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“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”

— Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

Analog. I grew up during a transitional phase when heavy analog technologies were being replaced by lighter, digital devices. A tactile nostalgia has since grown up around those cumbersome objects of the 1980s and 1990s. They have the charm of relics from a bygone age.

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John le Carré

I am always fascinating to hear about the daily rituals of writers and creative people. Readers of this site might be familiar with previous posts on walking and improvisation, thinking, or Kierkegaard’s fondness for daily walks. And so, whenever I hear about writers who are also keen walkers, I’m always curious to know more.

This morning I read that the British spy novelist John le Carré, author of The Night Manager (1993) and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1974) is one such writer. He talks of the pleasure he takes in perambulations around London, of finding inspiration in trains and cafés, and his preference for ‘drawing the words’ over using typewriters and word processors: (more…)

A call for papers for a panel at the upcoming ACLA conference in Utrecht, July 2017
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Samuel Beckett’s passport photographs.

Neil Doshi and James McNaughton are putting together a panel entitled ‘International Beckett’ for next year’s ACLA conference at Universiteit Utrecht, Netherlands. The seminar will comprise 8-12 participants, meeting for 2 hours on each of the conference’s 3 days. You will present a 20 minute paper, and then have an opportunity to discuss your work with likeminded scholars and enthusiasts. (more…)

A call for papers for a panel at the upcoming ACLA conference in Utrecht, July 2017


This sounds interesting. Tom Chadwick has been in touch about something he is organizing for next year’s ACLA conference at Universiteit Utrecht in the Netherlands. He and co-organizer Pieter Vermeulen are putting together a panel exploring the relationship between contemporary literature and the archive, and they want to hear from you! (more…)

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The Handmaid’s Tale was published in 1985 to overwhelming critical acclaim. It won the Governor General’s award for English-language fiction that year, and the inaugural Arthur C Clarke award in 1987. Often labelled a feminist dystopia, the novel captivates and terrifies in equal measure. Is Gilead the result of puritanism, misogyny and megalomania taken to their logical end? Is Atwood shooting readers a warning that this is where fanaticism and militarisation at the expense of humanity might lead?”

More at The Guardian.

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Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter

“The Miles Davis Quintet of the 1960s has long been praised as one of the most advanced small groups in jazz history, and anyone seeking to test the claim can choose from an abundance of evidence: studio albums, concert and club recordings, multi-disc collections. This fall will bring a new addition: “Freedom Jazz Dance — The Bootleg Series Vol. 5,” a three-CD boxed set.”

More at The New York Times.

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“It had also been my belief since I started writing fiction that science fiction is never really about the future. When science fiction is old, you can only read it as being pretty much about the moment in which it was written. But it seemed to me that the toolkit that science fiction had given me when I started working had become the toolkit of a kind of literary naturalism that could be applied to an inherently incredible present. So those three books were experimental for me in that sense.”

More at Business Insider.

Running 16 September to 2 October 2016
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Philip Seymour Hoffman

From Time Out: It’s hard to believe that Philip Seymour Hoffman is two years gone—he’s still at work in my mind. When I run across Boogie Nights or Synecdoche, New York, there’s no way I can think of him as anything but alive. Astoria’s Museum of the Moving Image will be celebrating Hoffman’s sizable legacy with a selective series, “The Master,” running September 16 through October 2. Per the museum’s website, screenings will be accompanied by “guest appearances, to be announced, and clips from his other films, to showcase his astonishing versatility.” A complete list of titles has yet to be announced, but so far the picks are strong: Jack Goes Boating, The Master, The Savages, Boogie Nights, Almost Famous, Capote, Doubt, Happiness, Synecdoche, New York, Owning Mahowny, Magnolia, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, 25th Hour, The Talented Mr. Ripley, A Most Wanted Man. Those are pretty much the ones we’d choose—don’t miss Owning Mahowny, a terrific portrayal of gambling addiction and, unwittingly, the most heartbreaking performance of Hoffman’s career. [Read More]

Is That Kafka?: 99 finds, which sounds perhaps like warmed-up leftovers from Reiner Stach’s monumental and definitive three-volume biography of Kafka (which Shelley Frisch has translated into English), is nothing of the kind. Actually, it’s more like a fascinating recipe book, from which the reader may improvise or enrich his or her own Kafka. Long into the age of the automatic biography – though not all of them are as judicious, as devoted, or as brilliant as Stach’s – it is interesting to consider whether a different, less autonomous form may not in the end be more helpful, and more in the interests of writers and readers.”

More at TLS.

“Truman Capote is to have a final, macabre whirl of celebrity by having his ashes auctioned off in Los Angeles – starting price $2,000.

The remains, contained in a carved Japanese box, will go on the block in September, 32 years after Capote’s death.”

More at The Guardian.

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Samuel Beckett. Photograph: Erika Rabau.

“Stuttgart airport. Check-in. You have a first-class ticket. ‘Would you like to go through to the Senator-Lounge?’ You look down at your parka, look at me: ‘Do we look like senators?!’”

– Walter Asmus on Samuel Beckett, ‘Farewell Beckett’ in the Journal of Beckett Studies, Vol. 19 (April 2010).

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Seamus Heaney

Christopher Carroll (The Wall Street Journal) traces Seamus Heaney’s connection to Book VI of the “Aeneid”, in light of his father’s death:

“[…] Heaney’s own translation of Book VI of the “Aeneid,” which he completed in July 2013, one month before he died. It is his last published poem, a poignant rendition of Aeneas’ arrival in Italy and journey into the underworld to see his dead father. And though it is beautiful in its own right, this portion of the “Aeneid” had a special significance for Heaney—one that began in his school days in the 1950s and lasted his entire life.”

More at The Poetry Foundation.