Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Then there’s Jason Fried, who started his 37signals software company in a spare ten hours a week and now counts Amazon founder Jeff Bezos as an investor. He says he built his business by paying attention to “the minutiae of navigating a site”—simple things like minimizing the number of times customers have to use their mouses and trading jargon like “advanced search” for specific, clearly written directions.

Deanna Isaacs, Reader

Orwell once wrote that he had ''a power of facing unpleasant facts.'' Hitchens adds that they ''were usually the ones that put his own position or preference to the test.'' The best pages in this book show how Orwell's radical politics were often at war with deeply conservative instincts. A man who felt tenderly toward the English countryside, English beer and, incredibly, English cooking, who distrusted abstract language along with most 20th-century inventions, who was something of a homophobe and antifeminist, and who struggled in print against his own antipathy toward Burmese, Jews and the poor, is not an easy fit with ''progressive'' thinking. The pressure of these conflicts, and Orwell's honesty in working them out, help to account for the vivid prose and its moral strength. Orwell's sentences are so forceful that hardly a single one of them escapes political incorrectness of one type or another, yet he remained on the left to the premature end of his life, in 1950. ''By teaching himself in theory and practice, some of the teaching being rather pedantic,'' Hitchens writes, ''he became a great humanist.''

George Packer, NYT9


When I was a cathedral chorister, my choir gave the first performances of much of John Tavener’s early work, back when he was truly out on the weirder fringe, and long before he arrived at the relative formalism of The Lamb and Song for Athene. At times, the score would invite us to sing pretty much what we liked, or the notes would so resemble ink flicked maniacally at the page that the results tended to be equally arbitrary. Nico Muhly, a New York-based American musician, evokes early Tavener here, among referencepoints that also include Radiohead, Björk, Ligeti and Glass. If Sigur Ros (see below) eschew conventional structure, they are like Westlife compared with Muhly. In a transfixing exploration of the sung voice’s possibilities, he draws on Icelandic myth, English folklore, 17th-century church politics and royal superstition. It is never less than fascinating. It’s also fairly odd.



Second-guessing the Man Booker judges' longlist choices ahead of Tuesday's announcement has taken off this year, on both the prize's own site and Picador's blog - where £50-worth of Picador books are on offer to the person with "most correct guesses". On the Booker site, one blogger tallied up scores in the guess lists, ranking authors by number of mentions as follows: Tim Winton (11); Alexis Wright (9); Andrew Crumey, Damon Galgut, James Kelman, Salman Rushdie (all 8); Peter Carey (7); John Burnside (6); Steve Toltz, Mohammed Hanif, Poppy Adams, Sadie Jones, Zoë Heller, Aravind Adiga (all 5); Howard Jacobson, Ross Raisin, Helen Garner, Nadeem Aslam, Sebastian Barry (all 4); Joe Dunthorne, Joseph O'Neill, Helen Walsh (all 3); David Park, Elizabeth Lowry, Patrick McGrath, Michelle de Kretser, Amitav Ghosh, David Lodge, Philip Hensher, Stephen Galloway (all 2). Booker gamblers, meanwhile, should move early: Anne Enright was available at a generous 11-1 the day after last year's longlist was announced.
John Dugdale


50 Drawings to Murder Magic

Antonin Artaud

Artaud’s last piece of writing is an incantatory text designed to accompany the enigmatic drawings with which, in his final anguished years in a mental asylum, he filled a series of 12 exercise books. The text is reproduced here in facsimile with a literal translation on the facing page, and is followed by a selection of the drawings:
‘They are not drawings/they figure nothing,/disfigure nothing,/are not there/to construct/build/institute/a world/even an abstract one./They are notes,/words,/pier-glasses,/because they are ardent,/corrosive,/incisive/thrown forth/by who knows what/submaxillar/subspatular/whirlwind/of vitriol,/they are not there as if/nailed down and/doomed never more/to move.’

Seagull Books | hardback |ISBN: 9781905422661

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