Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag
As a young emerging writer Sigrid Nunez was dating Susan Sontag’s son and they all also lived together for a while—until Nunez got fed up with this kind of ménage and moved away from both the mother and son. A few pieces of information I retained from Sontag as a person—according to Nunez, she was hyperactive and unable to be alone, which of course affected also the life and relationships of her son. They did not cook at home, instead they ate out a lot or had take-away. She was always late and not a little, but thought that the person waiting can only blame themselves if they did not bring a book to fill time. She was passionately intolerant of weakness, hypersensitivity, feeling pain etc., especially in women. She was a natural-born mentor, constantly suggesting books that people should read but she was not fond of teaching, being rather the eternal student herself. Another thing she did not tolerate was public speaking, which she still had to do in order to be on the radar as a writer, yet Sontag gained a bad reputation as a moody and arrogant performer. She saw herself as a writer, not an essayist, although she was recognized mostly for her essays.
Sidsel Meineche Hansen and
Collection of interviews Politics of Study
An excellent book about higher education (in Arts), para-academies, non-formal critical education, the factory of education, feminist teaching practice etc.
Alain de Botton
The Art of Travel
For all of you out there who happen to be on a vacation and discover to your unpleasant surprise that you are not automatically zen 24/7 floating in complete peace of mind on cloud nine. De Botton contemplates the expectations related to travel, different sides of human nature, cultural-historical aspects of travelling and romantic escapism, tips for travelling and having diverse experiences à la try being a tourist in your own city or even in your own room (one should not forget that he is one of the founders of #schooloflife). Intelligent reading, yet not too heavy on the brain, can be consumed also while travelling in the thick of all the new experiences.
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work
Currey has gathered information from 160 famous artists, writers, scientists, philosophers, playwrights, composers etc. on how they work and organize their daily lives. The formula for success seems to be working from early morning (waking up around 5–6–7 am) till noon; after that, one can go for a long walk, socialize, have a few drinks or take care of smaller daily duties (the only person I know who starts work at 5 am is the rector of the Estonian Academy of Arts Mart Kalm). And no one has had time to wait around for any kind of muses, over time different stimulants have proven to more helpful!
Pro+agonist: The Art of Opposition
A small collection of essays compiled and designed by artist and activist Marisa Jahn dealing with positive friction, agonism instead of antagonism, introducing the rhetoric of dance/play/tennis instead of fighting. Long live agonistic pluralism! About the design— through a hole in the middle of the book “you can constantly keep your eye on the Other”… and the colour scheme: blue and black are
the colours of a bruise (as a mark left from maximum contact)… I see bruises as unwelcome contact even if I agree with the need for more positive friction, but the peephole is fun.
Are You Working Too Much? Post-Fordism, Precarity, and the Labor of Art
Unfortunately, I don’t know many people who could answer “no” to this question… Nor does this book bring about a radical break but maybe it’s still good and encouraging
to sometimes read someone else’s thoughts about the grim life of immaterial workers, the zombie-like state of modern workforces (who are incapable of fighting for better working conditions), the difficulties for the global cognitariat of forming a collective front, the fake-criticality of the art world which comments on working relations elsewhere in society, etc. Neoliberalism has of course its own agenda, but in the end, it is us who tie ourselves down (and sometimes also for too long) and it is also us who face burnout, instead of the system. There is food for thought… yet no time to think, as the infinite field of cultural work needs ploughing.
Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber
The Slow Professor
Short manifesto-like book on how the principles of the slow movement could be used as practices of resistance in modern neoliberal universities—the main techniques should
be applied from the personal to the global, meaning that one should start with personal readjustment, resisting pressure, worrying less and being less self-judgmental, being more present in the teaching situation, paying attention to the general use of language and being supportive of each other. Some of these issues sounded very familiar to me as a lecturer, some things made me think that in my home university things are okay still. I also liked very much how the book was written with thorough references to different sources, but at the same time it exuded a rare sincerity and… a sense of vulnerability? The authors also refer to a certain softness as a form of resistance, the importance of joy and pleasure in teaching and learning, and it’s true that this aspect seems to be often forgotten in the constant rush and performance anxiety.
24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep
Otherwise a quite general critique of the modern capitalist system, but the main idea of sleep as a form of resistance was very interesting—a state where you cannot produce nor consume, a state where you are disconnected from the 24/7 rat race.
W. G. Sebald
A book for which I would like to distinguish the “about” and “how” parts, spoiler—for me the latter was more interesting. “About”— by chance the first person protagonist meets
a slightly eccentric man, an architectural historian Jacques Austerlitz, who, over several decades, during their various encounters, tells him of his quest to understand his constant sense of not belonging, providing another possible way of sharing the tragic stories of the Jews during WW2. “How”—the main part consists of recounting the protagonist’s memories, which often go on for pages—thus, the book is written predominantly in the first person, but interlaced with “said Austerlitz” and sometimes even multiplied by “said Vêra, said Austerlitz” etc. which helps to enhance the otherwise “out of focus” sensation dominant in the book. Also, the use of photographs, which I thought about a lot while reading—are these pictures real documentations (e.g. is the railway station in the image the same currently talked about in the narrative)? Does it even matter? Why these photographs? Where did the author get them? And most of all, how these unexpected images add a totally different consciousness to the experience of reading the book; pictures that seem to illustrate something, but also have their own agenda.
Minu auhinnad (My Awards)
An anatomy of recognition, how, to whom, with whom, for what, why, why not, etc. The first half of the book presents personal experiences, how it felt, how she got the news, how it was celebrated; in the style of “scenes of writers’ lives”, the gossip glands of the reader get tickled, too. The other half of the book provides a broader analysis on the subject of awarding in the literary field in Estonia and beyond, many thoroughly studied articles and research, as well as personal interviews with colleagues on this highly intriguing topic, for which it seems slightly inappropriate to admit how exciting it really is. And all of this presented in Kangro’s habitual, as if without a filter, commentaries seasoned with dark humour: “One of the motivations that psychologists point out is narcissism. No hidden motifs here, it is just uplifting to see myself shine. Who is that on the pedestal or on the cover of a newspaper, who is that walking in the sun—me, me! So pretty, hooray!”. This book should be given as a bonus to people from every cultural field who are receiving some kind of award.