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Neuromancer: The man who saw the future

(SuperFantastic/Flickr/CC BY SA 3.0)

(SuperFantastic/Flickr/CC BY SA 3.0)

The week’s best arts and culture reads – including a tribute to the man who coined ‘cyberspace’ and an ode to 1980s New York.

A philistine in good company
Adam Kirsch | New Republic | 30 July 2014
Does Shakespeare “suck”? Ira Glass, the much-admired American radio-show host, said so after seeing King Lear in Central Park. He was in good company: George Bernard Shaw and Tolstoy thought much the same about Shakespeare’s work. TS Eliot called Hamlet a failure. Which is not to say that Ira Glass is their equal. But we should admire his honesty in aesthetic matters. Shakespeare is hard work for modern ears. Let’s not pretend otherwise.

How painting defeated photography
Morgan Meis | Smart Set | 28 July 2014
The story of painting from the late 19th Century onward is the story of painters adapting to the challenge of photography. “Painting had to express something about the visual world that went beyond recording how it looks.” The revolution went full circle from impressionism to abstraction to photo-realism. And somehow, painting has won. It still speaks to us in ways that photography has never learned to do.        

Remembering New York in the ‘80s
Hilton Als | New Yorker | 30 July 2014
Writer recalls the cultural life of New York in the early 1980s, in a commencement speech at Columbia University. “New York felt, then, like a small exploding Gotham filled with extreme sunsets and light, an intense universe shaped as much by poverty as it was by hope and creativity. Columbia was part of that. The whole campus, in memory, feels as though it were lit by a thousand cigarettes in the dark.”   

The man who saw tomorrow
Ed Cumming | Guardian | 28 July 2014
In praise of William Gibson, who coined the word cyberspace 30 years ago in his novel Neuromancer and imagined the internet more or less as we have it now – a “consensual hallucination created by millions of connected computers”. The Wachowskis based The Matrix in part on Gibson’s vision. “Every social network, online game or hacking scandal takes us a step closer to the universe Gibson imagined in 1984.″   

How Michel Gondry finds inspiration
Nathan Rabin | The Dissolve | 24 July 2014
The director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, “widely considered one of the greatest films of its decade”, discusses his latest film, Mood Indigo, an adaptation of Boris Vian’s surrealistic novel Froth on the Daydream – and previews his next project: “It’s about two teenagers. One is like a Nazi, and the other is more like an engineer. They conceive a crazy car that looks like a house to travel across France.”           

Why you should read Theodor Adorno
Alain de Botton | School of Life | 17 July 2014
Adorno was preoccupied with the question of how we spend our leisure. He saw leisure as our prime opportunity to improve our lives by absorbing high culture and philosophy. He railed against radio and television as a threat to human flourishing. He believed that capitalism corrupted human nature by creating artificial wants which obscured our real wants. Luckily, he did not live to see the internet.

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