The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

October 17, 2016
by Dan
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The Fantastic Ursula K. Le Guin

Julie Phillips long profile of author Ursula K. Le Guin for The New Yorker is wonderful: Starting in the nineteen-eighties, [Le Guin] published some of her most accomplished work—fiction that was realist, magic realist, postmodernist, and sui generis. She wrote the Borgesian feminist parable “She … Continue reading

July 3, 2015
by Dan
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Robert Frank: The Man Who Saw America

This weekend’s New York Times Magazine has a remarkable profile of photographer and filmmaker Robert Frank by writer Nicholas Dawidoff: Frank absorbed artistic influences all over New York. Edward Hopper’s moody office-scapes, restaurant interiors and gas pumps were not in … Continue reading

May 24, 2015
by Dan
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Why Star Wars?

In the most recent installment of the Laser Age, the Dissolve’s fascinating history of science fiction films from the 1960s to the 1980s, Keith Phipps turns his attention to Superman, Star Trek, and Flash Gordon — three movies released in the immediate wake of Star Wars. It’s a great read if you are … Continue reading

April 2, 2015
by Dan
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Olivia Laing on the Future of Loneliness

Olivia Laing whose new book The Lonely City is out in 2016, has a personal essay on loneliness and technology in The Guardian that, like her books To the River and The Trip to Echo Spring, weaves a lot of surprisingly disparate threads … Continue reading

February 26, 2015
by Dan
1 Comment

How The New York Times Works

In a fascinating piece for Popular Mechanics, Reeves Wiedeman looks at how the New York Times gets made in 2015. It’s interesting how their graphics department has evolved in the past few years: The Times employs approximately 1,300 journalists, a classification that … Continue reading

February 25, 2015
by Dan
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Learning to Love the House Style

In a long and charming essay for The New Yorker, the magazine’s query proofreader Mary Norris muses on her career, and the history and uses of the comma: Then I was allowed to work on the copydesk. It changed the way I read prose—I … Continue reading

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