Nicole Krauss reviews The River of Consciousness, a posthumous collection of Oliver Sacks’s essays
oliversacks
Oliver Sacks’s fountain pen

“[Oliver Sacks‘s] case studies illustrated how just as homeostasis, the maintenance of constant internal environment, is crucial to all organisms, so is a stable, cogent narrative of reality crucial to the mind and its construction of the self, such that even severely disordered brains will find ways of creating order.

This last point, with its vast implications, affected me powerfully when I read Sacks’s books for the first time while trying to write my first novel 16 years ago. I may have already understood that narrative is a primary human activity, as he points out in an essay in this collection, our way to make sense of the world. But what was revelatory to me as a young writer grappling with the idea of character, with how to describe both humanness and individuality, was the idea that, for the brain, the coherence that narrative forges is paramount to an accurate account of reality.”

— Nicola Krauss, The New York Times

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sam-shephard
Sam Shepard

Sam Shepard‘s final work, Spy of the First Person, has been published this week by Knopf. In an early review for USA TodayJocelyn McClurg describes it as “an autobiographical work of fiction” with a “fragmentary, disjointed narrative”. McClurg goes on to offer a pithy summary suggesting a debt to the Irish writer, Samuel Beckett, calling Shepard’s novel “Waiting for Godot in the desert.” (more…)

patti-smithOpen Culture has shared a list of American writer, musician, and photographer Patti Smith‘s favourite books. Included among the 2008 list are titles by Mikhail BulgakovHermann HesseJoseph ConradCharlotte Brontë, Nikolai Gogol, André Breton, Albert Camus and Virginia Woolf. Smith also lists a number of titles associated with the Beat Generation and other post-war American literature, including Allen Ginsberg, Jack KerouacWilliam S. Burroughs, and J. D. Salinger. Mike Springer reproduces the complete list, with brief commentary, over at the Open Culture website.

Buster Keaton on the set of Samuel Beckett's Film
Buster Keaton on the set of Samuel Beckett’s Film

Editors Paul Stewart and David Pattie are seeking contributions to Pop Beckett, a new collection of essays to be published by Ibidem Press:

“The subsequent presence of Beckett in popular culture – both the works and the figure of the man himself – covers a wide array of fields that, as Emilie Morin has suggested, might lead us to re-think Beckett’s continuing position in neoliberal capitalism. Moreover, the boundaries of popular and ‘high’ culture are open to contestation.”

— Source: The Samuel Beckett Society
Abstracts for possible submissions are requested by 20 December 2017, and, upon acceptance, the deadline for full-length essays is set at 30 May 2018. For more information about the projected book, visit the announcement on the Samuel Beckett Society website.

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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