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Showing posts from September, 2010

Goethe, McCarthy, and the Ups and Downs of Book Spines

Sometimes the small things intrigue us more than the big ones. Last week, as I was unpacking and organizing books which had been in storage while we were living in Austria I started wondering about book spines. Author and title are typically printed top to bottom on English books and bottom to top on German books. Personally, I find it easier to read titles that are written bottom up, the German way. It seems that my body doesn't need to twist as much to get a good perspective on the print when the books are on the shelf, but maybe that's just what I am used to. Preference aside, the question is: why the difference? A quick online search for the answer didn't bring up much. Wikipedia's entry for bookbinding has a paragraph on book spines. It confirms that "in the United States, the United Kingdom and Scandinavia, titles are usually written top-to-bottom, and this practice is reflected in an industry standard" whereas "in most of continental Europe, t

When Europe Disappears: Baudrillard and the Hotel Chef

"In reality you do not, as I had hoped, get any distance on Europe from here. You do not acquire a fresh angle on it. When you turn around, it has quite simply disappeared." I have been rereading Jean Baudrillard's America, the French philosopher's collection of travel notes on the US. Baudrillard wrote as a European, more specifically as a Frenchman. He can be arrogant and annoying but his fascination with America is palpable throughout the book and his observations often ring true for me. Yes, Europe becomes small when we get here. It happens when we come as visitors, because of the sheer immensity of the country, and it happens when we come as immigrants: Europe suddenly feels far away; it seems more distant than the US does from Vienna. The reason? I have not lived in any US city other than Los Angeles and can only speak for what happens here but  L.A. plunges us into the here and now - although not in the Zen sense of the meaning. First Los Angeles leaves us