Posts Tagged ‘Dostoevsky’
September 22, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Today in cartographical howlers: a new exhibition in Boston, “Hy-Brasil: Mapping a Mythical Island,” chronicles the exciting centuries when no one really knew where anything was and mapmakers had carte blanche to draw whole islands anywhere they damn well pleased: “O Brazil, or Hy-Brasil as it was frequently labeled, had haunted maps since the fourteenth century, first as a mistake, then as a mythological tribute. Its size and shape often morphed, its location wandered from Ireland to North America, and its name varied, but for five centuries it endured in Western cartography … There are all sorts of legends attached to Hy-Brasil, including giant black rabbits that lived with a sorcerer, gods hidden by the mists, lost civilizations, and, more recently, UFOs. However, its greatest connection is to Irish folklore, particularly the belief in the ‘Otherworld’ and its Elysium, a ‘Land of Youth.’ When it first was illustrated on a 1325 map, Hy-Brasil was considered to only be visible once every seven years due to the heavy mists, its land housing an immortal race of people.”
- Planning your next family vacation? Why not force your loved ones to embark on a literary pilgrimage of Russia? You can tour the places where Dostoyevsky suffered, and where Tolstoy suffered, and then you can bicker among yourselves about which one of them suffered more productively. Jacqueline Carey did it, and she makes it sound more appealing: “We had the chance to visit the place where [The Brothers Karamazov] was written—Dostoyevsky’s last apartment, now a museum … Tea was always kept hot in the samovar, and he thought only he could make it right. When he drank tea made by his wife, he would say, ‘Oh, how wretched I am.’ He died on the couch, gazing at the Bible … In the Tolstoys’ sixteen-room winter house were many objects: books, a chess set, a piano, a tiger skin, a closet of clothes. On the landing an upright stuffed bear held a plate for visiting cards. Tolstoy was a man of obsessive enthusiasms. At the back of the house was a workroom with his cobbler tools, which he used to make shoes, including a pair for his oldest daughter Tatyana’s future husband.”
June 19, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Today in Sisyphean undertakings for the greater good: Michael Mandiberg, an interdisciplinary artist, is “transforming the English-language Wikipedia into an old-fashioned print reference set running to 7,600 volumes … [He] describes the project as half utilitarian data visualization project, half absurdist poetic gesture.” You can watch him transfer the digital files to a printer in real time at Denny Gallery, on the Lower East Side, where an exhibition, “From Aaaaa! to ZZZap!,” began yesterday.
- Joshua Cohen on Dostoevsky’s The Double, whose hero Golyadakin “doesn’t know how to present himself socially—or, in a contemporary phrasing, he doesn’t know which self to present, struggling as he is with a decaying class system, stagnant bureaucracy, Godlessness, materialism, precarity, and dread—all of which have rendered him incapable of appropriate behavior, or even of defining appropriate behavior, in front of friends, lovers, colleagues, the church, the state, himself. And I think we’re living in a culture like that today.”
- Alan Hollinghurst’s first chapbook, 1982’s Confidential Chats with Boys, is prized among collectors, but Hollinghurst seldom talks about it. A new interview finds him looking back at those early poems: “I suppose I always had the idea that gay sexuality was essentially innocent, even though it’s almost universally been stigmatized and criminalized. But actually it was innocent and natural … what you’re writing about might in a conventional sense be ‘hard-core’ because you’re writing very explicitly about sex, but actually it was something to which no opprobrious moral definition could be applied.”
- In 2013, Mark Strand reviewed a show of Edward Hopper’s paintings at the Whitney, and the handwritten text was rediscovered after Strand’s death last year. “My own encounters with this elusive element in Hopper’s work began when I would commute from Croton-on-Hudson to New York each Saturday … I would look out from the train window onto the rows of tenements whose windows I could look into and try to imagine what living in one of those apartments would be like … It was thrilling to suddenly go underground, travel in the dark, and be delivered to the masses of people milling about in the cavernous terminal. Years later, when I saw Approaching a City for the first time, I instantly recalled those trips into Manhattan and have ever since. And Hopper, for me, has always been associated with New York, a New York glimpsed in passing, sweetened with nostalgia, a city lodged in memory.”
- Are nature writers “just fiddling while the agrochemicals burn”? “The real danger is that nature writing becomes a literature of consolation that distracts us from the truth of our fallen countryside, or—just as bad—that it becomes a space for us to talk to ourselves about ourselves, with nature relegated to the background as an attractive green wash. The project of re-enchantment might restore to us a canon of lost writings about the eeriness and mystery of our landscape.”
March 10, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
- The Warburg Institute, which dates to 1900, is one of Britain’s most peculiar libraries; in its radically open stacks, astrological guides sidle up to astronomy textbooks and science lives with magic. “In the past several years, the Warburg’s future has been fiercely contested. It is in some senses a small and parochial struggle, right out of Trollope’s Barchester novels, and in others about something very big—about the future of private visions within public institutions, about what memory is and what we owe it, about how to tell when an original vision has become merely an eccentric one.”
- Richard Dadd was a promising British painter who went insane in the 1840s. He made his painting The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke in an asylum. “It is an exhaustingly complex image, with a substantial cast of characters, none of whom are doing much … If the Fairy Feller were a work intended for critical interpretation, which it probably was not, then we might talk of the suspended action with which the seed was to be split; the deferred moment of sex; the mutual isolation of the groups of figures suggesting the impossibility of generating a family or a community; and we might connect these themes to Dadd’s awareness of his own position as a long-stay patient in London’s high-security lunatic asylum.”
- The art of the continuation novel: Why do dead authors’ estates hire contemporary writers to imitate them? “The value of characters … often exceeds the value of an author’s original texts … In recent years Sebastian Faulks has written as P.G. Wodehouse, William Boyd as Ian Fleming, Sophie Hannah as Agatha Christie, Anthony Horowitz as Arthur Conan Doyle, and more … The literary brand, today, is a managed and controlled phenomenon. A dead author’s reach on social media (managed by their estate or publisher) can be vast. The person or people who control Socrates’ Facebook page have access to nearly 1.5 million people.”
- “Good metaphors force you to think about the things they reference in fresh ways. There aren’t very many good ones, though. They’re mostly concocted for the purpose of coercing you into changing your opinion. They annoy and distract rather than illuminate.”
- On the Underground Man, everyone’s favorite antihero: “Certainly, the author identified strongly with his protagonist, calling him the ‘real man of the Russian majority.’ Dostoevsky rejected the idea that people act in accordance to reason or their best interests and asserted the need for them to be able to behave as they choose, without fitting into Enlightenment ideas of ‘progress.’ ”
April 8, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
- If you’re having trouble getting serious reading done, you can go ahead and blame the Internet, which fosters deleterious skimming habits. “It was torture getting through the first page. I couldn’t force myself to slow down so that I wasn’t skimming, picking out key words, organizing my eye movements to generate the most information at the highest speed. I was so disgusted with myself.”
- Yesterday was Don B.’s birthday, making today the perfect occasion to reread his 1987 essay, “Not-Knowing.” “Let us discuss the condition of my desk. It is messy, mildly messy. The messiness is both physical (coffee cups, cigarette ash) and spiritual (unpaid bills, unwritten novels). The emotional life of the man who sits at the desk is also messy—I am in love with a set of twins, Hilda and Heidi, and in a fit of enthusiasm I have joined the Bolivian army.”
- “Every April, ‘O, Miami’ attempts to deliver a poem to every single person in Miami-Dade County.” (There are at least 2.591 million of them—I just checked.)
- Crime and Punishment and Batman: all in one scintillating, thrill-packed issue of Dostoyevsky Comics. One wonders which superhero moonlighted in the Brothers Karamazov issue.
- From the annals of game-show history comes Bumper Stumpers, a late-eighties Canadian television curio in which contestants parsed the wordplay in vanity license plates. (E.g., VTHKOLM, which means “fifth column,” obviously.)
- Meet Todd Manly-Krauss, the “writer” with the world’s most irritating Facebook presence.
January 23, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
In college, I was excited to discover a student-produced, fly-by-night zine called “From the Margins.” I don’t know what’s more embarrassing: that I assumed it was devoted to marginalia or that I was seriously juiced about the idea. When I opened its creased, xeroxed pages, though, I found it was devoted not to literal margins but to my school’s “disenfranchised peoples,” most of whom struck me as too well-heeled to feel put out.
In any case, this month has granted my wish: it’s seen some great attention paid to margins, the kind on paper. Open Culture featured Dostoevsky’s manuscript doodles, which demonstrate not just his remarkable penmanship but also an affinity for faces and architecture. (The former, to no one’s surprise, are deeply melancholy.) The Public Domain Review resurfaced some rainbow-colored beasts “found in a book of hours attributed to an artist of the Ghent-Bruges school and dating from the late fifteenth century,” and Brain Pickings resurfaced a piece about Edgar Allan Poe, “history’s greatest champion of marginalia.” Poe is indeed unreserved in his praise; he also suggests, “If you wish to forget anything upon the spot, make a note that this thing is to be remembered.”
Oh, that Poe! He’s a regular Mark Twain.
Last, Sam Anderson and David Rees have defaced, or, uh, annotated, a copy of Dan Brown’s Inferno, much to its benefit. There’s a lot of comfort in seeing—next to such atrocious lines of dialogue as “Don’t let her beauty fool you, she is a dangerous foe”—the red, hateful tendrils of a handwritten EAT SHIT.
It’s exactly the sort of thing I’d hoped to find in “From the Margins.”
August 9, 2012 | by Jacques Testard
Last August, I interviewed Will Self—whose latest novel Umbrella has just been long-listed for the prestigious Man Booker Prize—in his London home. I had been given two weeks to prepare and I was quite terrified. My terror was warranted; I had spent the last ten days immersed in his hallucinatory fictional worlds, composed of seven novels, three novellas, and countless short stories. Through these parallel and often overlapping fictions, Self has constructed a relentless critique of our institutional failings, hypocritical cultural mores, and political inadequacies. My fears, notwithstanding being intellectually dwarfed, were largely to do with the sheer madness of many of his writings. Here was the writer who, over the years, had invented:
1. A man who wakes up with a vagina behind his left knee and has an affair with his (male) GP (Bull: A Farce);
2. A parallel Earth populated by nymphomaniacal and exhibitionist apes seen through the eyes of its most prominent experimental psychiatrists (Great Apes);
3. The afterlife taking place in the purgatorial London district of “Dulston,” a suburb populated uniquely by senseless, chain-smoking dead people, haunted by their aborted fetuses and old neuroses, and living out the rest of infinity in dire office jobs (How the Dead Live);
4. A postapocalyptic London governed by a religion based on a cab driver named Dave’s insane writings to his estranged son in the 2000s (The Book of Dave).
And then there was the public figure—an acerbic satirist of towering intellect, a giant man of letters with a rhetorical bite strong enough to tear a lesser being apart. By the time I rang on the doorbell, Will Self had, to my mind, transmogrified into The Fat Controller—the Mephistophelian antihero in his My Idea of Fun—ready to shred me from limb to limb for my idiotic questions and inadequate readings.