By Douglas Greenberg
The following is a feature article from the new LARB Quarterly Journal: Fall 2014 edition. To pick up your copy of the Journal, become a member of the Los Angeles Review of Books at the $15 monthly level.
All photographs courtesy of Carol K. Kammen. All rights reserved.
MY MENTOR AND FRIEND Michael Kammen died last November. A widely published and Pulitzer Prize–winning author, his passing was duly noted in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other newspapers. The newsletters of various historical organizations also printed warm and admiring obituaries.
Individually some of these death notices contained factual errors or interpretive eccentricities that Michael would have found amusing, although he was too meticulous a scholar to have committed such mistakes himself. Collectively, however, they described a scholar and university professor who was literally prodigious. Continue reading
Come join LARB and Flaunt Magazine tonight at Lit Crawl. Event info is in the poster above. There will be readings from a series of pieces on palm trees – a collaboration we did with Flaunt this summer. You can read the pieces here, but be sure to come out to the event tonight as well to have them read to you!
By Austin Dean
The writer Xiao Hong is everywhere in China these days. Her face recently graced the covers of a score of newspapers and magazines; the publication Sanlian Weekly devoted over thirty pages to her; billboards advertised the recently released film about her career. In fact, the new film The Golden Era is the second Xiao Hong biopic to come out in the space of just two years—the first one, Fallen Flowers, hit theaters in March 2013. A remarkable accomplishment, particularly since Xiao published most of her work in the 1920s and 1930s and passed away in 1942. Continue reading
David Grand’s latest novel, Mount Terminus, was 10 years in the making.
This is and isn’t unusual. James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist was 13 years from start to publication, Ulysses six years, Finnegans Wake took 17 — three novels and a collection of short stories over 33 years.
William Dean Howells, on the other hand, published 53 books in a 50-year career. Henry James, too, a bit over a book a year. Stephen King is right around two books a year. Flaubert, though, famously tried to get a good sentence a day.
Fast books and slow books. There is no necessary relation to quality, but I feel one can sense the slow construction of Grand’s Mount Terminus. Like a French sauce, it has deep flavors, the thought and story and emotion reduced to their essences, and a complex, multileveled world results. Continue reading
By Paul French
We generally think of Shanghai between the world wars as unique, a one-off city forming a crossroads between East and West. It was, according to this line of thinking, unique in being a place representing the modern in a country largely composed of the ancient. This vision of it is compelling, but one can’t help reading Charles King’s excellent new biography of inter-war Istanbul – Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul – without drawing comparisons between the city on the Bosphorus and the city on the Huangpoo. The similarities are legion: in general, both were forward-looking cities in countries that had suffered long-term decline in economic and political power; both were cities that, although not capitals, became the fulcrums of their national politics; and both were cities that sought modernity with a humongous appetite for the novel and the cosmopolitan. Continue reading
Congratulations to Richard Flanagan, announced today as the 2014 winner of the Man Booker Prize for his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North. This was the first year American writers were allowed to be nominated for the prize: Joshua Ferris and Karen Joy Fowler were the only Americans to make the shortlist (consisting of six finalists). LARB is proud to have reviewed two of the novels on the shortlist (those by Ferris and Joy Fowler) earlier this year, and also to have recently reviewed another book by a shortlisted author, Ali Smith. Check out the reviews below:
Today it was announced that Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, and Kailash Satyarthi of India have been awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.
We published a review of Yousafzai’s book, I Am Malala, a little less than a year ago, in November 2013. We read it again after we heard she had been awarded the peace prize, and we hope you will too!
From the review: “As for the answer to the question, Malala is more than ‘the girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban,’ as the book’s subhead pronounces. The voice that beams, ‘I am Malala,’ is the voice that continues to meet the assassin’s challenge. It is the voice of a courageous campaigner who still fights for girls’ education. The voice of an icon who may one day be able to return to her country, but who even from afar symbolizes its noblest cause. When she laughs, she covers the side of her face that becomes slightly distorted because of the bullet’s damage. A year after she was almost killed, it’s the most beautiful laughter we can hear.”
Ten years ago, on October 9, 2004, the philosopher Jacques Derrida passed away. To mark this occasion and inquire into the legacy of Derrida’s thought today, LARB’s philosophy/critical theory genre section is featuring five short texts by Peggy Kamuf, Gil Anidjar, Elisabeth Weber, Michael Marder, and Luce Irigaray that cover aspects of Derrida’s thought ranging from biodegradability to the Holocaust, the death penalty and drone attacks, plant-life and being human, and back.
Also featured in LARB today is Jeremy Butman’s interview with Simon Critchley about Critchley’s book The Ethics of Deconstruction: Derrida and Levinas, which proposed the notion of an ethical turn in Derrida’s thought when it was first published in the early 1990s and was recently re-released in a third, revised edition.
— Arne De Boever, LARB philosophy/critical theory section editor
Peggy Kamuf, “Remains to Be Seen”
Gil Anidjar, “Everything Burns: Derrida’s Holocaust”
Elisabeth Weber, “Jacques Derrida’s Urgency, Today”
Michael Marder and Luce Irigaray, “There Is No Thought Without Remembrance”
By Lorand Laskai
October 3: While the world is watching Occupy Central, one group has gone beyond mere spectating. Six nights ago when students in Hong Kong braved waves of tear gas, after days of trying unsuccessfully to occupy the park in front of the government headquarters, another site of the Hong Kong government came under occupation: the Hong Kong Economic and Cooperation Exchange office in Taipei. The occupiers—Taiwanese students. Continue reading
Today’s post, an essay by philosopher Alain de Botton, is from LARB Channel Marginalia. It was published last week – if you missed it, we’ve reproduced it here in full. The above photo is a screenshot of one of The School of Life’s new YouTube videos. The video is included in the below post.
By Alain de Botton
Traditionally, philosophy has been nervous around the idea of communication. Reaching out has not been high on the agenda. Academic philosophers have frequently erected barriers to wider participation: abstruse vocabulary and hypercomplex arguments have seemed to guarantee intelligence — all of which is a great pity.
Philosophy is simply the pursuit of wisdom. And though it’s a rather abstract term, the concept of “wisdom” isn’t mysterious. Being wise means attempting to live and die well, leading as good a life as possible within the troubled conditions of existence. The goal of wisdom is fulfilment. So a philosopher or “person devoted to wisdom” is someone who strives for systematic expertise at working out how one may best find individual and collective fulfillment. Continue reading