A year in reading

The Millions does this every year apparently and the one I read just now was a short and sweet reflection on explorations of morality (or lack thereof) in novels.

Morality in fiction—or maybe better put, talking about morality in fiction—has been somewhat unfashionable for a long time, but nonetheless most great books possess a kind of morality. I’m not using “morality” to mean a lesson, but rather an articulable if complex framework of moral meaning that that both situates and illuminates a novel’s events and characters. All novels are miniature, idealized versions of the world (even if the idealization is negative), and a novel’s moral intelligence is what allows the reader to understand how this idealization corresponds with the actual. It is what the book thinks about the book.

Handke fails to wipe booger from face

Nobel lectures were delivered. Handke did not address being a genocide apologist. End of story.

After an awkward moment during which the room was induced to sing Happy Birthday to the author, Handke was asked at the press conference about the polarised response to his win. He responded: “This is a very long story. To tell this story here, I think it’s not the moment.”

Asked about the planned protests next week, Handke reminisced about a visit to Norway in 2014, when he won the Ibsen award. “There were a lot of protests when I went to the National Theatre of Oslo. A lot of shouting of ‘fascist, fascist’. I wanted to talk to these ladies and gentlemen but they didn’t want to talk to me,” he said. In his speech accepting that prize, he told his critics: “Go to hell, where you already are.”

Charmer. Though I admit it’s a weird and small relief to see other cultures also have dirtbag literary giants as well.

Dictionary still performing CPR on Latin 125 years later

This dorkus malorkus and his colleagues are working on the definitive Latin dictionary. (Audio here if you are sick of using your eyes like a chump.)

It’s called the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae. And it’s considered “the most authoritative dictionary of ancient Latin.”

Researchers in Germany have spent the last 125 years working on the project. By their own estimates, they don’t expect to wrap up until at least 2050.

Lexicographer Adam Gitner spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off about the arduous process of compiling each entry and what keeps him going.

Nobel committee member to boycott Nobel

God, I long for the days when I laboured under the illusion that we artists were somehow better people. I mean, it wasn’t a very LONG span of time, but it was blissful and heady. Even committee members hate the Handke Nobel.

Peter Englund, the former permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, told Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter on Friday that he would not participate this year because “to celebrate Peter Handke’s Nobel prize would be gross hypocrisy on my part”. Handke was set to give a press conference about his win at noon on Friday, with his laureate’s lecture due on Saturday. Formal presentation of his medal is timetabled for Tuesday.

Cheer for the little guys

An indy bookstore won free rent for a year. Free is exactly my favourite price-point!

Elysia French and Graham Thompson were living in Kingston, Ontario, where French was finishing her PhD at Queen’s University, when they got the news: the couple had won free rent for a year on a downtown storefront in their hometown of St. Catharines. The couple, who admit to squabbling over how they organize the hundreds of books in their home library, always dreamed of opening their own store. Suddenly, it was happening.

Paths to poetry

This woman took the journalism path to get there, as opposed to the hordes of others that I suspect just didn’t know what else to do in life after high school and so went for a CW degree. Hanging out with writers somehow seems to always lead to writing, instead of taking their appearance and behaviour as a dire warning to flee. Huh. v

emmatroakehhm@gmail.comOne fateful night in Dallas, a poet came to read. I had never heard of her. It was Elizabeth Bishop. I was late. The auditorium was packed. I stood at the back, in the doorway, the only place left. I was grateful I didn’t have to interview anyone. I had quit journalism and was working as a waitress, trying to write poetry. At the time, I was writing a poetry stumbling somewhere between surrealism and the haunting, lilting lyric of the country western music I had been raised to.

I was floundering, but learning to trust in my materials, in poetry. Just barely visible over a podium, Bishop was in a spotlight, her close-cropped silver hair glinting. Her round head shown distant and steady as a planet. The audience was hushed, still, calm. Bishop was shy, devoid of the flamboyant, and a terrible reader. But it didn’t matter. As in all of Bishop’s poetry, one could sense the presence of the ordinary and the eternal, her steady, uncanny attention to the actual.