Sunday, January 20, 2008

Literary readings

Thanks to my status of happy satellite of the D-list, new circles are revealed to me, and I am introduced to events the existence of which I did not even suspect before. My latest initiation was to the literary reading circuit. When L told me that we were going to a reading featuring Ann Gelder, I was not too sure what to expect. Not having much of a point of reference, I remembered a high-school lecture on "the battle of Hernani", and vaguely imagined authors reading their texts with revolutionary ardor, furiously arguing for the need to radically renew their art form.

Things did not quite turn out that way. The reading was hosted in the Bernal Yoga center; I owe to its policy of "no shoes inside" the knowledge that writers, like us mere humans, go to Mervyn's to renew their stockpile of socks. The Bernal Heights neighborhood provided an unexpectedly rich audio background to the reading - a Safeway cart shuffling in the adjacent street, and what sounded to the untrained ear like a duck being chased by a dog.
To be perfectly honest, it was not my first reading, and it confirmed something I did not expect initially: I do enjoy readings. I like to read in the privacy of my couch, following my own pace and going back to passages I enjoy, so I imagined initially that having to follow someone else's rhythm would be more of an imposition than anything. Quite to the contrary, it turns out that listening to someone else has a very soothing quality, and creates a state of mind which is very different from reading the text itself, simultaneously surrendering to it, and paying more attention to individual words so as no to lose the flow. The cushioned and peaceful atmosphere of the yoga center may have contributed to this, but it made me think that the pleasure I had as a kid when I was told stories must have been similar.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

n+1 West Coast Tour

"n+1", the "twice-yearly" New-York literary magazine, is coming to the Bay Area this week for their West Coast Tour; I may have a small bias here, but if I were you, I would not miss it, especially because Elif Batuman will be reading some of her pieces. Here is the latest schedule:

Tuesday 11/27, 3 pm – SAN FRANCISCO – University of SF, Kendrick Hall (Law School) Room 102

Wednesday 11/28, 4 pm – PALO ALTO – Stanford, Terrace Room, Margaret Jacks Hall, 4th floor

Thursday 11/29, 6 pm – BERKELEY – UC Berkeley, Boalt Booth

+ + +

Saturday 12/1, 9 pm – SAN FRANCISCO – Issue 6 Launch Party! – Swedish American Hall, 1574 Market Street. Free for subscribers, $7 for nonsubscribers. $1 drinks.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Methodical beauty

The French word "Vitrail" translates in English as "Stained Glass". This I learned today reading an article on the piece Gerhard Richter created for the Cologne Cathedral. While "Stained Glass" is a technically accurate description of the process involved, it seems to miss the whole point, which is less about technique than beauty. By contrast, Richter's piece, inspired by his Color Charts, is an essentially mechanical composition, relying on mathematics rather than human inspiration; And yet, the result is strangely beautiful, in a way somewhat similar to Bach's music.

Gerhard Richter: Cologne Cathedral (from Wired Magazine)

Addendum: I could not find what specific function Richter used to create the piece, and would be really interested to know! What I found out is that I there were some concerns that the random patterns would display inappropriate images...