Western writers becoming irrelevant

"I have a sense of people thinking it (literature) is less important," he told Reuters on Friday in a wide-ranging interview at Waterstone's book store in central London.  
"If you look at America, for instance, there is a generation older than mine in which writers like Susan Sontag and Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal would have a significant public voice on issues of the day. Now there's virtually no writers.  

"Instead you have movie stars, so if you are George Clooney or Angelina Jolie then you do have the ability to speak about public issues ... and people will listen in a way they would once listen to Mailer and Sontag. That's a change."  

He added that in authoritarian countries the situation was different, and literature had held on to some of its power.  

"In those places literature continues to be important as you can see by the steps taken against writers," he said, counting China among them."

More: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/276085/lifestyle/literature/rushdie-says-writers-are-losing-their-influence-in-the-west

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Suffering and Literature

"Whatever the circumstances, Russians have never lost their deep love for literature. In fact, the worst of times, the best of books as its great 19th century literature stands testimony to: Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Turgenev, Chekov and a galaxy of several others. And the same tradition continued after the Revolution under the excesses of collectivisation and the Great purges of the 30s with writers like Gorky, Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelstam, Isaac Babel, Marina Tsvetava and Boris Pasternak, whose persecutions were both “brutal and exquisite”.

In Molotov’s Magic Lantern: A Journey into Russian History, which is history-cum-travelogue, Rachel Polonsky, a Cambridge academician, asks whether “there is a set of secret maps to be found among a person’s books, a way through the fortifications of the self” that would explain why a person’s deep love and apparent appreciation of literature (and culture in the larger sense) can be responsible for the execution of so many writers during the purges. Is this because, as the Russian scholar Dmitri Likhachev said, “the Russian people perish from an excess of space” that makes its literature “the most significant, the most tragic, the most philosophical”? These are the underlying questions, often asked about the relationship between suffering and literature, that Polonsky pursues in her book as she travels around the former Soviet empire to revisit the ghosts of great Russian writers of the past."


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Dissolvable espionage

Imagine spy devices that dissolve completely into nothingness...

"The technology, which will be announced in a paper this week in Science, is called transient electronics or resorbable electronics. These systems work until they are no longer needed, at which point they dissolve completely away—the dissolution triggered by ordinary water in their operating environment. ...

It's not hard to imagine the uses of small electronic devices that vanish without a trace when exposed to water. Disappearing sensors and other spy gear could be air-dropped or strategically embedded in hostile environments with no one the wiser. ...

The work is being funded in part by DARPA, the Defense Department's mad science arm, which sees a range of applications. To no one's surprise, though, those uses are classified."I can't get into those details," he tells PM." Source: http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/health/breakthroughs/transient-electronics-could-dissolve-inside-your-body-13098637?click=pm_latest

The spies can't tell you what their plans are, but this thriller writer can - a spy device based on the above concept is used by characters in my latest novel THE BLACK VAULThttp://www.spywriter.com/tbv/index.html



Why Literacy Matters

"Books are an irresistible retreat from the chilly and damp; they carry us to lands of whimsy and wisdom. They provoke thought and passion and often entertain our wildest notions. Books provide more than escape. I argue that they force us to observe some aspect of reality, be it through the lens of fiction. ...

“I am saying, then, that literacy, the mastery of language and the knowledge of books, is not an ornament, but a necessity. It is impractical only by the standards of quick profit and easy power. Longer perspective will show that it alone can preserve in us the possibility of an accurate judgment of ourselves, and the possibilities of correction and renewal. Without it, we are adrift in the present, in the wreckage of yesterday, in the nightmare of tomorrow.” 

More often than not, books are the wonders that save me from the banality of everyday life. It is fortunate that books provide a luxury to everyone. The danger is in the easiness to forget the preciousness of literacy. We cannot neglect our minds and give in to the laziness which favors television over novels."

From: http://elm.washcoll.edu/index.php/2012/09/defending-literature-back-to-the-books/

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The Power of Literature

"Really, what I love about literature is that it is constantly challenging us and provoking us and questioning us.

The power of that is that it then forces us to ask how our world is made, and if our world is made in ways that are unequal, it challenges us to imagine more equal ways of inhabiting our world.

That, to me, is power of literature.

It’s defamiliarizing. It’s estranging. It’s provoking. It’s disturbing. It teaches us to be just a little bit restless and a little bit uncertain about the world that we inhabit. There’s none of this, we’re going to be in harmony with the world around us. It’s a traumatic encounter. I think there’s value in that.

Its power and its powerlessness resides in its refusal to give us any guarantees about our world. In other words, we have to turn to literature in times of crisis, and yes, sometimes literature is used as a form of domination and not delusion.

But whatever literature offers us is always without any guarantee. It’s unverifiable. It is not going to give us a doctrine for how we should live our life because then it would be propaganda and we’d really be in trouble there."

From: http://oldgoldandblack.com/?p=21955

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6 minutes a day

"Getting stuck into a good novel appears to be beneficial to our mental health. As the old saying goes: ‘You’re never alone with a book.’

Reading not only staves off feelings of loneliness, it helps us to wind down, destress and forget our own problems for a while.

In 2009, researchers at the University of Sussex found that just six minutes of reading can reduce stress levels by more than two-thirds, more than listening to music or going out for a walk. It is thought that the concentration required to read distracts the mind, easing muscle tension and slowing the heart rate.

Reading may be good for physical health too, preventing brain ageing and disease.

A study, just published in the Archives of Neurology, from the University of California, Berkeley, found that engaging in brain-stimulating pursuits including reading on a daily basis – from a young age – could help prevent Alzheimer’s by inhibiting the formation of the amyloid (protein) plaques which are found in the brains of those with the disease.

Scientists scanned the brains of healthy adults aged 60 and over (average age was 76) with no signs of dementia and found those who had been doing daily brain-stimulating activities, such as reading, playing chess, and writing letters since they were six years old showed very low levels of amyloid plaques. But those who did not enjoy these activities had lots of plaques."

More: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2193496/Getting-lost-good-book-help-healthy.html?ito%3Dfeeds-newsxml

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Complexities of reading

"Neurobiological experts, radiologists, and humanities scholars are working together to explore the relationship between reading, attention, and distraction—by reading Jane Austen.

Surprising preliminary results reveal a dramatic and unexpected increase in blood flow to regions of the brain beyond those responsible for “executive function,” areas which would normally be associated with paying close attention to a task, such as reading, says Natalie Phillips, the literary scholar leading the project.

During a series of ongoing experiments, functional magnetic resonance images track blood flow in the brains of subjects as they read excerpts of a Jane Austen novel. Experiment participants are first asked to skim a passage leisurely as they might do in a bookstore, and then to read more closely, as they would while studying for an exam.

Phillips says the global increase in blood flow during close reading suggests that “paying attention to literary texts requires the coordination of multiple complex cognitive functions.” Blood flow also increased during pleasure reading, but in different areas of the brain. Phillips suggests that each style of reading may create distinct patterns in the brain that are “far more complex than just work and play.”

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Literary movie adaptations no replacement for novels

A student "says he prefers watching films to reading novels.

He argues that watching a movie is more interesting than reading a novel.

“Reading is boring and sometimes when my teacher is reading a novel, I do not follow well,” Mponye says.

He also says it saves time to follow a story condensed in a movie, other than reading 500 pages of a novel.

Many young people today prefer watching television and using computer to reading. Educationists argue that parents and teachers should serve as models by reading and value reading culture.

[...] a literature teacher [...] says he always reads the novels together with his students. But after reading, he ensures that they watch the movie.

“Students pay more attention to movies than during reading sessions in class. It also breaks monotony of appearing before them in class,” Kigongo explains.

“However, movies should not be allowed to replace novels or books [...]

It is believed that access to more books leads to language and literacy development. These reading materials should arouse the children’s passion for reading.

They should have interesting topics, simple grammar and exciting diction to instill a love for reading.

This love cannot be forced upon any one; instead, it can be nurtured. ...

The American Association of Pediatrics advises parents to read to their children right from a tender age.

When a child reads a book, for instance, it stimulates the brain, the muscles, eyes and sense of smell and touch through turning pages.

In addition, their cognitive, social and emotional abilities are improved."

From: newvision.co.ug

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