• “The novel is constantly assailed by people wanting to conscript it to their own ends. (Other art forms are not similarly burdened; someone yelling ‘What about global warming?’ between numbers at a Keith Jarrett concert would be recognized to have made a category error.)” Jonathan Clarke on the demands that literature should nurture empathy.
• The first three features by Alejandro Jodorowsky—Fando y Lis (1968), El Topo (1970) and The Holy Mountain (1973)—return to Britain’s cinema screens in January (well…two of them return; I’m not sure that Fando y Lis has ever been shown in cinemas over here). All three films will be given overdue blu-ray releases by Arrow in March.
• “What distinguishes Oulipo from other language games, is that its methods have to be capable of producing valid literary results.” Tony White reviews The Penguin Book of Oulipo: Queneau, Perec, Calvino and the Adventure of Form, edited by Philip Terry.
But from a present-day perspective, it is also remarkable the extent to which cafés, busy conduits for knowledge and sentiment, resembled later digitally connected systems. The larger establishments offered not just a huge selection of newspapers, domestic and foreign, but also reference material—maps, dictionaries, encyclopaedias, language lexicons, address books—for writers struggling with their research, or merely trying to settle an argument. The combination of hard facts and caffeinated opinion firing through the steamy analogue ether constituted a local area network of extraordinary reach. In the pre-digital era, the Viennese café offered the greatest possible concentration of current knowledge—for the price of a mélange.
From the Strange Flowers guide to Vienna, part 2
• “People like Edmund Wilson and Isaiah Berlin, they have to love Zhivago to prove that good writing can come out of Soviet Russia. They ignore that it is really a bad book.” Jennifer Wilson on Vladimir Nabokov’s fighting spirit.
• Master animator Richard Williams died in August so here again is the exceptional adaptation of A Christmas Carol made by his studio in 1971.
• Hearing a person: Annea Lockwood remembers her partner, composer Ruth Anderson, whose death was announced last week.
• The London Review of Books has relaunched its website. The paywall is currently down until mid-January so dig in.
• Live In Paris by Pharoah Sanders, a previously unreleased ORTF concert recording from 1975.
• Unrising sun: Amos Chapple’s photographs of the polar nights of Murmansk.
• Mary McNamara on the rescuing of 200 historic Hollywood backdrops.
• Mix of the week: XLR8R Podcast 623 by Aida.
• At Dennis Cooper’s: Sandy Dennis Day.