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Anca Petrescu: ‘The world’s worst architect’?

The Palace of the People in Bucharest on a wintry day

(Corbis)

The week’s best arts and culture reads – including new rules for chess, Steven Soderbergh on James Bond and an obituary for the woman who designed “one of the world’s worst eyesores”.

Chess 2: The sequel
Christian Donlan | Eurogamer | 3 November 2013
Video-game designer revises the rules of chess to reduce the proportion of draws. “The new victory condition is the simplest, and most immediately satisfying, part of Chess 2. While games still often hinge on good old checkmates, you can now also win if you manage to get your king across the middle of the board. It’s bold stuff when you see it in action: a proper NFL touchdown in the midst of a chess game!”

Obituary: Anca Petrescu
Telegraph | 2 November 2013
Arguably the world’s worst architect. Her one great project was Nicolae Ceausescu’s People’s Place in Bucharest, for which three historic districts of the city were destroyed and 40,000 people uprooted. Two mountains were levelled for marble. One million Romanians worked on the building site. The project consumed one-third of Romania’s national budget for five years. The result: “One of the world’s worst eyesores”.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Steven Soderbergh | Extension 765 | 1 November 2013
Peter Hunt’s Bond film is an undervalued classic. “It’s like Hunt took all the ideas of the French new wave and blended them with Eisenstein in a Cuisinart to create a grammar that still tops today’s how fast can you cut aesthetic, because each of the shots − no matter how short − are real shots, not just additional coverage. There is a unification of the aesthetic of the first unit and the second unit that doesn’t exist in any other Bond film”.

Girl with a Pearl Earring
Judith Thurman | New Yorker | 31 October 2013
Short appreciation of 15 masterpieces of seventeenth-century Northern Dutch and Flemish art, by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Jacob van Ruisdael and their contemporaries, loaned by Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis to the Frick Collection for the winter. Among them, two which have inspired and given titles to novels: Vermeer’s Girl With A Pearl Earring, and Carel Fabritius’s trompe-l’oeil painting The Goldfinch.

Q&A: T Bone Burnett
Chris Willman | Hollywood Reporter | 31 October 2013
Revered musician and producer discusses culture, technology and business models of the music and film industries. “The car industry gets decimated and people go into apoplexy. The recording industry gets destroyed and people seem to be sanguine or happy about it, almost, because they’re getting everything for free. People in Hollywood, we should go up there with pitchforks and torches to Silicon Valley now”.

Mailer’s last punch
Andrew O'Hagan | London Review of Books | 30 October 2013
Recollections of meetings and conversations with Norman Mailer, entwined with a review of Norman Mailer: A Double Life, an authorised biography by Michael Lennon. “I’m glad he found violence so fascinating and feminism such a challenge. His views raised the stakes and plumbed the depths, and he himself became like an Emersonian over-man, pitting civilisation against nature. At his height he had a wonderful talent shot with psychosis”.

Bird!
Adam Shatz | New York Review of Books | 29 October 2013
Review of first volume of Stanley Crouch’s “enchanting” biography, Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker. It covers first 21 years of Parker’s life, by which time he was already claiming his place as “the most imaginative improviser in jazz since Louis Armstrong, and the most influential saxophonist in its history”. Parker took up saxophone at 15 and heroin at 17. Crouch’s book, 30 years in the making, “reads more like a novel”.

Terry Pratchett interview
Tom Chivers | Telegraph | 29 October 2013
Discworld creator is clever and charming as ever – but suffering perceptibly from Alzheimer’s. “I start to notice, as the interview progresses, that while he is giving me fascinating answers – long, discursive stories about all sorts of things – they’re not quite answers to the questions I actually asked … He wants to die at a time of his choosing, in his Wiltshire garden, drinking an excellent brandy and listening to his iPod.”

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