off the shelf and all over the place

i finally got my giant book order from amazon yesterday. i am one of those people who, given so many reading options, has an incredibly difficult time making up her mind as to which to get down to business with first. i tend to try to read them all at the same time — this lasts maybe three days. so yesterday i began with

william easterly’s “the elusive quest for growth”. ex-world bank economist, now teaches at NYU and works for the center for global development in DC. the blurb from his webpage: “Since the end of World War II, economicsts have tried to figure out how poor countries in the tropics could attain standards of living approaching those of countries in Europe and North America. A myriad of remedies has not delivered the solutions promised. The problem is not the failure of economics, William Easterly argues, but the failure to apply economic principle to practical policy work. In this book, Easterly shows how these solutions all violate the basic principle of economics, that people-private individuals and businesses, government officials, even aid donors-respond to incentives.” easterly seems thusfar (10 pages in) very accessible and doesn’t neglect the humanist aspect here. but i guess that’s like half his argument.

sarah kane’s “complete plays”:
she’s a british playwright who is known for her extremely brutal dramas and for hanging herself at the age of 28 in 1999. “complete plays” has an excellent introduction to the works within and the playwright herself. i read three:
“blasted” opens with a journalist who has lured an old girlfriend (some 25 years his junior and most likely an adolescent when they dated) to a fancy hotel room. he carries a gun with him at all times, seems a bit unhinged and is emotionally abusive — and, we find out the morning after, physically as well. raping her intersects or is the cause of total breakdown outside the scene we are witness to (signified by an explosion through the room’s wall), and we find this out when a soldier rushes in and assults the journalist in many graphic ways. events continue to unravel and we see the journalist further and further debased.
i can’t imagine watching this on stage — it reads as totally merciless. also read “phaedra’s love” and “crave”, both excellent. the former just as savage as “blasted”, the latter particularly interesting for its structure (a tetralogue or sometimes four alternating monologues) and for a really beautiful speech on love (surrounded of course with more misogyny, misanthropy, brutalism, and sadism).

joe sacco’s “palestine”:
it took me a bit to get oriented to sacco’s more, for lack of a better term, swimmy style (as compared to satrapi’s more straightforward one). it is compelling, carefully considered stuff.

and right before bed and with a cup of tea and a biscuit: robert bringhurst’s “the elements of typographic style”:
bringhurst’s bibliography is fascinating in itself — he is a seriouis renaissance man: poet, book designer, typographer, historian and linguist. and all this shows as well in this remarkable book which, yes, is all about typography, a subject that is truly tailored for the aesthetically-minded nerd. i can’t even begin to touch on the breadth and depth covered in this book and how beautifully rendered its insides and outside. last night i learned that the umlaut is more generally known as the diaeresis. which is how the new yorker uses it, as a syllable separator in words like naive and cooperative. and also that “!”, in addition to being useful for exclamations and factorials, is also the graphic representation for the palatal clicks used by speakers of the african language khoisan.


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