Posts Tagged ‘culture’
November 9, 2010 | by Mark de Silva
Have you ever asked someone if the hot water is in the uphill tap? Maybe you’ve warned a friend of the fire ants north of his foot. Or perhaps you’ve merely suggested, with all delicacy, that your date might like to brush the cake crumbs from her mountainward cheek. Doesn’t make any sense? Maybe that’s because you don’t speak Tzeltal, Guugu Yimithirr, or Balinese. In Through the Language Glass, Guy Deutscher discusses these and other differences in thought and perception occasioned by the world’s many tongues. He is currently an honorary research fellow at the School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures at the University of Manchester. Recently, he answered some of my questions about his new book via e-mail.
In the introduction to your book, you point out the many ways the general public overestimates the influence of language on thought and experience. Why do you think that is? And are there any respects in which ordinary people underestimate language’s influence?
Can it be that we tend to overestimate the influence of language partly because we so often underestimate the intelligence of other people? Think about common arguments on the lines of “if you call something X, people will believe it’s X just because of the name.” We rarely hear, “If you call something X, I will start believing it’s X just because of the name.” I obviously know better. But others don’t. This type of overestimation has a long history. One of the earliest discussions of the influence of language on thought was an essay by the Bible scholar Johann David Michaelis from 1760, which won the prize of the of the Prussian academy. In it, Michaelis explains that if, for example, one gave completely different names to two vegetables which are in reality quite similar, “the people” would never suspect that they are similar. He’d obviously not heard of clementines, mandarins, tangarines, and satsumas.
On the other hand, it is also true that we underestimate the influence of language, as I tried to show in the book. What we are not sufficiently aware of is the force of the habits that language can create, through the distinctions that it trains us to make and the types of information that it trains us to be attentive to from an early age. And ironically, the areas where the mother-tongue can make a real impact on thought are exactly where common sense would expect all languages to be the same, for instance in the way we describe the space around us or the way we talk about colors.
September 1, 2010 | by Radhika Jones
MORNING Tea1 and the NYT Editor's Choice on the iPad. Morning commute: F train, relatively uncrowded because it's the end of August. Reading survey reveals it's a periodical-dominated morning: the Times, the WSJ, the Metro, the Post, and two people facing off with The New Yorker. I pull out my advanced reader's copy of Skippy Dies, which I am in the middle of, and which is so absorbing2 that I need to be careful not to miss my stop.
Second cup of tea steeping in office kitchen. Delightful news via memo left under my door: from now on, the motion-sensor light in my office will only come on if I push it. I hate the fluorescent light, but until now have been powerless to disengage it. Now I will just never turn it on!
Wake up computer and look at Time.com to see what my colleagues have been up to overnight. Also look at the NYTimes Web site, and the Guardian, and Talking Points Memo. And a few book blogs, an old Paris Review habit I've reignited in these slightly news-slow summer months—which is how I come across the sad story of the death of VQR's managing editor.
On deck for this morning: signing off on finished magazine pages; ideas meeting; edits for next week. Also opening all the mail that has piled up in the last few weeks. I should open my mail every day. Then it would not pile up. I know that, but sometimes I rebel3, and this time it has gotten so bad that random colleagues have begun stopping by my office and offering to help me open it. I am the office Collyer Brother.
Morning meeting over. Half an hour until next meeting. Office gloriously unfluorescent. Work takes on low-lit, romantic flavor.
E-mail from my brother wondering which Scrabble app he should download so we can play together. I want to play with him, but he lives in Andover, Mass., so if we are to play, I will have to join Facebook4.
Open InCopy. I love InCopy. It lets me work in layout, and secretly I've always wanted to be a graphic designer. This reminds me that I never saw that documentary Helvetica, all about the font. Turn on iPad and add Helvetica to Netflix queue. It's available for instant viewing! Maybe I will watch it this weekend.
Meetings meetings meetings. Lunch!
AFTERNOON Back at my desk after Italian food and a lovely chat with an entertainment publicist who fills me in on a few fall movies. Caitlin Roper (of Paris Review fame) alerts me to a tweet from Bill Burton saying the President just bought a copy of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. I'm going to go ahead and assume that's because we put Franzen on the cover of Time. President Obama, if you need any more book recommendations, feel free to call me directly. I think you'd really like David Mitchell.
Heroically refrain from reading Skippy Dies during multicolor wheel spin while waiting for InCopy file to open.
Culturally with-it colleague Gilbert Cruz drops by, ostensibly with a work question but actually to recommend I watch the Free Willy horror movie recut on YouTube. It's fantastic. Then we watch The Shining recut as romantic comedy. Then, because I am a Harry Potter fan, I must read "Harry Potter and the Prisoners of Gitmo" on time.com, about the books on offer for Guantanamo detainees.
Call neighborhood bookstore, BookCourt on Court Street, to see about the first Paul Murray book. They don't have it, alas. Meanwhile, twilight is coming on, and it's kind of dark in here. May need to buy an office lamp.
LATER Writing headlines is hard.
LATER STILL I'm done for the day. Skippy and I are reunited!
EVENING Friday nights were made for catching up on Top Chef. Life before DVR—I've blocked it from my memory. Read More »
- P.G. Tips, half teaspoon sugar, half teaspoon honey, splash of milk.
- It's Paul Murray's second novel, out August 31 in the U.S., and I am going to review it for Time.
- Against myself? The post office? All the publishers who put out books and mail them to me?
- I didn't join at the beginning, and then I missed the second through eighth waves of enthusiasm and proselytizing. I figured I would just continue blithely through life, Facebook-free, forgetting people's birthdays. But now… Scrabble. Will it be my downfall? This is one of those luxurious dilemmas we face in the developed world.
June 24, 2010 | by Reagan Arthur
This is the second installment of Arthur’s culture diary. Click here to read part 1.
6:10 A.M. The New York Times. More about Israel and the Gaza attacks. A surprising waste of space devoted to a co-op spat on the Upper East Side. I love reading about real estate and rich people behaving badly, but this feels small: boring fight and boring story. Bob Herbert on the oil spill. Henin and Ginepri are out of the French Open.
7:00 A.M. Managed to miss the train. On the bus instead, where my usual carsickness subsides enough to let me continue Operation Franzen.
8:15 A.M. E-mail includes news of a rave review by Julie Orringer in the Washington Post of Frederick Reiken’s Day For Night. I already loved Julie Orringer, but now I think she can do no wrong.
8:20 A.M. Great interview on the Huffington Post with Cal Morgan, editor at Harper Perennial and one of my earliest publishing pals when we were both at St. Martin’s Press. Cal is publishing some terrific fiction, in a really interesting way.
8:36 A.M. My morning spin around the blogs. Maud Newton, Betsy Lerner, Elegant Variation, Galley Cat, Sarah Weinman. With BEA last week I’m a little behind on these, and I see that Maud has been, as always, sharp and smart—this time about Garrison Keillor’s recent prediction that publishing is on its deathbed. Betsy Lerner writes about writing, publishing, and being an agent, and it’s beyond me how she manages to post a smart and witty new entry every day, but her blog has become a welcome daily habit.
12:23 P.M. Publishers Weekly, with round-up of last week’s BEA at Javits. Photo of Jon Stewart, who hosted the sold-out author breakfast, and provided the quote of the fair when he followed Condoleeza Rice’s apparently great speech with: “Don’t MAKE me like you.” I perform the editorial review scan: race through the review section for my own books, as well as books I saw, bid on, or passed on. These can bring pain or pleasure but today I’m spared both. Nice review for Don Winslow’s upcoming Savages. He’s the first writer I ever signed up, and a great guy to boot.
1:00 P.M. Glamorous publishing lunch: falafel at my desk. Twitter brings news that the Gores are divorcing: wow. And Twitter sends me to a deeply satisfying, hilarious review of Sex and the City 21 by Lindy West in The Stranger, which I promptly bookmark so I can read her more often.
1:10 P.M. Newsweek Tumblr in response to David Carr’s piece about their sale.
3:10 P.M. Break from work to check the Times online and dammit, Federer’s been knocked out of the French Open by the unpleasant Swede. I must Tweet my dismay.
4:45 P.M. Bookforum. Lovely Michael Greenberg essay about his near-death and his dying mother. Mary Gaitskill’s rigorous and convincing review of Marlene van Neikerk’s Agaat. Mark Stevens on the new Leo Castelli biography. Paul La Farge and Keith Gessen on utopia and dystopia. Reader, I skimmed. James Gibbons on Rick Moody’s The Four Fingers of Death, which my colleague Pat Strachan edited—a “comic tour de force”! Hooray.
6:00 P.M. Franzen on the bus. The manuscript pile is growing. Must. Finish. Galley.
8:30 P.M. Manuscripts.
10:30 P.M. New Yorker. I love the Jeffrey Eugenides story set at Brown, which makes me nostalgic for my early New York City days when I was surrounded by Brown graduates who quickly cured me2 of saying “girl” instead of “woman” and other late-eighties infractions. Joan Acocella on “Cirque du Soleil,” which I just dragged my family3 to last week out on Randall’s Island. I could happily read Joan Acocella all day. The only thing that could make this New Yorker issue any better would be a Nancy Franklin review.
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- I know I should not hate this movie without seeing it, but the two hours I lost to the first one still make me angry, and everything I’ve seen or read about SATC2, including the movie’s own ads and promotional interviews, convinces me I’m on solid ground.
- Either UCLA was not as steeped in semiotics and political correctness, or I was not paying close enough attention. (Both, I think.)
- We gasped, we laughed, and my son asked me what time it was about every nine minutes.
June 22, 2010 | by Thessaly La Force
June 1, 2010 | by Lorin Stein
To the Reader:
Welcome to the The Paris Review Daily, a culture gazette brought to you by the editors of The Paris Review.
Since its founding in 1953, The Paris Review has devoted itself to publishing “the good writers and good poets,” regardless of creed or school or name-recognition. In that time the Review has earned a reputation as the chief discoverer of what is newest and best in contemporary writing.
But a quarterly only comes out…well, you know. We have been looking for a way to keep in touch with our readers between issues, and to call attention to our favorite writers and artists in something close to real time. If the Review embodies a sensibility, this Daily will try, in a casual and haphazard and at times possibly frivolous way, to put that sensibility into words.
Taking inspiration from the Review’s founding editor, George Plimpton, our mode will be participatory journalism, our beat the arts. We will write about what we love, not as critics, but as participants—as amateurs in the Plimptonian sense of the word. That anyway is our aim. Furthermore we hope that you will enjoy the Daily and—most of all—that you'll write in and tell us what you think.
If you are like us, you hear a lot of gloomy talk about the future of reading, but you don't quite recognize yourself in these discussions: books are the reading you care most deeply about, and you doubt that’s going to change. You love your favorite blogs, but you also know when to turn off your devices. You read your favorite magazines faithfully—and if sometimes you skip the fiction, it’s not because you think new writing is in some sort of inevitable decline. It’s probably because you are what Roberto Bolaño called a “desperate” reader, on the lookout for a story that will speak more directly to your condition.
“Perhaps the critics are right,” wrote William Styron half a century ago, in the Review’s first issue: “this generation may not produce literature equal to that of any past generation—who cares? The writer will be dead before anyone can judge him—but he must go on writing.”
In the same spirit, we say there is plenty to interest us in the writing of our moment, and not only in the writing. Everywhere we look, whether it’s the new painting, film, or YouTube clip, we find beauty sufficient unto the present day, the only one we’ve got.
Ever faithfully yours,