This week in reading: 4-10 February 2013

This is basically going to be a stream-of-consciousness post about things I have read, or thought about reading, or somehow related to the world of ideas, in the past week.

I have read the past two issues of New Yorker on the Tube this week. Obviously not everything everything because I don’t have that much time on the Tube, actually. Or even on trains. Anyway I read the 28 Jan and 4 Feb editions of the New Yorker. I really liked the “Slumlord” article by Jon Lee Anderson about Chavez, although it seemed a bit inconclusive or just like a snapshot, which is a criticism that Brits often level against the New Yorker. (Not being a Brit, I often defend the writing of fact and reportage against the relentless bias of the British press.) I also learned a bit from the article “Home Economics” by Tad Friend, about the mortgage crisis and an investment plan/fraud (depending on whom you ask), but didn’t enjoy it as much. Similarly, I was interested in – but not totally won over by – the article about Dr. Oz, “The Operator” by Michael Specter. I don’t live in the US, so I don’t know about this phenomenon. There’s something compelling to me about him encouraging people to challenge the medical profession… and then it just seems weird.

My favourite and most remarkable article was the article on window-washing, “Life at the Top” by Adam Higginbotham. This type of article is really why I read the New Yorker: when you read these summaries of what the articles are about, and you think, “Okay…” and you make a bemused face. But actually, what the writers/journalists are doing is opening a whole other world to you, and making you think differently about something in your life… forever. Like, say, how I feel differently about floor-to-ceiling glass windows now.

So that was my transport reading.

I have been hauling around The Condition of Postmodernity in my bag all week (it’s probably into Week 2 by now… or 3…), but haven’t really read it. Too much work, tired brain, etc.

When go to bed, I read Dear Life by Alice Munro when I am going to bed – a story a night or so. But I don’t love it the way I loved Too Much Happiness, so I don’t know. TMH seemed like it was perpetually dark, and I guess I liked that – it felt like it was pushing a boundary somewhere. I don’t feel that about these stories. In fact, I don’t remember these stories in general much at all. More on that when I actually review it, I guess.

And my weekend was the festival on The Rest Is Noisethe weekend about Paris. This weekend was great, but also brain-sapping. I/we went to talks on Surrealist Poetry with Mark Waldron and Luke Kennard (moderated by Chris McCabe), and a Noise Bite session about Anais Nin, Georges Bataille, Gertrude Stein and the Moulin Rouge. We watched Un Chien Andalou and Menilmontant. D. and I each fell asleep in one of the films. I loved the surrealist poetry (“you’ll never know what a miserable suburb the Earth was” is a quote from “The Future” that I loved and noted), and the talk on Gertrude Stein was particularly good.

And then, finally, we went to see/hear some music by Falla and Respighi, but skipped out before we got to the Ravel. Which felt awesome, although now I need to listen to it.

Today I went to talks by Kevin Jackson on 1922 (author of Constellations of Genius) and by Sarah Churchwell on Americans in Paris. Then I watched a concert modeled on the avant-garde salons of the 1920s Paris: Satie’s Socrate (beautiful if background music but … I found it a bit dull to watch), and some amazing Stravinsky – I enjoyed that a lot more. It’s much wilder, of course. But interesting to see the two sides of the modernism and movements of the time.

A great weekend, which allowed me to do what I need to do with my weekends: to remember the other life that I life – my life inside my head, my intellectual life – the life of the thinking and, hopefully one day, doing something else. This is not to say that I am not happy at my job – I like it. But it is not everything I want to do with my life. But it is hard to fit it all in!


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