Sunday, May 15, 2022

“The young often feel old; the old seldom feel young.”

 “They change perspective as in a deep mirror,

My wise men: Mandelstam who visited

Dante like an angel in his head;

Seraphic Blok born-again commissar;


“Musorgsky [sic] rapt in some strange providence,

Pushkin’s, Gogol’s, treading with precision,

As music does, even a Fool’s vision

Or dances for the drunk Ukrainians—”

 The young often feel old; the old seldom feel young.”

 Borris knows how to deal with Vladimir

Commies are getting a good press - Boris Johnson

Just embarrassing': Young people have lost all confidence in politicians, survey shows

Reese Witherspoon Represents, Onscreen And Off, The Bumpy Road Of Being An Ambitious Woman

That is, an ambitious woman in a sexist society. "Likable ambitious women are women who don’t appear to be ambitious at all." - LitHub

       New issue of Asymptote 

       The April issue of Asymptote is now up, with a ton of material -- good reading for the weekend. 

Museum Deaccession Sales Are A Horrible Transfer Of Public Goods To Private Hands

Take the Toledo Museum of Art's new sale: "Almost no museum could afford to buy a $40-million Cézanne or $18-million Matisse. Call it forced retirement." And call it the continued cultural fallout of Reagan. - Los Angeles Times

'To Be Spoiled for Choice Extinguishes Desire'

“So many of one’s best discoveries are made while having a browse.” 

Visiting a bookstore or library with a title in mind, finding it readily and taking it home is cause for wonder and gratitude. Think of the dozens of people we could thank, beginning with Gutenberg and his movable type, not forgetting the author, and concluding with the clerk or librarian at the counter. The most remarkable, most easily forgotten gift is that we take this elaborate chain of assistance for granted.


Exceeding even this in satisfaction, though, is the joy of finding a prized volume when we least expect it. As a kid, thanks to serendipity, I discovered Kafka, Twain’s Autobiography, John Updike’s Pigeon Feathers, the poems of John Masefield and Winesburg, Ohio. All entered my life while browsing the shelves in public libraries. No teacher or critic for a guide, no scholarship or reviews, just plain dumb luck. Ignorance, for once, was my friend.


“A slack word gathers force: William Hazlitt, in his essay ‘On the Conversation of Authors’ [1820] in The Plain Speaker (1826), speaks of the human bookworm who ‘browses on the husks and leaves of books, as the young fawn browses on the bark and leaves of trees.’”


As libraries perform indiscriminate culls and online book shopping turns real shelves virtual, chances for serendipity grows scarce. I grieve for the kids who won’t pick up Gulliver’s Travels on a whim, take it home and join millions of earlier readers charmed (or shocked, in unexpurgated editions) by Swift’s story. We preach the importance of literacy while getting in its way. Much that I know I learned accidentally.


“We browse on our culture, drawing from it things upon which we may, if we so choose, concentrate and may even add to. The computer has shot the idea of the browse out of our skies. We go directly to the thing we require and look to neither side of it. Such discoveries as we do make are accidental and not quite the fruit of a good browse. There may be infinitely more choice, but to be spoiled for choice extinguishes desire.”

[The sequential quoted passages are taken from Page 6 of A Factotum in the Book Trade(Biblioasis, 2022) by Marius Kociejowski.]

       The New York Times Book Review 

       With The New York Times Book Review (still) looking fora new editor, Kyle Paoletta wonders at some length: 'What does the future hold for one of United States' oldest literary institutions ?' in The Nation, in The New York Times Book Review at a Crossroads
       Paoletta offers a useful overview of the NYTBR and the editorial changes over the years -- noting also:

For such a durable institution, it is striking that The New York Times Book Review has mostly remained devoted to the template for book reviewing it adopted in the early 20th century.

       But surely part of the reason for its durability is that stick-to-the-formula conservatism. (I speak, of course, as someone who has changed basically nothing about this site over past twenty-three years .....) 
       He also notes:

While claiming to be a political Switzerland, the Book Reviewhas seemed to skew to the center-right, with conservatives reviewing conservatives, centrists reviewing centrists, and very few leftists to be found.


When it comes to fiction and literary culture, the contemporary Book Review has often seemed less concerned with reviewing books that might challenge readers in exciting ways than with minting stars. 

Is there a secret to writing a bestselling book? Jane Sullivan