Tag Archives: Pandora Kitabevi

Salvation

Because Herman Wouk was going to put physicists in a novel, Richard Feynman advised him to learn calculus: “It’s the language God talks.” I think I know what Feynman meant. Calculus is the means by which we express the laws of the physical universe. This is the universe that, according to the mythology, God brought into existence with such commands as, “Let there be light.” Calculus has allowed us to refine those words of creation from the Biblical account. Credited as a discover of calculus, as well as of physical laws, Isaac Newton was given an epitaph (ultimately not used) by Alexander Pope:

Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night:
God said, Let Newton be! and all was light.

I don’t know, but maybe Steven Strogatz quotes Pope’s words in his 2019 book, Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe. This is where I found out about Wouk’s visit with Feynman. I saw the book recently (Saturday, February 22, 2020) in Pandora Kitabevi here in Istanbul. I looked in the book for a certain topic that was of interest to me, but did not find it; then I found a serious misunderstanding.

book cover: Steven Strogatz, Infinite Powers Continue reading

The Private, Unskilled One

I went into Istanbul’s Pandora Bookshop a month ago, looking for an English translation of War and Peace, since the Garnett translation I had read at college was falling apart. I was told the Oxford World’s Classics edition (with the Maude translation) was coming the next week, and it did come.

Elif Batuman, The Idiot, in Nesin Matematik Köyü, Kayser Dağı Mevkii, Şirince, Selçuk, İzmir, Turkey, 2017.05.18

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Confessions

This is about G. H. Hardy and Sylvia Plath: Hardy quâ author of A Mathematician’s Apology (1940); Plath, The Bell Jar (1963).

Photo: the Hardy and Plath books

I first read Plath only recently, after encountering The Bell Jar by chance in the Istanbul bookshop called Pandora. Continue reading

Thinking & Feeling

This essay is written as a distraction from current events, though I make some reference to them. I am prompted by questions of analogy provoked by

  1. the similes of Homer, and

  2. a recent theater review in Harper’s that mentions the parables of Jesus.

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35th Istanbul Film Festival, 2016, part 3

Part 1 | Part 2

Between the composing of parts 1 and 2 of this account came the death of Prince, whose work had inspired Rain the Color of Blue with a Little Red in It. Between the composing of parts 2 and 3 came the release of the four Turkish peace activists, whose imprisonment had given poignancy to The Demons and The Music of Strangers. There is a certain absurdity associated with each event.

Photo of book, Shakyamuni Buddha

Nikkyô Niwano, Shakyamuni Buddha: A Narrative Biography
(Tokyo: Kôsei Publishing Co., 1980; fifth printing, 1989)

On the cover, a modern copy by Ryûsen Miyahara,
owned by Risshô Kôsei-kai, of
“The Nirvana of the Buddha,”
painted in 1086 and owned by temple Kongôbu-ji,
Wakayama Prefecture, Japan

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Nicole at the Golden Horn

The setting was gorgeous. We were atop a hotel (and former convent) opposite the compound of the Italian Consulate—the Italian Embassy, in Ottoman times, before Mustafa Kemal founded the Turkish Republic and moved the capital to Ankara. We looked out over old trees. The street just below us was closed to cars; off to the right it became a stairway and a narrow passage up to İstiklâl Caddesi. Beyond the trees of the Consulate were the Golden Horn and Seraglio Point, with the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara beyond. As night fell, electric lights illuminated the Seraglio itself—Topkapı Palace—along with the Hagia Sophia.
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Thoreau by the Aegean

In a session of the 1986–7 senior laboratory at St John’s College in Santa Fe, for reasons that I do not recall, our tutor asked us students whether we had any heroes: for it was said that young people of the day no longer had heroes. None of the students at the table named a hero. I myself refrained from telling how I had once named a hero, when asked to do so in a high-school French class. This hero was the Buddha.

In recent times, I have listed my favorite writers as Somerset Maugham, Robert Pirsig, and R.G. Collingwood. I might add Charlotte Brontë and Mary Midgley to the list. I cannot add the Buddha, because he is not a writer. If my list were of writers and thinkers, I still could not add the Buddha: I cannot know him or any other thinker well enough, except through his own writing. But now I would add Henry David Thoreau. Continue reading

Liberation

This article is based on quotations from three writers, of three different nationalities, who share a spirit with which I am in sympathy:

Fukuoka
“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”
Pirsig
“The real cycle you’re working on is the cycle called ‘yourself.’ ”
Collingwood
“I thought that the democratic system was not only a form of government but a school of political experience coextensive with the nation.”

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Bosphorus Sky

This is about the morning of Thursday, December 18, 2014, a morning I spent by the Bosphorus, thinking mostly about poetry, and photographing the sky.

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