The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Midweek Miscellany


A.S. Byatt by reviews Peter Carey’s latest novel The Chemistry of Tears for the Financial Times.

Also at the FT: Jennie Erdal, author of The Missing Shade of Blue, on philosophical novels:

The more novels I read at university, the more I felt that fiction was where truth was to be discovered. I seemed to experience Melville’s “shock of recognition”; which is to say re-cognition, for it was there already, waiting to be reawakened – the knowledge that some things, not least what it is that makes us human, can never be adequately expressed in conventional philosophical prose.

Scheduling Time to Stare Out of the Window — Clay Shirky on boredom (via Nicholas Carr):

It was only later that I realized the value of being bored was actually pretty high. Being bored is a kind of diagnostic for the gap between what you might be interested in and your current environment. But now it is an act of significant discipline to say, “I’m going to stare out the window. I’m going to schedule some time to stare out the window.” The endless gratification offered up by our devices means that the experience of reading in particular now becomes something we have to choose to do.

No Friends But Empty Chairs — Michael Dirda on Philip Larkin for The New Criterion:

As Alan Bennett observed, the poet acted sixty all his life and made a profession of it. Larkin certainly had absolutely nothing going for him physically, being tall and stooping, bald, deaf, overweight, with an occasional stammer, multiple chins and inch-thick spectacles. As if this weren’t enough, he generally wore dark, ill-fitting suits or—when on holiday—prissy shorts or a checked tweed sport coat. (A famous picture shows him in such a coat, sitting primly next to a sign that says “England.”) He wasn’t joking when he said, “Deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth.”

And finally…

Generation Intern — Tim de Lisle on the appointment of 37 year-old Lawrence Booth, “the youngest [editor] in living memory”, to the helm of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack:

Today’s young journalists have become Generation Intern, condemned to do one not-quite-job after another. Lawrence’s story offers hope, and some lessons. Be professional and adaptable. Embrace both print and web. Don’t fret if you get laid off. Hold your nerve and keep your voice. Write a piece as crisply as you write an email.

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  1. Hi Ian. I don’t think it is actually. The Knopf cover has a torn paper look and is quite different (although thematically similar). Not sure who designed this cover. Anyone?

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