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This Week's Reading

What We’re Loving: Archives, Architects, the Arctic Sky

April 25, 2014 | by

lebbeus woods

Lebbeus Woods, San Francisco Project: Inhabiting the Quake, Quake City, 1995. Image via the Drawing Center

Sadie Stein already recommended Arlette Farge’s little book-length essay The Allure of the Archives. A year later, I have to second the recommendation. On the surface, this is a personal memoir by a feminist historian whose research—into eighteenth-century police files—fundamentally changed our picture of pre-revolutionary Paris. But really this is a handbook about how to write, how to think about, history. Gripping, graceful, and beautifully translated by Thomas Scott-Railton, it captures the fun and the dangers of library work like nothing I’ve ever read. —Lorin Stein

A new anthology from Brick introduced me to Don DeLillo’s “Counterpoint: Three Movies, a Book, and an Old Photograph,” an essay from 2004. That title belies both the piece’s range and its force of concentration. It looks at Glenn Gould, Thelonious Monk, and Thomas Bernhard, three isolated, brilliant men who craved and feared the seclusion that came with their work. DeLillo is interested not just in their difficult lives but in the cultural consensus we reached upon their deaths—who did we decide these men were, and why? As its images begin to collect, all of them rendered in that laser-cut DeLillo prose, the essay becomes a haunting account of the distance between an artist and his audience, his art, and himself. DeLillo has a rare gift for writing about the sensory experience of art, for tracing the vectors of meaning in sight and sound. “In a busy diner,” he writes of a scene from Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, “there are voices in layers and zones, some folded over others, in counterpoint.” And he condenses The Fast Runner into a solitary image, an image of, well, overwhelming solitariness: “The man is running, eyes wild, into the arctic sky.” —Dan Piepenbring

Lebbeus Woods, who died in 2012, was an artist’s architect. He imagined the buildings that cities would need when calamity came calling. His work exists almost exclusively as experiment—only one of his ideas was actually constructed—and 175 of his graphite dreams are currently on display at the Drawing Center in SoHo. Some look like gashes in the side of a building, or what would happen to a street if it suddenly woke up. Some are like seedpods split open and engorged, a home for one suspended by a slender stalk, and some are simply floating, free of the city entirely. Or maybe these are cities, untethered, finally free to found themselves. —Zack Newick

Growing up a diehard Cubs fan on the North Side of Chicago, I rarely encountered many South Siders. But when my family moved out to the Northwest suburbs, I came to know a few White Sox fans, and only then did I fully understand a rivalry that’s grown since the 1906 World Series. Now, thanks to The Upshot (as well as millions of baseball fans avowing their allegiances on Facebook), we can use maps to visualize the exact Chicago neighborhoods “where White Sox jerseys stop being welcome,” along with the borders between the Yankees and the Red Sox, the Dodgers and the Angels, and—let’s just forget about the poor Mets. —Justin Alvarez

Spring means that getting dressed is no longer a matter of piling on as many layers as possible and keeping rain boots on standby—it now seems safe to put away down jackets and woolen tights. On the street, beautifully dressed women keep reminding me of Jil Sander’s 1998 ready-to-wear show, with its perfect shin-length hems and bluish shades of white. I’ve always thought of this show as the last triumph of nineties minimalism before we were hit by a wave of decorative luxury, with John Galliano at its crest. (Let’s not forget the $25,000 dresses of Dior’s “homeless” collection of 2000, or the weird mania for Louis Vuitton luggage.) —Anna Heyward

1 COMMENT

1 Comments

  1. jc | April 28, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Should be Thomas Bernhard, not Bernhardt.

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