The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Midweek Miscellany


This Precarious Balancing Act — Maud Newton talks to Alison Bechdel, author of (the astonishingly good) Fun Home, about her new graphic novel Are You My Mother?. Fascinating stuff:

I feel like cartooning for me has been like a way to be a crypto-writer. I couldn’t ever say I wanted to be a writer because my mother was a writer, and even now I’ve had to find this alternative way of expressing myself as a writer. I don’t want to diminish the drawing. I think it’s integral to what I do. But I’m kind of a secret writer… I’m very wordy for a cartoonist. I’m always struggling against that, because the more space your words take up the less room you have for pictures. So it’s always this precarious balancing act.

School Disco — Mark Medley’s latest National Post piece on House of Anansi Press follows the publisher to the London Book Fair:

The London Book Fair, now in its 41st year, is one of the biggest, and most important, in the world — though it is dwarfed by Frankfurt, which takes place in October. This year, the fair hosted more than 1,500 exhibitors from 57 countries and expected more than 25,000 attendees, almost half from overseas. During the festival’s three days, MacLachlan describes it variously as “a meeting of the tribe,” “highly social,” and “like [a] school dance. The cool kids are in one corner, the nerds are somewhere else.”

Confused By the eBook Lawsuit? So Is Everyone else” — Peter Osnos, founder of Public Affairs Books, writing at The Atlantic.

And finally…

With the Bauhaus: Art as Life exhibition opening at the Barbican tomorrow, author Fiona MacCarthy (William Morris: A Life for Our Time)  looks back at the revolutionary design school at The Guardian:

Gropius’s idea for the Bauhaus emerged from his experience of the first world war in which he served as a cavalry officer on the western front for almost the whole four years. His response to the devastating scenes he lived through was a stark determination to “start again from zero”. Only a new outlook on design and architecture could provide the means for a shattered civilisation literally to rebuild itself… Gropius’s vision was for the “unification of the arts under the wings of great architecture”. It was a democratic concept of art for the people, art for social betterment in which everyone would share. The Bauhaus aesthetic replaced bourgeois furbelows with a geometry of clarity, sharp angles and straight lines.

The Guardian’s art critic Adrian Searle reviews the show here.

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  1. ‘Are You My Mother?’ is really quite dull and disappointing. I loved ‘Fun Home’, and agree with you about how good it is, but ‘Mother?’, though done with technical excellence, is a glorified version of the art you see in community health organisations and psychiatric hospitals–therapeutic for the artist, and of little value for anyone else.

  2. Oh, that’s disappointing.

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