This week’s best arts and culture reads, including sleuths in cinema, Jonathan Franzen v Oprah and an interview with America’s poet laureate, Charles Simic.

Sanskrit and historical sense
Aatish Taseer | Open | 13 August 2013
Indian writer educated in English learns Sanskrit. “In India, where history had heaped confusion upon confusion, where everything was shoddy and haphazard and unplanned, the structure of Sanskrit, with its exquisite planning, was proof that it had not always been that way. It was like a little molecule of the Indian genius, intact, and saved in amber, for a country from which the memory of genius had departed.”   

“Hired by a bitch to find a scum”
Josephine Livingstone | Prospect | 9 August 2013
Review of Brian Nicol’s The Private Eye: Detectives in the Movies. “Often responding to Philip or Sam, the private investigator may be identified by his coat and hat. His habitat: the wet street corner or, unauthorised, another person’s home. He is accused of committing the very crime under his investigation. You will find him lit starkly, from the side. He is good at getting women into bed, but they often turn out to be villainesses. He is American.”     

Interview: Charles Simic
Rachael Allen | Granta | 7 August 2013
Short, sweet conversation with America’s poet laureate. “Poetic movements are great fun for their participants. Like dogs barking in unison at some real or imaginary adversary, after a while they just bark for the pure enjoyment of it.” “Of all the things ever said about poetry, the axiom that less is more has made the biggest and the most lasting impression on me. A brief poem requires endless tinkering to get all its parts right.”     

Science is not your enemy
Steven Pinker | The New Republic | 6 August 2013The triumph of scientific values, the disarray of the humanities. “The worldview that guides the moral and spiritual values of an educated person today is given by science. Though scientific facts do not by themselves dictate values, they hem in the possibilities. The facts of science, by exposing the absence of purpose in the laws governing the universe, force us to take responsibility for the welfare of ourselves, our species, and our planet.”     

The Picasso effect
Ian Leslie | Medium | 6 August 2013
“Certain innovations have the power to reset reality. Cubism, like Darwin’s theory of evolution, Edison’s lightbulb, or Apple’s iPhone, was an idea that made everything around it seem instantly obsolete.” But genius is no guarantee of success. The market must be receptive. It must be primed for change by other events. “The moment has to be moving towards the innovator. But the innovator must still reach out and seize the moment.”

Corrections: Franzen vs Oprah
Boris Kachka | Slate | 5 August 2013
How The Corrections vaulted Jonathan Franzen into the top tier of American novelists; and why he snubbed Oprah Winfrey when she chose it for her book club: “She was surprised that I wasn’t moaning with shock and pleasure. She was an interloper, coming late, and with an expectation of slavish gratitude and devotion for the favor she was bestowing.” Extract from Hothouse, Boris Kachka’s history of publishing house Farrar, Straus, Giroux.

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