In a 1993 interview, Elissa Schappell talks to Toni Morrison for The Paris Review (with additional material from Claudia Brodsky Lacour)
Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison

Interviewer: You have said that you begin to write before dawn. Did this habit begin for practical reasons, or was the early morning an especially fruitful time for you?

Toni Morrison: Writing before dawn began as a necessity—I had small children when I first began to write and I needed to use the time before they said, Mama—and that was always around five in the morning. Many years later, after I stopped working at Random House, I just stayed at home for a couple of years. I discovered things about myself I had never thought about before. At first I didn’t know when I wanted to eat, because I had always eaten when it was lunchtime or dinnertime or breakfast time. Work and the children had driven all of my habits . . . I didn’t know the weekday sounds of my own house; it all made me feel a little giddy. (more…)

The term ‘cyberspace’ was coined by science fiction author William Gibson in his 1982 short story, ‘Burning Chrome’. [Source]

Carl Elliott reads Norman Malcolm’s slim yet riveting account of his friendship with the Austrian philosopher
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Ludwig Wittgenstein

“I first saw Wittgenstein in the Michaelmas term of 1938, my first term at Cambridge. At a meeting of the Moral Science Club, after the paper for the evening was read and the discussion started, someone began to stammer a remark. He had extreme difficulty in expressing himself and his words were unintelligible to me. I whispered to my neighbor: ‘Who is that?’: he replied, ‘Wittgenstein.’”

So begins Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir, by Norman Malcolm, a student of Wittgenstein’s at Cambridge and his lifelong friend. It is a small book, published over half a century ago, but its influence would be hard to overstate. Not many philosophical books have created as many disciples. If philosophers were evangelists (and some are), Malcolm’s memoir would be the Gospel of John, a strange, beautiful little book that you leave in hotel rooms and hand out door to door. I read it again this week for the first time in many years, and it was still as gripping as I remembered it. What accounts for its lasting appeal? (more…)

Robert McCrum (The Guardian) selects Christoper Isherwood’s novel as 83 on his list of the 100 best novels

Colin Firth in Tom Ford's 2009 adaptation of A Single Man
Colin Firth in Tom Ford’s 2009 adaptation of A Single Man
Dedicated to Gore Vidal, A Single Man is set in 1962, just after the Cuban missile crisis, and describes a day (the last day) in the life of George Falconer, a 58-year-old expat Englishman who is living in Santa Monica and teaching at a university in LA, just as Isherwood did. The narrative is edgy, subtle, and controlled, with chasms of buried rage. George has recently lost his partner, Jim, in a car crash, and is struggling with bereavement. He tries to make a connection to the world around him, while denying his predicament as a widower. We see him go through the motions of everyday life: teaching a class, fighting with his neighbours, working out at the gym, shopping at a supermarket, drinking with an older woman friend, flirting intellectually with a young student – before fading out on the final page. As a study of grief and a portrait of the aftermath of a gay marriage, A Single Man is unique, brilliant, and deeply moving, with not a word wasted. [Read More]

How many words in this book.

They are meant for remembrance. As though words could carry memories.

For words are clumsy mountaineers and clumsy miners. Not for them to bring down treasures from the mountains’ peaks, or up from the mountains’ bowels.

— Franz Kafka

From a 1900 entry in an album, written to Selma Kohn, trans. Richard & Clara Winston

A new essay collection from Columbia University Press
Falsifying Beckett Essays on Archives, Philosophy, and Methodology in Beckett Studies, ed. Matthew Feldman (Columbia University Press)
Falsifying Beckett Essays on Archives, Philosophy, and Methodology in Beckett Studies, ed. Matthew Feldman (Columbia University Press)

The dozen essays brought together here, alongside a newly-written introduction, contextualize and exemplify the recent ’empirical turn’ in Beckett studies. Characterized, above all, by recourse to manuscript materials in constructing revisionist interpretations, this approach has helped to transform the study of Samuel Beckett over the past generation. In addition to focusing upon Beckett’s early immersion in philosophy and psychology, other chapters similarly analyze his later collaboration with the BBC through the lens of literary history. Falsifying Beckett thus offers new readings of Beckett by returning to his archive of notebooks, letters, and drafts. In reassessing key aspects of his development as one of the 20th century’s leading artists, this collection is of interest to all students of Beckett’s writing as well as ‘historicist’ scholars and critics of modernism more generally. [Read More]

Ilya Repin, Portrait of Vera Repin, the Artist's Wife (1878)
Ilya Repin, Portrait of Vera Repin, the Artist’s Wife (1878)
Rosamund Bartlett (The Guardian) on her translation of Anna Karenina

Do we really need another English translation of Anna Karenina? This is a bit like asking whether we need a new recording of Beethoven’s Ninth. There is no English translation of the 1970 Academy of Sciences edition of the novel currently in print. This version contained a host of small differences from earlier versions; these may not amount to much individually, but cumulatively they add up to a new reading. And just as conductors and performers can produce revelatory new interpretations after intense listening, so translators have the potential to allow the author to speak more clearly. It’s all about the detail.

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June 2015 · Barbican, London

A month-long season comprising nine theatrical pieces that span almost thirty years of Beckett’s career. Uniting theatre companies from across the world, the Barbican invites you to pick and choose from a range of the artists’ work; from prose and radio plays to immersive experiences and site-specific adventures.

Students can access half-price tickets to selected performances of the season, please see the ‘Ticket Info’ tab of each show page for more information.  (more…)

Codrington Library at All Souls College in Oxford
Codrington Library at All Souls College in Oxford

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An excerpt from the writer’s diaries, translated by Barbara Wright
Robert Pinget
Robert Pinget

I was still very much under the influence of the surrealists, of attempts to approach the unconscious; in short of experiments made on language in what might be called its nascent state, that’s to say: independent of any rational order. A gratuitous game with vocabulary-that was my passion. Logic seemed to me to be incapable of attaining the very special domain of literature, which in any case I still equate with that of poetry. And so it was a fascination with the possibilities, the absolute freedom of creation, an intense desire to abolish all the constraints of classical writing, that made me produce these exercises which neither the logician, nor philosopher, nor moralist, will find to his taste. That doesn’t mean to say that the imaginative reader will not be able to find something in them to his taste. A reader in love with language and with the multifarious echoes that his emotions absorb when he is attuned to words. Hence, for him, a profusion of contradictory meanings, and the feeling of being released from the prisons of rationalizing reason.

[Read more at Brooklyn Rail]

A new title from Bloomsbury

About the Book

Costica Bradatan, Dying for Ideas: The Dangerous Lives of Philosophers (Bloomsbury)
Costica Bradatan, Dying for Ideas: The Dangerous Lives of Philosophers (Bloomsbury)

What do Socrates, Hypatia, Giordano Bruno, Thomas More, and Jan Patocka have in common? First, they were all faced one day with the most difficult of choices: stay faithful to your ideas and die or renounce them and stay alive. Second, they all chose to die. Their spectacular deaths have become not only an integral part of their biographies, but are also inseparable from their work. A “death for ideas” is a piece of philosophical work in its own right; Socrates may have never written a line, but his death is one of the greatest philosophical best-sellers of all time.

Dying for Ideas explores the limit-situation in which philosophers find themselves when the only means of persuasion they can use is their own dying bodies and the public spectacle of their death. The book tells the story of the philosopher’s encounter with death as seen from several angles: the tradition of philosophy as an art of living; the body as the site of self-transcending; death as a classical philosophical topic; taming death and self-fashioning; finally, the philosophers’ scapegoating and their live performance of a martyr’s death, followed by apotheosis and disappearance into myth.

While rooted in the history of philosophy, Dying for Ideas is an exercise in breaking disciplinary boundaries. This is a book about Socrates and Heidegger, but also about Gandhi’s “fasting unto death” and self-immolation; about Girard and Passolini, and self-fashioning and the art of the essay. (more…)

Tuesday 16 June 2015
Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry
From the James Joyce Centre in Dublin: We are delighted to announce that Stephen Fry will be joining us for this year’s Bloomsday Festival! Stephen will be interviewed as part of our ‘Bloomsday Interview’ series by Senator David Norris at the O’Reilly Theatre on Bloomsday (Tuesday, 16th June) at 8pm. You can reserve your tickets for this very special event through the Bloomsday website here. We will be releasing the full Bloomsday programme on Monday. [See the Programme]

MERL, University of Reading · 28-29 October 2015

Beckett and Europe
28th – 29th October 2015 – MERL, University of Reading
Abstract Deadline: 22nd June 2015
Keynote Speaker: Dr David Tucker (Chester University)

Samuel Beckett
Samuel Beckett

The Beckett at Reading Postgraduate group is pleased to announce a new postgraduate and Early Careers two-day conference with the theme of Beckett and Europe. We will be hosting two on-site archival workshops on manuscripts and performance during the conference. There will also be a public lecture on Happy Days by Professor James Knowlson. This will be followed by the Beckett International Foundation Seminar on the 30th of October.

We invite postgraduates and Early Career Researchers to submit abstracts under the general theme of ‘Beckett and Europe’. The aim of the conference is to engage postgraduates and ECRs in research exchange with an interdisciplinary and cross-media focus. Born in Ireland in 1906, Beckett wrote in English, French and German and directed his own theatrical work in London, Berlin and Paris. The span and influence of Beckett’s work in 20th Century Europe is essential to many questions that inform Beckett scholarship: How do we frame Beckett nationally/internationally and has this changed? What influence did Beckett have on European artists, writers and thinkers? How has Beckett’s work entered the European tradition? (more…)

Old Red Lion Theatre · 7-25 April 2015
Three Short Plays by Samuel Beckett
Three Short Plays by Samuel Beckett

About the Plays

Whispering Beasts presents Three Short Plays by Samuel Beckett, a triple bill of rarely performed Beckett plays at the Old Red Lion Theatre. The production, consisting of three dark comedies Act Without Words I, Catastrophe and Rough for Theatre II, will be directed by Sara Joyce and will run from 7 – 25 April, with a press night on 9 April. (more…)

I have always been fascinated by the daily rituals and routines that govern people’s everyday lives. Daily Routines has compiled a wide and varied selection of such rituals, taken from interviews and biographies of some of the world’s most distinguished writers and thinkers. It makes for fascinating reading – even if browsing the daily routines of others leaves little time for our own.

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