These two works on life's fleeting pleasures are by Buddhist monks from medieval Japan, but each shows a different world-view. In the short memoir Hôjôki, Chômei recounts his decision to withdraw from worldly affairs and live as a hermit in a tiny hut in the mountains, contemplating the impermanence of human existence. Kenko, however, displays a fascination with more earthy matters in his collection of anecdotes, advice and observations. From ribald stories of drunken monks to aching nostalgia for the fading traditions of the Japanese court, Essays in Idleness is a constantly surprising work that ranges across the spectrum of human experience. Meredith McKinney's excellent new translation also includes notes and an introduction exploring the spiritual and historical background of the works. Chômei was born into a family of Shinto priests in around 1155, at at time when the stable world of the court was rapidly breaking up. He became an important though minor poet of his day, and at the age of fifty, withdrew from the world to become a tonsured monk. He died in around 1216. Kenkô was born around 1283 in Kyoto. He probably became a monk in his late twenties, and was also noted as a calligrapher. Today he is remembered for his wise and witty aphorisms, 'Essays in Idleness'. Meredith McKinney, who has also translated Sei Shonagon's The Pillow Book for Penguin Classics, is a translator of both contemporary and classical Japanese literature. She lived in Japan for twenty years and is currently a visitng fellow at the Australian National University in Canberra. '[Essays in Idleness is] a most delightful book, and one that has served as a model of Japanese style and taste since the 17th century. These cameo-like vignettes reflect the importance of the little, fleeting futile things, and each essay is Kenko himself' Asian Student
Polish Wilno—now Vilnius, in Lithuania—was the city of Czeslaw Milosz’s youth and adolescence. In this collection of essays and reminiscences, written over a span of three decades, the Nobel Prize–winning poet traces an informal autobiography againstthe street map of an extraordinary city—a crossroads of languages, cultures, and beliefs—that lies at the very heart of his internal geography. Beginning with My Streets, available for the first time in paperback, gathers portraits of the writers Aleksander Wat, Dwight MacDonald, and Fyodor Dostoevsky, as well as the great Swedish scientist Emanuel Swedenborg; an exchange of letters from the 1950s with the novelist and diarist Witold Gombrowicz; and a selection of speeches delivered between 1967 and 1987, including Milosz’s Nobel Lecture. These diffuse reckonings, distinguished throughout by the flavor of personality and the aura of place, have a cumulative power—they are quintessential Milosz.
This anthology surveys the immigration experience from a wide range of cultural and historical viewpoints. Contributors include Jacob Riis, Edwidge Danticat, Junot Díaz, and many others.
Solve for X, the fourth collection of creative nonfiction by Arthur Saltzman, demonstrates the writer's continuing effort to expand on the thematic range, lyrical capacities, and imaginative possibilities of the essay in a signature style marked by what Publishers Weekly deemed Saltzman's "riskily mellifluous language." The twenty-five essays that constitute this volume investigate a wide range of concerns: from child prodigies to the problems and pleasures of chance, from the generation of our species to the generation gap, from the mind-body problem to the paradoxical purpose of pointlessness in human endeavors, from the culture of cars to the culture of guns, from our phobias to our foibles. Here too are investigations into the methods and meanings of Dante and Henry James as well as the seductions and pitfalls of literary popularity. Leavened with a companionable wit and an often self-deprecating humor, the pieces are pervaded, girded, and highlighted by persistent wordplay and literary allusions from a lifetime spent on both sides of the educator's desk. Collectively these essays serve as verbal forays, poetic meditations, luminous departures, and lessons in delight. As Modern Language Review attests, "Saltzman's prose is pithy, allusive, elegant. . . . In stylistic virtuosity, [he] comes perhaps closest to Updike." In Solve for X we are invited to witness Saltzman's ongoing improvisations and negotiation with and through words as conducted in the busy intersection of fact and figuration, argument and invention, experience remembered and memory remade.
This collection of essays focuses on Tolstoy's writing, thinking and translation problems to commemorate his 150th year of his birth.
The food editor for the "New York Times Magazine" collects twenty-six of the best stories and recipes from some of the playwrights, novelists, and journalists featured in her column.
Jane Kramer started cooking when she started writing. Her first dish, a tinned-tuna curry, was assembled on a tiny stove in her graduate student apartment while she pondered her first writing assignment. From there, whether her travels took her to a tent settlement in the Sahara for an afternoon interview with an old Berber woman toiling over goat stew, or to the great London restaurateur and author Yotam Ottolenghi's Notting Hill apartment, where they assembled a buttered phylo-and-cheese tower called a mutabbaq, Jane always returned from the field with a new recipe, and usually, a friend. For the first time, Jane's beloved food pieces from The New Yorker, where she has been a staff writer since 1964, are arranged in one place--a collection of definitive chef profiles, personal essays, and gastronomic history that is at once deeply personal and humane. The Reporter's Kitchen follows Jane everywhere, and throughout her career--from her summer writing retreat in Umbria, where Jane and her anthropologist husband host memorable expat Thanksgivings--in July--to the Nordic coast, where Jane and acclaimed Danish chef Rene Redzepi, of Noma, forage for edible sea-grass. The Reporter’s Kitchen is an important record of culture distilled through food around the world. It's welcoming and inevitably surprising.
For forty years V. S. Naipaul has been traveling and, through his writing, creating one of the most wide-ranging and sustained meditations on our world. Now, for the first time, his finest shorter pieces of reflection and reportage -- nearly all of them heretofore out of print -- are collected in one volume. With an abiding faith in the redemptive power of modernity balanced by a sense of wonder about the past, Naipaul has explored an astonishing variety of societies and peoples through the many-sided prism of his own experience. Whether writing about the Muslim invasions of India, Mobutu’s mad reign in Zaire, or the New York mayoral elections, he has demonstrated again and again that no one has a shrewder intuition of the ways in which power works, of the universal relation of the exploiter and the exploited. And no one has put forth a more consistently eloquent defense of the dignity of the individual and the value of civilization. Infused with a deeply felt humanism, The Writer and the World attests powerfully not only to Naipaul’s status as the great English prose stylist of our time but also to his keen, often prophetic, understanding. From the Trade Paperback edition.
Make-Believe Town brings together David Mamet's acute insights into everyday life, the arts, and politics. These pieces evidence Mamet's love of language, particularly the introductory essay, "Eight Kings", which celebrates the private languages of carpenters, carnival workers, and all crafts and trades, and "The Northern Novel", which propounds Mamet's affection for the line of American fiction exemplified by Willa Cather and Theodore Dreiser. Some of the essays are prose portraits from Mamet's life: "Deer Hunting" and "The Diner" delineate worlds far from the public eye. Make-Believe Town also contains beautifully written recollections of Mamet's early days as a writer ("Girl Copy"), his start in the theater ("Memories of Off Broadway"), his education as a gambler ("Gems From a Gambler's Bookshelf"), and bygone days on Broadway ("Delsomma's"). Mamet's incisive thoughts about public issues - support for the arts, nudity in films, the roles given Jewish characters, even the posthumous rehabilitation of Richard Nixon - round out a far-reaching collection.
In the hands of award-winning writer Scott Russell Sanders, the essay becomes an inquisitive and revelatory form of art. In 30 of his finest essays—nine never before collected—Sanders examines his Midwestern background, his father's drinking, his opposition to war, his literary inheritance, and his feeling for wildness. He also tackles such vital issues as the disruption of Earth's climate, the impact of technology, the mystique of money, the ideology of consumerism, and the meaning of sustainability. Throughout, he asks perennial questions: What is a good life? How do family and culture shape a person's character? How should we treat one another and the Earth? What is our role in the cosmos? Readers and writers alike will find wisdom and inspiration in Sanders's luminous and thought-provoking prose.
A great American writer's confrontation with a great European critic—a personal and intellectual awakening A hundred years ago, the Viennese satirist Karl Kraus was among the most penetrating and farsighted writers in Europe. In his self-published magazine, Die Fackel, Kraus brilliantly attacked the popular media's manipulation of reality, the dehumanizing machinery of technology and consumer capitalism, and the jingoistic rhetoric of a fading empire. But even though he had a fervent following, which included Franz Kafka and Walter Benjamin, he remained something of a lonely prophet, and few people today are familiar with his work. Luckily, Jonathan Franzen is one of them. In The Kraus Project, Franzen, whose "calm, passionate critical authority" has been praised in The New York Times Book Review, not only presents his definitive new translations of Kraus but annotates them spectacularly, with supplementary notes from the Kraus scholar Paul Reitter and the Austrian author Daniel Kehlmann. Kraus was a notoriously cantankerous and difficult writer, and in Franzen he has found his match: a novelist unafraid to voice unpopular opinions strongly, a critic capable of untangling Kraus's often dense arguments to reveal their relevance to contemporary America. While Kraus is lampooning the iconic German poet and essayist Heinrich Heine and celebrating his own literary hero, the Austrian playwright Johann Nestroy, Franzen is annotating Kraus the way Kraus annotated others, surveying today's cultural and technological landscape with fearsome clarity, and giving us a deeply personal recollection of his first year out of college, when he fell in love with Kraus's work. Painstakingly wrought, strikingly original in form, The Kraus Project is a feast of thought, passion, and literature.
Volume V (of X) - Great Britain and Ireland Ever since civilized man has had a literature he has apparently sought to make selections from it and thus put his favorite passages together in a compact and convenient form. Certain it is, at least, that to the Greeks, masters in all great arts, we owe this habit. They made such collections and named them, after their pleasant imaginative fashion, a gathering of flowers, or what we, borrowing their word, call an anthology. So to those austere souls who regard anthologies as a labor-saving contrivance for the benefit of persons who like a smattering of knowledge and are never really learned, we can at least plead in mitigation that we have high and ancient authority for the practise. In any event no amount of scholarly deprecation has been able to turn mankind or that portion of mankind which reads books from the agreeable habit of making volumes of selections and finding in them much pleasure, as well as improvement in taste and knowledge. With the spread of education and with the great increase of literature among all civilized nations, more especially since the invention of printing and its vast multiplication of books, the making of volumes of selections comprizing what is best in one's own or in many literatures is no longer a mere matter of taste or convenience as with the Greeks, but has become something little short of a necessity in this world of many workers, comparatively few scholars, and still fewer intelligent men of leisure. Anthologies have been multiplied like all other books, and in the main they have done much good and no harm. The man who thinks he is a scholar or highly educated because he is familiar with what is collected in a well-chosen anthology, of course, errs grievously. Such familiarity no more makes one a master of literature than a perusal of a dictionary makes the reader a master of style. But as the latter pursuit can hardly fail to enlarge a man's vocabulary, so the former adds to his knowledge, increases his stock of ideas, liberalizes his mind and opens to him new sources of enjoyment. The Greek habit was to bring together selections of verse, passages of especial merit, epigrams and short poems. In the main their example has been followed. From their days down to the "Elegant Extracts in Verse" of our grandmothers and grandfathers, and thence on to our own time with its admirable "Golden Treasury" and "Oxford Handbook of Verse," there has been no end to the making of poetical anthologies and apparently no diminution in the public appetite for them. Poetry indeed lends itself to selection. Much of the best poetry of the world is contained in short poems, complete in themselves, and capable of transference bodily to a volume of selections. There are very few poets of whose quality and genius a fair idea can not be given by a few judicious selections. A large body of noble and beautiful poetry, of verse which is "a joy forever," can also be given in a very small compass. And the mechanical attribute of size, it must be remembered, is very important in making a successful anthology, for an essential quality of a volume of selections is that it should be easily portable, that it should be a book which can be slipt into the pocket and readily carried about in any wanderings whether near or remote. An anthology which is stored in one or more huge and heavy volumes is practically valueless except to those who have neither books nor access to a public library, or who think that a stately tome printed on calendered paper and "profusely illustrated" is an ornament to a center-table in a parlor rarely used except on solemn or official occasions. I have mentioned these advantages of verse for the purposes of an anthology in order to show the difficulties which must be encountered in making a prose selection. Very little prose is in small parcels which can be transferred entire, and therefore with the very important attribute of completeness, to a volume of selections. From most of the great prose writers it is necessary to take extracts, and the chosen passage is broken off from what comes before and after. The fame of a great prose writer as a rule rests on a book, and really to know him the book must be read and not merely passages from it. Extracts give no very satisfactory idea of "Paradise Lost" or "The Divine Comedy," and the same is true of extracts from a history or a novel. It is possible by spreading prose selections through a series of small volumes to overcome the mechanical difficulty and thus make the selections in form what they ought above all things to be—companions and not books of reference or table decorations. But the spiritual or literary problem is not so easily overcome. What prose to take and where to take it are by no means easy questions to solve. Yet they are well worth solving, so far as patient effort can do it, for in this period of easy printing it is desirable to put in convenient form before those who read examples of the masters which will draw us back from the perishing chatter of the moment to the literature which is the highest work of civilization and which is at once noble and lasting. Upon that theory this collection has been formed. It is an attempt to give examples from all periods and languages of Western civilization of what is best and most memorable in their prose literature. That the result is not a complete exhibition of the time and the literatures covered by the selections no one is better aware than the editors. Inexorable conditions of space make a certain degree of incompleteness inevitable when he who is gathering flowers traverses so vast a garden, and is obliged to confine the results of his labors within such narrow bounds. The editors are also fully conscious that, like all other similar collections, this one too will give rise to the familiar criticism and questionings as to why such a passage was omitted and such another inserted; why this writer was chosen and that other passed by. In literature we all have our favorites, and even the most catholic of us has also his dislikes if not his pet aversions. I will frankly confess that there are authors represented in these volumes whose writings I should avoid, just as there are certain towns and cities of the world to which, having once visited them, I would never willingly return, for the simple reason that I would not voluntarily subject myself to seeing or reading what I dislike or, which is worse, what bores and fatigues me. But no editor of an anthology must seek to impose upon others his own tastes and opinions. He must at the outset remember and never afterward forget that so far as possible his work must be free from the personal equation. He must recognize that some authors who may be mute or dull to him have a place in literature, past or present, sufficiently assured to entitle them to a place among selections which are intended above all things else to be representative. To those who wonder why some favorite bit of their own was omitted while something else for which they do not care at all has found a place I can only say that the editors, having supprest their own personal preferences, have proceeded on certain general principles which seem to be essential in making any selection either of verse or prose which shall possess broader and more enduring qualities than that of being a mere exhibition of the editor's personal taste. To illustrate my meaning: Emerson's "Parnassus" is extremely interesting as an exposition of the tastes and preferences of a remarkable man of great and original genius. As an anthology it is a failure, for it is of awkward size, is ill arranged and contains selections made without system, and which in many cases baffle all attempts to explain their appearance. On the other hand, Mr. Palgrave, neither a very remarkable man nor a great and original genius, gave us in the first "Golden Treasury" a collection which has no interest whatever as reflecting the tastes of the editor, but which is quite perfect in its kind. Barring the disproportionate amount of Wordsworth which includes some of his worst things—and which, be it said in passing, was due to Mr. Palgrave's giving way at that point to his personal enthusiasm—the "Golden Treasury" in form, in scope, and in arrangement, as well as in almost unerring taste, is the best model of what an anthology should be which is to be found in any language.

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