The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Midweek Miscellany (Paul Auster Edition), November 25th, 2009


The award-winning Folio Society edition of The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster and illustrated by Tom Burns has just about blown my mind. MUST. HAVE.

James Wood on the novels of Paul Auster in the The New Yorker:

Auster is a compelling storyteller, but his stories are assertions rather than persuasions. They declare themselves; they hound the next revelation. Because nothing is persuasively assembled, the inevitable postmodern disassembly leaves one largely untouched. (The disassembly is also grindingly explicit, spelled out in billboard-size type.) Presence fails to turn into significant absence, because presence was not present enough. This is the crevasse that divides Auster from novelists like José Saramago, or the Philip Roth of “The Ghost Writer.”

(Personally speaking I think I prefer Auster’s interesting awkward failures over the portentous bludgeon prose of Philip Roth, but that’s just me…)

And, if you haven’t had enough Auster for one post, he’s also interviewed in New York Magazine.

The Making of Fantastic Mr. Fox designed by Angus Hyland — New work from Pentagram for Rizzoli.

Covers from Cleethorpes — A brief, but funny, interview with designer David Pearson at It’s Nice That.

“We Like Lists Because We Don’t Want to Die” — Umberto Eco interviewed in Der Spiegel:

The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order — not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries.

An Innocent Abroad — Journalist and cartoonist Joe Sacco (Palestine, Safe Area Gorazde) interviewed about his new book Footnotes in Gaza in The Observer:

I’m a nondescript figure; on some level, I’m a cipher. The thing is: I don’t want to emote too much when I draw myself. The stories are about other people, not me. I’d rather emphasise their feelings. If I do show mine – let’s say I’m shaking [with fear] more than the people I’m with – it’s only ever to throw their situation into starker relief.

And on the speaking of comics…

Paul Gravett, author of multiple books on the art form, interviewed by Dazed & Confused:

I like the control I have when reading a comic. I’ve grown impatient and disenchanted with the tropes of a lot of movies and TV, their conventional angles and cuts, their manipulation through music, lighting, special effects and above all, the efforts of acting to make me emote. Comics struggle to make us feel anything at all… They often don’t work that brilliantly, but when they do, the impact of fixed, unephemeral, often hand-drawn images can really surprise me. It’s a primal, even primitive medium, as old as our first cave paintings, and it is still being invented and discovered.

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  1. Speaking of Auster and comics, the comic version of City of Glass is an absolute must have.

  2. Hey, thanks Thom – The comic book adaptation is great — David Mazzucchelli did the drawings. Have you picked up Asterios Polyp?

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