The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Midweek Miscellany


Creative Review takes  a look at the cover designs for the books shortlisted for the Booker Prize, including this beauty by the mighty Jon Gray for Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch.

Let’s Get Critical — Long-form cultural criticism, essays and reviews, curated by architecture and design critic Alexandra Lange.

Never Fashionable, Always in Style — Costume designer Jacqueline Durran on tailored suits worn by the spies in the film adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, for The Guardian:

“I thought that lots of these middle-aged men had bought suits 10 or 15 years ago and stuck with them,” she says. “I would look at a character and try to work out where they had bought their suit.”

She decided that everything in the film could have been bought from shops within half a mile of Piccadilly in London: “Things from Savile Row, Jermyn Street, Fortnum & Mason, Burlington Arcade – one of those upper-middle-class shops that are never fashionable but always do a certain kind of clothing.”

(Related: The real-life spies of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)

Also in The Guardian… Michael Prodger reviews Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life by Susie Harries:

Whereas art history in Germany was a creditable discipline of long standing, in England it was a new subject – class-ridden, based on connoisseurship and, he thought, “at its worst, an activity a bit like stamp collecting”. It was this fustian world that Pevsner and other émigrés such as Ernst Gombrich, Rudolf Wittkower and Edgar Wind were to transform.

Pevsner had a hard time fitting in, not least because he was a modernist, something the British found temperamentally uncongenial. For Pevsner, though, it represented an antidote to art for art’s sake and he saw it as an appropriate expression of the spirit of the age. Art, he believed, should be functional and of service, and architecture was the most important of the arts because it was the most closely connected with human life.

And finally…

Pathos and Pantomime — Peter Ackroyd choose five books about London:

London has always had the reputation of being a city of contrast, where pathos and pantomime meet. That is true in the work of Charles Dickens and Charlie Chaplin, for example. And it is certainly true in the work of [William] Blake. So you can see patterns of the London imagination at work. It is a world of theatre. The grand theatre of the human spirit which London most readily represents, and there is scenic detail and movement and passion and the action of crowds. It is quite different from other cities.

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