‘Pataphysics is a pseudophilosophy dedicated to studying what lies beyond the realm of metaphysics. The term was coined and the concept created by French writer Alfred Jarry, who defined ‘pataphysics as “the science of imaginary solutions, which symbolically attributes the properties of objects, described by their virtuality, to their lineaments.” Jarry considered Hippocrates of Chios and Sophrotatos the Armenian as the fathers of this “science”.
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The library collection is the oldest in Switzerland, and is one of earliest and most important monastic libraries in the world. It holds 2,100 manuscripts dating back to the 8th through the 15th centuries, 1,650 incunabula (printed before 1500), and old printed books. The library holds almost 160,000 volumes. The manuscript B of the Nibelungenlied is kept here.
His first novel poignantly probes a boy’s erotic coming-of-age at his family’s Italian Mediterranean home. Elio—17, extremely well-read, sensitive and the son of a prominent expatriate professor—finds himself troublingly attracted to this year’s visiting resident scholar, recruited by his father from an American university. Oliver is 24, breezy and spontaneous, and at work on a book about Heraclitus. The young men loll about in bathing suits, play tennis, jog along the Italian Riviera and flirt. Both also flirt (and more) with women among their circle of friends, but Elio, who narrates, yearns for Oliver. Their shared literary interests and Jewishness help impart a sense of intimacy, and when they do consummate their passion in Oliver’s room, they call each other by the other’s name.
Heir to the philosophical-fantastical tradition of Borges, Calvino, and Perec, The Golden Age is Michal Ajvaz’s greatest and most ambitious work. The Golden Age is a fantastical travelogue in which a modern-day Gulliver writes a book about a civilization he once encountered on a tiny island in the Atlantic. The islanders seem at first to do nothing but sit and observe the world, and indeed draw no distinction between reality and representation, so that a mirror image seems as substantial to them as a person (and vice versa); but the center of their culture is revealed to be “The Book,” a handwritten, collective novel filled with feuding royal families, murderous sorcerers, and narrow escapes. Anyone is free to write in “The Book,” adding their own stories, crossing out others, or even ap- pending “footnotes” in the form of little paper pouches full of extra text—but of course there are pouches within pouches, so that the story is impossible to read “in order,” and soon begins to overwhelm the narrator’s orderly treatise.
The Algonquin Round Table was a celebrated group of New York City writers, critics, actors and wits. Gathering initially as part of a practical joke, members of “The Vicious Circle,” as they dubbed themselves, met for lunch each day at the Algonquin Hotel from 1919 until roughly 1929.
Created by Maurice LeBlanc during the early twentieth century, Arsène Lupin is a witty confidence man and burglar, the Sherlock Holmes of crime. The poor and innocent have nothing to fear from him; often they profit from his spontaneous generosity. The rich and powerful, and the detective who tries to spoil his fun, however, must beware. They are the target of Arsène’s mischief and tomfoolery. A masterful thief, his plans frequently evolve into elaborate capers, a precursor to such cinematic creations as Ocean’s Eleven and The Sting. Sparkling with amusing banter, these stories—the best of the Lupin series—are outrageous, melodramatic, and literate.
Thomas Bernhard‘s work is most influenced by the feeling of being abandoned (in his childhood and youth) and by his incurable illness, which caused him to see death as the ultimate essence of existence. His work typically features loners’ monologues explaining, to a rather silent listener, his views on the state of the world, often with reference to a concrete situation. This is true for his plays as well as for his prose, where the monologues are then reported second hand by the listener. His main protagonists, often scholars or, as he calls them, Geistesmenschen, denounce everything that matters to the Austrian in tirades against the “stupid populace” that are full of contumely. He also attacks the state (often called “Catholic-National-Socialist”), generally respected institutions such as Vienna’s Burgtheater, and much-loved artists. His work also continually deals with the isolation and self-destruction of people striving for an unreachable perfection, since this same perfection would mean stagnancy and therefore death.
I usually don’t care much for experimental poetry but this guy is alien. 1 in a million type soul.
Alain de Botton. A living proof that philosophy doesn’t have to make you a psychotic hermit.
In 1998, Boyd published Nat Tate: An American Artist 1928-1960, which presents the paintings and tragic biography of a supposed New York-based 1950s Abstract Expressionist painter named Nat Tate, who actually never existed and was, along with his paintings, a creation of Boyd’s. When the book was initially published, it was not revealed that it was a work of fiction, and a number of prominent art critics were duped by the hoax; it was launched at a lavish party, with excerpts read by David Bowie (who was in on the joke), and a number of prominent members of the art world claimed to remember the artist. It caused quite a stir once the truth was revealed.
Thomas Browne was an English author of varied works which reveal his wide learning in diverse fields including medicine, religion, science and the esoteric.
Hear Basil Bunting read his poem ‘Briggflatts‘ – nobody does tongue rolls like this guy.
Hubert Burda is a German art historian and publisher. A kind of German Franco Maria Ricci, although not as cool.
This site is greatly indebted to this philosopher of the sublime. Here’s his essay, On the Sublime and Beautiful
The poem, written in a hendecasyllabic (11-syllable) meter, was considered so explicit that a full English translation was not openly published until the late twentieth century.
Bruce Chatwin. Sublime travel writer.
A quote from In Patagonia: He reached the Australian mainland at Cambridge Gulf, married a coal-black woman called Yamba, and lived thirty years among the Aboriginies, eating yams, snakes and witchety grubs (but never human flesh); sharing their treks, hunts battles and corroborees. His skill in wrestling made him a tribal hero and he rose to the rank of chief. Only when Yamba died did he strike out for White civilization.
Hart Crane was an American poet. Finding both inspiration and provocation in the poetry of T. S. Eliot, Crane wrote modernist poetry that is difficult, highly stylized, and very ambitious in its scope. In his most ambitious work, The Bridge, Crane sought to write an epic poem in the vein of The Waste Land that expressed something more sincere and optimistic than the ironic despair that Crane found in Eliot’s poetry. In the years following his death at the age of 32, Crane has come to be seen as one of the most influential poets of his generation.
Arthur Cravan was known as a pugilist, a poet, a larger-than-life character, and an idol of the Dada and Surrealism movements. After his schooling, during World War I, he travelled throughout Europe and America using a variety of passports and documents, some of them forged. He declared no single nationality and claimed instead to be “a citizen of 20 countries”. Cravan set out to promote himself as an eccentric and an art critic, though his interest was showing off a powerful, striking personal style rather than discussing art. He staged public spectacles and stunts with himself at the centre, once acting on the front of a line of carts where he paraded his skills as a boxer and singer, although he never pursued either of these activities on stage with anyone else.
Harry Crosby was the godson of J. P. Morgan and a friend of Ernest Hemingway. Living in Paris in the 1920s and directing the Black Sun Press, which published the works of James Joyce and others, Crosby was at the center of the wild life of the Lost Generation. Drugs, drink, sex, gambling, the deliberate derangement of the senses in the pursuit of transcendent revelation: these were Crosby’s pastimes until, in 1929, he shot his girlfriend, the recent bride of another man, and then himself.
Doc Savage is a fictional character originally published in American pulp magazines during the 1930s and 1940s. Doc Savage’s real name was Clark Savage, Jr.. He was a physician, surgeon, scientist, adventurer, inventor, explorer, researcher, and, as revealed in The Polar Treasure, a musician. A team of scientists assembled by his father deliberately trained his mind and body to near-superhuman abilities almost from birth, giving him great strength and endurance, a photographic memory, a mastery of the martial arts, and vast knowledge of the sciences. Doc is also a master of disguise and an excellent imitator of voices. “He rights wrongs and punishes evildoers.” Dent described the hero as a mix of Sherlock Holmes’ deductive abilities, Tarzan’s outstanding physical abilities, Craig Kennedy’s scientific education, and Abraham Lincoln’s goodness.
Isabelle Eberhardt was a Swiss explorer and writer who lived and travelled extensively in North Africa. For the time she was an extremely liberated individual who rejected conventional European morality in favour of her own path and that of Islam. She died in a flash flood in the desert at the age of 27.
Once you know how to say it like it is, you say it until you die, and that is the most comfort we can ask for in the people we surround ourselves with. One love Bandini.
Patrick Leigh Fermor was a British author, scholar and soldier, who played a prominent role behind the lines in the Cretan resistance during World War II. He was widely regarded as “Britain’s greatest living travel writer”, with books including his classic A Time of Gifts (1977). A BBC journalist once described him as “a cross between Indiana Jones, James Bond and Graham Greene.”
Dick Francis was a British jockey and crime writer, many of whose novels centre around horse racing.
Gollancz (1893-1967) studied the classics at Oxford University and during World War I began his life in publishing when he joined Ernest Benn’s firm … recruiting writers [such as] Edith Nesbit and H. G. Wells. In 1927, he set up his own publishing house and his career took off. Gollancz was ahead of this time. He placed full-page adverts for his books in newspapers (very rare for this period) and his designers established a recognizable style featuring powerful typography and yellow dust jackets. Gollancz was creating ‘branding’ 50 years before marketers embraced the buzzword.
“My mother enjoyed claiming direct descent from Genghis Khan,” Gray explains as she opens this complex and rewarding family memoir. That claim gave her mother “both the aristocratic pedigree and the freedom to be a barbarian.” Tatiana Yakovleva du Plessix Liberman was 19 and hungry in 1925 when she left the Soviet Union for France. Tatiana and Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky soon fell passionately in love, but the ever-practical woman married aristocratic Frenchman Bertrand du Plessix instead. They had one child, Francine, before du Plessix was killed in early WWII combat. Tatiana then became involved with Alexander Liberman, a British- and French-educated artistic Jewish-Russian émigré. Alex, Tatiana and Francine fled to New York in 1941 and started a new life—Tatiana designing hats for Bendel’s before a career with Saks, Alex scaling the fashion journalism ladder at Condé Nast.
The Beautiful Boy. A study of the youthful male face and form, from antiquity to the present day, from paintings and drawings to statuary and photographs.
This gaudy, wild, and raw tale of a war-torn 17th Century Europe depicts Simplicissimus as the eternal innocent, the simple-minded survivor. We follow him from an orphaned childhood to the casual atrocities of occupying troops, through his own soldiering adventures, and up to his final vocation as a hermit alone on an island.
James Harden-Hickey was a Franco-American author, newspaper editor, duellist, adventurer and self-proclaimed Prince.
Augustus Hare was an English writer and raconteur. He wrote a brilliant autobiography and many travel guides.
A giant of Latin American letters and precursor to the magic realist writers is well served by this absorbing translation of some of his most acclaimed works. The two novellas and four short stories reveal an exacting sensibility that defies the categories to which Latin American writers are usually assigned. Once a pianist who accompanied silent films, the Uruguayan Hernandez (1902-1964) crafts luminous works that reflect the guileless drama and visual intensity of silent films. His characters, all pianists of one level or other, are constantly reliving a past recital or pondering their next performance. Music is the subtext for narratives that plumb aspects of memory and thought, without a definable plot. Hern ndez revels in images that are simple and repetitive: arms, light and shadow, the houses of the wealthy and their odd contents. The stories acquire a luxurious sheen from the ease with which they navigate memories, taking pleasure in recounting them with no intention other than tracking the mind’s twists and turns.
Karl Hess left school at fifteen to work as a reporter and wound up, just a few years later, as associate editor at Newsweek. He helped William F Buckley Jr found the National Review, worked closely with Joseph McCarthy, and became chief speechwriter for Barry Goldwater. But true to a conscience that caused him to question the claims and authority of others, Hess eventually rejected conservatism and embraced the libertarian politics of the New Left. He dabbled with drugs, rode motorcycles, worked with the Black Panthers, got arrested while protesting the war in Vietnam, and published an article in Playboy that defined libertarianism and ignited a national debate. As an anti-Communist he co-operated with the FBI, but as a libertarian he fought the IRS until he was nearly destitute. Whatever his political leanings, he always despised conceit, exploded intolerance, and embraced life to the fullest. He was a man who travelled in influential circles, often close to power, but, in his own words, ‘mostly on the edge’. Karl Hess participated in many of the defining events of 20th-century America, a self-taught boy who became a self-made journalist. “Mostly on the Edge” chronicles the life education of Hess, who became a defiant tester of the prevailing ideas of each decade. He lived by trial and error, and was always willing to acknowledge his mistakes. Like Franklin and Thoreau, Hess hoped to wake up America by questioning the moral majority, fighting the Kafkaesque intrusions of government, and encouraging his family, friends, and highly influential colleagues to think for themselves. Hess provides eyewitness accounts, unique personal observations, startling and valuable insights on leadership and dissent, and, in the end, leaves behind a clear path to realising the dream of freedom.
Heinrich Hoffmann. German psychiatrist who wrote some of the most horrific children’s stories.
Richard Hugo was an American poet. Primarily a regionalist, Hugo’s work reflects the economic depression of the Northwest, particularly Montana.
Seven thousand acres of grass have faded yellow
from his cough. These limp days, his anger,
legend forty years from moon to Stevensville,
lives on, just barely, in a Great Falls whore.
Cruel times, he cries, cruel winds. His geese roam
unattended in the meadow. The gold last leaves
of cottonwoods ride Burnt Fork creek away.
His geese grow fat without him. Same old insult.
Same indifferent rise of mountains south,
hunters drunk around the fire ten feet from his fence.
What’s killing us is something autumn. Call it
war or fever. You know it when you see it: flare.
Vine and fire and the morning deer come half
a century to sip his spring, there, at the far end
of his land, wrapped in cellophane by light.
What lives is what he left in air, definite,
unseen, hanging where he stood the day he roared.
A bear prowls closer to his barn each day.
Farmers come to watch him die. They bring crude offerings
of wine. Burnt Fork creek is caroling. He dies white
in final anger. The bear taps on his pane.
And we die silent, our last days loaded with the scream
of Burnt Fork creek, the last cry of that raging farmer.
We have aged ourselves to stone trying to summon
mercy for ungrateful daughters. Let’s live him
in ourselves, stand deranged on the meadow rim
and curse the Baltic back, moon, bear and blast.
And let him shout from his grave for us.
The Ireland Shakespeare forgeries were a cause célèbre in 1790s’ London, when author and engraver Samuel Ireland announced the discovery of a treasure-trove of Shakespearean manuscripts by his son William Henry. Among them were the manuscripts of four plays, two of them previously unknown. Such respected literary figures as Johnson biographer James Boswell and poet-laureate Henry James Pye pronounced them genuine, as did various antiquarian experts. Sheridan, the leading theater manager of his day, agreed to present one of the newly-discovered plays with John Philip Kemble in the starring rôle. Excitement over the biographical and literary significance of the find turned to acrimony when it was charged that the documents were forgeries. Edmond Malone, the greatest Shakespeare scholar of his time, showed conclusively that the language, orthography, and handwriting were not those of the times and persons to which they were credited, and William Henry Ireland, the supposed discoverer, confessed to the fraud.
The Kanun is a set of traditional Albanian laws. The Kanun was primarily oral and only in the 20th century was it published in writing. It was first codified in the 15th century but the use of it has been outspread much earlier in time. It used under that form until the 20th century, and revived recently after the fall of the communist regime in the early 1990s.
Kathasaritsagara is a 11th-century collection of Indian legends, fairy tales and folk tales as retold by a Saivite Brahmin named Somadeva. It consists of 18 books of 124 chapters and more than 21,000 verses in addition to prose sections. The principal tale is the narrative of the adventures of Naravahanadatta, son of the legendary king Udayana. A large number of tales are built around this central story, making it the largest existing collection of Indian tales.
The Czech master of pop-up books. An architect by profession, Voitech Kubasta brought a decidedly contemporary “pop” sensibility to his innovative paper engineering.
Ring Lardner was an American sports columnist and short story writer best known for his satirical takes on the sports world, marriage, and the theatre.
James Laughlin was an American poet and literary book publisher who founded New Directions Publishers.
A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov. Its psychologically probing portrait of a disillusioned 19th-century aristocrat and its use of a nonchronological and multifaceted narrative structure influenced such later Russian authors as Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Leo Tolstoy and presaged the antiheroes and antinovels of 20th-century fiction. The novel is set in the Russian Caucasus in the 1830s. Grigory Pechorin is a bored, self-centered, and cynical young army officer who believes in nothing. With impunity he toys with the love of women and the goodwill of men.
A man of Rabelaisian appetite, with the exquisite palate of the true gastronome and the literary flair to match, A.J. Liebling (1904-1963) was a formidable eater and a remarkable man, and his nostalgic recitation of his years and meals in Paris is a pleasure to read, dream on, and drool about. Liebling treasured a good appetite as a prerequisite for writing about food, as his accounts of substantial meals (two portions of cassoulet, one steak topped with beef marrow, and a dozen or so oysters, for example) attest. For the poised, precise, literary, and humorous flavor of his writing, you need only crack open the book–any page will do. Liebling recounts how to dine superbly without being lead astray by too much money, and he digresses magnificently on the evils of abstemiousness (“No sane man can afford to dispense with debilitating pleasures; no ascetic can be considered reliably sane”). In this age of diets and pragmatic health care, it’s refreshing to read such an inspired and inspiring ode to pleasure. As a means of savoring a love affair with Paris, sparking an interest in a trip to France, restructuring your priorities for the trip you’ve already planned, or gearing up on the flight over for the gastronomic debauches to come, Liebling is unsurpassed. –Stephanie Gold
Vachel Lindsay was an American poet. He is considered the father of modern singing poetry, as he referred to it, in which verses are meant to be sung or chanted.
The Loeb Classical Library is the only existing series of books which, through original text and English translation, gives access to all that is important in Greek and Latin literature. Epic and lyric poetry; tragedy and comedy; history, travel, philosophy, and oratory; the great medical writers and mathematicians; those Church fathers who made particular use of pagan culture—in short, our entire classical heritage is represented here in convenient and well-printed pocket volumes in which an up-to-date text and accurate and literate English translation face each other page by page.
Ancient Evenings, a dazzlingly rich, deeply evocative novel, recreates the long-lost civilisation of Ancient Egypt. Mailer breathes life into the figures of that era; the eighteenth dynasty Pharaoh Rameses and his wife, Queen Nefertiti; Menenhetet, their creature, lover and victim; and the gods and mortals that surround them in intimate and telepathic communion. His hero, three times reincarnated during the novel, moves in the bright sunlight of white temples, in the exquisite gardens of the royal harem, along the majestic flow of the Nile and in the terrifying clash of battle. An outstanding work of creative imagination, Ancient Evenings displays Mailer’s obsession with magic, violence and eroticism and lives on in the mind long after the last page has been turned.
Maledicta, The International Journal of Verbal Aggression, is an academic journal dedicated to the study of offensive and negatively-valued words and expressions. Its main areas of interest are the origin, etymology, meaning, use, and influence of vulgar, obscene, aggressive, abusive, and blasphemouslanguage.
Masquerade is a children’s book, written and illustrated by Kit Williams, which sparked a treasure hunt by concealing clues to the location of a jewelled golden hare, created and hidden somewhere in Britain by Williams. It became the inspiration for a genre of books known today as armchair treasure hunts. Challenged by Tom Maschler, of the British publishing firm Jonathan Cape, to “do something no one has ever done before” with a children’s book, Williams set out in the 1970s to create a book of paintings that readers would study carefully rather than flip through and discard. The book’s objective, the hunt for a valuable treasure, became his means to this end. Masquerade featured 15 detailed paintings illustrating the story of Jack Hare, who seeks to carry a treasure from the Moon (depicted as a woman) to her love object, the Sun (a man). On arriving at the sun, Jack finds he has lost the treasure, and the reader is left to find its location.
José Mindlin was a Brazilian lawyer, businessperson and bibliophile, born to Ukrainian Jewish parents. He was the owner of the largest private library in Latin America, with more than 38,000 titles.
Yukio Mishima was a Japanese author, poet and playwright, also remembered for his ritual suicide by seppuku.
A globetrotter, diplomat, and bohemian, Morand specialized in short stories and travel essays and was one of the best-known French writers during the era between the two World Wars. His work evoked the cosmopolitan atmosphere and energetic social life of the postwar period while creating psychological portraits of hedonistic, often disillusioned characters. His witty, fast-paced descriptive prose is rich in imagery and has led some critics to categorize him as a French modernist and imagist.
Excerpt from Signs and Symbols: "In these very rare cases the patient imagines that everything happening around him is a veiled reference to his personality and existence. He excludes real people from the conspiracy - because he considers himself to be so much more intelligent than other men. Phenomenal nature shadows him wherever he goes. Clouds in the staring sky transmit to one another, by means of slow signs, incredibly detailed information regarding him. His inmost thoughts are discussed at nightfall, in manual alphabet, by darkly gesticulating trees. Pebbles or stains or sun flecks form patterns representing in some awful way messages which he must intercept. Everything is a cipher and of everything he is the theme. Some of the spies are detached observers, such are glass surfaces and still pools; others, such as coats in store windows, are prejudiced witnesses, lynchers at heart; others again (running water, storms) are hysterical to the point of insanity, have a distorted opinion of him and grotesquely misinterpret his actions. He must be always on his guard and devote every minute and module of life to the decoding of the undulation of things. The very air he exhales is indexed and filed away. If only the interest he provokes were limited to his immediate surroundings - but alas it is not! With distance the to rents of wild scandal increase in volume and volubility. The silhouettes of his blood corpuscles, magnified a million times, flit over vast plains; and still farther, great mountains of unbearable solidity and height sum up in terms of granite and groaning firs the ultimate truth of his being."
Imaginary Portraits. First published in 1887, these “imaginary portraits” are not biographies, but fictionalized accounts of historic figures, written by this esteemed nineteenth-century scholar of Renaissance art and literature. Each shares a common search for a new aesthetic, a pursuit of beauty that anticipated the modern movement in prose and poetry and helped to define aesthetics in the twentieth century.
Dictionary of the Khazars: A Lexicon Novel is the first novel by Serbian writer Milorad Pavić, published in 1984. There is no easily discerned plot in the conventional sense, but the central question of the book (the mass religious conversion of the Khazar people) is based on an historical event generally dated to the last decades of the 8th century or the early 9th century when the Khazar royalty and nobility converted to Judaism, and part of the general population followed. However, most of the characters and events described in the novel are entirely fictional, as is the culture ascribed to the Khazars in the book, which bears little resemblance to any literary or archeological evidence. The novel takes the form of three cross-referenced mini-encyclopedias, each compiled from the sources of one of the Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism).
Max Pemberton was a popular British novelist, working mainly in the adventure and mystery genres. A clubman, journalist and dandy (Lord NorthcliffeFleet Street and The Savage Club. admired his ‘fancy vests’), he frequented both
A penny dreadful was a type of British fiction publication in the 19th century that usually featured lurid serial stories appearing in parts over a number of weeks, each part costing a penny. The term, however, soon came to encompass a variety of publications that featured cheap sensational fiction, such as story papers and booklet “libraries.” The penny dreadfuls were printed on cheap pulp paper and were aimed primarily at working class adolescents.
Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time is a twelve-volume cycle of novels by Anthony Powell, inspired by the painting of the same name by Nicolas Poussin. One of the longest works of fiction in literature, it was published between 1951 and 1975 to critical acclaim. The story is an often comic examination of movements and manners, power and passivity in English political, cultural and military life in the mid 20th century.
Swallows and Amazons is a series of children’s books by English author Arthur Ransome, named after the title of the first book in the series. The 12 books involve adventures by groups of children almost all during the school holidays and mostly in England and Scotland, between the two World Wars. The stories revolve around outdoor activities, especially sailing. The series remains popular today for its idyllic, yet often realistic, depiction of childhood and the interplay between youthful imagination and reality. It is part of the basis for a large tourist industry in the Lake District and Norfolk Broads areas of England, where many of the books are set
The Last of the Wine engages the mores and culture of Classical Greece, including symposia (drinking parties), the treatment of women, the importance of athletic, military and philosophical training among young men, marriage customs, and daily life in war and peace.
A crime novel with a difference. In the 1980s the bankrobber Johann Rettenberger was the most wanted criminal in Austria. Known as Pumpgun Ronnie due to his weapon and the Ronald Reagan mask he wore for his robberies, he sometimes robbed two or three banks on the same day. Unusually for a bankrobber, he was also a keen amateur marathon runner and had won several races. He jumped out of a window during questioning and escaped by running into the Vienna Woods. On the Run is a novel about a man for whom running is of existential importance. He only seems to feel truly alive, truly himself, truly free when he is running.
Françoise Sagan. French novelist, playwright, and screenwriter, whose wrote dispassionate portrayals of bored, amoral middle-class people.
An excerpt from Sand, Wind And Stars:
But by the grace of the airplane I have known a more extraordinary experience than this, and have been made to ponder with even more bewilderment the fact that this earth that is our home is yet in truth a wandering star. A minor accident had forced me down in the Rio de Oro region, in Spanish Africa. Landing on one of those table-lands of the Sahara which fall away steeply at the sides, I found myself on the flat top of the frustum of a cone, an isolated vestige of a plateau that had crumbled round the edges. In this part of the Sahara such truncated cones are visible from the air every hundred miles or so, their smooth surfaces always at about the same altitude above the desert and their geologic substance always identical. The surface sand is composed of minute and distinct shells; but progressively as you dig along a vertical section, the shells become more fragmentary, tend to cohere, and at the base of the cone form a pure calcareous deposit. Without question, I was the first human being ever to wander over this…this iceberg: its sides were remarkably steep, no Arab could have climbed them, and no European had as yet ventured into this wild region. I was thrilled by the virginity of a soil which no step of man or beast had sullied. I lingered there, startled by this silence that never had been broken. The first star began to shine, and I said to myself that this pure surface had lain here thousands of years in sight only of the stars. But suddenly my musings on this white sheet and these shining stars were endowed with a singular significance. I had kicked against a hard, black stone, the size of a man’s fist, a sort of moulded rock of lava incredibly present on the surface of a bed of shells a thousand feet deep. A sheet spread beneath an apple-tree can receive only apples; a sheet spread beneath the stars can receive only stardust. Never had a stone fallen from the skies made known its origin so unmistakably. And very naturally, raising my eyes, I said to myself that from the height of this Celestial apple-tree there must have dropped other fruits, and that I should find them exactly where they fell, since never from the beginning of time had anything been present to displace them. Excited by my adventure, I picked up one and then a second and then a third of these stones, finding them at about the rate of one stone to the acre. And here is where my adventure became magical, for in a striking foreshortening of time that embraced thousands of years, I had become the witness of this miserly rain from the stars. The marvel of marvels was that there on the rounded back of the planet, between this magnetic sheet and those stars, a human consciousness was present in which as in a mirror that rain could be reflected.
Friedrich Schiller was one of the sickest, as you can tell by reading this essay on poetry.
Spooner has become famous for his “spoonerisms” (“He was killed by a blushing crow” – He was killed by a crushing blow). Few, if any, of his own spoonerisms were deliberate. After the concept of Spoonerisms became popularized, Spooner denounced a crowd that had gathered to hear him speak by saying, “You haven’t come for my lecture, you just want to hear one of those…things.”
Spooner is supposed to have committed other absent-minded gaffes. He was said to have invited a don to tea, “to welcome Stanley Casson, our new archaeology Fellow”. “But, sir,” the man replied, “I am Stanley Casson”. “Never mind,” Spooner said, “Come all the same.”
Dominic is a one-of-a-kind dog. One day this exuberant, restless, freedom-loving fellow decides there isn’t enough going on in his neighborhood to satisfy his need for adventure. And off he goes, with an assortment of hats (rakish, dashing, solemn, and martial), his precious piccolo, and a few other things, leaving a note on his door:
Dear Friends, I am leaving rather in a hurry to see more of the world, so I have no time to say goodbye to you individually. I embrace you all and sniff you with love. I don’t know when I’ll be back. But back I will be. Dominic.
Jun’ichirō Tanizaki was a Japanese author, one of the major writers of modern Japanese literature, Some of his works present a rather shocking world of sexuality and destructive erotic obsessions; others, less sensational, subtly portray the dynamics of family life in the context of the rapid changes in 20th-century Japanese society.
Tintin and Alph-Art was the intended twenty-fourth and final book in the Tintin series, created by Belgian comics artist Hergé. It is a striking departure from the earlier books in tone and subject, as well as in some parts of the style; rather than being set in a usual exotic and action-packed environment this story is largely played out in the world of modern art. Hergé worked on the book until his death in 1983, and it was published posthumously (despite its unfinished status) in 1986 by Casterman in association with La Fondation Hergé, and was republished in 2004 with further material.
George W. S. Trow was an American essayist, novelist, playwright, and media critic. He worked for The New Yorker for almost 30 years, and wrote numerous essays and several books. He is best known for his long essay on television and its effect on American culture, “Within the Context of No Context. Trow’s reputation rests on his long nonfiction. These works have received mostly positive reviews. Highly literate readers, as well as reviewers in newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post, have been thrilled by Trow’s brilliant and prophetic insights; wide-ranging references to serious and pop culture; and aphoristic, sometimes post-modern literary style. But the appeal and value of Trow’s work can be difficult to communicate, because the style “in its very essence resists summary. Summary, of course, flees from detail, whereas for Trow the details are the notes without which there is no song.” Some critics have found these works impenetrable and elitist; some argue that Trow’s nostalgia for the pre-television era was misplaced, because the subsequent civil rights movements had made American culture more democratic.
Georg Letham: Physician and Murderer is a tragicomic and harrowing portrait of a morally defective mind. Written in a highly unreliable first person narrative, this unsung masterwork is an account of a crime and its aftermath: the scientist-hero (or scientist-villain) is tried, sentenced, and deported to a remote island where he is privileged to work as an epidemiologist. He seeks redemption in science, but in spite of himself he is a man of feeling. The book came out of the same fertile literary ground between the wars that produced The Man Without Qualities and The Sleepwalkers; like those modernist classics and the works of Ernst Weiss’ friend, Franz Kafka, Georg Letham: Physician and Murderer is a prescient depiction of a profoundly unsettled society.
Zukofsky’s major work was the long poem “A“ – he never referred to it without the quotation marks – which he began in 1927 and was to work on for the rest of his life, albeit with an eight-year hiatus between 1940 and 1948. The poem was divided into 24 sections, reflecting the hours of the day. The first eleven sections contain a lot of overtly political passages but interweave them with formal concerns and models that range from medieval Italian canzone through sonnets to free verse and the music of Bach. Especially the sections of “A” written shortly before World War II are political: Section 10 for example, published in 1940, is an intense and horrifying response to the fall of France.
The tone of the poem changes for good with Section 12, which is longer than the first eleven sections combined. Zukofsky introduces material from his family life and celebrates his love for his wife Celia and his son Paul. From here on “A” interweaves the political, historical and personal in more or less equal measure. The extensive use of music in this work reflects the importance of Zukofsky’s collaborations with his wife and son, both professional musicians. “A” grew frequently difficult and even eccentric (section 16 is only four words long). The complete poem, 826 pages long, beginning with the word “A” and ending with “Zion”, was published in 1978.