Musings on Place, Travel, Books, Literature, Poetry, Literary Criticism, Collecting, Media, Life and the Arts

Archive for January, 2013

January 27th, 2013 • Posted in Nigel Beale's Biblio File Interviews

Audio Interview with Michael Lista on Ethics and Honesty in Poetry Reviews

I met with Canadian poet/critic Michael Lista several months ago to discuss the state of poetry reviewing in Canada, the need for honesty in criticism, and his takeon poet/philosopher Jan Zwicky‘s essay “The Ethics of the Negative Review,” in which she defends her practice, while review editor in the 1990s of The Fiddlehead literary journal, of not publishing negative reviews.

Buckle up and enjoy the ride:

January 26th, 2013 • Posted in Rome

The Best Bronze Equestrian Statue left to us by the Romans

 Stendhal (in A Roman Journal) on this admirable equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus in Rome: “it is the best equestrian statue in bronze that has been left to us from the Romans…In its expression, the admirable naturalness and beauty of the design, the statue of Marcus Aurelius is the opposite of those that our sculptors give us in Paris. For example, the Henry lV on the Pont Neuf looks as if his only concern is not to fall off the horse. Marcus Aurelius is calm and simple. He considers himself in no way obliged to be a charlatan, he speaks to his soldiers. One sees his character and almost hears what he says.”

January 26th, 2013 • Posted in Detroit

Morning Smile

Cadillac Assembly Plant, 1910 Detroit: wikipedia

Courtesy of Paul Smith’s post on Journey to the End of the Night by Louis Ferdinand Celine:

“We are all heading to the end of the night; it is only a matter of time before we reach our destination. People will betray you and leave you, and if, by some small miracle, they don’t, they’ll die on you anyway. Your youth will desert you, leaving you old and infirm, and then you’ll really be in the shit. When it is all that remains, you’ll love your misery, cradle it close like some phantom lover, convince yourself it is more special than all the other misery that surrounds you. Like Ferdinand says, “that’s what we look for all our lives, the worst possible grief, to make us truly ourselves before we die.” In the end, as somnambulists sleepwalking through our lives with nothing but misery and our regrets, we are ultimately an “old lamppost with memories on a street that hardly anyone passes anymore”. That is the pathetic truth of existence; you either face up to it or lie to yourself like everybody else.”

Literary Tourist angle: the novel’s protagonist Ferdinand Bradamu, in his search for personal fulfillment visits the auto factories in Detroit.

January 25th, 2013 • Posted in Literary Tourism

Pay tribute to Virginia Woolf the next time you’re in England

Garden at Monk’s House.

Today would have been Virginia Woolf’s 113th birthday. To honour this, with Wiki’s help, here are the deets on  a place you can visit to pay tribute to her the next time you’re in England: Monk’s House, a 17th century cottage located in Rodmell, a town several miles south east of Lewes, Sussex (where incidentally, my grandmother spent the last 20 years of her life).

“The solitude of village life allowed Virginia respite from the tumult of London, and it was in the small wooden lodge at the bottom of the garden that many of her novels took shape. Her final novel, Between the Acts, published posthumously in July 1941, is steeped in references to Rodmell and the traditions and values of its villagers.”

Virginia documented her life at the house in photographs. Preserved in the Monk’s House Albums, these include portraits and group pictures of many who visited the house. In March 1941, Virginia committed suicide by drowning herself in the nearby Ouse.

Upon her husband Leonard’s death in 1969 the house was bequeathed to his close friend, the artist Trekkie Parsons, who sold it to the University of Sussex in 1972. It was turned over to the National Trust in 1980, and is open to the public. The ground floor, including sitting room, dining room, kitchen and Virginia’s bedroom, is on display and Virginia’s writing lodge can be found at the bottom of the garden with views across to Mount Caburn.

January 24th, 2013 • Posted in Shanghai

Why cities should support brick and mortar bookshops: Shanghai shows the way

According to the CPC, the city of Shanghai is providing 5 million yuan ($793,800) to support book retailers who find themselves beaten down by competition from online competitors.

The money will reportedly go to private bookshops that “play a significant role in enriching people’s cultural lives,” according to Kan Ninghui, deputy director of the city’s press and publication bureau.

Lifeline thrown to city's bookstores

Customers browse the shelves of Longzhimei Advertisement Bookstore in Shanghai on Monday, before it closes for business. [Niu Yixin / for China Daily]

Bricks and mortar book sellers have been hurt by rising rent costs, online competition and changing reading habits. “We can’t wait any longer to support and help bookstores through hardship,” Kan said at a municipal news conference. A lively network of bookshops and newsstands is important to the cultural ecology of a city, he said. “It’s of key importance to cultivate and maintain such an ecology.”

Bookshops are being encouraged to log on to the bureau website and submit  applications. A jury made up of academics, readers and industry insiders will choose who will receive the financial support, either in the form of subsidy, prize money or subsidized loans..

Bookstores will be evaluated for their ‘service, environment and contribution to local cultural activity’. Shops in university towns, the Central Business District and residential communities will all be considered, as well as small shops in the countryside. Kan suggested that “landmark” shops, recognized for their ambiance, level of service and stock quality, will likely win financial support.

Kan explained that government is working on national policies to lower taxation and rent costs for bookstores, and local governments are being encouraged to develop new ways to help.

All I can say is BRAVO!

January 23rd, 2013 • Posted in Bookstores

Ann Patchett shows how Bookstores can Strike Back

Read the article here. And change the world.

January 23rd, 2013 • Posted in Rome

Gibbon on literary travel

Rome: Ruins of the Forum, Looking towards the Capitol by Canaletto, 1742

Edward Gibbon on the ‘strong emotions which agitated my mind as I first approached and entered the eternal city’ in 1764:

“I have already found such a fund of entertainement for a mind somewhat prepared for it by an acquaintance with the Romans that I am really almost in a dream. Whatever ideas books may have given us of the greatest of that people, their accounts of the most flourishing state of Rome fall infinitely short of the picture of its ruins. I am convinced that there never before existed such a nation, and I hope that for the happiness of mankind there never will again.”

January 22nd, 2013 • Posted in England

Literary Travel: Some great British literary walking tours

Jane Austen’s house in Chawton.

Hampshire County with its rolling hills, rich agricultural vistas, wooded landscapes, and picturesque villages has over the centuries inspired all sorts of great British authors.  Austen, Dickens, Trollope, Keats and Conan Doyle, among many others, were enamored with the place. Today you can follow in their footsteps along a series of self-guided walks, including:

January 21st, 2013 • Posted in On The Book

Saul Bass movies influenced Frank Newfeld Books

Here are movie title sequences from The Man with the Golden Arm, and Anatomy of a Murder designed by Saul Bass.

Bass’s movie titles strongly influenced Frank Newfeld’s book design work,

particularly his

‘extended preliminaries’.

As AIGA Graphic Design USA 3 puts it: “Before anyone in the film industry, Bass recognized the importance of a movie’s first moments: they should do more than warn the audience that a few minutes remain to make a trip to the popcorn stand. He invented the idea of titling movies – either at the beginning or end – with sequences that added something in a highly symbolic and evocative way and created print-graphic identification for films that not only title the film, but also serve to unify and drive entire marketing and advertising campaigns.

Newfeld successfully adapted this idea to book.

January 19th, 2013 • Posted in Bookstores

Saving Bookstores: we need to put our money where our moany old mouths are…

Nigel Beale's Bookstore Photos

Books on Beechwood in Ottawa, saved recently by angel investors

“Across Canada now”, Leah McLaren tells us in this sparkling piece in today’s Globe and Mail, “as well as in the United States and Britain, the old-fashioned main street with its butcher, baker and candlestick maker is mostly a thing of the past. Soon, the cynics say, there will be nothing but Tim Hortons and cheap nail salons, and that’s only because you can’t get a double-double or a pedicure on the Internet (yet). In the near future, the story goes, our main streets will be nothing but online shopping pick-up points and badly lit sizing depots – miserable places filled with grey consumer zombies itching to get back to home to their iPads so they can buy some more crap they don’t need.”

” The decline of the independent bookstore”, Leah continues ” is an old story, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope. Maybe the solution is to stop viewing such places simply as businesses that must succeed or fail according to the market, like doughnut shops or nail salons. A really good bookstore is not a doughnut shop; it is a social good. As citizens – and even potential investors – we need to put our money where our moany old mouths are.”