The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Midweek Miscellany


The Death Ray by Daniel Clowes

The new cover for Daniel Clowes’ The Death Ray available this fall from Drawn + Quarterly. (The usual disclosure: D+Q is distributed in Canada by my employer Raincoast Books).

The Enemy of Creativity — Jim Holt reviews Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows for London Review of Books:

It’s not that the web is making us less intelligent; if anything, the evidence suggests it sharpens more cognitive skills than it dulls. It’s not that the web is making us less happy, although there are certainly those who, like Carr, feel enslaved by its rhythms and cheated by the quality of its pleasures. It’s that the web may be an enemy of creativity. Which is why Woody Allen might be wise in avoiding it altogether.

A Machine To Think With — Paul Duguid reviews Merchants of Culture by John B. Thompson, Publishing as a Vocation by Irving Louis Horowitz and The Phantoms on the Bookshelves by Jacques Bonnet  for the TLS:

I. A. Richards called the book “a machine to think with”, yet it is curiously resistant to technological standardization. That point escapes many digitizing technologists, who are not perhaps the anti-book boors as sometimes portrayed… Rather they may be the last romantics, idealizing the book as a simple carrier of information and so one that submits unproblematically to their computer algorithms.

Unsolving the City — BLDGBLOG talks to author China Miéville about architecture and his recent novels The City and The City and Kraken. Fantastic stuff:

My intent with The City and The City was… to derive something hyperbolic and fictional through an exaggeration of the logic of borders, rather than to invent my own magical logic of how borders could be. It was an extrapolation of really quite everyday, quite quotidian, juridical and social aspects of nation-state borders… But I’m always slightly nervous when people make analogies to things like Palestine because I think there can be a danger of a kind of sympathetic magic: you see two things that are about divided cities and so you think that they must therefore be similar in some way.

The new covers for Miéville’s forthcoming book Embassytown, and his entire back catalogue with Pan Macmillan UK, were designed by Crush Creative.

And finally…

Handsome Boy Modeling School — A profile Lorin Stein, editor of The Paris Review, in The New York Times’ Fashion and Style section:

Mr. Stein, an unabashed bon vivant who favors bespoke shirts and tailor-made suits by Kirk Miller, appears indifferent to accusations of pretension or dandyism… He has already cemented his status as a somewhat unlikely sex symbol (though among New York’s literary crowd, being pale, thin and occasionally bespectacled doesn’t count against you) with a practiced charm and habit of leaning in close and locking eyes intensely in conversation.

There is hope for us all yet… I just wish I could afford the bespoke shirts and tailor-made suits…

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