Ilha Formosa, named by the Portuguese, is a beautiful island in the heart of Asia. Many parts of Asia today are quickly losing parts of their traditional cultures to ever-increasing influence from the West. Words & Photographs by Brandon Wiltshire.
Over the past few weeks, feeling that reader’s itch to devour everything we can, we turned our attention to this year’s Man Booker Prize shortlist. Some of the six novels on the list baffled us. In others, we encountered rigorous, deep meditations on the human condition. A few others were simply pure pleasures. In this installment of Sacred Trespasses, we offer short reviews of all six novels on the 2016 shortlist.
London, 1940. Three men browse the bombed-out hull of Holland House Library. The photograph testifies at once to a city’s perseverance and also to the necessity of literature. It reveals our need—that singular reader’s need—to plunge into the world of the book, deepening reality in spite of all circumstances. People who read in public seek to engage with two authenticities at once. They live simultaneously in the their immediate surroundings—the bustling city, the chatter of cafés, the joyous trill of crowded beaches—and the vivid hum and scent of the book itself.
A year ago, keeping in mind that iconic photograph of readers in Holland House, Kevin Rabalais began making images of readers in public places. This post of Sacred Trespasses offers a variety of readers—yet only a sampling of the many I’ve encountered—in Melbourne, Australia, a UNESCO City of Literature.
We all know, to paraphrase Whitman, that each of us contains multitudes. Without any contradiction, we are different versions of ourselves. Debra Spark's new novel about identity and the incomprehensible other, Unknown Caller, illuminates all we can't know about ourselves and others. It rattles and thrills.
Rolando André López Torres explores Fernando Vallejo’s explosive, flinch-inducing novel The Whore of Babylon to question contempt versus mystery in religious faith and atheism:
“Here’s the key: the choice between belief and unbelief does not depend on knowledge of information; it depends on what you look for in that information, on the temperament of your hermeneutic, or interpretive lens; that is, you can choose whether to view something as mystery or as mere contradiction.”
There's a period—a golden age—in each reader's life when everything is new and we're convinced that there will be enough time to read everything.
Kevin Rabalais experienced this golden age during his university studies, when he strayed to other courses' syllabi and received lessons from Tolstoy and some wise, straight-talking Jesuits.
It’s a special moment when a stranger gives you back the gift of a long-forgotten but much-loved book. It happened to me this week: a woman handed over The Men’s Club by Leonard Michaels, mentioning that she’d recently read Sylvia. “Sylvia!” I said, and a flood of memories—no, something stronger: a former me suddenly inhabiting and vying with the now-me—took over.
When the Viennese author Stefan Zweig first travelled to Brazil in 1936, he deemed the South American country “terra incognita in the cultural sense.”
Now that we've lived with Brazil through the Olympics coverage and caught glimpses of the place and its people, we look to a variety of novels to pull us further into this diverse land.
We built this site one year ago and maintain it out of a desire to share—to share books, to trade ideas, to gush about the words that excite us and to puzzle our way through pressing, challenging ideas. The second-best thing about reading something amazing that shakes our foundations or just makes us sit back in awe is knowing that we can pass it on to others who will also feel that joy or shock or comfort or provocation.
Thank you for being our readers. We take you along every day when we visit bookstores and libraries, and we think of you with every book we pick up.
During the two years that Henry David Thoreau spent on Walden Pond, physical labors—the completion of his cabin, the cultivation of food to nourish his body—prevented much reading, the act that nourishes the spirit. “Yet,” he writes in Walden, “I sustained myself by the prospect of such reading in future.”