The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Midweek Miscellany

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It’s Complicated — Gabriel Winslow-Yost surveys the work of Chris Ware for the New York Review of Books:

Ware’s drawings are meticulous, even chilly, with flat, muted colors and the straight lines and perfect curves of an architectural rendering. The panels follow an orderly horizontal grid, but have a discomfiting tendency to occasionally shrink to near illegibility; or they might suddenly demand to be read from right to left, or even disappear entirely, to be replaced by pretty but unhelpful typography (“Thus,” “And so”), complicated diagrams, or plans for a paper model of one of the stories’ locations. Dreams and fantasies invade the story without warning—when Jimmy [Corrigan] first meets his father, we see him brutally murdering the sheepishly friendly man, while their desultory small talk struggles on.

Also at the NYRB: Zoë Heller’s review of Salman Rushdie’s preening new book Joseph Anton: A Memoir.

Chance Art — Rick Poynor on the photography of designer Herbert Spencer, at Design Observer:

As a photographer, Spencer seemed to delight in unraveling the order he spent his days as a designer attempting to create. His most telling and memorable images, those that seem most fully his own, show a world in which things fall apart, signs of official communication fray into visual poetry, and ordinary people assert their presence by inscribing streets, buildings and land with unofficial messages and marks.

And finally…

The Shadow Line — Sean O’Hagan interviews avant-garde filmmaker and founder of Film Culture magazine Jonas Mekas for The Guardian:

At the end of our talk, I ask him what he thinks of contemporary culture and how it compares to the creative iconoclasm that he was part of in 50s and 60s New York. He thinks about his answer for some time. “When the old forms began collapsing and falling away though exhaustion and repetition, a new sensibility is born. That is what happened back then and may be happening now.” He tells me how taken he is with the Joseph Conrad notion of the shadow line: a moment of great cultural change that occurs every so often, sweeping all that is old and exhausted out of the way. “It is overdue.”

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