Monday, August 30, 2004

Latin for hot pants?

In an effort to get with the times, the Vatican "has helpfully produced a new lexicon of modern words in Latin, providing translations for such non-classical terms as playboy, hot pants, nightclub and Merlot. The lexicon, which has just been launched, is intended to provide updated vocabulary for theologians writing in Latin about current issues." - from today's Telegraph.
a Booker blog

Just can't get enough info about the Booker Prize? Here's a daily blog with more than you'll care to read.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

The NYTimes reviews Mitchell's Cloud Atlas.
Booker long list is out

The puff of smoke has emerged from the locked room and the long list of Booker Prize contenders is out. Happily, both of my own choices for the prize are present, David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas and Alan Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty. Neither of these is a big surprise, and the Guardian seems to be behind them as well. My unfamiliarity with most of the entries each year makes this a contest I watch not for the horserace itself, but for the pleasure of watching such passion exhibited over a choice of novels. I can only long for a situation here in the states where the press and at least part of the public picks up the flag for their favorite and shows such enthusiasm or digust over a simple literature award.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

bookseller Bernard Breslauer dies

Breslauer, 86, was a collector and dealer of manuscript illumination and early European bookbindings. Read more in the NYTimes obit.

Friday, August 20, 2004

a grand mismeasure of the reading life

The new University of Wisconsin-Whitewater study of the most literate cities with the highest level of "book-ish behavior" (people acting like books?) is now out. It is a serious load of crap, which tries to measure how cities "cultivate literate, bookish behavior in its citizenry." While the leading cities are indeed worthy of some commendation for effort, the survey manages to rank America's most literary city, New York, 49th.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

site of the week - Invisible Library

Invisible Library is the work of one Brian Quinette, who has been compiling a list of books which do not exist, except in the pages of other books. It's an ongoing project, so suggestions and corrections are welcomed. The site also includes a description of the Fortsas Auction, a 19th century bibliohoax, itself composed of an 'invisible library'.

Nest issue no. 1 Posted by Hello
Nest magazine calls it quits

Nest founder Joseph Holtzman explains his decision to end publication of his singularly individualistic design mag Nest. Nest has been the one truly exciting periodical devoted to architecture and interior design in an aisle full of magazines nothing more than glorified Sears catalogues. Holtzman's contention that an igloo, an outhouse, a prison room or a fashionable Parisian apartment have equal relevance as shelter inspirations. A personal favorite - a retirement cottage for designed for the punk band Crass from issue no. 21.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Voynich manuscript a hoax?

A British scientists claims the undeciphered text may be unsolvable after all, and points to a known fraudster as its potential author.

Monday, August 16, 2004

the odorous origins of the Olympics

In his Guardian review of Nigel Spivey's The Ancient Olympics: War Minus the Shooting, Oliver Taplin remembers the mythical roots of the Olympics. "It is ironically appropriate that the mythical stables (or rather farmyards) of Augeas were situated on the future site of the sanctuary of Zeus at Olympia. The story was that Augeas never used to clean out the stinking, insalubrious dungyards of his huge cattle herds; eventually Hercules turned up and diverted the local river to wash out the accumula tions of slurry. While he was at it, he inaugurated the Olympic Festival, at least according to one of several founding myths. Ironically appropriate because there is probably no tradition derived from ancient Greece that has become so clogged and contaminated by ideological dung, self-interested nationalist ordure, and bogus sanitising as the modern Olympics."
NYTimes on Ngugi

A longer profile of Kenyan novelist and playwright Ngugi wa Thiongo, following the earlier report of his attack in Nairobi.
on the immoral novel

Three questions (only) for critic James Woods.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Czeslaw Milosz dead at 93

Nobel Prize winning poet Czeslaw Milosz passed today in Krakow, Poland. Milosz, whose books were in banned in his native Poland in 1946, fled Poland for asylum in France in 1951. His crusade against those who would seek to silence the human spirit was tireless.

You Whose Name

You whose name is aggressor and devourer.
Putrid and sultry, in fermentation.
You mash into pulp sages and prophets,
Criminals and heroes, indifferently.
My vocativus is useless.
You do not hear me, though I address you,
Yet I want to speak, for I am against you.
So what if you gulp me, I am not yours.
You overcome me with exhaustion and fever.
You blur my thought, which protests,
You roll over me, dull unconscious power.
The one who will overcome you is swift, armed:
Mind, spirit, maker, renewer.
He jousts with you in depths and on high,
Equestrian, winged, lofty, silver-scaled.
I have served him in the investiture of forms.
It's not my concern what he will do with me.
A retinue advances in the sunlight by the lakes.
From white villages Easter bells resound.

Czeslaw Milosz

Friday, August 13, 2004

Julia Child

The news has just crawled across the screen that Julia Child has passed. Think I'll go have an omelet and a glass of beaujolais in her honor.
Ted Kooser selected new Poet Laureate of the US

Ted Kooser has been selected to replace Louis Gluck as the Poet Laureate of the US.

Of the new choice, Librarian of Congress James Billington said, "Ted Kooser is a major poetic voice for rural and small town America and the first poet laureate chosen from the Great Plains. His verse reaches beyond his native region to touch on universal themes in accessible ways."
Ngugi attacked in Kenya

Ngugi wa Thiongo, Kenyan novelist and playwright was attacked upon his return to Kenya after 22 years of exile. Nigugi has been a persistent voice of anti-imperialism throughout his career, as well as a critic of the brutalism which has enveloped African life in the wake of colonialism.

"Literature does not grow or even develop in a vacuum, it is given impetus, shape, direction and even area of concern by social, political and economic forces in a particular society. The relationship between creative literature and these other forces cannot be ignored, especially in Africa, where modern literature has grown against the gory background of European imperialism and its changing manifestations: slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism. Our culture over the last hundred years has developed against the same stunting dwarfing background." (Homecoming, quoted in Cook and Okenimkpe, 19)

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

what does 'lost' mean anyway?

While the rediscovery of a lost short story of Virginia Woolf has generated some excitement, a previously lost Virginia Woolf notebook has been known for a bit more than a year and has gone more or less unmentioned in the press. The problem with the enthusiasm for the new short story, is that it was never really 'lost'. It had been published in Good Housekeeping in the early 1930's. It had, however, failed to be republished and thus offered an opportunity for some new hype. Nothing wrong with that - just a misuse of the term 'lost'.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

a Phillip Larkin trove

A previously unknown cache of unpublished Philip Larkin material has been uncovered in his home town of Hull. It includes nearly 250 unknown poems.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Goethe's language dumbed down

Gunter Grass, topless page 3 girls, and a number of right-wing parties in Germany have all spoken out against a recent official adoption of changes to the German language. The changes, put in place nearly six years ago, have been declared 'stupid and confusing'.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

the Vatican porn collection

Stumbled across this old (1982) Straight Dope column on the Vatican's alleged 'world's largest porn collection'. Cecil Adams makes short work of this old (pope) urban myth, pointing out that most of the collection - at least that they are willing to admit to - predates the Englightenment (doesn't everything there?). He asks the natural followup - who does own the world's largest porn collection and where is it kept? - and offers some interesting leads. One interesting note from Cecil's column - the microfilm of the Vatican's porn collection is housed in John Ashcroft's home state of Missouri.