David Robson talks to Nick Middleton about his new book on countries that don’t exist. A bit blissfully apolitical for its subject matter but I’m willing to ascribe that to the BBC rather than Middleton’s book (hopefully). Via Maureen Kincaid Speller.
An Xiao Mina on #firstworldproblems and imagining the world. Not much here feels new, but this past week or so it has felt necessary. Related, Samira Nadkarni on fetishising nonwhite bodies to make them mournable.
Manisha Pande on “whataboutery,” the media, and why questioning disproportionate grief isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Rebecca Giggs on a dying whale, and on dying whales. I don’t always know how I feel about aspects of this piece (“what if we were now taking the wildness out of the whale? If deep inside whales the indelible imprint of humans could be found, could we go on recounting the myth of their remarkable otherness, their strange, wondrous and vast animalian world?”); on the other hand it is stunningly, startlingly written; on another hand, probably one belonging to a separate person, it’s easy to manipulate me (and most people, I hope) into feeling things about whales. (Hi Kate, when you see this.) (via Hiromi Goto on twitter.)
Mark Humphries on Niall Ferguson on Paris. Spoiler: Ferguson is wrong, I hope you’re amazed. (via Alex von Tunzelmann and Sanjay Sipahimalani)
Doreen St. Félix on talking to people about rats. (via Kate Schapira)
[If I hadn't shied away from even thinking about this this week, my next link would have been to something on that Daily Mail cartoon depicting refugees as rats this week. Thanks, the UK, you really do make an immigrant feel safe.]
Allison Meier on imagining cannibals into the new world. (via Kawrage on twitter)
Darran Anderson on architecture and the future.
Like Anjum Hasan, most of the Hindi literature I read is in English translation, though I can read Hindi (slowly). This essay on what we can access of a literary culture in translation, and what we miss of it, is really good.
As an SFF reader I’m both fascinated and made slightly resentful by this piece by Chaitali Sen on her choice to set her novel The Pathless Sky in a fictional country. Because it’s great on the ways that place works, the functions that fictional spaces perform (those of you who have to hear me talk about my thesis a lot are rolling your eyes as you read this) and so baffled by the idea that this might align it in some ways with a genre that … often sets things in fictional spaces, in order that those spaces may perform certain functions. (“Years ago, when I told someone that my then unfinished novel was a love story set in an imaginary country, she asked me if I was a science fiction writer. I thought that was a strange leap, but truthfully she wasn’t the only person who struggled with the idea of an unnamed setting.” It’s … really not a strange leap.)
Anne Boyer on the new Missy Elliot is the most perfect thing. (Also: new Missy Elliot video, new David Bowie video, new MIA song leaked and then apparently removed[?], this is certainly a month.)
Anne E. Fernald on Gertrude Stein and Margaret Wise Brown. I really like this, though the children’s lit person in me is going “but what about-?” near-constantly as I read.
Colin Dayan on Lori Gruen’s Entangled Empathy: An Alternative Ethic For Our Relationship With Animals. (via Salman Hussain on twitter.)