Lots of books in this one. Think of it as a Summer Reading Special.
Watching Wimbledon reminded me of this bit from Chatter by Ethan Kross
"By always placing his ID faceup, carefully arranging his water bottles so they are perfectly aligned in front of his bench, and making sure that his hair is just right before a serve, Nadal is engaging in a process called compensatory control; he’s creating order in his physical environment to provide him with the order he seeks internally. As he puts it, “It’s a way of placing myself in a match, ordering my surroundings to match the order I seek in my head.”
Which reminded me of this from Intimations by Zadie Smith
"Writing is control. The part of the university in which I teach should properly be called the Controlling Experience Department."
My current favourite fact is from Kim Stanley Robinson's The High Sierra
"Mountains grow at about the same speed as your fingernails."
I can heartily recommend Sofi Thanhauser's Worn: A People's History of Clothing. I like this bit about how the French invented fashion.
"In another policy intended to support French artisans, Colbert mandated that new textiles appear seasonally twice a year, so that on November 1 promptly, the court was required to put aside lightweight silks and don velvet and satin. Thus, the fashion season was born. Colbert’s calendar provided a predictable cycle for the textile industry in Lyon. To ensure that people bought plenty of cloth, Colbert mandated that textile patterns change each year so that it would be obvious if anyone was wearing last year’s fabric. In 1668 Louis demanded by edict that his courtiers “remain fashionable,” and instituted a strict dress code."
And it contains a great example of one of my favourite things - people with the confidence to airily bifurcate the world
"Clothing historian Cecil Saint-Laurent argued that there are two types of clothing: the draped and the sewn. Laurent saw these two types as symbolic of, respectively, Athenian freedom and Spartan fascism, and came down decisively on the side of draped garments. In this position he was preceded by Hegel, who in 1820 declared the aesthetic superiority of draped Athenian garments to sewn German ones: Our modern clothing is wholly inartistic: this is because what we really see in it … is not the fine, free, and living contours of the body in their delicate and flowing development, but stretched out sacks with stiff folds … something cut, sewn together over here, folded over there. Elsewhere fixed, and, in short, purely unfree forms."
As you'll see below I'm thinking quite a lot about friendship and 'gathering' at the moment. Hoping, possibly foolishly, that we're emerging from the isolation of the last few years. This passage from Plays Well With Others is partly what's inspired the revival of Interesting. I'm making an effort. The deliberate upkeep of friendships.
"And so it’s no surprise that when you survey young and old, you consistently find that within seven years, half of current friends are no longer close confidantes anymore. Without institutional obligations, the upkeep friendships require must be very deliberate. And in a busy world, that is beyond what most of us can handle. Often the thirties are the decade where friendships go to die. Around that time is when you gather all your friends for your wedding—and then promptly never see them again."
Some good people asked me to do some presentation training a while ago. I couldn't do it, but I made them a video instead. The password is 'ruth'. If you'd like to watch Part 2 then email me.
And, on Tuesday 16 August, we're having a do called Those Feet at Jerusalem Bar and Kitchen in Fitzrovia. Music, dancing, drinking, possibly food. From 7PM. Please come, COVID permitting. Forza the deliberate upkeep of friendship.
(There are 846 of you. King Rollo was born in 846.)