The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Something For The Weekend, August 7th, 2009


Winnie and Wolf — cover design by Alex Camlin (the chap behind that rather wonderful Harvard Review overhaul). I’m hoping to speak to Alex for the designer Q & A series later this month.

And just while were on the subject, Caustic Cover Critic looks at the new designs for the Penguin World War II Collection.

In Search of Lost Time — David L. Ulin, Book Editor of the LA Times, on the lost art of reading:

Today, it seems it is not contemplation we seek but an odd sort of distraction masquerading as being in the know. Why? Because of the illusion that illumination is based on speed, that it is more important to react than to think, that we live in a culture in which something is attached to every bit of time.

Here we have my reading problem in a nutshell, for books insist we take the opposite position, that we immerse, slow down… Yet there is time, if we want it. Contemplation is not only possible but necessary, especially in light of all the overload.

But, if you sympathize with this perspective be warned: you are weak and you just don’t love books enough (and you’re probably a calcified narcissist).

Talking Books — I don’t agree with everything here (OK I actually disagree with a lot of it and, I’m sorry, describing the Globe & Mail as “daring” is just  delusional), but Ian Brown, writer, arts journalist and broadcaster has some interesting things to say about Canadian literature and culture in a sprawling interview over at Conversations in the Book Trade:

[T]he novel is no longer the prime example of literature. Nor does it need to be. Too much attention can ossify a genre. If anything is in trouble, it’s literary fiction–but again, only because there are so many alternative ways to consume good writing these days. The book itself is a fantastic technology, but literary fiction has some serious competition for my attention.

And as this has been something of slow week, and because I was chatting about it with book designer Jason Gabbert on Twitter (who is responsible for the lovely C.S. Lewis redesigns above), I’m just going to take this opportunity to (re)plug my image library on Image Spark and (while I’m at it) my slightly stream-of-consciousness inspiration blog The Accidental Optimist.

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  1. Read my response again. The problem is that Conroy’s idea of reading very fast, uncritically, and without retention is being held up against this supposed problem in the digital age and, should the reader wish to slow down, it is incumbent upon self-discipline. The presumed influence of the digital age has no bearing on one’s ability to read books slowly, which involves a kind of love directed towards other perspectives and a drifting away from the ego.

  2. Thanks Ed. I was being flippant. If I didn’t think you had a point why would I bother linking to you at all?

  3. Thanks Mark. I didn’t realise the link was broken. It should work now. :-)

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