Philip Roth Predicts the Death of the Novel; Paul Auster Counters

Nov­els — they’re in inevitable decline. They can’t com­pete with the movie screen, the TV screen and now the com­put­er screen. Give things 25 years, and there will be just a small cult of read­ers left. That’s the pre­dic­tion of Amer­i­can author, Philip Roth, who has 27 nov­els to his cred­it. And appar­ent­ly, Roth is per­son­al­ly has­ten­ing the process. Ear­li­er this year, he told a reporter for the Finan­cial Times: “I’ve stopped read­ing fic­tion. I don’t read it at all. I read oth­er things: his­to­ry, biog­ra­phy. I don’t have the same inter­est in fic­tion that I once did.” When asked why, he quipped: “I don’t know. I wised up … ”

For Paul Auster, anoth­er pro­duc­tive nov­el­ist, the reports of the nov­el­’s death are great­ly exag­ger­at­ed. Humans hunger for sto­ries. They always will. And, the nov­el, it knows how to adapt and sur­vive. Will it sur­vive with the help of tech­nol­o­gy? Auster might not be the best per­son to ask. He owns nei­ther a com­put­er nor a mobile phone. Lucky man.

Bonus: You can lis­ten to Paul Auster read The Red Note­book, a col­lec­tion of short sto­ries pub­lished in 2002, right here. (He starts read­ing at around the 8:30 mark.) We have it list­ed in our col­lec­tion of Free Audio Books.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

John Irv­ing: The Road Ahead for Aspir­ing Nov­el­ists

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Hail! Hail! Chuck Berry, the Father of Rock & Roll, Is 85

“If you had to give rock and roll anoth­er name,” John Lennon once said, “you might call it ‘Chuck Berry.’ ” The man known as the father of rock and roll turns 85 today and he’s still going strong. To cel­e­brate, we bring you this pow­er­ful 1958 per­for­mance of “John­ny B. Goode.”

Berry was born Octo­ber 18, 1926 in St. Louis, Mis­souri. He devel­oped a love of music ear­ly, and made his debut play­ing a blues song in a high school tal­ent show. While still in high school, Berry was sen­tenced to juve­nile prison for armed rob­bery. After get­ting out, he joined pianist John­nie John­son’s trio. It did­n’t take long before John­son was the side­man and Berry was the band­leader. His big break came in 1955, when he made a road trip to Chica­go and sought out his hero, Mud­dy Waters. Waters sug­gest­ed he go see Leonard Chess at Chess Records. Berry returned to Chica­go with a demo tape that includ­ed an up-tem­po adap­ta­tion of a tra­di­tion­al coun­try song called “Ida Red.” Chess liked it, but said it need­ed a new name. Berry record­ed it as “May­bel­lene.” The song went to num­ber one on the Bill­board rhythm and blues chart. Over the next few years Berry vir­tu­al­ly invent­ed the Rock and Roll form, with songs like “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Rock and Roll Music,” “John­ny B.Goode,” and “No Par­tic­u­lar Place to Go.”

“He was the king of rock and roll,” Jer­ry Lee Lewis said in the biopic Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll. “My mama said, ‘You and Elvis are pret­ty good, but you’re no Chuck Berry.’ ” When Kei­th Richards induct­ed Berry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, he joked that he had stolen every lick Berry ever played. “The beau­ti­ful thing about Chuck Berry’s play­ing,” Richards wrote in his auto­bi­og­ra­phy, Life, “was it had such an effort­less swing. None of this sweat­ing and grind­ing away and gri­mac­ing, just pure, effort­less swing, like a lion.”

For one more look at the lion in action–this time play­ing “Roll Over Beethoven”–here’s anoth­er clip from the 1958 tele­vi­sion broad­cast:

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Bud­dy Hol­ly at Age 12: His First Record­ing

Hunter S. Thomp­son Inter­views Kei­th Richards

The Rolling Stones Jam With Their Idol, Mud­dy Waters

Mud­dy Waters on the Blues and Gospel Train

Animations of 6 Famous Thought Experiments

The Open Uni­ver­si­ty strikes again. In June, they released The His­to­ry of Eng­lish, a series of wit­ty ani­mat­ed videos that cov­ered 1600 years of lin­guis­tic his­to­ry in ten min­utes. Now, they’re back with 60-Sec­ond Adven­tures in Thought, anoth­er ani­mat­ed sequence that high­lights six famous thought exper­i­ments. It all starts with Zeno’s ancient Para­dox of the Tor­toise and Achilles. (Watch above.) Then we head straight to the 20th cen­tu­ry, to five famous thought exper­i­ments in physics, math and com­put­er sci­ence.

The Grand­fa­ther Para­dox (time trav­el)

Chi­nese Room (arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence)

Hilbert’s Infi­nite Hotel (the con­cept of infin­i­ty)

The Twin Para­dox (spe­cial rel­a­tiv­i­ty)

Schrödinger’s Cat (quan­tum mechan­ics)

You can watch the full series on YouTube and iTunes.

Crossing El Camino del Rey, the Most Dangerous Hike in the World

El Camini­to del Rey (The King’s Lit­tle Path), often abbre­vi­at­ed to El Camino del Rey, is a walk­way that winds its way along the walls of El Chor­ro, a gorge in south­ern Spain near the vil­lage of Álo­ra. It is gen­er­al­ly con­sid­ered one of the most dan­ger­ous hikes in the world. The con­struc­tion of the walk­way was fin­ished in 1905, and after King Alfon­so XIII crossed it in 1921, it became known by its cur­rent name. In recent decades, large parts of the con­crete rest­ing on steel rails have dete­ri­o­rat­ed so bad­ly that it has become a life-threat­en­ing endeav­or to tra­verse the camino. After sev­er­al fatal acci­dents, author­i­ties offi­cial­ly closed the path in 2000. But there are still dar­ing hik­ers who man­age to get around the bar­ri­ers and make their way across the gorge. The video above shows in impres­sive detail how dan­ger­ous the camino is.

If you feel an inner urge to walk the camino, there are two impor­tant things to keep in mind:

  1. It real­ly is insane­ly dan­ger­ous. Mata­dor has some life-sav­ing tips if you want to trek the camino.
  2. If you want to get the true camino expe­ri­ence, you have to hur­ry up. The walk­way will be restored for 9 mil­lion euros between 2011 and 2015.

Bonus mate­r­i­al: The Cheap Route has a first-per­son account and some fan­tas­tic pho­tos of a camino hike.

By pro­fes­sion, Matthias Rasch­er teach­es Eng­lish and His­to­ry at a High School in north­ern Bavaria, Ger­many. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twit­ter.

Math Doodling

Doo­dling — it’s usu­al­ly a sign of bore­dom, an escape from tedi­um. Vi Hart turns it all upside down, and shows how doo­dling can be an engag­ing form of ped­a­gogy. On her web site, you will find oth­er math doo­dling videos called StarsSnakes + GraphsBina­ry TreesSick Num­ber Games and Squig­gle Incep­tion. The video above is called Infin­i­ty Ele­phants. Thanks Kim for send­ing this our way.…

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mul­ti­pli­ca­tion: The Vedic Way

The Math Guy Radio Archive

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Getz and Gilberto Perform ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ (and the Woman Who Inspired the Song)

Take a deep breath and watch this 1964 tele­vi­sion per­for­mance of “The Girl from Ipane­ma” by Brazil­ian bossa nova singer Astrud Gilber­to and Amer­i­can jazz sax­o­phon­ist Stan Getz.

The arrange­ment is from the clas­sic album, Getz/Gilberto, which launched the bossa nova craze of the ear­ly 60’s. The album was pri­mar­i­ly a col­lab­o­ra­tion between Getz and Astrud’s hus­band, the gui­tarist and vocal­ist João Gilber­to, but when some­one got the idea of includ­ing an Eng­lish trans­la­tion of Anto­nio Car­los Jobim’s “The Girl from Ipane­ma,” Astrud was recruit­ed. She had nev­er sung pro­fes­sion­al­ly before. The record­ings launched her as an inter­na­tion­al sen­sa­tion.

Since then, “The Girl from Ipane­ma” has weath­ered a half-cen­tu­ry of heavy rota­tion on the Hol­i­day Inn lounge cir­cuit and Muzak. (Remem­ber the ele­va­tor scene in The Blues Broth­ers?) So it can be hard to imag­ine just how cool the song must have seemed in 1964 with the release of Getz/Gilberto. That sax­o­phone. That voice. As the per­son who post­ed this video on YouTube put it: “Chill, baby, chill…”

When it’s all said and done, you can also meet Heloisa Pin­heiro, the woman who inspired the song all of those years ago.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Clas­sic Jazz Album Cov­ers Ani­mat­ed, or the Re-Birth of Cool

Bil­lie Hol­i­day Sings “Strange Fruit”

Learn Brazil­ian Por­tuguese and 40 Oth­er Lan­guages for Free

John Turturro Reads Italo Calvino’s Fairy Tale, “The False Grandmother,” in a Short Animated Film

In 1956, Ita­lo Calvi­no, one of Italy’s finest post­war writ­ers, pub­lished Ital­ian Folk­tales, a series of 200 fairy tales based some­times loose­ly, some­times more strict­ly on sto­ries from a great folk tra­di­tion. When first pub­lished, The New York Times named Ital­ian Folk­tales one of the ten best books of the year, and, more than a half cen­tu­ry lat­er, the sto­ries con­tin­ue to delight. Case in point: in 2007, John Tur­tur­ro, the star of numer­ous Coen broth­ers and Spike Lee films, began work­ing on Fiabe ital­iane, a play adapt­ed from Calvi­no’s col­lec­tion of fables. Last year, Tur­tur­ro’s play enjoyed a sold-out run in Turi­no.

The ani­mat­ed video above fea­tures Tur­tur­ro read­ing “The False Grand­moth­er,” Calvi­no’s rework­ing of Lit­tle Red Rid­ing Hood. Kevin Ruelle illus­trat­ed the clip, which was pro­duced as part of Fly­p­me­di­a’s more exten­sive cov­er­age of Tur­tur­ro’s adap­ta­tion.

Calvi­no, who died far too young, would have cel­e­brat­ed his 88th birth­day this past Sat­ur­day.

Bonus: You can lis­ten to Jeanette Win­ter­son read Calvi­no’s short sto­ry, The Night, online here. The read­ing is also list­ed in our col­lec­tion of Free Audio Books.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ita­lo Calvi­no Offers 14 Rea­sons We Should Read the Clas­sics

Hear Ita­lo Calvi­no Read Selec­tions From Invis­i­ble Cities, Mr. Palo­mar & Oth­er Enchant­i­ng Fic­tions

Watch a Whim­si­cal Ani­ma­tion of Ita­lo Calvino’s Short Sto­ry “The Dis­tance of the Moon

Invis­i­ble Cities Illus­trat­ed: Three Artists Paint Every City in Ita­lo Calvino’s Clas­sic Nov­el

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Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser

In 1981, film pro­duc­er Bruce Rick­er had a chance encounter with direc­tor and cin­e­matog­ra­ph­er Chris­t­ian Black­wood on the streets of New York. Rick­er had just released a doc­u­men­tary on Kansas City jazz, called The Last of the Blue Dev­ils, and Black­wood told him that he too had done a lit­tle work on jazz. When Rick­er went to see the footage, he was stunned. The reels, he would lat­er say, were “just sit­ting there like the Dead Sea Scrolls of jazz.”

The “scrolls” were an inti­mate look into the life and music of Thelo­nious Monk, the leg­endary bebop pianist and com­pos­er. Black­wood and his broth­er, Michael, had received a com­mis­sion from West Ger­man pub­lic tele­vi­sion in late 1967, and were grant­ed unprece­dent­ed access to Monk. They fol­lowed him around New York, Atlanta and Europe for six months. The result­ing ciné­ma vérité spe­cial aired only once, and was for­got­ten.

Excit­ed by what he saw, Rick­er sug­gest­ed to Black­wood that they use the footage as the nucle­us of a new doc­u­men­tary. They hoped to enlist Monk for the project, but the musi­cian was in fail­ing health and died ear­ly the next year. Even­tu­al­ly they brought Char­lotte Zwerin on board as direc­tor and Clint East­wood on as exec­u­tive pro­duc­er. New scenes were shot fea­tur­ing inter­views with musi­cians, friends and fam­i­ly, along with con­tem­po­rary inter­pre­ta­tions of Monk’s music by Bar­ry Har­ris and Tom­my Flana­gan. Thelo­nious Monk: Straight, No Chas­er was released in 1988 to rave reviews.

“The film’s late-60’s por­tions, which doc­u­ment a Euro­pean tour and also catch Monk play­ing in clubs and in record­ing ses­sions, are some of the most valu­able jazz sequences ever shot,” writes Stephen Hold­en in The New York Times. “Close­ups of Monk’s hands on the key­board reveal a tech­nique that was unusu­al­ly tense, spiky and aggres­sive. Oth­er scenes show him explain­ing his com­po­si­tions and chord struc­tures, giv­ing instruc­tions in terse, bare­ly intel­li­gi­ble growls that even his fel­low musi­cians found dif­fi­cult to inter­pret.”

Monk’s man­ner­isms tend­ed to block peo­ple from appre­ci­at­ing the ele­gance and sophis­ti­ca­tion of his com­po­si­tions. As Rob Van der Bliek writes in his intro­duc­tion to The Thelo­nious Monk Read­er, “Monk’s image–his on-stage pirou­ettes, pac­ing, danc­ing, flat-hand­ed play­ing, floun­der­ing foot­work, mum­bling speech, nod­ding off or lay­ing out, his goa­tee, glass­es, and hats–was very much a part of his allure, although com­bined with an idio­syn­crat­ic piano tech­nique it may have ini­tial­ly done more harm than good for his recep­tion by the crit­ics.”

By now, Monk’s place in the jazz pan­theon is secureThelo­nious Monk: Straight, No Chas­er is a fas­ci­nat­ing por­trait of a tru­ly orig­i­nal artist. The one-hour, 30-minute film is shown above, and can also be found in our col­lec­tion of Free Movies Online.

via Metafil­ter


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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.