A private library of good size is an insolent form of riches, and the desire to have more books is difficult to rationalize, especially in view of the fact that you do not or cannot read them all but, as Bonnet makes clear, still you might. The bibliophile is, after all, like a sultan or khan who has countless wives already but another two or three are always irresistible. Reading is a pastime and can be regarded as such, but it can also be supremely important. Walter Benjamin expressed it off-handedly; he read, he said, “just to get in touch.” I take this to mean in touch with things otherwise impossible to embrace rather than merely stay abreast of, although a certain ambiguity is the mark of accomplished writers. Benjamin’s life ended tragically. He fled from the Nazis but was trapped, unable to cross into Spain, and he committed suicide. But that was the end only of his mortal life. He exists still with a kind of shy radiance and the continued interest and esteem of readers. He is dead like everyone else, except that he is not. You might say the same of a movie star except that it seems to me that stars are viewed years after with a kindly curiosity. They are antique and perhaps still charming. A writer does not age in the same way. He or she is not imprisoned in a performance.
Read The Paradise of the Library, James Salter’s introduction to Jacques Bonnet’s Phantoms of the Bookshelves, in the New Yorker.
Since Salter died last month, the New Yorker has published more pieces on Salter than it did stories BY Salter (A total of one: Last Night).
Drogon the cat is so massive he totaled one of our smaller bookshelves by jumping up and down on it to reach the higher shelf. We were going to buy a new bookshelf when it occurred to us that we could make room in our existing shelves by donating books to the Filipinas Heritage Library at Ayala Museum. The books could live together on a shelf as “The Jessica Zafra Collection”, and we could visit them whenever we wanted. If you get library membership, you can read them.
The library agreed, but they’ll only take Filipiniana so we’re keeping our old science-fiction paperbacks, your loss. Still we managed to round up a hundred or so volumes, so we even have space for some new books nya-ha-haa.
(No, we’re not donating the collected works of Arnel Salgado, we’ve done enough damage by praising the irony-challenged.)
A lavish funeral has been held for a Japanese cat which became an international star when she was made a station master in western Japan.
Tama, which was made a railway official eight years ago, was credited with putting the rail firm back on track financially after drawing in thousands of tourists.
Her custom-made cap and jacket made her a familiar sight at Kishi station.
The 16-year-old cat died of heart failure on 22 June.
Dozens of company officials and thousands of fans turned out for Tama’s Shinto-style funeral on Sunday, where she was elevated to the status of a goddess.
Tama the station cat dies at the BBC.
Excerpts from Brian Phillips’ wonderful essay in Grantland
Four years ago, trying to comprehend the phenomenon of Federer’s late career, which even then seemed like it had lasted an astonishingly long time, I wrote that the best athletes usually have a “still” phase. First they’re fast. Then they’re slow. In between, there’s a moment when they’re “still” fast — when you can see the end coming but can’t deny that, for now, they remain close to their best. Federer, I wrote, had spent longer in that “still” phase than any great tennis player I could think of.
The slow-motion euthanasia that time inflicts on athletic talent is, for me, the hardest thing to watch in sports. But time is treating Federer with a tenderness that almost defies reason.
Because the truth is that while we talk about his late career as if it were a sort of beautifully written epilogue, a casual marvel, it has now lasted longer than his prime.
These days, though? Federer’s career doesn’t seem so sad. Partly this is because other top-rank tennis declines — specifically Nadal’s injury-aided shuttlecock dive to the bottom of the top 10, but also arguably including Andy Murray’s failure to emerge as a consistent threat after winning Great Britain’s first Wimbledon men’s singles title since the boyhood of Æthelred the Unready — have been so much more dramatic (and therefore so much more consistent with how tennis careers usually end, i.e., not gently and with years of further sustained success). But it’s also because Federer seems to be enjoying himself so much.
What you take from watching him now is not so much a sense of tennis, the abstract world of angles and pure calculation that he seemed to represent in his youth, but the sense of a life. You watch him, and even though his physical signatures are the same, even though he tucks his hair behind his ear with the same patient care and spins his racket with the same agitation and hops along the baseline with the same sprung tension in his legs, what you think about, because he’s been around long enough for you to know him better, is also what’s offscreen.
Read The Sun Never Sets: On Roger Federer, Endings and Wimbledon in Grantland. Thanks to Rossan for sending us the link.
The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud, Php555 at National Bookstores
Here at last is a retelling of an important novel from the perspective of another character, and if you were thinking Grey, the latest product for people who dream of getting chained, flogged and electrocuted in their privates by weird rich guys but would never actually do it, we are happy to disappoint you.
In The Stranger by Albert Camus, a novel we admire so much that a group of us translated it into Tagalog (See Camus in Tagalog, above), the protagonist Meursault shoots an Arab on the beach for no particular reason. The dead man doesn’t get a name or history, he’s just a corpse, a plot device to put Meursault in jail (and The Cure material for a song).
This first novel by Algerian journalist Kamel Daoud gives that man a name, a history, hopes and disappointments. It is narrated by the dead man’s brother, who sits in a bar night after night describing the murder and its aftermath. The very first line is a reply to Camus:
Mama’s still alive today.
Other famous novels reimagined from a different character’s POV: The Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys’s take on Jane Eyre as told by the first Mrs Rochester; The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood (The Odyssey); and we’re sure you’ll remind us of the others.
Created by Mike Judge, John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky, Silicon Valley was reportedly inspired by Judge’s stint as a software engineer in the 1980s. It was, by his account, a soul-crushing experience. “The people I met were like Stepford Wives,” he said in an interview. “They were true believers in something, and I don’t know what it was.” He ended up on television, writing, directing, producing, starring and doing the music for Beavis and Butt-head. He also did the cartoon King of the Hill and the film Office Space, the classic on the banality of corporate evil.
“Every day it feels like I’ve died and gone to hell,” Gilfoyle declares.
“He’s a Satanist,” Dinesh explains. “It’s a good thing.”
Mike Judge knows better than anyone that highly intelligent people can behave like complete morons, and in that IQ gulf live the big laughs. Silicon Valley takes Office Space’s penetrating criticism of corporate culture, and delivers it with the off-color, juvenile humor of Beavis and Butt-head.
Read our review of Silicon Valley at our TV column The Binge in BusinessWorld.
Watch Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency. Language will offend some. There’s also a bit about Filipinos in season 2, but it’s a spoiler.
Reviews of Set A.
Everyone’s looking forward to Nick Pichay’s Macho Dancer: The Musical. Get your tickets now at the CCP Box Office or Ticketworld, Php300 per set—just Php100 per play. Cheaper than a movie, but conversation fodder for days.