Our wonderful art editor Charlotte Strick took some time to talk to The Atlantic about her work as a graphic designer:
What’s a design trend that you wish would go away?
It’s not so much a design “trend”: the lack of quality in trade book publishing. Because of the rising costs of printing, many publishers are now using thinner paper stocks for book interiors. The paper feels cheap and there’s more “show through” of the text from the previous page. Those of you who still enjoy holding a good old-fashioned book in your hands will know what I’m talking about. You really can feel the difference.
What’s an idea you became fascinated with but that ended up taking you off track?
Do ex-boyfriends count?
I’d say so! Read the rest of Charlotte’s interview here.
For the last few months I’ve been rereading—very slowly and very late at night—Montaigne’s essays. All thanks to Sarah Bakewell (who won a National Book Critics Circle Award last night for her biography of Montaigne: How To Live). —Lorin Stein
Several years ago I read Vladimir Sorokin’s Ice and found its matter-of-fact sci-fi narrative intriguing but its conclusion quite disappointing. Turns out it’s the second book in a trilogy, which, thankfully, NYRB has published in a single volume—the way it ought to be read. I haven’t reached the end yet, but so far it’s wonderfully weird. —Nicole Rudick
The reviews of Margaux Fragosos’s Tiger, Tiger gave me the chills. It’s a memoir of her relationship with Peter, a pedophile forty-four years her senior. When a copy of the book was slipped on my desk this week, I had to pick it up. —Thessaly La Force
As an undergraduate, I remember catching my necromantic tutor in Old Icelandic obliviously reciting poems from the language on the top deck of the city bus. This week, I’ve been putting those extracurricular lessons to use by whipping out Basil Bunting’s Collected Poems on the subway. It doesn’t take long for the short, incantatory lines of “Briggflatts”—studded with monosyllabic words that Bunting excavated from Anglo-Saxon and his regional Northumbrian dialect—to achieve the twin effect of making me forget my surroundings and baffling my fellow passengers. I mean, what on earth is an oxter? —Jonathan Gharraie
I really loved The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery and am looking to read more contemporary literature in translation. Are there any books you would recommend for starters?
Well, I’m in the middle of a new translated novel that I can’t wait to go home and finish: Seven Years, by the Swiss writer Peter Stamm. I had never heard of Stamm—I picked the book up because the translator is Michael Hofmann. If Michael Hofmann thinks a book is worth spending that much time on, I’m always happy to read it. So far I am not disappointed. Seven Years begins like a Turgenev novella, in the present day, with a slightly disillusioned architect looking back on the youthful love affair that became his marriage, and on another love affair that didn’t. Just the kind of thing I like. And (as my friend Eric Banks pointed out last night—because it turns out he’s read it, too), Stamm deals convincingly with architects and architecture, something you don’t find in a novel every day.
David Foster Wallace is my favorite writer, but I now find it hard to read him without becoming desperately sad. Please can you suggest ways of coping? —Hermione
The last time I tried to reread Infinite Jest, I had the same feeling, and stopped. Then I got a note from a friend who, like Wallace, has suffered over the years from debilitating depression. My friend described how her last depression lifted. I can’t resist quoting her here, because what she wrote struck me as beautiful but also because it reminded me that Wallace overcame and overcame his sense of isolation, not only in life, but in his fiction, too—in Infinite Jest, for starters, the least solipsistic of contemporary novels, or even at moments in his last collection, the one my friend was reading:
One day in late summer, I decided to give Oblivion another try, or rather to give this one story “‘Good Old Neon” a try. It was a collection I’d previously struggled with. But that story, reading it at the time I did, truly gave me this surge of Spirit—life force—that I doubt I would have found anywhere else. The story’s antihero trapped in various self-created hells of bad faith, and the narrator explaining to him that while we all get hung up on being untrue to ourselves, or faking our way through life, the vastness and complexity of our selves is such that we really couldn’t begin to fake them … We’re tied to the mast of these huge crazy ships, ploughing into dark, icy seas, and our only recourse is an occasional change of hat … He puts it about a million times more elegantly than that. It was one of the moments of the year.
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This is the second installment of Okrent’s culture diary. Click here to read part 1.
Rubenfeld hasn’t sent anything soaring over the wrong river recently, but he does have Al Jolson singing to a swing band accompaniment about ten years before swing came into vogue. The book is extremely fast-paced and well-plotted, but if you hold it up next to one particular book set in a similar time, and similarly dependent on the imagined lives of real historical figures, it’s paler than a bedsheet. The book I have in mind, of course, is E. L. Doctorow’s Ragtime, and I say of course because if you were alive and literate in 1975, you’ve read it. I don’t think there’s a novel that has evoked such universal enthusiasm in the years since. Doctorow already had a minor reputation, but this single book was like a comet screaming across the cosmos, the subject of cover stories, lengthy reviews, talk-show discussions, et cetera, for weeks and weeks. I want to read it again.
Tonight, the Prazak Quartet at the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. Four Czechs, former classmates at the Prague conservatory, playing Beethoven, Janacek, and Schubert with an earthy quality not so common among American chamber groups. Weill might be the most beautiful music room in New York, its proportions ideal, its acoustics excellent (especially in the tiny balcony), each of its glowing chandeliers an especially opulent grace note. I just wish it weren’t named after the donor who made it possible. Sandy Weill has been extraordinarily generous with New York institutions and should get credit for that, but one suspects he’s more interested in credit than in music. The only time I’ve ever seen him at Carnegie—whose board he chaired for years—was at a black-tie fund-raising gala. In his truly egregious autobiography, with its peacocking title and subtitle (The Real Deal: My Life in Business and Philanthropy), he mentions exactly two pieces of music over the course of 544 pages: “Happy Birthday,” and the title song from Oklahoma!
Excuse the digression. Lovely room, stirring music, great evening. Could have done without the ridiculous “15 bite hot dog” at the Brooklyn Diner before the concert, but that was my own fault.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, the British psychoanalyst and writer Adam Phillips delivered a talk at the Brooklyn Academy of Music titled “Acting Madness.” The event was being held in conjunction with BAM’s spring season, which features three plays about madness: David Holman’s adaptation of Gogol’s “Diary of a Madman”; Macbeth; and King Lear. In a row with plenty of other seats, a young man with a wispy beard and glasses took the place directly next to mine. He was wearing, I noticed at once, a Paris Review T-shirt. My mind leaped as though a starter pistol had been fired. It was all so obvious: The Paris Review had sent this person to check up on me.
In his essay “First Hates,” from On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored, Phillips usefully glosses paranoia as the refusal to be left out. That is, much worse than the fear that everyone is talking about you is the fear that no one is talking about you. As the gentleman in question and I waited in silence, I performed a little Phillips-inspired self-analysis. Either The Paris Review had sent this man here to stalk me, and he was announcing his intentions with his T-shirt, or he was a Phillips enthusiast and also a reader of The Paris Review—even my paranoiac fantasy had to concede this as a likely demographic crossover. Embarrassed, I meditated, very briefly, on my own unimportance. The Paris Review would survive with or without my post. This unimportance was a fact I was going to have to live with, because living without it—believing that this man had donned an official T-shirt in order to more conspicuously surveil my blogging—was crazy.