The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Something for the Weekend


Making Bird Noises — Dwight Garner profiles novelist John Le Carré, for the New York Times:

In his lesser books, le Carré’s prose can thin out perilously, but at his best, he’s among the finest writers alive. There’s a reason Philip Roth has called “A Perfect Spy,” le Carré’s 1986 autobiographical work of fiction, “the best English novel since the war.” The Times of London ranked him 22nd on a list of the 50 greatest writers since 1945. His books are less about espionage than they are about human frailty and desire; they’re about how we are, all of us, spies of a sort.

See also: Mark Lawson reviews Le Carré’s latest, A Delicate Truth, for The Guardian.

(Pictured above: the cover to the US edition, illustrated by Matt Taylor)

And while we’re at it… James Campbell reviews Kurt Vonnegut: Letters edited by Dan Wakefield, which has just been released in the UK:

[Anatole] Broyard was scarcely wrong to say that Vonnegut’s reputation suffered a blow with each new book; he is a classic example of a writer whose renown endures through the success of a single novel. Yet the tone was ever recognisable, and even lesser-known books – SlapstickDeadeye DickHocus Pocus – sold well. In response to a question from a reader in 1991 about the relationship of his style to “jazz and comedians”, he replied: “I don’t think about it much, but now that you’ve asked, it seems right to say that my writing is of a piece with nightclub exhibitionism … lower class, intuitive, moody, and anxious to hold the attention of a potentially hostile audience.”

New England — Alan Moore talks to Pádraig Ó Méalóid about League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Nemo: Heart of Ice, his unfinished novel Jerusalem, and his Lovecraftian work-in-progress Providence:

with Providence, what I am doing is, I’m looking as much at American society in 1919 as I am looking at Lovecraft, in terms of my research, and I am connecting up Lovecraft’s themes, and Lovecraft’s personality, to a certain degree, with the tensions that were then incredibly evident in American society… It’s starting from – if Lovecraft’s characters, if Lovecraft’s monsters, if Lovecraft’s locales actually existed in A Real World, then what would they really be like, and what would the world be like?

In part two of the interview, Moore discusses his recent film projects and other work.

Who? — Steven Heller talks to Unit Editions Adrian Shaugnessy about Jurriaan Schrofer (1926-90): Restless Typographer at Imprint. It’s a rather short interview, but there are some lovely illustrations!

Any finally…

Still my favourite thing on the internet this week:

Phillip Marsden’s one-page comic strip ‘Hipster Hairdo’ for Off Life #4 (PDF).


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