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Prufrock: BookTubing, the Mediterranean in the English Imagination, and Learning French

I’m gonna make you a promise. I swear on my two German short-haired pointers and my left hand that I will never start a “BookTube” channel on YouTube. Read about the phenomenon in the New York Times. If you’re feeling brave, check out a fewpopularchannels.

A 1956 Ernest Hemingway story will be published for the first time in the summer issue of The Strand Magazine: “It may sound like many other Ernest Hemingway stories – with themes of Paris, wartime, battle talk over a bottle of wine – but A Room on the Garden Side, a story written by the American novelist in 1956, is set to be published for the first time. Not seen by many beyond scholars and academics over the last six decades, the story takes place in Paris’s Ritz hotel and is narrated by a character called Robert, who shares the author’s own nickname, Papa.”

Constantin Brancusi’s ascetic sculptures: “For years, Brancusi made hardly enough money to eat. In 1926, a version of one of his most extraordinary subjects, Bird in Space, was famously held up at the US border because customs officials didn’t think it was art. Sometimes, he even baffled his own cohort. Picasso (or perhaps Matisse) is said to have likened Brancusi’s 1916 Princess X, a glistening bronze torso of Princess Marie Bonaparte, to a large phallus. Yet, by the time of his death in 1957, the increasingly reclusive Romanian was regarded as one of the century’s greatest sculptors.”

The myth of the Mediterranean and how it shaped the British imagination: “‘O for a beaker full of the warm South’, wrote Keats in ‘Ode to a Nightingale’. Pale, spectre thin and coughing up blood, Keats left London in September 1820 for Italy, where five months later he died, his lungs two shrivelled balloons. It’s hard to understand how a set of dank, cramped rooms by the Spanish Steps was believed to be better for consumption than the wide open skies of Hampstead Heath, but such was the myth of the Mediterranean.”

Revisiting Hollywood’s Cold War blacklist: “Ayn Rand was a blacklist truther. The novelist and screenwriter had been a friendly witness during the House Committee on Un-American Activities’ 1947 hearings on Hollywood subversion—the probe that prompted the studios to announce that they would not hire Communists. But when she was asked about her testimony two decades later, she claimed that the blacklist was a myth. ‘I do not know of any red blacklisted in Hollywood,’ Rand told a Boston audience in 1967. ‘I do know, if the newspaper stories can be trusted, that many of those ‘blacklisted’ people…were working in Hollywood thereafter under assumed names.’ The real victims, she insisted, were the hearings’ friendly witnesses. ‘You talk about the blacklisting of reds. I don’t know of one leftist who has suffered for his views, and conversely, I don’t know of one pro-capitalist who in one form or another did not have to suffer for his views.’ This was misleading, to put it mildly. The blacklist really did exist. It was an organized effort to remove people from the movie industry for their political opinions, and the federal government played a major role in launching it…On the other hand, it is true that some of the friendly witnesses of ‘47 fared pretty badly.”

On learning French: “Students of the English language who come to the United States must prepare themselves for just how badly Americans have debased its words: great, awesome, and even perfect, to name just three, now carry no particular connotation there but of a vague, undifferentiated, and often surprisingly mild positivity. (The list of what Collins says she ‘loves’ runs to include ‘the woman who gives me extra guacamole at Chipotle, hydrangeas, podcasts, clean sheets.’) English speakers, write Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoît Nadeau in The Bonjour Effect: The Secret Codes of French Conversation Revealed (2016), ‘think of their language as “open,” “flexible,” and “accommodating.” The French story is exactly the opposite. In French minds, their language is a particularly complex and nuanced tongue with no gray zones and little, if any, à peu près (approximation). Words are right or words are wrong. Every word has a precise meaning distinguishing it from other words.’”

Essay of the Day:

In Aeon, Nicholas Tampio writes against “screen-based learning.” Children learn best, he argues, when “their bodies are engaged in the living world”:

“Many adults appreciate the power of computers and the internet, and think that children should have access to them as soon as possible. Yet screen learning displaces other, more tactile ways to discover the world. Human beings learn with their eyes, yes, but also their ears, nose, mouth, skin, heart, hands, feet. The more time kids spend on computers, the less time they have to go on field trips, build model airplanes, have recess, hold a book in their hands, or talk with teachers and friends. In the 21st century, schools should not get with the times, as it were, and place children on computers for even more of their days. Instead, schools should provide children with rich experiences that engage their entire bodies.”

Read the rest.

Photos: Piles of bikes in China

Poem: Mark Wagenaar, “The Book of Vigils”

This content was originally published here.

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