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Archive for March, 2009

“A newly reconstructed deformed fossil skull suggests our human ancestors probably cared for deformed offspring for years.

“The skull indicates that the child who lived about 530,000 years ago would have been severely handicapped — and yet survived at least five years and possibly several years longer. That suggests the parents or community provided the child with care, despite his or her obvious deformities.” (more @ Wired)

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amherst250logoAs part of the celebration of the 250th anniversary of Amherst, Massachusetts, home to the Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst College, Hampshire College and the University of Masachusetts, a number of literary events are scheduled for the month of April. Events include a “Children’s Literary Scavenger Hunt,” an “Emerging Young Writers Event,” and “A Reading by Poet, Essayist, Editor and Translator: Martin Espada,” to name a few.

A complete schedule of events in the “Amherst Lit Series” can be found here.

Additional information “About Amherst 250” can be found here.

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walker_percyA previously unknown short story by Walker Percy, whose first novel, The Moviegoer, won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1962, will be published in the April, 2009 issue of The Hopkins Review, a literary quarterly produced by Johns Hopkins University Press.

“‘A Detective Story’ is a breezy tale of William Pinckney, a Mississippi businessman who goes out for a pack of cigarettes and never comes home. The yarn is narrated by Jamie Rodgers, a long-time friend of Pinckney’s. At the request of Pinckney’s wife, and to appease his own curiosity, Rodgers sets out on a quest – to Memphis, Atlanta and other places — to find the vanished man.” (more @ NPR)

It is unclear when Percy wrote “A Detective Story.” Logan Browning, a lecturer at Rice University, thinks Percy may have written the piece in the late 1950s before he wrote The Moviegoer.

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cuba_postcard“Roughly a year after Fidel Castro stepped aside and handed much of the responsibility for leading Cuba to his brother Raúl, there is new momentum in Washington for eliminating the ban on most U.S. travel to the island nation and for reexamining the severe limitations on U.S.-Cuban economic exchanges.

“At a Capitol Hill news conference scheduled for tomorrow, a wide array of senators and interest groups — including Senate Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Byron L. Dorgan (N.D.); Banking Committee Chairman  Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.); Richard G. Lugar (Ind.), the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and Human Rights Watch — will rally around a potentially historic bill to lift the travel ban.” (more @ Washington Post)

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levittHelen Levitt, a major photographer of the 20th century who caught fleeting moments of surpassing lyricism, mystery and quiet drama on the streets of her native New York, died in her sleep at her home in Manhattan on Sunday. She was 95. . . .

“Ms. Levitt captured instances of a cinematic and delightfully guileless form of street choreography that held at its heart, as William Butler Yeats put it, ‘the ceremony of innocence.’ A man handles garbage-can lids like an exuberant child imitating a master juggler. Even an inanimate object — a broken record — appears to skip and dance on an empty street as a child might, observed by a group of women’s dresses in a shop window.

“As marvelous as these images are, the masterpieces in Ms. Levitt’s oeuvre are her photographs of children living their zesty, improvised lives. A white girl and a black boy twirl in a dance of their own imagining. Four girls on a sidewalk turning to stare at five floating bubbles become contrapuntal musical notes in a lovely minor key.

“In Ms. Levitt’s best-known picture, three properly dressed children prepare to go trick-or-treating on Halloween 1939. Standing on the stoop outside their house, they are in almost metaphorical stages of readiness. The girl on the top step is putting on her mask; a boy near her, his mask in place, takes a graceful step down, while another boy, also masked, lounges on a lower step, coolly surveying the world.

“‘At the peak of Helen’s form,’ John Szarkowski, former director of the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art, once said, ‘there was no one better.'” (more @ NY Times)

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gonzalez-cartoon“A Spanish court has taken the first steps toward opening a criminal investigation into allegations that six former high-level Bush administration officials violated international law by providing the legal framework to justify the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, an official close to the case said.

“The case, against former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and others, was sent to the prosecutor’s office for review by Baltasar Garzón, the crusading investigative judge who ordered the arrest of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The official said that it was ‘highly probable’ that the case would go forward and that it could lead to arrest warrants.

“The move represents a step toward ascertaining the legal accountability of top Bush administration officials for allegations of torture and mistreatment of prisoners in the campaign against terrorism. But some American experts said that even if warrants were issued their significance could be more symbolic than practical, and that it was a near certainty that the warrants would not lead to arrests if the officials did not leave the United States.

“The complaint under review also names John C. Yoo, the former Justice Department lawyer who wrote secret legal opinions saying the president had the authority to circumvent the Geneva Conventions, and Douglas J. Feith, the former under secretary of defense for policy. . . .

Spain can claim jurisdiction in the case because five citizens or residents of Spain who were prisoners at Guantánamo Bay have said they were tortured there. The five had been indicted in Spain, but their cases were dismissed after the Spanish Supreme Court ruled that evidence obtained under torture was not admissible.” (more @ NY Times)

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bookfairArguably the most important annual book fair in the United States will be held this coming weekend, April 3-5, at the Park Avenue Armory (643 Park Avenue, at 67th Street) in New York City. General information (hours, entrance fees, etc) about the 49th annual event, organized by Sanford L. Smith and Associates and sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America can be found here.

The list of international exhibitors can be found here.

The annual New York fair is well worth the admission price even for those uninterested in writing large checks – as an exhibition of incunabula, rare and unusual books, periodicals and literary ephemera, the New York event is unrivaled in the United States, and probably the rest of the world as well.

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