Odyssey Online

Entries from January 2013

Up Date On Timbuktu’s Libraries

January 30th, 2013 · Comments Off on Up Date On Timbuktu’s Libraries

…the Atlantic is reporting that the destruction of libraries and priceless documents in the ongoing upheaval in Mali is unconfirmed, and may, in fact, not be nearly as devastating as reported yesterday…

Tags: Books

Destruction of Libraries in Timbuktu

January 29th, 2013 · Comments Off on Destruction of Libraries in Timbuktu

It is unfortunately being report that retreating Islamist and Tuareg militants have destroyed libraries, …”containing thousands of ancient leather-bound books written in Arabic, Hebrew, African tribal languages, Turkish, and many other tongues, and covering topics like astronomy, poetry, music, politics, grammar, medicine, law, conflict resolution, and women’s rights. The oldest books were from the eleventh century…” Writing in the American Interest Walter Russell asserts, “In reality, as the torching of the great library of Timbuktu, a world class repository of Islamic history, religious writing and culture, shows, this is a war against civilization being waged by barbarian know-nothings.” Libraries are indeed their own ecosystem of understanding, and a corner of this ecosystem being reduced to ashes is a subtle electric jolt through all.  To imagine, what was lost is to mourn for Mali.

Tags: Books

Friday Blogging: Don’t Be Evil

January 25th, 2013 · Comments Off on Friday Blogging: Don’t Be Evil

Nicholas Carr has a new and very thoughtful piece on the evolution of Google as a technology, and as a company.  It’s a sobering short essay, argued in part with the poetry of T.S. Eliot and Robert Frost.  Carr’s thesis is that “Google’s goal is no longer to read the web. It is to read us.” His point being that the company’s push to personalize searches means that the real work Google is figuring out its users, not figuring out the web.  Carr doesn’t comment on the privacy issues explicit in the companies evolution, rather, he his concern is “the prison we now call personalization.”

This commentary combined with the news on Google’s tax shelters make the slogan Don’t Be Evil seem like something from a long time ago…reading Robert Frost is of course a good antidote to the news about Google and late January cold:

Tags: Essay on Technology · Google

On Liking George Herbert

January 21st, 2013 · Comments Off on On Liking George Herbert

Alfred Corn writes about the intriguing if simply question of why George Herbert’s devotional poetry appeals to so many non religious folks.  I’ll let Corn’s argument speak for itself, but it’s a wonderful question of reading and writing and words working their magic by connecting one human imagination to other human beings seeing, sensing their world.

Good editions of Herbert here in ODY would include The Works of George Herbert edited by F.E. Hutchinson (Oxford UP) and George Herbert selected by W. H. Auden.

Tags: Books

Remembering What You’ve Read

January 18th, 2013 · Comments Off on Remembering What You’ve Read

A marvelous little vignette by Joe Fassler about two sentences that changed Walter Mosley’s life.  They come from Raymond Chandler’s novel The Long Goodbye and are, “He was looking at me and neither his eyes nor his gun moved. He was as calm as an adobe wall in the moonlight.” As a Chandler enthusiast they resonant with me to, but better still about the piece is that moment of clarity (revelation?) where a particular phrasing catches something perfectly for the reader-recipient.  It’s a moment in a reading life, when words shape one’s understanding of a personal relationship with how the world looks.  Ever reader has these moments, these phrases, and this reinforcement of why one reads…

My own favorite Chandler phrases, since I know you want to know, is from his 1939 story “Trouble is My Business:” I went first, then Hawkins, then Beef wheeled neatly behind us like a door. We went in so close together that we must have looked like a three-decker sandwich.

Tags: Books

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