Long Reads

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Great Long Opening Sentences in World Literature

Some of the greatest first lines in world literature are but a few words long, consisting of a lone and simple clause: ‘Call me Ishmael.’ from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851), and for a more recent example, ‘See the child.’ from Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian (1985). Others too suggestively introduce a central figure, whether the narrator or the object of the narrator’s gaze:…

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Themes and References in Joanna Newsom’s Sapokanikan

Yesterday Joanna Newsom announced Divers, her fourth studio album and her first since 2010’s beautiful and generous Have One on Me. Divers is due out on 23 October on Drag City. Accompanying this revelation, she also unveiled the video for the album’s first single. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, ‘Sapokanikan’ shows Newsom strolling, striding, and sashaying through the streets of New York City. ‘Sapokanikan’ is…

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Elaine May’s A New Leaf (1971)

Henry Graham in A New Leaf is an artist in shades of green: his palette is of money, which he spends not judiciously, but with grace and flair and a firm creative hand. Born into great wealth, his spending is an act of pure self-expression. The trouble is that Henry Graham has overspent, and the cheques which he has passed…

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On the Fugitive and French and Russian Poetry

When we hear or read the word ‘fugitive’ today, we perhaps tend to think of someone fleeing from something: most often in a legal frame, from justice; but also potentially from persecution, or simply from the uncomfortable circumstances of their lives. Supporting the first relation is the FBI’s list of the ‘Ten Most Wanted Fugitives’. This was conceived by J. Edgar Hoover,…

Saint Patrick in Context: Dates, Legends, and His Confessio

Saint Patrick in Context: Dates, Legends, and His Confessio

He is Ireland’s outstanding patron saint, conventionally held to have brought Christianity to the country in 432, and his feast day every 17 March is the cause for commemoration and revelry throughout the world – but remarkably little can be stated with any degree of certainty about the life of Saint Patrick. Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated on the traditional date of…

Poetry

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Emily Dickinson – ‘I Can Wade Grief’ (1862)

Emily Dickinson was born on 10 December 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts, the town where she would live the duration of her life. She attended Amherst Academy, newly opened to female students, for seven years, punctuated briefly by spells of illness and a stay in Boston in the aftermath of the death of her cousin, Sophia Holland. In her teens she…

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The Early Poetry of Mina Loy

For last weekend’s Cultureteca, among other things, I looked at some of the poetry being written and published in Russia and the United States a hundred years ago, in July 1915. This included a brief recap of the formation of the literary magazine Others: A Magazine of the New Verse, founded in New Jersey by Alfred Kreymborg. When the first…

Fyodor Sologub: His Life, and ‘At Times There Comes a Strange Smell Wafting’

Fyodor Sologub: His Life, and ‘At Times There Comes a Strange Smell Wafting’

Fyodor Sologub was born Fyodor Kuzmich Teternikov on 1 March, 1863, in Saint Petersburg. Accounts of his father’s life evoke Gogol’s The Overcoat and Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, for Kuzma Afanasyevich Teternikov was a shoemaker and tailor, and apparently the illegitimate son of a local landowner. When Kuzma Afanasyevich died in 1867, Fyodor’s mother became a domestic servant, and Fyodor…

Cinema

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February Film: Under the Red Robe Analysis

A dowdy swashbuckler even at the time of its release in 1937, Under the Red Robe remains a curiosity today as the final film by Victor Sjöström, the father of Swedish cinema. Born in Silbodal in western Sweden, an infant Sjöström moved with his parents to Brooklyn, returning to Sweden at the age of seven and spending the remainder of…

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February Film: Under the Red Robe (1937)

  Under the Red Robe 81 minutes | 8 November 1937 | United Kingdom/United States ‘The massacre of Saint Bartholemew in 1572 had swilled the gutters of Paris with Huguenot blood. 50 years later, diehards in the South were still a thorn in the side of Cardinal Richelieu. It was a period of plot and counter-plot, of reckless gallantry and ruthless…

Oscars 2016 Winners

2016 Oscars Best Dressed: The Definitive Analysis

The big story of the 88th Academy Awards, which took place on Sunday night at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, saw Leonardo DiCaprio finally receive the nod for Best Actor. DiCaprio had previously been nominated for five Academy Awards – Best Actor and Best Picture for The Wolf on Wall Street, on which he also served as co-producer, Best Actor…

Behind the Song

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Behind the Song: David Bowie – ‘Subterraneans’

‘Subterraneans’ is the closing song on what has become perhaps David Bowie’s most critically acclaimed album: Pitchfork placed Low at number 1 on their ‘Top 100 Albums of the 1970s’, on Q’s list of the ‘100 Greatest British Albums Ever’ Low was Bowie’s highest entry at number 14, and while elsewhere it vies with Ziggy Stardust and Hunky Dory, and occasionally Station to Station and “Heroes”, Low is the constant,…

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Behind the Song: Animal Collective – ‘Summertime Clothes’

Animal Collective’s eighth studio album, Merriweather Post Pavilion, was released in January 2009. The album had been recorded over the course of one month the previous February, at Sweet Tea Recording Studio, the 24-track studio with a large control room in Oxford, Mississippi. For the record the band sought out producer Ben Allen, desiring his low-end expertise, and valuing both his…

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Behind the Song: Robyn – ‘Be Mine!’

Beginning her career in pop music at the age of just sixteen, with her debut album Robyn Is Here first appearing in 1995, Robyn saw early commercial success in the United States. Though she had already released a couple of well-received singles in her native Sweden, and one too in the UK, ‘Do You Know (What It Takes)’ became her debut single in the…

Hot Where I'm At

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A Cultural Guide to Amsterdam

I lived in Amsterdam between the autumn of 2012 and the autumn of 2013, with an apartment in the Oud-Zuid neighbourhood; and have visited the city on several occasions, most recently last week. During my year in Amsterdam, I maintained an almost-daily blog at amsterdamarm.com, featuring photography, concert guides, exhibition and restaurant reviews, festival and event information, Dutch recipes, the…

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New York: A Week in Food and Photographs

ast summer, my partner and I spent a week in New York City. This was our first time visiting the city; and for me, despite having covered the breadth of Europe, my first time to the United States and to the Americas (my partner holidayed in Florida in her youth). It was also our first time using Airbnb. We rented an…

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Bookshops in York

I am spending this week in York, the city in which I lived from the age of two until the age of nineteen; returning, after four years in Sweden, for three years before moving to Amsterdam last October. York’s city centre is compact but plentiful, with a decent variety of shops, an abundance of places to eat and drink, and…

Photo Series

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Iceland: Grótta and the Lighthouse

In the township of Seltjarnarnes at the north-westernmost tip of Greater Reykjavik, looking out over the Faxaflói bay, lies Grótta with its rugged beach and lighthouse. The small spit becomes an island at high tide, and it is closed off for around a month while birds nest in the early summer, but otherwise it is one of the most beautiful spots…

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Iceland: Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is the most popular tourist route in Iceland. Looping approximately 300 kilometres from Reykjavik into the Icelandic interior and back, its main sites are always the same: overlooking Þingvellir national park; the geothermal area Haukadalur, home to Geysir, which is so intermittent that tours tend to stop near Strokkur instead, a fountain geyser which erupts every 5-10 minutes…

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York Inundated: The December 2015 Floods

With water levels already high across the north of England, and in parts of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales – after Storm Desmond in the first week of December brought record rainfalls and flooded thousands of homes in Cumbria and Lancashire, with heavy rain persisting throughout the month – on 26 December, Boxing Day, more rain caused the Environment Agency to issue 7 severe…