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This Week's Reading

What We’re Loving: Dallas, Dubai, Dublin

May 30, 2014 | by

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Three nights ago, the eminent record collector Chris King came by The Paris Review loft to launch his new LP, Alexis Zoumbas: A Lament for Epirus 1926–1928. King arrived with several armfuls of 78s, including Greco-Albanian dirges, a Ukrainian wedding dance, and rare sides by Richard “Rabbit” Brown, Elvie Thomas, Amédée Ardoin, and others who have achieved a measure of posthumous renown on King’s label, Angry Mom Records. As a house present, King gave the Review eighteen test pressings of the Carter Family (“from their most depressing period”), but the song I can’t get out of my head—thanks to our associate editor, Stephen Hiltner, who whistled the first few bars this morning—is “Chasin’ Rainbows,” by the Dallas String Band. Listen at your peril. —Lorin Stein

At a conference on Web design earlier this month, Maciej Ceglowski gave a talk called “The Internet with a Human Face,” a cogent look at the bizarre double lives the Internet forces us to live, the havoc it’s wrought on our concepts of privacy and identity. “A lot of what’s wrong with the Internet has to do with memory,” he says. “The Internet somehow contrives to remember too much and too little at the same time, and it maps poorly on our concepts of how memory should work.” Ceglowski runs pinboard.in, a bookmarking site. Unlike too many in the Silicon Valley set, he’s entirely free of techno-utopianism, but he’s not an alarmist or a fatalist, either. Rather, he’s refreshingly clear-eyed about the state of technology and how we can improve it. “I’m tired of being scared of what the Web is going to look like tomorrow,” he says. “I realized how long it had been since I looked at a new technology with wonder, instead of an automatic feeling of dread.” —Dan Piepenbring

Dubliners turns a hundred in June. “The Dead” is a masterpiece, of course, but I think the best of the stories is “Araby,” whose child protagonist experiences a kind of antirevelation—one of the moments of adolescent wretchedness we all pass through to get to adulthood. The whole experience is conveyed in the twenty-four perfect words of the final sentence: “Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.” —Anna Heyward

When I think of the United Arab Emirates, I think of excess: artificial land shaped like a palm tree in Dubai, a certain Greenwich Village university cloned in downtown Abu Dhabi, and billion-dollar hotels. Reviewing Rowan Moore’s Why We Build in the New York Review of Books, Martin Filler writes, “In Dubai, the much-ballyhooed botanical symbol of a sheltering oasis gives way to a more mundane reality.” Filler describes his working relationship with the commanding architect Zaha Hadid, who has recently come under scrutiny for her lack of concern for the working conditions of the stadium she designed for the 2022 Qatar World Cup. Are such conditions an architect’s responsibility? More important, have we allowed architecture to reach a point where it’s beyond moral consequence? —Justin Alvarez

So many memories of play from my childhood are wrapped up in a hammock that hung between two tulip trees in the backyard. I think not just of the hammock itself, but of all its imagined possibilities: a roof, a raft, a lean-to, a cloud. It’s difficult to describe how this space serves as a cognitive landmark for me, but in 1958’s The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard beautifully articulates this nuanced relationship between space and self. Poetics is about the phenomenology of architecture. It explores intimate spaces in literature, using them to comment on the psychological impact of the places, particularly homes, that we inhabit. The book is full of charming, dreamy moments of insight; Bachelard describes how, in winter, the home becomes one’s whole world: “Snow, especially, reduces the exterior world to nothing rather too easily. It gives a single color to the entire universe which, with the one word, snow, is both expressed and nullified for those who have found shelter.” —Chantal McStay

If you’re nostalgic for Pemberley, try Amma Asante’s new film, Belle. Its heroine, Dido Elizabeth Belle, faces the moral dilemmas of courtship and marriage in an obtrusive social hierarchy. Here she echoes Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet, ushered into a tepid pool of aristocratic men—but unlike Austen’s heroines, Dido is half black. Belle details the politics of the time with a powerful awareness and insight—the role of women, class structure, and slavery are treated in equal measure, coupling these very real issues with a romance that would make Austen proud. —Yasmin Roshanian

 

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  1. lordrushbrooe | May 30, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    Bachelard describes how, in winter, the home becomes one’s whole world. “Snow, especially, reduces the exterior world to nothing rather too easily. It gives a single color to the entire universe which, with the one word, snow, is both expressed and nullified for those who have found shelter.” When I first read this book 20 years ago this is when I realized he had no idea of what he was talking about.

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