Valutare gli insegnanti

Un articolo interessante sull'accanimento - che rasenta il fanatismo - con cui si valutano gli insegnanti negli USA. In questo caso i soggetti della ricerca non sono i docenti universitari, ma gli insegnanti della scuola primaria e secondaria. "Last week, the New York State Education Department and the teachers’ unions reached an agreement to allow the state to use student test scores to evaluate teachers. ... New York's education officials are obsessed with test scores. The state wants to find and fire the teachers who aren’t able to produce higher test scores year after year. But most testing experts believe that the methods for calculating teachers’ assumed “value-added” qualities—that is, their abilities to produce higher test scores year after year—are inaccurate, unstable, and unreliable. ... Of course, teachers should be evaluated. They should be evaluated by experienced principals and peers. No incompetent teacher should be allowed to remain in the classroom. Those who can’t teach and can’t improve should be fired. But the current frenzy of blaming teachers for low scores smacks of a witch-hunt, the search for a scapegoat, someone to blame for a faltering economy, for the growing levels of poverty, for widening income inequality". Diane Ravitch su nybook.


The Diagram Prize

Il Diagram Prize premia il titolo più bizzarro. Ecco qualche esempio, dalla shortlist di quest'anno: Cooking with Poo, The Mushroom in Christian Art, The Great Singapore Penis Panic: And the Future of American Mass Hysteria. thebookseller


The Iliad by Homer

Ho trovato molto bello - appassionato, appassionante, colto - l'articolo di Edward Luttwak sul perché continuaiamo a leggere l'Iliade (più che l'Odissea). Ecco alcune delle ragioni che Luttwak propone: "One reason, obviously, is that had Homer existed (in spite of his deconstruction by Wolf, and in spite of his substitution by Parry/Lord), he would have been the star pupil of any creative writing course. They teach a variety of tricks and techniques for different kinds of writing, but Homer uses absolutely all of them: the Iliad begins in media res with the action underway, and instead of a tiresome summary of the first nine years of the war, necessary context is supplied by scattered flashbacks ... On top of that, there are the production values, as Hollywood calls them: lots of special effects ranging from the habitual falling-star incandescence of the gods to the extraordinary revolt of the river god Scamander against Achilles ... it offers a vision of uncompromised human dignity which was very rare indeed over much of human history ... Another reason for reading the Iliad is the fighting, although the battles do not even start until Book 4." lrb.


New Ways to Kill Your Mother

New Ways to Kill Your Mother: Writers and Their Families, di Colm Tóibín (Viking). In questa sua nuova raccolta di saggi Tóibín esamina la relazione di alcuni scrittori con i loro genitori. E anche la sua, con sua madre, "It mattered to her [his mother] that she could have, or might have, been a writer, and perhaps it mattered to me more than I fully understood. She watched my books appear with considerable interest, and wrote me an oddly formal letter about the style of each one, but she was, I knew, also uneasy about my novels. She found them too slow and sad and oddly personal. She was careful not to say too much about this, except once when she felt that I had described her and things which had happened to her too obviously and too openly. That time she said that she might indeed soon write her own book. She made a book sound like a weapon. Perhaps a book is a weapon; perhaps an unwritten book is an even more powerful weapon than one which has been published. It has a way of filling the air with its menace or its promise, the sweet art of what might have been. guardian.


To enchain syllables, and to lash the wind

Britain's fascination with its changing language is renowned. Unlike our neighbours on the mainland of Europe, we have resisted creating an academy to legislate over proper English. We each have our linguistic bugbear, but few of us would want to freeze our mother tongue. Even Dr Johnson realised that his hope of keeping pure the English he adored was a futile proposition: "To enchain syllables, and to lash the wind, are equally the undertakings of pride."
Così comincia l'articolo di Susie Dent che cerca di spiegare preché i britannici siano tanto affascinati dalla loro lingua. Susie Dent è una nota linguista, che tra l'altro è l'esperta l'esperta del gioco di parole televisivo Countdown di Channel 4. independent.


La casa di Eudora Welty

Sono sempre molto incuriosita dalle case, anche da quelle degli scrittori. La casa di Eudora Welty, a Jackson in Mississippi, è descritta da Margaret Eby sulla Paris Review. "Miss Eudora, as native Jacksonites affectionately call her, was a fixture in the capital city of Mississippi from her childhood until her death in 2001. ... Welty's house, a Tudor-style revival tucked into a thicket of pines, is almost unbearably welcoming. Visiting feels like an intrusion on her privacy. ... Piles of books cram into shelves in almost every room and teeter in piles on most surfaces: dictionaries, collections of Greek myths, novels by Wodehouse, Thurber, O’Connor, and Pritchett. Her nieces used to complain that when they visited Eudora, they had to move a stack of books just to sit down". parisreview.


Going Solo

Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone (Penguin Press), di Eric Klinenberg propone un'analisi molto interessante della società attuale. Ecco quel che ne dice David Brooks, "... we have gone from a society that protected people from their frailties to a society that allows people to maximize their talents. The old settled social structures were stifling to many creative and dynamic people (and in those days discrimination stifled people even more). But people who were depressed, disorganized and disadvantaged were able to lead lives enmeshed in supportive relationships. Today, the fast flexible and diverse networks allow the ambitious and the gifted to surf through amazing possibilities. They are able to construct richer, more varied lives. They are able to enjoy interesting information-age workplaces and then go home and find serenity in a one-bedroom apartment. ... These trends are not going to reverse themselves. So maybe it's time to acknowledge a core reality: People with skills can really thrive in this tenuous, networked society. People without those advantages would probably be better off if we could build new versions of the settled, stable and thick arrangements we’ve left behind. nyt.


Tim Parks on E-books

Tim Parks è un sostenitore degli e-books e fornisce delle ragioni molto sensate con la sua consueta eloquenza. Ma non mi convince del tutto, non saprei dire perché. Comunque ecco la fine del suo articolo pro-e-books, "The e-book, by eliminating all variations in the appearance and weight of the material object we hold in our hand and by discouraging anything but our focus on where we are in the sequence of words (the page once read disappears, the page to come has yet to appear) would seem to bring us closer than the paper book to the essence of the literary experience. Certainly it offers a more austere, direct engagement with the words appearing before us and disappearing behind us than the traditional paper book offers, giving no fetishistic gratification as we cover our walls with famous names. It is as if one had been freed from everything extraneous and distracting surrounding the text to focus on the pleasure of the words themselves. In this sense the passage from paper to e-book is not unlike the moment when we passed from illustrated children’s books to the adult version of the page that is only text. This is a medium for grown-ups.
Add to that the e-book's ease of transport, its international vocation (could the Iron Curtain have kept out e-books?), its indestructibility (you can't burn e-books), its promise that all books will be able to remain forever in print and what is more available at reasonable prices, and it becomes harder and harder to see why the literati are not giving the phenomenon a more generous welcome. nybooks.


Tutto il mondo è paese

On Feb. 1, a funny thing happened in a U.S. district court in Manhattan: An intern complained in public.
Xuedan Wang, a 28-year-old former intern at Harper’s Bazaar, filed a lawsuit against the Hearst Corp., Harper’s parent company, for failing to pay minimum and overtime wages during her unpaid internship. Wang, who goes by Diana, spent August through December 2011 at the magazine, coordinating fashion sample deliveries, filing expense reports, helping with photo shoots, and supervising other interns. Her typical 40-hour workweek sometimes ran to 55 hours. ... Also, there are surprisingly few complaints by interns, because most don’t wish to bite the hand that may feed them someday. “Unpaid interns are usually too scared to speak out … because they are frightened it will hurt their chances of finding future jobs in their industry,” said Adam Klein, another one of Wang’s lawyers. slate.


Fact-Checking, Again

Jim Fingal and John D'Agata
Di nuovo sul libro di D'Agata e Fingal. Dan Kois, su Slate, si schiera dalla parte di Fingal, il fact-checker. Ma anche dalla parte della verità dei fatti, contro una supposta libertà artistica. Il linguaggio di tutti è molto colorito. "In my reading, I came to view Fingal as the hero of the book, desperately trying to protect the truth from a writer who didn't simply disregard accuracy but was openly contemptuous of it. Fingal looks the part of hero - he's big and muscular, with broad shoulders, a beard, and a deeply serious expression. Then a Believer intern, he's now a software designer in Massachusetts but still has strong feelings about the role of accuracy in writing. 'A writer's presenting these things as facts,' he said. 'I, the hypothetical reader, am putting my trust in him to give me the straight dope. What gives him the right to introduce bullshit as fact?'
D'Agata's response, when he heard Fingal's question? 'It’s called art, dickhead.'" slate.


Amanda Knox e gli editori

Gli editori si stanno chiedendo se le memorie sulla sua esperienza in carcere in Italia che Amanda Knox sta scrivendo possano piacere o no: "The surge of media attention that will surely accompany the book's release - normally good for publishers - comes with risks. To some members of the public, Ms. Knox was an innocent abroad who was imprisoned for a crime she did not commit. To others, she is a cunning femme fatale who got away with murder.
And that brings some difficult questions: do book-buying Americans see Ms. Knox as a sympathetic figure? And if the book commands a seven-figure advance, as is widely expected, will it be worth it" nyt.


William Carlos Williams

Vi consiglio di leggere questo bell'articolo su William Carlos Williams di Adam Kirsch. "If you look at the lingua franca of American poetry today - a colloquial free verse focused on visual description and meaningful anecdote - it seems clear that Williams is the twentieth-century poet who has done most to influence our very conception of what poetry should do, and how much it does not need to do.Why is it, then, that almost fifty years after his death, the reputation of William Carlos Williams still seems to be haunted by a ghost of uncertainty?" nybooks.



Hannah Goldfield, fact-checker al New Yorker, commenta un libro uscito recentemente, The Lifespan of a Fact, di John D'Agata e Jim Fingal (Norton), in cui D'Agata racconta le discussioni avute con il suo fact-checker, Fingal, per un articolo. "Much of the book's meta-text consists of Fingal's notes, which detail his careful, often interesting research. But D'Agata's responses are, rather than thoughtful and collaborative, hostile and delusional. He sees himself as an artist, not a reporter - even though he's written a reported story about something that very publicly happened in real life - and therefore completely exempt from the responsibility of fact-checking. 'Hi, Jim,' he writes, in the book's first e-mail excerpt. 'I think maybe there's some sort of miscommunication, because the' article,' as you call it, is fine. It shouldn't need a fact-checker…. I have taken some liberties … here and there, but none of them are harmful." newyorker.


The Modernist Journals Project

Una notizia che rallegrerà gli studiosi: le riviste americane che hanno pubblicato i primi testi modernisti sono state digitalizzate e sono ora disponibili in pdf, grazie a un progetto congiunto di Brown University e The University of Tulsa, The Modernist Journals Project.


Olive Oil

Tom Mueller, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil (Norton): un'indagine sulla produzione dell'olio d'oliva da leggere. Ecco quel che ne dice l'autore, "I'd been living in Italy for about ten years when I happened to see footage of olive farmers blockading the ports of Bari and Monopoli, in southern Puglia, with their tractors, in protest of what they said were imports of vegetable oils from elsewhere in the Mediterranean that were being illegally turned into olive oil by unscrupulous olive-oil producers and merchants. This caught my eye, and when I spoke with my editor at The New Yorker a short time later I suggested a story on olive oil. During the reporting for the story, I immersed myself in the subject, discovering a historic, cultural, religious, anthropological, and - yes - criminal depth to olive oil that seemed to deserve fuller treatment in a book". newyorker.


Dorothea Tanning

Qualche giorno fa è morta Dorothea Tanning, a 101 anni. Di solito era ricordata come moglie di Max Ernst, ma pare fosse un'artista più vigorosa del marito. Ed era anche una scrittrice e una poetessa di talento. Dan Chiasson parla dell'ultimo libro di poesie da lei scritto lo scorso autunno e che rivela una sensibilità molto particolare: "What struck me - besides the extraordinary fact of having the sensorium of a centenarian represented for almost the first time in history - was the nonchalance of her poems, their modesty. It wasn't as if Tanning had been dying all this time to say anything in particular; there was no triumph or despair; these poems dispensed no great wisdom or inspiration. They were rather, in a lovely and surprising way, emotional weather reports. Her great subject was the paradox of having run out of reinventions; everything she had made up to then, she knew, would be followed by other 'takes' and views. These poems were true to her impressions, her final impressions. We'll wait a long time for another book precisely like it. newyorker.


The Recognitions

Today marks the re-release of William Gaddis’s classics The Recognitions and J R, published in 1955 and 1975, respectively. Once described by Cynthia Ozick as “the most overlooked important work of the last several literary generations,” The Recognitions was a commercial flop when it first came out. ... Still, despite rapturous reviews and two National Book Awards, Gaddis never found a popular readership. The title of his 1998 New York Times obituary read as follows: "William Gaddis, 75, Innovative Author of Complex, Demanding Novels, Is Dead". bookforum. In Italia è stato tradotto da Mondadori nel 1967 con il titolo di Le perizie. Non mi pare sia ancora in commercio.


Intimate Photos of Allen Ginsberg

Gordon Ball spent 28 years taking candid photos of Beat legend Allen Ginsberg and his colorful circle of friends. The Howl scribe’s life is well documented in over one thousand images that Ball captured from 1969 - at Ginsberg’s Cherry Valley, New York farm that the photographer managed for a time - to the author’s funerals in New York City in 1997. flavorwire.
Sono belle, simpatiche, significative, nostalgiche. Di fianco Cherry Valley, New York Thanksgiving 1969. Da sinistra, in piedi: Julius Orlovsky, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gordon Ball, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Creeley. Davanti, seduti: Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovsky.


The Snowy Day

A proposito di neve... The Snowy Day è il titolo di un bel libretto per bambini di Ezra Jack Keats (Viking). E' uscito 50 anni fa ed è un libro importante, perché è stato uno dei primi a rappresentare un bambino africano-americano, senza metterlo in caricatura. "One morning many years ago, a little boy in Brooklyn named Peter woke up to an amazing sight: fresh snow. Peter is the hero of the classic children's book by Ezra Jack Keats, The Snowy Day, which turns 50 this year. Peter has a red snowsuit, a stick just right for knocking snow off of trees, and a snowball in his pocket. And, though this is never mentioned in the text, Peter is African-American.
'It wasn't important. It wasn't the point,' Deborah Pope tells. ... Pope is the executive director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation. 'The point is that this is a beautiful book about a child's encounter with snow, and the wonder of it,' Pope says. Peter was among the first non-caricatured African-Americans to be featured in a major children's book. But Pope says Keats - who was white - wasn't necessarily trying to make a statement about race when he created Peter." npr.


Marilynne Robinson

E' una scrittrice che amo molto. Charles Petersen ne fa un ritratto interessante su Bookforum. "But who is Marilynne Robinson? Where does she come from? The answers may seem obvious. With the publication of Gilead (2004) and Home (2008), Robinson went from cult-style renown as the author of a single novel, Housekeeping (1980), and the writer of occasional polemics for Harper's and Salmagundi, to a household name—one of the best-known, and likely best-loved, writers in America. This recognition, however, has, if anything, obscured Robinson's origins. Her ardor for the Puritan and abolitionist traditions, expressed in her recent novels and essays, may make it seem like she must have been born fully formed from the exhumed forehead of John Winthrop or Theodore Weld. But Robinson, despite her years of teaching at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, is not a native of the Midwest—nor does she come from New England, the homeland of most of the classic writers and theologians to whom she continually refers. She was, rather, born and raised in northern Idaho, thousands of miles from the landscapes that loom largest in her writing now. bookforum.