Here’s a thing you’ve probably never thought of before: the sheer weirdness of some of the Christmas rituals in many canonical children’s books. In The Irish Times, Rosita Boland catalogues a few of the stranger ones, including Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Christmas dinner in summer and Lucy’s gift of a dagger in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
“Welcome to another night in the life of Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court justice, current queen of the best-seller list and suddenly the nation’s most high-profile Hispanic figure. She may be a relative newcomer to national life, plucked from circuit-court obscurity less than four years ago. But the release of her new memoir, My Beloved World, suggests that she has broader ambitions than her colleagues, to play a larger and more personal role on the public stage.”
“‘There is almost no work, within the vast range of literature and science,’ [Thomas Jefferson] wrote in an 1874 report, ‘which may not at some time prove useful to the legislature of a great nation.’ Thus the Library Of Congress’s mandate expanded: it would acquire anything and everything of importance … By the late 19th century, the LOC had become a kind of national brain trust, a heritage of information that aspired to timelessness.” This piece on the Library of Congress and its internet progress (or lack thereof) is fascinating and thorough. Go and spend some time with the digital archive, there are only around seven million gigabytes of information for you to thumb through.
The British critic, essayist, and novelist John Berger died yesterday at his home in France, reports The New York Times. Probably best known for his book of art-criticism-as-philosophy Ways of Seeing, which was turned into a popular BBC series and sold more than a million copies, Berger also won the Booker prize for G. in 1972 and was nominated again in 2008 for an epistolary novel, From A to X. The Guardian has rounded up some of his quotes, including the apt-feeling “[h]ope is not a form of guarantee; it’s a form of energy, and very frequently that energy is strongest in circumstances that are very dark.”
Last year, Laura van den Berg came out with a new book, The Isle of Youth, which Nathan Huffstutter reviewed for The Millions. On the Guernica blog, Dwyer Murphy interviews van den Berg, who talks about jacket photos, her first collection and whether a writer from Florida is part of the Southern tradition. (You could also read van den Berg’s Year in Reading entry.)
Writer’s block: the eternal struggle, right? Thankfully, Ted Scheinman asked some of his favorite writers for their remedies, and he compiled them into a helpful list. “Do try these solutions, alone or in combination,” he urges. “’Mix and match’ is the cry.” (Related: You can also check out the “daily routines of famous creative people” for inspiration, as well.)
Another Tumblog is being made into a book, this time with a little help from David Shields. Jeff, One Lonely Guy is a collection of recorded conversations and correspondences that were the result of one guy, Jeff Ragsdale , posting a flyer with his phone number all over NYC. Shields is helping Ragsdale arrange the responses he received for publication as an ebook. Ragsdale isn’t, according to his Tumblr, all that lonely anymore. Which makes me wonder how Mark Z. Danielewski’s fairing on OK Cupid?