I wanted to suggest to Stavans and Ellison that the period of torture has, in contemporary travel, been reduced in tandem with the dramatic drop in time spent literally “traversing,” or moving from place of origin to place of destination. The banality of today’s travel culture is, then, less the fault of a morally bankrupt traveler than of modern technology. An eight-hour flight might make you feel as though you’re teetering on the hellish edge of Purgatory, but that cramped coach seat is Eden itself compared to, say, a two-month transatlantic journey with you trapped in the shit-encrusted lower cabin of a 17th century carrack constantly bucked on 40-foot storm waves. […]
Tooling around on Google translate (English to Latin); had forgotten about that one persnickety definition of ‘mundus.’
Travelers: Do not use the verb “to do” when you mean “to visit” or “to see.”I have eliminated this usage from my speech as part of my own efforts to seem less of a dolt while traveling, and I will be so bold as to prescribe the excision to others. Examples of this extremely common “to do” offense include:“I did Bangkok” for “I visited Bangkok,”and“We did St. Peter’s” for “We went to St. Peter’s.”
Such use of the verb “to do,” it seems to me, smacks of just the sort of arrogance from which many tourists wish to (and would do well to) escape. To suggest that a city or site can be “done,” like dishes, the laundry, or homework, reduces said city to the limits of the do-er’s consciousness or experience. And to suggest that reality ends with your experience is to be narrow-minded, or ignorant. […]
It is quite shocking, really, to throw a grouchy English scholar accustomed to long days of reading alone, sans pants, into Rome and a cheerful group of Latinists. Yet here I am, managing thus far to leave my apartment fully clothed, but not yet to conserve enough energy — after days of endless walking, and reading/writing/speaking in Latin — for writing about Rome’s wonders in the evening.* Until I can, here is a photo of a bored angel flipping you off. From some church or other, near the Pantheon.
*Am also managing to make English sentences read in a remarkably Latinate fashion!
My grandmothers never baked pies, and I don’t know what, if anything, they manufactured from fruit, flour and butter. Tradition is a charade, an opiate, an absence. When I chop the fruit for my four pies a year, I think of checkered aprons and the flossy-haired country females who had nothing to do with me. Then again, the thick-nosed heavy-breasted women who passed their genes to me also had nothing to do with me. Now barely exists; the past is steam; the ripe fruit will rot if I don’t douse it in spiced sugar and blast its bursting cells into burbling death.
What should follow? A meditation on the rolling-out of buttery dough, the choosing of the market’s finest fruit, the slicing and pitting and filling? To worship is to waste; a pie is a pie. Strawberry rhubarb, peach, apple, pumpkin, each assembled in its supposed season. Above is the first.
Gertrude Stein, tAoABT
One of the world’s great sentences.
Here is the problem: our culture still offers men a broader spectrum of acceptable personality types than it does women. Wolitzer quotes poet Katha Pollitt saying “For every one woman, there’s room for three men.” We might amend her statement slightly to say “for every female identity, there’s room for three male identities.”
This notion isn’t new. In his 1734 “Moral Essays” poem “Of the Characters of Women,” our original author-capitalist Alexander Pope claims “In men we various Ruling Passions find;/ In women two almost divide the kind.” If he’s right, then we shouldn’t need more than two women authors, one per passion. Jennifer Egan can be the badass; Téa Obreht can be the sweetheart. Or, since we’re also prone to categorizing authorial identity by race: Toni Morrison can be the African American identity; Jhumpa Lahiri the Indian American one. No one else need apply.
Yeah, fuck Pope. […]
Harold Bloom famously dubbed it the “anxiety of influence”: the effect which the literary canon has on writers. Less today than it did in the past, according to a mathematical study which analysed thousands of works written over the last 500 years.
American mathematicians, led by the chair of Dartmouth College mathematics department Professor Daniel Rockmore, set out to investigate “large-scale” trends in literary style. Using digitised works in the Project Gutenberg library, they processed 7,733 works from 537 authors written after the year 1550, were looking for the frequency at which 307 “content-free” words – such as “of”, “at” and “by” – appeared. They called these words the “syntactic glue” of language: “words that carry little meaning on their own but form the bridge between words that convey meaning”, and thus “provide a useful stylistic fingerprint” for authorship."
Mathematicians explore the quantitative patterns of stylistic influence in the evolution of literature and find the influence of the classics over contemporary authors is declining. (via explore-blog)
(Source: , via explore-blog)
(Source: , via explore-blog)