It can be hard for critics to strike a balance between high theory and accessible prose. For James Wood, the key is to retain enough theoretical knowledge to come up with an insightful point, while still retaining the ability to write in a natural dialect. In The Guardian, he talks about his own relationship with books.
George Packer at Lapham’s Quarterly writes of meeting a young Burmese reader of Charles Dickens: “‘All of those characters are me,’ [he] explained. ‘Neither a British nor American young man living in the twenty-first century can understand a Dickens as well as I can…I am more equipped to understand Dickens than modern novels. I don’t know what is air conditioning, what is subway, what is fingerprint exam.’” (via Book Bench)
“The average American three-year-old can recognize 100 brands,” says prominent advertising and marketing guru Martin Lindstrom. Are we being Brandwashed? For The New York Times, Steven Heller tracks the history of corporate symbols and branding.
“Hamlet’s famous last words—’The rest is silence’—are less punning than ironic, since both his parting, eloquent gasps and his death play out amidst a growing bassline beat. ‘What warlike noise is this?’ Hamlet asks as the poison takes hold. The drums and commotion signal the arrival of the Norwegian crown prince Fortinbras, who bursts into the quiet of the massacred Danish court. From the beginning of Hamlet, we’re taught to think of sovereignty as a manipulation of sound waves.” What does silence mean in this age of constant digital noise? The Literary Hub takes a look.
“How earnest, ironic, condescending, moralistic and simply funny a Tolstoy should the translator inhabit? Perhaps the only way to render Tolstoy’s variable voice is to continue producing ever-varying translations.” Masha Gessen looks at the latest English translations of Anna Karenina and breaks down their nuances of word choice and accumulated meaning for The New York Times Book Review, and along the way she questions the novel’s most famous line: just how alike are happy families? How can we know?
“Imagine a society in which money has been banished. A society in which you would be arrested if you wear eyeglasses, if you wear ties, or if you speak a foreign language.” The Coffin Factory‘s Randy Rosenthal takes a look at Rithy Panh’s The Elimination, an autobiography focused on his adolescence during the reign of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge.