Category: Biography

Lauren Elkin on William Forsythe’s Conceptual Art

William Forsythe
William Forsythe

“Reading Julien Offray de la Mettrie’s L’Homme machine (Man a Machine, 1748), in 1978 the philosopher Karl Popper suggested that ‘there may be no clear distinction between living matter and dead matter’; that man ‘is a computer’. William Forsythe’s ‘Choreographic Objects’ puts this thesis to the test in the vaulted space of an aircraft hangar that houses Gagosian Le Bourget. What Forsythe calls ‘choreographic objects’ are the installations, films and sculptures that he’s been creating since 1989, which lie at the intersection of dance and the visual arts. Exploring choreography, technology and space, his work brings us closer to understanding our own bodies.”

— Lauren Elkin, Frieze

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J.M. Coetzee’s Childhood Library

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“For a sixteen-year-old, it is an ambitious and serious library, comprising poetry, philosophy and translated classics, mostly affordable Everyman, Oxford and Penguin editions, those early-twentieth-century projects in the democratization of knowledge. The photograph is not well lit, but the large numbers on the spines of the Everyman volumes allow the identification of several of them. The key writings of Plato, St Augustine, Hobbes, Spinoza, Rousseau, Locke, Kant and Descartes are represented, as are Russian classics such as Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and Tolstoy’s War and Peace. There are no English novels, nor is there any Shakespeare, but there are collected works of poetry by T. S. Eliot, Wordsworth, Tennyson and Keats. Books such as Euclid’s Elements point to Coetzee’s ambition to become a mathematician, though Marx’s Das Kapital may have been less influential. Several of these books would leave their mark on the later fictions, although important future influences such as Pound, Beckett and Kafka are not as yet present.”

— Hermann Wittenberg, Times Literary Supplement

Nicola Barker on Reading Thomas Merton Every Day

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“I stuck with Merton, and my patience has been rewarded a thousandfold. He’s the only writer I read pretty much every day. There’s a small Book of Hours that never fails to inspire me. The main thing that’s so wonderful about him is his love of nature and his ebullience. And his need to constantly interrogate himself. And his extraordinary humility. And his exquisite facility with language.”

— Nicola Barker, The Guardian

John Updike’s Extensive Correspondence with Readers and the Public

John Updike at his writing desk
John Updike at his writing desk

“[W]hile Updike corresponded with the likes of John Barth, Joyce Carol Oates and Ian McEwan, it was not only authorly names and close friends that received his letters: James Schiff, an associate professor of English at the University of Cincinnati, is working on a volume of Updike’s letters and has unearthed thousands of letters, postcards, and notes the author sent to complete strangers who wrote to him.”

— John Keenan, The Guardian