Friday, August 27, 2010

Kermode and Suspended Endings

Among the many notices of Frank Kermode's passing, this from AKMA along with this in the Telegraph and this in Slate are memorable. AKMA also put some words of Kermode here - it's a reflection on a time when he gathered an amazing assortment of British readers to spend some time working on the torrent of Continental literary, critical, psychanalytic and philosophical work coming from mainly from France in the 1970s.

What comes through in the last  is Kermode's sense of an ending, a divergence of ways, in 1974. It comes as he evokes a time in which he had everything to do with the realization, for at least a brief moment, of a tolerance to take in, to examine, works written in languages other than English by authors whose thought rested on vastly different theoretical and technical underpinnings from those familiar, safe and sane to the Anglo-American critical community.

If anyone ever was the embodiment of the patient labor of reading, contemplative work with sufficient integrity to not need to enter into academic infighting, buzzword fusillades, or damnation through faint feints of praise, it was Kermode. That he was able to engage a certain insularity of English approaches with the full force of his considerable intelligence -- and to come away enriched by the experience -- is a tribute to his critical scope. I'm reading a couple of his collections these days, and will probably have more to say about him.

Some of the books he'll be remembered for are:

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Two about reading from NPR

Classic Lit No Longer Makes The Grade Among Leaders

NPR notes that world leaders no longer seem to immerse themselves in the classics - unlike Yeats,* Alexander the Great, who slept with the Iliad under his pillow, or John Adams, who read Thucydides in Greek. Click for more.

*Thanks to an alert friend for calling attention to my  having heard "Great" as "Yeats."


Why Johnny Can't 'Deep Read'

In the audio of this NPR story about "deep reading," Google Chairman Eric Schmidt laments the loss of this faculty. More here.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Early Days of Printed Matter

Mussy sends along this review by Robert Pinsky of The Book in the Renaissance. A snippet:
For a time, civil and religious authorities controlled the immense scale of explosive information and misinformation. When the Protestant Henry of Navarre ascended to the French throne in 1589, the news was available to English readers in “at least 40 pamphlets,” while his 1594 conversion to Roman Catholicism “was greeted with deafening silence in London.” Gradually, however, centralized control was overwhelmed by the reckless abundance of the tumultuous, street-oriented press. Petty gossip, ignorant screeds, inflammatory pamphlets and religious tracts flowed and overflowed.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Upcoming: The Book of Job

Keeping to our summer schedule, our next two sessions, Aug. 18 and Sept. 1, will involve reading The Book of Job. It will be interesting to compare different translations -- the King James Version is readily available, of course. Coincidentally, Robert Alter, whose translations of Genesis, Samuel and the Psalms have stood us in good stead in the past, has a new translation of Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes entitled The Wisdom Books. It can be pre-ordered from Amazon, but alas the release date is Oct. 11, 2010.

Here are Alter's other Old Testament translations on Amazon: