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Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Conrad’

This Week on the Daily

December 7, 2014 | by

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E. Ravel, from Die Gartenlaube, 1891.

Our new Winter issue is here. Learn more about its cover, which features a photograph from Marc Yankus.

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“Art isn’t always what—or where—you expect to find it.” Nicole Rudick looks at art ephemera.

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Walter Benjamin used to write a radio show for children—here he tells a story with thirty brainteasers. (We’ll post the answers on Thursday.)

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“I think poetry is always one or two poets away from extinction.” Michael Hofmann and Jack Livings talk about poetry, translation, and Vespas.

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An interview with Julia Wertz about her online comic, Fart Party, now collected in a new book, The Museum of Mistakes. “I’m a real bitch in my work. No one likes a happy-go-lucky character—that’s the character everyone wants to see destroyed.”

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Twenty-five years after Wild at Heart, Barry Gifford’s novels are still weird on top.

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Two centuries after the Marquis de Sade, a French exhibition traces his influence

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Plus, Sadie Stein sees how far a full-page ad in The New York Times goes; and Joseph Conrad thinks the world is plenty mysterious enough as it is, thanks.

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Marvels and Mysteries

December 3, 2014 | by

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A caricature of Conrad by David Low, 1928.

INTERVIEWER

How would you define fantastic, then?

BORGES

I wonder if you can define it. I think it’s rather an intention in a writer. I remember a very deep remark of Joseph Conrad—he is one of my favorite authors—I think it is in the foreword to something like The Dark Line, but it’s not that …

INTERVIEWER

The Shadow Line?

BORGES

The Shadow Line. In that foreword he said that some people have thought that the story was a fantastic story because of the captain’s ghost stopping the ship. He wrote—and that struck me because I write fantastic stories myself—that to deliberately write a fantastic story was not to feel that the whole universe is fantastic and mysterious; nor that it meant a lack of sensibility for a person to sit down and write something deliberately fantastic. Conrad thought that when one wrote, even in a realistic way, about the world, one was writing a fantastic story because the world itself is fantastic and unfathomable and mysterious.

INTERVIEWER

You share this belief?

BORGES

Yes. I found that he was right. I talked to Bioy Casares, who also writes fantastic stories—very, very fine stories—and he said, “I think Conrad is right. Really, nobody knows whether the world is realistic or fantastic, that is to say, whether the world is a natural process or whether it is a kind of dream, a dream that we may or may not share with others.”

—Jorge Luis Borges, The Art of Fiction No. 39, 1967

Since it’s Joseph Conrad’s birthday, I went in search of his foreword to The Shadow Line—it was an author’s note, actually, appended to the novel’s second edition in 1920. And Borges’s memories of it are largely accurate: Conrad uses it to mount a defense of “the world of the living,” which “contains enough marvels and mysteries as it is … I am too firm in my consciousness of the marvellous to be ever fascinated by the mere supernatural.”

The Shadow Line, which is now in the public domain, was first published in 1916, when it appeared over the course of two months in Metropolitan Magazine. It tells the story of a young man who assumes the captaincy of a ship in “the Orient.” The ghost of the ship’s previous captain, Mr. Burns, lurks: “His face in the full light of day appeared very pale, meagre, even haggard. Somehow I had a delicacy as to looking too often at him; his eyes, on the contrary, remained fairly glued on my face. They were greenish and had an expectant expression.”

Here’s the author’s note Borges mentions: Read More »

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A Downright Incantation

December 3, 2013 | by

BelgianCongoHut

Old Belgian river station on the Congo River, 1889.

Everyone knows that Heart of Darkness was adapted as Apocalypse Now, but have you ever listened to the 1938 radio version Orson Welles did with the Mercury Theatre? The sound quality is poor, but it’s compelling nonetheless.

 

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The Man in Black, and Other News

February 8, 2013 | by

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  • “Coeur d’Alene Sen. John Goedde, chairman of the Idaho Senate Education Committee, introduced legislation Tuesday to require every Idaho high school student to read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and pass a test on it to graduate from high school.” (When questioned, Goedde clarified, “I don’t plan on moving this forward—it was a statement.”) 
  • “Jane Austen has been dead for close to two hundred years, but it’s hard to imagine she’s gotten much rest in her grave in Westminster Abbey, what with all the rewrites, updates and zombifications of her work.” Enough already! says Carolyn Kellogg. 
  • “Son, where are your books on trains?” On selling books to Johnny Cash. (Spoiler: as amazing as it sounds.)
  • Yes, there is a hotel designed to look like Joseph Conrad’s steamer. Ten hotels based on literature.
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    Conrad Signals, Server Signs

    August 10, 2012 | by

     

  • Because it is Friday, a Joseph Conrad bat signal.
  • A pair of Irish researchers have determined that Homer’s epics are (partially) based in fact. “We’re not saying that this or that actually happened, or even that the individual people portrayed in the stories are real ... We are saying that the overall society (that emerges from the stories) and interactions between characters seem realistic.”
  • The son of John Steinbeck has publicly objected to the invocation of Of Mice and Men to justify the Texas execution of a mentally handicapped man.
  • Celebrate Julia Child’s centenary with these ten titles.
  • If you  wish to rakishly mix your media, here is how to make a screen saver from your favorite book cover.
  • The secret language of restaurants; or, how your waiter knows who gets what.
  • And how did you celebrate Book Lover’s Day?

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    What We’re Loving: Bejeweled Ostriches, Robot Dancers

    May 25, 2012 | by

    I know it’s dumb to bet on which novels—which anything—will endure and which won’t. So why, reading Endless Love, Scott Spencer’s 1979 novel of romantic obsession, do I keep thinking, This will outlast us all? Maybe because it reminds me of other novels that have stayed fresh over the decades without the benefit of “classic”—or even cult classic—status: books like Victory, or Rebecca, or The Transit of Venus or The White Hotel or, in a funny way, Mating. You could make a much longer, even more random list, but there’s something they all have in common, something to do with technical sophistication, urgency, and shamelessness, as if the plot came welling up out of a nightmare. They are, you might say, too strong to be classics; they don’t need champions or explaining. People will just keep making each other read them. —Lorin Stein

    After my most recent binge at Westsider Books, I found myself holding a copy of something titled The Minikins of Yam. Maybe it’s all these rainy afternoons, but lately I’ve missed the middle school era of my reading life, when “guilty pleasure” was the only category. I freely admit that I chose this paperback by Thomas Burnett Swann, an almost entirely forgotten 1970s author of “neo-romantic fantasy,” solely on account of its awesome cover art, in which a horned lady sallies forth atop a bejeweled ostrich. But Yam delivers exactly what George Barr’s cover art promises: basilisks, subterfuge, and beast-headed gods. If you, too, are an adult human still coping with the end of Harry Potter, look for one of these gorgeous DAW paperbacks to help fill the void. —Allison Bulger

    Happy Memorial Day Weekend! If mysophobia (or better options) keep you from the opening of public pools this weekend, I suggest reading David Foster Wallace’s “Forever Overhead,” a story from Brief Interviews with Hideous Men in which a pubescent boy celebrates his thirteenth birthday at a local public pool. You get splash fights, diving-board lines, too-tight suits, Marco Polo—the stuff of poolside dreams—and the fierce awkwardness and exposed, liquid thoughts that public pools and puberty bring forth. Wallace tells the story with manic detail and emotional exactitude, and, as always with dear DFW, it’s at once playful and meditative, unlikely and perfect. —Elizabeth Nelson

    I’ve been home sick for the past two days and have found that Space Oddities: A Compilation of Rare European Library Grooves from 1977–1984 is the perfect sound track to a fever. Not a ringing endorsement? Well, you may just have to listen to this collection of carefully culled (by French DJs, naturally) clips from commercials, movies, and TV shows for yourself. I still have my ’08 CD, but good news: the whole album is on Spotify! Try “Robot Dancer.” —Sadie Stein

    My experience with Egyptian art is limited mostly to the blockbuster stuff—I remember seeing traveling shows in Texas, where the heavy eye makeup and big jewelry of the statuettes and masks seemed to make a certain kind of sense—and it’s impressive, to say the least. But now I’m finding myself wowed by the smaller, less overtly extraordinary objects in the Met’s “Dawn of Egyptian Art” show (I’ve spent a lot of time with the catalogue as well). The flash of gold and scale is replaced here with the innate beauty of natural materials and form, like a frog carved from a black stone flecked with white; a basket filled with tiny fish, all incised into a single piece of powdery steatite; and the head of a bovid chiseled from clay-hued flint. I’m also unduly impressed with the various hippopotamus-shaped objects—not surprising, since I’ve long been the proud owner of a tubby blue “William.” —Nicole Rudick

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