<div style="padding-bottom:100%;" class="
<img src="http://sschenkenberg.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/325f1-image-asset.jpeg" alt="" /><img class="thumb-image" alt="" />
Continuing a 15-year tradition (though one that’s gotten briefer with age and fatherhood), here’s a roundup of some of my favorite things experienced during the past 12 months:
My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, Elena Ferrante
The Story of a New Name, Elena Ferrante
The Story of the Lost Child, Elena Ferrante
Lila, Marilyn Robinson
My Struggle: Book 2, Karl Ove Knausgård
Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
H is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald
The Balloonists, Eula Biss
Being Mortal, Atul Gawande
Becoming Steve Jobs, Brent Schlender
Stress Tests, Timothy F. Geithner
Van Gogh: A Power Seething, Julian Bell
Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo, Nicholas Carlson
Bark, Lorrie Moore
Girl In a Band, Kim Gordon
So-so: Grace: A Memoir; I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel
While We’re Young
Magic in the Moonlight
So-so: Spectre; Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Borgen: Season 3
Mad Men: Final Season
An Honorable Woman
Black Mirror: Season 1
Master of None: Season 1
Veep: All Seasons
The Good Wife: Seasons 1-6
Design Matters with Debbie Millman
Slate Culture Gabfest
The Longform Podcast
The Monocle Weekly
The Entrepreneurs (Monocle)
The Political Scene
Section D (Monocle)
The Foreign Desk (Monocle)
Mom and Dad Are Fighting
The Talk Show
The New Yorker Radio Hour
I used to make long lists of specific albums purchased and enjoyed, but since I’ve gone to paid streaming (and, maybe, since I’ve become a committed podcast listener), it’s harder for me to point to specific recordings at a year’s end. This is especially the case since Rdio shut down, and I’m now starting fresh with Spotify — my digital records are kind of a mess. While I listen to hours of classical and ambient/lush music through the headphones during work, a few specific artists I spent more time with in 2015 include Angel Olsen, Youth Lagoon, Sun Kil Moon, Sharon Van Etten, My Bubba, Jennifer O’Connor, Girlpool, Atlas Sound, Earl Sweatshirt, J Cole, Common, Pusha T, A$AP Rocky, Villagers, Natalie Prass, and Perfume Genius.
NYC + D.C.
I had the good fortune of accompanying my wife on a work trip she had to NYC, and it was incredibly culture-rich. Highlights included the new Whitney, MoMA (Yoko Ono and Bjork special exhibitions), The Drawing Center, David Zwirner Gallery (Serra show), Neue Galerie (sensational collection), the Cooper Hewitt, and “Drifting in Daylight” in Central Park (where I shot this short phone video). We also enjoyed a long weekend in D.C. with family, with pleasant dips into the National Gallery (terrific Caillebotte show) and The Phillips Collection (first time, great time).
I’m fortunate to have a great job at Forest Park Forever, and 2015 saw a few especially fun projects ship. This includes the introduction of our new brand platform, our launch of Forestparkmap.org and the formal introduction of Forever: The Campaign for Forest Park’s Future, with a new website that features a beautiful campaign video we made with the team at Once Films.
As referenced appropriately at top, so much of this year — and so much of every day — has been about Tamara and I raising our son. I’d been told that right around 2 is a fun age, and it’s true. This year had a ton of special moments, including — just to pick one, which we happened to catch on film — Leo’s changing expression during his first ride on a carousel at the Saint Louis Zoo.
The first segment on high school freshman and Instagram (“’Relevance’ is a big term right now…. In middle school, we were definitely really relevant… ”) is a pretty incredible window.
I’ve been a happy subscriber and many-hours-a-day listener for years. Bummed they couldn’t make it work.
22,000 words. A very interesting read.
A new post I wrote on the TOKY Blog.
At New York Magazine, the great journalist Mark Danner talks at length with The New York Review of Books’ Robert Silvers. Here’s one bit about online publishing and social media, which strikes me not as fuddy-duddy, but very considered:
To tweet or not to tweet. And not to tweet is to be left behind.
And that raises a question: What is this? What are the kinds of prose, and the kinds of thinking, that result from the imposition of the tweet form and other such brief reactions to extremely complex realities? My feeling is that there are millions and millions if not billions of words in tweets and blogs, and that they are not getting and will not get the critical attention that prose anywhere should have unless we find a new form of criticism.
If a novel is published, we have a novel review. If poetry is produced, if a play or a movie or a TV show is produced, there are the forms of criticism we know. With the new social media, with much of the content of the Internet, there are very few if any critical forms that are appropriate. They are thought to be somewhere partially in a private world. Facebook is a medium in which privacy is, or at least is thought to be, in some way crucial. The premise, at least, is that of belonging to a family, a circle of friends. And there’s another premise, that any voice should have its moment. And so there seems a resistance to intrusive criticism.
But this means that billions of words go without the faintest sign of assessment. And yet, if one cares about language, if one cares about the sensibility in which language is expressed, and if one cares about the values that underlie our use of language, such as affection, privacy, honesty, cogency, clarity—then these media, it would seem to me, should qualify as the subject of criticism. We seem at the edge of a vast, expanding ocean of words, an ocean growing without any critical perspective whatever being brought to bear on it. To me, as an editor, that seems an enormous absence.
Excited to try this new online writing and editing environment, built by a few all-stars.
From Folio’s “FT Relaunches Web App”:
One of the biggest changes is offering readers both a static version of the morning paper along with a dynamically updated version that automatically updates throughout the day. “The big learning for us with the first app is how important the concept of a finite read is,” says Steve Pinches, FT.com’s group product manager. “Readers love the idea of starting with the FT in the morning and reading it all the way through, which is quite a different concept than on the web. It’s quite a balancing act because we also have a lot of more digitally savvy users who need that ongoing, up-to-the-minute coverage.”
Interesting point about readers who like to finish a thing, even a digital thing. I get it. (There’s a parallel here to why infinite scroll isn’t always appreciated.)
Andrew Piper, writing in Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times:
Books will always be there. That is what they are by definition: there. Whether in the classroom, the library, the archive, the bookstore, the warehouse, or online, it is our choice, however, where books will be. It is time to stop worrying and start thinking. It is time to put an end to the digital utopias and print eulogies, bookish venerations and network gothic, and tired binaries like deep versus shallow, distributed versus linear, or slow versus fast. Now is the time to understand the rich history of what we have thought books have done for us and what we think digital texts might do differently. We need to remember the diversity that surrounds reading and the manifold, and sometimes strange, tools upon which it has historically been based. The question is not one of “versus,” of two antagonists squaring off in a ring; rather, the question is far more ecological in nature. How will these two very different species and their many varieties coexist within the greater ecosystem known as reading?
The Frank Lloyd Wright house in Ebsworth Park, which we visited in February
This post is part of my “Annual Favorites” list I’ve been keeping for the past decade-plus.
Favorite Books (Goodreads profile)
The German Genius, by Peter Watson (choice passages)
Journey to the Abyss: The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler, 1880-1918 (choicepassages)
Life Sentences, by William H. Gass
Nox, by Anne Carson
A Hologram for the King, by Dave Eggers
Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective
Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, by D.T. Max
The Long Goodbye, by Megan O’Rourke
Gerhard Richter: Panorama
Where Good Ideas Come From, by Steven Johnson
The Lifespan of a Fact, by John D’Agata and Jim Fingal
Chip Kidd: Book One: Work, 1986-2006
The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court, by Jeffrey Toobin
The Obamas, Jodi Kantor
Some of My Lives, by Rosamond Bernier
The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach
Berlin Stories, by Robert Walser
The Address Book, by Sophie Calle
The Englishman who Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects, by John Tingey
Art and Activism: Projects of John and Dominique de Menil
The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes
The Bridge on the Drina, by Ivo Andrić
Shards, by Ismet Prcić
The Promise: President Obama, Year One, by Jonathan Alter
Elizabeth Costello, by J. M. Coetzee
How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne, by Sarah Bakewell
Death in Spring, by Mercè Rodoreda
The Art of Intelligence, by Henry A. Crumpton
Zoe Strauss: 10 Years
Mortality, by Christopher Hitchens
Karaoke Culture, by Dubravka Ugrešić
The Fate of Greenland, by Philip W. Conkling
Redheaded Peckerwood, by Christian Patterson
Happy to have read Karen McGrane’s Content Strategy for Mobile, Frank Chimero’s The Shape of Design, and Mike Monteiro’s Design Is a Job, but would keep them off the ranked list. Same with “Mark Owen”‘s No Easy Day.
Favorite Movies: 2012 (Letterboxd profile)
Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present
Gerhard Richter Painting
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry
The Queen of Versailles
Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap
The Dark Knight Rises
Didn’t connect with: Headhunters, We Have a Pope, The Bourne Legacy.
Favorite Movies: Pre-2012
Bill Cunningham New York
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
A Dangerous Method
Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop
Too Big to Fail
I continue to be a huge fan of Rdio, which I pay $10 a month to be able to stream music on a desktop, iPad, or iPhone. (This includes, say, streaming the new Nas via my home’s wi-fi as I mow my suburban lawn.) There will always be rituals and a closeness to the music I miss from my CD days, but the advantages of Rdio — especially the ability to discover and immediately listen to new music, particularly hip-hop and classical — are significant. I don’t have a ranked list here, but my listening history is an open book.
Favorite Articles, Essays & Blog Posts (categorized, not ranked)
“Newtown and the Madness of Guns,” by Adam Gopnik
“The Voter-Fraud Myth,” by Jane Mayer
“I Didn’t Come Back to Jerusalem To Be in a War,” by Dahlia Lithwick
“The Implosion,” by Jon Lee Anderson
“Of Babies and Beans: Paul Ryan on Abortion,” by Adam Gopnik
“It Matters,” by Josh Marshall
“A Victory for Obama and for Obama’s America,” by John Cassidy
“The Choice,” by The New Yorker Editors
“2,700 Hundred Pages for Anton Scalia,” by Amy Davidson
“Money Unlimited,” by Jeffrey Toobin
“Obama, Explained,” by James Fallows
“One More Massacre,” by Adam Gopnik
“Colbert v. the Court,” by Dahlia Lithwick
“Pussy Riot Closing Statements,” by Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Yekaterina Samutsevich
“Something Wicked This Way Comes,” by Atul Gawande
“How Obama’s Long Game Will Outsmart His Critics,” by Andrew Sullivan
“The Obama Memos,” by Ryan Lizza
“Too Big To Succeed,” by Lee Kponstantinou
“Spotify and Its Discontents,” by Mike Spies
“Big Other’s Birthday Tribute to William H. Gass, 2012”
“When Art Makes Us Cry,” by Francine Prose
“Much God Damned Entropy,” by Gabriel Blackwell and Greg Gerke
“The First Church of Marilynne Robinson,” by Mark O’Connell
“We Are Alive,”by David Remnick
“Viewer Discretion,” by Gideon Lewis-Kraus
“The House That Hova Built,” by Zadie Smith
“Peace, Adam,” by Sasha Frere-Jones
“American Mozart,” by David Samuels
“Diary of an Aesthete,” by Alex Ross
“Maxim Interrogates the Makers of The Wire”
“Till the Knowing Ends,” by Joanna Scott
“Radiohead’s Runaway Guitarist,” by Alex Pappademas
“The Meet and Greet Museum,” by Steven C. Dubin
Tech & Media
“Your Anti-Social Media Rant Reveals Too Much About Your Friends,” by Alexis C. Madrigal
“Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out,” by Paul Ford
“29th Street Publishing and the Next Wave of Digital Publishing,” by Jim Ray
“The Way We Read Now,” by Dwight Garner
“BuzzFeed’s Strategy,” by Jonah Peretti
Craig Mod: “The Digital-Physical”; “Hack the Cover,”; “Subcompact Publishing”
“Deploy,” by Mandy Brown
“E-books Can’t Burn,” by Tim Parks
“Small Presses & Self-Publishers: Enemies? Or Half-Siblings?” by Sean Bishop
“Out of Touch,” by Andrew Piper
“I’ma Set It Straight, This Watergate,” by John Gruber
“The Death of the Cyberflâneur,” by Evgeny Morozov
“Good Things About Twitter,” by Sasha Frere-Jones
“Does Time Magazine Think Americans Are Stupid?” by L. V. Anderson
Misc. Reporting, Articles & Posts
“The Yankee Comandante,” by David Grann
“Boss Rail,” by Evan Osnos
“All Due Respect,” by Peter Hessler
“Cocaine Incorporated,” by Patrick Radden Keefe
“The Story of a Suicide,” by Ian Parker
“Big Med,” by Atul Gawande
“What Brand Is Your Therapist?” by Lori Gottlie
“Artisanal Baby Naming,” by Bob Powers
“Resilient Redbirds Refuse to Lose,” by Bernie Miklasz
“Lionel Messi Never Dives,” by Jason Kottke
“Fals Nine vs. Real Nine,” by Dushko Petrovich
“The Caging of America,” by Adam Gopnik
“Study Reveals Dolphins Lack Capacity to Mock Celebrity Culture,” by The Onion
“The World’s First and Only Completely Honest Résumé of a Graphic Designer,” by Marco Kaye
“How Many Stephen Colberts Are There?” by Charles McGrath
Most-Used iPhone & iPad Apps
I start every morning with the NYTimes’ iPad app. I listen to podcasts, NPR, and music via Instacast, Public Radio Player, and Rdio. I journal using Day One, which is synched using Dropbox on all devices. The new 1Password 4 is a slick companion to the essential desktop app. I organize a lot of my work and personal life using Evernote, and keep up with tasks using Things. Other apps I use often: Reeder (every night, to catch up with the day’s articles), Goodreads, Fantastical, Tweetbot (iphone) and Twitter (iPad), Instagram, Facebook, Checkmark, Instapaper, Pinboard, Netflix, PBS for iPad, Simple, and iBooks (largely for work PDFs).
One unusual memory I have from 2012 is spending several weekday evenings in March walking through my neighborhood for an hour or so, listening to the day’s oral arguments for and against the healthcare act. (My greatest moment of exasperation was hearing Justice Scalia mock-ask whether he was seriously supposed to get through so many pages of material.) In April, I published Abstractions Arrive: Having Been There All the Time, an iPad-only e-book pairing an essay by William H. Gass with photographs by Michael Eastman; New York Times coverage was a cherry on top. May’s Confab conference was one of the best I’ve attended. In August, Tamara and I enjoyed a few highly cultural days in Miami. Surpassing all that, though — we’re expecting a baby in late May of 2013. I expect this should be my best year yet.
I’m still at work editing The Ear’s Mouth Must Move: The Essential Interviews of William H. Gass. While I’d love for this to be published in a gloriously beautiful print version, I haven’t yet found an interested publisher. So it’s likely that, as with Abstractions Arrive, I will publish it myself as an iPad e-book using iBooks Author. Life is short, and I get restless waiting for traditional gatekeepers. We’ll see, though.
Here are a few screenshots of the in-process project, posted here mainly to show what’s possible in terms of tappable footnotes. More in time…
An important and insightful essay. I hope Mod writes a part two that looks a bit more at how exactly (to continue his metaphor) the small vehicles would get made.
Related: Mod’s round-up of coverage of his essay. This Jim Ray piece from the Mule blog isn’t on there, but I think it’s worth reading.
The subtitle of this Slate piece is way too glib, but the essay from Piper — a literature professor at McGill — is worth reading. Thoughtful and thought-provoking. It’s excerpted from Piper’s book, Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times.
Really looking forward to checking out this new iOS magazine from Marco Arment. From his announcement:
But just as the App Store has given software developers a great new option for accepting direct payment, Newsstand has given publishers an even bigger opportunity with subscription billing and prominent placement. Yet most publishers aren’t experimenting with radical changes. They can’t — to fund their huge staffs and production costs, they can’t afford to deviate from yesterday’s model. And most individual writers can’t, won’t, and shouldn’t make their own Newsstand apps.
There’s room for another category between individuals and major publishers, and that’s where The Magazine sits. It’s a multi-author, truly modern digital magazine that can appeal to an audience bigger than a niche but smaller than the readership of The New York Times. This is what a modern magazine can be, not a 300 MB stack of static page images laid out manually by 100 people.
The New Yorker has seen success with its relatively straightforward digital edition, but there’s nothing that really differentiates it from the print version, except maybe that it’ll save you the embarrassment of having a tower of unread issues on your nightstand.
Aside from poet-spoken poems? Videos? Supplemental documents? Slideshows of artworks? Movie clips?
This suggestion (even made in slight jest) — that only futuristic interactive material counts as worthwhile tablet content — gives me the blues.
Hey, there’s The New York Times covering Abstractions Arrive! The piece, written by David Streitfeld, includes a new interview with Gass about books and technology. Thanks for the nod, Paper of Record!
At the TOKY Blog, I offer five key take-aways from attending the National Museum Publishing Seminar last June.
Great email from BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti to his troops about why the site’s succeeding right now.
As ever, Mod offers smart, forward-looking thoughts on books and publishing. His central question:
[I]f so much of what book cover design has evolved into is largely a brick-and-mortar marketing tool, then what place does a ‘cover’ hold in digital books? Especially after you purchase it? But, more tellingly, even before you purchase it?
If you’re interested in the questions, you’ll be interested in the entire essay. Recommended.
As thoughtful and personal as his previous pieces.
I was actually in the early stages of writing a post about this same subject — that, contrary to what intelligent people like Jonathan Franzen and Tyler Brûlé have been saying or implying about Twitter (which they don’t use, and therefore don’t really know), it’s often not a replacement for reading, say, long-form journalism or high-quality fiction. It’s an enabler of it. I have those I follow on Twitter to thank for many meaty essays and recommended books I’ve now taken in. It was on Twitter where I learned about (and then supported on Kickstarter) Distance, a new quarterly journal with "long essays about design.“ And it’s where I learned of Offscreen, "a new periodical with an in-depth look at the life and work of digital creators — captured in enduring print.” Neither of those two new long-form publications, efforts Brûlé would surely champion, would exist without Twitter as the network that brought its contributors, investors, and readers together.
So, as I was saying, I was going to write a post about all this. But then The New Yorker’s Sasha Frere-Jones wrote one, and his is sharper than mine would have been. I recommend you read it. And, if so inclined, share it on your social network of choice.
Great piece in The New York Times, with clear-eyed (and entertaining) commentary from a writer and book critic about how technology has improved his reading life. This bit comes from his section on the smartphone:
Keep an audio book or two on your iPhone. Periodically I take the largest of my family’s dogs on long walks, and I stick my iPhone in my shirt pocket, its tiny speaker facing up. I’ve listened to Saul Bellow’s “Herzog” this way. The shirt pocket method is better than using ear buds, which block out the natural world. My wife tucks her phone into her bra, on long walks, and listens to Dickens novels. I find this unbearably sexy.
Really like this post:
Iteration in public is a principle of nearly all good product design; you release a version, then see how people use it, then revise and release again. With tangible products (hardware, furniture, appliances, etc.), that release cycle is long, just as with books. But when the product is weightless, the time between one release and the next can be reduced from months or years to days or even hours. The faster the release cycle, the more opportunities for revision—and, often, the better the product itself.
Writing has (so far) not generally benefited from this kind of process; but now that the text has been fully liberated from the tyranny of the printing press, we are presented with an opportunity: to deploy texts, instead of merely publishing them.
At the New York Review of Books blog, a refreshingly contrarian post:
The e-book, by eliminating all variations in the appearance and weight of the material object we hold in our hand and by discouraging anything but our focus on where we are in the sequence of words (the page once read disappears, the page to come has yet to appear) would seem to bring us closer than the paper book to the essence of the literary experience. Certainly it offers a more austere, direct engagement with the words appearing before us and disappearing behind us than the traditional paper book offers, giving no fetishistic gratification as we cover our walls with famous names. It is as if one had been freed from everything extraneous and distracting surrounding the text to focus on the pleasure of the words themselves. In this sense the passage from paper to e-book is not unlike the moment when we passed from illustrated children’s books to the adult version of the page that is only text. This is a medium for grown-ups.
Apple’s next OS — highly informed by iOS — introduced to Gruber in a private briefing by Phil Schiller himself.
An interesting piece published in today’s NYT:
As the popular technology blogger Robert Scoble explained in a recent post defending frictionless sharing, “The new world is you just open up Facebook and everything you care about will be streaming down the screen.”
This is the very stance that is killing cyberflânerie: the whole point of the flâneur’s wanderings is that he does not know what he cares about.
Reminded me a bit of the “serendipity” exchanges from 2006.
Readers today are forced to choose between buying a physical book or an ebook, but a lot of them would really like to have both on hand - so they’d be able, for instance, to curl up with the print edition while at home (and keep it on their shelves) but also be able to load the ebook onto their e-reader when they go on a trip. In fact, bundling a free electronic copy with a physical product would have a much bigger impact in the book business than in the music business. After all, in order to play vinyl you have to buy a turntable, and most people aren’t going to do that. So vinyl may be a bright spot for record companies, but it’s not likely to become an enormous bright spot. The only technology you need to read a print book is the eyes you were born with, and print continues, for the moment, to be the leading format for books. If you start giving away downloads with print copies, you shake things up in a pretty big way.
I’ve daydreamed about this before. Would enjoy seeing it happen. (I had no clue, by the way, that vinyl-record buyers like Carr are indeed scoring free digital copies of the music.)
Jonathan Franzen, regretting the rise (and, it seems, existence) of e-books:
Someone worked really hard to make the language just right, just the way they wanted it. They were so sure of it that they printed it in ink, on paper. A screen always feels like we could delete that, change that, move it around. So for a literature-crazed person like me, it’s just not permanent enough.
For serious readers, Franzen said, “a sense of permanence has always been part of the experience”. “Everything else in your life is fluid, but here is this text that doesn’t change,” he continued. “Will there still be readers 50 years from now who feel that way? Who have that hunger for something permanent and unalterable? I don’t have a crystal ball. But I do fear that it’s going to be very hard to make the world work if there’s no permanence like that. That kind of radical contingency is not compatible with a system of justice or responsible self-government.”
Luckily for Franzen, not all printed books are as permanent as all that. From the October 2011 article “Jonathan Franzen’s book Freedom suffers UK recall”:
In a highly embarrassing move, publishers HarperCollins were today forced to offer to exchange thousands of copies after Franzen revealed that the UK edition of a novel dubbed “the book of the century” is based on an early draft manuscript, and contains hundreds of mistakes in spelling, grammar and characterisation.
More than 8,000 copies of the faulty first edition have been sold since it was published last week, with 80,000 hardbacks of the book in print. The mistakes were discovered yesterday.
Franzen told the Guardian that the book, the follow-up to 2001’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated The Corrections, contained “a couple of hundred differences at the level of word and sentence and fact” as well as “small but significant changes to the characterisations of Jessica and Lalitha” – the daughter and the assistant of one of the novel’s central characters.
HarperCollins, who say the errors are mainly typographical, have launched a hurried operation to let purchasers exchange their faulty copy via bookshops or pre-paid post. The new version is being rushed through the printers over the weekend and will be available early next week.