The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

February 7, 2017
by Dan
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Chris Ware on George Herriman and Krazy Kat

The New York Review of Books has an essay by cartoonist Chris Ware on George Herriman the creator Krazy Kat, one of the most beautiful, poetic and inventive comic strips ever created:     Krazy Kat has been described as a parable of love, … Continue reading

January 12, 2017
by Dan
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Brutalist Dreams

At the New York Review of Books, American architecture critic Martin Filler casts a critical eye over a slew of new books on Brutalist architecture:  In addition to its echoes of art brut—Jean Dubuffet’s name for outsider art—New Brutalism was … Continue reading

September 8, 2016
by Dan
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Luc Sante on Jean-Michel Basquiat

New York Review of Books blog has posted Luc Sante’s reminiscences of artist Jean-Michel Basquait: The last time I saw Jean I was going home from work, had just passed through the turnstile at the 57th Street BMT station. We … Continue reading

October 30, 2015
by Dan
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James Gleick on What Libraries Can (Still) Do

James Gleick (The Information, Faster) on libraries, and James Palfrey’s book BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google, at the NYRB Blog: In the midst of an information explosion, librarians are still the most versatile information … Continue reading

August 10, 2015
by Dan
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NYRB: Publishing Serious Literary Books

Larry Rohter profiles the New York Review Books, the publishing offshoot of the literary magazine The New York Review of Books, for the New York Times: “From the beginning, it was our intention to be resolutely eclectic, and build our … Continue reading

June 19, 2015
by Dan
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Simenon’s Island of Bad Dreams

At the NYRB Blog, John Banville reviews Georges Simenon’s novel The Mahé Circle, translated into English for the first time and now available from Penguin Classics: Simenon was a driven creature, who in his lifetime wrote more than four hundred books, drank and … Continue reading

May 24, 2015
by Dan
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Tim Parks on Where I’m Reading From

At BOMB Magazine, writer Tim Park discusses his new book Where I’m Reading From, a collection of his essays from the NYRB Blog, with Scott Esposito (co-author of The End of Oulipo): In a way, this book is an autobiography of someone brought … Continue reading

April 30, 2015
by Dan
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Too Many Books

At the NYRB Blog, Tim Parks wonders if there are just too many books: Is there a relationship between the quantity of books available to us, the ease with which they can be written and published, and our reading experience? … Continue reading

December 4, 2013
by Dan
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Barbara Epstein, David Levine, and Graydon Carter on Magazine Publishing

Monday’s edition of CBC Radio show Ideas featured Michael Enright in conversation with the New York Review of Book‘s co-founder Barbara Epstein, caricaturist David Levine, and long-time Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter: CBC Radio IDEAS: Barbara Epstein/David Levine/Graydon Carter mp3

December 4, 2013
by Dan
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Tim Parks: Life Transformed into a Series of Categories

Tim Parks on literature and bureaucracy for the New York Review of Books blog: So could it be—and this is the question I really want to ask—that however much literature may appear to be opposed to bureaucracy and procrastination, it … Continue reading

September 5, 2013
by Dan
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Robert Walser: The Monotony of Things

Colors fill up your mind too much with all sorts of muddled stuff. Colors are too sweet a muddle, nothing more. I love things in one color, monotonous things. Snow is such a monotonous song. Why shouldn’t a color be … Continue reading

July 26, 2013
by Dan
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Martin Scorsese: The Persisting Vision

The August issue of New York Review of Books has a wonderful essay by Martin Scorsese on the history and language of film, Vertigo, and cinema as a great American art form: As in the case of many great films, … Continue reading

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