Culture Review: Fortnight to 15 October

EDEN – 22-year-old Irish electronic producer – is one to watch. His latest (surprise) track is ‘start//end’, and it’s a blend of delicate cinematic soundscape (strings, synth), electronic experimentation (soft dub), and his fucking perfect voice. More music is on the way, according to the hints on his social media. Also excellent listening is St. Vincent’s latest album, her fifth, MASSEDUCTION.

The best article I read in the past fortnight was ‘Facebook’s War on Free Will’, published by the Guardian. Franklin Foer places Facebook into the history of human endeavour, and explains that – similar to the way that the industrial revolution automated physical processes – Facebook and the digital revolution are attempting to automate physical processes. The Internet assault is an attempt to depose the Philosopher King and instate the Engineer King: “rule by slide rule”. If you want predictions, I expect to see a lot of philosophers defending the intrinsic moral value of thought in the next decade. After reading the Guardian piece I went down a bit of a Foer wormhole, and I can also highly recommend this Atlantic article on Foer’s doomed tenure as the editor of the New Republic as the publication went through accelerated digital growing pains, which ultimately lead to two-thirds of the staff quitting. 

For something lighter, read ‘Our Open-Plan Office Failed, So We’re Moving To A Towering Panopticon’ by Alex Baia, on McSweeney’s.

This year I again attempted to read the whole Man Booker shortlist prior to the announcement (this Wednesday morning for Australians), and you can tell far through I got by my use of the word ‘attempted’. Four out of six – not bad, but also not enough to predict with absolute confidence. I finished Emily Fridlund’s History of Wolves last week, and it’s a great book, but not the winner. The novel is a Bildungsroman about the daughter of a collapsed cult trying to find her place with her new neighbours, who also turn out more subtle but much more dangerous religious fanatics. It’s a compelling premise, but I wasn’t a fan of the way that the reveal (the neighbours kill their child through negligence) was cut up and used to bait the reader, like a $10 note on fishing wire. Moshin Hamid’s Exit West is a solid novel – plausible characters, a well-executed premise, competent writing – but very rarely magical. Also, novels can be political and good at the same time, but not if they’re aiming to be political – and at times it feels like Hamid foul. You can read my thoughts on Autumn by Ali Smith here. It’s an excellent book, and a real contender. But the best of the four I’ve read was George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo. Like all of Saunders’s work, it makes you feel, and, fuck, how to explain this without–– you feel like George is in there, in your heart, with a wrench, knocking at the walls from the inside and breaking them down. He expands your moral imagination. I’ll write something longer on it if it wins the Booker, which, my guess is that it will.