Nature, Tuna, Art, Philosophy, Mata Hari


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Thinking Like A Mountain

Jedediah Purdy | n+1 | 19th October 2017

On Nature writing. Having subdued the natural world, in part by destroying it, we are fascinated and frightened by what remains. “Academic trends are just the owl pellets of Minerva. Stronger evidence of a mood is the ambitious, often excellent, sometimes ridiculous writing, from essays and memoirs to popular science, that asks obsessively: What is looking back at us through other species’ eyes? Could we ever know the viewpoint of a hawk? Is there such a thing as thinking like a mountain?” (4,700 words)

In The Tonnara

Matthew Neill Null | Oxford American | 18th October 2017

Eulogy to the bluefin tuna, caught now in Sicily much as it was by Arab conquerors there a thousand years ago. “The fish is sleek, shining, fast in the water, carving arcs beneath your boat—so fleet considering their massive bodies, which can reach a thousand pounds yet never seems bulky. They are so perfectly attuned to their environment. Their hearts are solid and maroon and drive the blood. Their flesh is packed and firm, as if by a strong mason’s trowel” (1,565 words)

In The Loop

Jonathan Meades | TLS | 18th October 2017

Discursive and entertaining after-dinner speech at the Royal Academy in London, taking in the seductions of high office, the transitory nature of art, Robert Hughes, Brexit, Duchamp, Anthony Burgess, slang, drink, Bilbao, and the financialisation of the art world. “Power throughout the art loop has been seized by a managerial caste which exercises patronage, commissions rather than creates, edits rather than makes, inflicts its off-the-peg taste, does deals and builds empires” (2,600 words)

Simon Critchley On Continental Philosophy

Charles Styles | Five Books | 19th October 2017

Discussion of books by Plato, Marguerite Porete, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, R.D. Laing — seemingly disparate writers, all claimed here as practitioners of Continental Philosophy, which requires philosophers to address practical problems of worldly life, not to disappear into technicalities or metaphysics. “We’re out there, with things, with stuff, and that makes sense. How does it make sense, how does it hang together, and what can we say about it?” (5,500 words)

Mata Hari: Not The Betrayer, But The Betrayed

Pat Shipman | National Geographic | 14th October 2017

Sympathetic and engaging account of the life of the Dutch-born Margaretha Zelle, alias Mata Hari, who was ruined in youth by a syphillitic husband in the Dutch East Indies, recovered her fortunes by exotic dancing in Paris, thrived as a courtesan, dabbled in espionage hoping to aid the Allied cause in World War 1, but was betrayed and abandoned by her French paymaster, who was himself a double-agent. She was executed secretly by a French firing-squad in October 1917 (3,400 words)

Video of the day George Saunders On Story

What to expect:

Saunders argues that good stories get written when not even the author knows where the characters are heading (7’40”)

Thought for the day

A comedy depends on stopping the story at exactly the right moment
Siri Hustvedt

Podcast of the day Is Isis Losing Its War? | NYT The Daily

General recommendation for Michael Barbaro’s daily podcast exploring top news stories through interviews with Times correspondents
(20'17")

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