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

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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]