Saturday, September 25, 2010

Things have been rather difficult lately for various reasons.

I'm going to New York tomorrow to talk to some people; I'll be there until the 14th. Was thinking it might be nice to have an open brunch somewhere or other to meet any readers who'd like to show up; if anyone has suggestions for a venue I'd love to hear them.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Aeschylus's Oresteia is held up – again in spot-on fashion – as a template for an anti-humanist worldview: what matters is not the individual but the house, or oikos, from which he emerges and of which he forms no more than an iteration. It's an insight that helps us to understand (although Josipovici doesn't mention him) why that arch-modernist William Faulkner delves, in Attic style, through generations of the Compson family, trawling their dwindling estate for residues of buried history. From that other Greek unit of measure, the polis or city-state, Josipovici derives a modern aesthetic of interconnectedness, of man as a diminished agent operating within systems that exceed him.


Adopting the vocabulary of the middlebrow in order to legitimise the vanguard merely robs it of what animates it most. Rather than celebrate the subversive energies of Luigi Nono's opera Prometeo, for example, he tries to sell it to the Glyndebourne crowd by claiming that it leaves us "with a sense of sorrow and of wonder and, at an even deeper level, a sense of having bathed in the waters of life". The sentiment is just that: sentimental. While the impetus behind it is profound, it ends up sounding trite.
Tom McCarthy on Gabriel Josipovici's Whatever Happened to Modernism?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Their research is responsible for one of the most distinctive features of Yakutsk. The majority of its large buildings are raised three or four feet from the ground, standing on dozens of concrete stilts: local government offices that take up an entire block, six-storey apartment buildings, a sizeable new Orthodox seminary currently under construction, even a hulking factory at the city’s edge. It gives the place a tentative feel, as if it were perching on the soil like a bird on a branch. The purpose of the stilts is to prevent heat from the buildings warming the ground, since this would melt the icy soil on which their foundations rest, causing them to sink. The wooden houses that remain in the centre of the city, and the many more that make up its poorer outskirts, show the wisdom of the new pile technique: you can tell the age of a building by how close to the pavement its windowsills have sagged. Snaking in between the buildings, throughout the city, are pipes carrying gas and steam from the centralised heating system; these too are carried above the ground on concrete piles, bending into improbable shapes to arch across streets.
Tony Wood at the LRB