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Arts & Culture

MacArthur Fellows, Past and Present

September 17, 2014 | by

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Amy Clampitt’s former home in Lenox, MA. Photo via NPR

Congratulations to the MacArthur Foundation’s twenty-one new fellows, including the graphic memoirist Alison Bechdel, whom the Daily was fortunate to interview back in 2012:

Most people are oppressed in some way or other by their family’s expectations, by their parents’ psychological issues, by any number of things. And it holds us back, it limits who we can be in the world. We’re so consumed with our personal problems that we’re not doing more important things. I mean, who am I to talk? All I do is sit in my basement making notes about my therapy sessions. But I want us all to be autonomous and think for ourselves and do the things we’re good at, and I think that’s much more the exception than the rule for people. Not to mention living in a democracy that’s functional. I mean, if we were all really doing those things, what would our world look like?

This latest round of “genius grants”—always with those pesky tone quotes!—inspired NPR to look back at the work of Amy Clampitt, whose poems the Review occasionally published before her death in 1994. Clampitt, a 1992 MacArthur fellow, used her grant money to buy a home in Lenox, Massachusetts, “a small, clapboard house that became the seventy-two-year-old poet's first major purchase.” Soon after, Clampitt was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and her husband Richard Korn

dreamed up a fund to benefit poetry and the literary arts. Since 2003, the house Clampitt bought with her MacArthur money has been used to help rising poets by offering six- to twelve-month tuition-free residencies …

This December, the nineteenth resident of the house Amy Clampitt purchased with her MacArthur purse will settle in, get to work and likely draw on some of the same things that inspired Clampitt. Among them is a small box on the mantel filled with the late poet's beach glass collection.

Clampitt was interviewed for our Art of Poetry series in the Spring 1993 issue, where she elaborated on another collection of sorts:

My own original handwritten drafts are usually on the backs of those silly announcements law firms send out, that so-and-so has just been appointed a partner, which would otherwise go into the wastebasket, and which my best friend Hal, a law professor, saves for me. They’re printed on fine creamy vellum, and they’re very small—four-by-six inches or so, though maddeningly there isn’t even a standard size. I’ve put away stacks of these things for a single poem.

Below is an abbreviated list of Paris Review contributors who have been awarded grants over the twenty-three years of the Fellows program:

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On Drugs

Extreme, Extreme!

September 17, 2014 | by

The literature of laughing gas.

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“This is not the Laughing, but the Hippocrene or Poetic Gas, Sir.” Colored etching by R. Seymour, 1829, via the Wellcome Library.

What’s mistake but a kind of take?
What’s nausea but a kind of -ausea?
Sober, drunk, -unk, astonishment.
Everything can become the subject of criticism—how criticise without something to criticise? Agreement—disagreement!!
Emotion—motion!!!

These words were set to paper in 1882 by William James, one of the most celebrated proponents of the new science of psychology, and a newly minted assistant professor of philosophy at Harvard. James was in many ways the paragon of an eminent Victorian—his writing tends to summon images of the author ensconced beside a roaring fire in some cozy wood-paneled study in Cambridge. And yet here James comes off as utterly, absurdly stoned.

Because he was.

After huffing a large amount of nitrous oxide, James set out to tackle a prominent bugbear of 1880s intellectual life: Hegelian dialectics. He came up with a stream of consciousness that centered on a kind of ecstatic binary thinking:

Don’t you see the difference, don’t you see the identity?
Constantly opposites united!
The same me telling you to write and not to write!
Extreme—extreme, extreme! Within the extensity that “extreme” contains is contained the “extreme” of intensity
Something, and other than that thing!
….
By George, nothing but othing!
That sounds like nonsense, but it’s pure onsense!
Thought much deeper than speech … !
Medical school; divinity school, school! SCHOOL!
Oh my God, oh God; oh God!

Read More »

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Our Daily Correspondent

Life Studies

September 17, 2014 | by

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A subway ad for the latest “Body Worlds” exhibition.

With the passage of time come certain revelations. Sometimes these are melancholy; people you love are aging, your window for having a family is shrinking, you will never again know the euphoria of youth. Others are welcome. It is comforting to know there will always be more good books to read than there is time in the average life. And I know I can die happily—and will—without ever going into space, swimming with dolphins, or visiting any one of the endless iterations of that “Body Worlds” exhibition.

When the first such exhibition made its grand tour (in the manner of young gentlemen of a past age), it was a novelty. Vaguely shocking, even—remember the ethics review? Everyone was amazed at the artistry of the preservation. One could lend credence to the creators’ arguments that it taught valuable anatomical lessons and educated the public about biology and physiology and, in so doing, helped encourage healthy lifestyle choices. Imagine how much effort such a show might have saved Michelangelo—to say nothing of grave-robbing Scottish medical students! Read More »

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On the Shelf

Austenites Resplendent, and Other News

September 17, 2014 | by

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Photo: Jane Austen Festival

  • “Madame Bovary, c’est moi” is all well and good as a witty rejoinder—but in all honesty, which of the women in Flaubert’s life was the real Madame Bovary?
  • At a Jane Austen festival in Bath, 550 people claimed the world record for “the largest gathering of people dressed in Regency costume.”
  • On “reading insecurity,” the newest existential disease: “the subjective experience of thinking that you’re not getting as much from reading as you used to. It is setting aside an hour for that new book … and spending it instead on Facebook.”
  • Among Stephen King’s “most hated expressions”: many people, some people say, and YOLO. (I agree with the first two, but I’ll go to the mat for YOLO any day of the week.)
  • What’s it like to translate a compendium of Alain Robbe-Grillet’s sadistic fantasies? Haunting, but, you know, in a good way: “As translator, I am a filter for material: it travels through me. As such, there’s a residue, but it is difficult to qualify. At best, you might compare the book’s effect on me to its effect on any reader: certain images—many, in fact—remain in you, and surge forth unbidden, superimposing themselves in your mind’s eye on perfectly anodyne and serene scenes of everyday life.”

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Sleep Aid

The Production of Dairy Cows as Affected by Frequency and Regularity of Milking and Feeding

September 17, 2014 | by

It’s late, and you’re still awake. Allow us to help with Sleep Aid, a series devoted to curing insomnia with the dullest, most soporific prose available in the public domain. Tonight’s prescription: “The Production of Dairy Cows as Affected by Frequency and Regularity of Milking and Feeding,” circular 180 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, published in September 1931.

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In the management of the dairy herd, milking requires more time and labor than any other phase of the work. The application of recent findings regarding the secretion of milk and the development of milking machines may be expected to produce important changes in the frequency and also in the manner of milking. At the United States Dairy Experiment Station at Beltsville, Md., the Bureau of Dairy Industry has carried on experiments x on the effects of the frequency of milking, change of milkers, and regularity and irregularity in the hours of milking and feeding on the cows’ production of milk and butterfat. The results of these experiments are reported and discussed in this publication.

FREQUENCY OF MILKING

MILKING THREE TIMES A DAY AS COMPARED WITH TWICE A DAY

It is generally known that cows produce more milk if milked three or four times a day than if milked twice a day. Just how much more milk will be produced, however, is a matter upon which investigators differ. Some of the results obtained in comparing three with two milkings a day are as follows: At the Agricultural Experiment Station of the University of Vermont, two cows milked three times a day, in trial periods of 3 to 14 days, gave less milk than when they were milked twice a day. Walker, after carrying on an experiment at Offerton Hall, England, in which he used two groups of five cows each, reported as follows:

So far as milking three times a day is concerned, the results obtained in these experiments show no advantage whatever. On the contrary, the extra driving and other undue interference with the treatment of the cows has produced results of a negative character.

At the Ontario Agricultural College, Canada, two cows milked three times a day for two weeks gave more milk, but only one of these cows gave more butterfat, than when milked twice a day. At the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, cows producing about 400 pounds of butterfat a year when milked twice a day gave only about 22 pounds more when milked three times a day. Fleischmann estimated the increase in yield to be about 6 or 7 percent for milking three times a day as compared with twice. According to Huynen, the milk yield when cows were milked twice a day as compared with three times was about 1 per cent less for cows yielding 10 liters and 10 per cent less for cows yielding 30 liters or more, with an average for the herd of about 6 or 7 per cent less. The milkings were 12 hours apart when made twice a day; and 5K 3 6K, and 12 hours apart when made three times daily. Read More »

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Look

Cardboard, Glue, and Storytelling

September 16, 2014 | by

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Last year, Sadie Stein wrote here about Matteo Pericoli’s Laboratory of Literary Architecture, a “cross-disciplinary exploration of literature as architecture” in which students create physical models of literary texts. Pericoli has taught the course at the Scuola Holden in Italy, at Columbia University, and elsewhere—now he’s broadening the horizons, and the Laboratory has a robust new Web site to prove it. There’s also a new video—replete with a kind of slinky Sade-ish groove, because why not?—that walks you through the course’s fundamental questions.

But perhaps the easiest way to grasp what Pericoli’s up to here is to look at an example—the LabLitArch site features a number of them. Here, for instance, is Katherine Treppendahl, an intern architect, on her literary architecture independent study, seen above, of Ulysses:

The exterior space frame represents the overarching role of Joyce, the arranger, as well the modules of time within the text—each partition represents a different time of day. The two primary characters, Bloom and Stephen (Joyce’s Ulysses and Telemachus) are translated into different volumetric typologies. These volumes are stacked and arranged in terms of their presence, importance, and relationship within the story. The reader is represented as a pale tube snaking through these volumes. In the novel, there is a point at which the text shifts from a more conventional narrative style to a more abstract and self-conscious style. Within the model, as the reader moves into this territory, the volumes begin to break open and fracture. They are no longer whole vessels, and the “reader” is visible, moving uncertainly through this landscape.

There’s also a very fitting makeshift mission statement drawn from Alice Munro’s Selected Stories:

A story is not like a road to follow … it’s more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows. And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely or opulently furnished. You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time. It also has a sturdy sense of itself of being built out of its own necessity, not just to shelter or beguile you.

Check out more of the student projects here.

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