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This Week's Reading

What We’re Loving: Underwater Art, Analytic Philosophy, Betsy-Tacy

July 6, 2012 | by

Two Paris Review editors in one New York Times magazine? That’s what I call a week in culture: Sadie Stein on Baby Bjorns and J. J. Sullivan on Faulkner. —Lorin Stein

Like Jim Holt, I am convinced that some analytic philosophy is worth reading and rereading. If only one book could make the case, though, it would have to be Derek Parfit’s work of moral philosophy, Reasons and Persons. Almost thirty years old, it endures through a combination of novel thought and unimpeachable style. And, unlike much analytic philosophical writing, Parfit’s words have a vigorous sense of purpose, a compassion and focus reminiscent of Simone Weil and George Orwell. Favorite sections include teletransportation, indistinct selves, the repugnant conclusion, and the opening sentence: “Like my cat, I often simply do what I want to do.” —Tyler Bourgeois

I am continually captivated by the underwater art of “eco-sculptor” Jason deCaires Taylor—or, rather, what happens to it. Taylor submerges his work—predominantly human figures—in the waters of the West Indies and in the Gulf of Mexico. Over time, the permanent installations come to act as artificial reefs, attracting corals, aggregating fish species, and increasing marine biomass. Most of Taylor’s figures stand with their faces upturned to the surface, their eyes closed, as they are silently and arrestingly overtaken by algae, sponges, and hydrozoans. The overall impression is one of indomitable spirit within metamorphosis: creatures coming to life. —Anna Hadfield

I am sad every time I think about missing the 2012 Betsy-Tacy convention, which takes place the weekend of July 19–22 in what the world may call Mankato, but every Betsy-Tacy fan knows as Deep Valley, Minnesota. Maud Hart-Lovelace’s ten-book series—a fictionalized account of her own childhood and young adulthood—sees heroine Betsy Ray and her crowd grow from children to young marrieds, and the early twentieth century matures with them. So vivid is the world, so beloved the characters, that the reader feels she knows them. Maybe seeing the real-life modern Mankato—even the childhood homes the Betsy-Tacy Society has painstakingly restored—would fail to match that picture. But one day, I’d like a chance to see for myself! In the meantime, I’m carrying the tote. —Sadie Stein

Where They Create” is an ever-growing collection of photographs of creative spaces by Australian photographer Paul Barbera. His images of offices, studios, and workshops everywhere from New York to Bangkok tend to focus on small details while effectively capturing the greater atmosphere of the locations. There is something poetic about the photographs, but at the same time they are humble, delicate, and, above all, honest. None of the spaces are prepared or tidied before Barbera’s arrival; he finds beauty in the chaos. Looking through this collection, which is also available in book form, you might get the sinking feeling that your own creative space is desperately inadequate. Well, I’m afraid that in comparison to places like the offices of Studio TooGood in London, it probably is. —Arthur Holland Michel

“If this had been something in a novel, it would just have been irritating. I have in fact done a lot of reading, particularly in the last few years, but earlier, too, by all means, and I have thought about what I read, and that kind of coincidence seems far-fetched in fiction, in modern novels anyway, and I find it hard to accept.” So the narrator of Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses introduces a crucial plot point in this vivid, engrossing novel about a boy and his father in the Norwegian countryside after World War II. I love that move (there must be a word for it) when a storyteller makes us believe in something implausible by pointing out its implausibility, its tackiness even. —L. S.

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2 COMMENTS

1 Comments

  1. Anna | July 8, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    One of the great lines from Out Stealing Horses: “You decide for yourself when it will hurt.” That one’s always stuck with me.

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  1. [...] the United States. I never felt inclined to read it, though, until I came across a mention of it in one of The Paris Review‘s regular “What We’re Loving” blog posts. I loved Lorin Stein’s description of the book so I thought I’d give it a [...]

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