Random reads from August:
- I try to start with a “blast from the past”, so here1 is
A rambling but heartfelt account2 of the paradoxes of ‘Brexit’
Someone discusses their experience of trying to read a hundred books3 in a year
I had always wondered about this, but apparently it’s true: we can sense individual photons4
This piece5 is the “Silicon Valley critique” (a semi-permanent sub-genre of news/opinion these days) of the month (you can tell it’s supposed to sound relevant; it has a subtitle!). Anyway, it’s definitely good writing:
In their introduction to The Fabric of Cultures: Fashion, Identity, and Globalization, the fashion scholars Eugenia Paulicelli and Hazel Clark write that this “aesthetic gentrification… divides the new world map in the light of a softer post-Cold War prejudice: the fashionable and the unfashionable world.” In other words, we are experiencing an isolationism of style versus one of politics or physical geography, though it still falls along economic lines. You either belong to the AirSpace class or you don’t.
- Among the million articles trying to explain Trump, is this one6 by George Layoff (he of ”Metaphors We Live By” and ”Philosophy in the flesh”)
I’m halfway through my five-year goal of reading all of Pynchon, so here’s a piece7 describing the best place to start, ”The Crying of Lot 49”. Shameless plug:
John Ruskin has said “all books are divisible into two classes: the books of the hour and the books of all time.” Yet The Crying of Lot 49 occupies a strange third space: novels that are timely yet timeless—books that are so suffused with the cultural minutia and noise of a moment that their saturation itself helps them to endure.
… and …
In our present moment, it is necessary, rather than radical, to be paranoid. Paranoia is now the result of being aware and observant. We are being watched, tracked, traced, and catalogued. Oedipa’s nightmare has become our reality. Therefore, 50 years later, we should allow her to become our guide.
- Let’s call this my “art pick of the month”: an amazing large-scale work over four decades (we could use more of these!) in the desert8.
Every now and then, something like this comes along: the largest pyramid9 by volume was apparently under a large hill for a long time.
This one is merely trivia, but it turns out there’s a link between the now-customary “everything is really fictional here” disclaimer in movies, and … wait for it … _Rasputin_10(!)
Has the overuse of irony been killing effective critique? Maybe, maybe not. Anything more on the topic will be boring unless you like this sort of thing in which case … this11 might be the sort of thing you like.
Regardless of your opinion about his other political views, Eric Raymon has this fascinating account12 of the history of science fiction, and how it links up with broader cultural and political history.
If you’ve been reading comments, forums, etc. on the internet over the last decade or so, none of this13 will be new for you, but it made the cover of Time magazine this time, so I guess its news (basically, there be trolls).
This14 report suggests that the real crisis of inequality isn’t gauged by simply looking at individual incomes or wealth, but the generational impact within households.
To end with another blast from the past, here15 is some hand-wringing about France being “americanized”, from roughly six decades ago (but oh, doesn’t it seem so current :-))
(still cross-posting this here and on Medium; perhaps later I’ll just stick to the latter)
- New York times, ”The End of Books” (June 1992) ↩
- The New York Review of Books, ”Fences: A Brexit Diary” ↩
- The Autodidacts, ”My Year of 100 Books” ↩
- Nature.com, ”People can sense single photons” ↩
- The Verge, ”Welcome to Airspace: How Silicon Valley helps spread the same sterile aesthetic across the world” ↩
- George Lakoff, ”Understanding Trump” ↩
- Lithub.com, ”Oedipa Maas: Our guide to contemporary paranoia” ↩
- The New Yorker, ”A monument to outlast humanity” ↩
- BBC Future, ”The giant pyramid hidden inside a mountain” ↩
- Slate.com, ”The Strange Reason Nearly Every Film Ends by Saying It’s Fiction” ↩
- Los Angeles Review of Books, ”The Hangman of Critique” ↩
- ”A political history of SF” ↩
- Time, ”How Trolls Are Ruining the Internet” ↩
- ”Poorer than their parents? A new perspective on income inequality” ↩
- The Atlantic, ”Is France Being Americanized?” (June 1958 issue) ↩