Friday, April 21, 2017

Reading the First and Ultimate Pleasure

We persevere, because reading still brings information, stimulation, and solace. It is the first and the ultimate pleasure. Willard Spiegelman.

What can I say, but Yes.

I have spent close on 60 years as a reader and I will read until I die. Reading is truly the first and ultimate pleasure of my life.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Virginia Woolf on Letter Writing

The art of letter-writing is often the art of essay-writing in disguise.

Woolf while talking about women in literature made the germane quote above about women writers. Until the 1800's it was considered unseemly for women to be writers, but letter writing was considered to be acceptable. We begin to get a glimpse of the lives of women through women's eyes emerging in their letters. While many of the letters may have been somewhat bland, they did give some insight into the lives and concerns of women in the 1700's.

In fact some of these letters were lengthy and polemic and would nowadays be considered as essays..
Woolf's own letters also reveal much of life in late Victorian and early Georgian times.


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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Samuel Johnson on the Common Reader

“… I rejoice to concur with the common reader; for by the common sense of readers, uncorrupted by literary prejudices, after all the refinements of subtilty and the dogmatism of learning, must be generally decided all claim to poetical honours.”—Dr. Johnson , Life of Gray .

Long live the common reader. This is the quote from which Virginia Woolf took the title of her books, The Common Reader1 and The Common Reader2.

I am reading these books again and I'm refreshed with Woolf's style. No academic jargon or philosophical high flying. Just readable essays that we "commoners" can appreciate.



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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

African Writers Bypass World Literature Centres

The flow of global capital is not to be ignored, but equally interesting are the grass-roots networks linking African writers to other regional writers—in South Asia, say, or Latin America—without necessarily going through metropolitan centers such as London, Paris, or New York. This is not the centralized and hierarchical “world republic of letters” that Pascale Casanova equates with world literature. It is a very different paradigm. And those who are spearheading this kind of research are not tenured professors but unemployed graduate students, the hundreds of people who applied for the job we advertised. - Wai Chee Dimock

This quote is from a Chronicle of Higher Education article titled A Literary Scramble for Africa.

This is great news. A grass root movement that is not driven by the West. African, Caribbean, South American and Asian countries have their own vibrant literary networks that are effective for them. In the wired world London, Paris and New York have less sway - and that is an excellent thing. The West has a tendency to see other non Western cultures as back waters populated by non persons(to paraphrase Chomsky). But the "non Persons" don't care any longer what the West thinks and this is excellent for literature.

Bring on the Revolution.


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The Core Curiculum - CrossFit for the Brain

It's a hoary old argument in academia about the value of a core curriculum that all students must take. This causes some friction between teachers and students.

I loved the analogy below which was part of an article called Cross-Training for the Brain by Rob Jenkins.

The core curriculum is really a lot more like cross-training than like weight-lifting. Yes, to be mentally fit, we have to push against resistance. But we also must encounter different types of resistance and respond to them with different parts of our brain. That’s why math majors need to study literature and English majors have to sit through math classes and all of them need to take history and science and fine arts and so on.

What we have traditionally referred to as the “core curriculum” in reality is nothing less than cross-training for the brain.

In my academic training I have studied medical science, business and the humanities at postgraduate level. I can say from experience that the 3 different approaches taken in science, business and humanities cause different resistance in differing parts of the brain. This has been beneficial for my intellectual flexibility and problem solving.


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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Virginia Woolf on Fiction

“Fiction is like a spider's web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.”
― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own

I love this quote by Virginia Woolf. Fiction is indeed like a spiders web and the anchoring to reality has degrees of attachment. Woolf has a range of attachment in her fictional works. The most loosely connected would have to be Orlando where the main character changes sex in the course of the story. It is in fact impossible to write fiction that is totally unattached to life, as we would have no way of appreciating it. The analogy to me is like a sail that has a great degree of movement but always has strong attachment points to stop it blowing away.


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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Essays after Eighty - Donald Hall

I purchased this engrossing set of essays yesterday and I can't stop reading.

Hall is now in his eighties and is no longer writing poetry. His prose is strong and untainted. In an age which idolises youth it is refreshing to read a book written by one who is well experienced in life.

I suspect as the Boomers rage into their "senior" years we will see more of this kind of writing getting published.

I would highly recommend this book to readers young, old, shy or bold.


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