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Jennifer Weiner on literary sexism

(Corbis)

(Corbis)

The week’s best arts and culture reads – including how to ruin a cultural institution, literary translations and the book world’s double standards.

Hanif Kureishi
Robert McCrum | The Guardian | 19 January 2014
Somewhat dismaying portrait of a writer in decline. Kureishi found fame at 31 with his script for My Beautiful Launderette. Now approaching 60, he is applauded as “a kind of post-colonial Philip Roth” by the New York Times; as one of “50 greatest British writers since 1945″ by the London Times. But his recent work has been “feebler” and “unfocused”. What he once did well, Zadie Smith now does better, says Crumb.  

On translating Zibaldone
David Gibbons | Asymptote | 17 January 2014
Translator tells of four years’ work on the first full English edition of Zibaldone, notebooks of the 19th Century Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi, hailed as “a major event in the history of ideas” when published last year. “As I lingered with the prose of the Zibaldone, I came to see it as writing that was trying to keep up, or catch up, with thought… thought followed by counter-thought, argument by counter-argument”.

The best arguments for god’s existence
Jerry Coyne | The New Republic | 16 January 2014
The New Atheists − Coyne, Dawkins et al − are criticised for attacking religious belief at a popular and simple level, while ignoring the arguments of more sophisticated theologians. But what more can the theologians bring? “The difference between theologians and believers is not their differential acquaintance with the truth about God, but the greater acquaintance of theologians with the history of theology.”

Is this thing on?
Stan Alcorn | Digg | 15 January 2014
Why audio content never goes viral. “If you posted the most incredible story —−literally, the most incredible story that has ever been told since people have had the ability to tell stories, it will never, ever get as many hits as a video of a cat with a moustache.” One possible reason: You can’t skim sound. It takes time to consume. There is no audio equivalent of an image. An instant of audio is nothing         

Interview: Adam Thirlwell
Frances Riddle | Appendix | 15 January 2014
Rather marvellous discussion of literary translation. “What happened to genius creations like Johnson’s versions of Juvenal, or Pope’s Horace? I suppose one problem is the decline of common multi-linguistic-ness − Pope could assume the reader knew the Horace, whereas the translator of a Flaubert Conte today can’t assume that basic knowledge, which therefore adds a different moral problem.”         

Interview: Anne Enright
Conan Putnam | The Believer | 14 January 2014
Mostly about writing. “It’s like getting a herd of sheep across a field. If you try to control them too much, they resist. It’s the same with a book. If you try to control it too much, the book is dead. You have to let it fall apart quite early on and let it start doing its own thing. And that takes nerve, not to panic that the book you were going to write is not the book you will have at the end of the day.”   

Jennifer Weiner’s quest for literary respect
Rebecca Mead | New Yorker | 13 January 2014
Smart, popular author says there is no shame in giving readers what they want. “Just as I want plus-size women visible, and valued, and loved in my books, so do I want books like mine visible and valued, if not loved, by a critical establishment that’s still too rooted in sexist double standards, still too swift to dismiss women’s work as small, trivial, unimpressive, and unimportant.”

How to ruin a cultural institution
Jed Perl | The New Republic | 13 January 2014
New York’s Museum of Modern Art emerged from its last redesign in 2004 looking more and more like a “department store”. . “For a decade now MoMA has been locked in a marketing battle with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The goal is to see which museum can be turned into the biggest tourist trap”       

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