The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Something for the Weekend


A busy week for John Gall, Art Director at Anchor/Vintage: he unveiled a beautiful new website, and his design for the paperback boxed set of 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (pictured above). My Q & A with John is here.

Los Angeles Review of Books also has a swanky new website.

Let’s Not Get Carried Away — Harvard professor Ann Blair, author of Too Much To Know, on the history of information at The Browser:

“Reading” covers a wide range of practices. Medieval scholasticism, for example, favoured a ponderous kind of reading of difficult Latin texts done by a few qualified scholars with pen in hand to comment on them. This kind of reading typically took place in a library or study with access to many other learned books. Novel reading was very different when it developed, especially in the 18th century – novels were viewed as engrossing and escapist entertainment, which was typically enjoyed in a nice comfy chair. Interestingly, this kind of reading, which we try to encourage in our children today, worried people in the 18th century. Wouldn’t girls especially get carried away by flights of fancy? People thought it important to control reading. For instance, it was considered better to have girls read in a circulating library since a public setting imposed limits on how far they could get carried away. So some of the fears parents have today about kids playing video games used to apply to reading.

And finally…

Howard Jacobson on Wisden’s Cricketer’s Almanack for the Independent:

What a wonderful thing is Wisden, that lovely, lozengy, yellow-jacketed, Bible-shaped and Bible-weighted cricketers’ almanack, 1,500 pages deep, in which the averages of batsmen and bowlers and wicketkeepers, English and not-English, male and female, living and dead, are collated with a mystic punctiliousness that proves beyond argument the existence of God. You want to see the Divine Watchmaker at work on the mathematics of life? Then read Wisden.

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