Live Your Best Pod Life, and Other News


On the Shelf

Photo: scarletgreen

  • Today in extravagant acts of self-protection: Julian Barnes wasn’t a fan of his first novel, 1980’s Metroland. So he wasn’t surprised when it got a savage notice in an organ called The Daily Sniveler by one “Mack the Knife”—a nom de guerre for Barnes himself. Yes, Barnes trashed his own novel, just so he could be sure he got there first. “In the old days,” he wrote, “the Sensitive Young Man, after producing his novel, would slide back into the obscurity of book-reviewing and hock-and-seltzer; he would in middle age be much taken with writing letters to the newspapers; and in old age, chairbound in his club, he would reveal himself to be the unremitting philistine which his earlier manifestation had sought to conceal. We must wish Mr Barnes well as he sets off on this inevitable journey.”

  • In Tokyo, Sam Kriss paid a visit to the Nakagin Capsule Tower, the crowning achievement of an architecture collective called the Metabolists. Its modular design comprises a series of pods, each containing a bed, a kitchen, a toilet, and some storage space—and more pods could be added or subtracted as its residents deemed appropriate. A beautiful idea, right? Well, it failed: “Some of the pods are still inhabited, but it’s hard to see how. From outside, the tower looked like a dying animal, sweating and greasy in the heat, trapped inside its wire netting. Looking up, you could see that some capsules had been half-filled with rotting garbage, a rippling line of trash drawn across their single windows. Inside, panels peel from the ceilings and mold crawls underneath; grime and seepage scorches the concrete with strange, bubbling forms. Kurokawa’s masterpiece was an utter, unsalvageable failure.”
  • Plenty of things make Nicholson Baker a talented writer, but Evan Kindley has identified perhaps his most salient feature: a highly developed poking finger. “What sets Baker apart from his peers is how genuinely odd he is,” Kindley writes: “He is driven by a rather singular set of obsessions, and his writing, though always finely crafted, often feels compulsive, as if his mind were a perpetual-motion machine unable to bring itself to rest…Baker’s attempts to poke things and find out where they squeak has led him to his two great subjects, the mundane and the erotic, both of which he limns in extraordinary detail…Half the time Baker’s Seinfeld, the other half he is Sade.”