"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Nabokov Knew His Butterflies

He was right about their appearance on this continent, it seems, and, according to the NY Times, we have the Russian Revolution to thank for his not becoming a full-time lepidopterist.

It fascinates me -- the juxtaposition between brilliant writer and lepidopterist. Why that should be more striking than poet and doctor (William Carlos Williams) or poet and insurance executive (Wallace Stevens), I am not sure. Maybe because Nabokov did not need it as his day job? It was not his day job, but another thing he loved. Butterflies are gorgeous, but he killed a lot of them, loving them as he did. Kind of like Humbert Humbert "killed" the thing he loved...creepy.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Keeping Books Out of Landfills and the Secret Threat of E-Readers

Sounds like a good idea. Someone will buy them. Like me, e.g. Buyer of Used Books at yard sales, etc. Even if I and everyone else who can switches to Kindles and Nooks, there are still people off the grid who will appreciate actual books for a few more years, I think. And I really have no plan to switch exclusively (or at all, to be honest) to any kind of e-reader anytime soon. I have too many real books backlogged.

That said, I spent a very pleasant half hour talking with a knowledgeable clerk and playing with the Nooks at Barnes & Noble the other day. The color Nook is definitely nice. The black and white one had side buttons I found annoying, as they have functions that you can trigger unintentionally. As soon as you try to bend the Nook like a paperback, okay, admittedly not a good idea for an expensive electronic item, there goes the page... I'm not used to handling books *that* carefully, tho I guess I could get used to it. I don't beat my books up, either.

Devotee friends claim their Kindles are great for travel, and I don't doubt it. I have lugged novels and guidebooks back and forth on long trips -- not always the same books, as I often leave the old and cannot resist the new when I'm in another country and not sure the same title is available back home. You can't duplicate that situation with an e-reader. So, are e-readers part of the whole world getting to be the same, then? Is that their secret threat? Amazon and Barnes & Noble just following GAP, Old Navy and other big retailers? Am I surprised? Are you?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Put Up Your Dukes and Write

Kerouac's letter to Brando, asking him to make a movie of On the Road, and play Dean to Kerouac's Sal. I guess the most interesting part of this is that Kerouac chose Brando, a sex symbol at the time, to play real-life sex symbol Neal Cassady. The letter was found among Brando's files after his death. Click on it to get a larger version.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Steve Almond on the Arizona Shooting,

the movement toward fascism, hatred of anyone who disagrees with you and the hateful comments right wing readers have spewed at him. This article and its links should be required reading. Why is it that the insatiable rich can convince right wing American working people that a more egalitarian system of medical care is an assault on their freedom when it's actually saving them money and not harming their medical care?

The historian Robert Paxton, who studied Europe during World War II, defined fascism as “a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy, but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”

Steve Almond at the Rumpus.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Irish, Italian, Brown, Zombies, et al.

Reading outside your comfort zone to be a better person... list of 2011 reading challenges.

My favorite, and it's not an easy choice with Chunksters and Quirky Brown competition, is your very own To Be Read pile challenge. Read twelve of those, one a month. Of course, I do this anyway. The real challenge would be not to add to my TBR pile in 2011. I have over 100 on the TBR list. At the rate of only one book a month, it's like making minimum payments on a credit card balance. Hm, I have til Jan 15 to sign up...

Which twelve books shall I rescue from the pile of the unread? Actually, from the several bookshelves of the unread. Madame Bovary, the Aveling translation (I hope different translations count) will be on the list I think.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Snow Haiku

From readers of the NY Times.

Here's one that is not about last month's blizzard and lack of trash pickup:

In falling snow
a red bird sings
a song without a name

— Ben Connelly

and here is mine:

snow falling softly
lightly, covers the dog's coat
until he shakes