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Tutte le letture del mese.

I miei libri preferiti.


Fools Die
Mario Puzo
1978

 “You can lose faith in everything, religion and God, women and love, good and evil, war and peace. You name it. But the percentage will always stand fast.”
(…)
“It’s the only way to live,” Gronevelt said. “You have to live going with the percentage. Otherwise life is not worthwhile. Always remember that,” he told Cully. “Everything you do in life use percentage as your god.”

Your best bet is to lay back and play it cool.

Friends of Osano and knowing that he would approve, they had a keg of beer and a portable bar on the bus. They arrived drunk for the funeral. Osano would have been delighted.

 Mario Puzo è un maestro e per me uno degli scrittori più sottovalutati di sempre. Dovrebbero farlo leggere a scuola.


Stories I Tell Myself: Growing Up with Hunter S. Thompson
Juan Thompson
2016

However, the persona that took root and flourished over the next forty years was that of the drug-crazed Wild Man of journalism, more rebel hoodlum than iconoclast, more buffoon than satirist.
(…)
Which he was. He was an alcoholic, drug addict, and a hell-raiser, but he was also a brilliant writer and craftsman of the language, facts that are still overshadowed by his Wild Man persona. This is the persona most people think of when they hear the name Hunter S. Thompson, if they know the name at all. And that is a shame. He was first and always a writer in the best and highest sense of the word, in which writing is a vocation, not an occupation. Everything else was secondary. Drugs, family, lovers, friends, sex, adventure, they all came after writing.

He looked at letter writing as not only a way to keep in touch and debate ideas, but as a writing exercise, so that when he wasn’t sleeping or in the bar with friends, he was writing.

I have learned to appreciate words. Whatever else brings you all here, I hope that you all recognize my father’s genius for using the English language. He is an artist, which to me means he is a magician with words, he makes them express his vision of the world in a way that cannot be attained by study and effort and even practice, though he has done all these things. It is more than mechanical mastery, it is expressing the living essence of a scene or a person directly.

Hunter could be a monster.

I’m not angry at Hunter very often about his suicide. I am angry, though, that he did not stay around for Will. [il figlio di Juan]

He also kept carbon copies of everything he wrote in neatly organized and carefully labeled folders.

But the real problem was that Hunter couldn’t focus on writing. He would find a million ways to put it off. There were football games to watch, and if not football, then basketball. There was the news. Or maybe he had stayed up two nights in a row and was so exhausted that there was no question of useful work that night. There were people coming over most every afternoon and evening to say hello, watch a game, talk politics. There were long phone calls. There were always drugs.
(…)
Cocaine and booze didn’t even qualify as drugs, they were a staple of his daily diet, like pink grapefruit, orange juice, and vitamins.
Eventually a combination of shame and fear finally drove him to the typewriter late at night. The next morning there might be a page, but sometimes there were only a few sentences.
It was hard to watch. I felt terrible for him. Hunter was a perfectionist, and he was a damn fine writer, and I know it killed him to realize he wasn’t going to write anything, hit the power switch on the IBM Selectric typewriter, and retreat to the bedroom, leaving an empty page.
Other times, though, when there was movement and energy, it was a wonderful thing to be a part of.

 Il libro di Juan, il figlio di HST. L’ho preso quasi per dovere morale, poi pagina dopo pagina mi sono ricreduto ed è un gran libro.
Il quadro di HST che se ne trae non è troppo diverso da quello che ha qualsiasi persona che ha letto almeno un suo libro — genio autodistruttivo, eclettico, eccetera.
Una vita in bilico tra sforzi per mantenere il controllo totale e il perderlo continuamente.
Sono i retroscena che sono inediti: ne vale la pena.
Così come vale la pena leggere quello che Juan pensa di Anita, la sua ultima moglie: Anita nel libro quasi non esiste, se non per qualche frecciatina qui e là, tipo questa.
Owl Farm, the land and house, are now owned by a trust administered by a large Boston law firm. I have permission to visit whenever I want and we stay in the cabin. Anita has the use of Hunter’s house until she relinquishes it or dies, whichever comes first. I have not been in his house since the funeral.
O questa.
(…) unspoken collaboration between us, and alliance of understanding, particularly with Laila, Maria, and Nicole, the women he loved most deeply.
Meditiamo su come Anita sta gestendo l’eredità di HST, compresa la casa che sta trasformando in una macchina da soldi, così come tutto quello che può (magliette, giochi di società, marijuana. Tutto).
Meditiamo, e firmiamo la petizione. Che, mea culpa, nell’ultimo mese ho un po’ messo in pausa… Ma sono pronto a ripartire. Per ora siamo a 98 firme, e la buona notizia è che Johnny Depp ha seriamente bisogno dell’assegno di 40€ che gli ho mandato (controllo compulsivamente l’home banking solo per vedere quel “-40”), e spero anche dei diritti d’autore sull’introduzione al libro. Dammi e datti una mano Johnny. Dai.


How to read a book
Mortimer J. Adler, Charles Van Doren
1972

(…) this book is about the art of reading for the sake of increased understanding.

Not only is analytical reading work — it is lonely work.

If you ask a living teacher a question, he will probably answer you. If you are puzzled by what he says, you can save yourself the trouble of thinking by asking him what he means. If, however, you ask a book a question, you must answer it yourself. In this respect a book is like nature or the world. When you question it, it answers you only to the extent that you do the work of thinking and analysis yourself.

Why is marking a book indispensable to reading it? (…) Second, reading, if it is active, is thinking, and thinking tends to express itself in words, spoken or written. The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks. Third, writing your reactions down helps you to remember the thoughts of the author.

STATE THE UNITY OF THE WHOLE BOOK IN A SINGLE SENTENCE, OR AT MOST A FEW SENTENCES (A SHORT PARAGRAPH).

Per me uno dei motivi per cui i ragazzi smettono di leggere, è che non sanno farlo.
[Certo, il 99% dei prof di italiano sembra sia pagato per far odiare i libri agli alunni, e con ogni probabilità interpreta il fatto che a nessuno studente freghi un cazzo di quello che insegna come un “madonna quanto sono intelligente e che libri intellettuali che provo a spiegare a questi cretini, aaaah!, perle ai porci”.]
Ma a parte questo, credo che How to read a book (non so se sia mai stato tradotto) andrebbe fatto leggere verso la prima superiore.
Come in ogni “manuale definitivo” di qualcosa, ci sono tante ovvietà, che sembrano tali solo perché chi lo legge, lo legge per interesse personale solo dopo aver letto tanti altri libri.
Che a pensarci bene è l’unico modo, dato che quando sarebbe ideale leggerlo (la prima superiore di qualche riga fa) nessuno te lo propone, anche perché sicuramente l’avrà letto un prof su un milione, mentre gli altri 999milanovecentonovantanove sono impiegati a vendere il “nuovo” volume da 7kg dell’antologia essenziale per far smettere di leggere i ragazzi, a soli 150 euro.
Se l’avessi letto a 14 anni, avrei trovato molte meno ovvietà, e risparmiato un sacco di tempo in seguito.
Se avete figli fateci un pensierino.
Quando mi faccio gli schemi dei libri che leggo, da oggi in poi mi sentirò meno solo.
È un classico del 1940, rivisitato nel ’72: non prende quindi in considerazione gli ebook, né tantomeno Evernote, che per me sono i due strumenti che permettono il passo successivo a chi vuole veramente studiare dai libri, ma tutto quello che c’è prima sì.
Preso in mano tra 300 anni, sarà valido come oggi. E come il secolo scorso.


In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto
Michael Pollan
2008

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

The big money has always been in processing foods, not selling them whole (…)

Depending on how we spend them, our food dollars can either go to support a food industry devoted to quantity and convenience and “value” or they can nourish a food chain organized around values—values like quality and health. Yes, shopping this way takes more money and effort, but as soon you begin to treat that expenditure not just as shopping but also as a kind of vote—a vote for health in the largest sense—food no longer seems like the smartest place to economize.

That’s what I mean by the recommendation to “eat food,” which is not quite as simple as it sounds. For while it used to be that food was all you could eat, today there are thousands of other edible foodlike substances in the supermarket. These novel products of food science often come in packages elaborately festooned with health claims, which brings me to another, somewhat counterintuitive, piece of advice: If you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid products that make health claims.

These changes have given us the Western diet that we take for granted: lots of processed foods and meat, lots of added fat and sugar, lots of everything—except vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. That such a diet makes people sick and fat we have known for a long time.

(…) the human animal is well adapted to a great many different diets. The Western diet, however, is not one of them.

In this, white flour was a modern industrial food, one of the first. The problem was that this gorgeous white powder was nutritionally worthless, or nearly so. Much the same was now true for corn flour and white rice, the polishing of which (i.e., the removing of its most nutritious parts) was perfected around the same time.

There is now abundant scientific evidence for the health benefits of alcohol to go with a few centuries of traditional belief and anecdotal evidence. Mindful of the social and health effects of alcoholism, public health authorities are loath to recommend drinking, but the fact is that people who drink moderately and regularly live longer and suffer considerably less heart disease than teetotalers.

Sooner or later, everything solid we’ve been told about the links between our diet and our health seems to get blown away in the gust of the most recent study.

Gyorgy Scrinis, who coined the term “nutritionism,” suggests that the most important fact about any food is not its nutrient content but its degree of processing. He writes that “whole foods and industrial foods are the only two food groups I’d consider including in any useful food ‘pyramid.’” In other words, instead of worrying about nutrients, we should simply avoid any food that has been processed to such an extent that it is more the product of industry than of nature.

A diet based on quantity rather than quality has ushered a new creature onto the world stage: the human being who manages to be both overfed and undernourished, two characteristics seldom found in the same body in the long natural history of our species.

Se ho cambiato in meglio le mie abitudini alimentari lo devo anche a The omnivore’s dilemma di Michael Pollan.
In defense of food ne è il seguito, ed è un mix tra la sua guida su cosa mangiare (“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”) e la storia di come il mondo occidentale ha sviluppato la sua dieta — è storicamente dimostrato — fallimentare.
Molto più corto di The omnivore’s dilemma, che consiglio comunque di leggere per primo.


The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World
A. J. Jacobs
2005

This is one of those times. As an editor, I have to read each of the articles in my section about forty-three times, until the sentences are sucked of all meaning and become weird little black marks on the page.

Louis XV of France was another fan of the chase: in 1726, he spent a total of 276 days hunting. He worked fewer days than George W. Bush.

It’s confirmation of something I’ve been toying with for a couple of months: one secret to being a successful know-it-all is extreme confidence. Just state your fact loud and proud, even if, as is the case with me, the details are often faded and jumbled up. As my friend the financial analyst once told me about his line of work: sometimes right, sometimes wrong, always certain.

A. J. Jacobs è l’autore di The Year of Living Biblically, uno dei libri che fanno più ridere della storia della letteratura mondiale, nel quale interpreta alla lettera la bibbia per un anno.
Qui invece decide di leggere tutta l’enciclopedia britannica, senza saltare una parola. Una lezione da lacrime agli occhi (non per la commozione) a chi si prende troppo sul serio.


Light Science and Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting (5th edition)
Fil Hunter, Steven Biver, Paul Fuqua
2015

Ottimo libro, che parla di luce in fotografia partendo, come si dovrebbe fare, dai principi: da lì è molto più facile arrivare alle tecniche, e qui ce ne sono in abbondanza. C’è di che studiare e sperimentare.


ALTRO (ARTICOLI, ECC)

Uscirà Variazioni, il nuovo disco di quel genio di Dargen D’Amico, assieme al suo nuovo libro dal titolo ancora sconosciuto. Qui si può preordinare l’edizione limitata (libro + cd 39€): io l’ho fatto.
Nella peggiore delle ipotesi puoi rivenderlo a più del doppio tra un annetto. Ma saresti una persona orribile.


Behind the Lens: 2016 Year in Photographs

L’ultima selezione di Pete Souza, fotografo di Obama. Maestro, a prescindere.


Moral Machine

Il mio amico Mirco mi ha fatto scoprire questo “giochino” meraviglioso, un test per studiare come si dovranno comportare le auto automatiche (che arriveranno, vi piaccia o no).
Cose tipo questa: in caso di emergenza la macchina dovrebbe mettere sotto la vecchietta cicciona che attraversa col verde o una mamma con tre bambini piccoli che però attraversano col rosso?
Cose del genere. “Inizia a giudicare” (cit).


Matteo Pezzi

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