Xuanzang and the Sacred Books of China

September 9, 2014 § 1 Comment


Journey to the West is a Chinese novel published in the 16th century during the Ming Dynasty and attributed to Wu Cheng’en. It is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. The book tells the story of the fourteen-year pilgrimage of the monk Xuanzang, one of China’s most famous religious heroes, and his three supernatural disciples, in search of Buddhist scriptures. Throughout his journey, Xuanzang fights demons who wish to eat him, communes with spirits, and traverses a land riddled with a multitude of obstacles, both real and fantastical. An adventure rich with danger and excitement, this seminal work of the Chinese literary canonis by turns allegory, satire, and fantasy.

The textual history of ‘The Journey to the West’ is relatively simple. The standard modern version in four volumes, publisehd by The University of Chicago Press and translated by Anthony C. Yu, is substantially the same as what is thought to be the first edition, in 100 chapters, published (the author was anonymous) at Nanjing in 1592.

The narrative is mostly in a polished vernacular prose, but about 750 poems and verse passages in an older and more classical language are interspersed through the book. These introduce, summarize or comment upon the action, sometimes in the arcane language of mythology or alchemy, or they provide descriptive set-pieces – landscapes, battles, banquets. The adventures occur on many literary and intellectual levels at once in a story that moves with surprising speed through its many chapters.

Twin Cities Book Festival Saturday, October 11, 2014

September 8, 2014 § 1 Comment

The Twin Cities Book Festival—brought to you by Rain Taxi—is not only the largest and most important literary gathering in the Upper Midwest, it is the annual get-together for the Twin Cities’ devoted literary community.


This FREE, day-long festival brings around 7000 people together to celebrate our vibrant literary culture. The festival welcomes ‘rock star’ authors, local literary heroes, publishers, kids and book lovers, who connect over real-live books and conversations.


Progress Center, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
An all-day exhibit of publishers, magazines, literary organizations, local authors, booksellers, and more! Check back for a complete listing of exhibitors and exhibitor specials.

The Reading Stages are located in the Fine Arts Building, located next door to the Progress Center. CLICK HERE to see who’s coming and check back for a complete schedule of events. Book signings will take place after each event in the Progress Center building.


CLICK HERE to see who’s coming and check back for more information on Children’s Pavilion authors and activities! Sponsored by MELSA—Metro Public Libraries.


CLICK HERE to see who’s coming and check back for more information on participating authors and activities.


Mingle with literary luminaries! Check back for a complete list of participating authors.


Great deals on thousands of gently used books and records.

Friendship and Survival: Individual Stories Behind the French Resistance

September 5, 2014 § 2 Comments

‘Resistance, Friendship and Survival’ are the central themes in the work of two writers; Caroline Moorehead and Michèle Roberts who focus on the individual stories behind the French resistance. In their works Ignorance and A Train in the Winter, these two writers explore the ways in which conflict impacts on the lives of ordinary people in a myriad of different ways.


Caroline Moorehead’s book, A Train in the Winter, tells the story of a group of French women, deported because they were communists and active participants in the Resistance, who experienced the atrocity of German concentration camps. Although her female characters are passionate enough to get close to mythology, her story cannot offer a different, positive ending. Her message deals with survival and friendship, fundamental ingredients of all political Resistance. The old paradigm of history being made by men and narrated by men, is radically overturned by Moorehead. With her, history has female speakers with female points of view, and unveils aspects of European history which tend to be underestimated.

Michèle Roberts’ Ignorance, is closely connected to Moorehead’s narrative web. Introducing her title, she said ‘A novelist is allowed to dig into ignorance, otherwise she or he will be a scholar’. Roberts started her research from all sorts of documents related to France at the time of the Second World War. Through her Jewish background and family’s memories, she managed to tell the typical story from a highly original perspective – her own. While Moorehead’s characters more or less come from big French cities, her story is rooted in the French countryside. Roberts’ centre is the kitchen, the place where women had to be relegated, had to work, knew each other and survived.

Roberts’ narrative details are made of pans, recipes, potatoes, conversations on marriage; in such a familiar atmosphere the author incessantly digs into the disturbing and weird side of human beings. The isolated and universal reality Roberts describes was common to many people’s experience. French citizens, Jews, refugees, Resistance fighters, French collaborators (les collabos), Nazis; all Europeans are familiar with the events Roberts wants to rescue from ignorance.

Something simple occurs to everybody when dealing with history, the preoccupation to remember, not to forget or minimize, but retain and protect just like we do with a human life in danger. This came out from Moorehead and Roberts’s voices, both known for their biographical literary style, confessional narrative and female historical nuances. The literature of survival requires a confessional style, as it is with Primo Levi, Anne Frank, Louise Jacobson, Fred Uhlman, Herta Müller, and so on. The principal enemies of the borders created by wars and grief are the memories which are still to be told, kept in mind and written.

Ilaria Mallozzi

What are Swedish girls made of?

September 4, 2014 § 2 Comments


The reader of ‘Flickan som tuggar tobak’ (‘The girl who chew tobacco’) –Jari Gustavson’s last novel– has to wait until the end of the book to find out what happens to the captive female chimney sweep, Katarina or ‘Pipey’. In those moments in the oven, Pipey’s life flashes before her eyes.

In his previous novels, Gustavson has concentrated on exploring people on the margins of Swedish history; rather than portraying the lives of significant figures, he chooses instead to depict everyday people and their day-to-day lives. In his recent trilogy, Gustavson gave an account of the years between Swedish’s independence in 1917 and the beginning of the Second World War. Since 1995 his output has included seven novels, collections of short stories and radio plays.

In ‘Flickan som tuggar tobak’ the Swedish writer depicts the time from the war years until the beginning of the 1980s, and Stockholm and the most obnoxious years of punk rock and anarchy, which the novel’s protagonist and narrator Pipey enjoys to the full.

This time the grass-roots view of the world typical of Gustavson’s novels is swapped for a bird’s-eye perspective: at the centre of the novel, on the roofs high above the city, is the fast disappearing world of chimney sweeps, a profession that once enjoyed the respect of the nation, particularly that of women. The old saying goes that meeting a chimney sweep on the street brought you good luck – better still, if you managed to touch him. Gustavson also alludes to the sexual connotations of pipes, flues and chimney sweeping. The author makes use of the spectrum of humour and comedy, from naïve jokes and below-the-belt humor to dramatic irony and elements of satire.

Roots of the “Tree of Life”

August 31, 2014 § Leave a comment

Animation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Tree of Life by artist Daryl Alexsy.

Many in the “Martin House community” are well aware that the famed “Tree of Life” art glass design bears a popular name, one not given by Frank Lloyd Wright or Darwin D. Martin. The term first appears in print around 1968, coinciding with a major exhibition and sale of art glass from the Martin House complex through the Richard Feigen gallery, New York (1968-70). The Feigen gallery bought a number of pieces of Martin House art glass (including one or more “Tree of Life” windows) from John Crosby Freeman, then Curator of the nascent Maltwood Art Gallery at the University of British Columbia, Victoria, BC. Freeman had the enviable task of assembling an “Arts and Crafts” collection for the Maltwood, and had obtained 21 pieces of Martin House art glass from a dealer who most likely acquired them from Darwin R. Martin.

As to the burning question of the origin of the “Tree of Life” term (alternately written “tree-of-life”), Freeman has stated that he thinks the Feigen gallery may have come up with the name as a marketing device – a way to boost sales of the Martin glass by applying an evocative, romantic name. We may never know exactly when the term was first applied, or by whom, but one thing is clear: it stuck. The “Tree of Life” window soon became one of the most iconic of Wright’s Prairie house art glass designs, and this “brand” has been sought by major collections of decorative and fine arts world-wide.

Ira Cohen & the Moroccan Beat Circle

August 29, 2014 § 4 Comments

From 1923 to 1956 Tangier was an International Zone, governed separately from the rest of Morocco by a loose collection of foreign governments. Known as the ‘Interzone’, the promise of cosmopolitan freedom attracted Western artists and writers in the 50s and 60s.

Ira Cohen (1979) by Gerard Malanga.

Ira Cohen (1979) by Gerard Malanga

One of the most prolific – yet little-known – Tangier figure was the American poet, photographer, and artist Ira Cohen (1935 – 2011), who lived there during the 60s. Cohen published a literary magazine titled Gnaoua, meaning exorcism. It contained early writings from the  including William Burroughs and Brion Gysin. Jimi Hendrix and other artists were portrayed in his “Mylar Images” and he created many record covers. Shamanistic and tantric experiences were technically and conceptually integrated into his photographic work and his work as a poet, musician and filmmaker began at the latest in the 70’s. A work by Ira Cohen was recently presented at Art Basel 38 / Kunst+Film by John Armleder. In 1970 Cohen moved to Kathmandu where he lived for ten years and built up an artist’s colony.

The pictures shot by chance, in spontaneity and irony, refer not only to Dadaism and its nonconformism but also to the anti-authoritarianism and social criticism of the Beat Generation, which also broke many taboos and developed new experimental ways of life. Cohen’s work reflects these influences in a most impressive way.

A sense of cosmic pranksterism pervaded his work; a line in one of his poems pronounces that “subtraction is only a special form of addition”. He was the author of the underground hit volume The Hashish Cookbook, a collection of hash recipes written under the pseudonym of Panama Rose (a twist on Panama Red, a then popular type of marijuana), which was published, inevitably, in 1967 by his own Gnaoua Press. His ‘Gnaoua magazine’, started in Tangiers three years previously, ran to only one edition; significantly, a copy of it is visible in the cover image of Bob Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home LP. Named after the Moroccan black African sect known for ecstatic dancing and possession trances, it was devoted to Beat poetry and showcased the work of Brion Gysin, William S Burroughs, and Harold Norse. “It had great Burroughs stuff, as well as Ian Sommerville talking about the dream machine, which he and Brion Gysin co-invented,” the writer Barry Miles recalled. In Morocco Cohen also produced an LP of Moroccan trance music.

Ira Cohen made phantasmagorical films that became cult classics and published works by authors like William Burroughs and the poet Gregory Corso. He wrote thousands of poems himself. He called himself “the conscience of Planet Earth.” But his  most amazing work of art was inarguably Mr. Cohen himself.

German authors — Did Jörg Fauser deserve such a prosaic death?

August 27, 2014 § 5 Comments

Jörg Fauser was a prolific novelist, essayist and journalist. Born in Frankfurt/Main in 1944, he broke off his academic studies to work and travel, with longer stays in Istanbul and London, working as a casual labourer, airport baggage worker and night watchman. He also supported himself as a journalist, and was acquainted with Charles Bukowski.


He developed a heroin habit which he was able to shed at the age of 30, and spent much of the rest of his working life with an alcohol addiction. Fauser was heavily influenced by Beat literature and American crime stories, producing three successful novels, including ‘Der Schneemann’ (The Snowman), and a plethora of short stories. Fauser also translated English works by John Howlett and Joan Baez, and as well as translating Rolling Stones lyrics into German. Acclaimed as the best crime thriller ever written in German, The Snowman sold over 200,000 copies and was made into a film starring German rock musician Marius Westernhagen. Fauser also wrote and recorded music – one of his songs made it into the German top ten in 1981. But like his contemporary Hunter S. Thompson he was also deeply disillusioned by the failure of the ideals of the 60s, and his writing remained that of a driven man searching for something that is always just a few inches from his grasp.

On 16 July 1987, Fauser had been out celebrating his 43rd birthday in Munich. At dawn, instead of going back home, he allegedly stripped naked and wandered down a stretch of highway where, by chance or by choice, he was struck by a heavy-goods truck. He died instantly.

Germany may only be renown for their high brow writers such as Grass and Hesse, but there is no denying the talent of Borche, Ledig and Fauser. With their writing embodying the worse of human conditions, these writers manage to represent Germany in it’s best with all the worse that has happened.

William Blake’s Illuminated Books

August 25, 2014 Comments Off

William Blake is one of the most significant and celebrated figures in western art and poetry. His illuminated book, Europe: a Prophecy, the second of Blake’s Continental Prophecies (alongside America: a Prophecy and The Book of Los), is frequently acknowledged as one of his most obscure, complex and elusive pieces.

The title page of Europe: It has been argued that the serpent, representing Orc, is quite deliberately placed opposite Urizen in the frontispiece.  Urizen represents Creation while Orc represents the Fall.

The title page of Europe: It has been argued that the serpent, representing Orc, is quite deliberately placed opposite Urizen in the frontispiece. Urizen represents Creation while Orc represents the Fall.

Blake’s illuminated books, produced from 1783-1795, are remarkable examples of complex syntheses: of form – poetry and painting; and of subject – the real with the mythical. This complexity has resulted in more than a century of debate regarding their interpretation. How do the text and images interact? Are the mythical characters veiled descriptions of real people? Or, is the work just a fantastical and diverting journey through Blake’s vivid imagination? Their compelling and fascinating nature has led William Vaughan to comment of the books: they are “really at the heart of Blake’s thinking. For Blake scholars they are where he begins and ends.”

Glasgow University Library
  • Confession Intime

    This blog can be considered as an handpicked medley of inspirations, musings, obsessions and things of general interest.
  • qease

    Are you a socially engaged filmmaker?

    The 13th edition of the Paris Human Rights International Film Festival will be held during spring 2015. You can now submit your film!

    Read and accept the rules and regulations.

    Complete and approve the submission form (click to download).

    Once the submission form has been filled out, a confirmation email will be sent to the participant. If the submission meets our requirements and the film synopsis matches with the Festival artistic criteria, we will watch the video link (sent by mail with the submission form) or we will ask you for the DVD to be sent to the following postal address : Alliance Ciné, 7 impasse de Mont-Louis, 75007 Paris.

    Information about the submission:

    The film must have been produced after January 1, 2013.
    The submission deadline is September 31st, 2014.
    The submission is free of charge.
    The Festival screens principally documentary films. But, for the first time this year, you are allowed to submit your fiction and animation movies.
    Feature films must last a minimum of 52 minutes. There is no maximum duration limit.
    Short films must last a maximum of 20 minutes.
    For the selection process, the film will be watched in French, French subtitled, English or English subtitled version only.
    A notification of selection will be sent to the participant in the course of October 2014.

    Thank you in advance for your participation!

  • Uncategorized News

    1. It’s the end of the world as we know it and Slavoj Žižek feels fine.

      (Image: Art Threat)

    2. The “back-to-nature” movement for mothers is an ideological effort to “reawaken the slumbering mammal inside women” and turn them into “chimpanzees,” argues French feminist Elisabeth Badinter in thisinterview with Spiegel. The success of this movement, she suggests, is partly a matter of generational backlash:

      The current generation of young women is made up of the daughters of the feminists of the 1970s. They don’t want to be like their mothers — torn between their job and their family, constantly stressed, constantly tired. They think it must be much more satisfying to devote themselves entirely to their children.

    3. An interview with Lewis Hyde, the author of The Gift. His new book,Common as Air, has just been published. (Image: Reuben Cox)

    4. The Bluestockings of the late 1700s were among the first public female intellectuals in Britain. They were hectored out of existence by the turn of the century. Two books (reviewed in the TLS) consider their fate: Were they out to prove that reason could be sexless, or precisely the opposite?

      (Image: National Portrait Gallery)

    5. “Is emerging adulthood a rich and varied period for self-discovery…? Or is it just another term for self-indulgence?” asks Robin Marantz Heinig in this New York Times Magazine article.

      Maybe 20-somethings, with their elongated period of “emerging adulthood,” are realizing incrementally the promise of what Marx called species being — a freedom from social alienation and the duress of the struggle to survive, and the emancipation into total personhood. Maybe as long as it seems that way, it is.

      (image: Ryan McGinley)

    6. What we call “natural” is often ideological, and the supposedly spontaneous joy we take in nature must be learned, as historian Claude Fischer notes. Such pleasure is a product of privilege, not our human birthright, and has become a status marker defined by the conspicuous rejection of convenience.

      Food has lately become an egregious example of the nostalgia for pure nature; as historian Rachel Laudenpoints out in an essay about what she calls culinary luddism: “For our ancestors, natural was something quite nasty.”

      Werner Herzog concurs with the ancestors: in nature he sees only “the harmony of overwhelming and collective murder.” There is “no kinship, no understanding, no mercy” in nature, only “overwhelming indifference.”

      (image: Tate.org)

    7. “Look, noir is about losers. The characters in these existential, nihilistic tales are doomed. They may not die, but they probably should, as the life that awaits them is certain to be so ugly, so lost and lonely, that they’d be better off just curling up and getting it over with. And, let’s face it, they deserve it.”

    8. John Waters is one of the great eccentrics of the latter 20th century; and those who influenced him most were a motley (albiet endearing) crew indeed.

    9. Keith Gessen taps the wisdom of Wall Street—but isn’t that a contradiction in terms?

    10. Daphne Merkin’s body of work has always been exceptional for her unflinching personal disclosure— this take on life in therapy is no exception.

      Good Readings at NewPages.com —click the mammoth, s’il vous plaît.

  • Alternative Media

    • AlterNet.org
    • - News service with original investigative journalism on issues like the environment, drug war, technology, sexual politics, and health issues

    • Common Dreams
    • - "Breaking news & views for the progressive community"

    • Independent Media Center
    • - A collective network "for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate tellings of the truth." Formed at the time of the 1999 anti-WTO protests in Seattle.

    • The New Republic
    • - Not all that alternative, but it's from the liberal side of the spectrum

    • Project Censored
    • - Picks the top 25 censored (i.e., neglected) news stories every year. In the meantime, points out stories the mainstream media are currently missing or avoiding.

    • Tom Paine.com
    • - Original articles and reprints from other sources, in the tradition of one of America's great revolutionaries

      • Truthout
      • - Other views on the news, often from liberal politicians and columnists

  • Sites we simply like

    Curbed LA Real estate talk without all the usual bullshit.
    Speak Up. Great graphic design roundtable.
    Mat Gleason rant. Coagula editor's journal.
    X-Tra. Somewhat thinky publication of art and criticism out of L.A.
    Jay Ryan. The website for a poster artist whose work we really enjoy.
    The Morning News. See above.
    Coudal Partners. A graphic design firm with interesting interests.
    Edward Gorey's "The Gashleycrumb Tinies"
    L.A. Observed. Interesting overview of insider L.A. media news.
    McSweeney's. Pretty darn clever.
    Mr. Picassohead
    Los Angeles County Public Library
    L.A. County Health Department's Restaurant Closures
    Make Ready. Typography, art books, whatnot.
    Huffington Post. Arianna at her best.
    Talking Points Memo
    Defamer. Trashy, addictive.
    Daily Doonesbury.
    Design Observer
    City of Sound
    Strange Harvest
    Tiny Gigantic
    One Plus One Equals Three.
    The Nonist.
    Moon River.
    Swiss Miss.


    25 novembre 1970: le jour où Mishima choisit son destin

    Koji Wakamatsu, ex -empereur du «pink» (séries Z lubrico perverses à la sauce nipponne), était la vigie de la mauvaise conscience de l’archipel. United Red Army, petit théâtre doloriste et convulsif, disséquait impitoyablement l’incubation et le déchaînement de la violence d’extrême gauche. Avec ce 25 novembre 1970: le jour où Mishima choisit son destin, il […]

    La Bibliothèque Québécoise Idéale

    Par Josée-Anne Paradis Terreau fertile pour démontrer, dénoncer ou déclamer à la fois notre histoire, nos passions ou nos revendications, la littérature québécoise se pose en éclairant miroir social. S’il est délicat de désigner cent titres comme incontournables parmi le lot, il est presque impossible de n’en retenir que douze! Voici un aperçu, bien sûr […]

    Nouveaux appels de textes : Gaetan Soucy, Mathieu Riboulet, Tanizaki et Palmarès inactuels

    Gaétan Soucy laisse une œuvre romanesque rare, forte en contrastes. La tragédie emboîte le pas à la comédie, le drame cède à la farce, l’innocence et la faute se contemplent en miroir, les frontières de l’onirisme et du réalisme se brouillent, le corps et l’âme correspondent. Se réinventant de roman en roman, l’écriture de Gaétan […]

    Leslie Kaplan, Prix Wepler

    Le Prix Wepler-Fondation La Poste se caractérise par son indépendance et son exigence littéraire. Chaque année son jury est renouvelé intégralement. Il est constitué de lecteurs et de professionnels qui explorent la création romanesque et soutiennent «des œuvres difficiles dont la visée n’est pas uniquement commerciale.» Conçu par Marie-Rose Guarniéri en 1998 – l’année où […]

    Correspondances amoureuses

    Par Gaëlle Obiégly Le pluriel du titre annonce la multiplicité des paroles d’amour. À chacun sa manière de correspondre amoureusement, et pourtant ce qui se dit ne varie pas. Dans ce contexte de l’amour n’importe qui devient un auteur, une sorte d’auteur. Quelqu’un qui écrit avec nécessité. Toute correspondance n’est-elle pas amoureuse, animée par un […]

    L’exception à la culture française

    Les assauts de Monsieur Barroso contre l’exception culturelle française n’y feront rien, le marché de la culture se porte très bien en France. Musique, cinéma, théâtre, photographie… Le protectionnisme français rayonne, loin d’être le symptôme d’une identité en déclin comme le prétendent certains. En témoignent les nombreuses œuvres francophones récompensées récemment tous domaines confondus.

    Serge Diaghilev. Portrait

    Par Corinne Amar Né en 1872, au pied des monts Oural, dans une famille aisée de la petite noblesse russe qui vouait un culte à la musique, il grandit, dans les dernières décennies de la Vieille Russie, écrin qui ancra son destin. Il connut « les interminables voyages en télègue sur des routes poussiéreuses, les […]

    Henri Thomas, atlantiquement vôtre

    Par Gaëlle Obiégly – Ce que révèlent ces lettres d’Henri Thomas c’est l’amitié qui le lie à Gérard Le Gouic, le destinataire. Une amitié qui ne tarde pas à s’exprimer, qui ne fait pas de manières. Une amitié qui est célébrée au fil des jours, des années. Une amitié qui est même qualifiée, « solidement […]

    Le Cahier de Leila : De l’Algérie à Billancourt

    Deux romans-témoignages relatant les destinées de deux fillettes originaires d’Algérie et du Rwanda éclairent des faits douloureux du siècle dernier. Au travers des portraits psychologiques de deux enfants, Leïla et Emma, Valentine Goby et Elisabeth Combres (dont c’est le premier roman) relatent deux épisodes symboliques de l’histoire contemporaine où la France, impliquée, joue un rôle […]

    Catherine Robbe-Grillet: «À la gloire du Nouveau Roman»

    Le théâtre de la Colline propose en ce moment une pièce de Christophe Honoré, Nouveau Roman, qui retrace avec humour le parcours de ce mouvement littéraire. On y rencontre l’éditeur Jérôme Lindon et les principaux écrivains du groupe : Duras, Ollier, Sarraute, et bien sûr le couple Robbe-Grillet. De tout ce beau monde, une des seules survivantes : […]

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