If there is a pragmatic tradition of the American Sublime, then Cormac McCarthy’s fictions are its culmination. Moby-Dick and Faulkner’s major, early novels are McCarthy’s prime precursors. Melville’s Ahab fuses together Shakespeare’s tragic protagonists—Hamlet, Lear, Macbeth—and crosses them with a quest both Promethean and American. Even as Montaigne’s Plato became Emerson’s, so Melville’s Shakespeare becomes Cormac McCarthy’s. Though critics will go on associating McCarthy with Faulkner, who certainly affected McCarthy’s style in Suttree (1979), the visionary of Blood Meridian (1985) and The Border Trilogy (1992, 1994, 1998) has much less in common with Faulkner, and shares more profoundly in Melville’s debt to Shakespeare.
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Freed from the tethers of its own inception, the work opens a conversation with its most obvious precursor, Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man, which celebrates the exquisite proportions of the human body by illustrating the Roman architect Vitruvius’s observation that the anatomical extent of man conforms to a circle created by “a pair of compasses centred at his navel”. But Blake refuses to be trapped by the geometries of a fallen world and dissolves the fetters of the offending compasses by erasing altogether the circle (and square) with which Leonardo ensnares his subject, allowing the young boy to step out unshackled into a limitless world. Always original, always breaking free, Blake’s truest genius lies in his ability to help us dream outside the sphere.
Children’s authors are now writing about dark, complex and controversial issues. But is that what kids should be reading?
There’s the author, but there is the publisher and there’s the editor and there’s the publicist and there’s the librarian and there’s the parent and there’s the teacher.
The challenge is that although we can seemingly protect children from such ideas, they are bombarded with them on a daily basis through the media.
More significantly, Freud has given us resonant narratives that stretch culturally far beyond the point where we argue the toss over whether or not they’re “true”.
Subconscious desire, ego, death wish, anal retentive: if you’ve ever used these terms — and who hasn’t? — then you’ve referenced stories authored by Freud, stories about the human condition that have burrowed as deep into the collective unconscious (there’s another one) as anything found in Shakespeare or the Bible.
To rate these stories in terms of scientific accuracy seems like a category error, in the same way that it would seem a little off to dismiss the psychological insights of a Jane Austen or an Edith Wharton on the grounds that they’d just made it all up.
There’s a strong — and perhaps surprising — case to be made that Freud’s most fertile legacy has been a philosophical one.
Surprising, because you might expect that professional philosophers, unkindly cast as delusional psychotics, would be a bit sniffy about admitting Freud into their ranks.
But in fact Freud has been a key figure in the development of what’s been dubbed the “school of suspicion” — a line of philosophical descent that originally linked Freud with Nietzsche with Karl Marx, but has since been expanded into a broader tradition connecting such later figures as Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault.
My question is whether we anchor on the idea of who ‘Sigmund Freud’ was or is? Is there a core truth to Freud’s work? I would argue that his thinking evolved overtime? To talk about Freud (or Marx or Derrida) is to make an assumption about who or what we are in fact talking about. This is what I touched on in , wondering whether it was useful to read Freud as a text that is continually interpreted overtime?
Kaleidoscopic? Yes. Brain-bending? Without question. At the same time, where are we now if not in the world Dick made, a world of social media and virtual reality, screens and simulacra and avatars? Fake news, revisionist histories, internet hoaxes and deepfake videos: Ours is a society defined by its own artifice, which is what Dick was trying to tell us all along.
Charles Schulz’s beloved comic strip invited readers to contemplate the big picture on a small scale.
I’m closer now to 40 than to 17. I no longer read to find friends in literature – I read for the writing. So when I recently read the book for the fourth time, I saw something brand new and I think closer to what Salinger intended: a perfectly written portrait of an imperfect character. Every syllable sings. Much of what I saw in this fourth reading, I had completely missed before.
“Being a black woman writer is not a shallow place but a rich place to write from. It doesn’t limit my imagination; it expands it.”
Brave New World is a dystopian novel by English author Aldous Huxley, written in 1931 and published in 1932. Largely set in a futuristic World State of genetically modified citizens and an intelligence-based social hierarchy, the novel anticipates huge scientific developments in reproductive technology, sleep-learning, psychological manipulation, and classical conditioning, that are combined to make a utopian society that goes challenged only by a single outsider. Huxley followed this book with a reassessment in essay form, Brave New World Revisited (1958), and with his final novel, Island (1962), the utopian counterpart. The novel is often compared to George Orwell‘s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).
The novelist drew on far-flung voyages to create his masterpiece. But he could finish it only at his beloved Berkshire farm.
The dystopian best-seller 1984 was published exactly seventy years ago. Its influence has been profound. But does it really speak to today’s politico-cultural environment?
The dystopian best-seller 1984 was published exactly seventy years ago. Its influence has been profound. But does it really speak to today’s politico-cultural environment? Broadcaster Scott Stephens believes Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is a closer match.
Also, author and New York Times journalist David Itzoff talks us through another prescient piece of fiction, Paddy Chayefsky’s 1976 original screenplay Network.
There are elements of the novel—such as its portrait of the surveillance state, or its portrayal of Newspeak—that seem never to fade from relevance.
Book or show, which will be the “real” ending? It’s a silly question. How many children did Scarlett O’Hara have?
How about this? I’ll write it. You read it. Then everyone can make up their own mind, and argue about it on the internet.
The authorship controversy, almost as old as the works themselves, has yet to surface a compelling alternative to the man buried in Stratford. Perhaps that’s because, until recently, no one was looking in the right place. The case for Emilia Bassano.
In the first of BBC Culture’s new series on fiction that predicted the future, Hephzibah Anderson looks at the work of John Brunner, whose vision of 2010 was eerily accurate.
Here’s a crazy thought. Could it be that whiteness, for David Malouf, is both blindingness and camouflage? That out of temperament, intuition, reflex, survival and ambition, he has suppressed his brownness—as his father suppressed his Arabic—in order to “pass” as white? This sounds preposterous, I know. And I’ll probably get in trouble for it. But the thought, once thought, is hard to unthink.