Sculpture with Words in Edinburgh

An anonymous word artist in Edinburgh has been leaving sculputral gifts around the city at various museums and libraries. The sculptures are paper structures making use of books, particular Scottish writers Ian Rankin and James Hogg.

Sculpture from James Hogg’s Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner

Spine of the sculpture

These sculptures sublimely sit at the juxtaposition of word, art, and public culture. They celebrate the anonymity of the print culture that drove Edinburgh–the woman behind the sculptures has delivered her last two and she doesn’t want to be known. In fact, most people don’t want to know who is behind these ethereal gifts.

Gramophone and coffin from an Ian Rankin novel.

Poetry Tree

The blog Central Station has a full gallery of the sculptures. And here is an NPR story (which the incomparable JW sent me). I think what I love best about this story is that these sculptures were all delivered anonymously, and people had to go on a kind of scavenger hunt for them. Literary clues sprinkled across Edinburgh made from the books of Scottish writers–this is why I want to go back.


Syllabi Deconstruction

Apparently the Ransom Center has one of David Foster Wallace‘s syllabi available online, and Katie Roiphie is waxing lyrical for some odd reason. Her point is that somehow Wallace warning his students that he expects them to work and to not turn in slapdash hackery is somehow refreshing. Admittedly, he writes these warnings in his own fashion, but essentially, every syllabus on the planet does this. I guess Roiphie doesn’t pay attention to her own syllabi?

Or perhaps I’m just more aware of the boilerplate warnings because I’m working on my own for the Spring. A syllabus is a contract, but it’s also an attempt to head off pet peeves before they occur in your classroom. For example, my comp II syllabi includes explicit instructions on how to email me because I got tired of getting emails at the beginning of the semester asking what books were assigned or what we were doing in class that day and not having a clue as to what class the student belonged to because he or she barely bothered with a greeting, much less bothered to let me know who they were. Despite those instructions, I still get emails asking what we’re doing in class–as if the extensive tentative reading schedule I put together did not include that information. I include a warning in my Victorian lit class that there is extensive reading in the course. Victorian novels are long; there’s no way around that fact. I try to pace the schedule so that it’s manageable, but students taking the class will be reading a lot. Syllabi are idiosyncratic documents, but they reveal more about the things that bug teachers than anything else. They don’t illuminate things about the creator’s writing, at least I don’t think so.


“Barry savored his helping. But he wondered where he was going to find room for the entire meal. He knew the turkey course was to come, and hadn’t Kinky been getting her Christmas puddings ready a couple of weeks ago when she’d found one had eaten a hole in a stainless steel bowl?

He glanced at the sideboard. The plates of sweet mince pies, the Christmas cake, and the meringues were tucked in between ranks of Christmas cards and two flanking holly wreaths that encircled lit candles. The meringues were soft, white, sugary, whorled cones, each one fixed to the next by a layer of whipped cream.

Get through all that, Barry Laverty, he told himself, and you’ll be taking your new pants to Miss Moloney–to be let out.”

~ Patrick Taylor, An Irish Country Christmas

The Artist

I’ve wanted to see The Artist since I first saw a preview for it. I like old movies, especially Gene Kelly films. It’s one of the reasons I still like Woody Allen films–he has the feel of Old Hollywood even when I don’t particularly like what he’s doing with it. Time Magazine’s glowing review is here. This film and the Muppets in the same week might just equal supreme cinematic happiness.

Ugly Women Can’t Write Poetry

Or so said Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine in 1829. This casual misogyny has not disappeared, just moved from actual editors writing such ideas to commentators and readers spewing vitriol at women writers who speak their mind.  E.J. Graff responds to an an Independent article by Laurie Penny on the ways that women writers on the Internet–especially political writers–are targets for threats of rape and violence. Some of these threats included tracking down home addresses and the writer’s family. Key point from Penny:

An opinion, it seems, is the short skirt of the internet. Having one and flaunting it is somehow asking an amorphous mass of almost-entirely male keyboard-bashers to tell you how they’d like to rape, kill and urinate on you. This week, after a particularly ugly slew of threats, I decided to make just a few of those messages public on Twitter, and the response I received was overwhelming. Many could not believe the hate I received, and many more began to share their own stories of harassment, intimidation and abuse.

I’ve been fortunate in that my blog’s readers are mostly comprised of people I know or friends of people I know. I’m not sure how I would handle such abuse.

How to Write about Penn State and Rape

Interesting piece by Arthur Brisbane, the Public Editor for the New York Times. In the article, he discusses reader complaints about the way the New York Times has been discussing the Sandusky case, in particular its use of the term sexual assault over rape of a child to describe the rape of a 10 year old boy in the showers that was witnessed by Joe McQueary. In some ways, readers vilify the paper for not excoriating Sandusky (the first comment in the comment section does the same). Yet, a paper cannot and should not assume guilt until Sandusky has been tried in a court of law. I’ve been reading Judith Flanders’s Invention of Murder, and one of the things that is a common thread in that text is how the nineteenth century press would essentially convict alleged murders before they’d even been tried. Flanders implies that more than one alleged murderer, especially some of the working class woman poisoners, were hung on scant evidence. But the press assumed their guilt and published every rumor that came their way.

In other ways, the complaints come from the evolving nature of the story. News paper writers work in a world where stories can change in seconds. (They also have business managers worrying about libel issues.) I think caution was perhaps prudent as the story broke and reporters scrambled to better understand the facts. One of the interesting comments was a complaint that the story had moved off the front page and into the Sports section. Yet, it is a sports story and the reporters with the best knowledge and most connections and sources would be those who write for Sports. I’m not saying the Times should not have called the acts they described as sexual assault rape of a child. It’s the mental connection I made, but I think they pulled back on their word choices until more information could be obtained. Nor are most Sports and news reporters trained to write about rape. Perhaps they should be, but as of right now, they’re not.