The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Midweek Miscellany

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An introductory reading guide to the work of Norwegian cartoonist Jason from Robot 6:

Since his U.S. debut in 2001, Jason has produced 15 books, with nary a drop in quality. More to the point, he’s been able to use and play with a lot of familiar genre cliches — movie monsters, the big heist, the man accused of a crime he didn’t commit — and make them seem fresh and inviting.

That’s largely because his characters are usually grounded in a strong emotional reality. What often drives them are not simplistic ideals about right and wrong but love, longing, guilt and anxiety, the same stuff that drives most of us. What’s especially fascinating about his work, though, is how he’s able to convey all these roiling emotions with such a… minimalist style… Anyone interested in learning about timing and tempo… should be studying Jason’s comics.

Jason’s latest book Isle of 100,000 Graves is released this month.

Let’s Put It This Way — Cartoonist Ivan Brunetti profiled in The Chicago Tribune:

When people talk about Brunetti, they often couch it with a “Let’s put it this way.” Francoise Mouly, the longtime art director of the New Yorker, said, “Let’s put it this way — Ivan will never be comforted in life.” She said it in her native French lilt, with the breeziness of tone and the bluntness of meaning we associate with the French. But without malice or sarcasm, only lament and concern. There is no comforting Ivan Brunetti.

(I am still slightly traumatized by Brunetti’s Misery Loves Comedy)

The Poverty of Abundance — Sukhdev Sandhu, author of London Calling: How Black and Asian Writers Imagined a City, reviews Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to its Own Past by Simon Reynolds for The Observer:

Retromania is a book about the poverty of abundance. At malls, on mobile-phone ads, in the background as we work at our computers: pop, usually in the form of anorexically thin MP3 sound, is everywhere these days. Perhaps that ubiquity puts a brake on its ability to astound or shape-shift. Perhaps the process of circulating and accessing music has become more exciting than the practice of listening to it.

Future Classics — Agent Andrew Wylie in The WSJ:

[T]he business we’re in is to identify and capture and anticipate the value of books that are inherently classics, future classics… Sure, writers these days can go directly to readers, without publishers or agents. But there needs to be a chain of people who have authority and can help convey what is essential. We spend most of our time strongly supporting work that we believe is significant.

And finally…

Peter Saville discusses his favourite designs for Joy Division and New Order with The Guardian.

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