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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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Who Invented Reading?

“Whoever invented reading is a very cool person.”
― Contreras Robert L.

Hear, hear. However the inventor of writing is even more cool. Without writing there can be no reading. Great writers are always great readers and in this sense all writings are derivative of past writings. All writers and readers are extra cool people.

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Sunday, February 8, 2015

LIving a Thousand Lives

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons

Shared experience across time and space is the essence of reading. In my 59 years I have lived many hundreds of lives vicariously through the books I have read. I have been a man, a woman, rich, poor, old, young, educated, uneducated, wise and foolish.

I have lived in Ancient Greek and Roman times, during the Middle Ages, the Renaissance (both Arabic and European), the 17th-18th-19th-20th-21st centuries and I have travelled the length and breadth of the universe.

This has all been accomplished without getting off the sofa!!

Long live reading!

May you all live a thousand lives.


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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Unschooling: Birds don’t go to flight school

“Birds don’t go to flight school.” ~ Linda Dobson

I love Linda's quote. Schooling is not necessary for learning about life and life activities. Children learn to speak before they go to school. Birds learn to fly by doing not by teaching.

Unfortunately we often limit our children from learning naturally by inclination by forcing them into schooling.

It is amazing how the negative effects of schooling stay with you for life. I can still remember vividly the dull, boring, meaningless days of my so called "education".

I should have been pushed out of the nest to fly!!


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Sunday, January 25, 2015

James Altucher on Literature, Reading and Writing

"English literature is best learned by reading the books you are passionate about. Writing is best learned by having real experiences, writing every day, and reading the great writers who inspire you" James Altucher.

James Altucher is an inspirational writer and the quotation above is taken from his book, I Was Blind but Now I See. James is an advocate of self education as an alternative to an expensive university education for young people. This makes him a controversial figure but I agree with him that reading and writing with passion help to educate us in life's big lessons. Reading and writing is free and both activities help to form our minds.