Becoming What One Is
Austin Warren University of Michigan Press, 1995 Library of Congress PN75.W3A3 1995 | Dewey Decimal 809
The late Austin Warren was one of the most distinguished literary scholars of the twentieth century, well known as a biographer, literary critic, and teacher. He retired from the University of Michigan English Department in 1968 after twenty years on the faculty. Warren's memoir ends at age forty, because, as he explains in the preface, the most interesting part of anyone's life is the formative years.
He begins with his childhood in Massachusetts and education at Wesleyan, Harvard, and Princeton, and ends with reflections on the problems of integrating his profession, teaching, with his vocation, writing. The journey in between is extraordinary, a re-creation of the scholar's search for identity, religion, wisdom, and a new vision of the role of a teacher.
Warren "forged his soul when others weren't looking," writes Russell Fraser in his foreword to the book. He grew up on a lonely New England farm, went to a school where he learned to hate even Shakespeare, and entered college without enthusiasm. But the history of his education, as is often the case, was one first of rescue by inspiring mentors, then of outgrowing those mentors, and finally of forging a vision of his own. By the 1930s he had shaken up classrooms by abandoning formal lectures and become an inspiration in his own right.
A singular personality who never stopped searching for meaningful spirituality and a wider intellectual world, Austin Warren was among the most important scholars of the twentieth century. His memoirs of "becoming" are an elegant and absorbing chronicle.
Conversations, Volume 1
Jorge Luis Borges and Osvaldo Ferrari Seagull Books, 2014 Library of Congress PQ7797.B635Z46713 2014 | Dewey Decimal 868.6209
Buddhism, love, Henry James, and the tango are just a few of the topics Jorge Luis Borges, Argentina’s master writer, and extraordinary conversationalist, discusses in the first volume of the remarkable new series, Conversations. The eighty-four-year-old blind man’s wit is unending and results in lively and insightful discussions that configure a loose autobiography of a subtle, teasing mind. Borges’s favorite concepts, such as time and dreaming, are touched upon, but these dialogues are not a true memoir, they are unrestricted conversations about life at present.
The Argentine short-story writer, essayist, poet and translator, contributed immensely to twentieth-century literature, and more specifically to the genres of magical realism and fantasy. As he progressively lost his sight—he became completely blind by the age of fifty-five—the darkness behind his eyelids held enchanting imagery that translated into rich symbolism in his work. The inner workings of his curious mind are seen vividly in his conversations with Ferrari, and there’s not a subject on which he doesn’t cast surprising new light. As in his tale “The Other,” where two Borgeses meet up on a bench beside the River Charles, this is a dialogue between a young poet and the elder teller of tales where all experience floats in a miracle that defies linear time.
Conversations, Volume 2
Jorge Luis Borges and Osvaldo Ferrari Seagull Books, 2015 Library of Congress PQ7797.B635Z46713 2014 | Dewey Decimal 868.6209
Recorded during Jorge Luis Borges’s final years, this second volume of his conversations with Osvaldo Ferrari provides a wide-ranging reflection on the life and work of Argentina’s master writer and favorite conversationalist. In Conversations: Volume 2, Borges and Ferrari engage in a dialogue that is both improvisational and frequently humorous as they touch on subjects as diverse as epic poetry, detective fiction, Buddhism, and the moon landing. With his signature wit, Borges offers insight into the philosophical basis of his stories and poems, his fascination with religious mysticism, and the idea of life as dream. He also dwells on more personal themes, including the influence of his mother and father on his intellectual development, his friendships, and living with blindness. These recollections are alive to the passage of history, whether in the changing landscape of Buenos Aires or a succession of political conflicts, leading Borges to contemplate what he describes as his “South American destiny.”
The recurrent theme of these conversations, however, is a life lived through books. Borges draws on the resources of a mental library that embraces world literature—ancient and modern. He recalls the works that were a constant presence in his memory and maps his changing attitudes to a highly personal canon. In the prologue to the volume, Borges celebrates dialogue and the transmission of culture across time and place. These conversations are a testimony to the supple ways that Borges explored his own relation to numerous traditions.
Praise for Borges
“Borges is arguably the great bridge between modernism and post-modernism in world literature.”—David Foster Wallace
Jorge Luis Borges
Jason Wilson Reaktion Books, 2006 Library of Congress PQ7797.B635Z955 2006 | Dewey Decimal 868.6209
“Through the years, a man peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, tools, stars, horses and people. Shortly before his death, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the image of his own face.”
These words, inseparably marrying Jorge Luis Borges's life and work, encapsulate how he interwove the two throughout his legendary career. But the Borges of popular imagination is the blind, lauded librarian and man of letters; few biographers have explored his tumultuous early life in the streets and cafes of Buenos Aires, a young man searching for his path in the world. In Jorge Luis Borges, Jason Wilson uncovers the young poet who wrote, loved, and lost with adventurous passion, and he considers the later work and life of the writer who claimed he never created a character other than himself. As Borges declared, “It’s always me, subtly disguised.”
Born in Buenos Aires in 1899, Borges was a voracious reader from childhood, perhaps in part because he knew he lived under an inescapable sentence of adult-onset blindness inherited from his father. Wilson chronicles Borges’s life as he raced against time and his fated blindness, charting the literary friendships, love affairs, and polemical writings that formed the foundation of his youth. Illuminating the connections running between the biography and fictions of Borges, Wilson traces the outline of this self-effacing literary figure.
Though in his later writings Borges would subjugate emotion to the wild play of ideas, this bracing book reminds us that his works always recreated his life in subtle and delicate ways. Restoring Borges to his Argentine roots, Jorge Luis Borges will be an invaluable resource for all those who treasure this modern master.
In 1922, Robert Allerton—described by the Chicago Tribune as the “richest bachelor in Chicago”—met a twenty-two-year-old University of Illinois architecture student named John Gregg, who was twenty-six years his junior. From then on, they were virtually inseparable. Gregg moved into Allerton’s palatial country home, and the pair eventually bought a plot of land in Hawai‘i, where they built a home and designed a garden paradise that is now part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden. In 1960, after four decades together, and with Robert Allerton nearing ninety, they embarked on a daringly nonconformist move: Allerton legally adopted the sixty-year-old Gregg as his son, the first such adoption of an adult in Illinois history.
An Open Secret tells the striking story of these two iconoclasts, locating them among their queer contemporaries and exploring why becoming father and son made a surprising kind of sense for a twentieth-century couple who had every monetary advantage but one glaring problem: they wanted to be together publicly in a society that did not tolerate their love. Nicholas L. Syrett argues that in a period of both rising homosexual openness and social disapproval, these men had to find an alternative public logic for their situation. Deftly exploring the nature of their design, domestic, and philanthropic projects, Syrett illuminates how viewing the Allertons as both a same-sex couple and an adopted family is crucial to understanding their relationship’s profound queerness. He shows that to categorize Robert and John as simply either a gay couple, or father and son, misstates the complexity of their relationship. By digging deep into the lives of two men who operated largely as ciphers in their own time, Syrett opens up provocative new lanes to consider the diversity of kinship ties in modern US history.
In Jorge Luis Borges's finely wrought, fantastic stories, so filigreed with strange allusions, critics have consistently found little to relate to the external world, to history--in short, to reality. Out of Context corrects this shortsighted view and reveals the very real basis of the Argentine master's purported "irreality." By providing the historical context for some of the writer's best-loved and least understood works, this study also gives us a new sense of Borges's place within the context of contemporary literature. Through a detailed examination of seven stories, Daniel Balderston shows how Borges's historical and political references, so often misread as part of a literary game, actually open up a much more complex reality than the one made explicit to the reader. Working in tension with the fantastic aspects of Borges' work, these precise references to realities outside the text illuminate relations between literature and history as well as the author's particular understanding of both. In Borges's perspective as it is revealed here, history emerges as an "other" only partially recoverable in narrative form. From what can be recovered, Balderston is able to clarify Borges's position on historical episodes and trends such as colonialism, the Peronist movement, "Western culture," militarism, and the Spanish invasion of the Americas. Informed by a wide reading of history, a sympathetic use of critical theory, and a deep understanding of Borges's work, this iconoclastic study provides a radical new approach to one of the most celebrated and—until now—hermetic authors of our time.
Signs of Borges
Sylvia Molloy Duke University Press, 1994 Library of Congress PQ7797.B635Z78413 1994 | Dewey Decimal 868
Available for the first time in English, Signs of Borges is widely regarded as the best single book on the work of Jorge Luis Borges. With a critical sensibility informed by Barthes, Lacan, Foucault, Blanchot, and the entire body of Borges scholarship, Sylvia Molloy explores the problem of meaning in Borges's work by remaining true to the uncanniness that is its foundation. Borges's sustained practice of the uncanny gives rise in his texts to endless tensions between illusion and meaning, and to the competing desires for fragmentation, dispersal, and stability. Molloy traces the movement of Borges's own writing by repeatedly spanning the boundaries of genre and cutting across the conventional separations of narrative, lyric and essay, fact and fiction. Rather than seeking to resolve the tensions and conflicts, she preserves and develops them, thereby maintaining the potential of these texts to disturb. At the site of these tensions, Molloy locates the play between meaning and meaninglessness that occurs in Borges's texts. From this vantage point his strategies of deception, recourse to simulacra, inquisitorial urge to unsettle binarism, and distrust of the permanent--all that makes Borges Borges--are examined with unmatched skill and acuity. Elegantly written and translated, Signs of Borges presents a remarkable and dynamic view of one of the most international and compelling writers of this century. It will be of great interest to all students of twentieth-century literature, particularly to students of Latin American literature.