What I Read This Week - 30th June

The pace of life here is pleasantly slow. I keep falling asleep on the red armchair reading Gilead, the pace of which is also pleasantly slow (it's not that it puts me to sleep, more that the heat of the afternoon, combined with the post-surfing or hiking weariness, makes reading anything for a long period impossible without a five minute nap here and there). In the evenings the wind is pretty fierce, and at one point, climbing up the hill behind the house to check the water level in the new tank, my sunglasses are blown off my face. Later I discover my bathing suit, which I'd left to dry on the terrace, halfway down the stairs. I've exhausted my dad's supply of Surfer's Journals, which I spent the first two weeks flipping through obsessively, fascinated and horrified in equal measure by the photographs of tiny men riding huge waves, vaguely and irrationally attracted to something about the idea of roaming the coast of Namibia searching for a wave, comforted by the lullaby tone of most of the writing. I think of these things as a peripheral but integral part of my childhood; I've always read the magazines like this, semi-covertly, knowing I can never quite understand but compelled anyhow. Sometimes I'm too lazy to find my computer or walk to the table to get the latest copy of The Economist so I just reach into the magazine rack and flip through any old copy of The New Yorker that I can find (today, one from December 2011, with "What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank" by Nathan Englander), mostly just looking at the cartoons (one thing about my family is that they still receive actual magazines in the mail, even though I think they usually read things online anyhow).

Anyway here's what's reached me through the summer haze:

- Transatlantic (Maggie Shipstead at the Paris Review)

The QM2 was at the end of a world voyage when I boarded, and there was a small contingent of hardliners who had been at sea for a hundred days. I have a theory that some people have repurposed the ship as an expensive nursing home and so cross the Atlantic only as an indifferently endured side effect, a consequence of existing in comfortable, perpetual transit: Cape Town appearing out the buffet windows one day, Osaka another, Dubai another, separated by days and days of empty water. George H.W. and Barbara Bush were aboard, George in a motorized wheelchair and Barbara looking so spry and unchanged since 1987 that I suspect she might be immortal, preserved by a dark, Bushian enchantment

- Please RT (n+1)

The tweet is a literary form of Oulipian arbitrariness, and the straitjacket of the form has determined the schizophrenia of the content. A tweet is so short that you can get right to the point — but so short, also, that why should it have one? Twitter’s formal properties bend, simultaneously, in opposite directions: toward the essential but also the superfluous, the concise but also the verbose.

- Something Wicked This Way Comes (Atul Gawande at The New Yorker)

For all that, the Court’s ruling keeps alive the prospect that our society will expand its circle of moral concern to include the millions who now lack insurance.

- The graduates of 2012 will survive only in the cracks of our economy (Paul Mason at the Guardian)

For the future to be better, we need to break with an economic model that no longer works. For the graduate without a future is a human expression of an economic problem: the west's model is broken. It cannot deliver enough high-value work for its highly educated workforce. Yet the essential commodity – a degree – now costs so much that it will take decades of low-remunerated work to pay for it

- The IRL Fetish (Nathan Jurgenson at The New Inquiry)

we live in an augmented reality that exists at the intersection of materiality and information, physicality and digitality, bodies and technology, atoms and bits, the off and the online.