22/07/2008

Magazine Roundup

Magazine Roundup, which appears every Tuesday at 12 p.m., is originally published by Perlentaucher.

The Hungarian Quarterly | Portfolio Financial Times | Eurozine | The New Yorker | The Guardian | New York Times | Espresso | The Economist | The Spectator


The Hungarian Quarterly 01.08.2008 (Hungary)

The English-language magazine publishes an interview from 1993 with Magda Szabo, Hungary's most translated writer, who died last November. She tells how her first manuscript made its way out of the drawer, where it was hidden from the secret police, and into the hands of German publishers. "Mirza von Schüching told me she had the means to get the manuscript to a childhood friend, an expert. 'May I ask what makes your friend an expert?' I enquired. 'Does he have a good knowledge of literature?' 'Well, some,' she replied. 'You may have heard of him: his name is Hermann Hesse.' Hesse was a publisher's reader at Fischer's. 'Fine,' I told her, 'so we'll put the manuscript in the lap of God and see what happens.' Hesse told the publisher Insel that if they were prepared to buy Mrs Szabo, they should buy her lock, stock and barrel, including her unwritten books. And that is what happened. It was unusual for a book from a socialist country to let fly at the class struggle, the peace priests and the denounced Calvinist church-not to mention portraying the party secretary of a theatre as an idiot. So the German publishers said: 'this woman was made for us; she's as daring as the devil and incredibly impertinent.'"

There is also an interview with Liszt biographer Alan Walker who in 2002 brought out the unpublished diary of Franz Liszt's student Lina Schmalhausen. It tells a very different, if highly subjective version, of the composer's last ten days. "It contributes to the idea of Liszt as a kind of King Lear, being caused endless grief by his nearest and dearest. The story had to be told, because what had been said in the earlier biographies about his death was preposterous and absurd - and we all believed it for much too long."


Portfolio 01.08.2008 (USA)

"The Last Media Tycoon" of the article's title is a woman: Katharine Weymouth, granddaughter of the legendary Katharine Graham and now her successor as publisher of the Washington Post. The newspaper crisis is raging here in on a scale which is still unimaginable in Germany, reports Lloyd Grove in a detailed portrait. Thus the interaction between the newspaper and its website, which previously functioned completely separately, is now of prime importance. "The corporate and geographical separation resulted in two very different and clashing cultures. Now the two entities for the first time report to the same person -Weymouth." And she is highly optimistic that something new can emerge from this. "Think about the record companies,' she told her staff. 'They've all been in this position, and some have survived it and some have not. Apple completely reinvented themselves. IBM did not. TiVo did not. Microsoft constantly reinvents itself. Google has sort of a one-hit, brilliant wonder and is now trying to look for lots of other revenue streams but really hasn't, in my mind, succeeded. So I wish I could come up with what the iPod is for us.'"


Financial Times 21.07.2008 (UK)

Maybe there really is a recipe for the survival of newspapers in the age of the internet. Trevor Butterworth portrays the editor of the New Yorker, David Remnick, for the Financial Times: "Remnick has much to celebrate after 10 years: circulation of The New Yorker has risen by 32 per cent, to more than 1m copies a week; re-subscription rates, at 85 per cent, are the highest in the industry; and despite the conventional wisdom that young readers don't have the attention span to do more than blog, text and twitter, the magazine has seen its 18-to-24 readership grow by 24 per cent and its 25-to-34 readership rise 52 per cent." So the recipe for success is just ambitious articles for a young readership, which are also partially available on-line!"


Eurozine 14.07.2008 (Austria)

Does the Netherlands produce great literature, and what does it say about life today? Margot Dijkgraaf presents (in English) key Dutch authors - Willem Frederik Hermans, Gerard Reve (both deceased), Harry Mulisch, Cees Nooteboom, Hella S. Haasse, Adriaan van Dis, Arnon Grunberg, Geert Mak, Annejet van der Zijl, Frank Westerman, Abdelkader Benali and Hafid Bouazza. One of the best-sellers of recent years was Jan Siebelink's novel "Knielen op een bed violen" ("Kneeling on a bed of violets"). "It is the remarkable story of a nurseryman who falls under the spell of an orthodox Calvinist sect and ends up not only ruining his business, but also completely alienating his wife and two sons, right up until his dying day.". Religious belief has long been a taboo in the Netherlands explains Dijkgraaf, but "This book demonstrates the enduring sway of a deep-rooted and even God-fearing faith in the Netherlands. Fashionable notions such as 'secularization', 'globalization', and 'global village' are a far cry from the world of this novel."

The January edition of the magazine Mittelweg 36 featured previously unpublished correspondences from 1967-8 between the then 25 year-old theology student Hans-Jürgen Benedict and Hannah Arendt. Eurozine has now made the the scanned originals available online. In them, Arendt presciently denounces any kind of World Police pretentions of the USA, her adopted country. "Concerning the latter, without question, it concerns us when 'ignoble conditions' prevail in Iran, Vietnam and Brazil, but it is truly not up to us. It appears to me to be a kind of inverse megalomania. Try doing politics in Iran once, and you'll soon be cured of trying again."

And two Norwegian women who wore the headscarf after converting to Islam in the 1980s, explain in an interview (again in English) why they have now rejected it.


The New Yorker 28.07.2008 (USA)

In his Letter from China, Evan Osnos presents a new neoconservative and nationalistic student generation who strictly reject the West. "The students in 1989 were rebelling against corruption and abuses of power. 'Nowadays, these issues haven't disappeared but have worsened,' Li Datong, an outspoken newspaper editor and reform advocate, told me. 'However, the current young generation turns a blind eye to it. I've never seen them respond to those major domestic issues. Rather, they take a utilitarian, opportunistic approach.'" Later, a student gives the reporter food for thought when he tells him: "Chinese people have begun to think, One part is the good life, another part is democracy. If democracy can really give you the good life, that's good. But, without democracy, if we can still have the good life why should we choose democracy?"

Further articles: David Samuels investigates how marijuana for medical purposes is changing the cannabis market. James Wood offers a portrait of Sarajevo-born author Aleksandar Hemon reviews his new book "The Lazarus Project" (Riverhead).



The Guardian 19.07.2008 (UK)

The quandary of quantum poetry! When poet Nick Laird was paired up with astrophysicist Paul Murdin and asked to contribute to an anthology of "space poems", he found himself in a bit of a black hole. "In general modern poets have taken more easily to Freud than Darwin, for reasons obvious enough: Freud's work privileges the human, Darwin's does not. But the remit of science is forever widening. Neuroscience is asking what the self is made from. Evolutionary biology seeks to explain behaviour. Quantum mechanics overturns notions of causation. Astronomy attempts to discover the texture and origin of the universe. In these inquiries, the 'hows' become the 'whys'. Just as Emerson called for a new kind of poetry that was commensurate with America, and Whitman obliged, should we hope for poetry capacious enough to map the new countries of science?"


New York Times 20.07.2008 (USA)

For the Sunday Book Review, Howard Hampton reads a "moderately mad" study of the influence of Heavy Metal in the Middle East and North Africa. Author Mark LeVine gets involved in jams and festivals and finds a real form of resistance:"'Heavy Metal Islam' turns the notion of irreconcilable differences between Islam and the West on its head, appealing to the universality of youth culture as 'a model for communication and cooperation' in the Internet age (...) LeVine reckons the likes of Metallica and Slayer provide a brute lingua franca that knows no borders, opening up breathing room in cloistered societies, gradually undermining rigid belief systems — a benign, bottom-up brand of globalization as opposed to the ruthless corporate or state-sponsored kind."


L'Espresso 18.07.2008 (Italy)

In a wonderful article, Roberto Saviano, the author of "Gomorrah", remembers his journey to the Cannes Festival, where he travelled with a group of amateur actors from Naples who performed the roles of the new generation Camorra in the film of his book. When asked at the press conference, whether they might have joined the Mafia had other alternatives not presented themselves, one of them answered: "No, you are mistaken. Me, a Mafioso, never! Aside from the money, they have a terrible life. And my mother is still crying from having seen me being shot dead in the film. Guess what, it happens for real!"


The Economist 18.07.2008 (UK)

The music industry seems to be slowly emerging from its file-share shock-freeze and is starting to show interest in the data of evil. It has started to pay, as this article reports, for information that file-sharing provides into consumer preferences. "For every song that is bought legally, in shops or online, around 20 songs are illegally downloaded, according to BigChampagne, a firm based in Beverly Hills, California, that compiles and sells statistics about file-sharing. Its customers can find out how many times, and where, a song has been illicitly downloaded, for example, what the figure was five weeks ago, what other music its fans like, and so on. ... Such information can help managers promote their artists. Jennifer Bird of Red Light Management, a management agency in Los Angeles, says her agency knows the names and geographic destinations of the 7.5 billion songs swapped in 2007. That is a big help if you are trying to work out whether people are raving about an artist - or merely about a song. And planning joint tours is easier when you know what other music an artist's fans listen to."

Further articles address the role of Islam in France and Turkey. The supplement focusses on the fate of al-Qaeda. Expert Anton La Guarda asks "Victory or defeat?". Another article believes that the group's practice of indiscriminate killing will be its downfall.


The Spectator 18.07.2008 (UK)

The sporting contest at the Olympic Games in Bejing is at best a sideshow to the real Olympic competition - the battle to define how China is seen by its citizens and the world outside, writes Mark Leonard: "In the past, we have defined surveillance as the powerful monitoring the powerless; the use of information technology by state institutions to monitor individuals. But increasingly, the availability of new technology allows individuals to monitor the state institutions themselves. In an interesting new book, 'Owning the Olympics', the academics Monroe Price and Daniel Dayan use the phrase 'sousveillance' - French for monitoring from below - to capture a new phenomenon where the powerful can be filmed and held to account for their actions in the court of public opinion. Sousveillance famously made an appearance with the beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles, the hanging of Saddam Hussein in 2006 and the protests in Burma in 2007. But the Beijing Olympics could take this to an industrial scale."

Further articles: Lloyd Evans takes part in a ritual Falun Gong exercise opposite the Chinese Embassy and concludes that it demands "a degree of meekness that is alien to my nature." David Tang observes the preparations for the Olympic Games in Bejing.

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