The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Something for the Weekend

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The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist is out next week.

Ware’s World — Seth Kushner’s photos of cartoonist Chris Ware in his Chicago home.  Leaping Tall Buildings: The Origins of American Comics by Christopher Irving and Seth Kushner is published by Powerhouse Books in May.

Redefining ‘Contrarian’ — Armond White on film critic Pauline Kael, and her reputation as a ‘contrarian’, in the CJR (via Bookslut):

Since the advent of the Internet and the rise of review aggregators like Rotten Tomatoes, the illusion of consensus opinion now dominates the culture’s perception of criticism. Individual critics’ voices matter less than the roar of the crowd, which judges films as “fresh” or “rotten” and drowns out anyone who begs to differ. Outlying critics are isolated and deprecated, their deviations from the consensus seen as proof of their eccentricity or ineptitude. As an icon of mainstream critical influence, and as someone who had little use for group hugs, Kael’s independent stance presents a real challenge to the current critical order.

Addressing this change is more urgent than simply championing Kael; it’s a matter of defending the endangered voice of independent criticism that Kael represented so well. Now is a good time to redefine “contrarian” as autonomous, uncoerced journalism. Kael’s writing—and the new, ongoing controversy she engenders—makes this absolutely necessary.

(I’m not at all sure White accurately reflects readers’ expectations of critics, but it makes for a fun article).

And finally…

Nobody’s Perfect — Noah Isenberg reviews Masters of Cinema: Billy Wilder by Noël Simsolo for the LA Review of Books:

A writer by nature, Wilder was a man of uncommon wit and unforgiving sarcasm who made his martinis with the same verve as he made his movies… His was a raconteur’s cinema, long on smart, snappy dialogue, short on visual acrobatics. And though his dizzyingly prolific, half-century-long career brought us everything from romantic comedy masterpieces Some Like it Hot (1959) and Sabrina (1954) to such acerbic gems as Double Indemnity (1944), Sunset Boulevard (1950), Ace in the Hole (1951) and The Apartment (1960), Wilder remained forever reluctant to embrace the notion of director as artist; he saw himself merely as a trafficker in mass entertainment.

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