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Archive: Literature

The frozen coachman

Æsthetics · Literature ·· More from May 2013
Catarina Dutilh Novaes’ item on literature and on what, thanks to her and to Helen de Cruz, I now know to call “moral self-licensing” brought to mind some sleuthing I did two months ago. This was in connection with teaching a bit of the “moral uplift through art” literature that Catarina and her commenters discuss. (The review article cited by Catarina, by the way, is available for free here. See also the abstracts at p81 of the program for 2011 meeting of the Association for Consumer Research — one area in which the theory will soon find application…)
The trail begins with William James, who in his Briefer Course on Psychology (1915) writes:
All Goods are disguised by the vulgarity of their concomitants, in this work-a-day world; but woe to him who can only recognize them when he thinks them in their pure and abstract form! The habit of excessive novel-reading and theatre-going will produce true monsters in this line. The weeping of the Russian lady over the fictitious personages in the play, while her coachman is freezing to death on his seat outside, is the sort of thing that everywhere happens on a less glaring scale (148).
For a long time — I don’t remember why — I thought that the unfortunate coachman was to be found somewhere in Tolstoy. Other people did too, including the critic Vincent Sheean, who places the coachman in St. Petersburg, and has the noble lady watching La dame aux camélias. For all I know, he may be right.
But the coachman has turned out to be an elusive character. I tracked him back to around 1700… After which I’ll return to James, and Catarina.
Source: The Idler 11 (1897) 703. Artist: John Schönberg.
The next earlier appearance I could find was not promising. We move back to 1897, to a volume of a periodical called the Idler. In a story by Fred Whishaw, a prolific author of adventure novels, Alexis Bogoliubov [i.e. Godslove], chief coachman to Baron Krilof, has seen his brother condemned to Siberia by the Baron, who is Head of Police; the Baron, moreover, had insisted on calling him twice to duty while his little daughter lay ill with a fever. The second time she died. Persuaded by some “nihilist” friends of his brother to assassinate the Baron, Alexis drives him to the theatre, planning to shoot him when he comes out. The Baron comes out, climbs into the coach, but Alexis does nothing. They ride home. Later, the Baron sends a servant to tell Alexis to take the coach and horses to the stable. But Alexis doesn’t answer: he is frozen stiff, and has been, says the doctor called to see him, for an hour. He was dead already before they left the theatre…
Next, a more light-hearted story from Blackwood’s (1867). In “The Eastern trip of two ochlophobists”, the first-person narrator writes:
When I was in Rome I remember being told that it had not been so cold for forty years, and the fact that Pss—i’s coachman had been frozen to death on the box while waiting at the opera for his mistress was adduced as a proof; on inquiries afterwards, I must own that it was satisfactorily shown that the coachman’s inability to stir proceeded mainly from drunkenness.
The coachman and his mistress (not master) have moved to Rome, and instead of being bent on assassination, the coachman has tied one on, and has gone “stiff” only in metaphor.
You will have noticed that these two tellings of the story are fictional. James’s anecdote is not. Our next stage yields a nonfictional frozen coachman, in Russia like James’s, not Rome.
On the 5th of December, during a cold spell of minus twenty [Celsius], one knew or heard — for it was expressly forbidden to speak of it — that Napoleon had stopped in the outskirts, at the gates of Vilna, had dined in his coach, chatted with the Duke of Bassano, even as his coachman died of the cold, and also that the Duke of Rocca Romana […] was so extravagant as to bring with him, in the same equipment as at Naples […] some delicate and charming horses, only to see them freeze to death at the end of the campaign (129).
This narrative has all the trappings of authenticity. It comes from the Réminiscences sur l’empereur Alexandre 1er et sur l’empereur Napoléon 1er (1862) by Sophie de Tisenhaus, countess of Choiseul-Gouffler, who was in Vilnius at the time (so I gather). The incident would have occurred in 1812.
Perhaps it did. Perhaps we have found the frozen coachman, the prototype of James’s. And yet a bit of doubt persists… In a work from 1842 — before Sophie de Tisenhaus’s, but after the incident she mentions — we find that frozen coachman were commonplace in old Russia.
It is incredible how much the poor coachmen, footmen, and postilions, are expected to endure. People will often go to the theatre or to a party, and leave their equipages in the street the whole evening, that they may be able to command their services at a moment’s notice. The coachman then finds it difficult to resist the inclination to sleep; and the little twelve-year-old postilions, not yet accustomed to watch till midnight, hang slumbering on their horses, or, winding the reins round their arms, slip down and lie cowering on the frozen snow. Many a poor coachman has thus lost his nose, or has had his hands and feet disabled, while his master was feasting his palate or his ears, or indulging a voluptuous sympathy for fictitious sorrow (Köhl, Russia, 1842 but probably published in German earlier).
In the Spectator of 1840 we find coachmen — and their passengers, in this somewhat more egalitarian society — freezing in Paris:
How the wretched coachmen manage to live at all in such weather as I have seen in Paris, is to me inconceivable; for even to the inside passengers the cold becomes to times so severe, that with all the contrivances they can think of—warm furs, hot-water bottles, great-coats, boat-cloaks, and shawls, they can scarcely go from one house to another without being frozen to death; a fate which actually befel two poor sentries, and an unfortunate donkey […] (1235).
Fifty years earlier, the grandfathers of some of those coachmen had already sat freezing at the behest of their masters.
The theatres and all places of public amusement are shut, when the cold is seventeen degrees of Reaumur. A custom of the Russian nobility and gentry makes this regulation absolutely necessary. Asiatic pomp prevails here, as much as at Isphan or Delhi, in defiance of ice and storms. They make their attendants wait with their carriages wherever they go, for one, or for ten hours, as it happens, let the cold be ever so violent. The miserable grins of those half frozen wretches, convince me that it is not their choice: the coachmen are sometimes frozen to death, upon their boxes (Sentimental and Mosaic Magazine (1792) 348).
We seem to be in the presence of a commonplace, a complex of received ideas concerning the cruelty of the nobility, the coldness of Russian (or Parisian) winters, and the love of liquor among the servant class. How nicely it fits together, and how suited to making various points. In Köhl, the topic is the endurance of the people; in the 1792 passage (excerpted from Andrew Swinton’s Travels, published, it seems, that same year), the topic is much the same; but in James the point of the anecdote shifts from the coachman to the lady, from exhibiting features of social class and climate to the indifference of people who have “indulged a voluptuous sympathy for fictitious sorrow” — to moral self-licensing, or experiences of art that enable it.
Our journey ends with a footnote on page 176 of Pierre Moricheau-Beaupré’s Effets et des propriétés du froid, avec un aperçu historique et médical sur la campagne de Russie (1817). The footnote cites (probably) the Commentaries by Gerard van Swieten on the Aphorisms of the celebrated physician Hermann Boerhaave (1668–1738). These were first published in the 1740s. Boerhaave, perhaps already by 1709, had made observations upon the brain of a “cocher mort de froid”…
My efforts to find the original passage in Boerhaave have proved fruitless. But I see no reason to doubt that Boerhaave really did dissect a frozen coachman’s brain. A death from whose telling no morals, it seems, were drawn.
Back to James: the Russian lady (a transposition back to Russia of the lady in Rome, who herself may be a calque of Napoleon or the theatre-loving nobility of Moscow or St. Petersburg) exemplifies, rather oddly, the woe that arises to those who recognize goods only in their “pure and abstract form”. The implication is that when we watch Lear holding Cordelia in his arms and lamenting her death what we behold is more abstract and pure than when we see, on screen, a man amid the wreckage of a tornado-ravaged town in Oklahoma holding his injured daughter in his arms.
I don’t think so. In fact I don’t think whatever differences do obtain between truth and fiction matter much in this context. The psychologists seem unconcerned by them. In the moral-licensing papers I looked at, the experimental setups often had people reading about fictitious or “what-if” cases and anticipating making decisions rather than actually making them. That the situations their subjects are asked to consider were not real seems not to matter.
The moral uplift — or the moral license — that the appreciation of narrative fictions is supposed to provide would not, then, be an effect they have qua fictions, but simply qua stories, and the relevant dimension would be not truth but plausibility. (A similar thought was suggested to me this spring while teaching Catherine Wilson’s “Grief and the poet”, Susan James’s “Fruitful imagining”, and Wilson’s reply, all in Brit. J. Aesthetics 53.1 (Jan 2013), esp. 118–119.) In particular the fable of the frozen coachman, even if it encloses a kernel of truth, owes its persuasive force rather to the complex of received ideas that it calls to mind and marshals on behalf of the various morals drawn from it.
Catarina writes that the “first and foremost commitment” of fiction is to “a ‘good story’, one that is engaging, where the pieces hold well together, where the characters go through interesting events […]” I would amend this by changing “fiction” to “narrative” (see also Nathan’s comment on Catarina’s post). Though the discussion began with the question whether literature is uplifting (or, as I would say, lends itself to uplifting interpretations), literature turns out to be something of a red herring.

LinkJune 4, 2013

British Council colludes with China’s censors

Literature · Society ·· More from February 2012
Jonathan Mirsky writes in the current New York Review concerning the actions of the organizers of the London Book Fair (16–18 April) in cooperating with the Chinese General Administration to exclude dissident writers, both those still in China and those who have been exiled, from their official presence at the Fair (“Bringing censors to the Book Fair”, NYRB 59.9, 24 May 2012).He is drawing on the work of Nick Cohen at the Observer and also perhaps of Richard Lea at the Guardian.
This is one of those cases where the statements of the people in charge suffice to exhibit their abjectness. In a press release of 21 March, Susie Nicklin of the British Council writes:
The authors taking part in the British Council Cultural programme are internationally recognised as the leading voices writing from China today. Mo Yan, the veteran writer, Han Dong and Li Er, both of whom missed ten years’ schooling during the Cultural Revolution, Annie Baobei who became an internet sensation at the age of 24, Sheng Keyi (published by Penguin China) who writes about new migrations and the metropolis – these authors are writing their best work in contemporary China.
As the British reading public is aware, the situation for writers in China is not the same as it is in the UK.[…]
There was no disagreement with the Chinese government about the final list of British Council writers who regularly appear on well-respected lists of the best novelists and poets in China. These writers live in China and write their books there; other writers have left. The British Council respects both groups and there will be plenty of opportunities for both sets of writers to put their views across in the UK.
“Not the same ”: to show how inadequate—not to say callous—that bland phrase is, I will mention just one case. Yu Jie, author of Wen Jiabao: China's Greatest Actor, after a long campaign of harassment by the state, was abducted and beaten until he was unconscious; his family was placed under house arrest, their phone and internet connections severed; eventually he decided to leave. He is now finishing a book on a fellow dissident, the Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, who has is serving an 11-year jail sentence for having urged an end to one-party government in China (Tania Branigan, “Chinese dissident who fled to US tells of beatings and harassment”, Guardian

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LinkMay 6, 2012

More of the same

Hogflume
Source: Jay Wood.
[From NewAPPS]. Eric Schliesser has recently mentioned a conference on self-plagiarism, inspired, apparently, by Bruno Frey’s republication of the same article in more than one venue. That act of self-plagiarism reminded me of the notion of “plagiat par anticipation”, which in its simplest form is the act of appropriating, without acknowledgment, the work of one’s successors. The notion was introduced by Francois Le Lionnais, one of the founders of Oulipo, in a flagrant plagiat par anticipation of Pierre Bayard’s book on the subject forty years later.
Gérard Genette somewhere (in Palimpsestes?) introduces the more elaborate notion of “auto-plagiat par anticipation”, which is to say the act of anticipating or drawing upon one’s own future works. So perhaps Bruno Frey was just making good his earlier acts of self-appropriation.
In a passage that I think Eric will appreciate, Aurélien Rouquet [pdf], who unfortunately has not managed a plagiat par anticipation of Bayard, and is therefore forced servilely to write about him, says:
La première thèse est celle d’une « histoire littéraire autonome ». Précisément, Bayard appelle « à séparer une fois pour toute l’histoire événementielle et l’histoire littéraire, et à admettre que les écrivains et les artistes relèvent en réalité d’une double chronologie » (p108). Prenant acte des similitudes que l’on ne manquera jamais de trouver entre écrivains éloignés dans le temps (du fait de l’existence du plagiat par anticipation), Bayard propose ainsi de narrer l’histoire littéraire sur la base de ces similitudes, plutôt que sur le fait que certains écrivains ont pu vivre à une même époque. Selon lui, il n’y aurait pas scandale à présenter Sophocle, qui a narré le mythe d’Œdipe en utilisant une technique tardivement utilisée au sein de la littérature policière (le meurtrier est l’enquêteur), au côté de Freud et d’écrivains du 20e siècle.
Translation: The first thesis is that of an “autonomous literary history”. Bayard calls for a “separation once and for all of event-history from literary history”, and for an “admission that literature and art are referred to a double chronology”. Taking note of the similarities one will never fail to find between authors far apart in time (on the basis of plagiarism by anticipation), Bayard proposes to narrate the history of literature on the basis of those similarities, rather than on the basis of the fact that certain writers happened to live in the same period. There would be no scandal in presenting Sophocles, who told the myth of Œdipus using a technique later employed in murder mysteries (the murderer is also the investigator), alongside Freud and other twentieth-century authors.
As Bayard knows, he has been plagiarized in advance by Borges, who wrote of a literary history in which Kafka, rather than being influenced by his precursors, creates them (“Kafka and his precursors”, in Other inquisitions).
Behind these jokes there can be discerned a serious issue for the historian. In the sixties it was discussed under the heading of “genesis and structure” (Piaget, Derrida), but I will use the more familiar terminology (for anglophone philosophers) of types and events. The historian, even in bare narrative, cannot merely order events by time; some principle of selection is needed on the basis of which some subset of “all” the events within some period (the object of an ideal, impossible, “total” history) is selected. Those events will be of a type which is itself perhaps limited in time and space (e.g. “Baroque”), but whose conditions of existence in time will differ from those of the events falling under it. Considered as instances of the type, the events stand in a timeless relation of similarity, and could be re-ordered without ceasing to stand in that relation. That is, of course, what Borges suggests: the “precursor” relation, insofar as it based upon similarity, is reversible.

LinkOctober 29, 2011

I stopped reading…

A result of reading
I was reading a poem of Ashbery. I stopped when I encountered the phrase ‘partial symmetry’. That phrase evoked, as an errant odor might, an image, or rather the skeletal trace of one, of my reading, long ago when I was studying music, a book on finite geometries. I recalled in particular the phrase ‘incomplete block design’, a mathematical object that indeed exhibits partial symmetry. The image and phrase could have set off a long train of reminiscence and reverie, but instead I began thinking about what the poem had done to me.
Suggestion
Modern criticism tends to set great store by evocativeness, allusiveness, multum in parvo. A poem ought to suggest more than it says. “Standing upon a peak in Darien”—the last line of Keats’s “On reading Chapman’s Homer”—is the type. A scientific report, on the other hand, ought to suggest no more than it says. It would be an aberrant report that lent itself to indefinite chains of allusion. Its effect requires no Pacific lurking offstage, no flower absent from all bouquets. The scientific flower is there in black and white or not at all.
Were I writing at length I would tease out the suggestions of ‘suggestion’. I might even venture a definition. After all, there are distinctions to be made. Scientific papers can be suggestive too. Einstein’s 1905 papers certainly were, but not in the way of Keats. Here, though, I rely on the reader’s sense of the difference.
We expect more
We—the present audience for serious philosophy—expect of philosophical writing that at its best it should place itself somewhere between poem and report. A philosophical work that suggests no more than it says tends not to be read once the dialectic has moved on. After the moving finger writes there follow many hands erasing until almost nothing is left (except for those of us who make a profession of reading old texts); what remains does so by virtue of its power of suggestion.

LinkAugust 31, 2011

Translation: a fragment from Hugo

Literature ·· More from January 2010
quote
Don't believe them—
What they call, beloved,
Heaven in their bitter tongue,
Is just some smoke above,
Sans God: flash and thunder.
This cloud is all: cliff
And abyss, Jehovah too;
The first man to exist
And the last, passing through.
It's a wave, mere spume;
The land of gilded harps,
Where the pythoness of Cume
With Endor's sybils talks;
A chosen place: the blessed
Go in, and not the accursed;
An empyrean summit,
A garden like the first.
—All that? A heap of dreams,
Helping as it harms;
Truth in deception seeming
Brightness in the dark.
Original text:
Ne les crois pas,
Ce qu’ils nomment, ma bien-aimée,
Le ciel, dans leur langage amer,
C’est on ne sait quelle fumée,
Où Dieu manque, où tremble un éclair.
Cette fumée est tout; la rive
Et le gouffre; c’est Jehova;
C’est le premier homme, il arrive,
Et c’est le dernier, il s’en va.
C’est une onde; et c’est une écume;
C’est le pays des harpes d’or
Où les pythonisses de Cume
Parlent aux sybilles d’Endor;
C’est un lieu choisi; c’est l’entrée
Des bénis et non des maudits;
C’est une cime, l’empyrée,
C’est un jardin, le paradis.
Tout cela, c’est un tas de songes;
Cela sert comme cela nuit;
La vérité dans les mensonges,
De la clarté dans de la nuit.
The French is in octosyllabics, with the usual scheme of alternating masculine and feminine rhymes. In French, the preferred rhyme is a “rich” rhyme that includes not only the vowel and final consonant, but the consonant before (at least). In the last strophe ‘nuit’ is used in etymologically distinct senses, and so the repetition is permitted as a rhyme.
The translation is in trimeter; the rhymes are full or “near”-rhymes. Full rhyming throughout would require too much deviation (in my experience) from the sense of the original.

LinkJanuary 13, 2010

Translation: a fragment from Hugo

Literature ·· More from January 2010
quote
She’s gone—absent, vanished—too bad!
He may well say: It’s nothing, I’m not sad,
I’ll go to balls, I’ll feast, I’ll stay out late…
He may well spend his days intoxicate,
a drawing by Hugo
Victor Hugo, drawing, in Arsène Houssaye, Confessions (1888)
Play the hero’s, the cynic’s part,
And yet—there stays within his heart
A memory, adrift above the permanent
Darkness, like a broken cable's end.
Original text:
Elle partie, absente, évanouie, hélas!
Il eut beau dire: bah! c’est bien. J’en étais las.
Je vais aller aux bals, aux fêtes. Je vais vivre.
Il eut beau savourer la coupe où l’on enivre,
Et faire le vaillant, et faire le moqueur,
Il sentit qu’à jamais il lui restait au cœur
Un souvenir flottant sur l’ombre irrévocable,
Comme un arrachement qui laisse un bout de câble.

LinkJanuary 13, 2010

Translation of the week: Rivarol on the philosophes

quote
Since in philosophy the spirit of analysis is pre-eminent, its new disciples have used solvents and decomposition throughout. In physics, they find only objections against the Author of nature; in metaphysics, only doubts and subtleties; morals and logic provide them only with declamations against political order, religious ideas, and the laws of property; they have aspired to nothing less than universal reconstruction through universal revolt, and without realizing that they were themselves in the world, they have pulled down its columns.
How could they not have seen that their analyses were methods whose origin lay in the human mind, and were not nature’s way? that in nature, all is relation, proportion, harmony, aggregation? that nature continually binds, assembles, and compounds, even as it decomposes, because its laws never sleep, while the man who analyzes, whether as chemist or reasoner, can only observe and suspend, decompose and kill?
Rivarol
Rivarol, from a portrait by Wyrsch, 1784; in André Le Breton, Rivarol, sa vie, ses idées, son talent […] (Paris: Hachette, 1895), frontispiece
What would one say of an architect who, given the task of raising an edifice, broke the building-stones so as to find in them salts, air, and a terreous base, and offered us an analysis instead of a house? The prism as it dissects the light ruins for us the spectacle of nature.
Still they believed—these philosophers—that to define men was a greater thing than to reunite them; that to emancipate them was greater than to govern them, that to excite them, finally, was greater than to make them happy. They overturned States to regenerate them, and dissected living men to know them better.
It was in vain that Plato (Greece, too, suffered the irruptions of this philosophy) said to them that it was for them to make verses and music, but only to talk about doing so, since their philosophy was merely discursive; it was in vain that Zeno held that the true philosopher is nothing but an good actor, equally fit for the role of king or subject, master or slave, rich or poor: for indeed it is a true philosophy to do everything well, and to find nothing bad; in vain, I say, were men advised on the nature and the difference of the two philosophies; in every head a change had occurred that prepared the revolution of which the philosophers abruptly became the promoters, guides, and victims, a revolution in which they thought that the natures of all things could be altered without destroying any, that all could be destroyed without peril, that mankind could be put at risk without committing any crime.
Original text:
<163> Comme c’est éminemment l’esprit d’analyse qui domine dans la philosophie, ses nouveaux disciples ont employé partout les dissolvants et la décomposition. Dans la physique, ils n’ont trouvé que des objections contre l’auteur de la nature; dans la métaphysique, que doute et subtilités; la morale et la logique ne leur ont fourni que des déclamations contre l’ordre politique, contre les idées religieuses et contre les lois de la propriété; ils n’ont pas aspiré à moins qu’à la reconstruction du tout par la révolte contre tout, et, sans songer qu’ils étaient eux-mêmes dans le monde, ils ont renversé les colonnes du monde.
Comment n’ont-ils pas vu que leurs analyses étaient des méthodes de l’esprit humain, et non un moyen de la nature? que, dans cette nature, tout est rapport, proportion, harmonie et agrégation? qu’elle lie, rassemble et compose toujours, même en décomposant, car ses lois ne dorment jamais, tandis que l’homme qui analyse, soit comme chimiste, soit comme raisonneur, ne peut qu’observer et suspendre, décomposer et tuer ? Que dire d’un architecte qui, chargé d’élever un édifice, briserait les pierres pour y trouver des sels, de l’air et une base terreuse, et qui nous offrirait ainsi une analyse au lieu d’une maison ? Le prisme qui dissèque la lumière gâte à nos yeux le spectacle de la nature. <…><164>
Ils ont cru cependant, ces philosophes, que définir les hommes, c’était plus que les réunir; que les émanciper, c’était plus que les gouverner, et qu’enfin les soulever, c’était plus que les rendre heureux. Ils ont renversé des États pour les régénérer, et disséqué des hommes vivants pour les mieux connaître.
C’est en vain que Platon (car la Grèce avait souffert aussi des débordements de cette philosophie) leur avait dit que ce n’était point à eux à faire des vers et de la musique, mais d’en parler, puisque leur philosophie était discoureuse; c’est en vain que Zenon avait prononcé que le vrai philosophe n’est qu’un bon acteur, également propre au rôle de roi et de sujet, de maître et d’esclave, de riche et de pauvre : car, en effet, il est de la vraie philosophie de faire tout bien, et non de trouver tout mal ; c’est en vain, dis-je, que les hommes étaient bien avertis sur la nature et la différence des deux philosophies : il s’est fait dans toutes les têtes un changement qui a préparé la révolution dont les philosophes ont été brusquement promoteurs, guides et victimes, révolution dans laquelle ils ont pensé qu’on pouvait dénaturer tout sans rien détruire, ou tout détruire sans péril, et hasarder le genre humain sans crime.

LinkOctober 2, 2009

Translation of the week: Jules Lemaître on poetry

Literature ·· More from September 2009
quote
It is only too true that no-one reads poetry these days. Victor Hugo I except; his verses, though they have become sacred, still do get a bit of attention. Everyone has heard the Revenant or the Pauvres gens at some matinée, recited by a fat lady or a gentleman dressed in black; there are students who have perused the Châtiments and even leafed through the Légende des siècles. Musset, for his part, is no longer the “poet of the youth” of today.
Inspired by Justin Smith’s Thursday Translations.
He has continued, even so, to struggle against the indifference of the public; but some of his latest readers do him no favors. As for Lamartine, who still likes him, who still knows him? Perhaps, in the provinces, some solitary, some convent-girl of seventeen who hides him at the bottom of her desk. And remember that Lamartine is more than a poet—he is pure poetry itself. Baudelaire has his faithful, but their admiration is often pathetic.
Lemaître
And who, among those we call the public of today, loves and understands that marvel, the Émaux et Camées? […]
Poets, minor or major, are not really read except by other poets. Perhaps because poetry has become in our day an art more and more refined and special and that, whether through impotence or disdain, it no longer has much oratorical or lyrical stamina. Around 1830, when poets were expressing broadly and full-throatedly widely-shared feelings and passions understandable to everyone, they did not lack for readers. It is likely, then, that poetry owes its failing fortunes to the increasing predominance of artistic curiosity over inspiration.

LinkSeptember 24, 2009

The Idea meets Twitter

Auth
The last MLA, as always far in advance of the leading wave, had a panel on Twitter. Novelties included Tweets from the audience.
Tweets have a 140-character limit. So twittering counts as “writing under constraint”. As constraints go, it’s on the vanilla side.
I’m bemused by the attention given to Twitter and “twittering”. Twitter is just an enormous chat room in which you can chatter just to yourself if you like.
Revolutions are not made of this.
Or this.

LinkApril 23, 2009

Proust, one page at a time (update)

Literature ·· More from October 2008
proustrecherche1nrf.jpg
In an earlier entry I mentioned Véronique Aubouy’s project of having 3000 people each read one page of Proust’s Recherche du temps perdu. As of 11:21 on 3 Oct 2008,
  • 325 pages have been read, which is
  • 9.49% of the Recherche, for a total of
  • 16 hours, 36 minutes, and 2 seconds.
The comments of the readers are worth reading themselves. So many reasons to read Proust!

LinkOctober 3, 2008