Tag Archives: books

Hilarious and Heartbreaking Objects Left in the Wake of Failed Relationships

Jar of spicy Amish pickles, October to December 2013, New York. “I bought these as a present for the first guy 
I ever (thought I) loved. He told me about how he used to do his homework in the bathtub as a kid and brought me a book on our first date, and said he loved these damn pickles. He stopped returning my texts before I ever got a chance to give them to him.” (photo by Erika Paget, excerpted from The Museum of Broken Relationships: Modern Love in 203 Everyday Objects, reprinted with permission of Grand Central Publishing)

Breakups can go many ways. Some people remain friends. Others seek revenge by posting the ugliest pictures they can find on Instagram. Then there’s Olinka Vištica … Read the rest

Fore-edge Painting: Hidden Artworks on The Edges of Books

The following video created by an archivist at Cornell University’s Library, New York, shows a 1925 copy of Rudyard Kipling's "Kim". The book appears to be a typical hard bound with a decorative spine and gilded fore edge. The person handling the book in the video then holds the block of pages between the thumb and the rest of the fingers and bends it to fan out the edges slightly. All of a sudden, a lovely painting of a landscape pops out of the book’s edge.

This form of fore-edge decoration is known as fore-edge painting, and they were very popular during the 18th century through the early 20th century. But the history of fore-edge painting goes back even further.

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The Italian Mafia is making cash by exploiting refugees

Both the Mafia and the Catholic Church in Sicily have effectively recognised the business opportunity represented by migrants. As with many private companies, they are pocketing government money for looking after these vulnerable people from Africa and Asia, making extra profits by cost-cutting in the quality of the food and accommodation they offer. At the same time, camps often take a hefty cut of what migrants earn through working outside as cleaners, labourers or bar staff – often as much as 50 percent of their earnings.

The Mafia-run camp in Corleone was an intriguing place to visit in this respect. This is a small village with a population of 12,000 in the province of Palermo that is famous for having given the characters in The Godfather … Read the rest

A Trove of Dadaist Fun Is Reissued

The contents of the facsimile reissue of The Blind Man: New York Dada, 1917 from Ugly Duckling Presse (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

One hundred years ago, the New York Dadaists self-published two editions of a small art journal called The Blind Man — a title chosen to satirize the general public’s impaired vision when it came to seeing radical modernist art. Edited by the journal’s founders Marcel Duchamp, Beatrice Wood, and Henri-Pierre Roché, this seriously funny community rag contained contributions from the three editors, along with Mina Loy, Walter Conrad Arensberg, Francis Picabia, Gabrièle Buffet-Picabia, Allen Norton, Clara Tice, Alfred Stieglitz, Charles Demuth, Charles Duncan, Erik Satie, Carl Van VechtenRead the rest

An Enigmatic Literary Icon of Modern China

In a mantra-like fashion, Lu Xun (born Zhou Shuren, 1881-1936) was called the “sage of modern China” by Mao Zedong, spurring his posthumous popularity. A modern author, Lu Xun may not deserve the appellation “sage,” usually reserved for Confucius and the like. But, like the ancient sages, schoolchildren have been required to study and memorize his texts, and as a result he is rarely read or liked. Then again, he’s proclaimed to be China’s greatest modern author — although he died before the People’s Republic was founded, and long before the PRC’s proud modernizations. That he lived during an earlier period of modernization in China, before it adopted regressive policies, usually goes unremarked. Looking back, he is an author for this modern China.

Known, after his … Read the rest

How Google Book Search Got Lost

Google Books was the company’s first moonshot. But 15 years later, the project is stuck in low-Earth orbit.

Illustration by Sandy van Helden.

Books can do anything. As Franz Kafka once said, “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.”

It was Kafka, wasn’t it? Google confirms this. But where did he say it? Google offers links to some quotation websites, but they’re generally unreliable. (They misattribute everything, usually to Mark Twain.)

To answer such questions, you need Google Book Search, the tool that magically scours the texts of millions of digitized volumes. Just find the little “more” tab at the top of the Google results page — it’s right past Images, Videos, and News. Then click on it, find “Books,” and … Read the rest

The Nothingness of Personality: Young Borges on the Self

“There is no whole self. It suffices to walk any distance along the inexo­rable rigidity that the mirrors of the past open to us in order to feel like out­siders, naively flustered by our own bygone days.”


The Nothingness of Personality: Young Borges on the Self

You find yourself in a city you hadn’t visited in years, walking along a street you had once strolled down with your fingers interlacing a long-ago lover’s, someone you then cherished as the most extraordinary person in the world, who is now married in Jersey with two chubby bulldogs. You find yourself shocked by how an experience of such vivid verisimilitude can be fossilized into a mere memory buried in the strata of what feels like a wholly different person, living a wholly different life — it was you … Read the rest

Working Together: Poet and Philosopher David Whyte’s Beautiful Ode to Our Mutuality with the World

“We shape our self to fit this world and by the world are shaped again.”


Working Together: Poet and Philosopher David Whyte’s Beautiful Ode to Our Mutuality with the World

“Relationship is the fundamental truth of this world of appearance,” wrote the great Indian poet and philosopher Tagore — the first non-European awarded a Nobel Prize — in his 1930 meditation on human nature and the interdependence of existence. Nearly a century later, the English poet, philosopher, and redeemer of meaning David Whyte gave shape to that relational inextricability of our lives in his beautiful poem “Working Together,” found in his collection River Flow: New & Selected Poems (public library).

In this recording from Krista Tippett’s altogether sublime On Being interview with Whyte, he reads this simple, transcendently wakeful poem of supreme relevance to our divided world:

WORKING

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Descartes on Opinion vs. Reason, the Key to a Wakeful Mind, and the Discipline of Critical Introspection

“It is not enough to have a good mind; the main thing is to apply it well.”


Descartes on Opinion vs. Reason, the Key to a Wakeful Mind, and the Discipline of Critical Introspection

“The questions raised by the desire to know are in principle all answerable by common-sense experience and common-sense reasoning,” Hannah Arendt wrote in her brilliant treatise on thinking vs. knowing and the crucial difference between truth and meaning. “But the questions raised by thinking and which it is in reason’s very nature to raise — questions of meaning — are all unanswerable by common sense and the refinement of it we call science.”

What kind of reasoning, then, can we develop in order not only to inoculate ourselves against unreason, not only to arrive at truth, but to access meaning? More than that, in an age of instant … Read the rest

Mathematician Lillian Lieber on Infinity, Art, Science, the Meaning of Freedom, and What It Takes to Be a Finite But Complete Human Being

Mathematics and poetry converge in an ode to the “sweet reasonableness” at the heart of a psychologically balanced character.


Mathematician Lillian Lieber on Infinity, Art, Science, the Meaning of Freedom, and What It Takes to Be a Finite But Complete Human Being

“We’re all intrinsically of the same substance,” astrophysicist Janna Levin wrote in her exquisite inquiry into whether the universe is infinite or finite. “The fabric of the universe is just a coherent weave from the same threads that make our bodies. How much more absurd it becomes to believe that the universe, space and time could possibly be infinite when all of us are finite.” How, then, do we set aside this instinctual absurdity in order to grapple with the concept of infinity, which pushes our creaturely powers of comprehension past their limit so violently?

That’s what the mathematician and writer Lillian R. Lieber (July 26, … Read the rest