June 18, 2019

Books

"All Literature Is Climate Change Literature: Do we need a new aesthetics of climate change, or do we just need to revisit the classics with the appropriate sense of fear?"

"At worst, we get schmaltzy dreck that minimizes, sanitizes, or otherwise distorts what happened. Casual readers could be forgiven for dipping into a couple and moving on, convinced they’d read what they need to about the subject."

"From enigmatic burials in prehistoric Jordan to the ancient Sumerian demoness Lilitu, the vampiric archetype originated early, and endures in a form the ancient Romans would recognize very well..."

"Of all the figures, from Marcel Duchamp to Marlene Dietrich, the hardest to read was the architect Walter Gropius. Where others had responded with an element of theatricality, Gropius remained as impassive as the façade of his Bauhaus buildings..."

"Colleges across America are beginning to prepare for graduation season, but in some corners of campus, you’re more likely to hear sounds of dread than of celebration. These are the humanities departments..."

" Audiobooks are the fastest growing part of publishing, “a tiny bright spot” for the industry, according to Bloomberg : revenue from downloads has roughly tripled in the last five years and reached $2.5 billion in 2017."

"In 2018, for the second year in a row, American publishers released fewer translated titles: 609 books were published, down from 650 in 2017 and the industry high in 2016 of 666."

"This is the real problem, and danger, of satire: not that it mocks and belittles respect-worthy pieties, not that it “punches down,” but that it has become impossible to separate it cleanly from the toxic disinformation that defines our era."

"With his last book, The Flame, Cohen blows out the candle on a career that has been long, wavering, intermittently brilliant. Despite publishing around a dozen poetry collections and two novels, he was never able to commit to words without music."

"The American philosophy professor John Kaag tries a different tack, aiming to use Nietzsche as a kind of elevated self-help guru, scattering discussions of the philosopher’s life and works through a memoir of the author’s own..."

"As reference books go, the thesaurus, these days, is one step up in respectability from the rhyming dictionary. To use one is to betray something embarrassing about yourself."

"...a conductor’s preparation of a work through score-study, listening and rehearsal is more important than the actual waving of the arms in performance."

"Poems now are almost exclusively concerned with the feelings of a speaker who appears to be, at most, a slightly distanced version of the poet."

"When you see a brand mentioned in a novel, it mostly isn’t because the company paid for the privilege. Tiffany’s did not sponsor Breakfast at Tiffany’s."

"When I first read Virginia Woolf’s dictum that “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” I was homeless."

"In “Martin Buber: A Life of Faith and Dissent,” Paul Mendes-Flohr, a professor emeritus at the University of Chicago and at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, traces the historical path that led Buber from Europe to Israel..."

"Blue was once little-known in the Western palette. Homer’s sea was “wine dark”; blue would not be used as water’s color until the seventeenth century."

"The heyday of modern architecture in mid-century Europe and the United States, when angular and spare structures of glass and steel became popular, was a time when famous architects wielded their powers and egos particularly recklessly."

"...if every book were a masterpiece, no book would be a masterpiece and we could not know a masterpiece when we read it. They also serve who only sit and write trash. To know the good, we have to know the bad. "

"The extraordinary coincidence of Donald Trump and Jussie Smollett both being “cleared” of significant “crimes” last week provides a remarkable vantage point for asking “What if everything you know is fake?”"

"Zionism was not always a dirty word for leftists. Communists and socialists alike supported the creation of Israel in 1948, denouncing the neofeudal Arab regimes that tried to destroy the new Jewish state."

"A Republican representative described Adolf Hitler as a socialist and compared Democrats to Nazis. Sadly, Rep. Brooks is far from alone in his opinions."

"As America waits with bated breath to find out if the Department of Justice plans to release the Mueller report, publishers are feeling a special urgency. Three publishing houses have already announced plans to publish the report in book form..."

"Pop culture today is obsessed with the battle between good and evil. Traditional folktales never were. What changed?"

"Apartment Therapy posted a photo to Instagram of a bookshelf with the spines facing inward, and the dramatic response — dozens of users denouncing the trend as anti-intellectual, even comparing it to book-burning ..."

"“Age only matters while one is ageing”, said Picasso, at the age of eighty. “Now that I have arrived at a great age, I might as well be twenty.” Well, bully for him."

"Lost in migration: When Walter Benjamin fled France in 1940, he took a heavy black suitcase. Did it contain a typescript? Where is it now?"

"Was the British Empire boring? As Jeffrey Auerbach notes in his irreverent new book, it’s an unexpected question, largely because imperial culture was so conspicuously saturated with a sense of adventure."

" I’ve just finished Vicky Ward’s “Kushner, Inc.,” a scintillating investigation of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s White House sojourn, which comes out on Tuesday."

"Many modern translators tend to soften the strangeness of the Hebrew Bible, but Robert Alter embraces it. It’s the strangeness that gives the original much of its power."

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JJ Editor's Daily Picks

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"“I hereby sentence you to death.” The words of Judge Clifford B. Shepard filled the courtroom in Jacksonville, Fla., on Oct. 27, 1976. Shepard was sentencing Clifford Williams Jr., whom a jury had just found guilty of entering a woman’s house..."

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"Family farms are central to our nation’s identity. Most Americans, even those who have never been on a farm, have strong feelings about the idea of family farms — so much that they’re the one thing that all U.S. politicians agree on. Each..."

"The Big Bang is the defining narrative of modern cosmology: a bold declaration that our universe had a beginning and has a finite age, just like the humans who live within it. That finite age, in turn, is defined by the evidence that universe is..."

"After a protracted siege by the Roman tenth legion, the situation of the Sacarii, the Jewish rebels holed up on the mountain fortress of Masada, became hopeless. The Jewish rebels led by Elazar Ben Yair decided to kill themselves rather than be..."