Move over March Madness. Make room for the Tournament of Books.
But wouldn’t it be possible, exciting, and also fun to take 16 of the
most celebrated books of the year and pit them against one another in
an NCAA-style Battle Royale of literary excellence to see which novel
became The First Annual TMN Tournament of Books Champion? One that could be awarded some badge of high esteem, perhaps called “The Rooster” in honor of David Sedaris’s brother (surely the liveliest character in contemporary literature)? Yes. This was something we could do.
The event is being hosted by The Morning News and sponsored by Powells. Judges include some of the better known literary bloggers, notes Laila Lalami of Moorish Girl.
Ron Hogan reviews the book reviewers in his new blog Beatrix. "When I told folks last week I was doing this, one friend asked, ‘For the love of God, why?’" He explains why it complements his old blog Beatrice. (Mentioned on Mark Sarvas’ The Elegant Variation.)
Matt Jones points us to this column by Philip Pullman in The Guardian, where he argues teachers place too much emphasis on grammar, not enough on writing itself.
What does work, the York
study maintains, is writing in a meaningful context: writing as a
practical hands-on craft activity. One of the implications of this is
that teachers have to be confident about writing – about play, about
delight. Too many are not, because they haven’t had to be; and the
result is the dismal misery of the "creative writing" drills tested in
the Sats, where children are instructed to plan, draft, edit, revise,
rewrite, always in the same order, always in the same proportions,
always in the same way. If teachers knew something about the joy of
fooling about with words, their pupils would write with much greater
fluency and effectiveness. Teachers and pupils alike would see that the
only reason for writing is to produce something true and beautiful;
that they were on the same side, with the teacher as mentor, as editor,
not as instructor and measurer, critic and judge.
Mark Sarvas, who writes one of our favorite literary blogs The Elegant Variation, points us to the Virtual Book Tour. Authors have "toured" literary-related blogs in the past, but VBT now offers such tours (which has the author both blogging and interviewing with bloggers) as a commercial service. MJ Rose is one author who has participated in the tours. The business is the brainchild of Kevin Smokler, who recently argued that the book business is picking back up. Kevin’s blog points us to a Chicago Tribune profile of Jessa Crispin of Book Slut fame. (The article quotes Julia Bannon of Harper Collins, who lists Book Slut, Beatrice.com, Chicklit.com, Bookreporter.com and Curledup.com as the "top literary Web sites.")
Part of a dialogue between J.S. Oppenheim and me on the cultural and technological barriers that keep still photography from being more easily “translatable.”
I agree with most of what you say (I like especially what you say about context, which I hope to explore on my blog soon, since I recently read [Fernando] Pessoa‘s The Book of Disquiet [which employs the use of “heteronyms“]), but I am not sure that leading
technology explains why our knowledge of non-Euro-American [photography] remains
relatively narrow. In terms of industrial might and technology, Japan has ranked up there: both pre- (as shown by the creation of a Navy then-modern enough to defeat the Russians) and post-war (the auto and electronic industries: though the country’s defeat during the war certainly set it back). Additionally, if you look at some of the blogs
and web sites about the history of Japanese photography, you see that it extends pretty far back: certainly to have at least created a large body of work with which–I–feel I should be more conversant.
Instead, I think language intrudes. It is more obvious in film, of course. There are wonderful Japanese film directors (like [Yasujiro] Ozu) who are celebrated in smaller circles but are largely unknown among the wider Western public. (And it is not imitative of the West either, since many of the directors incorporated conventions from Noh and other Japanese theater.)
You would think that the transmitability of photography would be much more straightforward: certainly the rise of the Internet: websites, blogs and now photoblogs, is changing that. But I think language has interfered here as well. We “connect” with text and imagery to which we more easily relate (what some of the bloggers who write about “social networks” call “linkiness.”) How do search engines treat foreign languages, for instance? I know I tend to search on English-language sites first myself. And seemingly, text that explains a photographer’s biography and image are more important to his/her place than we might imagine.
[See also Translating Photography, Part I]
I came across an interesting exhibition on Taiwan’s New Landscape Movement when I was visiting the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts (KMFA) yesterday. Since the 1940-50s influx of refugees escaping the Chinese Civil War, Taiwan has struggled with the haphazard development of its housing, transportation and cultural centers. (I was once struck by how at the similarity of parts of Taipei and Athens, a city which once saw a similar influx of war refugees.) However, it seems that government and cultural leaders (for instance, those in architecture and landscape architecture) are now working in concert to develop more lasting and meaningful structures, while also figuring ways to blend them into the landscape. That includes reworking the country’s transportation gateways (renovation of the international airports, developing a bullet train that will cross the island from north to south) and seeking to attract more tourists to the island.
Predictably, the rather dry newspaper articles I have seen on the projects do not do them justice. Much better is viewing the KMFA exhibit, where you can see the drawings, computering renderings and models of the architects. The island is expanding its offering of cultural centers, and there seem to be a panoply of projects on the table.
Part of the KMFA’s current exhibition space is devoted to the design finalists for the planned National Palace Museum Southern Branch. Jurors asked that the teams come up with ideas that would be pan-Asian, while also retaining a regional flair. A Japanese design team came up with the bizarre "idea" of building the museum in the shape of an old Chinese coin. (Was money the first thing that popped into their head when they thought of Taiwan culture!?) A Taiwanese team’s design was more subtle; they wanted to "hide" the museum in the landscape and allow the structure to surprise museum-goers as they approached the structure. (Maybe too subtle for the jurors? It seems like architects often want to find ways to leave a signature on the land.) One American team’s design struck me as near imitation of Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Bilbao. In the end, American architect Andrew Predock, came out on top with his "Yu Shan" (Jade Mountain proposal). The proposed structure rises above the otherwise flat landscape, its centerpiece a "crystal" mountain that pays homage to Taiwan’s mountainous geography. I was struck by Predock’s additional nod to local sensibilities, since his design proposes details like incorporating Taroko marble in the museum’s foundation.
Taiwan is also looking to redesign many of its university campuses (which were damaged during a recent earthquake) and reclaim certain rivers. Dialogue, Taiwan’s magazine on architecture, design and culture, also
has a good article on both the National Palace Museum – Southern Branch
International Competition and the Taiwan New Landscape Movement in Issue #87.
For those swimming in Apple hype, SJM points us to one possible antidote: Apple-related humor.