Elena Ferrante, Nasty Countries, Islamic State, Greece, Acoustics, Sporting Capitalism

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

Elena Ferrante And The Other Italy

Dominic Green | New Criterion | 13th February 2015

Critical reflections on Elena Ferrante, pseudonymous author of an acclaimed trilogy of novels about Naples. Her raw material could scarcely be bettered: Naples is "the capital of the kingdom of amorality". But while the trilogy starts well, it soon degenerates; the latest book is "soap opera". Which makes the authorship a problem, not merely a peculiarity. Is this still a literary project, or has it become a financial one? (3,390 words)

The Asshole Theory Of International Relations

Thomas Wells | 3 Quarks | 15th February 2015

Countries can be assholes, just as people can. "Asshole nations take systematic advantage of cooperative norms and institutions intended for the general benefit. The asshole's strongest weapon is his shamelessness, his skill in walling off moral complaints such that they never touch his sense of entitlement. He laughs them off as beneath his dignity, or becomes indignant that his moral superiority has not been respected" (1,600 words)

What ISIS Really Wants

Graeme Wood | Atlantic | 15th February 2015

We are prone to imagine jihadis as being too much like ourselves — they may wear a "medieval religious disguise", but they pursue "modern political concerns". Islamic State is fundamentally different. It is medieval through and through. Its core belief is "a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse" (10,900 words)

Greece  —  All The News We Didn’t Get

Dan Davies | Bull Market | 16th February 2015

Recommended both as a perceptive take on the Greek debt crisis, and as a reminder that the most important news is often what does not happen — news which, by its very nature, tends to go under-reported. In this case, the news is that none of the main actors has created new complications in the past couple of days, as they could easily have done, suggesting that a serious negotiation is now underway (860 words)

Wizards Of Sound

Alex Ross | New Yorker | 16th February 2015 | Metered paywall

An American electronics firm has perfected the technology for modifying the acoustics of a room or hall. You can lower the background noise in a restaurant, or give an orchestra rehearsal space the richness of the Musikverein. This is, in effect, Photoshop for sound: Microphones sample the natural sound-waves and feed them to a computer, which adds new resonance and cancels unwanted noise (1,950 words)

Coase’s Theorem And Sporting Capitalism

David Papineau | More Important Than That | 16th February 2015

The draft system in American football assigns the strongest new players to the weakest clubs. The aim is to equalise distribution of talent across the league. But what happens in practice is that the weak clubs sell the star players to the strong clubs. Economics trumps sport. It is much more attractive for the owner of a weak club to pocket a draft windfall than to invest time and money building up a stronger team (2,000 words)

Video of the day: Lesley The Pony Has An A+ Day

What to expect: Deeply strange. Not suitable for children. Adventures of a cartoon horse (4'9")

Thought for the day

A person who messes up her goodbyes shouldn’t expect much from her reunions
Milan Kundera (http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/6343.Milan_Kundera?page=13)

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