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McDonald's, modernism and design

A McDonald's restaurant in Chicago

(Photo: Corbis)

The best arts and literature reads, including Orhan Pamuk on Turkey’s troubles, LS Lowry reappraised and the ingredients of the fast food chain’s aesthetic.

Interview: Orhan Pamuk            
Pankaj Mishra | New Republic | 29 July 2013
On literature and Turkish politics. Interesting throughout. “The novel is a middle-class art. We see the proliferation of middle classes in India, China, Turkey, so everyone is writing novels. Innovation will come from there, because the populations are large, there will be a lot of production. Maybe we’re not so interested in what is happening in London, but we’re interested in what’s happening in Zadie Smith’s new novel.”

A lecture on Johnson and Boswell
Jorge Luis Borges | New York Review Of Books | 28 July 2013
From 1966, newly translated, and published in English for the first time. As wonderful as you might expect, given author and subject. A lecture on the art of biography, as seen through the example of Boswell’s Life of Johnson. Boswell shaped his biography as a dramatist does a play, developing his minor characters as foils to Johnson. “Boswell gives himself the role of the ridiculous one, and he maintains it throughout the entire book.”

Interview: Walter Laqueur
Spiegel Online | 26 July 2013
On the decline of Europe. Laqueur at 92, is sunk in pessimism. “Freedom, human rights, social justice are all wonderful, and I don’t want to minimize the achievements of European societies. But a role model? Europe is much too weak to play a civilizing or moral role in world politics. Nice speeches and well-intentioned admonitions carry little weight when made from a position of weakness.”

Isaiah Berlin: Letters, 1960-1975
Duncan White | Telegraph | 26 July 2013
Five-star review of the third and latest volume of Berlin’s letters. Here is Berlin on John F. Kennedy: “He is frightened of erosion: one must act: one must perform: one must live carefully & dangerously: life is a war and one must live under continual shadow of death: very romantic, rather terrifying: I see why Joe [Alsop] & Phil [Graham] love him so: to them he is Alexander the Great in a plumed helmet ready for the barbarians.”

Golden arches of McModernism
Jimmy Stamp | Smithsonian | 24 July 2013
The McDonald’s aesthetic. “In the early 1950s Richard and Maurice McDonald hired architect Stanley Clark Meston to design a drive-in hamburger stand that carried on the traditions of roadside architecture established in the 1920s and 1930s. In an age before ubiquitous mass media advertisements, the building was the advertisement. Meston made the entire building a sign specifically designed to attract customers from the road.”

LS Lowry
John Barrell | London Review of Books | 23 July 2013
London exhibition forces radical reappraisal of Lowry’s work and stature. He is “the successor to Seurat, Degas, Pissarro”. He took on “the project of painting the landscape of the Industrial Revolution, the most life-changing event in the history of modern Britain.” “What I most admire and enjoy about Lowry is the interest he shows, without any apparent agenda, in what people do. I have no idea why that should be so moving.”

A short history of publishing
Jonathan Galassi | New York | 21 July 2013
Action-packed reminiscence from head of Farrar, Straus & Giroux. “Roger Straus was a warm and exuberant ladies’ man, a flashy dresser, and a loudmouth who loved profanity as much as he loved making friends. Downtown on drug-ridden Union Square, it was another story. FSG’s grungy quarters resembled ‘the branch office of a failing insurance company’, in the words of author Calvin Trillin.”

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