paulstewartMy friend and former editor has written a new novel. Paul Stewart’s Of People and Things is now available from Armida Books in print and electronic formats. Paul is not only a writer, but an actor and an academic who has been living in Nicosia, Cyprus, for over twenty years. He currently teaches as a Professor of Literature at the University of Nicosia. You can find out more about Paul and his new book at the Armida Books website.

John Berger
John Berger

“I’d rather reject the terms optimistic and pessimistic. They suggest a calculation of how things are going to evolve, and if it’s going to evolve in the way you want, you’re optimistic. That has very little to do with despair and hope. Hope is not a form of guarantee, it’s a form of energy, and very frequently that energy is strongest in circumstances that are very dark.”

— John Berger, who died on 2 January 2017.

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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)

“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)

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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