Links of the Week

Many of these links have been tweeted in the past, but here I can tag and categorise them for future reference. I hope you find some of them interesting too. Please feel free to discuss in comments or on Twitter. Some of the links to PDFs disappear quickly so download them promptly.

Gerhard Richter - 'The Reader.'

Gerhard Richter – ‘The Reader.’

Gerhard Richter is the top-selling living artist. This thrilling lecture/essay [PDF] takes two of Richter’s paintings (including The Reader) and examines them using as a framework Heidegger’s thesis that art should be understood as a discovery and disclosure of truth. “Things, scenes and persons depicted do not act for the spectator; rather, they act as if the spectator is not present.”

Chris Kraus’s intelligent, controversial I Love Dick narrates an infatuation with a fictional media theorist based, allegedly, on Dick Hebdige, whose 1979 Subculture: The Meaning of Style , [PDF]influenced by Julia Kristeva’s work, provides a semiotic reading of punk.

Reading Jacques Lacan can be worthwhile but hard work. This guide to Lacan is very useful, as is this Cambridge Companion [PDF] (Alenka Zupančič’s essay is particularly good).

In The Art of Fiction Henry James provides a practical, radical definition of the novel, arguing that the craft of writing cannot be taught and pouncing on the failings of philistine readers. Surprisingly relevant and amusing to read.

Do you know Borges’s short story, Of Exactitude in Science? It is a favourite, and short enough to quote:

In that Empire, the craft of Cartography attained such Perfection that the Map of a Single province covered the space of an entire City, and the Map of the Empire itself an entire Province. In the course of Time, these Extensive maps were found somehow wanting, and so the College of Cartographers evolved a Map of the Empire that was of the same Scale as the Empire and that coincided with it point for point. Less attentive to the Study of Cartography, succeeding Generations came to judge a map of such Magnitude cumbersome, and, not without Irreverence, they abandoned it to the Rigours of sun and Rain. In the western Deserts, tattered Fragments of the Map are still to be found, Sheltering an occasional Beast or beggar; in the whole Nation, no other relic is left of the Discipline of Geography.

I mention Borges’s story because I am always reminded of it by Jean Baudrillard’s Simulcra and Simulation [PDF] in which he argues that our models and maps have distanced us from the real world that preceded the models and maps:

It is no longer a question of imitation, nor duplication, nor even parody. It is a question of substituting the signs of the real for the real, that is to say of an operation of deterring every real process via its operational double, a programmatic, metastable, perfectly descriptive machine that offers all the signs of the real and short-circuits all its vicissitudes.

Paul Virilio’s The Information Bomb [PDF] packs a lot of power into less than 150 pages, a deeply pessimistic analysis of humanity’s relation to technology.


The legendary 1978 samizdat recording of Audience, starring Václav Havel (1936-2011) as Vanek and Pavel Landovský as Sládek.

The only way I can take Georges Bataille’s work seriously is to read it ironically. Like Björk, I read his Story of the Eye [PDF] when I was 17 years old.

I read Adorno’s Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life much more recently, and it is rare a day goes by that I don’t dip into the copy I keep on my desk.

Links of the Week

Many of these links have been tweeted in the past, but here I can tag and categorise them for future reference. I hope you find some of them interesting too. Please feel free to discuss in comments or on Twitter.

Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, film for the modern world: http://bit.ly/PcTXpZ

From Kafka to Sebald – essays on narrative form in modernist fiction: http://t.co/jJTPALWh

Maurice Blanchot and Fragmentary Writing by Leslie Hill – Preview: http://t.co/Qdjli4NO

Judith Butler – On Never Having Learned How to Live: http://bit.ly/VhrwJP

“Deleuze always insists on grasping the virtual , as it were ‘behind’ the actual.” http://bit.ly/Rd93b9

The HTMLGiant Beginner’s Guide to Deleuze: http://bit.ly/PgNudD

Frederic Jameson on Realism and Utopia in The Wire: http://awe.sm/n71Th

Fascinating piece on memory by Jenny Diski: http://awe.sm/o71JJ

Glenn Gould Explains the Genius of Johann Sebastian Bach: http://bit.ly/PEToVK

Roberto Calasso interviewed by Lila Azam Zanganeh: http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/6168/the-art-of-fiction-no-217-roberto-calasso

“Books are sublimely visceral, emotionally evocative objects that constitute a perfect delivery system.” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444868204578064483923017090.html

Remarkable colour photos from inside Nazi-occupied Poland, 1939-1940: http://t.co/n4R1Tjdy

God’s Angry Man — Werner Herzog (Full Documentary):http://bit.ly/RdqkB5

Aldous Huxley’s Most Beautiful, LSD-Assisted Death: A Letter from His Widow: http://bit.ly/PDZdTc

The story behind Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album cover: http://thecreatorsproject.com/blog/the-story-behind-joy-divisions-iconic-iunknown-pleasuresi-album-cover

Sacred Cows, Tinctures, Zombies and Chomsky

From reading a compelling review in TLS’s In Brief to tucking into Mark Dery’s I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts was an interval of three days. I’m one foreword, an introduction and a single essay in, and I’ve got that familiar, but rare, tingle. I know IMNTBT and me are going to pleasurably commingle.

Bruce Sterling’s foreword intrigues but Dery’s introduction promises thrills ahead.

The ethos of Thinking Bad Thoughts isn’t synonymous with the wilful perversity of Christopher Hitchens’s contrarianism, or with H. L. Mencken’s lifelong devotion to spit-roasting the sacred cows of the booboisie, or with the nothing-is-true, everything-is-permitted libertinism of William S. Burroughs, or with the liberators cynicism of punk rockers like X, or with Orwell’s ability to confront hard truths without flinching. Yet it contains a tincture of each.

Dery’s introduction is a manifesto for this intellectual onslaught on the ‘friendly fascisms of right and left’ and an outright refusal to ‘recognise intellectual no-fly zones’, inspires.

His first essay Dead Man Walking contrasts the reanimating of the zombie myth in contemporary literature and film to its previous incarnation in the 70s and 80s.

In the postwar decades, as suburban sprawl and mall culture metastasized across America, Hollywood cast the zombie as the decaying face of popular ambivalence toward amok consumerism. Implacable consumption machines, the mall-crawling dead of Georg Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978) liberalised the infantile psychology of consumer culture, with its oral fixation, insistence on instant gratification, and I-shop-therfore-I-am sense of self-worth, indexed to how pricey your status totems are-the sheer bodaciousness of your insatiable orality implied by market capitalism’s redefinition of citizens as consumers-”wallets with mouths”, in the cynical parlance of Madison Avenue is instructive.

Now that the econopocalypse has thrown millions out of work,triggered an upspike in homelessness, and eaten the braaains of consumer confidence, the zombie has undergone a role reversal, incarnating American fears that the republic is a shambling shadow of its former glory, Left 4 Dead by the near meltdown of the financial system. Zombies are the Resident Evil of an economy whose moribund state confronts us everywhere we look in a landscape littered with dead males, “ghost boxes” (dark, shuttered big-box outlets), and “zombie stores”-retailers forced by dismal sales to reduce their inventory to its bare bones, with the ironic consequence that their emaciated stock and empty floor space scare consumers away, accelerating their death spiral.

Is that enough to tempt you to dive in and read along? I could just have quoted Dery’s listing of “Noam Chomsky’s Top 10 List of Things You Can’t Say on Nightline: “The biggest international terror operations that are known are the ones that are run out of Washington; if the Nuremberg laws were applied then every postwar American president would have been hanged; the Bible is one of the most genocidal books in the total canon; education is a system of imposed ignorance…” but that would be too easy, and I assume you’ve all seen Manufacturing Consent.