Monday, February 28, 2011

Freeman Dyson on James Gleick's The Information

In a review of James Gleick's The Information that appeared in the latest issue of the New York Review of Books, leading quantum theorist Freeman Dyson lavishes particular attention on Gleick's chapter on African talking drums. (James Gleick visits the Writers Institute Thursday March 3).

"The story of the drum language illustrates the central dogma of information theory. The central dogma says, 'Meaning is irrelevant.' Information is independent of the meaning that it expresses, and of the language used to express it. Information is an abstract concept, which can be embodied equally well in human speech or in writing or in drumbeats. All that is needed to transfer information from one language to another is a coding system. A coding system may be simple or complicated. If the code is simple, as it is for the drum language with its two tones, a given amount of information requires a longer message. If the code is complicated, as it is for spoken language, the same amount of information can be conveyed in a shorter message."

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Shteyngart Bites!

Among other things Gary Shteyngart is a sought-after commentator on food.

"The world is there to be tasted" is how the Arts and Culture website Jewcy formulates his philosophy in a 2008 profile, "Epicure on Rye."

In a recent Esquire interview on the subject of vodka, he instructs readers on how to drink like a Bolshevik.

And in a 2006 "Grub Street" piece in New York Magazine (pictured here), he samples the bounty of New York ethnic cuisine.

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Super Sad True Video

A video promoting Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story has gone viral. Featured guests include some past visitors to the Writers Institute, including Mary Gaitskill, Edmund White and Jay McInerney, among other notables....

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ramachandran audio

For those who couldn't get into the V.S. Ramachandran lecture on January 31st, the Writers Institute has posted an mp3 audio file of his talk. Link to it from the Institute homepage.

We thought this would be simpler than screening a video at a specific time and location.

There are a few brief sound gaps when our guest either stepped away from the microphone, or when an audience member was asking a question.

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Monday, February 7, 2011

One foot in the adult world....

Karen Russell, who visits February 10th, discusses her attraction to the adolescent perspective with Elizbeth Floyd Mair on the Times Union "Books" page:

"[With regard to] destabilizing the ratio between the real and the fantastic, I think children or young adults are kind of poised between worlds. They still have access to fairy-tale explanations, supernatural explanations, but they also have one foot in the adult world. They're trying to find their bearings, trying to decide what reality really is. Narratively, that's exciting because it means you can stage a drama that's really sort of existential -- involving characters who are trying to figure out what home is, what love is. Something about the slipperiness of that time, that transition, is exciting to me. And I don't think anybody ever stops asking those questions, you know?"

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Thrillingly unfashionable!

Reviewers have been heaping praise on Julie Orringer's old-fashioned realism in The Invisible Bridge. (Orringer visits February 10).

Here's Lucas Wittmann who chose Orringer to launch a new series in The Daily Beast highlighting "the best new writers in America": "There is something thrillingly unfashionable about Orringer’s novel, with its 19th-century themes and its unavoidable truth that history has an unfailing hold on us all."

Similarly, Sara Lippmann of the Washington D.C. PBS station WETA's "Book Studio": "Staunchly traditional, nearly Russian in its breadth, The Invisible Bridge shrugs off modern conventions like irony in favor of sensory details and richly-rendered settings, careful plotting, exquisite prose and a clear message about the horrors of war....

Writing in the Chicago Tribune, former literary editor of The Nation, says, “Haunting. . . . [The Invisible Bridge] exhibits wonderfully evoked realism. . . . A literary throwback of sorts, a fat facsimile of a nineteenth-century novel, the kind of story that critics would faintly praise as ‘sweeping’ (commonly meaning they write it off in other respects) were the author not so obviously endowed with talent, and the novel’s particularities so vibrant.”

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Events Updates

Within the next few days the Writers Institute will post the audio file of VS Ramachandran's visit on January 31. This will be available online for a limited period, and is intended for those who were turned away at the door because the hall was full.

Also, the Tomas Noel reading, canceled due to inclement weather on February 1 will be re-scheduled at the end of March. The Institute website will shortly post details.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Two Updates

The Douglas Kearney/Tomas Noel reading, scheduled for February 1, 2011, has been canceled due to inclement weather. The Writers Institute will reschedule the reading this season at the earliest available opportunity.

Due to overwhelming turnout, attendees interested the VS Ramachandran event of January 31st were turned away. The Writers Institute will screen a videotape of the Ramachandran event for interested parties in the very near future.

Please watch the website and this blog for updates.

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