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Posts Tagged ‘walking’

The Art of Insomnia, and Other News

July 15, 2016 | by

A 1955 oil painting by Dr. Seuss. Photo: The Art of Dr Seuss and Liss Gallery, via the Guardian.

  • Today in deeply disturbing ontological questions: in the not-too-distant future, we can reasonably expect to upload simulations of ourselves to computers to enjoy eternal digital afterlives. So, uh … as Michael Graziano asks: “Did you cheat death, or merely replace yourself with a creepy copy? I can’t pretend to have a definitive answer … My own perspective borrows from a basic concept in topology. Imagine a branching Y. You’re born at the bottom of the Y and your lifeline progresses up the stalk. The branch point is the moment your brain is scanned and the simulation has begun. Now there are two of you, a digital one (let’s say the left branch) and a biological one (the right branch). They both inherit the memories, personality, and identity of the stalk. They both think they’re you. Psychologically, they’re equally real, equally valid. Once the simulation is fired up, the branches begin to diverge … Is it all one person, or two people, or a real person and a fake one? All of those and none of those. It’s a Y.”
  • For those of us still among the biologically alive, there are more pressing matters, like, what happens when you and your paramour build yourselves the perfect new home for your perfect new love, and then you break up? It happens, you know. Even to famous architects, whose work survives the love affairs as a tribute to a broken heart. Leanne Shapton writes, “My friend Niklas Maak, a writer and architecture critic, took me to a house on Sardinia where the actress Monica Vitti once lived. The house, called La Cupola, was designed and built by the Italian architect Dante Bini for Vitti and her then boyfriend, the director Michelangelo Antonioni, in the late ’60s … It was beautiful. It was a wreck. It blistered on the rocky hillside: a perfect dome, gray weathered concrete and granite connected by a bridge to an eroded staircase … Looking around the main room, it was easy to imagine Vitti stepping carefully, cinematically, barefoot down the banister-free staircase that Antonioni built to watch her descend. But by 1972, Vitti and Antonioni were at the end of their affair.”

A Fun Time at the Frost Fair, and Other News

January 8, 2016 | by

Mehetabel Lovell, a 1740 frost-fair souvenir. Image via Slate

  • Over the course of the “Little Ice Age” that befell Europe some centuries back, the River Thames froze twenty-three times—such an unlikely occurrence that people had no choice but to party on the ice. These “frost fairs” often lasted for days; people set up tents and printers commemorated the occasion by selling letterpressed sheets of souvenir paper. “The men who dragged their presses onto the ice and produced these keepsakes were a competitive lot, each trying to offer the most enticing product … Promiscuity and sexual license were constitutive elements of the frost fair … Some of the tents set up on the ice were brothels.”
  • Five booksellers and publishers have gone missing in Hong Kong, and their disappearance may be linked to a contentious manuscript about China’s president. “The book’s title was being debated by the publisher before the abductions … The two choices were: The Lovers of Xi Jinping or Xi Jinping and His Six Women It is unclear whether the book alleges Xi had an extramarital affair. As part of his crackdown on corruption since he took office in 2012, Xi has led an anti-corruption campaign that made adultery grounds for banishment from the Communist Party.”
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy long ago overtook psychoanalysis as the dominant form of therapy—and it had results to back up this dominance. In more recent studies, though, the talking cure has proven increasingly effective. Is it time to bring Freud back into the fold? “In contrast to the meandering conversations of psychoanalysis, a typical CBT exercise might involve filling out a flowchart to identify the self-critical ‘automatic thoughts’ that occur whenever you face a setback … Yet rumblings of dissent from the vanquished psychoanalytic old guard have never quite gone away. At their core is a fundamental disagreement about human nature—about why we suffer, and how, if ever, we can hope to find peace of mind … CBT doesn’t exactly claim that happiness is easy, but it does imply that it’s relatively simple: your distress is caused by your irrational beliefs, and it’s within your power to seize hold of those beliefs and change them. Psychoanalysts contend that things are much more complicated. For one thing, psychological pain needs first not to be eliminated, but understood. From this perspective, depression is less like a tumor and more like a stabbing pain in your abdomen: it’s telling you something, and you need to find out what.”
  • Many of us enjoy a good walk. I myself embarked on a walk this very morning, and plan to walk more throughout the day. But I’ll probably never walk as much, or as far, as Werner Herzog, whose book Of Walking in Ice tells of his journey on foot from Munich to Paris in 1974. “‘Walking on foot brings you down to the very stark, naked core of existence,’ Herzog told a Film Comment interviewer in 1979, a year after Of Walking in Ice was first published in Germany. ‘We travel too much in airplanes and cars. It’s an existential quality that we are losing. It’s almost like a credo of religion that we should walk.’ Over the course of many years, and in countless different interviews, Herzog has spoken of his filmmaking—and of walking—in vaguely spiritual, even divine terms (‘It’s like a grace, like a gift of God that has fallen into my lap’).”
  • In which Ben Lerner pays a visit to the new Whitney’s conservation department: “For many modern and contemporary artists, ephemerality is part of the point. Dieter Roth, to take just one example, didn’t cover his canvases with yogurt for the sake of durability; they were built to biodegrade. Picasso and Braque told friends that they would rather let their canvases deteriorate than have them varnished … In the absence of explicit and complete instructions—that is, most of the time—conservation is fundamentally an interpretive act … The work of a conservator can re-sacralize the original art object … Conservation can help produce—not just protect—the aura of the original.”

Mapping Central Park

June 17, 2015 | by

Desire Lines turns a walk in the park into an emotional map.

TROUV 2015.0004 Central Park 2015 Install 8

Desire Lines, 2015. A project of the Public Art Fund. © Tatiana Trouvé. Photo: Emma Cole, courtesy Gagosian Gallery

In 1654, Madeleine de Scudéry produced a ten-volume philosophical novel called Clélie, about the coaction between temperament and free will. Clélie was a popular salon novel at the time, but it’s now best remembered for the Carte de tendre, often translated as “the map of love” or “the map of the country of tenderness”: a long description of a country that represents the landscape of human emotion, illustrated by a map in the first volume of the book. The country is divided by the “river of inclination,” and there are little hamlets, deserts, and mountains like “sincerity,” “assiduity,” and “respect.” “Passion” is a dangerous-looking rocky outcrop, beyond which is unknown territory. To get from one end to another, one must avoid the “Lake of Indifference,” and “Affection” has to be surmounted to arrive at deep spiritual love. The map is one of the premier examples of sentimental cartography, which has a niche spot in French literary history.

In March, the Public Art Fund of New York City installed Desire Lines, a new commissioned work by the French Italian artist Tatiana Trouvé, which mixes sentiment and cartography. Desire Lines is at the southeast end of Central Park, in the Doris C. Freedman Plaza, where it will sit for the summer. The structure comprises three steel racks, nearly twelve feet tall, that hold spools of rope in different colors; there are 212 spools in all, each with a length that corresponds to a specific path in the park. Trouvé mapped, named, and indexed every one of them, from the thoroughfares to the secluded, unnamed paths. From a distance, the installation resembles a giant’s sewing kit, or an electrician’s stock. Engravings on each spool suggest various acts of walking in the culture: “Woman Suffrage Parade, March 3, 1913” or “ ‘Walk on By,’ ” Dionne Warwick, 1964.” Visitors “can choose a path by name and then undertake the walk as it describes, tracing the march of history in collective memory while discovering Central Park anew.” Read More »

Life and Loves

June 4, 2015 | by

Hugh_Bolton_Jones_1900_On_the_Green_River copy

Hugh Bolton Jones, On the Green River, 1900.

The other day, I mentioned my grandfather’s fondness for a certain line of poetry: “Hie me away to the woodland stream,” he would say whenever the brook in the nearby woods was running.

We walked that way almost every day on my visits to California—my grandfather was a great walker—but some summers it was too dry, and the brook was just a dusty furrow. Sometimes we walked around the lake at the Naval Postgraduate School, or on the beach. Always, his strides were so long you could barely keep up. Sometimes, we couldn’t, and he’d move far ahead of us, hunched, hands thrust into the pockets of his flight suit. Read More »

Walking While Reading

May 11, 2012 | by

I’ve been reading a few things lately on the subject of walking, including treatments philosophical (Rousseau’s Reveries of the Solitary Walker, Thoreau’s “Walking”), narrative (Walser’s The Walk, new from New Directions next month), and poetic (O’Hara’s Lunch Poems and some Wordsworth). I’m thinking of writing an essay on the subject and noting that my list so far consists of only dead men. Can you recommend any writers who are female and/or living who have written about walking?

Rebecca Solnit is female and very much alive. You should start with her Wanderlust: A History of Walking. And if city walking interests you—or the subject of walking with one’s mother—you will want to read Vivian Gornick’s modern classic, Fierce Attachments.

As it happens, I’m in the middle of a brand new book about walking: The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, by Robert MacFarlane. I keep saving it for bed to make it last. The American edition won’t be out until October, but the British edition comes out early next month; if you can possibly wait for it, I would. You will want to read MacFarlane, above all for the wealth of his references, but also for the unabashed, Norsey music of his prose:

I’ve read them all, these old-way wanderers, and often I've encountered versions of the same beguiling idea: that walking such paths might lead you–in Hudson’s phrase–to “slip back out of this modern world.” Repeatedly, these wanderers spoke of the tingle of connection, of walking as seance, of voices heard along the way. Bashō is said to have told a student that while wandering north he often spoke with long-dead poets of the past, including his twelfth-century forbear Saigyo: he therefore came to imagine his travels as conversations between “a ghost and a ghost-to-be.”

With so much to read out there—and more being published all the time—how do you find the time to get through it all?

Please don’t quote my actual name.

Dear “Stefan” (not his actual name),

You’re mixing me up with Kurt Andersen—and I have no idea how he gets through it all. I get through almost none of it. It just sits there on my desk and table and shelves, glowering, until our interns box it up and take it to the Strand.

But the nice thing about books is that they don’t go anywhere. The good ones keep.

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Portfolio: A Moveable Feast

June 24, 2011 | by

Graphic designer Yann Legendre created these portraits of writers who lived and wrote in Paris in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Legendre’s illustrations are excerpted from the anthology Paris au pied de la lettre, by Mathilde Helleu.

Ernest Hemingway.

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” —Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

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