- Let's hear it for francophilia! Mark Sarvas at The Elegant Variation noted the opening of the annual Salon du Livre (Paris Book Fair). The theme this year, Mark notes, is Chinese literature: according to the Salon's Web site, "Thirty-eight Chinese-language authors are in Paris to meet their Western readers." This theme was selected in coordination with the celebrations for the Année de la Chine (Year of China) in France, as reported here at Ionarts back on October 29 (the Festival d'Automne [Autumn Festival] also had a heavy Chinese focus: see post on September 27). Mark's comment about the Salon is wonderful:
I was in Paris for the fair a few years ago. It was really extraordinary to wander through the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) past table after table of French authors out with their books. The crowds were so thick you could barely elbow through them. Was neither the first nor last time I contemplated moving there, but surely it was one of the strongest.As regular readers know, I am an impassioned admirer of French cultural attitudes. I have lived in France for some extended periods of time, and I am convinced that we have to do all we can to bring some of that passion for literature and the arts to the American mainstream. John Kerry should think seriously about acting on the Ionarts proposal: that we create a Department of Culture, on the model of the Ministries of Culture in European countries, by diverting a mere 1% of the U.S. military budget (see post on March 11).
- The indefatigable folks at The Literary Saloon have a nice, brief roundup of coverage of the Salon du Livre in French newspapers. To puncture the France-loving euphoria, they also posted some data on book-buying habits among the French. Take a look.
- ArtsJournal blogger Greg Sandow thinks that ugly CD cover art is a good way to encourage the "death of classical music," that famous bugbear of music critics. When you look at the example he gives, you know, he may have a point: yes, Winterreise can be grim and somber, but it's not that bad!
- Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ has opened in Germany, where its possible anti-Semitism, as you can imagine, will have different connotations. Heather Mathews, at Hem|mungen, translates an excerpt from the statement issued by a coalition of religious groups, warning of the film's "potential for use as antisemitic propaganda."
- One of the most important uses of the Internet will be the worldwide dissemination of important texts, especially those most rare examples of words and images found only in one or a few manuscripts. This has already proven to be important in my research and interests, and the momentum of the movement to digitalize continues to grow. From Mark Woods up in Perth, Canada, who blogs at wood s lot, I learned about (post on March 20) the online resources related to the Reichenauer Schulheft (Reichenau Primer), a ninth-century manuscript written at one of the Swiss monasteries, which contains notes on all sorts of subjects.
- A new blog for me, Veritas et Venustas, has a post by its founder, John Massengale ("Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", March 18), which is worth reading if you are interested in the question, "Whither modernism?" John approaches the question through architecture, as you can see in this excellent excerpt:
Modernism was the cultural expression of a good deal of the second half of the 20th century, but we're in the 21st century now, and for most Americans Modernism is just a style—not a lifestyle or an ideology. It's normal today to work in a high-tech office and go home at night to a new Traditional Neighborhood. On the way home, one might have dinner at a chic new place with Minimal design, and the next night go to a new French bistro with hundred year old tiles imported from Paris, complete with Gauloise stains.What can be called "Modernism" is, indeed, just one style among many now, as has been discussed here in terms of both art and music, too. Interesting read. Thanks to Michael at 2blowhards for pointing it out to me.
Helen Garner on literary prizes
13 minutes ago