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Willie Davis, who succeeded Duke Snider as the center fielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers and used his blazing speed to steal 20 or more bases 11 straight years, led the National League in triples twice and set a record of three stolen bases in a World Series game, was found dead on Tuesday at his home in Burbank, Calif. He was 69. . . .

“Frank McCourt, the owner of the Dodgers, said in a statement that Davis was ‘one of the most talented players ever to wear a Dodgers uniform.’ Davis played 14 seasons for the Dodgers, on teams that were almost immediately the stuff of legend. Among his teammates were Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Maury Wills. His 31-game hitting streak in 1969 is still a team record. It was the longest streak in the majors since Dom DiMaggio’s 34 games in 1949 for the Boston Red Sox.

“Davis holds six other franchise records, including hits (2,091), extra-base hits (585), at-bats (7,495), runs (1,004), triples (110) and total bases (3,094).

“Davis lifetime batting average was .279, and he had a total of 398 stolen bases. He made it to the major leagues in 1960 and retired after the 1979 season.

“Over his career, he played more than 2,200 games in center field, was a two-time All-Star and a three-time Gold Glove winner for his defense. He won World Series rings in 1963 and 1965, stealing three bases in one inning in the 1965 Series.” (more @ NY Times)

“Author Barry Hannah, whose fiction was laced with dark humor and populated by hard-drinking Southerners, died Monday at his home in Oxford, Miss. He was 67. . . .

“Hannah’s first novel, ‘Geronimo Rex,’ was published in 1972. It received the William Faulkner prize for writing and was nominated for a National Book Award. His 1996 short story collection, ‘High Lonesome,’ was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

“Novelist and Mississippi native Richard Ford called Hannah ‘a shooting star.’

“‘Barry could somehow make the English sentence generous and unpredictable, yet still make wonderful sense, which for readers is thrilling,” Ford said from his home in Maine. ‘You never knew the source of the next word. But he seemed to command the short story form and the novel form and make those forms up newly for himself.'” (more @ NY Times)

Related: Writers Remember Barry Hannah (via Vanity Fair)

Water Street, (DUMBO) Brooklyn (February, 2010)

(See more photos from the “Literature Versus Traffic” project @ luzinterruptus)

“When Pawel looks into the mirror, he can still sometimes see a neo-Nazi skinhead staring back, the man he was before he covered his shaved head with a skullcap, traded his fascist ideology for the Torah and renounced violence and hatred in favor of God.

“‘I still struggle every day to discard my past ideas,’ said Pawel, a 33-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jew and former truck driver, noting with little irony that he had to stop hating Jews in order to become one. ‘When I look at an old picture of myself as a skinhead, I feel ashamed. Every day I try and do teshuvah,’ he said, using the Hebrew word for repentance. ‘Every minute of every day. There is a lot to make up for.’

“Pawel, who also uses his Hebrew name Pinchas, asked that his last name not be used for fear that his old neo-Nazi friends could harm him or his family.

“Twenty years after the fall of Communism, Pawel is perhaps the most unlikely example of the Jewish revival under way in Poland, of a moment in which Jewish leaders here say the country is finally showing solid signs of shedding the rabid anti-Semitism of the past.” (cont’d @ NY Times)

J. D. Salinger, who was thought at one time to be the most important American writer to emerge since World War II but who then turned his back on success and adulation, becoming the Garbo of letters, famous for not wanting to be famous, died Wednesday at his home in Cornish, N.H., where he had lived in seclusion for more than 50 years. He was 91. . . .

“Mr. Salinger’s literary reputation rests on a slender but enormously influential body of published work: the novel ‘The Catcher in the Rye,’ the collection ‘Nine Stories’ and two compilations, each with two long stories about the fictional Glass family: ‘Franny and Zooey’ and ‘Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.’

“‘Catcher’ was published in 1951, and its very first sentence, distantly echoing Mark Twain, struck a brash new note in American literature: ‘If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.’

“Though not everyone, teachers and librarians especially, was sure what to make of it, ‘Catcher’ became an almost immediate best seller, and its narrator and main character, Holden Caulfield, a teenager newly expelled from prep school, became America’s best-known literary truant since Huckleberry Finn.” (more @ NY Times)

“When Jack Kerouac wrote his will shortly before his death in 1969, he was broke. Forty years later, a ferocious battle rages over his multi-million dollar literary estate. Kerouac, at odds with his third wife, Stella Sampas, had left everything to his mother, Gabrielle Kerouac. But when Gabrielle Kerouac passed away in 1973, her will indicated that the entire estate would go to Sampas, news that had shocked Kerouac’s remaining blood relatives—his daughter, Jan, and his nephew, Paul Blake Jr. When Sampas died in 1990, her siblings inherited the Kerouac literary estate, with the youngest brother, John Sampas, acting as executor. It was a stunning series of events for Kerouac scholars and fans, but the real surprise was yet to come. Last July, a judge in Tampa, Florida ruled that Gabrielle Kerouac’s 1973 will was a forgery.

“Gerald Nicosia, author of the acclaimed Kerouac biography, Memory Babe, first suspected foul play in 1994, when Jan Kerouac saw a copy of the will for the first time and noticed that her grandmother’s name was misspelled.

“‘We are dealing with perhaps the most influential American novelist of the twentieth century, after all, and it is now proven that his $30 million estate was stolen, plain and simple,’ said Nicosia.” (cont’d @ Fine Books & Collections)

Eric Rohmer, the French critic and filmmaker who was one of the founding figures of the internationally influential movement that became known as the French New Wave, and the director of more than 50 films for theaters and television, including the Oscar-nominated ‘My Night at Maud’s‘ (1969), died on Monday. He was 89. . . .

“Aesthetically, Mr. Rohmer was perhaps the most conservative member of the group of aggressive young critics who purveyed their writings for publications like Arts and Les Cahiers du Cinéma into careers as filmmakers beginning in the late 1950s. A former novelist and teacher of French and German literature, Mr. Rohmer emphasized the spoken and written word in his films at a time when tastes — thanks in no small part to his own pioneering writing on Alfred Hitchcock and Howard Hawks — had begun to shift from literary adaptations to genre films grounded in strong visual styles.

“His most famous film in America remains ‘My Night at Maud’s,’ a 1969 black-and-white feature set in the grim industrial city of Clermont-Ferrand. It tells the story of a shy, young engineer . . . who passes a snow-bound evening in the home of an attractive, free-thinking divorcée.” (more @ NY Times)

“The Polish police said Friday that the iron sign over the gate to the Auschwitz memorial with the infamous phrase ‘arbeit macht frei’ — ‘work sets you free’ — has been stolen.

“Katarzyna Padlo, a police spokeswoman, said the police believe it was taken between 3:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. Friday.

“Ms. Padlo, who was quoted by The Associated Press, said the sign over the main entrance to Auschwitz, the former Nazi death camp in southern Poland, near Krakow, was removed by being unscrewed on one side and pulled off on the other. She said the authorities immediately launched an intensive search.

“The sign was erected soon after Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi extermination camp, was built in May 1940, and more than a million people died during the four-and-a-half years of Auschwitz’s existence. The victims were mainly Jewish men, women and children but included Polish political prisoners, Soviet prisoners of war, Roma families, gay men and lesbians, people with disabilities and prisoners of conscience.

“The camp was liberated by the Red Army on Jan. 27, 1945.” (cont’d @ NY Times)

“A woman who was given an anti-social behaviour order banning her from making loud noises during sex has admitted breaching the order.

“Caroline and Steve Cartwright’s love-making was described as ‘murder’ and ‘unnatural’ at Newcastle Crown Court.

“Neighbours, the local postman and a woman taking her child to school complained about the noise.

“Cartwright, 48, from Washington on Wearside, pleaded guilty to three counts of breaching the Asbo. . . .

“At an earlier hearing, next door neighbour Rachel O’Connor told the court she was frequently late for work because she overslept having been awake most of the night because of the noise.” (cont’d @ BBC News)

“The final chapter has been written for the lone bookstore on the streets of Laredo (Texas).

“With a population of nearly a quarter-million people, this city could soon be the largest in the nation without a single bookseller.

“The situation is so grim that schoolchildren have pleaded for a reprieve from next month’s planned shutdown of the B. Dalton bookstore. After that, the nearest store will be 150 miles away in San Antonio.

“The B. Dalton store was never a community destination with comfy couches and an espresso bar, but its closing will create a literary void in a city with a high illiteracy rate. Industry analysts and book associations could not name a larger American city without a single bookseller.” (cont’d @ NY Times)

“Despite a six-day-a-week work schedule, Derr always makes time to take pictures. His images of DUMBO, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Red Hook, and Brooklyn Heights can be seen on Flickr — and purchased through Imagekind — and have appeared in the Gothamist, the New York Times, and Brooklyn Heights blog. They’ve also been published on dumbonyc.com and used in the promotional materials of Arts at St. Ann’s and the DUMBO Neighborhood Association. . . .

“‘DUMBO was rough when I arrived,’ he begins. ‘There is a building complex on Sand Street that is owned by The Watchtower where about 900 staff live. When I first moved in, the area was not as refined as it is now, with galleries, shops, and brand name stores. Before, there were art collectives and there was more of an artist presence in the community. Right up the street there was the Between the Bridges Bar, which looked like a dive. I guess something was lost, and something gained.’

“Among the losses, Derr says, is DUMBO’s once-gritty feel—the abandoned warehouses and factories, broken concrete, and glass shards that used to litter the ground. He is saddened, he says, by the destruction of numerous art deco structures, one of which, the Purchase Building, was knocked down to create a parking lot that now houses the Brooklyn Flea each Sunday.” (more @ The Brooklyn Rail, via Dumbo NYC)

“Egypt’s most senior antiquities official will visit Britain tomorrow to push on with a campaign to have the Rosetta Stone returned from the British Museum to its native country.

“Speaking in his offices, amid piles of Pharaonic books, museum records and archaeological dig requests, Zahi Hawass, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said he would not be swayed by the British Museum’s refusal to return the item, which he considers the ‘icon of Egyptian identity’.

“Dr Hawass, who will meet egyptologists in London, has been encouraged in his campaign by his success in securing the return of five ancient fresco fragments from the Louvre in Paris. Dr Hawass is also pursuing the return of the Queen Nefertiti bust from Neues Museum, Berlin, the Dendera Zodiac from the Louvre and a bust of the pyramid builder Ankhaf from the Boston Museum of Fine Art. Dr Hawass, 52, said he has an ‘entire department’ working to uncover evidence of other stolen Egyptian antiquities.

“‘We have evidence, direct evidence, that proves exactly what was stolen. For all of our history our heritage was stolen from us. It is important for Egyptians that it is returned,’ he said.” (cont’d @ TimesOnline)

“The closest toy store to Tiger Woods’ boyhood home is a Toys ‘R’ Us in Huntington Beach, California. There’s a strong chance Earl and Kultida Woods shopped for Christmas presents here when then their son was young, and the store yesterday was girded again for the holiday rush, with Barbies and pottery kits stacked up front. For those on a budget, there was a clearance sale on action figures in the back: the NFL’s Jay Cutler in a Broncos uniform (he’s now a Bear), the NBA’s Ben Gordon as a Bull (he’s now a Piston)—and native son Woods. Regularly $15.99, the Woods action figure had been slashed to $9.98.

“So it goes these days with greatest brand in sports, now that he’s been revealed to be a horn-dog of the highest order. At press time, his major sponsors were behind him. Nike has Tiger’s back. So, too, does Gillette. And it will be hard to tell if Tiger’s travails have any effect on sales of Buicks in the short term. But as it’s Christmas shopping season, the sales of Tiger videogames (through Electronic Arts), action figures (through Upper Deck), and memorabilia offer an immediate window into the scandal’s effect.” (cont’d @ The Daily Beast)

“It turns out that ‘low-intensity’ negative moods are linked to better writing than happy moods. As shown in the research of University of New South Wales Psychology Professor Joe Forgas, when we’re not walking on clouds or doing a happy dance, we tend to be more careful and mindful of details.

“Forgas has worked extensively on the effects of mood, and his most in-depth work with writing was described in the 2006 article ‘When sad is better than happy: Negative affect can improve the quality and effectiveness of persuasive messages and social influence strategies.’ . . .

“So why do crappy moods have such un-crappy consequences? Forgas said, ‘The most likely explanation is based on evolutionary theorising—affective states serve an adaptive purpose, subconsciously alerting us to apply the most useful information processing strategy to the task at hand. A negative mood is like an alarm signal, indicating that the situation is problematic, and requires more attentive, careful and vigilant processing—hence the greater attention to concrete information.'” (more @ GOOD)

“Why do novelists write essays? Most publishers would rather have a novel. Bookshops don’t know where to put them. It’s a rare reader who seeks them out with any sense of urgency. Still, in recent months Jonathan Safran Foer, Margaret Drabble, Chinua Achebe and Michael Chabon, among others, have published essays, and so this month will I. And though I think I know why I wrote mine, I wonder why they wrote theirs, and whether we all mean the same thing by the word ‘essay’, and what an essay is, exactly, these days.” (cont’d @ Guardian)

Bill Moyers, a former advisor to President Lyndon Johnson, who in April, 2010, will retire from his weekly televison program, “Bill Moyers Journal,” on the parallels between Johnson’s decision to escalate the war in Vietnam War and the decision facing Barack Obama in Afghanistan:

“Now in a different world, at a different time, and with a different president, we face the prospect of enlarging a different war. But once again we’re fighting in remote provinces against an enemy who can bleed us slowly and wait us out, because he will still be there when we are gone.

“Once again, we are caught between warring factions in a country where other foreign powers fail before us. Once again, every setback brings a call for more troops, although no one can say how long they will be there or what it means to win. Once again, the government we are trying to help is hopelessly corrupt and incompetent.

“And once again, a President pushing for critical change at home is being pressured to stop dithering, be tough, show he’s got the guts, by sending young people seven thousand miles from home to fight and die, while their own country is coming apart.

“And once again, the loudest case for enlarging the war is being made by those who will not have to fight it, who will be safely in their beds while the war grinds on. And once again, a small circle of advisers debates the course of action, but one man will make the decision.

“We will never know what would have happened if Lyndon Johnson had said no to more war. We know what happened because he said yes.” (more @ The Nation)

Related: Bill Moyers Journal (November 20, 2009)

“In an online poll conducted by the National Book Foundation, [Flannery O’Connor’s] collection ‘The Complete Stories’ was named the best work to have won the National Book Award for fiction in the contest’s 60-year history. The competition was steep: other finalists in the poll were ‘The Stories of John Cheever,’ William Faulkner’s ‘Collected Stories,’ ‘The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty,’ Ralph Ellison’s ‘Invisible Man’ and Thomas Pynchon’s ‘Gravity’s Rainbow.'” (more @ NY Times)

Related: Colum McCann Wins National Book Award

Jeanne-Claude, who collaborated with her husband, Christo, on dozens of environmental arts projects, notably the wrapping of the Pont Neuf in Paris and the Reichstag in Berlin, and the installation of 7,503 vinyl gates with saffron-colored nylon panels in Central Park, died Thursday in Manhattan, where she lived. She was 74.

“The cause was complications of a brain aneurysm, her family told The Associated Press.

Jeanne-Claude met her husband, Christo Javacheff, in Paris in 1958. At the time, Christo, a Bulgarian refugee, was already wrapping small objects. Three years later, they collaborated on their first work, a temporary installation on the Cologne docks that consisted of oil drums and rolls of industrial paper wrapped in tarpaulin.

“To avoid confusing dealers and the public, and to establish an artistic brand, they used only Christo’s name. In 1994 they retroactively applied the joint name ‘Christo and Jeanne-Claude’ to all outdoor works and large-scale temporary indoor installations. Indoor work was credited to Christo alone.” (cont’d @ NY Times)

Related: ‘The Gates, Central Park, New York, 1979-2005’ Christo and Jeanne-Claude

“The story of the seduction of a lesbian by an ageing stage actor, which includes an eye-watering scene with a green dildo, has won Philip Roth the dubious honour of a place on the shortlist for the Literary Review’s bad sex in fiction award.

“Roth can comfort himself with the fact that a roll call of literary fiction’s great and good, from Booker winner John Banville to acclaimed Israeli novelist Amos Oz, Goncourt winner Jonathan Littell and Whitbread winner Paul Theroux, have made it into the line-up for this year’s bad sex prize, set up by Auberon Waugh to ‘draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it.'” (cont’d @ Guardian)

“It was a revolution that began with a lie.

Vaclav Havel, the dissident leader who spearheaded the Velvet Revolution that overthrew communism in Czechoslovakia and kicked off twenty years ago on November 17, 1989, once declared that ‘truth and love must triumph over lies and hatred.’ Yet the revolution — its name a reference to the clenched fist in the velvet glove — was sparked by a false rumor that to this day remains a mystery.

“On Tuesday, thousands of Czechs are expected to march through the streets here, to the sound of wailing sirens and the growls of police dogs, eerily replicating a non-violent student march, 20 years ago, in which police rounded on demonstrators and rumors spread that a 19 year-old mathematics students named Martin Smid had been brutally killed. Scores had indeed been violently beaten. But no one, in fact, had died.

“Jan Urban, a dissident leader and journalist who helped to disseminate the lie, recalled in an interview that news of the alleged death had spread quickly, helping to wake a nation out of its collective apathy and lighting the spark — eight days after the fall of the Berlin Wall — for the peaceful rebellion that culminated in the regime’s demise.” (cont’d @ NY  Times)