Plato's Republic is often described as a book about politics, a philosophical discussion of the ideal state. It's an odd fact, though, that the book only uses politics as a metaphor for the individual human soul, and that the book is intended as a work of psychology rather than politics.
The Republic consists of several long conversations culminating in Socrates (Plato's mouthpiece) describing five different types of governments, and then describing the five personality types that correspond to each type of government. The book constructs, finally, a "republic" -- but it is the republic of your soul.
The idea that each human being is a government resonates with many other psychological or spiritual models and ideologies. Jesus may have been thinking of something similar when he said "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden." Or, in Buddhist cosmology, one might say that the invididual desires that bedevil a confused person are like "citizens" that must be made peace with. An enlightened person governs his owns needs, goals and ideas with wisdom and care.
Plato's Republic presents a model for the ideal human soul as a city-state ruled by a truly wise, loving and attentive "philosopher king". The concept of the "philosopher king" has been much quoted as Plato's prescription for good government, but in fact the actual text develops the idea only as a metaphor, and never states whether or not Plato or Socrates believe such a state to be possible or desirable in the real world. The concept of the "Philosopher King" describes Plato's (and Socrates's) prescription for being a good person, not being a good government.
Shea Stadium, a futuristic perfect circle ballpark cast in concrete over the ash piles of Flushing Meadows, Queens, has now gone dark forever. It will be replaced by CitiField, right next door. As a lifelong Mets fan and neighbor of Shea Stadium, I am upset to see the great building go and I don't like the corporate label on the new ballpark. But at the same time, I'm grateful the Mets will remain in Flushing Meadows Park, and I like it that CitiField is architecturally based upon Ebbets Field, historic home of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Needless to say, I loved Shea Stadium. I even wrote a book about it (I still say The Summer of the Mets was a damn great book, but nobody loves a self-published novel). I've probably seen at least sixty Mets games there, including the intense 2006 Mets, the doomed 2000 Mets, the boring 1995 Mets, the legendary 1986 Mets, the hapless 1973 "You Gotta Believe" Tug McGraw Mets, and, yes, my friends, when I was seven years old I saw Tom Seaver pitch against the Chicago Cubs with the "Impossible Dream" 1969 Mets. I also drove past the stadium about four billion times, saw the Police with Joan Jett and R.E.M. there in 1983 ... me and that big concrete bowl go back a long way.
The best poetry slam I've been to this year was in a room full of Alzheimer's patients at the East 80th Street Residence in New York City.
I sat in a circle with more than twenty senior citizens, all of them suffering from moderate to severe memory loss and other symptoms of Alzheimer's or Alzheimer's-related disease, watching spoken-word poet and author Gary Mex Glazner work the crowd. Before beginning, he walked the circle, looking deeply into the eyes of each attendee and clasping their hands. Then he started in with the poems -- all of them classics, designed to burrow deep in the memories of the bemused listeners, who responded at surprising moments.
"Tyger, Tyger --" Glazner began.
"Burning bright", a man in the back shouted out. They remember William Blake at the Assisted Living Care center on the Upper East Side, and they also remember William Shakespeare, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Edgar Allan Poe and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. That's really the whole concept: victims of Alzheimer's disease might not remember what they've done four hours ago, but they remember classic poetry, and anybody who doubts how much this might mean to them only has to sit in this circle and watch each person's eager, satisfied response.
Maybe I'd come here because I remember my Grandma Jeannette's painful struggles with Alzheimer's-related syndrome. When Glazner (a longtime friend of LitKicks who can otherwise be found hosting shows at the Bowery Poetry Club or writing books for Soft Skull about living the poet's life) told me about his latest activity, I had to go see a session for myself.
Like any good slam poet, Glazner doesn't work in isolation; he'd brought a gang of eager young poets from Study Abroad on Bowery's "Summer Institute of Social Justice and Applied Poetics" to work this room with him, turning the session into an encounter between multiple generations. The visiting poets read some of their own work and helped keep the "call and response" going, encouraging the sometimes confused patients to repeat, respond to and cherish each individual line they heard. Cherish they did.
At the end of the 45-minute session, Glazner said we would all write our own group poem, then asked each attendee to name "the most beautiful thing you can think of". "My child's face" won by a longshot, and we never even got to hear the assembled group poem, but it didn't matter.
The Alzheimer's Poetry Project is a growing movement -- you can find more information about it here.
Cost, Roxana Robinson's tense novel about a disintegrating American family, begins in a mood of heightened sensitivity. Katherine, an elegant elderly woman visiting her adult daughter, caresses her combs and frets that she is losing her memory. Her daughter Julia roams the kitchen of her Maine beach house, "her movements hurried, slightly inept", and when she opens a jar of mayonnaise she feels the glass threads give way beneath her hands.
These moments of awareness, the reader knows, must be interrupted -- and soon Julia's older son Steven arrives at the summer house bearing the news that younger son Jack is a heroin addict. Cost, a knowing portrait of a family in crisis, is notable for its refusal to offer easy answers. Julia's father, a retired brain surgeon besieged by raging emotions, declares that rehab programs have terrible success rates for heroin addicts. An intervention/rehab expert ("found online") arrives, but also announces that there is little chance of success. The climactic intervention, seen through the eyes of the miserable, pain-wracked Jack as well as the other family members, turns out to be a holy mess -- several of the speeches only manage awkward sentimentality, Julia's sister cringes when the leader uses the word "love", and at the end it's Julia, not her addict son Jack, who has an epiphany and breaks down crying.
This is a brutally honest story about a modern family, sharper than Jonathan Franzen's Corrections and at times almost as bleak as Ken Kalfus's A Disorder Peculiar to our Country. Cost also reaches back to one of the greatest family tragedies, Shakespeare's King Lear, which it refers to in numerous details. At times, Cost reads like King Lear reflected in a broken mirror, mainly because Julia's stubborn and arrogant father, a well-meaning tyrant prone to feeling insulted, resembles Shakespeare's King to the depth of his being, and because the young brothers Steven and Jack pointedly recall Gloucester's two sons, the earnest Edgar and the "bastard" Edmund. Numerous other design patterns in the novel recall the great play: a rivalry between three siblings (one of whom is completely absent), an unsteady walk on a beach, a "storm" in the shape of a boat adventure, a disguised child mistaken by his parents for a bum. It's as a fragmented "Lear", with all the kaleidoscopic interpretations this makes possible, that Cost moves farthest beyond the limits of realistic tragedy to achieve greater cosmic truth.
I haven't found too many novels to get excited about lately, but Cost is a knockout, and I think Oprah Winfrey would do well to consider it for her next selection (no joke; it's better than Corrections *and* A Million Little Pieces). I got a chance to ask Roxana Robinson a few questions via email recently, and did so with so much hasty enthusiasm that I think I oversold my questions about Shakespeare. I'll leave those embarrassing sections of the conversation out, but our other exchanges were fascinating. It was a privilege to be able to read this book and quickly follow it up with my rapt inquiries, below:
Levi: Cost was my first encounter with your fiction. Can you tell me something about where the book is meant to fit into the wider context of your career?
Roxana: Cost turned out to be the third in a trilogy. The two earlier parts of it are This Is My Daughter and Sweetwater. I hadn't really planned to do this, but when I finished Cost I realized that I had been exploring certain kinds of entitlement that I think are particularly American.
This Is My Daughter is about two divorced parents who marry and then try to create a "blended" family. At the time I wrote it -- the early '90s -- it seemed to me that everyone around me was getting divorced and remarried, with an implacable disregard of the consequences, as though there would be no consequences, if they were smart enough, and responsible enough, and possibly affluent enough. That they deserved this, and the children would simply bend to their wishes.
It seems to me this notion is connected to the American sense of the landscape. We have always luxuriated in the knowledge that our continent is 3,000 miles across, and that if things get bad we can always move west and start over. The land is ours. So this idea of remarriage - as though all you needed, to make a success of it, was determination - seemed to me particularly misguided and particularly American.
The second book in the series is Sweetwater, and that also comes from a misguided sense of entitlement -- the notion that, no matter what we do to it, the environment will always be whole, healthy, and generous to us. That, too, seems to relate to our notion of ownership -- of our vast country and our enormous natural resources. To our sense that we deserve them, and that they will always be there, and they will always be ours, no matter what we do. Again there is the misguided notion that there will be no consequences to our actions.
The third book in the trilogy is Cost. Here the notion of entitlement started out as a smaller issue -- the notion that, if you are responsible and focused, and hard-working, that there will come a time in your life when you can live it for yourself. When your children are launched, and your parents still healthy, then you can address the things in your own life that only concern you.
This, too, seems profoundly misguided, and as I wrote Cost it became clearer and clearer to me that the bonds of family are never loosened.
Levi: As a stark portrait of heroin addiction, your novel calls to mind a few articles I've read recently about the failure rate of rehab for serious drug addicts or alcoholics. There seems to be a growing realization that rehab simply does not work, even when carried out according to the highest standards. Did you intend this to be a theme in your novel? Do you think Amy Winehouse had it right? What do you think offers the best hope for a drug addict like Jack, or for the family of a drug addict like Jack?
Roxana: When I started the novel, I was unaware that it would be about heroin addiction. I thought it would be about the problems and complications of being an adult child, about how difficult it is to relate to your parents in the way you'd like.
When I learned that it would be about heroin addiction, I had to learn about a whole world with which I was unfamiliar.
I learned about the sad statistics, the sad prognosis of most addicts. All these were things I recorded, but this is not a point I set out to make. (I don't know what Amy Winehouse says about it.) As a novelist, I think my task is to bear witness, not to offer a solution.
I think the best hope for a drug addict is a real sense of dedication to quitting. It must come from him. The best hope for a family is to learn to negotiate this awful terrain, offering both emotional support and love, but withholding any kind of enablement. It's a terrible lesson to have to learn. As far as I can tell, there is no one correct treatment method that is always successful.
Levi: I believe it's Wendell [Julia's ex-husband] who defends the use of cliche in one of the book's conversations. Does Wendell's point express a literary principle of yours, and does the idea that we should embrace cliche point to any larger truths in this book?
Roxana: I think Wendell makes the point that cliches are always based on reality. As a writer, I detest cliches, and I wouldn't at all suggest that we embrace them. But as a desperate mother, I'd suggest that Julia recognize that the reason her situation seems so commonplace is that humans all have the same capabilities, we share the same emotions and the same experiences. It doesn't lessen her experience to realize that it's shared by many many others. My point was more about the commonality of experience than about literature. Does this point to a larger truth? Yes, I'd like to think so.
2. I wrote a few days ago that "language was George Carlin's playpen", and the quotes I've heard and videos I've watched since then have reinforced this idea for me. Here's a line from the characteristically good New York Times obituary:
“By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth"
That's William S. Burroughs territory right there.
3. Young transgressive author Tony O'Neill met guitarist Slash and comedy director John Landis at Book Expo LA. That's even better than a tote bag full of foam animals, pens, buttons and frisbees.
4. Congratulations to blogger Lizzie Skurnick on a book deal! And if From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is involved, all the better.
5. Via Elegant, Prufrock meets Portishead.
But over the last decade or so, more and more literary scholars have agreed that the field has become moribund, aimless, and increasingly irrelevant to the concerns not only of the "outside world," but also to the world inside the ivory tower. Class enrollments and funding are down, morale is sagging, huge numbers of PhDs can't find jobs, and books languish unpublished or unpurchased because almost no one, not even other literary scholars, wants to read them.
When was the time in our glorified past when morale wasn't sagging, when huge numbers of liberal arts PhDs easily found gainful employment, when books didn't languish unpublished or unpurchased? Gottschall, author of a book about Homer, should know that golden ages tend to be highly overrated. To the extent that this article posits an urgent current literary crisis that a paradigm shift towards scientific exactness will solve, it's a highly unconvincing piece.
Flawed framing aside, though, there are good ideas here:
Homo sapiens is a bizarre literary ape -- one that, outside of working and sleeping, may well spend most of its remaining hours lost in landscapes of make-believe. Across the breadth of human history, across the wide mosaic of world cultures, there has never been a society in which people don't devote great gobs of time to seeing, creating, and hearing fictions -- from folktales to film, from theater to television. Stories represent our biggest and most preciously varied repository of information about human nature. Without a robust study of literature there can be no adequate reckoning of the human condition -- no full understanding of art, culture, psychology, or even of biology. As Binghamton University biologist David Sloan Wilson says, "the natural history of our species" is written in love poems, adventure stories, fables, myths, tales, and novels.
Amen. This is why, as a reader fairly obsessed with global history and politics, I turn so often to fiction and poetry and drama to help me understand societies of the past. Now, let's see an example of Gottschall's "scientific method" in practice:
In some cases, it's possible to use scientific methods to question cherished tenets of modern literary theory. Consider the question of the "beauty myth": Most literary scholars believe that the huge emphasis our culture places on women's beauty is driven by a beauty myth, a suite of attitudes that maximizes female anxiety about appearance in order, ultimately, to maintain male dominance. It's easy to find evidence for this idea in our culture's poems, plays, and fairy tales: As one scholar after another has documented, Western literature is rife with sexist-seeming beauty imagery.
Scholars tend to take this evidence as proof that Western culture is unusually sexist. But is this really the case? In a study to be published in the next issue of the journal Human Nature, my colleagues and I addressed this question by collecting and analyzing descriptions of physical attractiveness in thousands of folktales from all around the globe. What we found was that female characters in folktales were about six times more likely than their male counterparts to be described with a reference to their attractiveness. That six-to-one ratio held up in Western literature and also across scores of traditional societies. So literary scholars have been absolutely right about the intense stress on women's beauty in Western literature, but quite wrong to conclude that this beauty myth says something unique about Western culture. Its ultimate roots apparently lie not in the properties of any specific culture, but in something deeper in human nature.
Nicely done. If this is what Gottschall means by scientific method, I'll bite. What it really amounts to is the adoption of empirical testing for commonly held presumptions about literature, and I bet there are many insights to be gained by an approach like this. I would not want to go too far with it, though. In the age of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and William James, psychological investigations involved more imagination and speculation than observation and proof. But the field of psychology is now completely dominated by empirical testing and observation -- the "scientific method" -- and while much may have been gained by this paradigm shift, it should not escape our notice that there have been few great or visionary psychologists on the scale of Freud or Jung or James since. Empirical testing should complement the work of the imagination; it cannot replace the work of the imagination.
I'd like to follow the work of Jonathan Gottschall further. I see that he has also written a book called The Literary Animal: Evolution and the Nature of the Narrative (co-edited by David Sloan Wilson, the same source Gottschall quotes in the first passage above, which indicates that the field of scientific literary criticism may be an uncomfortably small world). I am disturbed, though, to see that this volume is priced at a ridiculous $79.95. Empirical evidence tells me that books priced at $79.95 deserve the tiny readership they get. Gottschall may want to descend a few steps from his ivory tower, and then perhaps his interesting ideas may actually find an eager audience.
2. Even though I already know every word in this book, an appealing cover design compelled me to glance at a new paperback Kafka collection published by Penguin, Metamorphosis and Other Stories, which was prominently displayed in a store. I then almost fell over in shock and knocked over the "New Paperbacks" display when I read the biographical note on the very first page and learned that Franz Kafka was born in 1833.
Yes, 1833. Empirical evidence tells me that this is highly unlikely, since he would have been 82 years old when he wrote Metamorphosis and 93 when he wrote my favorite of his novels, The Castle. In fact Franz Kafka was born in 1883. So, seriously, doesn't Penguin have a responsibility to recall this new "Deluxe Edition"? It's funny to read about this mistake on a blog, but it's not going to be funny when generations of readers and students are misinformed and confused by the error. I say Penguin is obligated to recall, and to eat the cost. What do you say?
I showed the mistake to my friend Dan Levy, who quipped "Sure, Penguin, what do they know about classic literature?" Exactly.
3. Here's the Best of the Booker Prize shortlist. LitKicks says J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace is the masterpiece of the bunch. Though Booksquare is correct to ask: "does it really help literature if the establishment keeps finding new ways to give awards to the same group of authors over and over again?"
Mark Vonnegut's new edition of previously unpublished Kurt Vonnegut writings, Armageddon in Retrospect, is out today, and I caught Kurt's son at a reading/book signing at the Barnes and Noble in Tribeca, New York City a few hours ago tonight. Because I've read the book Mark Vonnegut had written himself in 1975, The Eden Express: A Memoir of Insanity, I was as interested in hearing from him as I was in seeing this book of new material.
Eden Express described the turbulent mental landscape Kurt's son travelled during the hippie era, joining a commune, watching his father get famous, and ending up in a mental hospital. When Eden Express was published in 1975 it was billed as "a memoir of schizophrenia", but the current edition explains that the diagnosis of schizophrenia is more strictly defined today, and that Mark Vonnegut's illness would now be classified as manic-depressive (which is less severe).
He's now sixty-something, a medical doctor, with a bright and sincere speaking style that easily wins over the large Barnes and Noble crowd. He seems highly contented, proud of his family, and proud of his career as a medical doctor. He shares his father's thickly hooded eyes, though he is clean-shaven and his slicked-back hair bears no resemblance to Kurt's curly Aryan-fro.
The words he read tonight were heartfelt -- you can read them in the new book -- and there were a few moments when he suddenly maniacally laughed and we got a glimpse of the unhinged protaganist of Eden Express for a moment or two. And, certainly, a glimpse of the enigmatic son of Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse-Five as well.
I've said before that you may be able to judge a writer by his or her children. If so, then this modest literary son is yet another credit (as if more were needed) to the great career of Kurt Vonnegut.
(I'll be reviewing Armageddon in Retrospect soon for another publication. And, once again, I apologize for my continuing work as the worst cell-phone photographer in New York City.
I'd always imagined his good-humored style to have originated in his early years as a football commentator, following in the witty tradition of Howard Cosell and John Madden. But I was pleasantly surprised, upon attending an event at the Paley Center for Media in midtown Manhattan and chatting with a curator named Ron Simon, to learn that Keith Olbermann cites early-television personalities Bob Elliot and Ray Goulding as his formative influences, and that Olbermann will be appearing at the Paley Center with Bob Elliot and his comedian son Chris Elliot to celebrate the Bob and Ray legacy on March 31.
This is bound to be something special, and I wouldn't miss it for the world. Ron Simon explains more, and offers a good video sample, on the Paley Center's blog. Literary content? Well, hmm, Chris Elliot is a writer. The Paley Center, formerly the Museum of Broadcasting, has great literary material in its media archives (at the event I mentioned above, we screened the classic Dick Cavett/Gore Vidal/Norman Mailer television dust-up). And whenever I think of Bob and Ray, I think of the first time I encountered them -- it was inside a book.
2. Other New York stuff I'm going to? I'm not sure but I'll try to catch Tom Wolfe at Barnes and Noble "Upstairs in the Square" Thursday night. And the Happy Ending show on March 26 features Tod Wodicka, Fiona Maazel and Samantha Hunt.
3. My verdict is finally in on Jennifer 8 Lee's cultural history of chinese food. Here's a typical sentence from this book:
General Tso's Chicken is probably the most popular chinese chef's special in America. What's there not to like? Succulent, crispy fried chicken is drenched in a tangy, spicy sauce and sauteed with garlic, ginger and chili peppers until it bursts with flavor.
This is utterly conventional writing. And the book's beginning sequence, which goes into way too much detail about a lottery won by a large number of people who'd taken the numbers from a fortune cookie, will similarly turn off anybody looking for in-depth coverage of this interesting topic. There are good ideas in this book, but the level of cuteness is fatal. Too bad.
Something good has come from this exercise, though. I mention in the blog post above that I first heard of this book while chatting with a Psychology Today writer on a train a year ago, and since posting that last week I heard from this writer, Jay Dixit, who recently wrote about his friend's book himself on the Psychology Today blog. Naturally Jay likes the book more than I do, but that's besides the point. I'm happy to learn that a Psychology Today blog exists (as my mother is a psychologist, I grew up reading Psychology Today magazine), and it's now in my RSS reader.
4. Some have asked me: when am I going to complain about dysfunctional book pricing and promote alternative publishing/packaging ideas again? Soon, soon. Till then, here's Evan Schnittman on a real-life success model, and here's an argument that books should cost more, not less.
5. The Filthy Habits Human Smoke roundtable continues, and you'll notice I managed to shoot my mouth off in every installment of this conversation so far. Meanwhile, the book has been harshly slammed by William Grimes in the New York Times and referred to as "bad", "delusive" and "stupid" by Adam Kirsch in the New York Sun. Both adopt a condescending tone towards Baker, who they depict as a playful postmodernist out of his depth in the fields of war. William Grimes dismisses Baker's sense of history entirely, citing the Holocaust as the clearest reason World War II had to be fought.
Did the war "help anyone who needed help?" Mr. Baker asks in a plaintive afterword. The prisoners of Belsen, Dachau and Buchenwald come to mind, as well as untold millions of Russians, Danes, Belgians, Czechs and Poles. Nowhere and at no point does Mr. Baker ever suggest, in any serious way, how their liberation might have been effected other than by force of arms.
This doesn't hold up, since Baker is clearly not trying to explain how millions of starving concentration camp prisoners might have been liberated, but rather how they might never have been put there in the first place. Grimes takes comfort in the idea that the Allies fought to liberate persecuted minorities, even though this cozy bedtime story has never corresponded with historical fact. USA and Great Britain never made it their policy to combat Hitler's openly racist domestic regime, instead standing by as Germany established and enforced horrifying racial laws several years before World War II began. Both nations refused frantic pleas to allow Hitler's victims refuge. Once World War II began, the Allies did not make liberation or protection of oppressed minorities any part of their strategic agenda, and in fact Allied starvation blockades designed to frustrate German citizens unfortunately claimed oppressed minorities as unintended victims. When an enemy government is already intent on oppressing its minorities, are long-term starvation blockades really the best way to fight this enemy? Think about it.
I don't usually quote myself, but I'd like to refer to a post I wrote a few months ago on a similar subject:
The hyperbole that surrounds America's glory in World War II was really made clear to me when I was recently arguing with a friend about why I should love the American military unquestioningly. "The American military saved your ass in World War II!" he said. "The Jews would have been slaughtered if it wasn’t for us!"
I had to remind him that actually the Jews were slaughtered.
6. How do you segue from that? You don't. Here's a Moby sighting. Okay, it's an orca, not a sperm whale. But it is an albino sea mammal, and that's rare enough.
7. Speaking of white whales ... Melville House is publishing a third Tao Lin book! Tthis time it's a poetry textbook, whatever exactly that might mean. We'll find out soon.
So I'm at the Hilton Poker Room in Atlantic City last Monday evening, waiting for the late-night Hold'em tournament to start (because that's my idea of fun). And I've got my usual problem -- the 500 chip is a light gray blue, the 5000 chip is a light gray, and since I'm color blind they look exactly the same to me. A couple of other color blind players in the tournament have the same problem, but we're all used to it. There are a whole lot of colors in the rainbow, though, and I really wish the casinos would go to the trouble of picking colors that color blind people can tell apart.
The first hand is dealt -- nothing, I fold. On the second hand I call the blinds and flop a pair of deuces. Nothing to get excited about, but the bets are small and I stay in. On the turn the board pairs tens and a frat-boy across the table tosses in three brown chips, a bet of 300. But I have a moment of color-blind short-circuit brain freeze and put him on a bluff, confusing his strong bet of 300 with a weak bet of 30, and before I know it I have raised him to 600. As soon as he calls me I realize my mistake, and I'm not at all surprised when he turns up trip tens to my tens over deuces.
2. McSweeneys presents: Famous Authors Predict the Winner of Super Bowl XLII.
3. A useful in-depth conversation on the business of literary translation has been going on between Three Percent, Words Without Borders and The Center for Literary Translation.
4. Going from the sublime to the ridiculous, this music video shows what happens when totally unqualified people have too much fun with translation. But the translators can't even be having as much fun here as these great dancers.
5. If they can make a movie about Larry Flynt, they can make a movie about William M. Gaines, the brave publisher of Mad Magazine. I'll go see it.
6. Here's a book that doesn't get talked about nearly enough these days: The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud. When I was a philosophy student at college, one professor assigned this and two other Freud books (Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious and the memorable Civilization and its Discontents) for a course on Philosophy of Mind. I found it ironic that I was reading primary texts from the founder of psychology that no psychology student in my school would be required to read. Sigmund Freud should be read more often. Like William James, he is a dynamic and agreeably brisk writer, his books filled with sharp and highly personal observations. Maybe I'll take a cue from Bookslut and try to discuss some of Freud's books here on LitKicks soon.
7. I'm not completely clear on what this online community project Open Library will do that makes it distinct from Wikipedia and Project Gutenberg. But hey, I've missed the boat before, so who knows? The involvement of folks like Brewster Kahle makes this literary-minded open source development worth watching.
8. More literary moments on YouTube, courtesy of Kenyon Review.
9. Do you understand?
10. Check out Unquiet Desparation, a community poetry outfit that periodically publishes its work in PDF format (download latest issue here). I'm not sure what long-term value the PDF format holds for online literature, but it's another way of getting the work out there, and the design possibilities speak for themselves.
11. I couldn't make it to the O'Reilly Tools of Change Conference last week in New York, but here are Kassia Krozser's parting thoughts.
12. I often wonder why we literary bloggers so rarely critique film adaptations of novels we like. Too easy a target? Maybe. This person's response to Atonement lays out (more clearly than I did) what the film subtly lost from Ian McEwan's novel even as it retained most of the details and major plot points. On the optimistic side, I've just enjoyed another recently released literary British film very, very much, and I'll be sharing my excitement about this film in these pages soon.