background preloader


Facebook Twitter

Christopher Hitchens' wit and warmth remembered as New York pays tribute. "Little Keith" called him a suffering auto-contrarian and likened him to Houdini; Graydon Carter said he was a "bit of a scallywag" but an editor's dream; and the doctor who treated him for the cancer of the oesophagus that killed him said he was a "pioneer at the frontier". Unsurprisingly, though, it was Christopher Hitchens who had the funniest and the most apposite words with which to describe himself at his own memorial in New York on Friday.

He was, he said of himself in posthumous film clips and readings, a "radical freelance scribbler" who had devoted his life to curiosity, irony, debunking, disputation, drinking, love and hate (though of all those things, it was hate that got him out of bed in the morning). "The cause of my life," Hitchens said in one snippet included in a compilation put together by the Oscar-winning documentary maker Alex Dibney, "has been to oppose superstition. It's a battle you can't hope to win – it's a battle that's going to go on forever. Toni Morrison: 'I want to feel what I feel. Even if it's not happiness' I first met Toni Morrison about 15 years ago, to talk about her seventh novel, Paradise, an encounter I remember largely for its number of terrifying pauses. Morrison, in her late 60s then, was at the height of her powers, a Nobel laureate with a famously low tolerance for journalists and critics, and a personal style as distinctive as her prose: silver dreadlocks, sharp, unwavering eye contact and a manner of speech – when she did speak – that, to her annoyance, people were wont to call poetry.

Now she sits in her publisher's office in New York, the city laid out beneath her. She looks as grand as ever, but there have been changes. It is right after lunch when, says Morrison, she is accustomed to napping. Guiltily? "Not any more! It is hard to believe Morrison is 81. "There's nothing inside that's 81. Her latest novel, Home, is set in the aftermath of the Korean war and coincides with that sentimentalised period of American history that Morrison remembers rather differently. Why short? Literally, the wrong use of the word | Politics. The Today programme on Radio 4 had a fascinating debate on the misuse of the word literally. You can hear the whole thing here and it's well worth a listen. It seems to have been prompted by this prime example from the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, on Saturday, when he said: It makes people so incredibly angry when you are getting up early in the morning, working really hard to try and do the right thing for your family and for your community, you are paying your taxes and then you see people literally in a different galaxy who are paying extraordinarily low rates of tax.

One guest on Radio 4 pointed out that that is quite a long way for someone to go just for a tax avoidance scheme. Among the other examples quoted on the Today programme was the TV celebrity Ulrika Jonsson, when talking about the Swedish system of child custody after divorce, said that they "literally will split the child in half to live one week with the mother ... " @dangerhere suggested: @GromKath suggested: 12.10pm: A Point of View: Mourning the loss of the written word. 3 February 2012Last updated at 18:42 The modernist writer Virginia Woolf called letter writing "the humane art, which owes its origins in the love of friends".

In our frenetic world of electronic communication, we must remember to write with thought and consideration, says historian Lisa Jardine. In these days of email, texts and instant messaging, I am not alone, I feel sure, in mourning the demise of the old-fashioned handwritten letter. Exchanges of letters capture nuances of shared thought and feeling to which their electronic replacements simply cannot do justice.

Here's an example. In July 1940, with the country at war, Virginia Woolf published a biography of the artist, Roger Fry - champion of post-impressionism and leading member of the Bloomsbury Group. Most of Woolf's friends were politely positive about the book. "I am so struck by the fool's paradise in which he and his friends lived," Nicolson wrote. Woolf's answering letter did not mince words: Vita was appalled. Will Self's book, Cock and Bull | John Baker's Blog. Winged with Death - a review | John Baker's Blog.

Winged With Death by John Baker, Flambard Press (2009) ISBN 978-1906601027, 291pp £8.98 ‘It was 1972 and I was eighteen years old. I had jumped ship and watched while she sailed away.’ The narrator’s account of his decade in Uruguay gets off to a running start. A young man in a remote country is a recipe for picaresque adventures, and Montevideo is seething with political violence and sweating with the tango. On his very first day young Frederick runs into Tupamaros member Julio, gets a job washing dishes, and accepts the name Ramon Bolio. ‘That day in 1972 I was up for change,’ he tells us. Ramon is in the privileged position of being able to mingle at all levels of society. There is something unsettling about this young Ramon – a man with no fixed beliefs who is so easily able to cast aside his English habits. This tale of an adventurous youth is being typed up by the Ramon of three decades later. Ramon’s brother Stephen is intellectually a little slow. The French women who defied the Nazis and survived Auschwitz.

A flabby mass of clichés. Soon Chandler was let go; his drafts largely discarded. He wrote the following angry letter to Hitchcock some time later, after reading the final script. (Source: The Raymond Chandler Papers (2000); Image: A Certain Cinema.) December 6th, 1950Dear Hitch,In spite of your wide and generous disregard of my communications on the subject of the script of Strangers on a Train and your failure to make any comment on it, and in spite of not having heard a word from you since I began the writing of the actual screenplay—for all of which I might say I bear no malice, since this sort of procedure seems to be part of the standard Hollywood depravity—in spite of this and in spite of this extremely cumbersome sentence, I feel that I should, just for the record, pass you a few comments on what is termed the final script.

I could understand your finding fault with my script in this or that way, thinking that such and such a scene was too long or such and such a mechanism was too awkward. Letters of Note. Christopher Hitchens quotes: the writer's most memorable bons mots. "The four most overrated things in life are champagne, lobster, anal sex and picnics. " – the New Yorker, 2006 "[George W Bush] is lucky to be governor of Texas. He is unusually incurious, abnormally unintelligent, amazingly inarticulate, fantastically uncultured, extraordinarily uneducated, and apparently quite proud of all these things. " – Hardball with Chris Matthews, NBC, 2000 "'Bombing Afghanistan back into the Stone Age' was quite a favourite headline for some wobbly liberals. The slogan does all the work. But an instant's thought shows that Afghanistan is being, if anything, bombed OUT of the Stone Age. " – Daily Mirror, November 2001 "The noble title of 'dissident' must be earned rather than claimed; it connotes sacrifice and risk rather than mere disagreement …" "Do bear in mind that the cynics have a point, of a sort, when they speak of the 'professional naysayer'.

" "[Mother Teresa] was not a friend of the poor. "What is your idea of earthly happiness? John Baker’s Blog | Reflections of a working writer and reader. Haruki Murakami: How a Japanese writer conquered the world. 17 October 2011Last updated at 12:26 By Stephanie Hegarty BBC World Service At midnight in London, and the same time next week in America, bookshops will open their doors to sell Haruki Murakami's latest novel to eager fans. This is not Harry Potter, it's a 1,600-page translation from Japanese. So why the excitement? When Haruki Murakami's new book, 1Q84, was released in Japanese two years ago, most of the print-run sold out in just one day - the country's largest bookshop, Kinokuniya, sold more than one per minute.

A million copies went in the first month. In France, publishers printed 70,000 copies in August but had to reprint within a week. "The last time we did this was for Harry Potter," says Miriam Robinson of Foyles, just one of the bookshops in London opening at midnight for the launch. This is the kind of hype that usually surrounds serialised teen literature, says Paul Bogaards of Knopf, the book's US publishers. Continue reading the main story “Start Quote Nostalgia.


Haruki Murakami: 'I took a gamble and survived' 1Q84, Haruki Murakami's new novel, is 1,000 pages long and is published in three volumes. It took the author three years to write and it is possible, on an 11-hour flight from New York to Honolulu, to get through about half of it. Murakami looks crestfallen on receipt of this news – the ratio of writing to reading time is never very encouraging for a writer – and yet if anything tests a novel's power to transport, it is reading it at the back of economy on a full flight over long haul. For those 11 hours, you disappear wholly into Murakami world. We are in the presidential suite of the Hyatt, Waikiki, overlooking an ad-perfect beach framed by mountains.

"I don't think of myself as an artist," says the author more than once in the interview. Murakami's cool benefits from an un-nerdy background running a jazz club in his 20s, and his equally un-nerdy Ironman routine. To Murakami, built like a little bull, it's a question of strength. "It's just routine," he says and laughs loudly. "Yeah.