Berfrois

Clubbing

Clubbing

The Literary Club, known simply as “The Club,” was established in early 1764 after the portrait painter Joshua Reynolds became worried about his friend Samuel Johnson...

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Party On, Will

Party On, Will

by William Flesch Here’s a song by John Ashbery, or maybe a poem about song, or both, entitled “Song”: The song tells us of our old way of living, Of life in former times. Fragrance of florals, How things merely ended when they ended, Of beginning again into a...

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Rolls, Albert on Pynchon, Thomas

Rolls, Albert on Pynchon, Thomas

Consider, for example, the Pynchon anecdotes told by the television producer Deane Rink—who attended Cornell a few years after Pynchon and studied creative writing under Walter Slatoff, with whom Pynchon had also studied. Rink tells his stories as part of an early Web exercise in which he sent emails...

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Jenny Diski on night and more

Jenny Diski on night and more

On the subject of death I’m inclined to turn to my two favourite writers. Vladimir Nabokov begins Speak Memory, an autobiography of sorts, with the kind of banality any reader of his knows better than to get cosy with: ‘The cradle rocks above an abyss and common sense tells...

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Gorky on Chekhov

Gorky on Chekhov

Portrait of Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, Osip Braz, 1898 by Maxim Gorky Once he invited me to the village Kout-chouk-Koy where he had a tiny strip of land and a white, two-storied house. There, while showing me his “estate,” he began to speak with animation: “If I had plenty of...

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‘The world is turning into text’

‘The world is turning into text’

by Gregory Jusdanis Who me, listen to audio books? That was my attitude until recently, a prejudice of my profession that literature is better read than heard. But on a solo road trip this summer I took along the ten-disk set of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn...

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Theodore Ziolkowski: Conspiracy!

Theodore Ziolkowski: Conspiracy!

Various explanations have been offered for the obsession with conspiracy. C. G. Jung theorized that our sense of individuality is enhanced by the possession of a secret which the individual is pledged to guard, and that the earliest evidences of social structure reveal the craving for secret organizations. If...

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Jenny Diski and the Vast Leaning Book Towers

Jenny Diski and the Vast Leaning Book Towers

The Poet, who made Chairman Mao’s red-braised pork for supper last night, so I am not entitled to complain about anything, has a dark side. Before he was an academic he was a book dealer. He gave up book dealing but not the books. We live in a terraced...

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Virginia Woolf: Is Biography an Art?

Virginia Woolf: Is Biography an Art?

Vanitas still life with skull, books, prints and paintings by Rembrandt and Jan Lievens, with a reflection of the painter at work, Simon Luttichuijs, 1635 – 1640 by Virginia Woolf I. The art of biography, we say — but at once go on to ask, is biography an art?...

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“Übersetzung” and “Übersetzen”

“Übersetzung” and “Übersetzen”

The German dramatist Gerhart Hauptmann (1862-1946) wrote his first drama Vor Sonnenaufgang at the age of 27. Hauptmann, though living in the small town of Erkner, a couple of miles southeast from Berlin, was in lively exchange with the newly established Berliner naturalistic group “Durch” (Engl.: “Through” or “By”)....

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Is ‘Things Fall Apart’ an exemplar of literary existentialism?

Is ‘Things Fall Apart’ an exemplar of literary existentialism?

Readers of Things Fall Apart will recall the moment in the penultimate chapter of the novel when the gathering of the people of Umuofia is rudely interrupted by messengers from the white man. The messengers are confronted by Okonkwo, who happens to have taken a position at the very...

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Paige Cohen on editing EJ Koh’s debut novel

Paige Cohen on editing EJ Koh’s debut novel

Butterfly Man (Red), Arthur Boyd, 1970 by Paige Cohen I first heard EJ Koh read around one year ago at The Strand Bookstore in New York City. A year ago, we were both still MFA students living on opposite ends of Manhattan, myself a fiction candidate at The New...

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The Dutch in Java

The Dutch in Java

‘Willemskerke, Surabaya’. From Java, Sumatra and Other Islands of The Dutch East Indies by A. Cabaton, 1911 by Jenny Watson The Dutch colonial novel The Hidden Force by the fin de siècle author Louis Couperus is regarded as one of the most significant works of Dutch colonial literature. Despite...

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Andrea Brady: Food & Play

Andrea Brady: Food & Play

I began writing Mutability, a series of poetic and prose ‘scripts for infancy’, during my pregnancy and in the year following the birth of my first child, Ayla. I started not knowing what I was doing, as a parent or a writer. It was a good place to start....

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Shakespeare’s Sphere of Humanity

Shakespeare’s Sphere of Humanity

Taking a turn the other day in the Abbey, I was struck with the affected attitude of a figure, which I do not remember to have seen before, and which upon examination proved to be a whole-length of the celebrated Mr. Garrick. Though I would not go so far...

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Really?

Really?

Thomas Pynchon’s latest novel, Bleeding Edge, the third Pynchon has published since 2006, will likely be received as one of his lighter offerings. The plot follows the now unlicensed fraud investigator Maxine Tarnow as she looks into the dealings of hashslingrz, the dotcom run by Gabriel Ice, the novel’s...

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Pynchon Lives Here

Pynchon Lives Here

From Vulture: In select company, he’s intensely social and charismatic, and, in spite of those famously shaming Bugs Bunny teeth, he was rarely without a girlfriend for the 30 years he spent wandering and couch-surfing before getting married in 1990. Today, he’s a yuppie—self-confessed, if you read his new...

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‘Open up MS Word a lot’

‘Open up MS Word a lot’

The Acquired Inability to Escape, Damien Hirst, 1991 From The Outlet: 1. After you move back home to work on your novel, slump into a depression. Feel like nothing really matters. Open up MS Word a lot but don’t type much. Make a video for one of the two stories...

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