Thursday, April 24, 2014

Theme: Language

  • I want to say a number of different sorts of thing about Blood Meridian, but I think it will be true to the way Cormac McCarthy himself approached the novel in its creation to move out from the most elementary constituents. Let's start with apostrophes. Read more
  • It isn’t Salter’s language alone that numbers him among the masters, but it is what strikes you first. From Light Years of 1975: ‘On the stands in nearby orchards were hard, yellow apples filled with powerful juice. They exploded against the teeth, they spat white flecks like arguments.’ From the story ‘Am Strande von Tanger’, on the death of a bird: ‘A heart no bigger than an orange seed has ceased to beat.’ Read more
  • William Pope.L is famous for (among other things) carrying a business card that identifies him as “The Friendliest Black Artist in America.” It’s a clever gag because it makes itself true, in a way, every time it draws people closer. The card must be especially useful when Pope.L does business with people who dread Black men or Black artists. But the gag here is always already the second trope Pope.L has thrown at us. Read more
  • I have just now fallen upon a darling literary curiosity. It is a little book, a manuscript compilation, and the compiler sent it to me with the request that I say whether I think it ought to be published or not. I said, Yes; but as I slowly grow wise I briskly grow cautious; and so, now that the publication is imminent, it has seemed to me that I should feel more comfortable if I could divide up this responsibility with the public by adding them to the court.Read more
  • When it happens I feel as if I have stepped into a Far Side cartoon. I am a magazine editor, and the galley of an article will come back from a proofreader with a low-frequency word circled and this comment in the margin: “Does this word even exist?” or “Is this a real word?” Read more
  • There is a trite and obvious thing to say about Iceland, and that is that it looks like the moon. Descending into the Keflavik lava fields the other day, on an Icelandair flight from Paris, I was permitted to feel annoyed and a bit superior when I overheard the virgin French tourists behind me exclaiming as they gawked at the land below: Mais il n'y a rien là! By 'nothing' I thought perhaps they had meant 'no Michelin stars', but then one of them added, as if on cue: C'est comme la lune!Read more
  • My adventure in Spanish started a couple of years ago with a promise I threw out to the audience at the Universidad de Cartagena. Feeling elated that so many students had come to my talk, I vowed — via the interpreter — that the next time I came to Colombia, I would speak to them in Spanish.Read more
  • Creators of electronic literature are progressing toward a more pervasive employment of the “ludic” — of the spirit of play inhabiting not just the writing, and not just the programming, but both in an elaborate, symbiotic combination. The tradition of “ludic” writing is well-rehearsed in criticism of electronic literature, for example in the magisterial anthology The New Media Reader, edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort.Read more
  • Last week, the Labour leader Ed Miliband made a much-hyped speech about ‘cultural integration’. He faced the usual problem: how to placate that section of Labour’s traditional, white working class constituency which opposes immigration, without at the same time alienating minorities and the anti-racist Left. And he reached for what has recently become the usual solution: restating that least contentious of propositions about ‘integration’, that everyone in Britain should speak English.Read more
  • Johann Schleyer was a German priest whose irrational passion for umlauts may have been his undoing. During one sleepless night in 1879, he felt a Divine presence telling him to create a universal language. The result was Volapük. It was designed to be easy to learn, with a system of simple roots derived from European languages, and regular affixes which attached to the roots to make new words. Read more
  • The Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard did not mince her words earlier this month when she said of the opposition leader Tony Abbott: “if he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn’t need a motion in the House of Representatives, he needs a mirror”. But even as her rant was going viral, its target and his supporters were complaining about Gillard’s language. Read more
  • One modern incarnation of the debate between nominalism and realism is to be found in philosophical arguments about sets. There are two ways of characterizing a set: intensionally, through description (e.g. the set of all inhabitants of London, to use an example of Russell's), and extensionally, which is just a list of the members of the set.Read more
  • When it comes to texts in foreign languages, I find the closest reading I can give them is by translating them into my native idiom. Texts in English can't be translated any further, but I can at least transcribe them: already a sort of translatio, a bringing-over from page to screen. There are few authors who inspire me to undertake such a close reading. I've acknowledged before that James Agee is one of them. Joan Didion is another.Read more
  • Uso

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