The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Monday Miscellany


Three new James Joyce cover designs, and one extraordinary post by Peter Mendelsund.  Brilliant stuff…

The Box — Author Michael Chabon on the films of Wes Anderson at the NYRB Blog:

Anderson’s films have frequently been compared to the boxed assemblages of Joseph Cornell, and it’s a useful comparison, as long as one bears in mind that the crucial element, in a Cornell box, is neither the imagery and objects it deploys, nor the Romantic narratives it incorporates and undermines, nor the playfulness and precision with which its objects and narratives have been arranged. The important thing, in a Cornell box, is the box… All movies, of course, are equally artificial; it’s just that some are more honest about it than others. In this important sense, the hand-built, model-kit artifice on display behind the pane of an Anderson box is a guarantor of authenticity; indeed I would argue that artifice, openly expressed, is the only true “authenticity” an artist can lay claim to.

The Same Curious Brain — A profile of author and artist Oliver Jeffers, at the National Post:

Jeffers doesn’t just tell stories. He’s an artist — paintings, printmaking, collage — and a commercial and editorial illustrator, with clients ranging from Anthropologie and Weight Watchers to the Guardian and Newsweek. His monograph Neither Here Nor There, which was published last summer, is a collection of his non-children’s work — a bust of Darth Vader; a satellite crash-landed in a cornfield; a hammer nailed to a wall — though it still feels like part of the same universe. Jeffers prefers it this way.

“My books are all about telling stories, and a lot of my art is about asking questions,” he says. “But they’re equally extensions of the same curious brain.”

And finally…

The Spy Novelist Who Knows Too Much — a New York Times story about the decidedly nasty-sounding 83-year-old French pulp novelist Gérard de Villiers so implausibly bonkers it probably has to be at least partially true:

Last June, a pulp-fiction thriller was published in Paris under the title “Le Chemin de Damas.” Its lurid green-and-black cover featured a busty woman clutching a pistol, and its plot included the requisite car chases, explosions and sexual conquests. Unlike most paperbacks, though, this one attracted the attention of intelligence officers and diplomats on three continents… “It was prophetic,” I was told by one veteran Middle East analyst who knows Syria well and preferred to remain nameless. “It really gave you a sense of the atmosphere inside the regime, of the way these people operate, in a way I hadn’t seen before.”

And it gets better from there…

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