Master of the Intricacies of the Human Heart
By Michiko Kakutani
Oct. 10, 2013
Alice Munro, named on Thursday as the winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature, once observed: “The complexity of things — the things within things — just seems to be endless. I mean nothing is easy, nothing is simple.”
That is also a perfect description of Ms. Munro’s quietly radiant short stories — stories that have established her as one of the foremost practitioners of the form. Set largely in small-town and rural Canada and often focused on the lives of girls and women, her tales have the swoop and density of big, intimate novels, mapping the crevices of characters’ hearts with cleareyed Chekhovian empathy and wisdom.
Fluent and deceptively artless on the page, these stories are actually amazingly intricate constructions that move back and forth in time, back and forth between reality and memory, opening out, magically, to disclose the long panoramic vistas in these people’s lives (the starts, stops and reversals that stand out as hinge moments in their personal histories) and the homely details of their day-to-day routines: the dull coping with “food and mess and houses” that can take up so much of their heroines’ time.
Ms. Munro’s stories possess an emotional amplitude and a psychological density. Her understanding of the music of domestic life, her ability to simultaneously detail her characters’ inner landscapes and their place in a meticulously observed community, and her talent for charting “the progress of love” as it morphs and mutates through time — these gifts have not only helped Ms. Munro redefine the contours of the contemporary short story, but have also made her one of today’s most influential writers.
In short fiction that spans four and a half decades, Ms. Munro has given us prismatic portraits of ordinary people that reveal their intelligence, toughness and capacity to dream, as well as their lies, blind spots and lapses of courage and good will. Such descriptions are delivered not with judgmental accountancy, but with the sort of “unsparing unsentimental love” harbored by a close friend or family member.
Like Ms. Munro, many of the women in these stories grew up in small towns in Canada and, at some point, faced a decision about whether to stay or to leave for the wider world. Their lifetimes often span decades of startling social change — from a time and place when tea parties and white gloves were de rigueur to the days of health food stores and stripper bars.
For that matter, Ms. Munro’s women often find themselves caught on the margins of shifting cultural mores and pulled between conflicting imperatives — between rootedness and escape, domesticity and freedom, between tending to familial responsibilities or following the urgent promptings of their own hearts.
In story after story, passion is the magnet or the motor that drives women’s choices. Love and sex, and marriage and adultery are often mirrors that reveal a Munro heroine’s expectations — her fondest dreams and cruel self-delusions, her sense of independence and need to belong.
Ms. Munro is adept at tracing the many configurations that intimacy can take over the years, showing how it can suffocate a marriage or inject it with a renewed sense of devotion. She shows how sexual ardor can turn into a “tidy pilot flame” and how an impulsive tryst can become a treasured memory, hoarded as a bulwark against the banalities of middle age.
Illness and death frequently intrude upon these stories, and the reader is constantly reminded of the precariousness of life — and the role that luck, chance and reckless, spur-of-the-moment choices can play. Some of Ms. Munro’s characters embrace change as a liberating force that will lift them out of their humdrum routines, or at least satisfy their avid curiosity about life. Others regard it with fearful dismay, worried that they will lose everything they hold dear — or at least everything familiar.
In the modern era, Chinese studies in the West have gone through two main generations: the generation of the historic school and the generation of the ideological school. Contemporary Western perceptions and understanding of China, in both the academic world and popular press, have been informed by the methods and aims of these two schools.
The first generation has guided the world’s understanding of China since the early 20th century. They seek to study China in a historical context. Their methods are deeply cultural. Their studies encompass China’s politics, historical and social conditions, and the personalities who drove China’s history.
The second generation materialized after 1989 in the context of the post Cold War ideological fervor. The entire school was defined by the ideological dichotomy between liberal democracy and authoritarianism. The aim of their studies carried an overtly political and ideological agenda - to prove the Chinese political system is on an inevitable course towards eventual collapse. This school has been largely discredited by facts on the ground and their impact on the future will be limited at best.
A third generation is emerging. This new generation is approaching China with new methods and different aims within different contexts. This development has placed the fundamental frameworks of Chinese studies in transition. How this evolves will have decisive impacts on the world’s interpretations of China.
With the dramatic rise of China in all aspects of its national power in recent decades, some of the brightest minds in political science, history, and economics are beginning to examine closely what it all really means. Many of them are no longer China experts but generalists.
A much more interesting emerging trend is the empirical school. In this approach, the methods center around empirical data and the aim is the objective understanding of Chinese governance in both historic and contemporary contexts.
来源 | NYT | An Accidental King Finds His Voice
By Sarah Lyall
On Sept. 3, 1939, after Britain declared war on Germany, George VI addressed millions of people around the world in a live radio broadcast. It was a somber, stirring call to patriotism and fortitude, to courage and resilience, and it was one of the best speeches he had ever made.
He had had to struggle so hard to get there. The terrifying march to war, along with the trauma of taking over the throne after the unprecedented abdication of his popular older brother, Edward VIII, had brought back the debilitating stutter that had plagued the king since childhood. The long silences on the radio were not a rhetorical device but a verbal crutch.
That he managed at all was a tribute to the man who stood beside him as he spoke, an uncredentialled, unorthodox speech therapist from Australia named Lionel Logue. “The King’s Speech,” which opens on Nov. 24, tells the story of the unlikely friendship between the two men and describes how Logue helped the king find his voice and his confidence.
“It was a perfect storm of catastrophe,” said Colin Firth, whose nuanced portrayal of George has generated a huge pre-Oscar stir. “Having a stammer causes tremendous suffering, and just a few years earlier he would have been bailed out by having his remarks recorded and edited. But he was required to speak on this new device, live radio. And to compound all that you have a war looming, where his only function is his voice, to speak to the people, and he can’t speak.”
The movie opens before George (then called Prince Albert, or Bertie) becomes king, during a scene in which he is trying to address an expectant crowd at Wembley Stadium. Mr. Firth’s voice flails. He swallows his words, trips over them, and spits them partially out, lapsing into long, panicked silences. It is almost physically painful to watch.
George’s wife, played by Helena Bonham Carter, convinces him to seek help from Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Logue’s eccentric methods include insisting that he and Bertie address each other by their first names, making Bertie sing and impertinently asking him about his lonely childhood and his relationship with his chilly family. Gradually the future king opens up, his voice relaxing along with his clenched-up spirit.
“It’s Logue’s way of trying to help him at a time when convention does not allow psychoanalysis for a person like that,” Mr. Firth said. “Logue is one of the early generation who believed that getting to the heart of a problem psychologically could help with a cure.”
George VI remained a friend of Mr. Logue for the rest of their lives. (The king died in 1952; Logue died the following year.) The king sought his help before important speaking engagements and, in 1937 made him a member of the Royal Victorian Order, which recognizes personal service to the sovereign.
The king never fully got over his stutter, and Mr. Hooper said it would have been wrong to give the film a classic Hollywood ending, in which he is cured and lives happily ever after.
When he went back and listened to archival recordings, Mr. Hooper said, “it was clear that the king was still coping with his stammer, and that this was not about a man who was cured. It was about a man who had learned how to cope.”
At present, the main tasks for urbanization are to grant urban residency to more rural migrant workers and other rural people who have moved to cities; make more efficient use of urban land for construction purposes and prevent too much land from being expropriated for urbanization and used inefficiently; establish a diversified and sustainable mechanism for funding urbanization; put an end to China’s over reliance on land-based finance; improve the structure and form of urbanization and the living environment; raise the level of urbanization, realistically define what a city should be like and make proper plans for its development; and improve the management of urbanization.
In pursuing urbanization, China needs to respect and be in tune with nature and ensure unity between man and nature.
Making use of current mountains, waters and other unique landscapes, China needs to integrate cities into nature so urban dwellers can enjoy the view of mountains and waters and are reminded of their hometowns.