The British Library Has Fully Digitized 570 Pages of Leonardo da Vincis Visionary Notebooks

The British Library has fully digitized one of Leonardo da Vinci’s visionary notebooks, ‘The Codex Arundel’, and anyone is free to view and browse the prized historical artifact in amazing high-resolution detail.

The British Library has uploaded 570 high-res images of the notebook, which features a collection of papers written in Italian by Leonardo da Vinci (b. 1452, d. 1519), in his characteristic left-handed mirror-writing (reading from right to left), including diagrams, drawings and brief texts, covering a broad range of topics in science and art, as well as personal notes.

The core of the notebook is a collection of materials that Leonardo describes as “a collection without order, drawn from many papers, which I have copied here, hoping to arrange them later each in its place according to the subjects of which they treat”, a collection he began in the house of Piero di Braccio Martelli in Florence, in 1508. To this notebook has subsequently been added a number of other loose papers containing writing and diagrams produced by Leonardo throughout his career.

‘The Codex Arundel’ offers a glimpse into one of the most brilliant minds humankind has ever known. Da Vinci has been variously called the father of palaeontology, ichnology, and architecture, and is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time. Sometimes credited with the inventions of the parachute, helicopter and tank, he epitomised the Renaissance humanist ideal. [source]

Many historians and scholars regard Leonardo as the prime exemplar of the “Universal Genius” or “Renaissance Man”, an individual of “unquenchable curiosity” and “feverishly inventive imagination”. [source]

Below you will find select pages from the fascinating notebook. You can see it in its entirety by clicking here.

Read more: http://twistedsifter.com/2017/08/leonardo-da-vinci-notebook-digitized-by-british-library/

Becoming by Fouad Azim

Becoming by Fouad Azim

Story Summary

This is a story of blooming love and betrayal, about children coming of age, of conscience and the sociopaths who lack it; it is a story about trust and how true love empowers and heals us. In the end, it is a story about humanity and the eternal struggle between good and evil.

Nyla and Junaid are classmates learning about the world around them and in the process discovering themselves. They must endure and survive a path fraught with confusion and peril if they hope to emerge victorious, though not necessarily unscathed. They will learn of innocence and its loss, about how budding love can be snuffed out if not cared for and its formidable power when nurtured and protected. They will become closely acquainted with evil, with its insidious presence in plain sight and how it mangles and corrupts those it touches. They will have to confront and defeat it if they can. If you think you recognize some of the characters described herein, it is only because the human experience around the world and in the different cultures is not unique, and we all share some of the same burdens and the joys of similar emotions and trials as we go about learning to find ourselves.

The setting is the foothills of the Margalla Mountain range, a part of the lesser Himalayas, north of Islamabad in Pakistan, during the 1990s.

http://amzn.to/2xwmgHB

Pacific Book Review

Author Fouad Azim has written Becoming, an emotionally gripping novel about young love in the1990’s Pakistan which will enthrall readers.

Becoming tells the story of classmates Nyla and Junaid. Junaid is a shy young man who comes out of his shell once he falls in love with the intelligent and independent Nyla. Their fledgling romance is threatened by the jealousy of Jahal, an emotionally unstable boy who is determined to break them up. Nyla and Junaid must overcome Jahal’s wicked actions and other obstacles to discover true love.

This book is a unique coming-of-age novel about young love in a land far away from the United States, which is still a universal story. Junaid’s sensitivity and devotion to Nyla is admirable and makes him a relatable protagonist. Nyla is a strong character that isn’t just a passive love interest for Junaid. She’s a self-sufficient young woman that is brave throughout Becoming as she fights the cultural traditions that try to keep her from Junaid. Jahal is the perfect antagonist as the psychologically disturbed villain of the novel. Though he commits horrific acts, Azim’s writing doesn’t limit him to a one-dimensional monster. Jahal is more of a wounded soul than a soulless anti-hero.

Azim’s writing is evocative and poignant. The hills and caves of Pakistan are described so vividly that readers can imagine they are in the rugged terrain of the South Asian countryside. He also easily captures the complicated social lives of teenagers and how fraught young relationships can be in Becoming’s dialogue. Though there are some cultural differences between Western and Eastern culture in the book, the universal themes of the novel comes through to the readers. Azim also expertly handles sweet romance and dangerous drama throughout the novel. This story has exciting and suspenseful moments which will leave readers wanting more.

Becoming would be best for fans of the Kite Runner and Khaled Housseni. The novels both have similar stories about friendships in South Asian countries and both authors write masterfully about love. This book would also be good for fans of historical fiction, especially of fiction set in countries outside America. The novel would be perfect for readers of all ages. Becoming could would be great for young Pakistani or South Asian culture in general will learn a lot from this book as well. Fouad Azim’s novel shows how love can conquer hate, making Becoming an unforgettable novel which all readers will love.

http://www.pacificbookreview.com/becoming/

Unlearning the myth of American innocence

The long read: When she was 30, Suzy Hansen left the US for Istanbul and began to realise that Americans will never understand their own country until they see it as the rest of the world does

My mother recently found piles of my notebooks from when I was a small child that were filled with plans for my future. I was very ambitious. I wrote out what I would do at every age: when I would get married and when I would have kids and when I would open a dance studio.

When I left my small hometown for college, this sort of planning stopped. The experience of going to a radically new place, as college was to me, upended my sense of the world and its possibilities. The same thing happened when I moved to New York after college, and a few years later when I moved to Istanbul. All change is dramatic for provincial people. But the last move was the hardest. In Turkey, the upheaval was far more unsettling: after a while, I began to feel that the entire foundation of my consciousness was a lie.

For all their patriotism, Americans rarely think about how their national identities relate to their personal ones. This indifference is particular to the psychology of white Americans and has a history unique to the US. In recent years, however, this national identity has become more difficult to ignore. Americans can no longer travel in foreign countries without noticing the strange weight we carry with us. In these years after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the many wars that followed, it has become more difficult to gallivant across the world absorbing its wisdom and resources for ones own personal use. Americans abroad now do not have the same swagger, the easy, enormous smiles. You no longer want to speak so loud. There is always the vague risk of breaking something.

Some years after I moved to Istanbul, I bought a notebook, and unlike that confident child, I wrote down not plans but a question: who do we become if we dont become Americans? If we discover that our identity as we understood it had been a myth? I asked it because my years as an American abroad in the 21st century were not a joyous romp of self-discovery and romance. Mine were more of a shattering and a shame, and even now, I still dont know myself.


I grew up in Wall, a town located by the Jersey Shore, two hours drive from New York. Much of it was a landscape of concrete and parking lots, plastic signs and Dunkin Donuts. There was no centre, no Main Street, as there was in most of the pleasant beach towns nearby, no tiny old movie theatre or architecture suggesting some sort of history or memory.

Most of my friends parents were teachers, nurses, cops or electricians, except for the rare father who worked in the City, and a handful of Italian families who did less legal things. My parents were descendants of working-class Danish, Italian and Irish immigrants who had little memory of their European origins, and my extended family ran an inexpensive public golf course, where I worked as a hot-dog girl in the summers. The politics I heard about as a kid had to do with taxes and immigrants, and not much else. Bill Clinton was not popular in my house. (In 2016, most of Wall voted Trump.)

We were all patriotic, but I cant even conceive of what else we could have been, because our entire experience was domestic, interior, American. We went to church on Sundays, until church time was usurped by soccer games. I dont remember a strong sense of civic engagement. Instead I had the feeling that people could take things from you if you didnt stay vigilant. Our goals remained local: homecoming queen, state champs, a scholarship to Trenton State, barbecues in the backyard. The lone Asian kid in our class studied hard and went to Berkeley; the Indian went to Yale. Black people never came to Wall. The world was white, Christian; the world was us.

We did not study world maps, because international geography, as a subject, had been phased out of many state curriculums long before. There was no sense of the US being one country on a planet of many countries. Even the Soviet Union seemed something more like the Death Star flying overhead, ready to laser us to smithereens than a country with people in it.

Boardwalk
Boardwalk empire a variety shop in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Photo: Michael S Williamson/The Washington Post

I have TV memories of world events. Even in my mind, they appear on a screen: Oliver North testifying in the Iran-Contra hearings; the scarred, evil-seeming face of Panamas dictator Manuel Noriega; the movie-like footage, all flashes of light, of the bombing of Baghdad during the first Gulf war. Mostly what I remember of that war in Iraq was singing God Bless the USA on the school bus I was 13 wearing little yellow ribbons and becoming teary-eyed as I remembered the video of the song I had seen on MTV.

And Im proud to be an American

Where at least I know Im free

That at least is funny. We were free at the very least we were that. Everyone else was a chump, because they didnt even have that obvious thing. Whatever it meant, it was the thing that we had, and no one else did. It was our God-given gift, our superpower.

By the time I got to high school, I knew that communism had gone away, but never learned what communism had actually been (bad was enough). Religion, politics, race they washed over me like troubled things that obviously meant something to someone somewhere, but that had no relationship to me, to Wall, to America. I certainly had no idea that most people in the world felt those connections deeply. History Americas history, the worlds history would slip in and out of my consciousness with no resonance whatsoever.

Racism, antisemitism and prejudice, however those things, on some unconscious level, I must have known. They were expressed in the fear of Asbury Park, which was black; in the resentment of the towns of Marlboro and Deal, which were known as Jewish; in the way Hispanics seemed exotic. Much of the Jersey Shore was segregated as if it were still the 1950s, and so prejudice was expressed through fear of anything outside Wall, anything outside the tiny white world in which we lived. If there was something that saved us from being outwardly racist, it was that in small towns such as Wall, especially for girls, it was important to be nice, or good this pressure tempered tendencies toward overt cruelty when we were young.

I was lucky that I had a mother who nourished my early-onset book addiction, an older brother with mysteriously acquired progressive politics, and a father who spent his evenings studying obscure golf antiques, lost in the pleasures of the past. In these days of the 1%, I am nostalgic for Walls middle-class modesty and its sea-salt Jersey Shore air. But as a teenager, I knew that the only thing that could rescue me from the Wall of fear was a good college.


I ended up at the University of Pennsylvania. The lack of interest in the wider world that I had known in Wall found another expression there, although at Penn the children were wealthy, highly educated and apolitical. During orientation, the business school students were told that they were the smartest people in the country, or so I had heard. (Donald Trump Jr was there then, too.) In the late 1990s, everyone at Penn wanted to be an investment banker, and many would go on to help bring down the world economy a decade later. But they were more educated than I was; in American literature class, they had even heard of William Faulkner.

TV
TV memories Lt Col Oliver North is sworn in before Congress for the Iran-Contra hearings, July 1987. Photograph: Lana Harris/AP

When my best friend from Wall revealed one night that she hadnt heard of John McEnroe or Jerry Garcia, some boys on the dormitory hall called us ignorant, and white trash, and chastised us for not reading magazines. We were hurt, and surprised; white trash was something we said about other people at the Jersey Shore. My boyfriend from Wall accused me of going to Penn solely to find a boyfriend who drove a Ferrari, and the boys at Penn made fun of the Camaros we drove in high school. Class in America was not something we understood in any structural or intellectual way; class was a constellation of a million little materialistic cultural signifiers, and the insult, loss or acquisition of any of them could transform ones future entirely.

In the end, I chose to pursue the new life Penn offered me. The kids I met had parents who were doctors or academics; many of them had already even been to Europe! Penn, for all its superficiality, felt one step closer to a larger world.

Still, I cannot remember any of us being conscious of foreign events during my four years of college. There were wars in Eritrea, Nepal, Afghanistan, Kosovo, East Timor, Kashmir. US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam were bombed. Panama, Nicaragua (I couldnt keep Latin American countries straight), Osama bin Laden, Clinton bombing Iraq nope.

I knew Saddam Hussein, which had the same evil resonance as communism. I remember the movie Wag the Dog, a satire in which American politicians start a fake war with foreign terrorists to distract the electorate during a domestic scandal which at the time was what many accused Clinton of doing when he ordered a missile strike on Afghanistan during the Monica Lewinsky affair. I never thought about Afghanistan. What country was in Wag the Dog? Albania. There was a typical American callousness in our reaction to the country they chose for the movie, an indifference that said, Some bumblefuck country, it doesnt matter which one they choose.

I was a child of the 90s, the decade when, according to Americas foremost intellectuals, history had ended, the US was triumphant, the cold war won by a landslide. The historian David Schmitz has written that, by that time, the idea that America won because of its values and steadfast adherence to the promotion of liberalism and democracy was dominating op-ed pages, popular magazines and the bestseller lists. These ideas were the ambient noise, the elevator music of my most formative years.

But for me there was also an intervention a chance experience in the basement of Penns library. I came across a line in a book in which a historian argued that, long ago, during the slavery era, black people and white people had defined their identities in opposition to each other. The revelation to me was not that black people had conceived of their identities in response to ours, but that our white identities had been composed in conscious objection to theirs. Id had no idea that we had ever had to define our identities at all, because to me, white Americans were born fully formed, completely detached from any sort of complicated past. Even now, I can remember that shiver of recognition that only comes when you learn something that expands, just a tiny bit, your sense of reality. What made me angry was that this revelation was something about who I was. How much more did I not know about myself?

It was because of this text that I picked up the books of James Baldwin, who gave me the sense of meeting someone who knew me better, and with a far more sophisticated critical arsenal than I had myself. There was this line:

But I have always been struck, in America, by an emotional poverty so bottomless, and a terror of human life, of human touch, so deep, that virtually no American appears able to achieve any viable, organic connection between his public stance and his private life.

And this one:

All of the western nations have been caught in a lie, the lie of their pretended humanism; this means that their history has no moral justification, and that the west has no moral authority.

And this one:

White Americans are probably the sickest and certainly the most dangerous people, of any colour, to be found in the world today.

I know why this came as a shock to me then, at the age of 22, and it wasnt necessarily because he said I was sick, though that was part of it. It was because he kept calling me that thing: white American. In my reaction I justified his accusation. I knew I was white, and I knew I was American, but it was not what I understood to be my identity. For me, self-definition was about gender, personality, religion, education, dreams. I only thought about finding myself, becoming myself, discovering myself and this, I hadnt known, was the most white American thing of all.

I still did not think about my place in the larger world, or that perhaps an entire history the history of white Americans had something to do with who I was. My lack of consciousness allowed me to believe I was innocent, or that white American was not an identity like Muslim or Turk.

White
White Americans are probably the most dangerous people in the world today author James Baldwin in New York, 1963. Photograph: Dave Pickoff/AP

Of this indifference, Baldwin wrote: White children, in the main, and whether they are rich or poor, grow up with a grasp of reality so feeble that they can very accurately be described as deluded.

Young white Americans of course go through pain, insecurity and heartache. But it is very, very rare that young white Americans come across someone who tells them in harsh, unforgiving terms that they might be merely the easy winners of an ugly game, and indeed that because of their ignorance and misused power, they might be the losers within a greater moral universe.


In 2007, after I had worked for six years as a journalist in New York, I won a writing fellowship that would send me to Turkey for two years. I had applied for it on a whim. No part of me expected to win the thing. Even as my friends wished me congratulations, I detected a look of concern on their faces, as if I was crazy to leave all this, as if 29 was a little too late to be finding myself. I had never even been to Turkey before.

In the weeks before my departure, I spent hours explaining Turkeys international relevance to my bored loved ones, no doubt deploying the cliche that Istanbul was the bridge between east and west. I told everyone that I chose Turkey because I wanted to learn about the Islamic world. The secret reason I wanted to go was that Baldwin had lived in Istanbul in the 1960s, on and off, for almost a decade. I had seen a documentary about Baldwin that said he felt more comfortable as a black, gay man in Istanbul than in Paris or New York.

When I heard that, it made so little sense to me, sitting in my Brooklyn apartment, that a space opened in the universe. I couldnt believe that New York could be more illiberal than a place such as Turkey, because I couldnt conceive of how prejudiced New York and Paris had been in that era; and because I thought that as you went east, life degraded into the past, the opposite of progress. The idea of Baldwin in Turkey somehow placed Americas race problem, and America itself, in a mysterious and tantalising international context. I took a chance that Istanbul might be the place where the secret workings of history would be revealed.

In Turkey and elsewhere, in fact, I would feel an almost physical sensation of intellectual and emotional discomfort, while trying to grasp a reality of which I had no historical or cultural understanding. I would go, as a journalist, to write a story about Turkey or Greece or Egypt or Afghanistan, and inevitably someone would tell me some part of our shared history theirs with America of which I knew nothing. If I didnt know this history, then what kind of story did I plan to tell?

City
City watch US army troops stand guard at a checkpoint in Baghdad, Iraq, in August 2007. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

My learning process abroad was threefold: I was learning about foreign countries; I was learning about Americas role in the world; and I was also slowly understanding my own psychology, temperament and prejudices. No matter how well I knew the predatory aspects of capitalism, I still perceived Turkeys and Greeces economic advances as progress, a kind of maturation. No matter how deeply I understood the USs manipulation of Egypt for its own foreign-policy aims, I had never considered and could not grasp how American policies really affected the lives of individual Egyptians, beyond engendering resentment and anti-Americanism. No matter how much I believed that no American was well-equipped for nation-building, I thought I could see good intentions on the part of the Americans in Afghanistan. I would never have admitted it, or thought to say it, but looking back, I know that deep in my consciousness I thought that America was at the end of some evolutionary spectrum of civilisation, and everyone else was trying to catch up.

American exceptionalism did not only define the US as a special nation among lesser nations; it also demanded that all Americans believe they, too, were somehow superior to others. How could I, as an American, understand a foreign people, when unconsciously I did not extend the most basic faith to other people that I extended to myself? This was a limitation that was beyond racism, beyond prejudice and beyond ignorance. This was a kind of nationalism so insidious that I had not known to call it nationalism; this was a self-delusion so complete that I could not see where it began and ended, could not root it out, could not destroy it.


In my first few months in Istanbul, I lived a formless kind of existence, days dissolving into the nights. I had no office to go to, no job to keep, and I was 30 years old, an age at which people either choose to grow up or remain stuck in the exploratory, idle phase of late-late youth. Starting all over again in a foreign country making friends, learning a new language, trying to find your way through a city meant almost certainly choosing the latter. I spent many nights out until the wee hours such as the evening I drank beer with a young Turkish man named Emre, who had attended college with a friend of mine from the US.

A friend had told me that Emre was one of the most brilliant people he had ever met. As the evening passed, I was gaining a lot from his analysis of Turkish politics, especially when I asked him whether he voted for Erdoans Justice and Development party (AKP), and he spat back, outraged, Did you vote for George W Bush? Until that point I had not realised the two might be equivalent.

Then, three beers in, Emre mentioned that the US had planned the September 11 attacks. I had heard this before. Conspiracy theories were common in Turkey; for example, when the military claimed that the PKK, the Kurdish militant group, had attacked a police station, some Turks believed the military itself had done it; they believed it even in cases where Turkish civilians had died. In other words, the idea was that rightwing forces, such as the military, bombed neutral targets, or even rightwing targets, so they could then blame it on the leftwing groups, such as the PKK. To Turks, bombing ones own country seemed like a real possibility.

Come on, you dont believe that, I said.

Why not? he snapped. I do.

But its a conspiracy theory.

He laughed. Americans always dismiss these things as conspiracy theories. Its the rest of the world who have had to deal with your conspiracies.

I ignored him. I guess I have faith in American journalism, I said. Someone else would have figured this out if it were true.

He smiled. Im sorry, theres no way they didnt have something to do with it. And now this war? he said, referring to the war in Iraq. Its impossible that the United States couldnt stop such a thing, and impossible that the Muslims could pull it off.

Some weeks later, a bomb went off in the Istanbul neighborhood of Gngren. A second bomb exploded out of a garbage bin nearby after 10pm, killing 17 people and injuring 150. No one knew who did it. All that week, Turks debated: was it al-Qaida? The PKK? The DHKP/C, a radical leftist group? Or maybe: the deep state?

The deep state a system of mafia-like paramilitary organisations operating outside of the law, sometimes at the behest of the official military was a whole other story. Turks explained that the deep state had been formed during the cold war as a way of countering communism, and then mutated into a force for destroying all threats to the Turkish state. The power that some Turks attributed to this entity sometimes strained credulity. But the point was that Turks had been living for years with the idea that some secret force controlled the fate of their nation.

In fact, elements of the deep state were rumoured to have had ties to the CIA during the cold war, and though that too smacked of a conspiracy theory, this was the reality that Turkish people lived in. The sheer number of international interventions the US launched in those decades is astonishing, especially those during years when American power was considered comparatively innocent. There were the successful assassinations: Patrice Lumumba, prime minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 1961; General Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, also in 1961; Ngo Dinh Diem, president of South Vietnam, in 1963. There were the unsuccessful assassinations: Castro, Castro, and Castro. There were the much hoped-for assassinations: Nasser, Nasser, Nasser. And, of course, US-sponsored, -supported or -staged regime changes: Iran, Guatemala, Iraq, Congo, Syria, Dominican Republic, South Vietnam, Indonesia, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Uruguay and Argentina. The Americans trained or supported secret police forces everywhere from Cambodia to Colombia, the Philippines to Peru, Iran to Vietnam. Many Turks believed that the US at least encouraged the 1971 and 1980 military coups in Turkey, though I could find little about these events in any conventional histories anywhere.

But what I could see was that the effects of such meddling were comparable to those of September 11 just as huge, life-changing and disruptive to the country and to peoples lives. Perhaps Emre did not believe that September 11 was a straightforward affair of evidence and proof because his experience his reality taught him that very rarely were any of these surreally monumental events easily explainable. I did not think Emres theory about the attacks was plausible. But I began to wonder whether there was much difference between a foreigners paranoia that the Americans planned September 11 and the Americans paranoia that the whole world should pay for September 11 with an endless global war on terror.


The next time a Turktold me she believed the US had bombed itself on September 11 (I heard this with some regularity; this time it was from a young student at Istanbuls Boazii University), I repeated my claim about believing in the integrity of American journalism. She replied, a bit sheepishly, Well, right, we cant trust our journalism. We cant take that for granted.

The words take that for granted gave me pause. Having lived in Turkey for more than a year, witnessing how nationalistic propaganda had inspired peoples views of the world and of themselves, I wondered from where the belief in our objectivity and rigour in journalism came. Why would Americans be objective and everyone else subjective?

I thought that because Turkey had poorly functioning institutions they didnt have a reliable justice system, as compared to an American system I believed to be functional it often felt as if there was no truth. Turks were always sceptical of official histories, and blithely dismissive of the governments line. But was it rather that the Turks, with their beautiful scepticism, were actually just less nationalistic than me?

American exceptionalism had declared my country unique in the world, the one truly free and modern country, and instead of ever considering that that exceptionalism was no different from any other countrys nationalistic propaganda, I had internalised this belief. Wasnt that indeed what successful propaganda was supposed to do? I had not questioned the institution of American journalism outside of the standards it set for itself which, after all, was the only way I would discern its flaws and prejudices; instead, I accepted those standards as the best standards any country could possibly have.

Red
Red state Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoan attends a rally following a failed coup attempt last year. Photograph: Osman Orsal/Reuters

By the end of my first year abroad, I read US newspapers differently. I could see how alienating they were to foreigners, the way articles spoke always from a position of American power, treating foreign countries as if they were Americas misbehaving children. I listened to my compatriots with critical ears: the way our discussion of foreign policy had become infused since September 11 with these officious, official words, bureaucratic corporate military language: collateral damage, imminent threat, freedom, freedom, freedom.

Even so, I was conscious that if I had long ago succumbed to the pathology of American nationalism, I wouldnt know it even if I understood the history of injustice in America, even if I was furious about the invasion of Iraq. I was a white American. I still had this fundamental faith in my country in a way that suddenly, in comparison to the Turks, made me feel immature and naive.

I came to notice that a community of activists and intellectuals in Turkey the liberal ones were indeed questioning what Turkishness meant in new ways. Many of them had been brainwashed in their schools about their own history; about Atatrk, Turkeys first president; about the supposed evil of the Armenians and the Kurds and the Arabs; about the fragility of their borders and the rapaciousness of all outsiders; and about the historic and eternal goodness of the Turkish republic.

It is different in the United States, I once said, not entirely realising what I was saying until the words came out. I had never been called upon to explain this. We are told it is the greatest country on earth. The thing is, we will never reconsider that narrative the way you are doing just now, because to us, that isnt propaganda, that is truth. And to us, that isnt nationalism, its patriotism. And the thing is, we will never question any of it because at the same time, all we are being told is how free-thinking we are, that we are free. So we dont know there is anything wrong in believing our country is the greatest on earth. The whole thing sort of convinces you that a collective consciousness in the world came to that very conclusion.

Wow, a friend once replied. How strange. That is a very quiet kind of fascism, isnt it?

It was a quiet kind of fascism that would mean I would always see Turkey as beneath the country I came from, and also that would mean I believed my uniquely benevolent country to have uniquely benevolent intentions towards the peoples of the world.

During that night of conspiracy theories, Emre had alleged, as foreigners often did, that I was a spy. The information that I was collecting as a journalist, Emre said, was really being used for something else. As an American emissary in the wider world, writing about foreigners, governments, economies partaking in some larger system and scheme of things, I was an agent somehow. Emre lived in the American world as a foreigner, as someone less powerful, as someone for whom one newspaper article could mean war, or one misplaced opinion could mean an intervention by the International Monetary Fund. My attitude, my prejudice, my lack of generosity could be entirely false, inaccurate or damaging, but would be taken for truth by the newspapers and magazines I wrote for, thus shaping perceptions of Turkey for ever.

Years later, an American journalist told me he loved working for a major newspaper because the White House read it, because he could influence policy. Emre had told me how likely it was I would screw this up. He was saying to me: first, spy, do no harm.

Main photograph: Burak Kara/Getty Images for the Guardian

Adapted from Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World by Suzy Hansen, which will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on 15 August

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Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/aug/08/unlearning-the-myth-of-american-innocence

Apple removes VPN apps from the App Store in China

The Chinese governments crackdown on the internet continues with the news that Apple has removed all major VPN apps, which help internet users overcome the countrys censorship system, from the App Store in China.

The move was first noted by ExpressVPN, a provider based outside of China,which said in a blog post all major VPN apps including its own had been purged from Apples China-based store. The company shared a note from Apple (below) explaining that its app was removed because it includes content that is illegal in China.

The app continues to be available for users across the world outside of China, the company said.However, the process to create an App Store account in a different country is unknown to many users, so it is unlikely to fill the void of the missing Chinese app.

Another provide, Star VPN, tweeted that its app had also been removed.

Apple had not replied for comment at the time of writing.

ExpressVPN shared a note from Apple notifying it of the removal of its app in China

The App Store purge is hugely impactful because VPNs represent the only way that a China-based individual can bypass state censorship controls to access the internet without restrictions. The Chinese government effectively illegalized VPNs when new rules issued in January required them to receive government approvalin order to operate. That appears to be why Apple was forced to remove ExpressVPN and others like it.

Apple may believe it is best for its business to co-operate with requests from Beijing, but this App Store purge just created one of the biggest setbacks for the free internet in Chinas history.

Were disappointed in this development, as it represents the most drastic measure the Chinese government has taken to block the use of VPNs to date, and we are troubled to see Apple aiding Chinas censorship efforts. ExpressVPN strongly condemns these measures, which threaten free speech and civil liberties, ExpressVPN wrote on its blog.

Todays news is the latest in a series of developments against the free internet from China.

Two popular VPN services were forced offline in China earlier this monthleaving their users, which included professionals who require access to the global internet for work, without an alternative. Government officials denied a story from Bloomberg that the countrys mobile operators had been told to ban VPN apps by early 2018, but other steps have clearly been taken.Reuters reported earlier this month that the Great Firewall, the term for Chinas internet censorship apparatus, had been upgraded with new capabilities.VPN services subsequently found that they had been hit by the most sophisticated attacks from China to date. High-end hotels have even ceased offer VPNs to guests.

Those new capability apparently also made it possible for the government to interfere with messaging apps. While now blocked entirely, WhatsApp users found that they were unable to send videos and photos through the chat app and issues seemed to extend to WeChat, Chinas most popular messaging service. The censorship seemed to be linked tothe response to the death of dissidentLiu Xiaobo, a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, who lost a battle to liver cancer earlier this month having been denied permission to leave custody to seek medical treatment overseas.

Going direct to Apple is becoming an effective way to enforce censorship since the U.S. firmcontrols what apps are available in China.The tactic proved successful for China earlier this year whenApple removed the New York Times app from the local Chinese App Store. The Times and Wall Street Journal are among a number of international news sites blocked in China,according to censorship monitoring service Great Fire.

Its unclear whether similar action has been taken with Android stores in China. The Google Play Store is not present in China, where a handful of third-party app stores are the most influential distributors of Android apps.

Not-for-profit group GreatFire offers censorship-proof alternatives like its Android VPNFreeBrowserand other services that includea collaboration with The New York Times, but Apples iOS doesnt permit similar options.

Apple justannounced Isabel Ge Mahe as the first managing director for its Chinese businessand, beyond battling a sales slump in China, the long-time Apple executive is tasked with the difficult job of managing a relationship with Beijing.The U.S. firm recentlyannounced plansto develop its first China-based data center, a move that is thought to be related tothe countrys new cybersecurity laws which went into effect June 1.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/07/29/apple-removes-vpn-apps-from-the-app-store-in-china/

10 Old Fashioned Dating Habits We Should Make Cool Again

1. Coming to the door to pick someone up.

I think we’ve all had it with the incredibly unromantic “here” text, and meeting up always seems to be more casual and platonic than the alternative. Of course, meeting someone from online or any circumstance like that would probably be the exception to this rule, but generally: the 30 seconds it takes to get out of a car or cab and knock on the door makes a huge difference.

2. Trying to dress really nicely for a date.

“Nicely” means different things for different people, so I think it’s just a matter of putting effort into how you put yourself together to go out with someone. It’s not about wearing suits and petticoats again, but just realizing that, whether or not we like to accept it, appearance does count for something, and we should do our best to make sure that our appearance says something about us, in whatever way we’d like it to.

3. Bringing flowers or other tokens of affection to the first date.

Now, many lucky ladies (and some men) I know get this regularly, and in fact, I have myself as well, but only ever with people I’d been dating for a while. I think there’s something to be said for bringing flowers to the door on your first date. It’s become uncool because it’s forward and it’s a gesture that confirms their interest, but we should definitely get past that idea and worry more about how we’re going to let someone know we really do care and appreciate that they want to spend time with us.

4. Going dancing that’s not grinding on a grimy club floor.

Whatever happened to this? Dancing for the sake of dancing, like fun, not essentially sex on a dance floor dancing. What’s a better way to literally shake off nerves than seeing them bust a really dorky move on a dance floor? And the art of slow dancing has generally been lost, though I’ve been one to do it in my living room with my slightly coerced significant other, and I’ll tell you he’s said on numerous occasions it ended up being one of the most romantic nights we had together.

5. Straightforwardly asking someone out and not calling it “hanging out.”

Or, as is very popular these days, “talking.” “Oh, we’re just… talking.” As in, seeing one another and speaking frequently as to get to know each other? So… dating? We’ve found these really convenient ways to skirt around the issue of having to put our hearts on the line, but honestly, it just ends up being messy and confusing for all parties involved. There’s no need to go back to the idea of courting or anything, unless you want to, but simply being direct about whether or not you’d like to go on a date with someone is a truly lost art, one that really shouldn’t be.

6. Additionally, being clear about when you’re “going steady.”

Oh, the awkward, “so… are we… you know… what are we?” talk. Classic. We should go back to asking one another if the other person would like to “go steady” or something. There’s something about asking them if they’d like to rather than assuming that you are or aren’t anything that’s just very cute, in my opinion.

7. Romantic gestures like writing poems.

Writing poems may not be for you, I know mine would look something like “Roses are red, violets are blue, I hate poetry but I love you.” I literally just made that up thank you please quote me when you inevitably post that gem on Tumblr. But seriously, like a handwritten letter in the mail or just surprising them with something you made even if it looks like the macaroni necklace you made when you were 5 is cute just because you tried and were thinking of them.

8. Turning electronics off and just being with one another.

I’m not sure there is anything worse than the person who picks up their phone and starts staring at it in the middle of dinner, or at any point while you’re together and having a conversation. I’m not anti-technology here (hello, I work for the Internet) but I am saying that there comes a time to turn it off and disconnect and remember what actually matters. People.

9. The general concept of asking permission for things.

It used to be principle for people to say: oh, when can I see you? Or, when could I call you? Rather than just assuming they can at any point. But I think that old concept could be applied to our modern world by just assuming that, unless told otherwise, you should ask permission to you know, touch them , take them out, call them at a certain time, etc. Once you’re in a relationship these things usually don’t require asking anymore, but some do, especially when it comes to sexuality. I once knew a person who said that they asked permission before so much as touching a girl’s thigh, and that always stuck with me.

10. Not assuming sex is to be had at point in time.

Now, I’m certainly not saying it should go back to being a taboo that’s unspoken of, but we certainly shouldn’t expect it from someone on the third date, on the first date, because they’re being flirty, because you know they’re into you, or even because they agreed to go out with you. A date does not have to be a precursor to sex, and you shouldn’t be disappointed if it isn’t because you should never assume that it will be. It depends on the person you’re with and what they want to do.

Read more: http://thoughtcatalog.com/kate-bailey/2013/12/10-old-fashioned-dating-habits-we-should-make-cool-again/

100 best nonfiction books: No 80 – The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne by Gilbert White (1789)

This curates beautiful and lucid observations on the wildlife of a Hampshire village inspired generations of naturalists

The Rev Gilbert White was that now extinct species, the unmarried Oxbridge don in holy orders. A lifelong curate and a fellow of Oriel College, White devoted himself to observing flora and fauna at large in the natural world, a sequence of observations for which he became world famous.

In 1755, after the death of his father, he returned to the family home in Selborne, settling for comfortable obscurity in a remote Hampshire village, an enviable career move. On the face of it, the passage of his declining years would be tranquil and serene, with no greater vicissitudes than bad weather or poor harvests.

However, around 1767, he got into correspondence, first with Thomas Pennant, a prominent zoologist, and then with Daines Barrington, another important British naturalist. His exchanges with these men would form the basis of his Natural History, a compilation published in the year of the French Revolution. There could scarcely have been a more stark contrast between the timeless, resilient stability of English country life and the bloody metropolitan dramas of France. Where Rousseau and Robespierre championed the rights of man, White celebrated the earthworm, a small and despicable link in the chain of nature, which, if lost would make a lamentable chasm.

Its claimed that Whites Natural History is the fourth most-published book in the English language, after the Bible, Shakespeare and Bunyan, and it has certainly been in print since first publication, while the benign White himself is now recognised equally as a great stylist and a pioneer ecologist. His work, in literature and in nature studies, coincides with a pivotal moment in the reign of George III when zoology and botany were at the cutting edge of scientific inquiry. The young Charles Darwin would grow up with Whites Antiquities of Selborne at his side as a guide, philosopher and friend.

Whites book reveals him to have been a man of profound general knowledge, with an appetite for medieval civilisation that was far in advance of his times. He was also a beady-eyed student of nature. As many critics have noticed, the zoology and botany of the Natural History replaced the fabulous folklore and bizarre traditions of previous countryside writers, with Whites scrupulous observations and beautifully expressed summaries:

The titmouse, which early in February begins to make two quaint notes, like the whetting of a saw, is the marsh titmouse: the great titmouse sings with three cheerful joyous notes, and begins about the same time.

Whites specificity is at once magisterial and enchanting, for example, in this report on the survival instincts of the squirrel and the nut-hatch:

There are three creatures, the squirrel, the field-mouse, and the bird called the nut-hatch (Sitta Europaea), which live much on hazel-nuts; and yet they open them each in a different way. The first, after rasping off the small end, splits the shell in two with his long fore-teeth, as a man does with his knife; the second nibbles a hole with his teeth, so regular as if drilled with a wimble, and yet so small that one would wonder how the kernel can be extracted through it; while the last picks an irregular ragged hole with its bill; but as this artist has no paws to hold the nut firm while he pierces it, like an adroit workman, he fixes it, as it were in a vice, in some cleft of a tree.

The
The Wakes, Gilbert Whites house in Selborne, Hampshire. Photograph: Joana Kruse/Alamy

Whites letters are full of such felicities, uniting into an unforgettable portrait of country life thats also the record of a new kind of zoology, scientific, precise and based on the steady accumulation of detail the fruit of a quiet life conducted by a leisured, well-to-do, middle-aged gentleman of cultivated tastes and habits, happily cut off from the noise and irritation of urban, industrial life. As such, he is the indispensable precursor to those great Victorians who would transform our ideas about life on Earth, especially in the undergrowth Lyell, Spencer, Huxley and Darwin.

Charm is a dangerous literary gift, but Whites work is conspicuous for its philosophical equanimity and moderate spirit. As a writer, he is the readers lovable companion, with whom its not impossible to imagine a conversation about cobwebs, the common rush (Juncus effusus), brown owls, stinking hellebore (Helleborus foetidus) or possibly the vernal migration of the ring ouzel.

As a garrulous country parson, White is comparable in the degree of self-revelation to the infinitely more worldly (even corrupt) figure of James Boswell (no 77 in this series). He offers a similar kind of colloquial familiarity, but with this difference. Where Boswell has his eye firmly on the judgment of posterity, and on his readers approval of his sensibility (a key Augustan English requirement), White wants only to celebrate the beautiful beech woods of his village, its rooks and magpies and, of course, the weather. Thus goes Whites immortal summary of that revolutionary year, 1789:

To January 13, hard frost. To the end of the month, mild, with showers. To the end of February, frequent rain, with snow showers and heavy gales of wind. To 13th March, hard frost, with snow. To April, heavy rain, with frost and snow and sleet. To the end of April, dark, cold weather, with frequent rains. To June 9, warm spring weather, with brisk winds and frequent showers. From June 4 to the end of July, warm, with much rain. To August 29, hot, dry, sultry weather. To September 11, mild, with frequent showers. To the end of September, fine autumnal weather, with occasional showers. To November 17, heavy rain, with violent gales of wind. To December 18, mild, dry weather, with a few showers. To the end of the year, rain and wind.

Plus a change, plus cest la mme chose.

A signature sentence

In the court of Norton farm-house, a manor-farm to the north-west of the village, on the white malm, stood within these twenty years a broadleaved elm, or wych hazel, ulmus folio latissimo scabro of Ray, which, though it had lost a considerable leading bough in the great storm in the year 1703, equal to a moderate tree, yet, when felled, contained eight loads of timber; and, being too bulky for a carriage, was sawn off at seven feet above the butt, where it measured near eight feet in the diameter.

Three to compare

Izaak Walton: The Compleat Angler (1653)

Charles Darwin: The Voyage of the Beagle (1839)

Richard Mabey: The Cabaret of Plants (2015)

The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne by Gilbert White is published by Penguin (7.99). To order a copy for 6.79 go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over 10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of 1.99

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/aug/14/100-greatest-non-fiction-books-all-time-natural-history-and-antiquities-of-selborne-gilbert-white

100 best nonfiction books: No 79 The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano (1789)

The most famous slave memoir of the 18th century is a powerful and terrifying read and established Equiano as a founding figure in black literary tradition

Black literature begins with the slave memoirs of the 18th century. Equianos Interesting Narrative is the most famous of these, especially once it was taken up by supporters of the abolition movement, but he was not the first African slave to publish a book in England, or, if we remember Dr Johnsons manservant, Francis Barber, the first to have some experience of London literary life.

In the book trade, Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho (1782) were probably the first to mobilise English readers against racial discrimination and the horrors of the slave trade. Sancho would pioneer a flourishing genre that runs from Ottobah Cugoano in 1787 (Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species) to Mary Prince in 1831 (The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave). Thereafter, during the 19th century, black literature would continue to flourish, in Britain, with Mary Seacole (no 62 in this series) and, in the USA, with Frederick Douglass (no 68). In the 20th century, this tradition was sustained by largely autobiographical prose, often focusing on the imaginative reworking of the slave experience. Some outstanding recent examples include Grace Nichols: I Is a Long Memoried Woman (1983), Caryll Phillips: Cambridge (1991) and David Dabydeen: Turner (1994). All of these titles owe some intellectual debt to The Interesting Narrative.

Olaudah Equiano(c1745-1797), also known as Gustavus Vassa, was an African writer, born in what is now the Eboe province of Nigeria, and sold into slavery aged 11. Equiano subsequently worked as the slave of a British naval officer, purchased his freedom in 1766 and went on to write his popular slave memoir. No fewer than 17 editions and reprints, and several translations, appeared between 1798 and 1827. In hindsight, The Interesting Narrative became an influential work that established a template for later slave life writing and subsequently an important text in the teaching of African literature. Indeed, to Henry Louis Gates Jr, Equiano is a founding figure in the making of an authentic black literary tradition.

Inevitably, perhaps, The Interesting Narrative has been dogged by controversy from first publication. Equianos story was initially discredited as false (despite a preface including testimonials from white people who knew me when I first arrived in England). Even now, there are scholars who cast doubt on Equianos veracity, claiming that he plagiarised his story from other sources. Whatever the truth, the surviving text of his Interesting Narrative is sufficiently its own, in style and character, to merit serious consideration. Equianos story is certainly remarkable.

From the outset, he is concerned to establish his credentials as an ordinary, long-suffering African boy who has endured much and triumphed over adversity. He describes, at some length, the Eboe customs he has grown up with: circumcision, witchcraft and tribal patriarchy. As well as cataloguing his primitive beginnings, Equiano also celebrates the exotic and fabulous natural profusion of Africa, consciously playing to western fascination with the Dark Continent: Our land is uncommonly rich and fruitful, and produces all kinds of vegetables in great abundance. We have plenty of Indian corn, and vast quantities of cotton and tobacco. Our pine apples grow without culture; they are about the size of the largest sugar-loaf, and finely-flavoured. We have also spices of different kinds, particularly pepper; and a variety of delicious fruits which I have never seen in Europe; together with gums of various kinds, and honey in abundance.

Equiano, for all his modesty the hero of his own tale, also singles himself out for his natural eloquence. Its his strategy in the memoir to convince his readers of the injustice of slavery by writing withal in a tone of reason and conciliation. While he can pile on the horror of the middle crossing, strangely, he lacks any resentment and does not castigate his white masters in print for their cruelty. His tone is nothing if not complicit: I was named Olaudah, which, in our language signifies vicissitude or fortune; also one favoured, and having a loud voice and well-spoken.

Having established his origins, Equiano moves to describe his enslavement and transportation to the West Indies, and thence to Virginia, where he served as the slave of an officer in the Royal Navy, Michael Pascal, who renamed him Gustavus Vassa after the 16th-century Swedish king. Equiano travelled the oceans with Pascal for eight years, during which time he was baptised and learned to read and write. Pascal then sold Equiano to a ships captain in London, who took him to Montserrat, where he was traded with a merchant, Robert King. While working as a deckhand, valet and barber for King, Equiano earned money by negotiating on the side, accumulating enough savings to buy his freedom.

From a documentary point of view, Equianos account of life in mid-Georgian Britain is fascinating. He gets taken up by white society and patronised by the great and the good, but he is never quite free of floggings and incarceration. Nevertheless, he does manage to save the money that will buy his freedom.

What follows are Equianos adventures on the high seas, mixed with his conversion to Christianity. In fact, Equiano spent almost 20 years travelling the world, including trips to Turkey and the Arctic. In 1786, in London, he involved himself in the movement to abolish slavery. He was a prominent member of the Sons of Africa, a group of a dozen black men who campaigned for abolition. After the publication of The Interesting Narrative, Equiano travelled widely to promote the book, whose immense popularity became integral to the abolitionist cause and made Equiano a wealthy man. In 1792, Equiano married an Englishwoman, Susanna Cullen, and they had two daughters. He died on 31 March 1797.

After a strong opening in West Africa and his account of crossing to the West Indies, Equianos personal story becomes fragmented by Abolitionist special pleading. He closes his account with an appeal to his readers more tender sympathies: Torture, murder, and every other imaginable barbarity and iniquity, are practised upon the poor slaves with impunity. I hope the slave trade will be abolished. I pray it may be an event at hand. The great body of manufacturers, uniting in the cause, will considerably facilitate and expedite it; and it is most substantially their interest and advantage, and as such the nations at large (except those persons concerned in the manufacturing of neck-yokes, collars, chains, hand-cuffs, leg bolts, drags, thumb-screws, iron muzzles, and coffins; cats, scourges and other instruments of torture.

A signature sentence

One morning, when I got upon deck, I saw it covered all over with the snow that fell over-night. As I had never seen anything of the kind before, I thought it was salt; so I immediately ran down to the mate and desired him, as well as I could, to come and see how somebody in the night had thrown salt all over the deck.

Three to compare

Mary Seacole: Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands (1857)

Peter Fryer: Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain (1984)

Henry Louis Gates Jr: The Signifying Monkey (1988)

The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano is published by Norton Critical Edition (9.95). To order a copy go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over 10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of 1.99.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/aug/07/the-interesting-narrative-of-the-life-of-olaudah-equiano-100-best-nonfiction-books-robert-mccrum

Bernard MacLaverty: The story you have just finished is of little help to writing the next one

Acclaimed Northern Irish writer Bernard MacLaverty has taken 16 years to finish his latest novel. A lot of things just got in the way, he says

In his jacket endorsement for Bernard MacLavertys Midwinter Break, the celebrated American novelist Richard Ford describes the new book as much-anticipated. It is a polite way of saying that MacLavertys fifth novel has been taken its time in coming. Sixteen years, to be precise, since his last, The Anatomy School, and longer still if you go back to the glory days of the 1980s and 1990s when this Belfast-born but Glasgow-based writer was everywhere, winning plaudits and prizes in equal measure for his short story collections (A Time to Dance, Walking the Dog and The Great Profundo), his novels Cal and Lamb, both of which he adapted as acclaimed films starring respectively Helen Mirren and Liam Neeson, his television series and radio plays, and his Booker-shortlisted Grace Notes in 1997.

A case of writers block? More life getting in the way of art, MacLaverty replies, perched nervously on the edge of his armchair in a central London hotel as we talk. I have a diary note from 2001, when Madeline [his wife] and I went to Amsterdam for a break in January. So I presume I was starting to think about the project from there, but there were so many things that came along to get in the way.

Among the distractions he lists and this affable and unassuming 74-year-old has a prompt sheet to hand were: an un-turn-downable invitation from Scottish Opera to write a libretto; two years as a classical music DJ on Radio Scotland; a five-year stint on a movie script based on Robin Jenkinss wonderful 1950s novel, The Cone Gatherers, which finally came to nought when the producer behind the project died; a collection of short stories; and Bye-Child, a Bafta-nominated short film of a poem by his close friend Seamus Heaney, which he directed in 2003.

And, he adds, Ive also had eight grandchildren in that time. Or we have. His four grown-up children, two boys, two girls, all live in the same postcode as he does, so he has his hands full. Its a new twist on Cyril Connollys line about the pram in the hall being the enemy of good art.

MacLaverty would be the last one to take himself so seriously, but his brief run through those 16 lost years reveals him as a man of many talents to which should be also added teaching stints at British, European and American universities. With so much he is good at, what would he choose if he had only time left for one more project? Id paint something good, he answers without a pause.

No hint of any autumnal narrowing of horizons here, but Midwinter Break is, by contrast, a tale of quiet disappointment, about long-married Gerry Gilmore, a retired architect, and his wife Stella, as they head off on a mini-break. Both are at odds with their lot and with each other. He is retreating into drink, she into religion.

She is thinking, MacLaverty says, on a different plain. This is not a story about old people. Its the story of two young people who got old and they have fallen out of step.

A two-hander, it covers the same broad territory as 45 Years, the 2015 Tom Courtenay/Charlotte Rampling film, based on a David Constantine short story. In the case of Midwinter Break, though, the past trauma that haunts the couple is bound up in the Troubles in Northern Ireland, which they moved to Scotland to escape.

The parallels with MacLavertys life are plain. In 1974, he, too, made the same refugee journey with his young family. The Troubles were awful and bloody, he recalls, bombs and people being killed on their doorsteps.

His homeland, though, has continued to loom large in the books he has published in exile. You write from what you know, and one of the things you know is that you are not telling your own story, but bits of it are your own story. Its like tessellation of a mosaic. You take a bit that happened to you and you put it beside a bit that you make up.

It requires a delicate touch, he emphasises, and can be a time-consuming process. We are edging back around to that long space between novels but now he is more willing to address what has been keeping me back. Whatever backdrop, or even tone his books may share, he explains, the story you have just finished is of little help to writing the next one. He quotes Thomas Mann in his defence. Didnt he say, a writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people?

There was at least one false start with Midwinter Break, he admits, with an opening section, set in the now derelict modernist Catholic seminary at Cardross in Argyll and Bute, that had to be scrapped.

Is he a perfectionist? MacLaverty gives a warm, intimate laugh. Im a writer. Theyre the same thing.

Religion is one feature of his novels. Though he long ago rejected the Catholicism of his childhood, it continues to fuel his imagination. I cease to believe in one aspect of it, but I continue to believe in the trappings.

Another hallmark is the spareness of his writing, not a wasted word or detail between the covers of what become as a result small masterpieces. Its not like putting together Lego, he agrees. You have to be very careful that you are weighing the words.

The phrase makes him remember something his mother once used. Shed found a wee dead bird. She picked it up and she said, youd have known by the weight of it that it was dead. He chuckles. And its the same with a story. You know whether you can accomplish it in six pages [as a short story] or whether it will take 200. And this one he points to the copy of Midwinter Break on the table between us is hefty material. It is about love and life and death and religion and what matters.

And then, of course, theres his other recurring theme, Ireland. All the novels nod to what is happening to Ireland, he agrees. Lamb [1980] was at the worst of the Troubles. Cal [1983] also had a downbeat ending, but then there were the ceasefires and things began to mend. So Grace Notes had an upbeat middle, and a downbeat end, or two endings. I was hedging my bets. And this one well, I mustnt say more about the ending, but Im mildly optimistic about Ireland. I dont think they are going to go back to slaying each other.

Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty will be published by Jonathan Cape on 3 August (14.99). To order a copy for 12.74 go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over 10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of 1.99

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jul/31/bernard-maclaverty-interview-new-novel-midwinter-break

Sonnets Walking the Great Divide by Cecil Welles

Sonnets Walking the Great Divide by Cecil Welles

Book Summary

This book represents a sample of the author’s thought clarification. Somber, crazy, joyful, or eclectic in subjects, the sonnet format provides a steady bedrock of expression. Some subjects are deep, some barely scratch the surface, some try to resolve a conundrum, and some are a passing whim. All start with a single word or phrase with no end state in mind until the poem is done.

http://amzn.to/2vkrWXr

San Francisco Book Review 5 Stars

Most of us are familiar with sonnets through William Shakespeare’s work. Those poems were my first introduction to that particular form of poetry, and, to be perfectly honest, when someone asks me to think of a sonnet, my mind springs automatically to that most familiar: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” Because of this association between sonnets and a centuries-dead man, the form is often seen to be archaic, and it isn’t often that anyone tries to challenge it. After all, sonnets aren’t the sort of poems that allow for much freedom. On the contrary: they have a very strict structure, and sometimes it seems the only freedom allowed is between English and Italian style sonnets.

However, sonnets don’t necessarily need to be revived through being drastically changed, nor does the language used to write them need to be archaic to match the time period we know them from. In fact, a skilled writer can find a great deal to write about while remaining within the form of a sonnet, and Cecil Welles has done a phenomenal job at bridging the divide between the sixteenth century and the twenty-first.

Each of the sonnets in this collection illustrates some aspect of Welles’s skill with words, and narrowing down which to mention in this review was difficult, but there were a few which stood out to me. One of the first poems, “Sanctuary,” gives the reader the image of a “Quaker gun,” a clever use of oxymoron that makes the reader pause for a moment. The next few lines explain the phrase, but not every such moment is so neatly tied up, and thus the poems become something of a puzzle, inviting the reader to linger over the words and attempt to draw out not only Welles’s intended meaning but some new meaning of their own. Other poems, such as “Chances” and “Girl-Child” show the poet’s skill at imagery, and throughout the collection he uses the sorts of literary devices we all learned (and some – myself included – forgot) in English class to great effect. My personal favorite was his use of the slant rhyme, as a pet peeve of mine is when poets have obviously forced two lines to rhyme. Instead of using unfitting words in an attempt to have rhyming quatrains, Welles uses words that almost rhyme to produce the same effect without making his poems feel simplistic.

Sonnets Walking the Great Divide is easily the best collection of sonnets I have read lately. Each poem is fresh and interesting, and together they make for a refreshing read.

Reviewed By: Jo Niederhoff

https://sanfranciscobookreview.com/product/sonnets-walking-the-great-divide/

Author Bio:

The author is a California native and Georgia resident who writes sonnets as a source of thought clarification. As a contradiction to poetry, his day job consists of applied mathematics, information management, history, analytics, and military science.

Author’s website: http://www.cecilwelles.com