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Author interviews

News from around the ‘sphere

August 19, 2010

The Guardian report the sad news of the death of Frank Kermode, one of the finest critics and Shakespeare experts of his (or any) generation…

When Frank Kermode’s elegant, melancholy, often very funny autobiography, Not Entitled, was published in 1995, many reviewers commented on the irony of its title and its tone. Its author was an academic who had gained every honour in his field, who had occupied several of the most illustrious chairs of English literature and, rarest of achievements for a literary critic, even been knighted. Yet Kermode, who has died aged 90, presented himself in his memoir as a slightly bemused outsider, unworthy of most of his successes, drifting into appointments and undertakings, guided mostly by accident.

This self-image, however artful, was true to the man, and the ironic, self-deprecating voice of Not Entitled was his voice. What he called there his “permanent condition of mild alienation” was temperamental – a distance from things that made him, in person, a wry observer of academic follies. The separateness was also, as he saw it, something to do with his upbringing (more…)

And we also learn, today, via Twitter, of the passing, at the age of 90, of Scotland’s national treasure, the award-winning, Glasgow-born poet Edwin Morgan. (Watch this space for more news, as no obituary has yet been posted, but Carol Ann Duffy is quoted as saying: “A great, generous, gentle genius has gone. He was poetry’s true son and blessed by her. He is quite simply irreplaceable…”)

(Editor: an obituary can now be read at the Guardian site.)

Aside from (sad) news, the blogosphere is always full of fantastic articles. This – from the future of the book blog – impressed me today:

Assuming that whatever replaces the book in the futurist landscape to come will not be called “a book,” people often ask me why I named our group The Institute for the Future of the Book. My answer has consistently been a variant of the following: while it’s true that whatever replaces the book as a crucial mechanism for moving ideas around time and space is not likely to be called “a book,” since we don’t have that word yet, “book” works better than “institute for the future of discourse” or “institute for thinking about what comes after the book.” I end my answer by suggesting that one day we’ll realize that a word describing a new-fangled object, or perhaps a word referring to a range of behaviors has come to signify the dominant media form which has in fact supplanted the book.

I’ve always assumed that day would be years or even decades off. But recently, while listening to the Flux Quartet play Morton Feldman’s First Quartet on a gently swaying barge in the east river, I suddenly recognized our first candidate – “app.” It’s not the pretty or expressive word I was hoping for, but it feels right.

The aha moment went like this… while zoning in and out of the Feldman piece I started to think about the iPad that I’d been using for the past six weeks – not only for most of my reading, but for playing expressive games like my current favorite, SoundDrop, answering email, surfing the web, watching videos, and listening to music. The iPad has become the center of my media universe, much more than my computer, iPod, or iPhone have ever been. My text used to come in an object we called a book; movies came on tapes, laserdisc, and DVDs, music on records and CDs and games on cartridges and CDs. Now they are all appearing as apps of one sort or another on my iPad (more…)

A Journey Round My Skull had a fascinating post on literary pets:

The animal figure is a universal ingredient in literature from Aesop to Orwell. Perennially and ubiquitously, from the humblest children’s storybook to the most ambitious epic, beings with paws and claws, beaks and fangs, horns and hooves, fins and flippers, have been put at the service of metaphor or moral instruction. Fables and fairy tales abound with familiar and endearing creatures; the brute beast, although bereft of the faculty of speech, may be eloquent on the printed page. Whether presented realistically or symbolically, members of the animal clan have reflected and, in some cases, indicted the behavior of their human stewards in ways that make representatives of the two-legged species look at least as curious as any of their “lower” planetary co-inhabitants, and often more contemptible (more…)

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