- Prince died yesterday, at age fifty-seven, at his home, Paisley Park, in Chanhassen, Minnesota. The nation mourns: Minnesota Public Radio has dedicated its waves exclusively to the artist; purple rain adorns next week’s New Yorker cover; San Francisco lit its City Hall with the royal hue; and MTV, which hasn’t played a music video in years, aired nothing but the late musician’s work and the movie Purple Rain yesterday. Said the New York Times of the musician, “His music was a cornucopia of ideas: triumphantly, brilliantly kaleidoscopic.”
- As it turns out, Soviet production novels—that humorless subgenre of yore—followed a pretty basic pattern: “an outsider arrives at a factory or construction site and has to figure out how to solve a morale problem or increase productivity: Ivan Alexandrovich has to supervise the building of a hydroelectric plant or Sofia Alexandrovna has to increase production at the textile mill. They are, along with Elizabethan masques and vice-presidential autobiographies, one of the most arid literary genres ever devised.”
- Any young person working in publishing today ought to know a little about the history of fonts. If you, like me, feel your knowledge is lacking, I offer you a not-so-brief history of roman fonts. “The Carolingian or Caroline minuscule joined forces with antique Roman square capitals at the very beginning of the fifteenth century—a conjunction willed by the great Florentine humanists; their forms first wrought in metal by two German immigrants at Subiaco and Rome, honed by a Frenchman, and consummated at the hands of Griffo of Bologna and Aldus the Venetian. A thousand years after the fall of the Roman Empire, the romans returned and reconquered.”
- Today is the four-hundredth anniversary of Cervantes’s death. Before he wrote Don Quixote, Cervantes was kidnapped by pirates and imprisoned in the Algiers for five years, a life-defining moment that influenced his writing: “I would argue that Cervantes’s explicit interest in the question of madness emerges from the borderline situations he endured as a captive, from the encounter with death that transformed him into a survivor. [It] converts him into a pioneer in the exploration of the psyche three centuries before Freud.”
- You know who else passed away this week four hundred years ago? Shakespeare, that’s who. To celebrate the Bard, NPR spoke with Shakespeare scholars, dramaturges, and Victorian food experts and produced a series of delightful essays on his relation to food. Linguistic and gastronomical insights abound: As Anne Bramley writes, “When Hamlet huffs about the ‘funeral baked meats’ served at his mother’s wedding banquet, he is chastising her for her quick remarriage, implying that she was serving leftovers from his father’s recent funeral. But funeral baked meats were in fact a real food, and they weren’t as macabre as their name implied—though they were cooked in a ‘coffin.’ The same word was used for ‘a coffer to keep dead people or to keep meat in,’ explains Ken Albala, director of food studies at the University of the Pacific.”
Last March, we announced the ten winners of this year’s Whiting Awards, given annually to writers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama, based on early accomplishment and the promise of great work to come. Now we’ve asked eleven Whiting winners, past and present, to write about the books that have influenced them the most—a list to bear in mind as you choose your holiday reading. —D. P. Read More
It made headlines last year when word got out that Terry Gilliam would finally resume work on his windmill-tilting Don Quixote—and cineastes speak with awe of Orson Welles’s unfinished 1955 Quixote. But there’s one Quixote adaptation that no one talks about much, that few people seem even to know about: the Spanish pornographic cartoon from the seventies.
I’m not going to link to it. If you want to track it down, you can. The caption on one Web site reads, “Just too cool … Must see … ” I’m not a professional film critic, but I respectfully disagree—the erotic Don Quijote cartoon is tedious in the extreme. Read More
Archeologists in Spain have excavated a casket with Miguel de Cervantes’s initials on it, the Associated Press reported earlier today, which may mean that a long search for the author’s remains is finally over.
When Cervantes died, in 1616, he was buried in the Trinitarias convent in Madrid. This arrangement required a special dispensation: Years earlier, when Cervantes was a soldier, his ship had been captured by pirates, and he was held captive for five years. The Trinitarias’s religious order had helped arrange for his safe release, so he asked to be buried there. Read More
- In Spain, forensic scientists have begun to search for the remains of Miguel de Cervantes—using the power of radar.
- Dave Eggers wrote a rhapsodic introduction to the tenth-anniversary edition of Infinite Jest. But in 1996, when the novel was first published, he had less enthusiastic things to say. (The phrase “wildly tangential flights of lexical diarrhea” is especially damning.)
- If we blame Helen of Troy for starting the Trojan War, are we not slut-shaming?
- In China, the Uighur writer and scholar Ilham Tohti “has been charged with separatism for the peaceful expression of his views on human rights.” A long list of writers has signed a petition demanding his release.
- Have you been searching for the proper periodical for the young arriviste in your life? “Teen Tatler knows what its readers are destined for: a cokey phase where they fuck a member of a dynasty pop-rock band, before a lifetime of medicated bliss on the arm of some kind of viscount.” Subscribe now.
- Let’s remember our nation’s historic first sperm bank—it all started in the Iowa of 1952, with two doctors, some bull semen, and a lot of dreams…