“The Physical Possibility of Inspiring Imagination in the Mind of Somebody Living” (26.06 – 26.07.2014) is a night circus incarnate—jellyfish glow into the street through the windows of an abandoned Liverpool warehouse.
Parentheses aren’t just the mark of a lazy or verbose writer. They can also bracket personal pain in a narrative. At The New York Review of Books, Christopher Benfey explores the power of the parenthetical detail, such as Lolita‘s “My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three.” Pair with: Vulture’s “The 5 Best Punctuation Marks in Literature.”
This NYRB essay lays out how parentheses do (as in the ceraunic and photographic moment of Lolita) and do not (as in Emerson’s brief and cutting assertion) bracket grief—and by extension, elegy.
the plan: a letter & essay writing weekend.
- me: hello darkness my old friend
- darkness: do i know u
Ice washed onto the black sand beach of lake Jökulsárlón, Iceland.
Photo credit: Konstantin Khrapko
"Blue foxes are so curiously like stones that it is a matter for wonder. When they lie beside them in winter there is no hope of telling them apart from the rocks themselves…" (3, 32), The Blue Fox, Sjón (trans. Victoria Cribb)
Sjón’s novel tells four disparate stories—of a blue fox and spirit, a reverend and hunter, an herbalist and letter-writer, and a girl with Down’s syndrome and ornithologist—that offers a fierce landscape of science and death and magic and history, setting the tone for contemporary Icelandic fiction.
requesting books at the library is my no. 1 summertime impulse: thousands of pages at my fingertips, long afternoons and longer evenings resting upon my hands, tomes in my arms to circulation and back again.
starry-eyed summer songs like this one.
Before the advent of photography, Japanese fishermen created a novel technique for documenting their catch. Gyotaku is a form of printing that creates accurate renditions through a relief printing process. Rubbing sumi ink onto the body of a fish, and then gently pressing rice paper onto it and peeling it away will net an impression of the fish—distinct enough to note the shape and size of the species as well as the subtle patterns and textures of scales, fins, and gills.
Dating back to the 1800s, original gyotaku prints were minimal in their appearance—made only in black ink without embellishment of texture, color, or added elements. The emphasis of these early prints was to prove the size and species of the fisherman’s “trophy fish” and to record this permanently. It was not until later when gyotaku became an art form that composition and color were considered.
Gyotaku is still widely used today in Japan and other coastal communities. Often in restaurant signage, this technique allows chefs to advertise their seafood specials with immediacy and honesty. Traditionally, the fish is printed with non-toxic ink allowing it to be cleaned and prepared as a meal after the printing process has been completed. The natural precision of gyotaku offers a pure form of graphic clarity—its simplicity demonstrates detached documentation yet highlights the personal achievement of the proud fisherman.
ichthyological forensics & marine diversity turned naturalistic art.
"The master places a piece of paper in front of the candidate and orders him to put on a pair of eyeglasses. ‘Read,’ the master commands. The candidate squints, but it’s an impossible task. The page is blank."
Noah Shachtman recounts the story of how a philologist, a specialist in machine translation, and a few others decrypted a manuscript of the Great Enlightened Society of the Oculists. The consequences? A coherent text, and countless questions of why societies emerged in 18th century Europe as bastions of intellectual discussion, why the texts were written and encoded and hidden for so long, and what the rites described in the text really mean.