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Posts Tagged ‘Charlotte Bronte’

Siri Hates Her, and Other News

January 7, 2014 | by

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HAL 9000—still the standard-bearer for baneful artificial intelligences.

  • Eschewing received wisdom and millions of high school syllabi, one writer dares to contend that Charlotte Brontë’s Villette trumps Jane Eyre.
  • Spike Jonze wrote the screenplay for Her, which features a honey-tongued operating system named Samantha, well before Siri came into this world—but surely you can see the connection. Siri can’t. Ask her about Her and you’ll get some guff: “I think she gives artificial intelligence a bad name.”
  • As the New York Times prepares to debut its new home page, this helpful gif shows how the site has evolved since 2001. (“The New York Times on the Web,” it said then—as if to congratulate itself for having arrived.)
  • Fan art for The Catcher in the Rye. Highest honors go to that left-handed fielder’s mitt.
  • Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince becomes an art exhibit.
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    The Funnies

    April 29, 2013 | by

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    Charlotte Brontë Poem at Auction, and Other News

    April 11, 2013 | by

    Charlotte Brontë poem

  • An itty-bitty, handwritten Charlotte Brontë manuscript has sold at auction for £92,000.
  • In Hong Kong, one small bookstore has become a haven for banned Chinese books.
  • The City of New York is ponying up $230,000 to pay for the Occupy Wall Street Library destroyed in the 2011 Zuccotti Park raid.
  • With numbers dwindling, a Texas book club folds after 120 years of regular meetings.
  • I hereby call for a moratorium on … whatever this genre is.
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    Street Haunting with Jean Rhys

    March 12, 2013 | by

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    Illustration credit Joanna Walsh.

    The author Jean Rhys had trouble finishing her stories. Rhys told her editor and friend Diana Athill that “ending a novel based on things that had really happened ... was difficult because a novel must have shape, and real life usually has none.” In Rhys’s later years, spent struggling with her autobiography and idly drinking in her Devonshire bungalow, her memory was faulty. The problem wasn’t just that she couldn’t remember; Rhys told Athill that she sometimes felt “more like a pen being used than like a person using a pen,” a startling insight that perhaps led Athill to write, in the foreword to Rhys’s unfinished autobiography, Smile Please, published posthumously in 1979, that her friend had “used up” her life in fiction.

    Wide Sargasso Sea (1967) was Rhys’s final book, the one that made her famous late—“too late,” she said. Set in the early nineteenth century, Wide Sargasso Sea was Rhys’s great historical vendetta, in which she furnished a life for the West Indian “madwoman” Charlotte Brontë dismissed to Rochester’s attic in Jane Eyre. I began where Rhys ended, reading her last novel at sixteen in an English class at Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge, England, a few doors away from the Perse School for Girls, the posh private school Rhys had attended on moving to England from Dominica in 1907. Jean and I went to school on the same street a hundred years apart, sixteen-year-old sisters in the same place at a different time. Cambridge had changed, but Jean stayed with me. Neither of us liked school, and we both knew what it was like to be derided by a Perse girl; Jean for her Creole accent, and I for being a Hills Road student (in keeping with informal tradition, our schools maintain an absurd rivalry). Read More »

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    The Indescribable Frankenstein: A Short History of the Spectacular Failure of Words

    March 5, 2013 | by

    frankenstein-jj-001Mrs. Chesser taught me that there is never any reason to use the word indescribable. Invoking the indescribability of something does no work except to tell everyone, quite explicitly, that you are incapable of describing. Indescribable is not a quality something can possess, only a failure that can overwhelm a writer. Even now, years later, I can practically hear Mrs. Chesser, her voice languid with existential weariness, pleading with all of us in third-period English: “For the love of God, ask ourselves why a thing is indescribable and then write that down. Never be so lazy as to just dash off, ‘It was indescribable.’ It’s a waste of everyone’s time.” I remember her making profound eye contact with me just as the words “waste of everyone’s time” escaped her lips. Chastened, and most likely the prime offender, I made a note to myself, much of it capitalized, and have since made all-out war on the indescribable in my life.

    But the indescribable has a history, and a distinguished one at that. In her novel Frankenstein, Mary Shelley uses the word “describe,” or some version of it, twenty-one times. Of those twenty-one, fourteen are coupled with a negation. Which means that approximately 66 percent of the time Mary Shelley uses the word “describe,” it is to describe how she, in fact, cannot describe something. “I cannot describe to you my sensations,” or, “How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe,” or, “I cannot pretend to describe what I then felt,” or, “a hell of intense tortures such as no language can describe.” But these romantic, brain-feverish testimonies to descriptive incompetence are often immediately paired with very precise descriptions, as in, “Over him hung a form which I cannot find words to describe—gigantic stature, yet uncouth and distorted in its proportions,” or when the explorer Robert Walton writes his sister, “I cannot describe to you my sensations on the near prospect of my undertaking. It is impossible to communicate to you a conception of the trembling sensation, half pleasurable and half fearful, with which I am preparing to depart.” What is that indescribable sensation? Well, trembling, half-pleasurable, half-fearful, which is actually quite descriptive. Read More »

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    Bookish Cakes, and Other News

    March 4, 2013 | by

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  • Happy Monday. Here are some cakes inspired by books!
  • Nineteen Charles Bukowski drawings have come to light; most of them illustrated his column for the Los Angeles Free Press.
  • A poem written by a thirteen-year-old Charlotte Brontë is expected to fetch at least £40,000 at auction.
  • “If there has ever been a golden age for the unconventionally named author, it is now.” Bylines in the age of Google.
  • The 2013 Tournament of Books is on.
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