• "It’s not very hard for me to find fiction that’s ‘relatable’, that mirrors my own assumptions and experience of the world, because people like me write books and publish them. I find that fiction and I read it, often with pleasure and sometimes with admiration, but I look for books of all kinds that are not ‘relatable’ to me, books that are windows more than mirrors. If fiction has a moral purpose – it doesn’t have to have a moral purpose – it’s in letting us see our shared world from places other than our own and through eyes other than our own, giving us versions of human experience and history and geography that are not at all ‘relatable.’"
  • "If you look carefully at that montage in The Parallax View — the “screen test” where they show Warren Beatty a montage of images with titles like MOTHER, LOVE, ENEMY, GOD, HOME to see if he’s got what it takes to be an all-star psychopath assassin — you’re going to find an image of me, cuddling naked with an up-and-coming-soon-to-be-B-list TV star named Ben Murphy."

    And so begins a heck of a flow of prose, in HILOWBROW's excellent round-up of 70s thrillers. The whole piece just keeps accelerating to its inevitable conclusion. "It only looks like a conspiracy if you're a detective".

  • Nice interview with Tim, largely on _Infinite Detail_, for which there are some spoilers. And I liked this, on how important sound is to the book, and why:

    " It comes from a bunch of places. Mainly wanting to always write a book that addressed the science fictionality of Black electronic music. And to me it’s impossible to separate the music I’m writing about – and love – from the heard environment, the two are entwined."

  • "Here is, instead, the first reading that occurred to me, looking at these reimagined vistas set among the tall columns of RIBA headquarters: the idea that videogame architecture is essentially a folly, something that takes the form of a building that has a physical function, but which cannot meaningfully fulfil that function and which instead uses its simulated practicality to fulfil, say, an emotional or aesthetic or wayfinding purpose. I read Playing the Picturesque as suggesting that we might use the existing centuries of design and discussion around follies, and the long related history of arguments about the “picturesque”, to usefully inform the ways that we look at videogame architecture."

    Lovely writing – dense, detailed, and shrewd – from Holly about a show I must go and check out.

  • A magical, brilliant teaching tool. Ableton's education/explanation team have always been top-notch, but this is great, and I am envious of it and them. I love how it starts with sound, and abstract explorations, before breaking those apart into components – amplitude, pitch, timbre – and only later mapping those to synthesizer components – all of which will work with a keyboard plugged in, thanks to webmidi. Grand stuff, and so great to see them investing in this sort of thing.
  • "…"there is no parallel here. Richter was a genius. He worked tirelessly for many years to perfect his piano playing. The lobster was some aberration. But what if it was not? What if the lobster was *essential*? What if every pianist needs a lobster? What if everyone needs a lobster for something?"

    So much in this huge essay by Errol Morris – on anxiety, on performance, on the piano, on consciousness, and how we offload our consciousness to small advisors – what a programmer knows as rubberducking. There is so much in here to love, and I probably need to reread it at least once.

  • "The things we love create us if we get to them early enough, but when we get to them a little bit later, they show us who we’ve already become, what we’ve accumulated, what we’ve chosen to discard and what we’ve clutched so close to ourselves for so long that its material has leaked into our own." More wonderful writing about The National from Helena Fitzgerald. Wonderfully written, and so on the nose about what loving bands, or people, or things, feels like.

Don’t leave writing to writers. Don’t delegate your area of interest and knowledge to people with stronger rhetorical resources. You’ll find your voice as you make your way. There is, however, one thing to learn from writers that non-writers don’t always understand. Most writers don’t write to express what they think. They write to figure out what they think. Writing is a process of discovery. Blogging is an essential tool toward meditating over an extended period of time on a subject you consider to be important.

Marc Weidenbaum on the value of straight-up blogging, in a place you own yourself. All of this. I’ve been quiet here – less quiet at my work site – but not absent, and knowing that this is mine, and that slowly, what I’m thinking about was always present – even in the Pinboard links – has value.

How about this for writing, from James Salter’s The Hunters, his 1956 novel about fighter pilots in the Korean war. Cleve is an Air Force captain; he’s taking off on his first mission from his new posting.

Cleve dressed himself slowly to reduce the time he would have to spend standing around and taking little part in the talk. He was not fully at ease. It was still like being a guest at a family reunion, with all the unfamiliar references. He felt relieved when finally they rode out to their ships.

Then it was intoxicating. The smooth takeoff, and the free feeling of having the world drop away. Soon after leaving the ground, they were crossing patches of stratus that lay in the valleys as heavy and white as glaciers. North for the fifth time. It was still all adventure, as exciting as love, as frightening. Cleve rejoiced in it.

Salter goes from the ready room to flight inside a paragraph break. And how he describes it! His flying descriptions do become slightly more ‘technical’, in the sense of defining what is happening, when combat occurs, but he’s almost completely uninterested in the technical interactions of flying. He wants to show intent – what Cleve is doing, not what his plane is doing. (His plane, incidentally, is an F-86 Sabre, though it will only ever be referred to as a ‘ship’ throughout the novel, and the MiG-15s of the North Koreans will be reduced to nothing but ‘MIGs’.)

Beautiful; not quite ‘spare’, but stripped down to only that which is necessary to tell the story, about how a man feels in the air. The rest of the book is continuing to be as good.

  • "In The Wave in the Mind, one of Le Guin’s many collections of essays, she wrote, ‘All of us have to learn how to invent our lives, make them up, imagine them. We need to be taught these skills; we need guides to show us how. If we don’t, our lives get made up for us by other people.’ When I met Le Guin, I was in outer space, hovering in that darkness. Cast out from my homeworld, I spent my days orbiting a new world, afraid to land." This is great.