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William Blake, ‘Newton’ (c.1795-1805)

The poet and artist William Blake was born in Soho in London on 28 November 1757. His ‘Newton’ conveys the scientist as allegorical figure: absorbed by man-made geometry to the exclusion of the self and the wonders of the natural world. Blake’s poetic and artistic works became important cultural touchstones during a tumultuous period in Western history, but his words and images comprise social commentary and critique that still speaks to our times.

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“Evidently salvation is not to be found by increasing the comforts and pleasures of life, medical treatments, artificial teeth and hair, breathing exercises, massage, and so forth; […] It is impossible to remedy this by any amusements, comforts, or powders – it can only be remedied by a change of life.”

— Leo Tolstoy, ‘What then must we do?’ (trans. Aylmer Maude)

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Richard Brody on the final film of the late Agnès Varda, who died in March at the age of ninety:

“The sublime originality of the work and the life of Agnès Varda, who died in March, at the age of ninety, provides her last film, “Varda by Agnès” (screening October 9th and 10th), with both its subject and its form. It’s a personal journey through her career, centered on a series of public lectures, interviews, and conversations that mesh with clips from her work—museum installations and videos as well as movies—and with staged sequences that provide a theatrical context for her reminiscences and reflections. “Varda by Agnès” is a fitting valedictory work that, in its retrospective illuminations, nonetheless pushes Varda’s own aesthetic relentlessly forward: it’s an exemplary illustration of the very concept of the auteur, of the director as prime creator, an idea which—though she was never a critic and never advanced it in theory—her body of work exemplifies as strongly as anyone’s has done, now or ever.”

Source: The New Yorker.

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Don Cherry in 1966. Photograph: Francis Wolff.

“When people believe in boundaries, they become part of them.”

— Don Cherry, born on this day in 1936.

“So I think, be out, get out, look up, walk where and when you can, and be curious, and be astonished by the world.”

— Robert Macfarlane talks to Krista Tippett about his book, Underland. Read or listen to the conversation at the On Being Project.

Lydia Davis
Lydia Davis

“In her notes, we see her honing her habit of attention, her sensitivity to shades of meaning and the music of language, her tropism toward writers with a talent for noticing.”

— Parul Sehgal reviews Essays One, a new collected volume from Lydia Davis. Read the review in The New York Times.

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“Between the experience of living a normal life at this moment on the planet and the public narratives being offered to give a sense to that life, the empty space, the gap, is enormous.”

— John Berger, The Shape of a Pocket

Toni Morrison

— Do you prefer being called Professor, Doctor, Mrs or Ms?
— I like Toni.

In 2017, Sarah Ladipo Manyika and Mario Kaiser sat down with Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. Their conversation took place in her home in upstate New York. Read more at Granta.

Tove Jansson
Tove Jansson

“Commonplace things can be fascinating.”

― Tove Jansson, The Summer Book (trans. Thomas Teal)

Fred Rogers
Fred Rogers

Anticipating the release of A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood, journalist Tom Junod has reflected on the friendship with Fred Rogers that inspired the film. Drawing from personal correspondence, he explores why Mister Rogers remains relevant as an important cultural icon.

Source: The Atlantic.

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Noted AIDS researcher Jay A. Levy became friends with Samuel Beckett after encountering his work as a student. This portrait, taken in Beckett’s home, was among books, letters, and memorabilia that Levy and his wife recently donated to Wesleyan University.

J. R. R. Tolkien

“I thought all the trees were whispering to each other, passing news and plots along in an unintelligible language…”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Fantasy or reality? Building on existing scientific research, new studies by forest ecologist Suzanne Simard suggest that trees form something akin to social communities, and might be capable of communication.

More information:

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“Much to cast down, much to build, much to restore.”

— T.S. Eliot, The Rock

“[A] walk is only a step away from a story, and every path tells.”

— Robert Macfarlane, The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot

Photograph: Ansel Adams
Photograph: Ansel Adams

“A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense, and is, thereby, a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety.”

— Ansel Adams