The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Midweek Miscellany


Tom Gauld‘s cover illustration for Death at Intervals by José Saramago, who died last week, aged 87. From The New York Times obituary:

[T]he critic James Wood wrote: “José Saramago was both an avant-gardist and a traditionalist. His long blocks of unbroken prose, lacking conventional markers like paragraph breaks and quotation marks, could look forbidding and modernist; but his frequent habit of handing over the narration in his novels to a kind of ‘village chorus’ and what seem like peasant simplicities allowed Saramago great flexibility.”

On the one hand, Mr. Wood wrote, it allowed the writer to “revel in sheer storytelling,” and on the other to “undermine, ironically, the very ‘truths’ and simplicities his apparently unsophisticated narrators traded in.”

Also: Maya Jaggi on Saramago in The Guardian.

On the Record — Jamie Byng has signed a deal to create a “living archive” of Canongate Book’s records at Dundee University:

For Byng, the attraction of the project is that it will be rooted in the present as much as the past. While Canongate promises to respect the privacy of those with whom it is in contact, the overall dream is to create an archive “that will show the company as a living, organic thing. I hope it won’t just give people insights into one publishing house but publishing in general. Or even how – because I want to give access to all the financial stuff – how an independent business can grow. This business is constantly evolving, never sitting still: every day there’s a huge amount going on not just within Canongate but with all the writers we’re dealing with.”

Alphabet Soup — Author Susan Orlean‘s editorial A to Z  in The New Yorker:

I could go on, about how I left Publishing House X for Publishing House Y because I was still scared of Editor F, and how at Publishing House Y I managed to get three books written there working with Editor G—who assured me that he would never leave, and this was almost true, except for a brief period when he did, in fact, leave, but then he came back—and then the head of Publisher Y got fired, and eventually I left and then Editor F left, and then I was working with Publisher Z, and then the head of Publisher Z left, and then I left Publisher Z to go back to Publisher W, because the person now running it was an old friend from the magazine world, who I knew would never leave, but you might think I was exaggerating. But I’m not.

[Mimes being on the Internet] — James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem interviewed at Pitchfork. This gives me hope (via The Awl):

I just think it takes a couple decades to kind of clear your brain now. So it makes more sense to me that I could find my footing when I was 30 instead of when I was 19. It seems a little more clear. You know, novelists are older now. Things are happening later in people’s lives. They’re kind of living lives and then creating things about the lives they’ve lived. Rather than being an artiste at an early age and coming out with a ball of fire. That energy has been co-opted because you haven’t immunized yourself yet against media. It’s easier to get swept up things then take a couple of years to get over your, like, indie rock hangover.
And finally (because I can)…

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