The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Something for the Weekend


Luc Sante, author of Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York, has posted an amazing selection of vintage French photographic noir book covers at John Gall’s blog Spine Out.

On the Defensive — Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask, on teaching creative writing in The Financial Times:

When you teach creative writing, you are already on the defensive. People love to poke you in the chest and cry, “But you can’t teach writing!” This is precisely what I think about automobile driving but I let them rant while I rub the sore part where they poked me. I don’t know why people get so worked up about this subject. Nobody has asked them to teach creative writing or even to learn it. Apprenticeship, the sharing of history and technique, has always been a central feature of art-making. Yet people cling to a romantic idea of the self-made genius toiling away in a garret or napping undisturbed in a sleep module.

Books on Wheels — A really lovely article about bookmobiles from the Smithsonian Magazine:

Bookmobiles, the man said, had been a fundamental inspiration while growing up in rural Mississippi in the mid-1960s. The public library had been closed to blacks—but the bookmobile stopped right on his street, a portal into the world of literature.

The gentleman was W. Ralph Eubanks: today an acclaimed author, and Director of Publishing for the Library of Congress… “The librarians did not care that I was barefoot, and wearing a pair of raggedy shorts. All they cared about was that I wanted to read—and to help me find something I would enjoy reading.”

Eubanks’ story is just one example of the pivotal role bookmobiles have played in literary culture, and individual lives, for more than 150 years.

Strides at The Strand — Nancy Bass Wyden, co-owner of The Strand bookstore in New York, interviewed in The Daily Beast:

We have taken strides to grow with our customers and listen to their needs. When customers started requesting New York Times bestsellers, we started carrying new books and featuring them on tables in the front of the store; when customers started talking about the Internet, we got online; when Amazon and B& became “competitors,” we partnered with them.

And finally…

The Trial — Judith Butler in the LRB on the implications of the ongoing and complex legal battle in Tel Aviv over several boxes of Kafka’s original writings:

Had the works been destroyed, perhaps the ghosts would not be fed – though Kafka could not have anticipated how limitlessly parasitic the forces of nationalism and profit would be, even as he knew those spectral forces were waiting.

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