Edward Mendelson on Anthony Hecht and the Palliations of Poetry

In writing on Anthony Hecht‘s poetry in  (‘Seeing is Not Believing‘, The New York Review of Books, 20 June 2013), Edward Mendelson remarks: In a familiar paradox of art, Hecht’s poems got their structure and strength from his irrational judgments and defensive vulnerability. But Hecht did something deeper and more complex than finding compensations in theContinue reading “Edward Mendelson on Anthony Hecht and the Palliations of Poetry”

The ‘Anxiety of Influence’ and Scientific Discovery

In his essay on scientific discovery, ‘Scotoma: Forgetting and Neglect in Science’, Oliver Sacks writes: Darwin was at pains to say that he had no forerunners, that the idea of evolution was not in the air. Newton, despite his famous comment about ‘standing on the shoulders of giant,’ also denied such forerunners. This ‘anxiety ofContinue reading “The ‘Anxiety of Influence’ and Scientific Discovery”

56-Up: Checking In With ‘Old Friends’

Roger Ebert once referred to Michael Apted‘s Up series as the ‘noblest project in cinema history.’ In writing his review of 56-Up–the latest installment in the story of the Fab Fourteen–Ebert disowned those words as ‘hyperbole’ but its easy to see why he might have thought so. It is as straightforward–and as complicated–a film project as could be:Continue reading “56-Up: Checking In With ‘Old Friends’”

Bronowski on the Actively Constructed Good (in the Beautiful)

At the conclusion of The Visionary Eye: Essays in the Arts, Literature and Science, Jacob Bronowski writes: You will have noticed that the aesthetics that I have been developing through these six lectures are in the end rather heavily based on ethics. And you might think that I belong to the school of philosophers whoContinue reading “Bronowski on the Actively Constructed Good (in the Beautiful)”

Paul Valéry on the Indispensability of Avatars

Paul Valéry is quoted in Stephen Dunn‘s Walking Light (New York, Norton 1993) as saying: I believe in all sincerity that if each man were not able to live a number of lives besides his own, he would not be able to live his own life. Valéry’s stress on the sincerity of this claim for theContinue reading “Paul Valéry on the Indispensability of Avatars”

Walter Kaiser on Online Instability vs. Printed Stability

In reviewing the fifteen-volume cataloging of the massive Robert Lehman Collection (‘An Astonishing Record of a Vast Collection‘, New York Review of Books, 7 March 2013), Walter Kaiser writes: Like the collection itself, its impressive catalog may well be the last of its kind–and there aren’t, as I’ve said, very many of its kind to beginContinue reading “Walter Kaiser on Online Instability vs. Printed Stability”

Freud, Pointing to Poets

Some distinctive features of Sigmund Freud‘s writings are: a clarity of exposition–at least in works intended for more general audiences–which offset the density and novelty of the subject matter; a tendency to philosophize while simultaneously disdaining philosophical speculation; an unswerving overt commitment to science, scientific probity, virtue, and methodology; and lastly, and most entertainingly, a keenContinue reading “Freud, Pointing to Poets”

Viscusi and Queneau: The Combinatorics of Poetry

Reviewing Daniel Levin Becker‘s Many Subtle Channels: In Praise of Potential Literature (‘Anticipatory Plagiarism‘, London Review of Books, 6 December 2012) allows Paul Grimstad to take a tour through the wild and wacky world of experimental literature by way of some of the usual suspects. Most notably, Georges Perec and Oulipo (‘Ouvroir de littérature potentielle’; ‘workshop of potentialContinue reading “Viscusi and Queneau: The Combinatorics of Poetry”

Constraints, Creativity, and Programming

Last year, in a post on Goethe and Nietzsche, which invoked the Freedom program (to cure Internet distraction), and which noted the role constraints played in artistic creation, I had referred obliquely to a chapter in my book Decoding Liberation, in which ‘Scott Dexter and I tried to develop a theory of aesthetics for software,Continue reading “Constraints, Creativity, and Programming”

Mukul Kesavan on Making the Familiar Strange

Mukul Kesavan concludes a wonderful essay on Lucknow, the English language, Indian writing in English, the Indian summer, and ice-cream with: [T]the point of writing isn’t to make things familiar; it is to make them strange. Kesavan is right. To read is a form of escapism and what good would it be if we all weContinue reading “Mukul Kesavan on Making the Familiar Strange”