Milking the classics dry

canon

In “Diminishing Returns in Humanities Research,” Mark Bauerlein writes:

In a working paper I wrote recently for the American Enterprise Institute, “Professors on the Production Line, Students on Their Own,” I reported that over the past five decades, the “productivity” of scholars in the fields of languages and literature had increased hugely: from approximately 13,000 publications to 72,000 a year. Consider the output in literary studies. From 1950 to 1985, 2,195 items of criticism and scholarship devoted to William Wordsworth appeared. Virginia Woolf garnered 1,307, Walt Whitman 1,986, Faulkner 3,487, Milton 4,274, and Shakespeare at the top, with 16,771.

From 1986 to 2008, Wordsworth collected 2,257 books, chapters, dissertations, etc. Faulkner came in at 2,781, Milton at 3,294, Whitman at 1,509, Woolf at 3,217, and Shakespeare at 18,799.

For decades the performative model obscured a situation that should have been recognized at the time: Vast areas of the humanities had reached a saturation point. Hundreds of literary works have undergone introduction, summation, and analysis many times over. Hamlet alone received 1,824 items of attention from 1950 to 1985, and then 2,406 from 1986 to 2008. What else was to be said?

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Flaubert’s previous lives

Uncategorized

flaubertAs part of his famous correspondence with George Sand, Gustave Flaubert wrote the following about reincarnation:

I don’t experience, as you do, this feeling of a life which is beginning, the stupefaction of a newly commenced existence. It seems to me, on the contrary, that I have always lived! And I possess memories which go back to the Pharaohs. I see myself very clearly at different ages of history, practising different professions and in many sorts of fortune. My present personality is the result of my lost personalities. I have been a boatman on the Nile, a leno in Rome at the time of the Punic wars, then a Greek rhetorician in Subura where I was devoured by insects. I died during the Crusade from having eaten too many grapes on the Syrian shores, I have been a pirate, monk, mountebank and coachman. Perhaps also even emperor of the East?

Many things would be explained if we could know our real genealogy. For, since the elements which make a man are limited, should not the same combinations reproduce themselves? Thus heredity is a just principle which has been badly applied.

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Bogie and Papa

canon, movies

From the Internet Movie Database’s entry on The Old Man and the Sea (1958):

In 1952, Humphrey Bogart attempted to purchase the film rights to Hemingway’s novel through his production company, Santana Productions. Bogart identified strongly with the character of the old man and wanted to play the fisherman in the film project, with Nicholas Ray as the director. Unfortunately, the actor was unsuccessful in securing the film rights, and the film wasn’t made until the year following his death, with his close friend Spencer Tracy starring.

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On Twitter

Uncategorized

I’ve neglected to mention here that I’m on Twitter. Because I don’t already have enough to do online. Really, it’s a great way to rapidly disseminate links, thoughts, and info when you have a near limitless number of interests. I’m covering books and lit, of course, but also government docs, freedom of information issues, investigative reporting, food, health, religion, mysticism, drugs, art……

http://twitter.com/russkick

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Nabokov’s papers to be unsealed June 23

archives, canon, writers' lives

nabokov

UPDATE [6/25/09]: The Library of Congress has posted a press release. [via Maud Newton]

——————-

The Library of Congress Manuscripts Division has two 20+ containers of Vladimir Nabokov’s papers under seal. Tomorrow, June 23, 2009, the restrictions set by his son are scheduled to expire, meaning that this set of papers will be completely available to the public.

To see the papers, you must go to the Library’s Manuscript Reading Room. I can give more details to anyone interested. If you peruse these papers and post something about them, please let me know.

A list of restricted collections at the Library is available at my other site, The Memory Hole.

{Thanks to Mike Ravnitzky for the heads-up.}

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Brody Dalle abuses her illusions

anthology, music

brode_ayi_spin

In the current issue of Spin, a photo on page 69 shows punk-rock girl Brody Dalle - originally lead singer of the Distillers, now with Spinnerette - snuggling up with a good book. A really good book, actually. One of mine. Brode is lovingly clutching the me-edited anthology Abuse Your Illusions: The Disinformation Guide to Media Mirages and Establishment Lies.

Thanks to Brody and Spin for the product placement, Darren Ankenman for the photo, and Richard Metzger and Bradley Novicoff for the heads-up.

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Harper Lee’s amazing friends

canon, writers' lives

In Who the Hell Is Pansy O’Hara?: The Fascinating Stories Behind 50 of the World’s Best-Loved Books, we find this about Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird:

In 1957 Lee submitted a manuscript to J.B. Lippincott Company. However, the author might never have completed her novel if not for a generous gift of money from friends the year before. Witnessing her dedication to her craft, friends pooled their cash and gave Lee the best Christmas present of her life — a note attached to the envelope read, “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.”

Note to my friends: This is not a hint for you to do the same thing. Really. Don’t even try. Unless you really, really want to. But otherwise, nope.

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Almost half of Cuba attends book fair

reading, the book biz

From Yes! Magazine’s article about the International Book Fair in Cuba:

More than 300 publishing houses from more than 43 countries have set up stalls and events in the fortress. The book fair will stay in Havana for 11 days, then it will travel to 30 other cities across Cuba.

Last year more than 5 million people attended the book fair, purchasing more than 6 million books. To put this in context, Cuba has a population of 11.5 million people. That means nearly half the entire population goes to the book fair. Imagine participation on this scale anywhere else in the world. In the U.S., that would mean no less than 152 million people coming out to attend, of all things, a book fair.

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Dostoevsky on almost dying

death, the "on" series, writers' lives

dostoevskyIn 1849 Fyodor Dostoevsky was arrested, along with the rest of the informal, progressive/revolutionary Petrashevsky Circle, which opposed the serf system and Tsarist rule. The members were to be executed - shot by a firing squad in threes. Dosty was in the second grouping, and as he watched the guns point at the first three, waiting for his turn, a stay of execution was given (they would be sent to hard labor in Siberia).

Upon returing to his cell, he wrote a letter to his brother. It read, in part:

When I look back on my past and think how much time I wasted on nothing, how much time has been lost in futilities, errors, laziness, incapacity to live; how little I appreciated it, how many times I sinned against my heart and soul - then my heart bleeds. Life is a gift, life is happiness, every minute can be an eternity of happiness!

I am neither downhearted nor discouraged. Life is everywhere, life is in ourselves, not in the exterior. I shall have human beings around me, and to be a man among men and to remain one always, not to lose heart and not to give in no matter what occurs - that is what life is, that is its task, I have become aware of this. This idea has entered into my life and blood.

{quotes from Dostoevsky: The Years of Ordeal , 1850-1859.}

See also: Katherine Anne Porter on almost dying

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excerpt: 32 Famous People Involved in Triads

Uncategorized

bol-cover-smThe following was originally published in my book, The Disinformation Book of Lists: Subversive Facts and Hidden Information in Rapid-Fire Format.

——————————————————————

32 Famous People Involved in Triads

A triad is to three people what a couple is to two people. In other words, a relationship among three partners. It’s sometimes called a threesome or ménage à trois, but these two terms have a primarily sexual connotation, usually being applied to a physical encounter that doesn’t involve a long-term commitment.

This list is indebted almost completely to the amazing research of Barbara Foster, Michael Foster, and Letha Hadady. Themselves a triad, they went through history with a fine-toothed comb, digging up numerous examples of famous people involved in triads. The resulting book, Three in Love, is an unprecedented chronicle of this formerly unacknowledged type of relationship. (All quotes below are from this groundbreaking and highly readable book.)

sundance-and-etta1. Butch Cassady and the Sundance Kid

Wild West outlaws Butch Cassady and Harry Longabaugh (the Sundance Kid) committed crimes with Etta Place. All three of them lived together; details of the relationship are sketchy, but it appears that they thought of themselves as a family. (At left, Etta and the Sundance Kid, via Wikipedia.)

2. Catherine the Great

Imperial Russia’s most famous Empress formed a triad with two of her closest staff members, chief deputy Gregory Poterakin and secretary Peter Zavadofsky.

3. Friedrich Engels

Benefactor of Karl Marx and coauthor of The Communist Manifesto, Engels lived and loved with two sisters, factory-workers Mary and Lizzie Burns.

4. Jacob Epstein

Called “one of the leading portrait sculptors of the 20th century” by the Encyclopedia Britannica, Epstein lived with his wife and mistress.

countess-guiccioli15. George Gordon, Lord Byron

The archetypal Romantic poet was involved for several years with Countess Teresa Guiccioli (left, via Blupete). He was her cavaliere servente, which is basically a combination of errand-boy and male mistress. Count Guiccioli was fine with sharing his wife, a not uncommon attitude among Italian aristocracy of the time.

6-7. Henry II and Catherine de’ Medici

King Henry II was married to Catherine de’ Medici and openly loved the aristocratic beauty Diane de Poitiers, who knew Henry since he was nine.

8. Victor Hugo

The French novelist who wrote Les Miserables was married to Adèle (née Foucher) and was involved for most of his life with a gorgeous but minimally talented actress, Juliette Drouet. (He routinely cheated on wife and mistress with other women.) For years, Adèle hated Juliette, whom Victor always set up in a nearby dwelling. However, the two grew to like and respect each other, with Juliette eventually running the household. Victor remained with both women until their deaths; his relationship with Ms. Drouet lasted exactly 50 years.

9. Lenin

Soviet leader Lenin was part of a fully cooperative triad involving his wife Nadezhda and mistress Inessa. The two women formed a friendship, and all three comrades worked together to further the revolution.

10. Lothar, King of Gaul

In the sixth century, Lothar was married to sisters Ingund and Aregund.

11. Harold Macmillan

As Three in Love sums up: “Harold Macmillan, the Conservative prime minister of England from 1957 to 1963, overlapping the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations, lived in a thirty-year triad that included his wife Dorothy Cavendish and her lover, his closest political connection, Bob Boothby.”

12. Marquis de Sade

The man whose name gave us sadism lived and loved for a while with his wife Renée and her sister, Anne. The sisters “performed together in the marquis’s lost plays, playing his heroines who acquiesce in the acts perpetrated against them.”

taylor-harriet13. John Stuart Mill

One of the leading philosophers of freedom, Mill founds his soulmate in the intelligent Harriet Taylor (left), who happened to be married to merchant John Taylor. After some initial friction, John came to accept the triad. After he succumbed to cancer, Harriet and John Stuart married and spent the rest of their lives together.

14. François Mitterand

President of France from 1981 to 1995, Mitterand equally loved his wife Danielle and his mistress Mazarine, fathering children with both of them. The families knew of each other but lived apart, though sometimes the triad would vacation together. Both women and all three offspring attended François’ funeral.

15. Jawaharlal Nehru

The first Prime Minister of independent India formed a threesome with Louis, Lord Mountbatten (British Admiral of the Fleet) and Edwina, Lady Mountbatten.

16. Admiral Lord Nelson

One of history’s most brilliant naval commanders, the man who saved England from France was famously involved with Emma, Lady Hamilton. Less known is the fact that her husband, Sir William Hamilton, approved of the relationship. In 1802, the triad sent cards bearing the greeting: “Sir William Hamilton, Lady Hamilton and Mr. Nelson desire to wish you a merry Christmas.”

17-18. Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin

In perhaps the most well-known triad, pioneering erotic writers Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin formed a complex, rocky threesome with Miller’s wife, June, in which all three were having sex with each other. Nin’s husband stayed on the sidelines of this powderkeg relationship.

nusch-picasso119-22. Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Paul Eluard, Max Ernst

Poet Paul Eluard, his wife Gala, and painter Max Ernst formed a triad that lasted several years. Gala’s second husband, for 53 years, was Salvador Dalí. She had numerous affairs with artists he knew, which apparently didn’t faze him.

Meanwhile, Paul Eluard became great friends with Picasso and married a Parisian prostitute, Nusch. She shows up in many of Picasso’s paintings (including the one here), and they formed a triad that lasted a decade, until Nusch’s death in 1946.

23-25. Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, Rainer Maria Rilke

One of the great lyric poets, Rainer Maria Rilke was emotionally and sexually involved with Louise “Lou” Andreas-Salomé, who later became a disciple of Sigmund Freud and a minor contributor to psychoanalytic theory. Lou at the time was in a sexless but loving marriage with an older scholar, F.C. Andreas. The three of them lived and traveled together, and Lou became Rainer’s hands-on muse, helping him find his voice.

nietzsche-andreas-salome-reeThis was actually the middle of three triads that Lou would form. In the first, she was in an emotional but chaste threesome with philosophers Friedrich Nietzshe and Paul Rée. (That’s the three of them to the left.) (Nietzsche had been in a previous sexless triad with Richard and Cosima Wagner.) In the last triad, Lou and Freud became very attached, though they never slept with each other; that honor was for the third party, psychoanalyst Victor Tausk.

26-27. Percy Byssche Shelley and Mary Shelley

Romantic poet Shelley had quite the complicated lovelife, with two aborted triads, one probable one, and an almost quadrad (i.e., involving four people). Early on, Shelley wanted to form a triad with his first wife Harriet and his best friend, Thomas Jefferson Hogg, but Harriet would have none of it. Later, he fell in love with Mary Godwin (daughter of pioneering feminist Mary Wollstonecraft), who would write Frankenstein. He proposed that he, Harriet, and Mary shack up, but again his wife said no.

Shelley and Mary went to Europe to frolic; accompanying them was Mary’s half-sister, Claire Claremont. We don’t know for sure, but it appears that Percy and Claire started hooking up, with Mary tolerating it.

Things got even more complex and ambiguous later—Percy, Mary, Clare, Lord Byron, his married lover, and her parents all lived under the same roof, along with Jane and Edward Williams, who had children and lived as a married couple though they weren’t. (By this time, Harriet had committed suicide, and Percy had married Mary.) Percy fell in love with Jane, and it is likely, though arguable, that they got physical with each other. Percy and Edward became fast friends, sharing Jane’s affections. Meanwhile, Mary also fell in love with Jane, who didn’t return the feelings. Confused? Imagine how they felt!

voltaire28. Voltaire

The witty philosopher (left) was deeply involved with the Marquis du Chatlet and his wife, Emilie. “The two men shared not only one woman but their money and influence at court.”

29. Orson Welles’ parents

The director of Citizen Kane essentially had three parents—his biological dad, Richard Welles; his mother, Beatrice Welles; and her lover, Dr. Maurice Bernstein, whom little Orson called “Dadda.” The big, happy family lived together.

30-31. Victoria Woodhull and Henry Ward Beecher

Through the middle of the 1800s, Beecher was America’s preacher, basically the Billy Graham of his time, except that he had progressive views. The most progressive he kept under wraps—he was an advocate and practitioner of free love. For many years he was involved with the wife of close friend Theodore Tilton, a situation that pleased all of them.

After a while, Tilton took a more active role in another triad when he began bonking pioneering feminist Victoria Woodhull. Her husband didn’t mind; together he and Tilton wrote a biography of Victoria. Beecher enters the picture again, when Victoria started getting it on with him, plus Tilton, not to mention her husband. It also looks as though Victoria, her husband, and her sister Tennessee Claflin formed an emotional triad that may or may not have been sexual. Further complicating the issue is the fact that Victoria took on various lovers throughout the years. If you find these overlapping triads, quadrads, and even pentads confusing, you’re not alone.

32. Emile Zola

French novelist Emile Zola split his time between two households—that of his wife and his mistress. The women tolerated each other, then became fast friends after Zola’s death.

Others: Marguerite Duras; Joseph Goebbels; Graham Greene; Ernest Hemingway; Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, and Carolyn Cassady; Frida Kahlo; D.H. Lawrence; Georgia O’Keeffe; Ezra Pound; Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir; and Oskar Schindler.

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Katherine Anne Porter on almost dying

death, the "on" series, writers' lives

In October 1918, Katherine Anne Porter nearly died from the Spanish flu during the pandemic. In a 1963 interview, she said:

It just simply divided my life, cut across it like that. So that everything before that was just getting ready, and after that I was in some strange way altered, ready. It took me a long time to go out and live in the world again. I was really ‘alienated,’ in the pure sense. It was, I think, the fact that I really had participated in death, that I knew what death was, and had almost experienced it. I had what the Christians call the ‘beatific vision,’ and the Greeks called the ‘happy day,’ the happy vision just before death. Now if you have had that, and survived it, come back from it, you are no longer like other people, and there’s no use deceiving yourself that you are.

Sing it, sister.

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Re-illustrating children’s books

art/graphics, fiction, kid lit

tin_poky-puppy{The Poky Little Puppy, reimagined by Tin}

The G1988 gallery in San Francisco is about to lauch a new show - artists “re-illustrating” children’s books. Each piece is based on a classic piece of kid lit - incl. Dr. Seuss, the Alice books, The Little Prince, Snow White, Calvin and Hobbes - with new and definitely different sensibilities being brought into play.

You can see some of the work here and here.

The show opens Friday.

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“Madame Bovary” drafts online

archives, blogs & sites, canon, fiction

From Reuters:

Drafts of “Madame Bovary,” Gustave Flaubert’s classic tale of adultery and thwarted dreams, are being shown online for the first time thanks to a mass effort to transcribe the originals.

Some 650 volunteers from all over the world, including teenagers, an oil worker and a cleaning lady, have transcribed thousands of often hardly legible hand-written manuscripts in a project overseen by a museum in Rouen in northwestern France. …

The decade-long project to prepare the writings for publication on the Internet cost 120,000 euros and was supported by the work of literature fans from 12 countries.

The result can be seen at www.bovary.fr and is meant to appeal to specialists as well as amateurs.

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Jack London’s credo … or is it?

canon, writers' lives

In the house I grew up in, the fridge displayed - among some dog magnets and local pizza-joint numbers - a copy of Jack London’s credo, which I still love:

I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.

london-jackWhen I went searching for this text online, I noticed that no one was attributing it to a specific work, letter, etc. Red flag. The Jack London Online Collection at Sonoma State has done the detective work.

Bottom line: London informally wrote the first sentence. He might’ve spoken the whole credo, but all we have is an account from one reporter.The full passage has many marks of London’s style–its directness, its rhythm, its diction–to persuade that it is authentic.”

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Thoughts for the day, German mystical poet edition

poetry

novalis“We are more closely connected to the invisible than to the visible.”

-Novalis

———–

———–

rilke“I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone.”

-Rilke

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