My hero is fearless, proud, resolute, farseeing, self-sacrificing, and profoundly engaged in the struggle against tyranny and oppression. He’s also several hundred feet tall (when he wants to be), does celestial cartwheels when flying between the earth and sun, can turn into a cormorant when occasion arises, and despite his onerous responsibilities as a leader of men, manages to be pretty good family man, though his spouse is Sin and his offspring is Death. He speaks some of the most beautiful English ever composed, even when just muttering to himself. He’s John Milton’s Satan. More… “My Hero, Satan”
If you were stuck in 23-hour daily lockdown in a federal prison, you might think a book would be a most welcome companion. You might think it would take a lot to make you despise that book. But Barrett Brown begs: “Stop sending me Jonathan Franzen novels.” (The Intercept)
Imagine Gregor Samsa from The Metamorphosis. If you read it in English, you may see a cockroach or a giant beetle, but that may not be as Kafka intended. And Vladimir Nabokov didn’t care. (Open Culture)
While Pixar’s shiny, cartoonish animation style has an avid fan base, old-style hand animation has a charm that just can’t be replicated without hours of frame-by-frame work — until now. Microsoft has just unveiled a new tool that simplifies and digitizes the process, and it’s mesmerizing to watch. (Wired)
If you’ve lately been thinking about becoming a vegetarian, today might be just the day to make the switch. It’s World Vegetarian Day! In case you need just a bit more reason to give up bacon and steak, we brought back Stefany Anne Golberg’s piece on brutal vegetarianism.
I offer an outline for an Eating Animals sequel entitled A 21st Century, Balls-out Decadent Explosion of Naughty Vegetarian Food Exploration Appealing to Degenerates, or for short VEGETABALLS. It will be written by an intrepid vegetable adventurer who wears a cabbage hat and lamé hotpants, a postmodern-molecular-gastronomist-Shackleton of beans who couldn’t care less about tradition and “the earth.” VEGETABALLS is for a vegetarianism of chocolate, vodka, fries, and habanero sauce that shows how you can be a selfish drunk fat slob and still do your part to limit the unnecessary suffering of animals. •
Since the age of the Druids, bees have been a symbol of wisdom. The Greeks and the Celts used the symbolism as well, as did cultures in India and Egypt, Sumerian mythology, and Christianity. Bees were the symbols of sun gods, earth goddesses, and the Virgin Mary. In the Jewish story, Deborah — whose name means “bee” — was a prophet who saved her city from invaders. In English, Welsh, Irish, Greek, and assorted other languages, the word “bee” is caught up by sound or by root with the word for “to live” or “alive.” Even Charles Darwin was scared of the knowledge to be found in the bee hive, afraid their cooperative, altruistic lives could disprove his theory of evolution, perched as it was on that vicious idea of survival of the fittest.
Wisdom: From Philosophy to Neuroscience by Stephen S…. More…
Every year when the Orange Prize announces its longlist, or its shortlist, or its jury members, or an anniversary, or is mentioned in the press, people start to write long opinion pieces about the sad state of women’s fiction. This year’s award will be announced next week, and we’ve been enduring months of such complaints. Women’s fiction is too domestic, too small scale, too dreary, too often about rape or abuse. It’s not ambitious enough, not universal, not epic. Let’s leave behind whether or not it’s fair — after all, we do not saddle men’s books with the responsibility of being representative of their half of the species. Let’s also leave behind the fact that most of the people complaining about the state of women’s fiction seem not to have read very much, or at least not much outside the territory of books with cover art that could… More…
There have been Sundays, in bed, in a hotel room, hungover or not, wherein my prospects for getting out of bed seem slim, what with the television right there, and the remote control so near my head. Despite hundreds of channels and the free HBO — generally just showing something directed by Ron Howard over and over and over again — I will stop on Joel Osteen or Rick Warren or some other reprehensible creature in a mega church of some sort. On those Sundays, it’s hard to feel the repulsion I usually have for such views. It’s the perfect hair and the shiny, shiny teeth. These men are always telling me that God has plans for me. “Oh, Joel Osteen,” I say out loud to the television. “Tell me what those plans are.”
There are many lies you will hear when you’re newly single. Your girlfriends — the ones that have been married since they were in their early 20s and can’t have dinner without their husbands, meaning you are forever making reservations for three — will tell you that you’ll find someone the minute you stop thinking about it. Of course they don’t mean once you give up. The difference is the frequency with which you shave your legs, how long your ”Buy Ten Pedicures & Get One Free!” card goes unpunched, and whether you allow yourself to be approachable on the subway or just bury your face in a book. Your (loving, well meaning) friends are setting up a Zeno-like paradox in which you are supposed to care enough to “turn on your inner light!” and actually brush your hair every day, and at the same time not care on a… More…
I think we are entering a new Freudian era. This struck me as I was recently reading some stories in the New York Times science section: Depressive disorders may have a beneficial mechanism behind them; dreams may be meaningful after all; and hysteria — now called conversion disorders, and by which they mean the physical expression of emotional trauma — may actually exist. This may not totally redeem Freud from his sex-obsessed cokehead crackpot reputation, but this is his territory.
The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves by Siri Hustvedt. 224 pages. Henry Holt and Co. $23.00
For decades, Freud has been slowly discredited until his name is more a punchline than a scientific reference. But the more science wades into the murky territory of the mind, the more we see… More…
Poor Saint Augustine. For years now people have drawn the source of the memoir back to his Confessions. As if because of that book, Augustine’s hands now bear the ink stains of James Frey, tales of addiction, incest and mental illness, the word “momoir,” and a dozen Holocaust survivor fakers. Just like Jane Austen, who occasionally bears the blame for the candy-coated chick lit aisle of your local bookstore, Augustine deserves a better legacy.
Memoir: A History by Ben Yagoda. 304 pages. Riverhead. $25.95.
Even Ben Yagoda accuses Augustine of the crime of inventing the memoir in his new book Memoir: A History. It’s a long road from Confessions — written around 400 A.D. — to the memoir’s current dominance in the publishing scene, although the template hasn’t changed much in all of those centuries: I have done some… More…
Edith Grossman is one of the finest literary translators working today. She has translated some of the greats of the Spanish language — from Marquez to Llosa, Fuentes to Dorfman. Her translation of Don Quixote was masterful and is widely accepted as the new standard text. She is the perfect complement to these writers, translating not only the language but also the emotion and experience of the original work. Indeed, the essays in the final half of her new book, Why Translation Matters — “Translating Cervantes” and “Translating Poetry” — are interesting and careful; they make a significant contribution to the philosophy and the practice of translation. That’s why the first half of the book is such a shame
Why Translation Matters by Edith Grossman. 160 pages. Yale University Press. $24.