Grad School, 2

"Getting a literature Ph.D. will turn you into an emotional trainwreck, not a professor", dice Rebecca Schuman. E continua, "Who wouldn’t want a job where you only have to work five hours a week, you get summers off, your whole job is reading and talking about books, and you can never be fired? Such is the enviable life of the tenured college literature professor, and all you have to do to get it is earn a Ph.D. So perhaps you, literature lover, are considering pursuing this path.
Well, what if I told you that by “five hours” I mean “80 hours,” and by “summers off” I mean “two months of unpaid research sequestration and curriculum planning”? What if you’ll never have time to read books, and when you talk about them, you’ll mostly be using made-up words like “deterritorialization” and “Othering” slate.


Grad School, 1

Last week, one of my college friends, who now manages vast sums at a hedge fund, visited me. He’s the most rational person I know, so I asked him how he would go about deciding whether to go to grad school in a discipline like English or comparative literature. He dealt immediately with the sample bias problem by turning toward statistics. His first step, he said, would be to ignore the stories of individual grad students, both good and bad.  ... Instead, he said, he would focus on the “base rates”: that is, on the numbers that give you a broad statistical picture of outcomes from graduate school in the humanities. What percentage of graduate students end up with tenure? (About one in four.) How much more unhappy are graduate students than other people? (About fifty-four per cent of graduate students report feeling so depressed they have “a hard time functioning,” as opposed to ten per cent of the general population.) To make a rational decision, he told me, you have to see the big picture, because your experience is likely to be typical, rather than exceptional. “If you take a broader view of the profession,” he told me, “it seems like a terrible idea to go to graduate school.”
... And then there’s the fact that graduate school, no matter how bad an idea it might be in the long term, is almost always fulfilling and worthwhile in the short term. As our conversation continued, my friend was struck by this. “How many people get paid to read what they want to read,” he asked, “and study what they want to study?” He paused. ”If I got into a really good program, I would probably go.” Joshua Rothman, newyorker.



Stephen Fried, professore di giornalismo alla Columbia, si scusa di aver inventato, vent'anni fa, il termine "fashionista".
"Twenty years ago, I apparently changed language forever. I published a book that unleashed upon an unsuspecting public a single word of terrifying power and controversy. That word is "fashionista."
I suppose I should apologize to all users of language for my crime against nomenclature. I could also apologize to my wife, a writer and my editor, who lobbied loudly against the word when I invented it—and later came to believe that if we had only copyrighted it, we'd be fabulously wealthy by now. (An English major, she also did a spit-take when we learned my little word was being added to the Oxford English Dictionary.)
The love/hate people have for fashionista was best captured by well-known linguista author Ben Yagoda, who called me "Stephen Frankenstein" for creating it and the "storm it of -istas that has followed." theatlantic.


At the mid-point of the path through life

E' uscita una nuova traduzione di Dante. Ma... mi lascia piuttosto perplessa. 

At the mid-point of the path through life,
I found
Myself lost in a wood so dark, the way
Ahead was blotted out. The keening
I still make shows how hard it is to say
How harsh and bitter that place felt to
me. . . .

Il  traduttore è Clive James, un poeta australiano. La casa editrice Liveright Publishing. nytbr.



Tre nuovi libri su Chicago: The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream, di Thomas Dyja (Penguin Press); Golden: How Rod Blagojevich Talked Himself OOut of the Governor's Office and Into Prison, di Jeff Coen e John Chase (Chicago Review Press), e You Were Never in Chicago, di Neil Steinberg (The University of Chicago Press). nytbr.


The American Folk Art Museum

The only surprising thing about the Museum of Modern Art’s long-anticipated announcement that it will demolish Tod Williams and Billie Tsien’s Museum of American Folk Art building of 1997–2001, an architectural gem that abuts the MoMA campus on Manhattan’s West 53rd Street, is that this deplorable decision took so long to occur. ...
The tragic turn of events on 53rd Street is nothing less than cultural vandalism, made more odious because it will be carried out by a presumed institutional guardian of high culture and contemporary design. As MoMA grows and grows and builds and builds, the destruction of this architectural landmark may someday be forgotten by the general public; but for those who care about the long view of art, this needless desecration will remain a permanent blot on the reputation of those responsible for it. nybooks.


Le lettere di Willa Cather

This month, two Willa Cather experts, Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout, are publishing the seven-hundred-page “Selected Letters of Willa Cather.” For Cather scholars, or even just fans, this is a big event, because access to Cather’s correspondence has not been easy. She burned quite a few of her letters, and in her will she forbade publication of any that remained. newyorker.

The Selected Letters of Willa Cather è uscito il 16 aprile presso Knopf. Ha 752 pagine e costa 23, 75 dollari


Child Star

Il 23 aprile Shirley Temple compirà 85 anni. Bisognerebbe ristampare la sua autobiografia, Child Star, scritta 25 anni fa e ora fuori stampa (su Amazon ce n'è rimasta qualche copia, dai 100 dollari in su). Di essa Matt Weinstock scrive, "Celebrity autobiography has been a denigrated genre since at least 1982 (when Orson Welles and Gore Vidal spent most of the year poring over Rudy Vallee’s memoir “like a pair of Talmudic scholars” ). But “Child Star”—published twenty-five years ago, and lamentably out of print—doesn’t register as an autobiography so much as a little-girl classic that ought to be shelved alongside “Anne of Green Gables,” “Little Women,” and Laura Ingalls Wilder. It’s a bildungsroman scaled to the intellectual limitations of a child, a book that takes six months to read and becomes part of your life". newyorker.


Elogio dei ritratti

Ritratti letterari. Un genere in disuso, a parte sul New Yorker. Dwight Garner propone tre vecchie raccolte gustose: 
Kenneth Tynan’s “The Sound of Two Hands Clapping” (1975), is an assortment of the kind of critical profiles that no one really writes anymore. My god, these pieces are resonant. Tynan’s epic profile of Roman Polanski has long been a particular favorite.
Rex Reed’s “People are Crazy Here” (1974). The long profile of an aging Tennessee Williams in “People are Crazy Here” is worth the price of admission alone.
Michael Lydon’s “Rock Folk: Portraits from the Rock ‘n’ Roll Pantheon” (1971), is a lost classic, a rolling series of profiles that crank down the windows in your mind. nyt.


Appointment in Samarra

Originally published in 1934, John O’Hara’s Appointment in Samarra is still the only American novel I know that begins with a scene of a married couple—Luther and Irma Fliegler—having sex and on Christmas morning, no less. Later in the book, another married couple—Julian English, the novel’s protagonist, and his wife, Caroline—make love in the middle of Christmas afternoon. Julian has been dispatched on a disagreeable errand, and Caroline rewards him by waiting in their bedroom in a black lace negligee she calls her “whoring gown.” About their lovemaking, the novel says, “she was as passionate and as curious, as experimental and joyful as ever he was.” Charles McGrath su un vecchio classico ripubblicato da Penguin e da noi inedito. nybooks.


Guida all'uso della virgola

Su McSweeney's una scherzosa guida all'uso della virgola in 11 punti.
1. If nothing else, one ought to know how to treat a comma. Abandonment or abuse of the comma muddles discourse, and this lack of respect is akin to neglect, to a lack of appreciation, to an unreasonable rejection of the very foundation of all worthy human interactions. ... mcsweeney's.


Il nuovo romanzo di E. L. Doctorow

E. L. Doctorow ... has a work coming in early 2014, his publisher, Random House, said on Wednesday. Mr. Doctorow, best known for works of historical fiction like “World’s Fair,” which won the National Book Award for fiction, appears to be taking a new tack in the novel, “Andrew’s Brain.” In a news release Kate Medina, his editor, said: “It’s an of-the-moment novel whose main character, speaking from an unknown place and to an unknown interlocutor, unfurls his life, his loves and the circumstances that have led him to commit a mysterious act.” nyt.


I musical di Broadway

Jack Viertel, the artistic director of New York City Center Encores!, has signed a deal with Farrar, Straus & Giroux to write a book about the structure and inner workings of Broadway musicals and why some shows succeed and others falter, the publisher and Mr. Viertel said this week. The book, tentatively titled: “The Secret Life of the Broadway Musical: How Broadway Shows are Built,” is scheduled for publication in winter 2016.
Mr. Viertel, whose Encores! series has become a popular staple of New York theater, featuring rarely heard works by major composers and lyricists backed by sizable orchestras and Broadway-caliber casts, said he will draw on years of classes he has taught to musical theater students at New York University. nyt.


Tradurre Leopardi

Un bell'articolo di Tim Parks su come tradurre lo Zibaldone di Leopardi.
"Thinking aloud, as he seeks to turn intuition and reflection into both a history of the human psyche and a coherent but very private philosophy of nihilism (with his own shorthand terms, that sometimes don’t quite mean what standard usage would suppose them to mean), he latches on to any syntax that comes his way to keep the argument moving forward. Some sentences are monstrously long and bizarrely assembled, shifting from formal structures to the most flexible use of apposition, juxtaposition, inference, and implication. The one other translation of an “old” text I have done, Machiavelli’s The Prince, was a picnic by comparison. Do I keep the long sentences, then, or break them up? Do I make the book more comprehensible for English readers than it is for present-day Italian readers (for whom footnotes giving a modern Italian paraphrase are often provided)" nybooks.


For Passover

Edgar M. Bronfman, The Bronfman Haggadah (Rizzoli). Bronfman said that he wrote his version of the Haggadah, the text that guides the Passover meal while telling the story of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt, with children in mind. “I was thinking that their ears would be open that night if you tried to gently teach them what Judaism is all about,” he said in a short speech. “I don’t believe in God,” he said later. “I do believe in Judaism. I believe in ethics, morals. Our gifts to humanity are enormous. I remind everybody that the Sabbath was the Jewish gift to civilization.” newyorker.