Sunday, April 22, 2012

Gogol - The longer and more carefully we look at a funny story, the sadder it becomes

“The longer and more carefully we look at a funny story, the sadder it becomes.” - Nikolai Gogol

With the disappearance of paper encyclopedias, a part of the Western intellectual tradition is disappearing as well . I am not speaking of the idea of impartial, objective, and meticulously accurate reference. There is no reason this cannot be duplicated in digital media… There's no need to be cruel , but sometimes the exasperation of slogging through a dull, stupid or monumentally over-hyped book gets the best of even the nicest person The excuses of a mean book critic

Passing Stranger White Until Proven Black Hunger Games: Paradox dog every step of the way
The real problem is that it is virtually impossible for the general reader to deduce from a text itself what genre it belongs to. We rely upon editors, publishers, and all others who are responsible for vetting a text before the public to tell us how to understand it. When an article appears in a newspaper or newsmagazine, we have a reasonable expectation that it is factually accurate. In a literary magazine like The Believer or another artistic venue, the standards are far less clear. Books are the most dangerous territory of all, since publishers notoriously do not fact-check, and categorization is often left to the whims of editors

Like wolves and teenagers, literary scandals travel in packs, and the first of the spring are already upon us. First came The Lifespan of a Fact, a new book by essayist John D’Agata and his fact-checker Jim Fingal, which presents the blood-and-tears saga of Fingal’s seven-year-long attempt to verify a piece by D’Agata about the suicide of a Las Vegas teenager. In a lengthy e-mail correspondence, Fingal relentlessly noted discrepancies in everything from the names of people and places to the time of the boy’s death; D’Agata, rather less effectively, made the case that a writer of creative non-fiction is allowed certain liberties with the truth. By the time reviewers had finished weighing in on this teapot-sized tempest (general consensus: D’Agata is an ass), along came a similar but more significant revelation: The theatrical impresario Mike Daisey had employed similarly unorthodox techniques of reportage in his dramatic monologue The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs

Some Works of Art Can’t Be Labeled as Fact or Fiction, and That’s OK ; Pleasure is a form of attention. If you can take pleasure in something - an idea, an activity - then your brain will happily entertain it for years without aim or objective. It's therefore a particularly open form of thinking that allows you to surprise yourself and the rest of humanity. Don't let children lose sight of the pleasure principle [Read about a smell - and your brain thinks you're smelling it. Read about a soccer game - and your brain thinks you're playing it. Especially if it's fiction. Who says reading isn't a good workout? Your Brain on Fiction ; The tenets of modernism dictate that real literature needs to be difficult, otherwise it's kitsch. I'm no unreconstructed modernist, and I'm not going to tell you that Marcus's novel is good precisely because the dribbling masses wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole. Rather, I'm telling you to read The Flame Alphabet because it's unique, continually surprising, and often flat-out disgusting The realist’s guide to experimental fiction]
• · J. G. Ballard’s “Crash”: a study in the challenges of book design The Covers of J.G. Ballard's Crash: An Update ; A new book explores what the “systematic wonder” of science can teach us about happiness The secret of happiness is arguably humanity's longest-standing fixation
• · · What a difference a couple days makes! A whole new world has opened up to me, and my wallet has opened up as well. Here’s why. Apparently, there is a whole subterranean movement to collect bookplates. Over a thousand are featured on ebay even as I write, some from the Czech Republic More bookplate porn!; The controversy surrounds, a classified site on which pimps and johns regularly buy and sell prostitutes. Norman Mailer’s Son Protests Outside the Village Voice
• · · · In her series exposing British tabloid stars to Americans, Emma Garman helpfully explains why the world is about to receive the gift of Cold River。 When a society is as riven with conflict as today’s Britain, it takes a special kind of momentous event, the recognition of a greater enemy, to unite Tories and socialists, celebs and civilians, those who yearn for Kate Winslet’s excommunication from the planet and those who’d be content with her bleak and everlasting obscurity. Hail Tulisa, The Female Boss ; King Canute has had a raw deal from history. He took his throne down to the beach in order to show his servile courtiers that not even a king could control the waves (that was in God’s power alone). But, ironically, he is now most often remembered as the silly old duffer who got soaked on the seashore because he thought he could master the tides It was satire
• · · · · Chastity and lechery, purity and debauchery – attitudes about sex do change. What didn’t change for centuries was the role of women Some Years Before 1963 ; We Do Judge Books By Their Covers Dennis Loy Johnson of Melville House: "I recently read a survey that said 39% or 40% of people who bought books on Amazon looked at them in a bookstore first. They could know everything about the book online short of having seen it, but still the physical object had enough meaning to them to want to see it first." The little publisher that could
• · · · · · This story begins, like most stories, as a tributary to a river. The Feather River, specifically; tributary to the Sacramento, winding its way around Yuba, Sutter, and Butte counties, over and through the Sierra Nevada in Northern California, the water in the Feather River used to be warm enough to swim in before they dammed it up to create the Oroville Dam and Reservoir. Water, Water Everywhere ; Can punk aerobics, speed dating, and “edgy” book clubs save libraries? Not likely. But these days no gambit seems too unseemly or too desperate. Libraries are in crisis