Cultural criticism nowdays would probably just be any general opinion piece on society, its customs, politics, arts, etc. The most prominent modern intellectual to master this genre would be Jacques Barzun, whose style and focus descend from William Hazlitt, and perhaps earlier from Montaigne. Literary criticism is a much more academic practice not usually reserved for popular periodicals, or even for most literary magazines.
Reading thread - Page 56
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Anyway, sorry for the derail. I'd also like to find some more quality options.
pioneers in cultural evolution/gene-culture co-evolution research summarizes their theory and data in a very readable and overall great book. Was mindblowing for me when I first read it , and made me change focus on my own research. Really points out how important culture is for human behavior and human evolution (first point usually not emphasized in psychology/sociobiology, and the latter point really integrating culture with biological evolution).
Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution - Peter J Richerson & Robert Boyd
Guys if you like Murakami try some Orhan Pamuk - it's not super similar, but there's enough that if you like one I think you'll like the other.
Pamuk;s books that I've liked have been:
Museum of Innocence (huge book, about love and obsession, just so focused)
Snow (maybe my favourite of his, initially about suicide and religion in rural Turkey, but then about love and obsession)
Istanbul (autobiographical, about family, love, obsession and Turkey)
The narrator is always a lonely, single man in pursuit of beautiful, often unobtainable women, they are slightly melancholy, and very vividly real. Not nearly as whimsical as Murakami, but often as delightfully mundane.
His famous book 'My Name is Red' I just couldn't get into.
Is there a resource anywhere that reviews or gives a rundown on the political/aesthetic leanings of literary and cultural periodicals? I'm looking for something to read that's not the New Yorker, Harper's, or Paris Review. I'd prefer less content on politics and current events and more on cultural criticism and the arts. I've been reading arts and letters daily for a long time and it's become a constant stream of whining from academics about how the humanities are dying and MFAs are a waste of money. The rest are what I call intellectual click baits, e.g. "ezra pond was a brilliant poet but an anti-semite, henry james was a genius writer but hated his mother, van gogh made great art but bit off his year, click here to read more!" And occasionally they'll have a truly shitty article that only gets posted because the opinion expressed aligns with the site's milieu, usually on how art and education are dying and the American creative class is under threat. I'm bored of the New Yorker after ten+ years as a subscriber cuz I don't live in New York, am not upper-middle class, and would like some fresh perspective. Literary magazines are cool but they don't talk enough about the real world.
The only thing I'm aware of that might be in the area of what you are looking for is n+1, a quarterly. It is definitely criticism heavy with a literary bend (usually one fiction piece and maybe some poems per issue, and always reviews of books and other arts). It is based out of Brooklyn, but is not as NYC-centric as the New Yorker and is very wary of class, so it is more likely to criticize the upper middle events and/or topics that the New Yorker, or even Harpers sometimes covers. It was founded by young leftist writers right just before the recession, so some of the themes that resurface from time to time are things like the lack of job security/benefits/wealth gap, technology, the national security apparatus, and media criticism (often aiming at places like Harpers, the Atlantic, and the New Yorker). It doesn't "report" politics and economics so much as offer criticism, and while there are issues that have mostly focused on things like Occupy Wall Street and the drones, the essays are consistently my favorites and are what I think might fall into the kind of cultural criticism you could be looking for (though I am far from a philosophy or criticism expert, so apologies if I am way off. This issue is pretty representative of your average issue. If any of this sounds interesting, I'd recommend going out and picking up a copy from your local bookstore.
Thanks for the rec, I was aware of n+1 but dismissed it as some hipster start-up journal but it does have interesting content.
I've been reading Nell Zink's Wallcreeper, and despite her recent and improbable fame, I've found her prose truly remarkable, similar to the New Yorker profile that portrayed her as more or less a hidden genius. Her style is a perfect mix of high and low, she's a cultural repository as confirmed by Jonathan Franzen, and she has a talent for deadpan humor that dulls the pedantry of her allusions. I don't remember the last time I've read a first-person narrative that has such a bright and effortless voice. I usually try to consider contemporary fiction aside from their themes and press, but in this case I can't help but feel she really is the real deal. Her novels are short, and she's made them seem like elaborate jokes for the sake of getting of getting published. But her voice is rare and even though the novel may be flawed and boring, it's really fun to read and I'm obsessed.
Reading the 5th book in the Expanse - I have a lot of thoughts I will write up when it's done. Suffice to say I wish SF/fantasy authors would write a book about the characters without the end of the world stuff once in awhile - readers are invested and interested, there doesn't have to be an external catastrophe (there's already been 4!), to make the story interesting. Blah blah.
The fifth book in The Expanse series - written by James S.A. Corey. This was one of the better books of the five that have been written. it starts with a tired, spent crew re-docking at a space station, and three of the four members requesting leave for personal reasons. The narrative is initially woven around these characters, going through mundane pasts and trying to resolve situations that are nuanced, relatable, but normal. I found this an incredibly refreshing beginning - after one too many 'let's save the galaxy' plotlines, it was great to read a story that was about characters I was invested in just going through personal issues.
However, it wouldn't be a space opera without some ~drama~, and about halfway through the book the shit hits the fan and the characters have to find ways to save the galaxy.
In many ways, this was a let down. I'd been thinking I'd finally stumbled across a restrained SF novel - one that could simply tell small story about big characters, and be the more interesting and meaningful for that, yet that restraint was lifted, and the classic (or cliched) formula of the previous 4 novels was applied here again. Seemingly separate events are actually related! and the crew have to band together and sort it out!
The story is never bland or bad, but at times I wish for something more invigorating - not bigger or more bombastic, but more approachable and pedestrian - a story that continues to humanise the characters and their world, rather than making it a place with more drama, more extremes and more problems.