Photo: Barry Haynes. Image via Hyperallergic/Wikipedia.
- Christian Lorentzen is at the Republican National Convention, scoping out the merch downtown, where the spirit of small-time entrepreneurialism is something like that of the parking lot outside a Phish show: “In the afternoon I walked through downtown Cleveland’s festival of reaction, past hawkers of Trumpian kitsch: T-shirts with Trump on a Harley, Trump as Captain America, golden silhouettes of his hair, and Hillary for Prison; Trump Flakes cereal; Trump condoms ‘to keep you safe like the wall.’ I missed out on the early pro and anti-Trump rallies, but I did see a man walking another man on a leash, his ‘Trump dog’, their message not entirely clear. I bought a sandwich and sat on a bench beside an elderly African American man with a few Trump T-shirts to sell but making little effort to do so. A young African American man passed by and started yelling at him: ‘I can’t believe your black ass is selling a motherfucking Trump shirt. You’re blacker than me, you stupid motherfucker.’ The man beside me was unfazed.”
- Let us turn now, for the sake of our sanity, to less pressing matters. But you can lose sleep over these, too. I was up last night wondering what fate will befall the World’s Largest Picnic Basket, which served, until recently, as Claire Voon writes, as the offices of the Longaberger Company in Newark, Ohio: “Completed in 1997, the 182,000-square-foot building was headquarters for 500 workers when it opened; about a dozen remained when it shut its doors last week after months of gradual migrations, according to the Dispatch—the last people able to claim that day after day, they went to work inside a larger-than-life basket. The design was Dave Longaberger’s own: the businessman, who founded the company in 1973, had demanded that architects model a building specifically on his company’s trademarked Medium Market Basket, and that’s exactly what he received. The finished result, 160 times the size of the hardwood maple best seller, came courtesy of Korda Nemeth Engineering and architecture firm NBBJ, whose senior manager at the time described it as ‘a piece of pop art.’ ”
- Today in wild new frontiers for the humanities: in a new book, the German sociologist Jens Beckert uses literary theory to explain economics. “Rarely do scholars explore the role of imagination in economic life systematically,” Brooke Harrington explains. “In a realm dominated by economic and financial scholarship that aspires to be ‘scientific,’ fantasy and creativity in envisioning the future are often ignored; they don’t fit well into a model of research whose aim is to reduce unknowns and to eliminate surprises as much as possible … Imagined Futures: Fictional Expectations and Capitalist Dynamics, makes a thorough, exhaustively documented argument in support of what many have suspected about capitalism: It’s a castle in the air, built on fantasy shading into fraud. He makes a compelling case that no corner of the market is untouched by the process of generating imagined futures. The novelty of his work lies in offering a way to understand that process as a social system in which everyone, from individuals to institutions, is implicated.”
- At The Paris Review, we pride ourselves on knowing a thing or two about the art of the interview. But I’m willing to admit when we’re licked. And Robin Leach—of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous fame—may well have licked us. He told a classroom recently, “The one piece of advice I would give you students about the art of interviewing is to listen. There is a joke about a television newscaster who asked all of her questions from a blue card that was prepared by or for her. So instead of listening to the answer to the question she asked, she would busy looking at the next question in order to ask it. I never go into an interview with questions on cards. It is a conversation, designed to elicit information, and you get information only by listening. The follow-up question is more important than the original question. And there is nothing better than eliciting a response by remaining silent.”