In these days of globalization, including global culture, it might be useful to recall the old humanist ideal of “universality”, that of the uomo universale (and please do not read the term “uomo” in gender-biased terms) who develops his faculties in as many fields as possible and who manages to do so thanks to the general (that is: nonspecialized) education s/he receives and eventually implements in his or her life as scholar, artist, scientist, but also citizen.
The Lonely Hearts Hotel is the most recent novel by Canadian author, Heather O’Neil. It is the story of Pierrot and Rose; orphans, who both, in differing circumstances, nearly die at birth but miraculously survive against the odds.
Food is a key theme in cultural studies, but often the approach focuses on the negative or problematic aspects of it: anorexia and other eating disorders, obesity and fat studies, outdoor eating rituals and social distinction, the critique of deeply rooted national preferences as a form of modern “mythology” (in the sense of Roland Barthes), the commercialization of snootiness, and the relationship between alimentary habits and climate change.
Everybody knows the situation: a delayed flight, and nothing more to read. Airport literature is then the answer to all our anxieties. In this case, it was entitled Swing Time (2016, Penguin edition in 2017) and its author is Zadie Smith.
James I. Porter’s “Disfigurations: Erich Auerbach’s Theory of Figura” (Critical Inquiry, vol. 44-1, 2017, pp., 80-113) is one of the best essays I’ve read in recent months.
Tourism is big business and “literary” travel guides are often marketed as culturally correct tools to upgrade the experience of the journey, be it abroad or at home. The new book by Eric Hazan (a publisher and political activist born in 1935 whose crisp and provocative ways of writing and thinking can be given as an example to many of those who are much younger than him) is not a book of this kind.
What Is Curiosity? How Do We Question? What Are We Doing Here? What Do We Want to Know? The award-winning Canadian writer Alberto Manguel explores these, and thirteen other equally poignant questions in his book Curiosity, published by Yale University Press (2015).