In Search of Spirit

January 22, 2015 Comments Off

In this series, Finnish authors discuss the difficulties of their trade. Attempting to write a novel on the basis of his successful television series, Tuomas Kyrö – author of the extraordinary novelistic chronicle of the birth of capitalism Benjamin Kivi, which we featured in the old print version of Books from Finland and which you can read here – found himself lost for words. Liberation came with the realisation that, unlike in television, in books it is the writer, and the reader, who are in charge, and the only limits are those of the human imagination.

Tuomas Kyrö

Tuomas Kyrö

In May 2009, after a year of writing, I held in my hand the manuscript of a novel whose plot and characters were complete. There was a subject, theme and the occasional good passage, but something was badly wrong.

When I swapped roles, writer for reader, I realised that my text did not touch the skin, and certainly did not get under the skin. I had wanted do more than raise a smile; I had thought I was writing a book that would make its readers want to turn the page, I had wanted to provoke, to cause laughter and even perhaps tears. Now all that my text provoked in the reader – me – was embarrassment and boredom.

What was wrong?

Wrestling With the Gods: A Private Conversation With Nick Nolte

November 28, 2014 § Leave a comment

In shooting the documentary ‘Nick Nolte: No Exit’ (available On Demand via Sundance Selects), director Tom Thurman concocted a rather existential ploy to bring out the burly, intimidating seventy-three year-old actor’s vulnerable side: he assigned Nolte to literally interview himself. Hopefully, this oddball tactic would uncover the true Nolte, who in the past notoriously relished in embellishment.


“I’m known for being a liar,” Nolte said. “I lied for a living and I lied in my interviews. It got boring after twenty years. People have said to me, after interviews, ‘I really wished you answered that motherfucker’s question!'”

To avoid that escapism, Thurman and Nolte, who became friends while filming Thurman’s ‘Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride: Hunter S. Thompson on Film,’ developed a series of deeply intimate questions, several of which would probably catch Nolte off guard if an actual journalist posed them. In one day, Thurman shot footage of Nolte as slick reporter, sheepishly grilling Nolte the actor; the very next day, he filmed a wearier-looking Nolte answering his own questions, sometimes wistfully, sometimes sarcastically. Nostalgic slides of Nolte in his salad days were projected at random onto a computer throughout the “interview,” further derailing him.
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English Medieval Texts and Studies

October 26, 2014 Comments Off


Drawn from Aelfric’s Old English Lives of the Saints, this is an edition of the lives of the little-known virgin spouses: Julian and Basilissa, Cecilia and Valerian, and Chrysanthus and Daria. As well as the Old English original texts, it provides the reader with modern English parallel-text translations. As a useful comparison, their closest Latin source texts are also reproduced – again with English parallel-text translations. As a leading churchman writing at the time of the Viking raids at the end of the first millennium, Aelfric wrote his Lives to bolster the faith of English Christians. These three stories of couples who marry but do not consummate their unions point to an ideal of marital celibacy in Aelfric’s programme of pastoral care. Taken together, the group provides an opportunity to emphasise different but related points about literal and figurative types of chastity and purity appropriate to the laity.

Jack the Ripper’s Letter from Hell

October 17, 2014 Comments Off

Originally posted on A R T L▼R K:

15 October 1888 – says the postmark on the letter received by George Lusk, the then head of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee. The sender of the letter was allegedly the serial killer and bogeyman of Victorian London, Jack the Ripper. The cryptic message in the letter read as follows:

From hell

Mr Lusk


I send you half the Kidne I took from one women prasarved it for you tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise. I may send you the bloody knif that took it out if you only wate a whil longer.


Catch me when you Can Mishter Lusk.

The letter was accompanied by a small parcel wrapped in a brown paper. The parcel contained a human kidney, preserved in “spirits of wine” (Philip Sudgen, Complete History of Jack the Ripper). Mr. Lusk’s initial reaction to the letter was that of laughter…

View original 827 more words

Feature – From “Good Warm Sad Blood Spilling Out in the Forest”

September 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

Heather Christle, Matthew Rohrer, Zachary  Schomburg, and Matthew Zapruder talk about surrealism.

MZ: Basing the “hardness” or “softness” of surrealism on whether or not it challenges “poet-reader relations” and the “power relations of writing,” is not only ahistorical but beside the point. It’s like saying, “I like grandma’s meatloaf better than your meatloaf because your meatloaf is too coercive.” Coerciveness may or may not be an important value in meatloaf-eater relations, but it’s not what grandma or you were thinking about when you were making your meatloaves. Likewise, you can say “poet-reader relations” and the “power relations of writing” are the most important things to think about in every act of writing—I mean, that’s an opinion you can, tragically, have—but it wasn’t what Breton or James Tate or anyone else under discussion was thinking about.

Hannah Gamble: When I first emailed the four of you about this interview, I indicated that I saw surrealism as part of your poetic lineage; much of your work employs surrealist staples such as dream logic, collage, collaboration, tragicomic approaches to human existence, and inventive syntax which tries to get at a usually-inaccessible kind of hyper-reality. How do you feel about your work being referred to as “surreal”?

Zachary Schomburg: I’ve noticed poets of my generation often feel a bit leery of labeling their work as “surreal,” and suspicious of others who call themselves surrealists. But maybe this is a larger contemporary issue of poetry labels in general—nobody is willing to strike a pose, in fear of becoming a poser. I do feel proud when my poems are called surreal, because I think that adjective is not far off. French Surrealism is something I studied extensively at the University of Nebraska, and it became integral to my writing. What the original Surrealists were doing is something I, too, am trying to do, so I feel I am a part of that lineage. I’m certainly influenced more by them (and the Russian Absurdists perhaps) than by any other poetics. However, that label is far too simple. The process through which I write is entirely different from Breton’s (or what Breton may claim), as are my politics, my philosophies, etc.

Besides, the word “surreal” has—in our broader, non-poetry lexicon—come to mean something much simpler: strange, unreal, weird. I’ve read too many poems that are labeled surreal only because they are not obviously confessional or sincere. I’d hate for the word to become a catch-all, one that has no recollection of Breton. In other words, if we’re going to label something surreal now, those poems should probably resemble each other in some tangible way, or they should perhaps resemble the French Surrealists’ poems in some tangible way. There should probably be a new word for it, and a new manifesto, and maybe this conversation can spark something like that.
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The automaton that hooked Napoleon

September 20, 2014 § 4 Comments

Based on a true story, The Mechanical Turk is the breathtaking historical adventure of a legendary invention that astounded all who crossed its path.


The Turk was touted as an early robot that could play chess at the highest level. Built in Vienna in 1770 by the inventor Wolfgang von Kempelen, the machine consisted of a large pedestal, housing intricate machinery on top of which stood a chessboard. To this box was attached the upper half of a men dressed in oriental robes and a turban. Each performance began with an elaborate introduction to convince the audience that the Turk is really a machine. The automaton would then face a challenger. One person who did his best to find out how the Turk worked was Napoleon, who played the machine three times in Vienna in 1809. On the first encounter the Turk easily defeated him in 19 moves.

The Turk first dazzled the court of the empress Maria Theresa in Vienna. The machine moved its own pieces, and would instantly recognize illegal moves by its opponent. It offered a surprisingly good game of chess! The automaton soon became a sensation, toured Europe and North America, and was matched against some of the best chess players of the time. It lost some games, but won surprisingly many.

The story links an unlikely cast of historical characters, from Napoleon, Beethoven, Benjamin Franklin and Poe to the pioneers of the computer age, and provides an accessible way of examining the complex relationship between magic, man, mind and machine…

Or so it says here.

Xuanzang and the Sacred Books of China

September 9, 2014 § 2 Comments


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 § 3 Comments

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.


    Good science fiction is good fiction

    Re-reading Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. Translated from Russian by Antonina W. Bouis — MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc, New York [...]

    Romain Slocombe — Prisoner of the Red Army

    Prisoner of the Red Army is the debut output of a scandalous 25 year old illustrator who signs his name only, Romain. A re-edition of the original book which was published in 1978 by Humanoïdes Associés

    A Virtual Wunderkammer: Early Twentieth Century Erotica in Spain

    This Website is a companion to the book, Cultures of the Erotic. Spain 1898-1939 (Maite Zubiaurre, Vanderbilt University Press, 2011), in the same way in which the book is a companion to the Website. They enhance each other when they work together [...]

    Pulling back the curtain

    When I first read Jean Rhys’s short novel After Leaving Mr Mackenzie in my early 20s, I felt a strong sense of empathy. It was the attraction of identification. I identified with the main character, Julia Martin. [...]

    André Frénaud — Il n’y a pas de paradis

    ‘Good books sell, very good books do not,’ declared the great French publisher Gaston Gallimard in the 1950s. ‘For example, I like Henri Michaux very much. But who reads him? And Frénaud . . . There is no relation whatsoever between what he costs me to print and what his books bring in. [...]

    Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination

    Beginning with Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, this wide-ranging exhibition explores our enduring fascination with the mysterious, the terrifying and the awe-inspiring [...]

  • paris film festival


    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.”


    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 —click the mammoth, s’il vous plaît.

  • Alternative Media

    • - 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
    • - 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.

  • NOW FOLLOWING: Proust Report

    Regarder ‘La Nuit américaine’, c’est comme regarder le cinéma

    Regarder ‘La Nuit américaine’, c’est comme regarder le cinéma

    C’est l’histoire d’un film sur le film. François Truffaut incarne lui même le rôle du réalisateur, Ferrand, un rôle qu’il revêt comme une seconde peau. Dédié à deux actrices célèbres du muet, Lilian et Dorothy Gish, La Nuit américaine est dans son titre même une citation d’un procédé utilisé au cinéma pour créer une nuit […]

    Leslie Kaplan, Prix Wepler

    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 […]

    Le réalisme magique et les lettres françaises

    Quelques réflexions sur Hubert Lampo, les lettres belges et Julien Gracq / Par Daniel Acke Dès sa jeunesse, Hubert Lampo a développé une grande familiarité avec la littérature française. Très tôt, il est marqué par la lecture de Jules Verne, Roger Martin du Gard, Georges Duhamel et surtout Alain-Fournier, auquel il a d’ailleurs consacré un […]

    25 novembre 1970: le jour où Mishima choisit son destin

    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

    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 […]

    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 […]

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