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Birds Art Life - Kyo Maclear
"In Birds Art Life, writer Kyo Maclear embarks on a yearlong, big city adventure chasing after birds, and along the way offers a luminous meditation on the nature of creativity and the quest for a good and meaningful life.

For Vladimir Nabokov, it was butterflies. For John Cage, it was mushrooms. For Sylvia Plath, it was bees. Each of these artists took time away from their work to become observers of natural phenomena. In 2012, Kyo Maclear met a local Toronto musician with an equally captivating side passion—he had recently lost his heart to birds. Curious about what prompted this young urban artist to suddenly embrace nature, Kyo decides to follow him for a year and find out.

Birds Art Life explores the particular madness of loving and chasing after birds in a big city. Intimate and philosophical, moving with ease between the granular and the grand view, it celebrates the creative and liberating effects of keeping your eyes and ears wide open, and explores what happens when you apply the core lessons of birding to other aspects of life. On a deeper level, it takes up the questions of how we are shaped and nurtured by our parallel passions, and how we might come to cherish not only the world’s pristine natural places but also the blemished urban spaces where most of us live."
books  toread  kyomaclear  2018  birds  birding  nture  life  creativity  writing  art  urban  cities  observation  wildlife  animals  multispecies  morethanhuman  vladimirnabokov  johncage  butterflies  mushrooms 
june 2018 by robertogreco
What To Read When You Want To Make America Great Again - The Rumpus.net
"Next Tuesday, we celebrate our country. A country that seems to be imploding with every passing presidential tweet. A country that has failed to care for the most vulnerable while those in power grow richer. Celebrating the Fourth this year feels a bit like going out for dinner with a cheating spouse.

But it’s important to remember that America is not our leaders, America is us. In that vein, here are some books that help remind us what actually makes America great (hint: it’s not tax cuts). Some of these books are problematic; others contain racism (looking at you Ma and Pa Ingalls); still more are jubilant, triumphant, and full of hope. But each highlights a real aspect of America, good or bad, and hopefully can remind us that what makes America great are the voices of the people who call this messy place home.

***

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov:
As Rumpus Senior Features Editor Julie Greicius pointed out, “Lolita, oddly enough, is a brilliant foreigner’s felonious road trip across America, with Lolita herself as metaphor of a country too young to understand what crime is being committed against her.”

The Federalist Papers by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
A collection of eight-five articles and essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay promoting the ratification of the United States Constitution. Go check out what two of our Founding Fathers hoped America might be.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The American dream, sans happy ending. So, real life?

Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
A Newbery Medal-winning book about racism in America during the Great Depression. Taylor explores life in southern Mississippi, when racism was still common in the South and many were persecuted for the color of their skin.

Citizen by Claudia Rankine
Rankine recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person’s ability to speak, perform, and stay alive. Our addressability is tied to the state of our belonging, Rankine argues, as are our assumptions and expectations of citizenship. In essay, image, and poetry, Citizen is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named “post-race” society.

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez
Uprooted from their family home in the Dominican Republic, the four Garcia sisters arrive in New York City in 1960 to find a life far different from the genteel existence of maids, manicures, and extended family they left behind. What they have lost—and what they find—is revealed in fifteen interconnected stories that span over thirty years.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Told in a series of vignettes—sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous—this is the story of a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become.

Snopes: A Trilogy by William Faulkner
A saga that stands as perhaps the greatest feat of Faulkner’s imagination. “For all his concerns with the South, Faulkner was actually seeking out the nature of man,” noted Ralph Ellison. “Thus we must turn to him for that continuity of moral purpose which made for the greatness of our classics.”

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
A series of American children’s novels written by Laura Ingalls Wilder based on her childhood in the northern Midwestern United States during the 1870s and 1880s. Eight were completed by Wilder, and published by Harper & Brothers from 1932 and 1943. The first draft of a ninth novel was published posthumously in 1971 and is commonly included in the Little House series.

The Boy Kings of Texas by Domingo Martinez
Lyrical and gritty, this authentic coming-of-age story about a border-town family in Brownsville, Texas insightfully illuminates a little-understood corner of America.

Native Guard by Natasha Tretheway
Through elegiac verse that honors her mother and tells of her own fraught childhood, Trethewey confronts the racial legacy of her native Deep South, where one of the first black regiments, the Louisiana Native Guards, was called into service during the Civil War. Trethewey’s resonant and beguiling collection is a haunting conversation between personal experience and national history.

The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henríquez
Peopled with deeply sympathetic characters, this poignant yet unsentimental tale of young love tells a riveting story of unflinching honesty and humanity that offers a resonant new definition of what it means to be an American

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
The Fire Next Time galvanized the nation and gave passionate voice to the emerging civil rights movement. At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin’s early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document. It consists of two “letters,” written on the occasion of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, that exhort Americans, both black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism.

The Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson
This authoritative volume makes sense of that vast and confusing “second American Revolution” we call the Civil War, a war that transformed a nation and expanded our heritage of liberty.

Bear, Diamonds and Crane by Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan
In this collection, personal narratives take their place alongside group stories, “the wound” that “resists erasure and cultural amnesia. […] the image of barbed wire.” Kageyama-Ramakrishnan reflects on the life of her grandmother, who “acquiesced on impulse” to marry and move to the United States on the U.S.S. Jackson as well as on stories from Manzanar, the concentration camp where Japanese Americans were interned during World War II.

Poeta en San Francisco by Barbara Jane Reyes
Poeta en San Francisco incorporates English, Spanish, and Tagalog in a book-length poem at once lush and experimentally rigorous. From the vantage of San Francisco, Reyes looks outward to the Philippines, Vietnam, and other colonized places with violent histories.

Thomas and Beluah by Rita Dove
Winner of the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for poetry, Thomas and Beulah tells the semi-fictionalized chronological story of Dove’s maternal grandparents, the focus being on her grandfather (Thomas, his name in the book as well as in real life) in the first half and her grandmother (named Beulah in the book, although her real name was Georgianna) in the second.

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
A compulsively readable debut novel about marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream—the unforgettable story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy."
books  booklists  us  history  society  via:anne  americanexperience  2017  immigration  assimilation  race  class  americandream  vladimirnabokov  jamesmadison  alexanderhamilton  johnjay  chimamandangoziadichie  fscottfitzgerald  mildredtaylor  claudiarankine  julialavarez  sandracisneros  williamfaulkner  laurauingallswilder  domingomartinez  natashatretheway  christinahernandez  jamesbaldwin  jamesmcpherson  clairekageyama-ramakrishnan  barbarajanereyes  ritadove  imbolombue  diversity 
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
Men Explain Lolita to Me | Literary Hub
"I had never said that we shouldn’t read Lolita. I’ve read it more than once. I joked that there should be a list of books no woman should read, because quite a few lionized books are rather nasty about my gender, but I’d also said “of course I believe everyone should read anything they want. I just think some books are instructions on why women are dirt or hardly exist at all except as accessories or are inherently evil and empty.” And then I’d had fun throwing out some opinions about books and writers. But I was serious about this. You read enough books in which people like you are disposable, or are dirt, or are silent, absent, or worthless, and it makes an impact on you. Because art makes the world, because it matters, because it makes us. Or breaks us."
rebeccasolnit  feminism  books  literature  mansplaining  anitifeminism  lolita  vladimirnabokov  2015  art  worldmaking 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Why Walking Helps Us Think - The New Yorker
"In Vogue’s 1969 Christmas issue, Vladimir Nabokov offered some advice for teaching James Joyce’s “Ulysses”: “Instead of perpetuating the pretentious nonsense of Homeric, chromatic, and visceral chapter headings, instructors should prepare maps of Dublin with Bloom’s and Stephen’s intertwining itineraries clearly traced.” He drew a charming one himself. Several decades later, a Boston College English professor named Joseph Nugent and his colleagues put together an annotated Google map that shadows Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom step by step. The Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, as well as students at the Georgia Institute of Technology, have similarly reconstructed the paths of the London amblers in “Mrs. Dalloway.”"



"What is it about walking, in particular, that makes it so amenable to thinking and writing? The answer begins with changes to our chemistry. When we go for a walk, the heart pumps faster, circulating more blood and oxygen not just to the muscles but to all the organs—including the brain. Many experiments have shown that after or during exercise, even very mild exertion, people perform better on tests of memory and attention. Walking on a regular basis also promotes new connections between brain cells, staves off the usual withering of brain tissue that comes with age, increases the volume of the hippocampus (a brain region crucial for memory), and elevates levels of molecules that both stimulate the growth of new neurons and transmit messages between them.

The way we move our bodies further changes the nature of our thoughts, and vice versa. Psychologists who specialize in exercise music have quantified what many of us already know: listening to songs with high tempos motivates us to run faster, and the swifter we move, the quicker we prefer our music. Likewise, when drivers hear loud, fast music, they unconsciously step a bit harder on the gas pedal. Walking at our own pace creates an unadulterated feedback loop between the rhythm of our bodies and our mental state that we cannot experience as easily when we’re jogging at the gym, steering a car, biking, or during any other kind of locomotion. When we stroll, the pace of our feet naturally vacillates with our moods and the cadence of our inner speech; at the same time, we can actively change the pace of our thoughts by deliberately walking more briskly or by slowing down.

Because we don’t have to devote much conscious effort to the act of walking, our attention is free to wander—to overlay the world before us with a parade of images from the mind’s theatre. This is precisely the kind of mental state that studies have linked to innovative ideas and strokes of insight. Earlier this year, Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz of Stanford published what is likely the first set of studies that directly measure the way walking changes creativity in the moment. They got the idea for the studies while on a walk. “My doctoral advisor had the habit of going for walks with his students to brainstorm,” Oppezzo says of Schwartz. “One day we got kind of meta.”"



"Perhaps the most profound relationship between walking, thinking, and writing reveals itself at the end of a stroll, back at the desk. There, it becomes apparent that writing and walking are extremely similar feats, equal parts physical and mental. When we choose a path through a city or forest, our brain must survey the surrounding environment, construct a mental map of the world, settle on a way forward, and translate that plan into a series of footsteps. Likewise, writing forces the brain to review its own landscape, plot a course through that mental terrain, and transcribe the resulting trail of thoughts by guiding the hands. Walking organizes the world around us; writing organizes our thoughts. Ultimately, maps like the one that Nabokov drew are recursive: they are maps of maps."
walking  solviturambulando  exercise  creativity  life  ulysses  jamesjoyce  maps  mapping  vladimirnabokov  psychology  physiology  thinking  marilyoppezzo  danielschwartz  marcberman  memory  attention  urban  urbanism  stephendedalus  leopoldbloom  virginiawoolf  adamgopnik  mrsgalloway  thoreau  thomasdequincey  williamwordsworth 
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
BBC News - The slow death of purposeless walking
"A number of recent books have lauded the connection between walking - just for its own sake - and thinking. But are people losing their love of the purposeless walk?"
walking  thinking  2014  flaneur  wandering  charlesdickens  georgeorwell  patrickleigh  constantinbrancusi  thoreau  thomasdequincey  nassimtaleb  nietzsche  brucechatwin  wgebald  johnfrancis  fredericgros  geoffnicholson  merlincoverley  observation  attention  mindfulness  rebeccasolnit  finlorohrer  vladimirnabokov 
may 2014 by robertogreco
The Electronic Labyrinth Home Page
"The Electronic Labyrinth is a study of the implications of hypertext for creative writers looking to move beyond traditional notions of linearity.

Our project evaluates hypertext and its potential for use by literary artists in three ways:

1. By placing the development of hypertext in the context of the literary tradition of non-linear approaches to narrative. This context provides a means of re-evaluating the concept of the book in the age of electronic text. Specific points of investigation include Cortázar's Hopscotch, Nabokov's Pale Fire, Pavic's Dictionary of the Khazars, and Sterne's Tristram Shandy.

2. By investigating literary works created specifically for computerized hypertext. These include Joyce's Afternoon, A Story, McDaid's Uncle Buddy's Phantom Funhouse, and Wilmott's Everglade.

3. By evaluating the hardware platforms and software environments available to writers. Criteria include ease of use, availability, methods of distribution and publication, and the tools available to the writer and reader. Our emphasis is placed on the assumptions each environment makes of the writing and reading processes, the metaphors reinforced by the environment, and the freedom allowed the writer to explore new forms. We have focused on IBM-compatible and Apple hardware platforms, and reviewed such software as Eastgate System's Storyspace, Claris' HyperCard, IBM's Linkway, and Ntergaid's Hyperwriter."
via:litherland  1993  christopherkeep  timmclaughlin  robinparmar  storyspace  linkway  hyperwriter  hypercard  jamesjoyce  hypertext  bookfuturism  ebooks  books  publishing  nonlinear  narrative  rayuela  juliocortázar  vladimirnabokov  electroniclabyrinth  non-linear  alinear  linearity 
december 2013 by robertogreco
the tyranny of House Style - Text Patterns - The New Atlantis
I am terribly troubled by the ever-growing tendency to standardized and prescriptive usage, and I think that the Twentieth century, American-invented conventions of House Rules and House Style, to say nothing of automatic computer functions like Spellcheck and AutoCorrect, have exacted an abrasive, narrowing, and destructive effect on the way writers use language and ultimately on the language itself. Journalism and newspaper writing are one thing; House Style indubitably very valuable there; but as a literary novelist who writes by hand, in a notebook, I want to be able to use language for texture and I've intentionally employed a looser, pre-twentieth century model rather than running my work through any one House Style mill.

When Pietsch reads this to Tartt, who had perhaps forgotten the details of her memo, she replies by expanding on the point:
Well—I'm not saying that the writer's voice is always the highest standard; only that a lot of writers who are fine stylists and whose work I love wouldn't make it past a contemporary copy editor armed with the Chicago Manual, including some of the greatest writers and stylists of the 19th and 20th century. It's not as if we're the French, with the Academy, striving to keep the language pure—fine to correct honest mistakes, but quite apart from questions of punctuation and grammar—of using punctuation and grammar for cadence—English is such a powerful and widely spoken language precisely because it's so flexible, and capacious: a catchall hybrid that absorbs and incorporates everything it comes into contact with. Lexical variety, eccentric constructions and punctuation, variant spellings, archaisms, the ability to pile clause on clause, the effortless incorporation of words from other languages: flexibility, and inclusiveness, is what makes English great; and diversity is what keeps it healthy and growing, exuberantly regenerating itself with rich new forms and usages. Shakespearean words, foreign words, slang and dialect and made-up phrases from kids on the street corner: English has room for them all. And writers—not just literary writers, but popular writers as well—breathe air into English and keep it lively by making it their own, not by adhering to some style manual that gets handed out to college Freshmen in a composition class.

"This is great stuff. I'm reminded of one of Nabokov's letters in which he mentions replying to a bunch of copy-editor corrections with "thunderous stets." As someone with neither the virtuosity nor the titanic ego of Nabokov, I am largely thankful for the work of copy editors, who have saved me from many gross errors over the years — but the tyranny of House Style is a major pain in the ass for any stylistically sensitive writer, because there's no clear avenue of appeal when it's invoked: the editor isn't saying "this is better" but rather "this is just what we do." And you never know — or at any rate I have never been able to figure out — when an editor will give way to authorial passion and/or reason and when he or she will dig in the old heels.

I sometimes wonder whether these inevitable conflicts between editors and writers aren't becoming more intense as more and more writers are blogging and tweeting, that is, writing wholly without editorial supervision. The Wild West of online writing may even cause editors to want all the more to hold firmly to Standards. But when a writer has the skill and thoughtfulness, and experience, of a Donna Tartt, then she deserves to trump House Style. As I expect she does."
alanjacobs  standards  english  standardization  language  michaelpietsch  donnatartt  vladimirnabokov  copyediting  housestyle  writing  style 
november 2013 by robertogreco
Meta is Murder. Writing and lesser things by Mills Baker. Look at the masterpiece, and not at the frame —....
Look at the masterpiece, and not at the frame — and not at the faces of other people looking at the frame.

"Vladimir Nabokov in his lectures on Russian literature, opposing the primary type of academic and popular criticism: what we might call the demographic-reactive type. The overwhelming majority of opinion derives less from any internal response to a work of art (or political idea or cultural trend) than from what sorts of reactions we imagine on other faces looking at the frame, as it were.

If we’re observant, we see that when we encounter something we have often hardly finished perceiving it when we begin to imagine how others might react, and how still others would react to that reaction, and only at last do we begin to react according to our own demographic allegiances or resentments. We carry our friends, but still more our enemies, with us in every judgment."
millsbaker  judgement  bias  criticism  2013  trends  self  allegiances  reactions  internet  opinions  opinion  frame  framing  selfhood  theself  performance  witoldgombrowicz  vladimirnabokov  swarming  flocking  hivemind 
march 2013 by robertogreco
I’m just a working-class guy trying to take part in the conversation that all the smart people are having. What books should I read?
QUESTION (in part):

"I’m just a working-class guy trying to take part in the conversation that all the smart people are having. This brings me to my question: What books should I read? There are so many books out there worth reading, that I literally don’t know where to start."

ANSWER (in parts):

"We’re not on a ladder here. We’re on a web. Right now you’re experiencing a desire to become more aware of and sensitive to its other strands. That feeling you’re having is culture. Whatever feeds that, go with it. And never forget that well-educated people pretend to know on average at least two-thirds more books than they’ve actually read."

"Come up with a system of note-taking that you can use in your reading. It’s okay if it evolves. You can write in the margins, or keep a reading notebook (my preference) where you transcribe passages you like, with your own observations, and mark down the names of other, unfamiliar writers, books you’ve seen mentioned (Guy D. alone will give you a notebook full of these). Follow those notes to decide your next reading. That’s how you’ll create your own interior library. Now do that for the rest of your life and die knowing you’re still massively ignorant. (I wouldn’t trade it!)"

"Ignore all of this and read the next cool-looking book you see lying around. It’s not the where-you-start so much as the that-you-don’t-stop."

SEE ALSO: the books recommended

[Orginal is here: http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2012/08/31/dear-paris-review-john-jeremiah-sullivan-answers-your-questions/ ]
books  reading  literacy  2013  advice  learning  lifelonglearning  canon  wisdom  ignorance  readinglists  lists  recommendations  curiosity  booklists  notetaking  notes  observations  education  religion  libraries  truth  howilearnedtoread  readingnotebooks  notebooks  howwelearn  culturalliteracy  culture  hierarchy  hierarchies  snobbery  class  learningnetworks  oldtimelearningnetworks  webs  cv  howweread  borges  film  movies  guydavenport  huntergracchus  myántonia  willacather  isakdinesen  maximiliannovak  robertpennwarren  edithwharton  denisjohnson  alberterskine  karloveknausgaard  jamesjoyce  hughkenner  richardellmann  stephengreenblatt  harukimurakami  shakespeare  vladimirnabokov 
march 2013 by robertogreco
The Syllabi: Researching Synesthesia
"The cause of synesthesia is still subject to research, but it’s generally believed to be the result of a genetic mutation on the X chromosome, explaining its dominance in woman and high heritability. Some researchers think its heritability could suggest an evolutionary benefit. Sickle cell anemia, for example, can be deadly, but also provides malaria immunity. Does synesthesia provide a similar benefit?

It might if you’re a mathmetician or an artist. One of the peculiarities of some forms of synesthesia is that equations are visualised in 3D space, which might help someone like physicist Richard Feynmann, another famous synesthete, with his work. David Hockney, also a synesthete, once told Robert Burton that when he was designing a piece of art intended to accompany a production of a Maurice Ravel piece, he listened to the relevant section of the score and “the tree painted itself.” It’s also been suggested that savants like Daniel Tammett get their incredible skills from…"
vladimirnabokov  danieltammett  davidhockney  vsramachandran  davideagleman  neuroscience  synesthesia  2012  richardfeynman 
february 2012 by robertogreco
Skip The Legalese And Keep It Short, Justices Say : NPR
"All of the justices talk about "legalese" in disparaging terms…many refer to great fiction writers as masters of language.

"The only good way to learn about writing is to read good writing," says Chief Justice John Roberts.

That sentiment is echoed by Breyer, who points to Proust, Stendhal & Montesquieu as his inspirations. Justice Anthony Kennedy loves Hemingway, Shakespeare, Solzhenitsyn, Dickens & Trollope.

Justice Thomas says a good legal brief reminds him of the TV show 24. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says one of the great influences on her writing was her European literature professor at Cornell, Vladimir Nabokov…

Many of the justices admit to linguistic pet peeves. Kennedy hates adverbs & disdains nouns that are converted to verbs — "incentivize," for example. Scalia readily admits to being a snoot.

"Snoots are those who are nitpickers for the mot juste, for using a word precisely the way it should be used, not dulling it by misuse. I'm a snoot."…"
writing  law  legalese  supremecourt  2011  literature  classideas  editing  rewriting  shakespeare  hemingway  montesquieu  proust  stendhal  charlesdickens  trollope  vladmirnavakov  antoninscalia  ruthbaderginsburg  johnroberts  clarencethomas  language  geechee  vladimirnabokov  marcelproust 
june 2011 by robertogreco
Caterina.net: Participatory media and why I love it (and must defend it)
"I love participatory media, collective knowledge systems, user-generated content and the like, and spent much of my life and career participating in them and making them. As I say in this post from 2005, the internet is built on a culture of generosity -- the first web page I built was when I noticed there was no page on Nabokov and realized I could just make one. Amazing! And it dawned on me that every other page on the web -- this was 1994 -- had come about for the same reason. Then the dotcom thing happened. And then Web 2.0 brought us back to the web's roots -- communication and contribution. That is why I love participatory media and must defend it."
caterinafake  jaronlanier  participatory  web2.0  communication  crowdsourcing  del.icio.us  tumblr  flickr  twitter  facebook  hunch  wikipedia  amateur  amateurism  collectiveintelligence  participatoryculture  culture  internet  social  media  collaboration  vladimirnabokov 
january 2010 by robertogreco

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