The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘libraries’

Staff Picks: Mortar, Machine Guns, Manuscript Porn

October 21, 2016 | by

Marc Yankus, Haughwout Building, 2016.

When the paleologist Christopher de Hamel first conceived Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts, he wanted to call it Interviews with Manuscripts, but his publisher wouldn’t let it fly. His pitch, eccentric though it may be, was that encountering texts like The Copenhagen Psalter and The Hours of Jeanne de Navarre in their original forms, deep in the bowels of the world’s most esoteric and inaccessible libraries, is not unlike interviewing famous celebrities in their current homes. “The idea of this book, then,” he writes in the introduction, “is to invite the reader to accompany the author on a private journey to see, handle and interview some of the finest illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages.” For how seriously De Hamel takes the premise—and he takes it, like, aggressively seriously—Meetings can feel, somewhat hilariously, like big-league manuscript porn: “As you sit in the reading-room of a library turning the pages of some dazzlingly illuminated volume,” he says, “you can sense a certain respect from your fellow students on neighboring tables consulting more modest books or archives.” Each of the book’s twelve studies is meticulously researched, and De Hamel showcases them with such self-evident joy that they’re irresistibly immersive. —Daniel Johnson

We featured a portfolio of the artist Marc Yankus’s “Secret Lives of Buildings” series in our Winter 2014 issue. Last week, Yankus packed the newly relocated ClampArt gallery for his fifth solo show, up through November 26. His new work furthers his obsession with New York’s architecture; once again, Yankus plays with geometry, texture, and ornament, tricking the eye with his masterful and often painterly attention to brick and mortar—obsessively blurring the lines between photography and illustration. Yankus seems to bring out the very best in these buildings, some that we’re so familiar with that we have ceased really seeing them. His work asks us to take a second look—and the images are imbued with optimism and splendor at a time when it’s often difficult to feel uplifted. Yankus has left behind the sandpaper tones and textures from his last body of work, introducing more light through a whitewashing effect. The sheer scale of some of the prints gives the impression that you could easily step, like Alice through the looking glass, from the gallery floor into one of Yankus’s deserted streets. —Charlotte Strick Read More »

Baronial Colonials, and Other News

August 18, 2016 | by

The alligator insignia of “The Calcutta Pococurante Society.” Image via the Public Domain Review.

  • I’ve never understood the appeal of mixed martial arts—too often it features, as Matthew Shen Goodman puts it, “an unending barrage of increasingly indistinguishable bald men and cornrowed women with terrible tattoos throwing the same one-two into a low kick and wrestle-fucking each other into the fence.” But maybe we’re watching it for the storytelling? Or maybe not: “MMA’s drama tends to be somewhat undercooked and boring, or terrifying and repulsive: incidents of domestic violence; hyping fights with xenophobic slurs (please, Conor and Joanna, stop telling your Brazilian opponents to go back to the jungle or that you’ll ransack their villages on horseback) or intense narratives about face-punching for Jesus/America/family legacy. There are a few fighters who thrive on being death spirits personified (Robbie Lawler, for example, who soberly told a broadcaster he takes people’s souls on Atlanta local television), but an actual story is often lacking, as are characters. This makes for difficult viewing, given how many fights there are, and the fact that you usually have to pay to watch, as well as the time spent sitting through ads for MetroPCS and new appetizers at Buffalo Wild Wings.”
  • Everyone knows that Netflix’s Stranger Things pays homage to eighties-era horror and sci-fi, but if you want to be a real asshole at the next party you go to, you can insist that its roots go much, much deeper, back to Lovecraft and an earlier tradition of speculative fiction: “The idea—central to Stranger Things—that the unnatural is weirder, more widespread, and therefore scarier than the state of nature dates back at least to 1927, when H. P. Lovecraft published a short story called ‘The Colour Out of Space.’ It’s about a meteor that lands on a farm in rural Massachusetts. A strange life-form is buried within the meteor, and it soon leaches into the soil. The farm’s plants begin to glow in shades ‘unlike any known colors of the normal spectrum.’ The animals, too, begin to move in unnatural ways. Eventually, the life-form takes a concrete shape. It begins to move about, stalking the farmer and his family and turning their bodies into a kind of living ash. Of the meteor, the narrator concludes, ‘It was nothing of the earth, but a piece of the great outside.’ ” 
  • Before fat shaming was a thing, there was Roald Dahl, peppering his books with gluttons and the many objects of their gluttony. As Annalisa Quinn writes, food in Dahl’s work is uniquely fraught: “If you look closely, the danger inherent in food is everywhere. There’s the dinner party in ‘Taste,’ Dahl’s chilling adult short story in which the host bets his gourmand guest that he won’t guess the provenance of the wine (the prize: his daughter); the chocolate Xanadu of Willy Wonka, where handling food the wrong way subjects you to contortions and tortures; and the dripping, voluptuous peach that kills James’ aunts. He entices us and then shows us what happens if we succumb: derision, loss of bodily autonomy, death.”
  • Calcutta in the early nineteenth century was full of British fat cats cooling their heels in various exotic locales. Joshua Ehrlich looks at 1833’s Calcutta Quarterly Magazine, which includes a bizarre supplement mocking a fictitious group called the “Calcutta Pococurante Society” for its indulgent ways: “The members’ wandering dinner chat, peppered with lines of poetry and elements of the occult, is not the kind of thing modern readers are used to seeing in print. Nor is it obvious why past readers should have wanted to … It is striking, meanwhile, how little the text is concerned with India or Indians … The aloofness of the British transplants, their dislocation from their surroundings, seems part of the satire … At the Society’s dinner, even local ingredients are rendered in French on the menu. The members discuss almost exclusively Western politics, philosophy, and literature. On the rare occasions when the east enters the scene, it does so obliquely and fancifully, for instance in the decoration of the Society’s meeting place: ‘a Turkish tent of white silk … Ottomans of pale Blue and Gold … a profusion of Purple Velvet drapery.’ The everyday experience of life in India is relegated to outside the tent-flaps.”
  • While we’re on the British empire: Zimbabwe’s Harare City Library boasts a new Doris Lessing Special Collection, commemorating the thirty-five hundred books she gave to the library after her death. Lessing had a special history with the place, as Percy Zvomuya writes: “Lessing lived in Southern Rhodesia between 1925 (when she was six) and 1949 … The independent Zimbabwe that Lessing returned to in the 1980s was a different country from the Southern Rhodesia she left in 1949, which had declared her a ‘prohibited immigrant’ when she went back in 1956. She described it as an ‘awful place’ in one interview. ‘Only someone who’s lived in these dreadful colonial places will understand why. They are so dead and narrow and stultifying. If you are living in that kind of society where a small number of people are oppressing a great many, they become obsessed by the fact, and they talk about nothing else, day and night. And I always think of Goethe, who said, if you are going to keep a man down in the ditch, you are going to have to get into the ditch with him.’ ”

Looks Are Not Styles, and Other News

July 8, 2016 | by

Filters, bro.

  • The police murders of so many black men have been caught on video, putatively for the sake of justice. But these videos perpetuate themselves with the same moral ambiguity that comes with war photography or any document of suffering. As Ezekiel Kweku writes of Alton Sterling, “I was detached enough to critique the video of his death, classify it, find myself consigning it to genre. I’ve long passed the point at which watching these videos makes me feel like a helpless bystander—I am another distance removed. At this point, I am a critic of images of men like me, dying. I’m a connoisseur … For these videos to prick the conscience, that conscience must already value the lives of those who are dying. Otherwise, the videos are simply lurid entertainment, the modern version of the postcard-size images of lynchings that were passed around during the last century.”
  • While we’re on the power of images: Ricky D’Ambrose contrasts the “looks” of the Instagram-and-design age with legitimate style. “Style annuls the impersonal … A look—insofar as it has any resemblance to style at all—is a kind of instant style: quickly executed and dispatched, immediately understood, overcharged with incident. To say that a film, a photograph, a painting, or a room’s interior has a look is to assume a consensus about which parts of a nascent image are the most worthy of being parceled out and reproduced on a massive scale. It means making a claim about how familiar an image is, and how valuable it seems.”
  • Americans and Canadians. What could ever unite these two disparate peoples, given their distinct views on the welfare state and their radically different approaches to bacon? I’ll tell you what: a library. Sarah Yahm reports that “for nearly 200 years Derby Line, Vermont, and Stanstead, Quebec, essentially functioned as one town. Citizens drank the same water, worked in the same tool factory, played the same sports … They also shared the same cultural center, the Haskell Free Library and Opera House, an ornate Victorian edifice built deliberately on top of the international border in 1901 by the Canadian wife of a wealthy American merchant … Against all logic, the Haskell Free Library and Opera House continues to serve both Vermonters and Quebecers, and remains a transnational space that residents from both the U.S. and Canada can enter without a passport. Today, it is the only library in the world that exists and operates in two countries at once.”

My Autobibliography

June 10, 2016 | by

Building a library in Saint Lucia.


This summer we’re introducing a series of new columnists. Today, meet Matthew St. Ville Hunte. 

The first book I consciously acquired for what became my library was V.S. Naipaul’s The Writer and the World. I purchased it at a Nigel R. Khan Bookstore in the departure lounge of Trinidad’s Piarco Airport. This was 2004; I was flying home to Saint Lucia after I spent a summer working for an Afrocentric radical while finishing my junior year in college. At the time, I was drifting into a literary life, thanks mainly to the lack of a serious commitment to anything else. I set myself a program: I would read not just for pleasure or to acquaint myself with the best of what had come before me but to find out where I could fit in as a writer. Naipaul—jaded, deracinated, and irredeemably West Indian—seemed like a natural model. Read More »

Baxter Week, Day Four

May 26, 2016 | by

By overwhelming demand, we’re back with more Baxter. To mark the release of his new book Almost Completely Baxter: New and Selected Blurtings, we’re running two of Glen’s drawings every day this week. Almost Completely Baxter spans four decades of “Colonel” Baxter’s work, drawing from such books as The Billiard Table Murders and Blizzards of Tweed. “Baxter’s comic realm—the space between image and text, between perplexity and the mundane—is a locale where uncertainty emerges as weird and weirdness recedes into uncertainty,” Albert Mobilio wrote recently in Bookforum. “The funny arrives as a slow-motion detonation that seems to dissipate as quickly as it boomed.” Baxter’s short stories appeared in The Paris Review’s Winter 1972 issue; a portfolio, “It Was the Smallest Pizza They Had Ever Seen,” followed in Summer 1985.

Almost Completely Baxter txt revised final crx.indd Read More »

Be Bold with Bananas, and Other News

April 27, 2016 | by

Go on.