Two stories worth reading about New York City, one set in 1981, one set in 2017. Read Jonathan Franzen’s recollection of being Hard Up in New York (The New Yorker) first, then read about the current state of the city in Why the Upper East Side Is Now Cooler Than Brooklyn. What struck me was not that New York has become wealthier and gentrified, but that it has gone from being a place that was unlivable in one sense to being unlivable in a very different sense. Once you avoided parts of New York because of the danger: now you avoid parts because they are too expensive.
Of course New York is a massive city, and there are people that live in parts of it that can be still considered dangerous while there are other parts that could still be considered affordable. But NYC has changed dramatically since the 80s, and these articles — especially the one by Franzen — highlight this well. It’s hard to imagine Manhattan ever declining to the state it was in the 1970s and 80s, but in the 80s it would be hard to imagine it being as gentrified as it is now.
P.S. If 70s and 80s New York is your thing, I also recommend this.
The New Yorker has the answer: Sorry for the Delayed Response – The New Yorker. (I think it is meant to be humourous, but it’s a little too close to reality to make me wonder. :))
After reading these three profiles on Peter Thiel in the New Yorker:
1. From 2011: No Death, No Taxes – The New Yorker
2. From 2016, just after he spoke at the Republican Convention: Peter Thiel’s Conservative Vision – The New Yorker
3. From May 2016, How Peter Thiel’s Gawker Battle Could Open a War Against the Press – The New Yorker
What came to mind is the decline of his reputation in the last half decade. A decline he has brought on himself. Whatever you thought of him in 2011 — if you thought of him at all — you likely joined a majority by 2016 in thinking poorly of him.
I’m just putting this here for now. I am sure his reputation will decline further, and I want to revisit that when it happens.
There is a fascinating article Silent Minds: The New Yorker on how brain scans on vegetative patients are showing more activities than was expected. Here’s the lede into the article, but I recommend you read the whole thing:
Ten years ago, Adrian Owen, a young British neuroscientist, was working at a brain-imaging center at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, at the University of Cambridge. He had recently returned from the Montreal Neurological Institute, where he used advanced scanning technology to map areas of the brain, including those involved in recognizing human faces, and he was eager to continue his research. The imaging center was next to the hospital’s neurological intensive-care unit, and Owen heard about a patient there named Kate Bainbridge, a twenty-six-year-old schoolteacher who had become comatose after a flulike illness, and was eventually diagnosed as being in what neurologists call a vegetative state. Owen decided to scan Bainbridge’s brain. “We were looking for interesting patients to study,” he told me. “She was the first vegetative patient I came across.”For four months, Bainbridge had not spoken or responded to her family or her doctors, although her eyes were often open and roving. (A person in a coma appears to be asleep and is unaware of even painful stimulation; a person in a vegetative state has periods of wakefulness but shows no awareness of her environment and does not make purposeful movements.) Owen placed Bainbridge in a PET scanner, a machine that records changes in metabolism and blood flow in the brain, and, on a screen in front of her, projected photographs of faces belonging to members of her family, as well as digitally distorted images, in which the faces were unrecognizable. Whenever pictures of Bainbridge’s family flashed on the screen, an area of her brain called the fusiform gyrus, which neuroscientists had identified as playing a central role in face recognition, lit up on the scan. “We were stunned,” Owen told me. “The fusiform-gyrus activation in her brain was not simply similar to normal; it was exactly the same as normal volunteers’.”
Adam Gopnik does a superb job of writing about Philip K. Dick in this week’s New Yorker.
Dick is now in the Library of America ($35), under the excellent editorial care of Jonathan Lethem, a passionate devotee, who also provides an abbreviated chronology of Dick’s tormented life. Four of the sixties novels are neatly packed together in the handsome black covers: “The Man in the High Castle,” “The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch,” “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” (the original of “Blade Runner”), and his masterpiece, “Ubik.”
As Gopnik notes:
Dick has also become for our time what Edgar Allan Poe was for Gilded Age America: the doomed genius who supplies a style of horrors and frissons.
but also he is right about this:
The trouble is that, much as one would like to place Dick above or alongside Pynchon and Vonnegut—or, for that matter, Chesterton or Tolkien—as a poet of the fantastic parable he was a pretty bad writer.
I loved Dick’s novels when I was both younger and not so well read. Years later, going back to read them, I was still impressed by the imagination and ideas. But the writing kept distracting me with its faults.
So, should you ignore the article or the novelist? On the contrary. Either pick up the latest edition at your favourite newsstand, or see it online here: Blows Against the Empire: Books: The New Yorker.
When I first saw this article in the New Yorker, I thought it was going to be about his apartment in Paris! And in a way, it was. But the subtitle, “In the Now”, describes where Lagerfeld really lives.
I used to have a poor opinion of KL, but after reading the article, I was impressed by his energy, drive and imagination.
See the article here: Profiles: In the Now: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker