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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

Sandra Cisneros
Sandra Cisneros

“Cisneros’s work allowed me to see the power in my culture’s storytelling tradition, and the power within myself.”

Kali Fajardo-Anstine and other Latinx writers
on the influence of Sandra Cisneros’s poetic coming-of-age novel,
The House on Mango Street.

bustle.com/p/how-sandra-cisneross-house-on-mango-street-influenced-5-latinx-authors-18713476

“It’s the start of 2016, and Smith’s friend Pearlman—a producer and rock critic—has been hospitalized after a brain hemorrhage. As he lies in a coma, Smith recounts the tumultuous year that follows—the loss of friends (Sam Shepard is nearly bedridden), the horror of the imminent election and rise of nationalism, and the impending climate crisis. A reflection on mortality, the book retains Smith’s characteristically flat tone as she wanders through stretches of Arizona, California, Virginia, and Kentucky, stopping at diners for black coffee and onion omelets and conversations with strangers. She hitchhikes from San Francisco to San Diego and back, travels as far as Lisbon, and returns home to the quiet of her Rockaway bungalow to stare at the flowers. All the while, she describes the mundane details of life with incredible vividness…”

Camille Jacobson on
Year of the Monkey,
a new memoir from Patti Smith.

theparisreview.org/blog/2019/10/11/staff-picks-monsters-monkeys-and-maladies/