My first impulse was to post these things separately—so I decided to combine them instead. I’m pretty sure they are quite unrelated, but perhaps the illusion of connection will make some interesting things happen in your brain.
The writer David Markson died. Sarah Weinman has a terrific post about him, as well as pointers to other terrific posts. She says:
In a way, David Markson needed the Internet, or more accurately, vice versa, to find his rightful place in the literary world. Quotation approprations, short declarative sentences, quick bursts with acres of thought, meditation on artists and writers at work, and a tremendous study of consciousness marked Markson’s output since WITTGENSTEIN’S MISTRESS (1988) opened with the phrase “In the beginning, sometimes I left messages in the street.” And as our collective attention spans decreased and dovetailed from mass-market pursuits, there was Markson to clue us in to something greater, more amorphous perhaps, but something that pinged the outer reaches of what he termed “seminonfictional semi-fictions.”
I mean: exactly, right? I’d love to know if Markson used the web much, and/or what he thought of it. Because Sarah is right: his books read like refractions of everything we’re worried (and excited) about right now, right here, on these screens.
Now: if “artists and writers at work” is a subject that appeals to you, I want to specifically recommend The Last Novel. It’s short. It’s declarative and bursty, as Sarah says. It feels good in the hand. It’s one of the few books in the universe I’ve read more than twice. And I think it should be required reading for writers, designers, and makers of all stripes.
I have a secret agenda, of course: I want David Markson’s books to last a thousand years. In order for that to happen, Team Markson needs to grow. You need to fall in love with one of his books, too, and pass it on.
Maybe I’ve said this before in some other post, but let me say it now, on its own and clearly: my single favorite characteristic of the iPhone and the iPad alike is the full bleed.
I mean, finally: no more windows! Death to the desktop! Goodbye to all that—on the iPad and the iPhone (and, to be fair, on game consoles and some other things, too) every experience gets the entire screen, edge to edge. This is a big deal. The difference between this picture…
…and this picture…
…is not ten or twenty percent. It’s everything. It’s the difference between being on your computer, watching a video—and being in Mr. Fox’s den.
There’s an analogy to that argument from Chris Anderson: the difference between one cent and free is not one cent. It’s an order of magnitude, a step function. It’s everything.
Full bleed means you can dim the lights. Full bleed means you get to set the rules. Full bleed means you get my full attention (and not just for video, either). Full bleed short-circuits the cruel clicky calculus of the web. Thank goodness.
A little while ago, on a lark, I watched Three Days of the Condor on Netflix. (By the way, have you seen this deck on Netflix’s present and future? It’s basically all about people streaming Three Days of the Condor, and movies like it, on a lark.)
If you haven’t seen it: it’s a muted spy thriller from 1975. Robert Redford plays a CIA employee—well, here’s how he explains it:
Listen. I work for the CIA. I’m not a spy. I just read books. We read everything that’s published in the world, and we—we feed the plots—dirty tricks, codes into a computer, and the computer checks against actual CIA plans and operations. I look for leaks, new ideas. We read adventures and novels and journals. I—I can—who’d invent a job like that? I—listen! People are trying to kill me!
I mean: exactly, right?
There are no explosions, and only a few bullets. There’s some great whirring-clanking computer analysis, and some even better phone-system hacking.
The movie reminded me—no surprise—of All the President’s Men, which is one of my all-time favorites. So here’s what I want to know:
- Is this genre of muted mid-70s suspense movie (optionally starring Robert Redford) a recognized thing? Does it have a name and/or a key director?
- What haven’t I seen? (Hint: I’ve only seen the two I just mentioned.)
- And here’s the really urgent question: why don’t they make these anymore? I like them so much, and it’d be so do-able. Talk about low-budget; they’re basically set in offices. You could shoot one on a Canon 5D Mark II. All the nerds would watch it.
Really. The Last Novel.