The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Oxford’

The World Just Wasn’t Ready, and Other News

December 11, 2014 | by

webvan mark coggins

Rest in peace, WebVan. Photo: Mark Coggins, via Flickr

  • Tim Parks was dismayed to find that his students were so enthralled by “the printed word and an aura of literariness” that they’d miss obvious absurdities in what they were reading. His advice? “Always read with a pen in your hands, not beside you on the table, but actually in your hand, ready, armed. And always make three or four comments on every page, at least one critical, even aggressive. Put a question mark by everything you find suspect. Underline anything you really appreciate. Feel free to write ‘splendid,’ but also, ‘I don’t believe a word of it.’ And even ‘bullshit.’ ”
  • On a similar note, Oxonians are obsessed with finding marginalia in their library books: on Facebook, the Oxford University Marginalia group “now has two thousand five hundred and three members, making marginalia to Oxford something like what a cappella is to Princeton. ‘The Oxford libraries are still heavily used, and the curriculum remains relatively stable, so you have so many students reading the same texts’ … ‘The books are thrashed, basically.’ ”
  • Not many people are managing to slog through literary best sellers, experts say: “A study has shown the most downloaded ebooks of the year were not necessarily ever finished by hopeful readers.” Just 44 percent of readers made it through The Goldfinch, and 28 percent got through Twelve Years a Slave.
  • Crummy computer news, part one: they’re better at flirting than we are. “Women were okay, able to judge with 62 percent accuracy when a man was flirting with them. Men were worse, accurately guessing that a woman was flirting just 56 percent of the time. The Stanford guys’ flirtation-detection system, in comparison, was able to correctly judge flirting with 71 percent accuracy.”
  • Crummy computer news, part two: all the seemingly horrendous dot-com ideas of the nineties were actually pretty decent. Remember WebVan? No? They wanted to use the Internet to deliver fresh groceries to your door—just as dozens of profitable companies are doing today.

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All’s Welles That Ends Welles, and Other News

October 30, 2014 | by

Orson_Welles_-_1960

They’re doing what? Orson Welles in 1960.

  • “Whatever type styles were available to The Paris Review founders at the time of printing had just been embraced without our modern preoccupations of ‘branding’ and ‘identity.’ It was less a carelessness than a carefree-ness. At first the uptight twenty-first-century graphic designer in me was frustrated by this inconsistency, but I came to rather admire the early Reviewians for maintaining a consistent voice while continuing to see themselves anew with each issue.” An interview with our art editor, Charlotte Strick.
  • “American Sign Language isn’t a translation of English. It’s a language with its own grammar and idioms. Sign language speakers also have their own accents … There are also variations in sign language speed. New Yorkers are notorious fast-talkers, while Ohioans are calm and relaxed. New Yorkers also curse more.” (We’re foul-mouthed, even with our hands.)
  • When did the chapter emerge as one of the most essential tools in book-length writing and storytelling? “The chapter has become a way of looking at the world, a way of dividing time and, therefore, of dividing experience. Its origins date back to long before the printing press or even the bound codex, back to the emergence of prose in antiquity as both an expressive and an informational medium. Literary evolution rarely seems slower than it does in the case of the chapter.”
  • After Evelyn Waugh married for the second time, he received a letter from a woman he’d known as a student at Oxford: “I think of you all the time when I am making love, until the word and Evelyn are almost synonymous! And in the darkness each night & in the greyness of each morning when I wake I remember your face—& your voice and your body and everything about you so earnestly and intensely that you become almost tangibly beside me.”
  • Orson Welles’s unfinished final film, The Other Side of the Wind, may finally see release next year for the centenary of his birth. “The main character’s life has echoes in Hemingway’s: his father’s suicide, the day of his death, his love of Spain … Welles explores the last day of the fictional director’s life before he dies in a car crash that could be an accident or a suicide.”

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God, Satan, Waugh

October 28, 2014 | by

Evelynwaugh

A portrait of Waugh by Carl Van Vechten.

Evelyn Waugh was born today in 1903. You can read his Art of Fiction interview here, but there’s also, courtesy of the Spectator’s seemingly endless archives, this unverified bit of trivia from a letter to the paper sent in 1971:

Sir: Colin Wilson, your reviewer of Graham Greene’s autobiography A Sort of Life quotes from a supposed remark that Evelyn Waugh made to Greene—‘You know, Graham, you’ve made more money out of God than Wodehouse made out of Jeeves.’

I believe there are other versions of this story, although I cannot now remember who told me mine.

A few years ago, while in New York, I was but a stone’s throw from the Algonquin Hotel, Mr. Waugh and Mr. Greene were staying in the hotel. Late in the night Mr. Waugh popped into Mr. Greene’s room where a publisher’s party was still going strong to celebrate another Greene book. At some point during this party Evelyn Waugh announced: ‘You know, Graham, you’ve made more money out of the Devil than I’ve made out of God.’

Apocryphal or otherwise, the story does contain a more typical Waugh bite than the Jeeves analogy.

Michael Hastings

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Town of Marvels

June 27, 2013 | by

Image via oxfordmississippi.com

Image via oxfordmississippi.com.

The boy and the girl were engaged, driving to California, where the girl wanted to make costumes for the movies. The boy planned to study Native American archaeology; he was just out of the Navy. They were the sort of young people I felt accurate calling beautiful—good-looking, around twenty years old, in love. But it was more than that. The fact is, it’s sustaining, getting older, to meet young adults who are hopeful and naïve, just enough.

They had a car, a dog, a vision. But they didn’t have a book. Leaving New England, they’d heard about a certain book on NPR, and the girl thought it sounded just right. The boy said they’d find a copy on the road somewhere. They drove for days, heading south from New Hampshire: Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee. No book. The girl pressed. The boy promised. Bookstores don’t exactly dot the American highway in the grand manner of Sbarros. Finally, driving through Mississippi, seeing a sign for Oxford, the boy suggested they stop, stretch their legs, find the damn book. Oxford was a university town, there had to be a bookstore somewhere.

They parked in the tiny main square. A bookstore stood on the corner under a sign for Fortune’s Famous Ice Cream. The girl walked the dog, the boy went inside. He asked, Do you have this book?

We do, the clerk said. And there it was, right next to the register, a stack of them. The clerk said, Do you want a signed copy?

I guess so, the boy said.

Wait, but you do know the author was here tonight, right? He just did a reading, the clerk said after a moment. It was about seven P.M., the verge of dusk. The boy was confused. Suddenly, the clerk was pointing out the window, saying, Wait, that’s him going by right there.

No one really knows the value of book tours. Whether or not they’re good ideas, or if they improve book sales. I happen to think the author is the last person you’d want to talk to about a book; they hate it by that point, they’ve already moved on to a new lover. Besides, the author never knows what the book is about anyway. Read More »

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Arthurian Legend, Literary Restaurants

October 10, 2012 | by

  • Oxford’s Bodleian Library has put more than three hundred thousand rare books online.
  • J.R.R. Tolkien’s previously unseen two-hundred-page Arthurian epic poem, The Fall of Arthur, will be released next May. His son has acted as editor.
  • As I Chipotle Dying: the #literaryrestaurants hash tag sweeps Twitter.
  • Lena Dunham’s purported $3.5 million sale prompts a list of outrageous book deals.
  • Lolita, then, is undeniably news in the world of books. Unfortunately, it is bad news. There are two equally serious reasons why it isn’t worth any adult reader’s attention. The first is that it is dull, dull, dull in a pretentious, florid and archly fatuous fashion. The second is that it is repulsive.” The New York Times’s pan: just one of the bad reviews received by classics.

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    #Undateable; Toolkit Reading

    August 4, 2011 | by

    Inspired by the new hashtag sensation, who are your top “undateable” literary characters (and your top “dateable”)? —Rhonda

    Heathcliff is definitely up there. So is Cathy. (My favorite entry is “Detective, possibly with Asperger Syndrome, opium addict, involved in bromance with roomie.”) At the risk of double-dipping, this week I’d award the palm to Harriet, narrator and heroine of the aforementioned After Claude:

    “I’m not a charlady. I’m a sensuous woman. Please, Claude, please. I’m not asking you to take me to rapturous heights. Your feeble efforts mean more to me than all your mountain goats rolled into one. Remember how it was for us at the beginning, Claude? Gigantic. You were a tidal wave. All right. Maybe it’s not in you to maintain that hectic pace. I don’t care. I’m not like other women. I’m not asking for heaven, Claude, I’m just asking to be held.”
    When the echo of my shrill voice died out, there was a resounding silence left in the room, as if a monster rock-and-roll concert had ended on one abrupt note.
    “Harriet, don’t cry.”
    “Why not? After all we’ve meant to each other, suddenly you’re horrified by my touch.”
    Claude, completely dressed, took my hand and held it tightly. “I’m sorry if I’ve given you that impression, Harriet, because it’s not correct. I had no right to blame the breakup on you.”
    “There doesn’t have to be a breakup. I don’t want to hear about breakups,” I wailed.
    “You’re a beautiful girl, an intelligent girl, a sensitive girl. It’s just that we’re not suited.”
    “Are you determined to spend your life with a stupid slut?”
    Claude sighed. “I need to be alone.”
    “What is this suicidal despair? So you haven’t been King Farouk for a couple of weeks. It’s not such a tragedy.”

    The most dateable woman—the most dateable character—I can think of is Viola in Twelfth Night, but my eleven-year-old self would have killed to have a Coke with Jolenta, of The Book of the New Sun.

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