- Jonathan Franzen — the acclaimed author of Freedom and The Corrections — recently spoke of his, I guess, disdain for ebooks (the author famously cuts his access to the Internet while writing):
The author of Freedom and The Corrections, regarded as one of America’s greatest living novelists, said consumers had been conned into thinking that they need the latest technology. “The technology I like is the American paperback edition of Freedom. I can spill water on it and it would still work! So it’s pretty good technology. And what’s more, it will work great 10 years from now. So no wonder the capitalists hate it. It’s a bad business model,” said Franzen, who famously cuts off all connection to the internet when he is writing.
“I think, for serious readers, a sense of permanence has always been part of the experience. Everything else in your life is fluid, but here is this text that doesn’t change. Will there still be readers 50 years from now who feel that way? Who have that hunger for something permanent and unalterable? I don’t have a crystal ball. But I do fear that it’s going to be very hard to make the world work if there’s no permanence like that. That kind of radical contingency is not compatible with a system of justice or responsible self-government.”
- Since the announcement that the White Stripes were no longer going to be a band, Jack White has been busy. He’s been involved with a litany of side-projects (most of which are good) producing, writing, drumming, and playing guitar and singing. Now, he’s announcing his debut solo album on his own Third Man Records. I would assume he’ll be doing damn near everything on it, he’s an excellent drummer at least.
“Jack White has launched his solo career, announcing he will release his debut LP in April. Recorded over the last few months, Blunderbuss is “an album I couldn’t have released until now”, he said, revealing the first single on his new website.
“I didn’t really even think of recording under my own name for a long time,” White told Radio 1′s Zane Lowe on Monday night. “I thought, ‘I’ve got the rest of my life to do that.’” The release comes almost a year after the White Stripes split. The singer and guitarist has hardly been twiddling his thumbs: he continues to play with two other bands, the Dead Weather and the Raconteurs, and is one of rock’n'roll’s most sought-after producers and songwriters. But his solo album was an accident, he told Lowe.”
- Should Art Be Austere In A Recession? It’s an interesting question, and one that Guardian writer Jonathan Jones tackles sure-handedly. His answer is no.
In art, thinking about luxury is not the same as grasping it. Art can imagine everything from a feast to a fast – and yet it is always an idea, an image. This is not confined to artists: it is an aspect of how people think about food and fashion – we don’t necessarily leap from thought to action. Fashion fans do not all have the money to purchase everything or anything they see in a magazine, any more than an art lover has to have the clothes they see on a fabulously dressed person in a portrait. Fantasy is part of looking and thinking.
Leave it to clergymen to blame society’s ills on images of the unattainable. Imagining luxury is as human as imagining want. The real ugliness of the age of austerity would be to limit innocent pleasures, to force misery on the modern mind. It’s bad economics (someone has to buy some stuff if the economy is to grow), and it’s hopeless human psychology. You can’t impose austerity on the imagination.
- And, also on the Guardian, Damien Walter examines the connections between the corporations of speculative fiction and the ones we have today.
The corporate society has been an enduring wellspring of stories over the last century. Inspired by the factory production line, Aldous Huxley predicted a future where humans were born and bred only to fulfil a corporate function in Brave New World. The cyberpunk vision of William Gibson’s Neuromancer charted a future where government had collapsed entirely, and society was ruled by a few super-powerful corporations.
In the midst of a global economic crisis that has shed light on the darker workings of the capitalist system, these days corporate society seems less like SF fantasy and more like a living reality. Whether it’s the revelation of the “super-cluster” of 147 companies who have grasped control of 40% of the world’s entire wealth, or the barely-reported $16tn loans made by the US Federal Reserve to banks and business soon after the 2008 financial crash, multinational corporations seem to wield incredible and unaccountable power over our democratic society.