Finca Vigia: Hemingway’s Cuban House

One fan’s trip to author Ernest Hemingway’s newly accessible Cuban abode leads her to a new appreciation of humble furnishings.

Antonia Van Der Meer writes: I love to look at homes as places of inspiration, especially those of famous authors. The Holy Grail for me was Ernest Hemingway’s house in Cuba, known as Finca Vigia (Lookout Farm). There he wrote the Pulitzer-Prize winning “The Old Man and the Sea,” as well as “Islands in the Stream” and “A Moveable Feast.”

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

I’d heard about the house for years because my brother, William Dupont, a professor of architecture at the University of Texas San Antonio, leads the Finca Vigia Foundation’s U.S. technical team. He works with Cuban colleagues on the restoration and maintenance of the house, which is now a museum. In May, I accompanied him to Havana.

A long driveway separates the farm from the small homes that dot the area around it in San Francisco de Paula, a working class suburb about 20 minutes outside Havana. Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Birthday, John Milton 


Milton! thou should’st be living at this hour:
England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;
Oh! raise us up, return to us again;
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.
Thy soul was like a Star and dwelt apart;
Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea;
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,
So didst thou travel on life’s common way,
In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart
The lowliest duties on itself lay.

— William Wordsworth


Milton, with the possible exception of Spenser, is the first eccentric English poet, the first to make a myth out of his personal experience, and to invent a language of his own remote from the spoken word. – W.H. Auden

Milton was born in 1608, and although he left Oxford without completing his degree, he remained a thinker and a propagandist/pamphleteer and a scholar till the end of his days. The isolated poet, focused on self and emotion, would come in with the Romantics. Milton was a public and a political man, a propagandist for the Commonwealth (a dangerous position to take, especially once the Restoration came about). He addressed all kinds of “unpoetic” social and civil issues in pamphlets, books, poems, articles. He was famous in his own day. His reputation since then has risen and fallen with the tides, and we are now in a huge Milton upsurge. He turned 400 a couple of years ago, and there were celebrations across New York City: art exhibits, library exhibits, and also a costume-party in Brooklyn where you had to dress up as either Milton, or a character from Paradise Lost.

[Read the full text here, via Sheila O’Malley, at The Sheila Variations]

I had to read Paradise Lost in high school and thought it was the most boring thing I had ever been subjected to in my life. I had to prop my eyeballs open. I re-read it about 10 years ago, and was totally swept away by it, not only by the thoughts/philosophy in the great work, but also the depths and transcendence of the language itself. I feel like people should be forced to RE-read what they were forced to READ in high school.

Milton traveled widely, and most of his writing was meant for public consumption: he was not a private scribbler. He wrote what amounts to op-ed columns explaining to his audience what was happening to the constitution in England at that time. He wrote poetry privately; he had been writing poetry since he was a young boy.

Jonathan Rosen, in his wonderful New Yorker article about the continuing relevance of Milton, writes:

Sometime in 1638, John Milton visited Galileo Galilei in Florence. The great astronomer was old and blind and under house arrest, confined by order of the Inquisition, which had forced him to recant his belief that the earth revolves around the sun, as formulated in his “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.” Milton was thirty years old – his own blindness, his own arrest, and his own cosmological epic, Paradise Lost, all lay before him. But the encounter left a deep imprint on him. It crept into Paradise Lost, where Satan’s shield looks like the moon seen through Galileo’s telescope, and in Milton’s great defense of free speech, Areopagitica, Milton recalls his visit to Galileo and warns that England will buckle under inquisitorial forces if it bows to censorship, “an undeserved thraldom upon learning.”

Beyond the sheer pleasure of picturing the encounter – it’s like those comic-book specials in which Superman meets Batman – there’s something strange about imagining these two figures inhabiting the same age. Read the rest of this entry »

[PHOTO] Author Carson McCullers


“Next to music, beer was best.”
Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

[PHOTO] Book-O-Mat


Pulp Fiction: ‘Run, Killer, Run’


Summer Reading: Kat Timpf


[PHOTO] Style Inspiration: Tom Wolfe


via Twitter @impossiblecool –  UNIONMADE


Is Russian Literature Dead?


Is Russian literature dead?

The Evolution of Literature


Agency Ends Probe Into Publication of New Novel ‘Go Set a Watchman’ by ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ Author Harper Lee

Harper Lee in the Monroeville courthouse. Photograph: Donald Uhrbrock/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Surprise news of second book prompted speculation over whether she is capable of consent 

(MONTGOMERY, Ala.) —Kim Chandler reports: Alabama investigators looked into whether the recent deal to publish Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” sequel involved financial fraud, but they have closed the inquiry, a state official said Thursday.

Harper Lee with Gregory Peck, the star of the 1962 adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird. Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis

Harper Lee with Gregory Peck, the star of the 1962 adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird. Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis

“’To Kill a Mockingbird’ is among the most beloved novels in history, with worldwide sales topping 40 million copies. It was released on July 11, 1960, won the Pulitzer Prize and was adapted into a 1962 movie of the same name.”

Alabama Securities Commission Director Joseph Borg said his agency sent an investigator to speak with Lee at the request of the Alabama Department of Human Resources. Borg said the department, which handles complaints of elder abuse, asked his investigators toHarper Lee look into the situation because of their expertise in financial matters.

“We closed the file. Let’s just say that she was able to answer questions we asked to our satisfaction from our point of view.”

— Alabama Securities Commission Director Joseph Borg

The surprise news that the 88-year-old author would publish a second book prompted speculation over whether she is capable of giving consent to the publication.

“We don’t make competency determinations. We’re not doctors. But unless someone tells us to go back in, our file is closed on it.”

— Joseph Borg

A high-ranking state official said the Department of Human Resources began an investigation into Lee’s treatment following news that her second novel would be released. The official wasn’t authorized to release the information publicly and spoke only on condition of anonymity. It’s unclear whether that investigation entails anything beyond the interview the commission employees did with Lee, who lives in an assisted-living facility in her south Alabama hometown of Monroeville, the inspiration for “Mockingbird.”

Barry Spear, a spokesman for the department, declined comment. Read the rest of this entry »

[VIDEO] Weapons of Mass Instruction

In celebration of World Book Day (today!) 7UP commissioned Argentinian artist Raul Lemesoff to construct one of his famous book tanks.

Argentinian artist Raul Lemesoff Converts 1979 Ford Falcon into an Armored Tank Weaponized with 900 Free Books


In this case he began with a stripped down 1979 Ford Falcon which he used to build a new roving library on wheels with an exterior framework capable of carrying 900 free books.


Lemesoff refers to his militaristic bibliothecas as Weapons of Mass Instruction, and he drives them around the streets of Argentina giving free books to anyone who wants one, as long as they promise to read it.


Watch the video above to see it all come together. (via Designboom)




Pulp Fiction: ‘The Book of the Dead’


October 1948 paperback reissue

cover art by Ed Grant

Seattle Mystery Bookshop

Absolute Beginners: ‘Inside the Teenage World of Coffee Bars, Motor Scooters, and Jazz Clubs’


“And that’s what jazz music gives you: a big lift up of the spirits, and a Turkish bath with massage for all your nerves. I know even nice cats (like my Dad, for example) think that jazz is just noise and rock and sound angled at your genitals, not your intelligence, but I want you to believe that isn’t so at all, because it really makes you feel good in a very simple, but very basic, sort of way. I can best explain it by saying it just makes you feel happy. When I’ve been tired and miserable, which has been quite more than often, I’ve never known some good pure jazz music fail to help me on.”

— Colin MacInnes, Absolute Beginners

Vintage Book Cover: ‘Moby Dick’

Happy 206th Birthday, Edgar Allan Poe


Banned Books: A Reading Challenge For 2015

[PHOTO] Hemingway and Castro


[PHOTO] Books, Babes, Bullfights, Bravado; 20th Century Man, Ernest Hemingway


From LIFE magazine

[Explore the vast Hemingway collection at Amazon]

[PHOTO] Ernest Hemingway


“An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools.”

— Ernest Hemingway


Book Cover of the Day: ‘The Werewolf of Paris’


About the book:

First published in 1933 and out of print for the past 40 years (except for a handsome limited edition from Centipede Press), Guy Endore’s “The Werewolf of Paris” may finally be coming into its own.

Like those other horror classics, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” this notorious novel doesn’t just aim for rawhead-and-bloody-bones gruesomeness. Instead, it raises all sorts of wholly modern questions about personal responsibility and the intricate relationship between sex and violence. It covers every aspect of human bestiality, whether manifested in family feuds, warfare, political revolution, clerical pedophilia, incest, cannibalism, sado-masochistic sexual practices, miscarriages of justice, or the callous abuse of the demented. There’s an old Latin tag “Man is wolf to man” — and “The Werewolf of Paris” proves its universal truth. But don’t worry, horror fans: At the book’s center lurks a shape-shifting monster who rips and devours human flesh…(read more)

The Washington Post

[PHOTO] Henry Miller with Anaïs Nin Brenda Venus


[Check out the book Henry and June: From “A Journal of Love” – The Unexpurgated Diary of Anais Nin (1931-1932) at]

[Biographical outline of Brenda Venus at Wikipedia]

Orplid : Photo

[VIDEO] Vintage: Rare 1908 Film Footage of Leo Tolstoy During His Final Days

This item recommended by hitchhikeamerica’s Tim Shey, from Open Culture:

“My life came to a standstill,” wrote Leo Tolstoy in his 1882 conversion memoir A Confession, “I could not breathe, eat, drink, and sleep, and I could not help doing these things.” So Tolstoy’s described his “arrest of life,” a period of severe depression that led to a very deep, personal brand of faith in his late middle age.

[Read the dramatic story of Tolstoy’s last ten days in this translated excerpt from Pavel Basinsky’s award winning Leo Tolstoy: Escape from Paradise.]

The towering Russian novelist renounced worldly desires and came to identify with the poor, the former serfs of his aristocratic class. Tolstoy’s radical religious anarchism in his final years spread his fame far among the peasantry just as his literary achievements had brought him worldwide renown among the reading public.

[Also see: Putin Signs Russian Law Banning Swearing in Arts and Media]

So famous was Tolstoy, William Nickell tells us, that Russian critic Vasily Rozanov wrote that “to be a Russian and not have [seen] Tolstoy was like being Swiss and not having seen the Alps.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Poet and Novelist Maya Angelou Dies at Age 86

David Mamet’s Legal Drama ‘Race’ Takes No Prisoners


“Race” by David Mamet performed by Next Act Theatre. (l-r) Tiffany Renee Johnson, Jonathan Smoots, David Cecsarini, and Lee Palmer. Credit Timothy Moder

audio-buttonLake Effect’s Bonnie North speaks with Next Theatre’s David Cecsarini, Tiffany Renee Johnson, Lee Palmer, and Jonathan Smoots.

WUWM‘s Elanor Peterson and Bonnie North:

Of all the “isms” that are out there, racism is one of the most enduring, and in this supposedly post-racial age, the most pernicious.

It can be hard for people of different races to even talk openly with each other about how race has impacted them without the conversation devolving into accusations. And that makes any change in race relations that much more difficult to achieve.

audio-buttonListen to a scene from “Race” featuring David Cecsarini and Tiffany Renee Johnson.

Next Act Theatre is throwing open that conversational door with its production of David Mamet’s play Race:

A wealthy white man is accused of assaulting a young black woman. He denies the charge, claiming it was consensual. Two law partners – one white, one black – are considering the case, but they’re doubtful of the man’s veracity, and highly concerned about racial politics. Mamet pulls no punches as he cross-examines our views and prejudices of what is, arguably, the most complex and intransigent socio-political issue in America.

Mamet is known for his biting and unsparing dialogue, and he is true to form here. Director Edward Morgan says the playwright offers a fresh take on the subject.

Read the rest of this entry »

This Day in History: Langston Hughes Is Born


Photo: Langston Hughes photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1936 (Wikimedia Commons)

February 1, 1902: Langston Hughes Is Born 

On this day in 1902, James Mercer Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri. A poet and novelist, he became known as the “Shakespeare of Harlem” during the 1920s and 1930s.

Originally from the Midwest, Hughes traveled the world and worked in a great variety of jobs. He is especially well-known for his perceptive and sympathetic portrayals of life in black America.

Learn more about Langston Hughes with Masterpiece’s Langston Hughes biography.

Read the rest of this entry »

Books: The Authentic Hemingway


Joshua Kotin on The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, Vol. 2 : 1923-1925

Joshua Kotin  writes:  Ernest Hemingway’s from the summer and fall of 1925 are especially thrilling. “I’ve written six chapters on a novel and am going great about 15,000 words already,” he tells Sylvia Beach in August. Two weeks later, in a letter to Ezra Pound, he declares, “48,000 words writ. […] If novel not suppressed sh’d sell 8 million copies.” “It is a hell of a fine novel,” he tells Jane Heap a few days later; “Written very simply and full of things happening and people and places and exciting as hell and no autobiographical 1st novel stuff.” Then in a letter to his father in September, he triumphantly announces, “I have finished my novel — 85,000 words — and am very tired inside and out.”

The completion of The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway’s first novel, is the denouement of the second volume of his letters, which collects his correspondence from 1923 to 1925. (The first volume, published in 2011, includes letters from 1907 to 1922.) The letters document his development as a writer, his life in Paris and Toronto (where he worked as a reporter for the Toronto Star), his travels across Europe (including to Pamplona and Schruns), his marriage to Hadley Richardson and the birth of their son, and his friendships and quarrels with Pound, Gertrude Stein, Ford Madox Ford, Sherwood Anderson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and many others. The letters are a real time version of A Moveable Feast, combining the memoir’s romantic and gossipy depiction of expatriate life with a powerful sense of precarity. Hemingway describes his life as a struggling writer without knowledge of his future success.

Read the rest of this entry »

The 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies—As Chosen By Scientists

Joe Pappalardo writes:  Real scientists can be the harshest critics of science fiction. But that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy a movie just because it bends the laws of nature. We polled dozens of scientists and engineers to discover the sci-fi movies they love


Check it out at Popular Mechanics

David Mamet: ‘The Essence of Science is Doubt, to Follow Truth Wherever it Leads…’

“…that’s also the essence of drama to follow the truth of human interaction where it leads. You can’t do that while you’re also trying to promote a political agenda…”


Mamet’s appearance was brief, I happened to catch the segment, which was only a few moments. (artists and authors are rarely the lead guest on news programs, even dramatists of Mamet’s stature) Mamet’s comments, summarized here in this RealClearPolitics item, appear to focus on one minor comment, that Hollywood conservatives  are “legitimately frightened for their jobs“, but that’s just a provocative headline, not a reflection of his commentary. After the jump is a transcript of the Mamet interview. Mamet’s new book, Three War Stories, is available in paperback, and also as a Kindle edition.

Screenwriter and playwright David Mamet tells FOX News’ Megyn Kelly why there seems to be so few conservatives in Hollywood. Mamet said that people in Hollywood who fake being liberal do so because they’re “legitimately frightened for their jobs.” [VIDEO]

Mamet explained why he believes there are few open conservatives in Hollywood. “Conservatives believe in smaller government and in the power of the electorate. So I think that we’re less likely to try to use a dramatic forum to warp people’s political views.” —RealClearPolitics

Read the rest of this entry »

Plato is Smarter Than You

President Theodore Roosevelt, considered one of the most well-read American politicians of all time, reads a book with his dog Skij on his lap in Colorado in April 1905. (AP)

President Theodore Roosevelt reads a book with his dog Skij on his lap in Colorado in April 1905. (AP)

Paradox of the Book: The Chaos of the Internet Makes Reading Easier

Thomas L. Jeffers writes: Plato is smarter than you. That’s how an experienced teacher once began a series of lectures on the Greek philosopher. And a good beginning it was, for it put students on notice that, as they read, their first duty was to attend and learn. Plato didn’t have the final word—there would be Aristotle, Epicurus, and others—but no one could enter that ancient conversation without conning the books.

Same with us, only we have a problem: Compared even with people half-a-generation back, we lack the necessary time and patience. We read plenty, but it’s mostly skimming online news and compressed Twitter or Facebook messages. What’s needed, David Mikics argues, is a return to the close-reading practices inculcated by teachers whose influence might be said to have peaked in the 1950s and declined in the late ’60s, with the shift to a politicized pedagogy. That shift changed the game, and many English departments now prefer the label “cultural studies,” not least because it allows them to jettison traditional poems and stories for the sake of TV, hip-hop, fashion ads, graphic novels, and comic books—whatever facilitates (as in “makes facile”) sloganizing about gender, race, and class.

Read the rest of this entry »

Modern Marxist Paradox: Unintentional Comedy Book Review Comment of the Year


Book Review | Marxism and Social Movements

“seems like an irony that the price of a marxist book ($179) about the struggle of poor people was so expensive? can those poor people has an access to this book? i don’t think so, unfortunately not… even i can’t buy it as an academician in turkey… i know this is not an exception, there is a huge publishing industry and cost but i couldn’t stop myself to be surprised…”

gulseren adakli
Oct 23, 2013 22:15

source:  Ceasefire Magazine

Word for Word: Book prizes can be a fishy business

Photograph:  Edward Westmacott/Getty

Photograph: Edward Westmacott/Getty

How should novelists approach award ceremonies? Perhaps by gathering together everyone who has ever done them a favour – and by keeping a tight grip on the food

Anakana Schofield

When I learned I’d been shortlisted for the First Novel Award for my debut novel, Malarky, and would be travelling to Toronto for the award event, I immediately invited everyone in Toronto who had ever done me a favour.As I don’t know many people in Toronto, this included a woman working in the Bloor Street Mac makeup shop I’d met once. Sadly, she did not reply.Happily, I gathered a further four women to join me. My entire focus for that event was on the snacks we would be served on the night. I would anticipate them, study them and live tweet them.

I’m a vocal critic of book-prize culture. In Canada, being shortlisted for a prize has become almost the only way of finding any volume of readers (beyond, say, blood relatives and God’s great 83 people who buy literary fiction), and I’m fearful of the truncating effect this has on our reading. Thus I was surprised to find my book nominated for two of them.

Read the rest of this entry »