracy  capitalocene  deforestation  chinamiéville  jedediahpurdy  mckenziewark  jasonmoore  danielhartley  jeffcandermeer  tomothymorton  hyperobjects  naomiklein  elizabethkolbert  gaiavince  annatsing  seanborodale  richardskelton  autumnrichardson  rorygibb  memory  holocene  earth  salvation  philiplarkin  plastic  plasticene  stratigraphy  eugenestoemer  paulcrutzen  history  apex-guilt  shadowtime  stieg  raymondwilliams  fredricjameson  glennalbrecht  johnclare  solastalgia  inequality  annalowenhaupttsing 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Viriconium FAQ | the m john harrison blog
"(1) Read as one book, not as three novels followed by a collection of afterthoughts.

(2) Freely intersperse the short stories between the novels.

(3) The novels can be read in any order, but order of publication makes a kind of sense if you are bound by expectations of linear time & causality.

(4) Start with “Viriconium Knights” if you need a readily-assimilable f/sf rationale for what’s going on in the rest of the book.

(5) Other rationales are available.

(6) Random dipping is just as effective an archeology. All beginnings are endings. Every reiteration is the (not an) original iteration.

(7) It is a metafictional critique of “epic” fantasy.

(8) It is a deconstruction of “epic” fantasy.

(9) It is a conscious disruption & abjection of the American ideological overmyth “Hero with a Thousand Faces”.

(10) It hates story. It hates the idea of character as fixed & causal. It hates relatability. It hates reader-identification. It hates the idea that because the real is disordered, fiction’s duty is to provide order; it hates the anodyne mouth-feel & simultaneous shrill desperation of ordering fictions. It hates immersive texts because immersion defuses political & social dissatisfaction.

(11) Read “A Young Man’s Journey to Viriconium” last. Or see (14).

(12) Titles, epigraphs & chapter headings are often significant parts of the text, so if you’re reading something framed as The Floating Gods, you aren’t reading Viriconium.

(13) Every available edition is problematical in terms of content, organisation & packaging.

(14) There is a new, as yet unpublished story."
mjohnharrison  linearity  storytelling  linear  nonlinear  novels  stories  via:robinsloan  2016  organization  time  sequence  viriconium  non-linear  alinear 
march 2016 by robertogreco
The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara | PenguinRandomHouse.com
"It is 1950 when Norton Perina, a young doctor, embarks on an expedition to a remote Micronesian island in search of a rumored lost tribe. There he encounters a strange group of forest dwellers who appear to have attained a form of immortality that preserves the body but not the mind. Perina uncovers their secret and returns with it to America, where he soon finds great success. But his discovery has come at a terrible cost, not only for the islanders, but for Perina himself. Disquieting yet thrilling, The People in the Trees is an anthropological adventure story with a profound and tragic vision of what happens when cultures collide. It marks the debut of a remarkable new voice in American fiction."
books  toread  via:anne  anthropology  literature  hanyayanagihara  micronesia  novels  2014 
august 2015 by robertogreco
Common-place: Common Reading: Undisciplined Reading: Finding surprise in how we read, Matthew P. Brown
"I read and teach novels regularly. But is the linear novel the only way one gets lost in a book? Consider those reference works that captivate you: a cookbook, a sports trivia volume, or a recordings guide. You open these books and escape into the pleasure of the cross-reference, the serendipitous, the transport to the known and the unknown. When I open David Thomson's New Biographical Dictionary of Film, forty minutes later the hard-boiled eggs are hard and boiling over, the cats are draped over the sleeping three-year-old, the dishes are still in the sink. Other than in Thomson's massaging, prickly prose, I know not where I am. The faint motion sickness I feel is from the cascade of ideas, memories, and anticipations, so different from the psychological and physiological response to channel- or Web-surfing, comparable fragmented modes of consumption. But reference-book reading of this sort assumes connoisseurship—that fancy word for heavy-panting, lighter-waving fandom—a habit of mind profoundly disciplinary.

I should feel shame about my disorderly reading, but I don't. In fact, I'd like to defend it as a reading practice of depth, rather than superficiality. Disorderly reading mimics the mind's generative activity of thought and discovery, those instances where you know something is happening but you don't know what it is. We might better call it discontinuous or nonlinear reading and acknowledge its long history, a history that reveals the fact that nonlinear reading lends itself to routinized procedure as well.

Reading seems ineluctably bound up in discipline, in customary behavior that precedes and structures the significance of the reading. But how then does reading become a means to the new, the unknown, the undiscovered? If even messy reading falls into predictable patterns and outcomes, how might what we read, or rather how we read, surprise us?

My contention is that one might use discipline to escape discipline, that freeing the mind is achieved by entering into restrictive procedures that liberate thinking. Let's begin by assessing that literary form most associated with the unknown, the undiscovered, or the novel—that is, the novel. Then we'll turn to early modern disciplines, finding analogies in them for contemporary reading scenes. Our guide here will be that Other to the twenty-first-century secular intellectual: the seventeenth-century English devout, those bigoted regicides and colonial Malvolios known—not without controversy, now and then, now perhaps more than then—as "Puritans.""



"Another reading discipline of surprise derived from Puritan mores is the conventicle. Conventicles were extramural religious meetings of select congregants within a church, most famously practiced in early America by Anne Hutchinson during the Antinomian controversy. (A quiescent version of conventicling from contemporary church history is the cellular model of Rick Warren's organization, the Saddleback megachurch.) Rooted in the idea that reading matter rather than institutional authority could be a source of spiritual sustenance, conventiclers absorbed scripture, repeated sermons, and sang psalms. Conventicling operated along a spectrum from conservative to separatist. And, like puritan, conventicle was a rhetorically charged word that could mean devout private gathering or conspiratorial unlawful assembly, depending upon who did the labeling.

Pious or riotous, conventicling illuminates a classroom dynamic familiar to current undergraduate literature professors. My rough sense is that in research universities and non-elite colleges, a majority of the students in each course are cats we herd unsuccessfully, while a largish minority learn something in a rote way. The remnant is the conventicle, actual or virtual students who meet with their minds in class discussion, with each other outside of class, and with the professor after sessions. When I read Susannah Rowson or Herman Melville or Toni Morrison or Richard Powers for class preparation, I have the majority in mind, as I gather the three points I want to get across in the fifty minutes. Reaching and teaching this majority is one of the real pleasures of my professorial life. But, in the reading prep, I have the conventicle in mind, for that is where the surprise happens."
via:asfaltics  reading  howweread  matthewpbrown  2007  books  chaos  messiness  linearity  novels  behavior  orderliness  rules  academics  academia  pedagogy  nonliner  structure  structures  puritans  conventicles  oulipo  authorlessness  linear 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Interview with Sjón | The White Review
"Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Where are you from? And how did you come to write?

A: SJÓN — I was born in Reykjavík in 1962. From the beginning I read everything, from children’s books to newspapers – whatever printed material came into the house. At the age of 8 I discovered Icelandic folk stories, which is when I truly started waking up to literature. A year later, I discovered poetry. In school we were given a big collection of poetry, which was to last us throughout our school years, and I started reading this book for pleasure at home. I was reading detective novels, Icelandic folk stories, and Icelandic romantic poetry from very early on. Early reading teaches you the different possibilities of text.

When I came into my teenage years I became a huge David Bowie fan. To be a David Bowie fan in Iceland you more or less had to teach yourself English – to translate the lyrics, to be able to read the interviews in NME. My infatuation with Bowie prepared me for my discovery of modernist poetry, first in translation. At the age of 15 I found a book of Icelandic modernists from the end of the Second World War. That’s when modernism came to Iceland – and they were very much influenced by the surrealists. Somehow, I was bitten by the bug. It simply fascinated me that you were allowed to use the Icelandic language in this way, to create these incredible images and metaphors, and to present such ideas with the Icelandic language. I felt like I should be a part of it. So I started writing poetry and in a few months time I had written enough poetry for a book. I published my first book of poetry the summer I turned 16.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — You speak of an early interest in the various kinds of text, and your own writing is not easily assimilated into any single textual mode. As a writer, lyricist and poet, you move in and out of these different formats. What do you classify yourself as first and foremost, if anything? How might this resistance to categorisation link in to your interest in surrealism?

A: SJÓN — I’m a novelist who occasionally writes poetry. I write librettos, lyrics and children’s books but these are all collaborations that I do in between working on novels and poetry. One of the wonders of the novel is how easily it absorbs diverse texts. Everything that is written, whether it is non-fiction, old archives, newspaper articles, lullabies – somehow it can always find its place in the novel, and for that reason the novel became more important to me than the poem.

The novel is encyclopaedic: all of the different manners of expressing oneself in words can find their place there. In the Eighties my friends and I formed a group of surrealist poets called Medusa. Surrealism brings so much with it and one of the first things I realised when I became excited by surrealism was its link with folk stories. Surrealism is always non-academic, always looking for the source of human activity, looking into the back alleys and the darkest clearing in the forest for excitement. Somehow it was always very natural for me to bring all these different things together in what I was doing.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Your novels are hybrids – a crossbreed of narrative fiction, historical fact, myth, music…

A: SJÓN — I like my novels to be made up of different parts, realities, states of consciousness. I now see my work as realist because everything I write is grounded in at least the experience of the character, here, in earthly life. The strange things that happen in the books are what happens in people’s minds, what they experience as truth. That of course creates a hybrid, when your standard is something normalised and accepted as the only way to experience reality.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Music is a great part of this assortment – you’ve mentioned Bowie as an influence, and you have collaborated with musicians such as Björk. Do you think that words can achieve the condition of music, which has a much greater immediacy and is far less freighted with multiple meanings?

A: SJÓN — I think it’s very important to be open to influence from diverse artistic forms and forms of expression. I have been very much influenced by music and one of the routes I took to literature was through the music of David Bowie. I have worked with musicians in all fields – contemporary composers, pop artists – and I’ve worked with very diverse styles of music. But there is a huge difference between words being sung, spoken or read. The emotion that the singing voice brings to the world when sung out loud is something you cannot recreate on paper. I don’t think you should even try.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — You have spoken of realising that ‘you could take the classical string quartet as a model for the composition of THE BLUE FOX’. How did you achieve this?

A: SJÓN — I think the fact that I can take the form of the string quartet and use it as the basis of a novel is another proof of how dynamic the novel is. I’m sure that a composer writing a string quartet can learn something from a movie or the structure of film. It was music that gave me the idea of constantly breaking up the narrative. THE BLUE FOX would be a completely different novel if it were chronological. In it, there are constant cliff-hangers and repeated refrains – I’m playing with the element of two melodies that come together but never fully, only in the end finding a solution. It was very interesting that the first people who commented on the book were composers. They said it was very clear to them that I was always playing with volume of information versus text, which is the same thing they do – volume of tones versus time. You can take a melody and stretch it over five minutes, or compress it down to three seconds. They were very much aware of how I was playing with text versus information.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Does your involvement in the world of music, and the musicality of your novels, betray some sort of frustration with the limits of the written word?

A: SJÓN — No. I am in the position where I can move between those different ways of writing. For me, it is a celebration of the many possibilities given to an author. I play no instruments, my only involvement with music is in collaborations with people who know how to do it. It is a privilege to be working with these musicians and to be allowed to bring my words to their work. To hear the words sung is a wonderful present from these people."



"This view actually went against everything that I had been taught in school. The Reformation is presented in Icelandic history books as something very benevolent and it was convenient to ignore that in the first decade after the Reformation life was very difficult for the common man and for scholars. The Methodist church became very dogmatic, and everything that had to do with the old Nordic religion, with old wisdom or old medicine, was banished as sorcery. He is the only historical voice that we have speaking against this. It was an opportunity to put a seed inside somebody’s skull, and take a walk through those times with his eyes."



"The reason that I felt it right to enter this world, this state of complaint against a world going to pieces, is because he lived through the period when the Catholic Church, the only socially responsible institution, was all of a sudden taken away. In Iceland, it is a fact that the Catholic Church was the only welfare structure in the country – we had no king, no dukes, we had no one to take over the social responsibilities when the Catholic Church vanished overnight. All the monasteries were closed down, all the orphanages, the old people’s shelters – everything, overnight. And the duty that the rich had – to keep the livestock alive on behalf of the religious priests who fed the poor – that vanished too.

Jón Guðmundsson is unique in that he is the only one who wrote about this. He bore witness to a world in which man had been relieved of his duty to show charity to his fellow men. This is very much what the last decade has felt like, at least in Iceland, if not many parts of the West. With the deregulation of the economic system, social responsibility was thrown out of the window and all of a sudden the rich became richer and they had no duties any more. This is something that happened with the fall of the Eastern Bloc – the message that we were told then was that capitalism had won and communism was the dark art. The Left lost its voice, at least in Iceland. The centre Left – the social democrats – they decided to start playing along with the capitalists, which is what you would call New Labour here. The real Left was all of a sudden presented as the losers of history, even though these people had been in opposition to the totalitarian regimes in the East for decades. All of a sudden everything that began with the word ‘social’ was a dirty word. The social contract that was established in most of the West after the Second World War, was dealt the final blow."



"In times where grand narratives are needed we look to the grand narratives of our culture. In our case it is the great myths, and sometimes it is to give name to something like the panic after September 11. Myth always puts man down to size, and man realises he is just this tiny figure moving from one meal to another on his way to the grave.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Oral tradition is very much a part of myth. Is this something that can still exist today?

A: SJÓN — You have a whole continent, Africa, which has so many languages that have still not found a written form. There are places that have an unbroken tradition, stretching thousands of years back, of telling the same stories over and over again. Mostly here in the West we have lost the ability to protect our culture orally, and maybe we are in danger. What will happen when all the books have flared up and all the Kindles lost their battery power?

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Literary translation and the rise of world … [more]
sjón  2012  interviews  iceland  poems  poetry  novels  literature  writing  music  björk  reality  collaboration  surrealism  existence  humans  storytelling  davidbowie  mogenrukov  dogme95  life  living  perspective  curiosity  translation  africa  diversity  myths  myth  mythology  charity  catholicism  history  capitalism  economics  society  collectivism  interdependence  individualism  insignificance  folklore  nature  reformation  religion  magic  mysticism  enlightenment  catholicchurch  9/11  oraltradition  ebooks  books  words  coldwar  socialism  communism  jónguðmundsson  sorcery  songs  posthumanism 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Bruce Sterling's The Caryatids, my pick for best book of 2009, a novel of clear-eyed hope for the future - Boing Boing
"In The Caryatids, global warming has melted practically every government in the world (except China) -- leaving behind a slurry of refugees, rising seas, and inconceivable misery. But there are two stable monoliths sticking out of the chaos, a pair of "civil society groups" that embody the two major schools of smart green thought today: the Dispensation are Al Gore green capitalists based out of California who understand that glamor and profits, properly aimed, achieve more than any amount of stern determination and chaste conservation; their rivals are the Aquis, mostly European anarcho-techno-geeks who have abandoned money in favor of technologically mediated communal life where giant, powerful, barely controlled machines are deployed to save the refugees and heal the Earth.

The titular Caryatids are the seven clone-sisters of a Balkan war criminal (who is hiding out in orbit in a junk satellite), raised as part of a terrible fin-de-siecle plan to create a cadre of superwoman generals who would lead a militarized guerrilla force after the environmental catastrophe reached scale. Now they are scattered to the winds and divided among the world's superpowers, and the only thing they hate more than their "mother" is each other.

And the story unfolds, taking us on a tour of a 2060 Earth where the worst imaginable things have happened and yet humanity has survived. Is thriving. Not a perfect utopia, but not a tormented post-apocalyptic chaos either. Sterling's future is one in which the human race's best and most important and most deadly machine -- civilization -- survives its own meltdown.

More importantly, the future of The Caryatids is one in which human beings confront the terrible reality that technology favors attackers -- favors those who would disrupt the status quo because it gives them force-multiplier power, and undermines defenders because the complexity of a technological society always creates potential fault-lines that attackers can exploit. And in that society, Sterling's civil society types -- who care about saving the planet, even though they disagree about the best way to do this -- do their damnedest to build stable technological societies. Because in Earth's future -- and in Sterling's -- there's no going back to the land for us. Not because the land is too poisoned, but because billions of charcoal-burning hunter-gatherers are far more hazardous to the planet than a neatly ordered world of cities in which technology is used to minimize our footprints by giving us smarter handprints.

Most importantly, the future of The Caryatids is one in which there is hope. Not naive, wishful thinking hope. Hard-nosed, utterly plausible hope, for a future in which the human race outthinks its worse impulses and survives despite all the odds."
climatechange  brucesterling  hope  future  2009  corydoctorow  technology  technosolutionism  environmentalism  sustainability  novels  globalwarming  disruption  society  civilization  collapse  2060 
september 2014 by robertogreco
David Foster Wallace's Unfinished Novel - and Life - NYTimes.com
[Quoted here, but never bookmarked. Thanks, Nicole, for resurfacing.
http://robertogreco.tumblr.com/post/6839277872/unfinished-brian-eno-and-konrad-glogowski ]

"Fortunately, one of the human brain’s many tricks is that it automatically finishes unfinished things. This is remedial psychology — Sensation-Perception 101. If we see part of a circle, our mind closes it. If we see part of a word, our mind fills in the mssng lttrs.

Something analogous happens, I think, with unfinished novels: we always end up finishing them with something. We fill in the blanks, unconsciously, with what is closest at hand: the gestalt, the legend, the vibe, the tone, the aesthetic of the author in question. This is, after all, part of what a great author does: he trains us not just to receive his vision but also to extend it — to read the world (its landscapes, people, events, texts) in the peculiar way that he would have read them. He infuses the world, almost like a religion. (After a few Dickens novels, everything starts to look Dickensian.) So it makes sense that we would carry that vision through to an author’s own last work.

This explains an uncanny aspect of unfinished novels: the way their real-life back stories usually seem like something the authors themselves might have written. Max Brod’s famous nonburning of Kafka’s unpublished writing, for example, only reinforces one lesson of the unincinerated work: that the suffering individual is no match for the big bullying system of the world. Similarly, Nabokov’s “Original of Laura” (the blockbuster unfinished novel of 2009) played out like something out of “Pale Fire”: a mysterious manuscript written on index cards, squirreled away from the public for decades, then released with an elaborate apparatus that makes you wonder, slightly, if the editors were actually crazy. The publication of Roberto Bolaño’s “2666” (the blockbuster posthumous novel of 2008) mimicked a Bolaño story: porous and unresolved, with the tantalizing possibility that there’s still more of it secretly out there somewhere, getting ready to leap out at us and unsettle everything. It’s as if an author’s unfinished work is his last and best (or the least improvable) fiction."



"These complications are further complicated by the fact that it’s hard to even talk about how “unfinished” “The Pale King” is. The book is a collation of material that was left in Wallace’s office at the time of his death — 12 polished chapters stacked neatly on his desk, the remaining hundreds of pages scattered through notes and files and disks in various stages of revision. All of which is yet further complicated by the fact that, in his finished work, Wallace always used incompleteness, very consciously, as a narrative tool. (“Infinite Jest” ends nowhere, with a million big questions unresolved.) A truly unfinished Wallace novel, then, is exponentially hard to chart — it’s as if Picasso had accidentally tipped a bucket of blue paint over the corner of one of his blue-period paintings. How do we distinguish between intentional and unintentional blue? What does unfinished unfinishedness look like?"
davidfosterwallace  2011  samanderson  unfinished  thepaleking  cocreation  writing  death  incomplete  unknowing  notknowing  posthumous  novels  books  publishing  vladimirnabokov 
august 2014 by robertogreco
The Blue Fox (novel) - Wikipedia
"The Blue Fox (Icelandic: Skugga-Baldur) is a 2003 novel by Icelandic writer Sjón. The book was originally published by Bjartur and first published in the United States in 2013.



The book takes place in Iceland in 1883. It opens with a priest hunting a blue fox, then jumps backward to the days following up to the hunt. An herbalist buries the recently deceased woman with Down syndrome that he rescued from a shipwreck. It details their life together before returning to the present. The priest shoots and kills the mysterious blue fox he is hunting, but the sound from his rifle causes an avalanche. While trapped underneath the snow in a glacial cave, the priest starts to go insane. The fox comes back to life and argues with him about the invention of electricity and the priest kills the fox a second time, this time skinning her and wearing her fur. He then transforms into a blue fox himself. The book ends with a letter from the herbalist, who explains the girl with Down syndrome was the priest's daughter, whom he sold into slavery several years before the herbalist rescued her. [1]"
sjón  books  animals  iceland  novels  skuggabaldur  skoffín 
july 2014 by robertogreco
The novel is dead (this time it's for real) | Books | The Guardian
"Literary fiction used to be central to the culture. No more: in the digital age, not only is the physical book in decline, but the very idea of 'difficult' reading is being challenged. The future of the serious novel, argues Will Self, is as a specialised interest"



"I repeat: just because you're paranoid it doesn't mean they aren't out to get you. When I finished my first work of fiction in 1990 and went looking for a publisher, I was offered an advance of £1,700 for a paperback original edition. I was affronted, not so much by the money (although pro rata it meant I was being paid considerably less than I would have working in McDonald's), but by not receiving the sanctification of hard covers. The agent I consulted told me to accept without demur: it was, he said, nigh-on impossible for new writers to get published – let alone paid. At that time the reconfiguration of the medium was being felt through the ending of the Net Book Agreement, the one-time price cartel that shored up publishers' profits by outlawing retailer discounting. In retrospect, the ending of the agreement was simply a localised example of a much wider phenomenon: the concertinaing of the textual distribution network into a short, wide pipe. It would be amusing to read the meliorism of the Panglosses if it weren't also so irritating; writing a few months ago in the New Statesman, Nicholas Clee, a former editor of the Bookseller, no less, surveyed all of the changes wrought by digital media – changes that funnel together into the tumultuous wordstream of Jeff Bezos's Amazon – before ending his excursus where he began, with the best of all possible facts implying we were in the best of all possible worlds: "I like," Clee wrote, "buying books on Amazon."

Groucho Marx once said to a man with six children taking part in his TV show: "I like my cigar, but I know when to take it out." By the same token: I also like buying books on Amazon, but I'm under no illusion that this means either the physical codex, or the novel – a form of content specifically adapted to it – will survive as a result of my preferences. Because I'm also very partial to sourcing digital texts from Project Gutenberg, then wordsearching them for a quotation I want to use. I like my typewriter as well, a Groma Kolibri manufactured in the German Democratic Republic in the early 1960s, but I'm under no illusion that it's anything but old technology. I switched to writing the first drafts of my fictions on a manual typewriter about a decade ago because of the inception of broadband internet. Even before this, the impulse to check email, buy something you didn't need, or goggle at images of the unattainable was there – but at least there was the annoying tocsin of dial-up connection to awake you to your time-wasting. With broadband it became seamless: one second you were struggling over a sentence, the next you were buying oven gloves. Worse, if, as a writer, you reached an impasse where you couldn't imagine what something looked or sounded like, the web was there to provide instant literalism: the work of the imagination, which needs must be fanciful, was at a few keystrokes reduced to factualism. All the opinions and conceptions of the new media amount to nothing set beside the way they're actually used.

While I may have registered the effect of digital media on my sense perception, I by no means feel immune from them; on the contrary, I've come to realise that the kind of psyche implicit in the production and consumption of serious novels (which are what, after all, serious artists produce), depends on a medium that has inbuilt privacy: we must all be Ambroses. In a recent and rather less optimistic article in the New Yorker on the Amazon phenomenon, George Packer acknowledges the impact on the publishing industry of digital text: the decline in physical sales; and the removal of what might be termed the "gatekeepers", the editors and critics who sifted the great ocean of literary content for works of value. He foresees a more polarised world emerging: with big bestsellers commanding still more sales, while down below the digital ocean seethes with instantly accessible and almost free texts. Packer observes that this development parallels others in the neoliberal economy, which sees market choice as the only human desideratum. The US court's ruling against the big five publishers in the English-speaking world and in favour of Amazon was predicated on this: their desperate attempt to resist Amazon's imposition of punitive discounting constituted a price cartel. But, really, this was only the latest skirmish in a long war; the battles of the 1990s, when both here and in the US chain bookstores began to gobble up the independents, were part of the same conflict: one between the medium and the message, and as I think I've already made clear, in the long run it's always the medium that wins."

I've no doubt that a revenue stream for digitised factual text will be established: information in this form is simply too useful for it not to be assigned monetary value. It is novels that will be the victims of the loss of effective copyright (a system of licensing and revenue collection that depended both on the objective form of the text, and defined national legal jurisdictions); novels and the people who write them. Fortunately, institutions are already in existence to look after us. The creative writing programmes burgeoning throughout our universities are exactly this; another way of looking at them is that they're a self-perpetuating and self-financing literary set-aside scheme purpose built to accommodate writers who can no longer make a living from their work. In these care homes, erstwhile novelists induct still more and younger writers into their own reflexive career paths, so that in time they too can become novelists who cannot make a living from their work and so become teachers of creative writing.

In case you think I'm exaggerating, I have just supervised a doctoral thesis in creative writing: this consists in the submission of a novel written by the candidate, together with a 35,000-word dissertation on the themes explored by that novel. My student, although having published several other genre works, and despite a number of ringing endorsements from his eminent creative-writing teachers, has been unable to find a publisher for this, his first serious novel. The novel isn't bad – although nor is it Turgenev. The dissertation is interesting – although it isn't a piece of original scholarship. Neither of them will, in all likelihood, ever be read again after he has been examined. The student wished to bring the date of his viva forward – why? Well, so he could use his qualification to apply for a post teaching – you guessed it – creative writing. Not that he's a neophyte: he already teaches creative writing, he just wants to be paid more highly for the midwifery of stillborn novels.

If you'll forgive a metaphoric ouroboros: it shouldn't surprise us that this is the convulsive form taken by the literary novel during its senescence; some of the same factors implicated in its extinction are also responsible for the rise of the creative writing programme; specifically a wider culture whose political economy prizes exchange value over use value, and which valorises group consciousness at the expense of the individual mind. Whenever tyro novelists ask me for career advice I always say the same thing to them: think hard about whether you wish to spend anything up to 20 or 30 years of your adult life in solitary confinement; if you don't like the sound of that silence, abandon the idea right away. But nowadays many people who sign up for creative-writing programmes have only the dimmest understanding of what's actually involved in the writing life; the programme offers them comity and sympathetic readers for their fledgling efforts – it acts, it essence, as a therapy group for the creatively misunderstood. What these people are aware of – although again, usually only hazily – is that some writers have indeed had it all; if by this is meant that they are able to create as they see fit, and make a living from what they produce. In a society where almost everyone is subject to the appropriation of their time, and a vast majority of that time is spent undertaking work that has little human or spiritual value, the ideal form of the writing life appears gilded with a sort of wonderment. The savage irony is that even as these aspirants sign up for the promise of such a golden career, so the possibility of their actually pursuing it steadily diminishes; a still more savage irony is that the very form their instruction takes militates against the culture of the texts they desire to produce. WB Yeats attributed to his father the remark that "Poetry is the social act of the solitary man"; with the creative-writing programmes and the Facebook links embedded in digitised texts encouraging readers to "share" their insights, writing and reading have become the solitary acts of social beings. And we all know how social beings tend to regard solitary acts – as perversities, if not outright perversions.

As I said at the outset: I believe the serious novel will continue to be written and read, but it will be an art form on a par with easel painting or classical music: confined to a defined social and demographic group, requiring a degree of subsidy, a subject for historical scholarship rather than public discourse. The current resistance of a lot of the literate public to difficulty in the form is only a subconscious response to having a moribund message pushed at them. As a practising novelist, do I feel depressed about this? No, not particularly, except on those occasions when I breathe in too deeply and choke on my own decadence. I've no intention of writing fictions in the form of tweets or text messages – nor do I see my future in computer-games design. My apprenticeship as a novelist has lasted a long time now, and I still cherish … [more]
books  culture  reading  writing  essays  willself  2014  bookfuturism  digitalmedia  novels  narrative  mfa  teaching  highereducation  highered 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Teju Cole: By the Book - NYTimes.com
"What books are currently on your night stand?

I just got in the “Selected Poems” of Bill Manhire, who is from New Zealand. He’s a mature poet with his own voice, but his unobtrusive authority and his tenderness remind me of Seamus Heaney. I’m teaching Intermediate Fiction at Bard this semester, and I’ve assigned Alice Munro, Jhumpa Lahiri, Petina Gappah, Lydia Davis and Stephanie Vaughn. So I’m rereading them, too.

Who is your favorite novelist of all time? And your favorite novelist writing today?

Penelope Fitzgerald was the author of several slim, perfect novels. “The Blue Flower” and “The Beginning of Spring” both had me abuzz for days the first time I read them. She was curiously perfect. Among living novelists, my favorites include J. M. Coetzee, Michael Ondaatje and Michel Tournier, none of whom need my praise. I cherish James Salter’s short stories, and his every sentence.

Sell us on your favorite overlooked or underappreciated writer.

Lydia Davis is famous, but not nearly famous enough. Ditto Anne Carson. It’s notable that neither of them is really a novelist; “the novel” is overrated, and the writers I find most interesting find ways to escape it.

Have you read any good contemporary poetry lately?

I’m very pleased to have encountered in the past couple of years the work of two astounding young poets, each of whom has one book out: Ishion Hutchinson (“Far District”) and Rowan Ricardo Phillips (“The Ground”). Both have impressive reserves of insight and the language to bring those insights to life. They are the future of American poetry.

And I’m glad I finally got round to reading “Stag’s Leap,” by Sharon Olds. There is the feeling that one gets when one “discovers” a new song only to realize it has a million views on YouTube already. “Stag’s Leap” was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the T. S. Eliot Prize last year. But the book is new to me, and I love it.

And which recent books by or about photographers would you recommend?

“Wall,” by Josef Koudelka; “Sergio Larrain” (a monograph on the reclusive Chilean genius, who died in 2012); and “The Sochi Project: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus,” by Rob Hornstra and Arnold van Bruggen.

I wrote the introductory essay to Richard Renaldi’s “Touching Strangers.” Nevertheless, it is an excellent book. Ivan Vladislavic’s novel “Double Negative” is another great book that wasn’t marred by my introduction.

What are your literary guilty pleasures? Do you have a favorite genre?

No guilt. I read many kinds of things, but my deepest happiness is in reading poetry.

What are your favorite art history books?

I was trained in art history and still get a great deal of joy from reading it. The best art history books, I feel, are as good as the best novels. Among the most illuminating for me are the following: “The Limewood Sculptors of Renaissance Germany,” by Michael Baxandall; “The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus,” by Paul Zanker; “The Painting of Modern Life,” by T. J. Clark; “The Moment of Self-Portraiture in German Renaissance Art,” by Joseph Leo Koerner; and “Inside Bruegel,” by Edward Snow. The last of these, a startling interpretation of Bruegel’s “Children’s Games,” is great for nonspecialist readers.



What kind of reader were you as a child? And what were your favorite childhood books?

I began early — around 6 — and by the time I was 10 I had read Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart,” Charles and Mary Lamb’s “Tales From Shakespeare” and an abridged edition of “Tom Sawyer.” I wasn’t a prodigy, but I developed a sense that access to any book was limited only by my interest and my willingness to concentrate.

Whom do you consider your literary heroes?

They are many: Michael Ondaatje, most of all. But also Marguerite Yourcenar, John Berger and Seamus Heaney.

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?

I suppose at least a little faith in literature’s ability to make us better is what lies behind this question. But I have no such faith. The president has already read many wonderful books from many different cultures. Now we need him to act justly in certain matters: to stop killing people extrajudicially, and to stop deporting people with such enthusiasm. I doubt that more reading will quicken his conscience in these matters.

You’re hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers are invited?

Alice Oswald, Laila Lalami and Zadie Smith.

You’ve got an active Twitter account going. Does it influence your thinking or writing process?

I suppose it must. It’s such a combative place at times that it makes me less worried about putting ideas out into the world. You realize that anything you have to say is going to annoy some stranger, so you might as well speak your mind. But being active on Twitter also means that the literary part of my brain — the part that tries to make good sentences — is engaged all the time. My memory is worse than it was a few years ago, but I hope that my ability to write a good sentence has improved.

What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?

I have not read most of the big 19th — century novels that people consider “essential,” nor most of the 20th-century ones for that matter. But this does not embarrass me. There are many films to see, many friends to visit, many walks to take, many playlists to assemble and many favorite books to reread. Life’s too short for anxious score-keeping. Also, my grandmother is illiterate, and she’s one of the best people I know. Reading is a deep personal consolation for me, but other things console, too."

[via: http://tumblr.austinkleon.com/post/78770035787 ]

[via: https://twitter.com/tejucole/status/446639178843840512 ]
tejucole  2014  interviews  books  literacy  illiteracy  reading  politics  barackobama  booklists  poetry  novels  literature  writing  howweread  howwewrite  twitter  guiltypleasures  seamusheany  billmanhire  alicemunro  jhumpalahiri  petinagappah  lydiadavis  stephanievaughn  penelopefitzgerald  hmcoetzee  michaelondaatje  miceltournier  jamessalter  annecarson  rowanricardophillips  ishionhutchinson  sharonolds  josefkoudelka  sergiolarrain  robhornstra  arnoldvanbruggen  richardrenaldi  ivanvladislavic  michaelbaxandrall  paulzanker  tjclark  josephleokoerner  edwardsnow  chinuaachebe  charleslamb  marylamb  margueriteyourcenar  johnberger  aliceoswald  lailalalami  zadiesmith  sergiolarraín 
march 2014 by robertogreco
César Aira: My ideal is the fairy tale - YouTube
"Interview with Argentinian César Aira who has been called the Marcel Duchamp of Latin America because of his experimental and unpredictable books, heralded by e.g. Roberto Bolaño and Patti Smith. Here Aira talks about his writing and why his books end up like they do.

"You will have to travel to the south of Argentina to find the most original, the most shocking, the most exciting and subversive Spanish-speaking author of our time: César Aira" as put by Spanish newspaper El País. Carlos Fuentes has said that he thinks César Aira will be the first Argentinian to receive the Nobel Prize.

In this interview the Argentine writer César Aira talks about literature in general and his own writing in particular. Specifically he talks of the stories "Ghosts" (1990) and "An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter" (2000).

César Aira (b.1949) has published over eighty books of stories, novels and essays, half of which contain less than twenty pages. Since 1993 Aira has written two to four books each year. In this video Aira talks about his writing techniques and opinions and why he prefers writing shorter books. Writing should be story telling in an old fashioned way, much like a fairy tale, a story of something which happened once, to someone else, i.e. not told in the first person or present tense. Airas books may be short, but they are full of layers, he explains, starting perhaps with an experiment or some philosophical idea.

Aira has taught at the University of Buenos Aires (about Copi and Rimbaud) and at the University of Rosario (Constructivism and Mallarmé), and has translated and edited books from France, England, Italy, Brazil, Spain, Mexico, and Venezuela.

César Aira was interviewed by the Danish writer Peter Adolphsen at the Louisiana Literature festival 2012. Adolphsen also translated Aira's words into English in this video."
césaraira  argentina  literature  art  books  robertobolaño  pattismith  writing  carlosfuentes  mallarmé  constructivism  rimbaud  copi  fairytales  firstperson  layering  experimentalbooks  thisisnotabook  presenttense  howwewrite  storytelling  novels  shortstories  everyday  buenosaires  argenchino 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Art Rant #1 (with tweets) · tezcatlipoca · Storify
"there will always be artists and good art, but the mono culture provided a shared "enemy," some common ground and a vocabulary" — https://twitter.com/tezcatlipoca/status/265090655720718336

"I think I want a "show and tell…" a distilled collection of contemporary things people really love and why." — https://twitter.com/tezcatlipoca/status/265099091153928192

"This thought is drifting from original now, but everyone has a favorite song, lyrics that make them cry... How can we make work like that? Not just "oh cool, another arduino demo" … I WANT TO MAKE MY AUDIENCE WEEP." — https://twitter.com/tezcatlipoca/status/265094066310615040 + https://twitter.com/tezcatlipoca/status/265094216605130753 + https://twitter.com/tezcatlipoca/status/265094257549914113

"I actually think novels are way better than music at being meaningful, yet emotional, and building communities." — https://twitter.com/debcha/status/265096111939792896
glvo  emotions  novels  monoculture  writing  eleanorsaitta  storify  culture  media  reaction  music  art  2012  andrewsempere  debchachra 
november 2012 by robertogreco
Unclassifiable Clarice Lispector | TLS
"Not much happens in a Lispector novel. In Near to the Wild Heart, Joana recalls her childhood, is orphaned and adopted by an aunt, attends boarding school, marries, chats with her husband’s mistress, takes a lover, and loses both husband and lover. But this “plot” is incidental to the life of her mind, where all the real action takes place."

"Lispector can be a bafflingly elusive writer. But her images dazzle even when her meaning is most obscure, and when she is writing of what she despises she is lucidity itself."

"Critics have found Lispector difficult to pin down. “Unclassifiable”, says Edmund White. “As though no one had ever written before”, says Colm Tóibín. Comparisons are invoked with Proust, Kafka, Joyce and, for the introspection, with Virginia Woolf. For Hélène Cixous, she is the very epitome of “écriture féminine” with her assault on binary logic and patriarchal logocentrism."
plotless  plot  lifeofthemind  lucidity  binarylogic  patricarchallogocentrism  unclassifiable  novels  books  2012  colmtóibín  proust  jamesjoyce  kafka  hélènecixous  literature  brasil  claricelispector  brazil  marcelproust 
august 2012 by robertogreco
The empire city: a novel of New York City - Paul Goodman - Google Libros
"This is the thirty year epic story of Horatio, an idealist who struggles to learn the hardest lesson of all -- how to take his place in a conformist society and still retain his personal identity."

[via: http://twitter.com/a_small_lab/status/175404573798825984 ]
literature  identity  confomity  society  idealism  integrity  anarchism  via:chrisberthelsen  toread  novels  books  paulgoodman 
march 2012 by robertogreco
Fiction Writers Review » Magic and Music Steer this Vessel: On Jorge Luis Borges’s This Craft of Verse
"In this lecture, Borges famously declares that laziness kept him from writing novels. I wonder if this is the same “happy indolence” that Billy Collins has described as his modus operandi. Borges, like the ancients, defines the poet as “‘a maker’—not only as the utterer of those high lyric notes, but also as a teller of a tale."

"“Thought and Poetry” finds Borges asserting over and over again that metaphors should both resonate and unsettle."

"Borges’s humility should be admired but what must also be considered here is the incredible challenge—one may even describe it as a daunting, accusing mountain—that faces the writer. Those “tolerable” pages arrive from labored and conscientious output, through the uncertain process of trial and error, and through the making of, the awareness and recognition of, as well as the correction and ultimate learning from, mistakes."
cervantes  donquixote  bible  beowulf  wittgenstein  2009  books  writing  novels  johnmadera  music  odyssey  homer  poetry  classics  literature  borges 
january 2012 by robertogreco
The Space Merchants - Wikipedia
"In a vastly overpopulated world, businesses have taken the place of governments and now hold all political power. States exist merely to ensure the survival of huge trans-national corporations. Advertising has become hugely aggressive and by far the best-paid profession. Through advertising, the public is constantly deluded into thinking that the quality of life is improved by all the products placed on the market. However, the most basic elements are incredibly scarce, including water and fuel. The planet Venus has just been visited and judged fit for human settlement, despite its inhospitable surface and climate; the colonists would have to endure a harsh climate for many generations until the planet could be terraformed."
scifi  sciencefiction  books  novels  frederikpohl  1952  cyrilkornbluth  advertising  corporatism  future 
november 2011 by robertogreco
1Q84 Transports Readers to Bizarro Version of 1984 | Magazine
"1Q84, the latest novel from Japanese sensation Haruki Murakami, transports readers back to 1984 — or at least a phantasmagoric version of that year. He presents a world beset by a series of murders and disappearances, a menacing sect called the Sakigake, and free-floating evil forces. But was the real year 1984 really that much less surreal? After some investigation, we found the narratives to be remarkably similar."
1Q84  1984  harukimurakami  2011  books  novels  literature  georgeorwell 
november 2011 by robertogreco
Pasta&Vinegar » About The City and the City by China Miéville
"What struck me…was the role played by the cityscape in the whole narrative. The action takes place in the distinct cities of Besźel & Ul Qoma. However, both of them actually occupy the same physical space.…Because the citizens chose this separation, B & UQ are perceived by people as 2 different cities…inhabitants are taught to “unsee” or “unhear” the persons from the other city:

“They knew I was in Ul Quoma: I could find them & could walk alongside them in the street & we would be inches apart but unable to acknowledge each other. Like the old story. Not that I would ever do such a thing. Having to unsee acquaintances or friends is a rare & notoriously uncomfortable circumstance.“

Unseeing, as described above, is supposed to be unconscious. This ability is important because it doesn’t mean that people would’nt notice anything…This of course means that this ability is taught very early to children & that each cities has its own peculiar design/color/shape/architecture…"
books  toread  scifi  sciencefiction  noticing  seeing  unseeing  unhearing  chinamieville  novels  fiction  cities  perception  urban  urbanism  borders  2009  nicolasnova  division  cityscapes  place 
june 2011 by robertogreco
Autoethnography - Wikipedia
"Autoethnography is a form of autobiographical personal narrative that explores the writer's experience of life. The term was originally defined as "insider ethnography".[1] It differs fundamentally from ethnography--a qualitative research method in which a researcher uses participant observation and interviews in order to gain a deeper understanding of a group's culture—in that autoethnography focuses on the writer's subjective experience rather than the beliefs and practices of others. Autoethnography is now becoming more widely used (though controversial) in performance studies, the sociology of new media, novels, journalism, communication, and applied fields such as management studies."
history  writing  social  research  via:steelemaley  sociology  communication  ethnography  journalism  newmedia  novels  management  managementstudies  performancestudies  experience  groupculture  groups  narrative  truth  inquiry  autoethnography 
june 2011 by robertogreco
john mullan, clapham & the no-fuck vampire novel | the m john harrison blog
"Literary fiction as described here is the fiction of a generation which discovered “good” novels via B-format in 1980. It is a fiction so very clearly generic that when I read John Mullan’s description of it (complete with successful business model, strict boundary conditions and committed fanbase which won’t read anything else) as not genre fiction, I weep with laughter at the sheer depth of his self-deception. Still, by the usual Freudian processes he has said what he really means, & that’s a step forward. The sooner literary fiction recognises & accepts its generic identity, the sooner it can get help. One of the more obvious results of generification is that–as with gentrification–blandness sets in, whether you’re knocking out no-fuck vampire romances or contributing to the high-performing post-Austen industry…"
literary  literature  literaryfiction  fiction  2011  genre  generification  mjohnharrison  blandness  self-deception  novels 
may 2011 by robertogreco
How the Paperback Novel Changed Popular Literature | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian Magazine
"Classic writers reached the masses when Penguin paperbacks began publishing great novels for the cost of a pack of cigarettes"
books  history  literature  publishing  penguin  via:robinsloan  novels 
april 2011 by robertogreco
‘The Pale King’ by David Foster Wallace - Book Review - NYTimes.com
"Told in fragmented, strobe-lighted chapters that depict an assortment of misfits, outsiders & eccentrics, the novel sometimes feels like the TV show “The Office” as rewritten with a magnifying glass by Nicholson Baker."

"In this, his most emotionally immediate work, Wallace is on intimate terms with the difficulty of navigating daily life, & he conjures states of mind with the same sorcery he brings to pictorial description. He conveys the gut deep sadness people experience when “the wing of despair” passes over their lives, & the panic of being a fish “thrashing in the nets” of one’s own obligations, stuck in a miserable job & needing to “cover the monthly nut.”"

"This novel reminds us what a remarkable observer Wallace was — a first-class “noticer,” to use a Saul Bellow term, of the muchness of the world around him, chronicling the overwhelming data and demands that we are pelted with, second by second, minute by minute, and the protean, overstuffed landscape we dwell in."
davidfosterwallace  via:lukeneff  thepaleking  noticing  observation  boredom  boring  boringness  novels  books  2011  michikokakutani  infinitejest 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Paris Review - The Art of Fiction No. 108, William Trevor
"INTERVIEWER: What is your def­i­n­i­tion of a short story?<br />
TREVOR: I think it is the art of the glimpse. If the novel is like an intri­cate Renais­sance paint­ing, the short story is an impres­sion­ist paint­ing. It should be an explo­sion of truth. Its strength lies in what it leaves out just as much as what it puts in, if not more. It is con­cerned with the total exclu­sion of mean­ing­less­ness. Life, on the other hand, is mean­ing­less most of the time. The novel imi­tates life, where the short story is bony, and can­not wan­der. It is essen­tial art."<br />
<br />
[via: http://robinsloan.com/2011/1964 ]
books  writing  williamtrevor  via:robinsloan  fiction  shortstories  novels  art 
march 2011 by robertogreco
Some Came Running: Truffaut/Hitchcock
"The film of tomorrow appears to me as even more personal than an individual and autobiographical novel, like a confession, or a diary. The young filmmakers will express themselves in the first person and will relate what has happened to them; it may be the story of their first love, or their most recent; of their political awakening; the story of a trip, a sickness, their military service, their marriage, their last vacation...and it will be enjoyable because it will be true and new...The film of tomorrow will not be directed by civil servants of the camera, but by artists for whom shooting a film constitutes a wonderful and thrilling adventure. The film of tomorrow will resemble the person who made it, and the number of spectators will be proportional to the number of friends the director has. The film of tomorrow will be an act of love."

—Francois Truffaut, "The Film of Tomorrow WIll Be An Act Of Love," Arts, May 15, 1957…

[via: http://faketv.tumblr.com/post/2909950163/the-film-of-tomorrow-appears-to-me-as-even-more ]
françoistruffaut  film  filmmaking  personal  identity  diaries  confessions  autobiography  storytelling  firstperson  writing  novels  expression  classideas 
january 2011 by robertogreco
Text Patterns: one reader's report [The quote here is from the first comment.]
"I wonder if I do this to high school students sometimes--make them stop and talk about what they are reading so constantly that I create that interrupted, hook-less reading experience. Perhaps if I just let them read the silly book we could then talk about it afterward; perhaps then they'd actually reach the end and have enjoyed the process."
teaching  reading  novels  interruption  flow  pleasure  enjoyment  process  tcsnmy 
september 2010 by robertogreco
Text Patterns: one reader's report [The first comment, from a high school teacher, is a thought I've had many times—does "teaching" a book interrupt the reading process?]
"Rod Dreher…tells a thought-provoking story about the combined effects on a reader, namely him, of (a) an iPad and a (b) sabbatical from blogging: "So, I burrowed in last night to read an hour of [Franzen’s] "Freedom," and ended up staying on the couch for two hours, until I finished the book ... I tried to recall the last time I had finished a novel, or any book (I've always got several going at any given moment). I couldn't. Partly this is because Franzen's novel is such a good read, but I think mostly it's because I was in the habit of stopping whatever I was doing to blog about a compelling insight, or even simply to blog a moving passage of whatever I was reading. It occurred to me this morning that this way of reading worked hard against allowing a narrative to sink its hook into me. I was never able to give myself over completely to the narrative, fictional or non-fictional."
alanjacobs  roddreher  reading  books  blogging  blogsabbaticals  teaching  novels  immersion 
september 2010 by robertogreco
Neal Stephenson and Greg Bear launch first digital 'social book' - News - Digital Arts
"Best-selling authors Neal Stephenson and Greg Bear have launched The Mongoliad, the first digital novel on a so-called social book platform that will allow them to add new elements such as music, video and reader-generated content to the book."

[More at: http://venturebeat.com/2010/08/31/writer-neal-stephenson-unveils-his-digital-novel-the-mongoliad/ ]
via:preoccupations  nealstephenson  gregbear  books  multimedia  ebooks  social  socialbooks  digital  novels  digitalnovels  music  video  readers  reader-generatedcontent  usergenerated  usergeneratedcontent 
september 2010 by robertogreco
The Patrick O'Brian Mapping Project
"To accurately map the progress of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin over the course of the 21 novels by Patrick O'Brian."
classideas  via:migurski  maps  mapping  literature  infographics  history  googlemaps  gis  fiction  books  patrickobrian  jackaubrey  stephenmaturin  novels 
july 2010 by robertogreco
Why the Novel Matters
"Nothing is important but life. & for myself, I can absolutely see life nowhere but in the living. Life with a capital L is only man alive. Even a cabbage in the rain is cabbage alive. All things that are alive are amazing. & all things that are dead are subsidiary to the living. Better a live dog than a dead lion. But better a live lion than a live dog. C'est la vie!"

[Updated 20 May 2012 after a Charlie Loyd reference to the article: http://twitter.com/vruba/status/203976280343973889 ]

"For this reason I am a novelist. And being a novelist, I consider myself superior to the saint, the scientist, the philosopher, and the poet, who are all great masters of different bits of man alive, but never get the whole hog.

The novel is the one bright book of life. Books are not life. They are only tremulations on the ether. But the novel as a tremulation can make the whole man alive tremble. Which is more than poetry, philosophy, science, or any other book-tremulation can do."

"Let us learn from the novel. In the novel, the characters can do nothing but live. If they keep on being good, according to pattern, or bad, according to pattern, or even volatile, according to pattern, they cease to live, and the novel falls dead. A character in a novel has got to live, or it is nothing."

"Let us learn from the novel. In the novel, the characters can do nothing but live. If they keep on being good, according to pattern, or bad, according to pattern, or even volatile, according to pattern, they cease to live, and the novel falls dead. A character in a novel has got to live, or it is nothing.

We, likewise, in life have got to live, or we are nothing.

What we mean by living is, of course, just as indescribable as what we mean by being. Men get ideas into their heads, of what they mean by Life, and they proceed to cut life out to pattern."

"To be alive, to be man alive, to be whole man alive: that is the point. And at its best, the novel, and the novel supremely, can help you. It can help you not to be dead man in life. So much of a man walks about dead and a carcass in the street and house, today: so much of women is merely dead. Like a pianoforte with half the notes mute."
dhlawrence  via:cburell  writing  novels  life  philosophy  importance  literature 
june 2010 by robertogreco
Welcome To The Soft Apocalypse - Books - io9
"By now, the apocalypse story – which goes back at least as far as the ancient Hebrews – has fractured into numerous sub-genres. Our favorite, these days, is the soft apocalypse, where the end has come but life goes on." Also: http://www.tor.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=blog&id=58054 AND http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2009/nov/25/cosy-catastrophe-fiction AND http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/2010/01/the-soft-apocalypse-genre/
scifi  2010  apocalypse  catastrophe  softapocalypse  dystopia  books  novels  sciencefiction  io9 
february 2010 by robertogreco
Rainbows End - Wikipedia
"2006 science fiction novel by Vernor Vinge. It was awarded the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Novel.[1] The book is set in San Diego, California, in 2025 ... The novel introduces us to Robert Gu, a man slowly recovering from Alzheimer's disease thanks to advances in medical technology. As his faculties return, Robert (who always has been slightly technophobic) must adapt to a very different world, where almost every object is networked and mediated-reality technology is commonplace. Robert, formerly a world-renowned poet but with a notoriously mean-spirited personality, must also learn how to change and how to rebuild relationships with his estranged family. At the same time, Robert and his granddaughter Miri are drawn into a complex plot involving a traitorous intelligence officer, an intellect of frightening (and possibly superhuman) competence hiding behind an avatar of an anthropomorphic rabbit, and ominous new mind control technology with profound implications."
sandiego  vernorvinge  tcsnmy  sciencefiction  scifi  reading  novels  via:robinsloan  literature  books 
january 2010 by robertogreco
Robin writes a book (and you get a copy) » The schedule (and some notes on writing) — Kickstarter [see also: http://snarkmarket.com/2009/4044]
"Now, a few notes on writing. ... Long is not a bigger version of short.: So if a short story poses challenges X, Y, and Z, then Annabel Scheme would pose challenges 10X, 10Y, and 10Z, right? Nope. Instead it posed challenges X, Y, and Z... and A, B, and C... and Q6, K(ii), and so on. Totally new challenges. Problems I'd never faced before. ... Writing in your underwear.: I totally aspire to wacky writerly habits; I do not have any yet. ... The risky rewrite.: There's no reason to fear the rewrite. And that's why I like writing better than, say, moviemaking. Even in the endgame, the story stays flexible. Words are cheap! If I want to get rid of that giant robot blimp and replace it with an armada of squid-ships, it takes five minutes. Let's see ILM do that. ... The secret balance: There's a balance, I discovered, between sharing the fun of the process and preserving the fun of the finished product.."
nicholsonbaker  robinsloan  writing  practice  howwework  process  howto  novels  novellas  fiction  experience  tcsnmy 
november 2009 by robertogreco
Orhan Pamuk's 'Museum' Of Obsession, Innocence : NPR
"Pamuk began collecting the objects that his protagonist Kemal would save before he even began writing the novel. And, in an unusual instance of literature melding into real life, he plans to display those objects in an actual "Museum of Innocence," which he hopes to open in Istanbul in July 2010. The idea for the museum came, in part, from the author's visits to small collections around the world. Pamuk says he's always been attracted to small museums and the "melancholy" that seems to permeate them."
orhanpamuk  literature  museums  melancholy  multimedia  novels 
october 2009 by robertogreco
notes.husk.org. Movies, even those that run nearly 3 hours long,....
“Movies, even those that run nearly 3 hours long, are more like short stories than novels, and TV shows, with the space for digression and intricate plots twists, are more like novels. But in a perverse irony, movies and TV shows have the reverse prestige of short stories and novels, and so the temptation is to take higher prestige novels and turn them into movies.”
film  tv  novels  movies  writing  literature  via:preoccupations 
july 2009 by robertogreco
Pinkwater's EDUCATION OF ROBERT NIFKIN: zany and inspiring tale of taking charge of your own education - Boing Boing
"The first half of Robert Nifkin is your everyday Pinkwater: convulsively funny, zany, biting. There's plenty of biting, zany and funny in the second half, too, but what distinguishes it is the slow, delightful realization on Nifkin's part that learning -- especially eclectic, self-directed learning undertaken with your peers and with engaged teachers -- is incredibly fun.

This section sings. It vividly recalls my own alternative school history, which consisted of a fairly long period of horsing around and goofing off, followed by an equally long period of dedicated, intense, serious study inspired by all the exciting things I learned by horsing around."
danielpinkwater  novels  books  corydoctorow  reviews  unschooling  deschooling  homeschool  alternative  education  tcsnmy  learning  geek  nerd  passion  lcproject  self-directedlearning  self-directed  autodidacts 
may 2009 by robertogreco
BBC NEWS | Technology | Bruce Sterling - Prophet and loss
"he is worried that his novel-writing days may soon be at an end. "I am not sure I am going to be allowed to do it. American publishing is in distress. The book stores are going, the big centralised publishers are very heavily indebted and they are small sections of the centralised American media apparatus that have lost social credibility." He adds: "People don't pay attention to novels. The socially important parts of American communication are not taking part in novels. You can write them but they are not changing public discourse. "You can also say that everybody in society has moved up a notch and everybody just wants the executive summary.""
via:preoccupations  brucesterling  sciencefiction  writing  future  books  novels  literature  literacy  change  attention  technology  culture  internet  narrative 
march 2009 by robertogreco
textually.org: A mobile phone novel read via a T-shirt
"The Manga Man, Alexander Besher's new sci-fi book is available to read online for free and according to New Scientist, it's not just a traditional print novel, but comes with a swathe of pictures, video and audio.
qrcodes  novels  ebooks  online  mobile  phones  scifi  sciencefiction  toread 
november 2008 by robertogreco
Art MoCo: Boring boring boring boring boring boring boring
"Boring boring boring boring boring boring boring by Zach Plague is anything but. This first novel is a fanstastic satire of youth in the art world that spoofs artists, art schools, collectors, gallerists, art terrorists and just about everyone else. In addition to being a good read into the world of 19 year olds with attitude to spare, Boring Boring is a visual treat. The typography and graphic design are an integral part of the plot."
books  art  via:regine  education  artschools  satire  novels  literature  unschooling  deschooling  artschool 
august 2008 by robertogreco
William Gibson Interview: William Gibson Talks to io9 About Canada, Draft Dodging, and Godzilla
"Having that experience in a small town made me happiest in big cities. Especially in radically multicultural big cities – as far as you can get from monoculture....where people are generally not even of recognizable ethic derivations. I'm into hybrid v
scifi  books  writing  interviews  williamgibson  cities  dystopia  cyberpunk  fiction  canada  history  literature  novels  privacy  sciencefiction 
june 2008 by robertogreco
The Invention of Hugo Cabret - Diary of a Wimpy Kid -- New York Magazine Book Review
"As barriers to the acceptance of mainstream graphic storytelling are falling, two writers—Brian Selznick, author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and Jeff Kinney, creator of the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series—have seized on the shift in young peop
books  comics  reading  children  teens  youth  graphics  novels  graphicnovels  illustration  manga  trends 
april 2008 by robertogreco
Must Read: The Twenty Science Fiction Novels that Will Change Your Life
"Whether it's because they've altered the course of science fiction writing, or simply provide a genuinely alien perspective on ordinary life, these are novels that will rearrange how you think. Check out our list below."
scifi  sciencefiction  books  lists  reading  novels  literature 
march 2008 by robertogreco
Wild Things All Over - 2/4/2008 - Publishers Weekly
"screenplay by Spike Jonze & Dave Eggers...consulted with Sendak...film will carry blockbuster of a tie-in— a solo novel, written by Eggers (working title: The Wild Things) inspired by Sendak's iconic tale, to be published by Ecco Press."
daveeggers  spikejonze  mauricesendak  film  books  novels  children  literature 
february 2008 by robertogreco
Thumbs Race as Japan’s Best Sellers Go Cellular - New York Times
"Whatever their literary talents, cellphone novelists are racking up the kind of sales that most more experienced, traditional novelists can only dream of."
japan  mobile  phones  books  novels  future  screen  publishing  marketing  data 
january 2008 by robertogreco
event mechanics » Blog Archive » The Patron Saint of Eels
"Gregory Day’s The Patron Saint of Eels is a work of magical realism written as a modern fable that produces a problematic of migration and change. See reviews from The Age and transcript of a discussion with the author."
books  literature  magicrealism  toread  novels 
december 2007 by robertogreco
Guimarães Rosa
"Não nasci para isso, penso. Não é esta, digo como dizia Don Juan, sempre 'après avoir couché avec...’ Primeiramente, repugna-me qualquer trabalho material só posso agir satisfeito no terreno das teorias, dos textos, do raciocínio puro, dos subjetivismos. Sou um jogador de xadrez nunca pude, por exemplo, com o bilhar ou com o futebol."

[Update: 19 July 2010: Looks like this page is dead, try: http://www.releituras.com/guimarosa_bio_imp.asp OR http://www.revistasagarana.com.br/revista31/sertaodasgerais.htm ]
guimarãesrosa  brasil  literature  novels  books  joãoguimarãesrosa  brazil 
october 2007 by robertogreco
The Devil to Pay in the Backlands - Wikipedia
"Most of the book's spirit is however lost in translation, as the Portuguese original is written in a register that is both archaic and colloquial, making it a very difficult book to translate. The combination of its size, linguistic oddness and polemic themes caused a shock when it was published, but now it is considered one of the most important novels of South American literature."
guimarãesrosa  brasil  literature  novels  books  joãoguimarãesrosa  brazil 
october 2007 by robertogreco
For cartoon-college grads, future is hard to sketch | csmonitor.com
"The first class to graduate is looking to break into the fast-growing world of graphic novels and comics."
comics  cartoons  graphics  novels  education  schools  colleges  universities  jobs 
may 2007 by robertogreco
Locus Online Features: Cory Doctorow: You <i>Do</i> Like Reading Off a Computer Screen
"A super-sharp, super-portable screen would be used to read all day long, but most of us won't spend most of our time reading anything recognizable as a book on them."
attention  books  novels  computers  copyright  technology  culture  fiction  future  futurism  interface  internet  literature  media  writing  web  reading  publishing  multitasking  ebooks 
march 2007 by robertogreco
Bibliographies - Books - Report - New York Times
"But some novelists defend the bibliography, pointing out that for writers who spend months or years doing research for historical novels, a list of sources is proof of labor and expertise. And it may protect them from accusations of sloppy sourcing in a
writing  literature  novels  plagiarism  bibliography 
december 2006 by robertogreco
Wired News: Picture This: A Novel Approach
"My students are used to reading documents made up of words and images, sound files and movies. They aren't disturbed when these elements bleed into each other -- when words use visual devices to enhance what they're communicating, when images are made up
criticism  literature  reading  education  learning  graphics  novels  comics  illustration  fiction 
november 2006 by robertogreco

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