Tag Archive for 'books'

What the Hell, Malcolm Gladwell

My friend Julia writes today on Huff­in­g­ton Post – What the Hell, Mal­colm Glad­well. She takes the Tip­ping Point author to task for not includ­ing one woman in his new book Out­liers, which exam­ines high achievers:

But what about Vir­ginia Woolf, Susan Son­tag, Tina Brown, or Indra Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo?

What about Oprah?

The omis­sion of women in Out­liers says more about the nature of “big think” books than it does about Mr. Gladwell.

I think that lets him off the hook easy, but it’s inter­est­ing to read Julia’s thoughts on the book pub­lish­ing world. She posts reg­u­larly to the Harper Stu­dio blog, at 26thstory.com.

The Island at the Center of the World

The Iowa Cau­cus results last night got me think­ing about the many com­pet­ing polit­i­cal cul­tures present through­out Amer­i­can his­tory. Indi­vid­u­al­ist vs. com­mu­ni­tar­ian, rich vs. poor, urban vs. rural… but, at the core of our national psy­che is this ten­sion between the lofty ideals set forth by the Founders, and our attempts and fail­ings to live up to them. For every shin­ing exam­ple of Lin­coln, FDR, and Mar­tin Luther King Jr., there are gen­er­a­tions of back-sliders who prey upon fear in order to gain polit­i­cal advan­tage. Sure, to every­thing there is a sea­son, but I’m glad to see that the vot­ers in Iowa embraced hope and rejected cyn­i­cism, on both sides of the polit­i­cal spec­trum.

The Island at the Center of the WorldHis­tory is writ­ten by the win­ners, which is why Amer­i­cans tend to think of our colo­nial past and demo­c­ra­tic begin­nings as built upon and in reac­tion to Eng­lish insti­tu­tions alone – but the story is a lit­tle more com­pli­cated. It’s not often that I do book reviews, but I just fin­ished re-reading The Island at the Cen­ter of the World, The Epic Story of Dutch Man­hat­tan and the For­got­ten Colony that Shaped Amer­ica [excerpt] by jour­nal­ist his­to­rian Rus­sell Shorto, and wanted to rec­om­mend it to any­one look­ing for some inter­est­ing read­ing on the ori­gins of this country.

The tra­di­tional telling of colo­nial Amer­ica focuses almost exclu­sively on the Eng­lish colonies in Vir­ginia and New Eng­land. But, Shorto reminds us that the Dutch were the first Euro­peans to set­tle the island of Man­hat­tan, and built some of the most last­ing ideals and insti­tu­tions into the fab­ric of Amer­i­can polit­i­cal and cul­tural life.

Con­tinue read­ing ‘The Island at the Cen­ter of the World’

Ravenclaw

RavenclawAccord­ing to The Harry Pot­ter Sort­ing Hat Per­son­al­ity Test, I’m a Raven­claw – but just barely:

Raven­claw 75, Huf­flepuff 73, Slytherin 68, Gryffindor 65

But, Lisa took the test for me, and is con­vinced that I’m quite Slytherin:

Slytherin 85, Gryffindor 62, Raven­claw 61, Huf­flepuff 38

One of us has a per­cep­tion prob­lem, at least when it comes to me! What house are you?

Beach

Marci was in town for a job inter­view at Har­vard, so we took wednes­day off from work, and headed for the beach in Gloucester.

not crowded
So much less crowded on weekdays…

Blink

Hav­ing just fin­ished Tip­ping Point, I dug into a cou­ple
hun­dred pages of Mal­colm Gladwell’s new book, Blink

sangria

…and, we enjoyed a big jug of home­made Sangria.

Harry Potter 6

Well, it was yet another quick read, but Harry Pot­ter and the Half-Blood Prince was fun. I thought it was very sat­is­fy­ing, but not as enjoy­able as books 4 & 5.

I’d hate to spoil any­thing, but Design­wee­nie brings up one poten­tial incon­sis­tency.

Saul Bellow

I have very few lit­er­ary heroes, but Saul Bel­low is one of them. Since I read Hen­der­son the Rain King in high school, I’ve admired his wit, and abil­ity to charge the most ordi­nary among us with great thoughts and pur­pose. His char­ac­ters didn’t always suc­ceed in life, but they were cast with such ironic humor, that it hardly mattered.

I was sorry to hear that he died yes­ter­day, at the age of 89.

I never got to meet him when I was a stu­dent at BU, how­ever I did help res­cue a man­u­script of his from his mis­be­hav­ing com­puter, when I worked as as a stu­dent help-desk tech­ni­cian — much to the relief of his Grad student.

Though he is well known and widely read, his rep­u­ta­tion in the lit­er­ary world is almost cult-like. Philip Roth said yesterday:

The back­bone of 20th-century Amer­i­can lit­er­a­ture has been pro­vided by two nov­el­ists: William Faulkner and Saul Bel­low… Together they are the Melville, Hawthorne, and Twain of the 20th century.

And, a cou­ple of years ago, another writer that I admire, Mar­tin Amis, went on NPR’s The Con­nec­tion to dis­cuss Bel­low, and his legacy.

SimpleBook

simplebook.gifDan Ceder­holm of Sim­pleBits has writ­ten a book, Web Stan­dards Solu­tions, which arrived today with it’s famil­iar cover.

I’m inter­ested in stream­lin­ing my site, improv­ing on seman­tic markup, etc., so I hope that Dan’s book will be a good ref­er­ence. Oh, and I love his redesign.

It seems that every­one is refresh­ing their sites these days.

McSweeney’s Quarterly Issue 10

mcsweeneys-10.jpgMcSweeney’s Mam­moth Trea­sury of Thrilling Tales arrived in the mail today, and it’s some­thing to behold. Guest-edited by Michael Chabon, it revives the notion that short-story writ­ing can be as var­ied in theme and form as longer for­mat writ­ing. It’s the celebrity issue: Neil Gaiman, Michael Crich­ton, Dave Eggers him­self, Har­lan Elli­son, & Rick Moody, & all pro­ceeds to ben­e­fit 826 Velen­cia.

Com­pli­ment­ing this truly won­der­ful writ­ing, is the design, which resem­bles a pulp pub­li­ca­tion from the 1940s, a time when the short-story could take the form of a west­ern, sci­ence fic­tion, detec­tive, or hor­ror. The illus­tra­tions are fun, and many orig­i­nal adver­tise­ments are included as well.

Hold­ing this issue makes me happy to be alive! No, really.

You Shall Know Our Velocity

You shall sitI’ve been read­ing a lot lately, just not talk­ing much about it. I finally fin­ished get­ting through McSweeney’s Issue No. 5… I had pre­vi­ously just skimmed it.

While vis­it­ing Kunta in Brook­lyn, we stum­bled into the McSweeney’s store on 7th ave, and I found it such an odd, futilely amus­ing place.

I mean, your typ­i­cal McSweeney’s reader isn’t inclined to buy and sport a tshirt, is he or she? And as for the other ran­dom items they sell, though I enjoyed paw­ing through them, they aren’t at all desir­able to pur­chase.

I guess that’s not the point: McSweeney’s is as much a brand, or anti-brand brand as any other buzz-worthy com­mod­ity. Eggers’ & crew are image-crafters as much as they are writ­ers, and if that means open­ing a bou­tique at con­sid­er­able expense, then hey, do it.

That said, I ordered Eggers’ new book You Shall Know Our Veloc­ity, and it came via UPS today.

First impres­sion, hav­ing read 1.5 pages? The inces­sant self-reflexive pos­tur­ing in the intro­duc­tion of his first book is reigned. In fact, the novel begins on the front cover, con­tin­ues on the reverse of the cover, and takes off from there, with­out any introduction.

Gim­micky? Yes. Inter­est­ing? Always.

Biography of an Architectural Icon

coverI started read­ing this book, Divided We Stand, a biog­ra­phy of the build­ing of the World Trade Center.

Writ­ten before the col­lapse on Sep­tem­ber 11, though informed by the ear­lier bomb­ing in 1993, the author offers con­text and cul­tural com­ment on what was arguably the world’s most famous build­ing (were they one or two build­ings?). What is espe­cially shock­ing is that not only was it one of the last cat­a­clysmic ‘urban-renewal’ mega-schemes held over from the 60s, (it was com­pleted in 1972), that elim­i­nated 16 blocks of low-income (though thriv­ing) com­mer­cial space, but also it was the largest government-sponsored real estate spec­u­la­tion in the his­tory of the world.

Man­aged by the Port Author­ity of NY & NJ, a dubi­ous orga­ni­za­tion, it was pitched as a ‘vertical-port’, to replace the decay­ing ship­yards below, (which were traded quid pro quo to NJ for their ‘ok’ to build the WTC). What it became, was a state-sponsored play­thing for the Rock­e­feller broth­ers, (both Gov­er­nor Nel­son, and Chase Man­hat­tan CEO David). With mas­sive tax breaks for ten­ants, the city of New York lost mil­lions of dol­lars in tax rev­enue, and by the mid-1970s was bankrupt.

Pres­i­dent Ford, at first, decided to let NY wal­low, but polit­i­cal pres­sure forced him to orga­nize a bailout. Funny. How could you con­sider let­ting America’s first city implode, and expect to get elected as America’s first citizen?

Katya Katya Katya

I read Paul Greenberg’s first book Leav­ing Katya, after hear­ing an inter­view with Bruce Geller­man on WBUR, and I was so very pleased. The least I can do is rec­om­mend it to any­one who’s gone through a ‘Russ­ian phase’.

And, I sus­pect the author is a web-savvy guy, cause he found me, and sent me this e-mail:

——-Orig­i­nal Mes­sage——-
From: Paul Green­berg
Sent: Sat­ur­day, April 06, 2002 6:45 PM
To: ned@suckahs.org
Sub­ject: LEAVING KATYA read­ings in Boston
———————-

Dear Ned,
Thought you might be inter­ested in these upcom­ing Leav­ing Katya events.

Best,
Paul Green­berg
———————————

Paul Green­berg will be doing a series of read­ings from his Russ­ian Amer­i­can love story LEAVING KATYA in the Boston area com­ing up in April. Car­olyn See in The Wash­ing­ton Post called LEAVING KATYA “A ter­ri­bly funny novel.” The New York Times wrote that in LEAVING KATYA , “Green­berg, comic and know­ing, has done a rare thing supremely well.” Bruce Geller­man of WBUR’s Here and Now said, “The writ­ing in LEAVING KATYA is rich, funny and force­ful” while Vogue Mag­a­zine wrote “this tale will res­onate with any­one whose infat­u­a­tion with an exotic per­son or place has revealed dis­sat­is­fac­tions that lie a lit­tle closer to home.”

Exact details for the read­ings are as fol­lows:

April 8, 2002
6:30 PM
Din­ner and Book Club Dis­cus­sion at
The Hamersley’s Bistro
553 Tremont Street
Boston, MA
For reser­va­tions call 617–423-2700

April 9, 2002
Author read­ing
Barnes & Noble at Boston Uni­ver­sity
660 Bea­con St., Ken­more Sq.
Boston, MA

April 11, 2002
4:00 PM
Russ­ian Tea, Read­ing and Dis­cus­sion
Russ­ian Stud­ies Depart­ment
Marston Hall
Brown Uni­ver­sity
Prov­i­dence, RI

April 18, 2002
7:30 PM
Author read­ing
New­tonville Books
296 Wal­ton Street
New­ton Mass­a­chu­setts
(for direc­tions call: 617 244 6619)

(Note: Begin­ning April 1 Leav­ing Katya will be avail­able at all Barnes and Nobles in the “Dis­cover Great New Writ­ers” sec­tion of the store.)

Jane Jacobs Changed My Life… or, Modernists Should Die

What makes a good neigh­bor­hood? I’ve started read­ing every­thing I can get my hands on regard­ing urban plan­ning and issues sur­round­ing sprawl, and I think it’s so inspir­ing that Jane Jacobs had it all fig­ured out in 1961. I think it would not be mag­nan­i­mous to say that she saved Green­wich Vil­lage from becom­ing another Robert Moses high­way. Check out this dis­cus­sion about Jane’s life and the state of urban plan­ning. (Real Audio)

As a designer, I’ve always loved mod­ernist design — it’s big, it’s human­ist in the sense that it is utopian and egal­i­tar­ian, and it shows off our won­der­ful tech­nol­ogy. Look at Empire Plaza in Albany, NY, and you can’t help but think that we are capa­ble of amaz­ing things. How­ever, this HUGE plaza is mostly use­less, except on sunny days dur­ing noon and 1pm, when work­ers might stroll out­side for fresh air. Nev­er­mind that there aren’t any delis or con­ve­nience stores within a 5 minute walk. Also, think of a place like this in the evening, or at night. Dead. I’ve been there! Prob­a­bly unsafe. But the 19th cen­tury State Capi­tol is won­der­ful, and human-scaled. One might imag­ine shops or restau­rants on the sur­round­ing streets. It’s dig­ni­fied, and wor­thy of a civic build­ing. I think our post-60s mis­trust of gov­ern­ment makes us think that spend­ing the money and time to build last­ing mon­u­ments to pub­lic life is some­how waste­ful or bad. Albany Dan’s own neigh­bor­hood (not far from Empire Plaza) is a tes­ta­ment to How We Used to Do Things. It’s a mish­mash of income lev­els and uses. It’s won­der­ful too.

Urban renewal is a fuck­ing sham. No news there. Look at Boston’s own place of civic activ­ity, city hall. Mod­ernist archi­tects can argue all they want about the ‘great­ness’ of build­ings and plazas like this, but I doubt any­one but a few intel­lec­tu­als actu­ally appre­ci­ate it as such. (Myself included) It flies in the face of hun­dreds of years of prece­dent and exper­tise, and yet we call it ‘bril­liant’. Lis­ten to the architect’s own words:

“Kall­mann: ‘We dis­trust and have reacted against an archi­tec­ture that is absolute, unin­volved and abstract. We have moved towards an archi­tec­ture that is spe­cific and con­crete, involv­ing itself with the social and geo­graphic con­text, the pro­gram, and meth­ods of con­struc­tion, in order to pro­duce a build­ing that exists strongly and irrev­o­ca­bly, rather than an uncom­mit­ted abstract struc­ture that could be any place and, there­fore, like mod­ern man’ with­out iden­tity or presence.”

Does the build­ing and plaza cre­ate a good urban space? nope. The lan­guage itself is specif­i­cally crafted to sound unin­tel­li­gi­ble, and to ele­vate the archi­tect to the sta­tus of some Ayn Ran­dian demi-God. Even the weird geom­e­try of the plaza is psy­cho­log­i­cally unset­tling, not to men­tion what I feel from the build­ing itself. There is some­thing pro­foundly anti-social in a build­ing that is set back from the street so far with that much brick. The ‘style’, (if the mod­ernists let you call it that), is Bru­tal­ist Mod­ern, for christ’s sake.

Pagan’s Head, from Pop-Fiction to Pop-Biography

The Times has a nearly glow­ing review of Pagan Kennedy’s new book, a his­tor­i­cal biog­ra­phy of the African-American mis­sion­ary William Henry Shep­pard. Kennedy used to write this silly ‘zine’ called Pagan’s Head in the 80s, from a crappy lit­tle house on Far­ring­ton Street, in my neigh­bor­hood. 666 and I swapped books by Pagan Kennedy, and I always found her writ­ing quirky and fun. I can’t believe she’s get­ting good reviews for writ­ing some­thing more academic…

To continue with the Harry

To con­tinue with the Harry Pot­ter books thread, of which i have read none, the pro­duc­ers of the 700 club have posted an arti­cle titled What’s A Chris­t­ian To Do With Harry Pot­ter?, with such insight­ful analy­sis as:

If you’ve ever had a con­ver­sa­tion with another believer (my empha­sis) about Harry Pot­ter, you’ve prob­a­bly dis­cov­ered that it can be a very divi­sive issue. And divi­sion in the body of Christ can be as dan­ger­ous as any affect Harry could have on children.

I guess the reli­gious right is preach­ing tol­er­ance in the 21st cen­tury. But, looks to me like Pat Robert­son has other prob­lems to worry about.

Presley and Harry Potter

Pres­ley has been read­ing the Harry Pot­ter books lately, (with great enjoy­ment i might add). Slate has a funny arti­cle in their cul­ture­box, about fan­tasy writ­ers.

Finally finished Shampoo Planet

Finally fin­ished Sham­poo Planet, by Dou­glas Cou­p­land, (the oh-now-so-extinct zeit­geist writer of the early 90s), and found myself enjoy­ing it quite a bit. The Gen-X thing might be pass�, con­sid­er­ing many of Coupland’s read­ers went on to make intenet cash in the mid to late 90s, but i found a strong iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with his char­ac­ters. And while i can’t say that i am a 21-year-old Rea­gan youth, in the early 90s, in a very small, north­west town near a toxic Super­fund site, grow­ing up wiith Hippy par­ents, strug­gling with “mak­ing it” in cor­po­rate Amer­ica… i can iden­tify with the strug­gling thing. You’re not going to “make it” sit­ting around wor­ry­ing about “mak­ing it”…

i am lucky to have a job design­ing in the “new media” realm. Cuts at Zefer, and Viant.

David Sedaris’s One-Man Christmas Comedy Show

david sedaris, a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to NPR, is doing a run of his one-man christ­mas com­edy show in boston:

Sedaris began work in Decem­ber of 1992 as one of Santa’s elves in the Man­hat­tan Macy’s “San­ta­Land” depart­ment. After observ­ing fisticuffs between moth­ers in line with their ram­bunc­tious prog­eny await­ing their turn to sit in the lap of a lech­er­ous, drunken Santa, Sedaris penned the “San­ta­Land Diaries.”

i’d love to get my hands on…

i’d love to get my hands on this book ‘Typog­ra­phy: Macro– + Microaes­thet­ics’, by Willi Kunz…