What We Are Reading Today: Historical Grammar of the Visual Arts by Alois Riegl

What We Are Reading Today: Historical Grammar of the Visual Arts by Alois Riegl
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Updated 28 March 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Historical Grammar of the Visual Arts by Alois Riegl

What We Are Reading Today: Historical Grammar of the Visual Arts by Alois Riegl

Aloïs Riegl (1858–1905) was one of the greatest modern art historians. The most important member of the so-called Vienna School, Riegl developed a highly refined technique of visual or formal analysis, as opposed to the iconological method championed by Erwin Panofsky with its emphasis on decoding motifs through recourse to texts, says a review on the Princeton University Press website. 

Riegl pioneered new understandings of the changing role of the viewer, the significance of non–high art objects such as ornament and textiles, and theories of art and art history, including his much-debated neologism Kunstwollen (the will of art). Finally, his Historical Grammar of the Visual Arts, which brings together many of the diverse threads of his thought, is available to an English-language audience in a superlative translation by Yale professor Jacqueline E. Jung. 

In one of the earliest art historical “surveys,” Riegl addresses the different visual arts within a sweeping conception of the history of culture. His account derives from Hegelian models but decisively opens onto alternative pathways that refuse attempts to reduce art merely to the artist’s intentions or its social and historical functions.


What We Are Reading Today: The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout

What We Are Reading Today: The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout
Updated 52 min 31 sec ago

What We Are Reading Today: The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout

What We Are Reading Today: The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout

We are accustomed to think of sociopaths as violent criminals, but in The Sociopath Next Door, Harvard psychologist Martha Stout reveals that a shocking 4 percent of ordinary people — one in twenty-five — has an often undetected mental disorder, the chief symptom of which is that that person possesses no conscience. He or she has no ability whatsoever to feel shame, guilt, or remorse. One in twenty-five everyday Americans, therefore, is secretly a sociopath. They could be your colleague, your neighbor, even family. And they can do literally anything at all and feel absolutely no guilt.

The fact is, we all almost certainly know at least one or more sociopaths already. Part of the urgency in reading The Sociopath Next Door is the moment when we suddenly recognize that someone we know — someone we worked for, or were involved with, or voted for — is a sociopath. 

It is the ruthless versus the rest of us, and The Sociopath Next Door will show you how to recognize and defeat the devil you know.


Saudi author takes an intimate look at facing death in lauded novel 

Saudi author takes an intimate look at facing death in lauded novel 
Updated 17 May 2021

Saudi author takes an intimate look at facing death in lauded novel 

Saudi author takes an intimate look at facing death in lauded novel 

CHICAGO: The youngest writer —and the first debut author — to be shortlisted in the history of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction is Saudi Arabia’s very own Aziz Mohammed for “The Critical Case of a Man Called K.” Hailing from AlKhobar, Mohammed’s novel follows a young man named K whose is hyper-aware of the monotony of his life. Everything, up until now, has been predictable, but when fatigue sends him to the hospital, K learns that he has leukemia. Translated into English by the award-winning Humphrey Davies, the story of K is a tale that takes an intimate look at a young man’s life when he is faced with illness and death.

K is introspective almost to the point of exhausting himself. He has a mother who has always taken care of him but equates reading books to being as harmful as smoking, a father who dies before he finishes high school and a sister and brother who do everything they are asked to do. K, on the other hand, fights the tedium while attempting to be a good son. Pulling references from his favorite authors, such as Kafka, Hemingway, and Tanizaki, he feels his life as an IT graduate, which was the chosen career path for financial reasons, is not what he wants to do, and he longs for something different.

Through K, Mohammed has created a character who is sensitive to how his presence affects everyone around him, as if he can see his sound waves rippling through people and altering them. He longs for inspiration to write a novel, but the environment does not concede to exploration or anything out of the ordinary.

Mohammed’s debut novel is a darkly humorous look into the life of a man who desires more in life when he is diagnosed with leukemia. The journey into illness is intimate and distressing, watching someone’s world turn upside down while at the same time offering an alternative to the mundane and predictable. There is rawness to life when faced with death, duty bound mothers, sons, and daughters, the tension and love between children and parents, and the fragility of the system when love and tradition don’t always move parallel to one another.

 


Guinness names Saudi girl Ritaj Al-Hazmi, 12, youngest book series author

Guinness names Saudi girl Ritaj Al-Hazmi, 12, youngest book series author
Updated 17 May 2021

Guinness names Saudi girl Ritaj Al-Hazmi, 12, youngest book series author

Guinness names Saudi girl Ritaj Al-Hazmi, 12, youngest book series author
  • Ritaj Al-Hazmi has already had three novels published and there are two more in the pipeline

MAKKAH: Ritaj Al-Hazmi, 12, has won the title of the “Youngest Writer of a Novel Series” in the world with the Guinness World Records after publishing two novels.

She published her third novel this year and is currently working on two others.

Al-Hazmi grew up reading fiction and fantasy and was inspired to be a published writer in 2016 after her father took her to a bookstore and wanted to see her books on the shelves along with big names.

She was motivated to write for her age group as she said that most of the books were targeted at those either older or younger than herself.

Ritaj Al-Hazmi

“From the day I set my eyes on reading, I’ve discovered what I wanted to be when I was a bit older. I wanted to connect myself to the world by reading, writing, sharing ideas, insights and opinions,” she said.

The young novelist wanted her first book to be fiction. “I knew that I wanted my book to have an idea to help the readers run toward their dreams without giving up. I always believed that my writing would help persuade them to do just that.”

After finishing the draft of her first book, she sent it to an editor who told her that it needed to be a lot more detailed than she had first thought. Giving up was not an option for her as she had already finished her first draft.

Her father insisted that she take some courses to learn about this genre and how to master it. After completing serval courses, she rewrote the whole draft.

“The courses were from Writing Mastery by Jessica Brody. I started to write what I learned about — from hooking the readers, to fiction structure, to great ingredients for fiction writing, to methods such as the Save the Cat method (STC),” she said.

HIGHLIGHTS

● After finishing the draft of her first book, she sent it to an editor who told her that it needed to be a lot more detailed than she had first thought. Giving up was not an option for her as she had already finished her first draft.

● Find a publishing house that was willing to publish Al-Hazmi’s book at her age was a challenge — until she signed a contract with a publishing house in January 2020.

Al-Hazmi completed her first book, “Treasure of the Lost Sea,” at the end of 2018, sent it to the editor and began writing her second novel, “Portal of the Hidden World.” Both her books were published in 2019.

“I was able to attend Riyadh International Book Fair and signed my first book there. At that time, I was interviewed by one of the well-known TV channels, MBC, and talked about my writing journey,” she said.

Find a publishing house that was willing to publish Al-Hazmi’s book at her age was a challenge — until she signed a contract with a publishing house in January 2020.

During the same year, she also planned her third book of the series. “Since I read some blogs on the future, I guessed it would be a good topic for my main characters to look through. Because most of the series talked about magic powers, I knew some change would be good considering the main characters would be trying something new.”

Al-Hazmi usually plans the title of the book before writing it, however, that changed several times thoughout the writing process until she finally decided to name it based on the theme “Beyond the Future World.”

While writing her third book of the series — as her parents looked for new courses for her— Al-Hazmi decided to hold her own workshop. She began working on the presentation slides, planning the content, points of discussion and, most importantly, how she could deliver the knowledge to those who were coming to learn.

“After I got ready and introduced the workshop, I was amazed to see all those children coming to learn. Throughout my workshop, I learned a lot of things,” she said. “One of the most important things to do after learning is teaching others what you know, remembering what you have learned, and why you decided to do so.”

“Beyond the Future World” has had a significant impact on Al-Hazmi, she said, noting that she had a “very memorable” journey with the book.

“My message for everyone — especially those my age — dream big, do it now, don’t wait till later. Ideas come and go, so do opportunities,” she said.


What We Are Reading Today: The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel

What We Are Reading Today: The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel
Updated 17 May 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel

What We Are Reading Today: The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel

In this graphic memoir, Alison Bechdel recounts her life through six decades of fitness fads. 

It’s a fun and engaging way to approach her life story, but even more, Bechdel explores how various exercise methods served as a way for her to explore her mind-body connection and her place in the universe.

Bechdel is an American cartoonist. Originally best known for the long-running comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For, in 2006 she became a best-selling and critically acclaimed author with her graphic memoir Fun Home.

Readers will see their athletic or semi-active pasts flash before their eyes through an ever-evolving panoply of running shoes, bicycles, skis, and sundry other gear.

The Secret to Superhuman Strength “is a far more sprawling project than Bechdel’s two previous and entirely virtuosic graphic memoirs: Fun Home, about her father, and Are You My Mother?, about her mother,” Elizabeth Weil said a review in The New York Times. 

“The format is larger, too, and the reader feels more space on the page to breathe, which can’t be a random choice.”


What We Are Reading Today: Freedom by Sebastian Junger

What We Are Reading Today: Freedom by Sebastian Junger
Updated 15 May 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Freedom by Sebastian Junger

What We Are Reading Today: Freedom by Sebastian Junger

In his past work, Sebastian Junger has focused on the experience of US troops, embedding with a platoon in Afghanistan and exploring post-traumatic stress disorder among veterans. 

His new book follows Junger and his companions — including a photographer and two Afghan War vets — as they walk along US East Coast railroads, relying on one another for survival and comfort. 

Moving between travelogue, history, nature writing, observation and philosophy, Freedom raises essential human questions in new frames. As Junger writes about the meanings of freedom and community, he occasionally swerves into boxing strategy, labor history and primatology.

“As we journey with Junger along the railways and riverways of Pennsylvania we delve into the idea and ideal of freedom and what it means to each of us,” said a review in goodreads.com.

“This little powerhouse of a book is at once a relaxing, meditative walk along the tracks while also providing a starting point for great, in depth conversations on what it means to be free.” Junger is also the author of non-fiction books such as War and The Perfect Storm.