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Posts Tagged ‘Brazil’

So You’re Adapting a Philip Roth Novel, and Other News

August 2, 2016 | by

From the Indignation poster.

  • Don’t learn this the hard way: it’s likely impossible to wrest a good screenplay from the pages of a Philip Roth novel. Many (okay, like, eight) have tried, the latest being James Schamus, with Indignation. All have struggled and gnashed their teeth. Leo Robson has some thoughts on why, and also some thoughts on the most singularly unfilmable Roth novels: “Sabbath’s Theater might be read as Roth’s ultimate piece of literary one-upmanship over the movies. You can picture Roth at his desk in rural Connecticut, far from the fluorescent, multiplex-ridden metropolis, writing the scenes in which Mickey communes with his lover’s ghost, yelling, ‘You filthy, wonderful Drenka cunt! Marry me! Marry me!,’ and ejaculating over her grave—and then saying to himself, with a vindicated smile, ‘Try filming that.’ ”
  • Rarely do I use this space to bring you practical advice or instruction—but you might want to know how to read a book and walk at the same time. It’s a skill I’ve tried to master for years, and I’m sick of causing traffic accidents in my pathetic efforts at “learning.” Nell Beram tells us that “it’s actually easier than it looks”: “First (and I really shouldn’t have to tell you this), stop reading when you cross the street. Second, forgo magazines. The columns are too narrow, forcing the eyes to skid to a stop at the end of a line as soon as they’ve gotten going. Plus, magazines are floppy, and the wind gets grope-y with the broad pages. So go with a book, ideally a hardback that you can hold comfortably in one hand … Your book cannot exceed fourteen ounces or it will murder your wrist.”

I Call This Oulipo Meeting to Order, and Other News

May 4, 2016 | by

  • In July 2009, the French mathematician Michèle Audin began to attend the monthly meetings of Oulipo, everyone’s favorite experimental collective. And they involved just as much wine, whining, and rare meat as you’d hope: “Once everyone has entered and settled in, the President draws up the agenda, noting the names of those present and those excused (but only among the living Oulipians, the others are definitively excused ‘for reason of death’), including E and F who don’t come very often. We help ourselves to pre-dinner drinks … The President signs Oulipians up for the ‘Creation’ section: the rule says that, if no one signs up for this section, the meeting is cancelled. In March 2016, we’re up to the 665th meeting, and this has never happened … H and I, who are always late, arrive. J doesn’t drink alcohol, K prefers root beer, everyone has a glass in hand. The meeting begins. L is the one presenting a creation. Tradition requires that we continually interrupt the presentation to complain about the presenter’s never-ending sentences … N found new ‘anticipatory plagiarists’ (Oulipians before the creation of the Oulipo).”
  • A reminder—courtesy of Jessa Crispin, who is, after fourteen years, shutting down her blog, Bookslut—that literature in the U.S. is an over-professionalized, glad-handing extension of academia and corporate mass media, and the Internet hasn’t helped: “It’s just taking the print template and moving it online. I see the Millions used on book blurbs now. They’re so professional, and I mean that as an insult. I didn’t want to become a professional … I just don’t find American literature interesting. I find M.F.A. culture terrible. Everyone is super cheerful because they’re trying to sell you something, and I find it really repulsive. There seems to be less and less underground. And what it’s replaced by is this very professional, shiny, happy plastic version of literature … I don’t feel like publishing is going to be terrible forever. Now I think fiction is more interesting internationally, but there are so many great nonfiction writers here.”
  • Today in words versus numbers: words are fun, sure, and there’s no doubting their power, but the fact is that certain enormous prime numbers are so powerful they’re actually illegal, and I don’t know if words can compete with that. “In the digital age, huge prime numbers are really, really important for encryption … So important, in fact, that having or sharing some of them could get you prosecuted under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which prohibits people from subverting copyright-prevention measures …  Software to copy DVDs started circulating soon after the DMCA passed, and movie studios sued those distributing the software not long after that—and won … The silliest part? Phil Carmody discovered a 1,401-digit prime number—no, we’re not going to post it—that (with the right know-how) was executable as the very same illegal software—hence, an illegal prime number.”
  • Jacqueline Woodson remembers the day James Baldwin died, and what Giovanni’s Room meant to her: “Having become intrigued by everything he wrote, I moved on to finding pictures and films about him. I knew well the gapped-toothed smile sometimes veiled over by cigarette smoke. I knew the eternal cigarette dangling almost absently between his fore and middle finger. I knew the head thrown back in laughter, the deeply furrowed brow, the rage behind the poetically nuanced answers he gave to deeply uninformed questions about race, economic class, sexuality. I believed I would one day meet him, that we would sit at a café in France (a place I had not yet traveled to) and discuss the politics of queerness, art, our shared Blackness.”
  • Good news: that erotic Brazilian theme park you designed in RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 may soon be a reality. Bad news: you can’t actually have sex there, because think about it—really think about it. “The investors behind ErotikaLand say the park will promote a healthy approach to sex. Parkgoers will be able to tour a museum exploring the history of sexuality, and employees will promote condom use. The park will have a ‘sex playground,’ but it will feature a labyrinth, Ferris wheel and water slide. What the customers cannot have, the investors say, is any actual intercourse—at least, not in the park.”

Passionate Acolytes: An Interview with Benjamin Moser

August 17, 2015 | by

Photo: Paulo Gurgel Valente

I’ve gotten accustomed to talking about the “Clarice Lispector tidal wave.” For weeks on end, I’ve scarcely been able to go online without seeing Lispector, who died in 1977, raved about, serialized, reviewed, discussed, or marveled at.

The occasion for this outpouring of attention is the publication of The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector, translated by Katrina Dodson and edited by Benjamin Moser. But this story goes back much further, at least to 2009, when Moser published his biography of Lispector, Why This World. Since then, we’ve seen a remarkable resurgence of interest in the author, whom many consider to be among the best Brazil ever produced, and one who is often compared to Virginia Woolf. Why This World was followed by Moser’s translation of Lispector’s final novel, The Hour of the Star, and then new translations of four of Lispector’s major novels, each by a different translator.

With The Complete Stories upon us, I asked Moser why Lispector is worthy of all this effort, what makes the new book such a monumental publication, and what’s next for the Brazilian author.

Let’s begin with a very basic question—why Lispector?

Sometimes you meet someone in a bar and end up in bed after a few drinks. And sometimes you wake up and look over at the person snoring by your side and gasp and say, What was I thinking? But other times that person turns out to be the love of your life. With Clarice, I certainly had no idea that our relationship would be as long or as intense as it turned out to be. Writing her biography taught me about her life, introduced me to her world, her country, her friends. Translating her books brought me into her mind on the molecular level where the translator has to work. And the better I got to know her, the more my love deepened. Read More »

Where They Live

June 8, 2015 | by

book-6

Guy Laramée, via This Is Colossal

The French Canadian artist Guy Laramée, whom we’ve featured before on the Daily, has a new series of book sculptures, “Onde Elles Moran”—“Where They Live.” Laramée spent nine months on the series, which features Brazilian birds painted on secondhand, linen-bound Clássicos Jackson—something akin to our Great Books of the Western World, those generically handsome tomes seemingly designed to collect dust on attractive shelves—with the birds’ native habitats carved into the pages.

Laramée has become known for his book sculptures, which he began about five years ago; he regards books as raw material in need of processing, and he’s proven unafraid to go at them with a chain saw. But he can also approach the medium with a miniaturist’s attention to detail, as demonstrated in the topography of the landscapes here; he uses oil, inks, pigments and dry pastels, crayon, fixative, and beeswax. “It all started in a sand blaster cabinet,” he said in an interview with ANOBIUM about the sculptures’ genesis:

I put a book in there—stupid idea—and there it was. Within seconds I saw the landscape, the drama, Borges, the little people who lived in books, everything … I never really totally forget that these are books, that my raw material is not wood, not even paper, but a book. At times I’m lost in the project, in the landscape. But a book is a book, structurally. The pages are not glued, so you have to respect the structure, from the binding of each pages to the cover, otherwise pages will fly away when you release the clamps.

 You can see more of his work at This Is Colossal, JHB Gallery, and on his Web site. Read More »

It Changes Nothing

December 10, 2014 | by

If you’ve never seen it, watch Clarice Lispector’s first and only TV interview, from February 1977, when she appeared on TV Cultura in São Paulo. She’d arrived intending to appear in a program about film, apparently, when the station’s director summoned his nerve and asked for an interview. She died later that year.

Lispector is restless, and charmingly curt, throughout the interview—it seems as if she really, really doesn’t want to be there. Even under duress, though, she gives stronger, more meaningful answers than many writers give at their most accessible. “I write without the hope that what I write can change anything at all. It changes nothing … Because at the end of the day we’re not trying to change things. We’re trying to open up somehow.”

At one point, the interlocutor asks, “What, in your opinion, is the role of the Brazilian writer today?”

“To speak as little as possible,” she says, her head tilted, her thumb half-massaging her temple, a cigarette between her fingers.

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Schadenfreude

July 14, 2014 | by

Gotze

Götze kicks the match-winning goal. Photo: Danilo Borges/Portal da Copa, via Wikimedia Commons

How apt that the Brazilians are living off Schadenfreude: after the debacle against Germany and a little extra humiliation from Holland, all Brazil’s fans seemed to want was for Germany to prevent Argentina from victory dancing on the beach at Copacabana. Believe me, I get it. As a lifelong supporter of Tottenham Hotspur FC in the English Premier League, much of my soccer pleasure in the last half-century, sadly, has derived only from misfortunes experienced by Arsenal FC, Tottenham’s arch rivals. In the years 1960–1962, Tottenham was clearly the superior team—since then, not so much. Like Brazil and Argentina, the two clubs are neighbors, and Arsenal, like Brazil, has the larger fan base and more money.

But I want to tell you, Brazilians: Schadenfreude (yours and mine) is unhealthy. It mocks the meat it feeds on. Brazil (population two hundred million) is in a much better position that Argentina (population forty-one million) to do something to transform its lackluster team into world-beaters. They need look no further than Germany, where, over a twenty-year period, an entire system from youth soccer up was revamped in the wake of defeat and disappointment to produce the superior team that yesterday won the World Cup in style: a triumph that not a soul would deny they deserved. Is this why the U.S. keeps spying on Deutschland? Looking for the blueprint that will take us to number one? Or are we simply after Angela Merkel’s recipe for Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte?

The sun set behind Christ the Redeemer, and then Argentina went down, too. Lionel Messi won the Golden Ball for best player in the tournament (not that he cared), but it could just as easily have gone to Arjen Robben or Bastian Schweinsteiger or Javier Mascherano. After two overtime games in five days, Messi looked, at times, as if he were walking through treacle. When, as the final minutes ticked away, he stepped up to take his last do-or-die free kick, he was already a forlorn figure; that ball was going wide, or over the bar, and everyone in the Maracanã knew it. Messi’s problem? He was too much on his own, dropping ever deeper, as if a retreat into the shadows of his own half would conjure a Di María to run back up the field with him. In his most successful years, Pelé was surrounded by players of great genius—Garrincha, Tostão, Jairzinho, and Rivelino—individuals with talents that didn’t quite match the master’s, but enabled them to provide stellar support. While Mascherano was a beast in the Argentine defense, Messi had no one quite at the level required for his game to shine at its brightest. He’ll have to return to Barcelona for that.

Of course, there’s always the feeling that he should have been able to do it on his own—a feat Maradona is believed to have accomplished in World Cup 1986, when he scored or assisted on ten of Argentina’s fourteen goals. But, even with the great Lothar Matthäus on board, the West Germany that Argentina beat in that final was not at the same level as Germany 2014, the first team to win a major international championship since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Where Germany is concerned, everyone reaches for the engineering metaphors—it’s knee-jerk—and, this time around, it doesn’t apply. Okay, Germany is well coached: Is this why Ian Darke, the English ESPN/ABC commentator, described Jogi Löw as resembling a Bond villain? Baffling. The team played with a smoothness not like that of a well-oiled machine, but more like that of the movements of choreographed dancers. It looked like art out there, not industry. Certainly Mario Götze’s lovely goal from André Schürrle’s cross was full of grace: one swift movement, chest to foot to back of net. Götze’s father is a professor of computer science at Dortmund University. His son’s goal may be the best thing that has happened to academia this century.

I’ve watched fourteen World Cups, and 2014 is the best I can remember since 1970, bites and all. And now we move on to Putin-land, where Russia (population 146 million) will take on their greatest rivals, the eleven courageous young women of Pussy Riot.

Jonathan Wilson’s work has appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, and Best American Short Stories, among other publications. He is the author of eight books, including Kick and Run: Memoir with Soccer Ball. He lives in Massachusetts.

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