The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Midweek Miscellany

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Comic Unease — Cartoonist Emily Carroll talks about comics, fairy tales, dreams, and her story His Face All Red with The Comics Journal:

I think a lot of fairy tales have that sort of unease built into them, just because they introduce so many elements that they never explain, and use fairy tale logic—the kind that isn’t really logic at all, but has that matter-of-fact feel to it anyway—and the reader just has to roll with it.

Dark Matter — Author Lev Grossman on fan fiction for Time Magazine:

Fan fiction is what literature might look like if it were reinvented from scratch after a nuclear apocalypse by a band of brilliant pop-culture junkies trapped in a sealed bunker. They don’t do it for money. That’s not what it’s about. The writers write it and put it up online just for the satisfaction. They’re fans, but they’re not silent, couchbound consumers of media. The culture talks to them, and they talk back to the culture in its own language. Right now fan fiction is still the cultural equivalent of dark matter: it’s largely invisible to the mainstream, but at the same time, it’s unbelievably massive.

Grossman’s new novel The Magician King (the sequel to his 2009 novel The Magicians) is published next month.

Dysfunctional Spies — Author John Le Carré reflects on his time in MI6:

The creation of George Smiley, the retired spy recalled to hunt for… a high-ranking mole in Tinker, Tailor, was extremely personal. I borrowed elements of people I admired and invested them in this mythical character. I’m such a fluent, specious person now, but I was an extremely awkward fellow in those days. I also gave Smiley my social ineptitude, my lack of self-respect and my fumblings in love.

Because I came from a dysfunctional background, I made home the most dangerous place for Smiley. Home is where he lets himself in cautiously. Home is where he sees the shadow of his adulterous wife in the window and wonders who she’s with.

Pictured above is Matt Taylor’s incredible illustration for a new Penguin US edition of Le Carré’s novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – more of that wonderful stuff to come – and a new film adaptation of the book, starring Gary Oldman as Smiley, is being released later this year:


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