Category Archives: the future

Power to the People

Jessamine Chan -- February 10th, 2014

pussy riotLately I’ve been thinking about life in Russian penal colonies and how strange it must be to go from the unspeakably bleak conditions of said penal colony to appearing on The Colbert Report in the course of a few months. (Not to mention being introduced by Madonna at an Amnesty International benefit concert at the Barclays Center). As readers of most liberal media know, newly freed Pussy Riot members Nadya Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina made media appearances in New York last week as part of their visit to the U.S. to promote Russian prison reform.

For readers who have been following Pussy Riot’s story and anyone interested in contemporary Russian politics and society, I heartily recommend the incredibly vivid, engaging, and compassionate new book, Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot by Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen (The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin), which we also talked up here. Published last month by Riverhead, the book chronicles the budding activism and legal ordeals of Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina, and bandmate Kat Samutsevich. Gessen recently appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition and NBC’s Brian Williams Show to promote the book, and will be speaking and signing copies at Brooklyn’s Bookcourt on Monday, March 3, and McNally Jackson on Tuesday, March 4. Both events start at 7pm.


A Day in the Life of a Librarian-in-Training

Annie Coreno -- January 7th, 2014
This year's Beyond Literacy class at University of Toronto

This year’s Beyond Literacy class at University of Toronto

Emily Ekstrand-Brummer is a second-year graduate student at the University of Toronto iSchool, where she studies library and information science with a special focus on public libraries. She is only one “packed” semester away from becoming a Master of Information—a pretty big feat in today’s information age if I don’t say so myself (it takes one to know one).

What’s on your agenda for today?

Emily: So my agenda for today is pretty packed. I’m working this morning at the department of Italian studies where I am (attempting) to archive and catalogue a huge collection of newspaper articles about Leonardo Sciascia. After that I’ve got a doctor’s appointment and then I’m going to a class about issues in children’s and YA librarianship.

What other classes are you taking this semester?

Emily: I’m also taking a course about public libraries where we talk about the role of libraries today. It’s actually pretty interesting because the prof spent all last year traveling to different libraries around Canada, so she has a lot of insights that you can’t find in the literature. I’m also taking collections development and the practicum course.

What was your favorite assignment from the past semester?

Emily: My very favorite project last semester was probably my favorite from the entire two years. I took Beyond Literacy, which is a weird special course where we just talk about what it would be like if we didn’t read and write anymore, and we all made podcasts in groups. They actually taught us how to use the recording studio and helped us record and everyone’s groups were really supportive of each other. We got to be super creative and take it any direction we wanted. Even though it wasn’t about libraries, I think I learned more than essay assignments because we just throw out any ideas and roll with it. My group did reading addictions and post humans.  Here’s a link to the podcasts:

What reading/article from last semester stands out in your mind as particularly interesting or pertinent?

Emily: I really like the Bowker and Star book Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences. We read parts of it in Professor Keilty’s Bibliographic Control class, and it questions how we catalogue things in all areas of life. It uses examples like classifying humans in apartheid South Africa.

What are the hot topics at the i-School this year?

Emily: It’s things like maker spaces and community led libraries. The interesting thing is that a few of my professors are questioning that and also asking, what are these things? What do all of these buzzwords mean? Why are we putting actual books on the backburner when that is still why most people come to the library?

TBR: 2014

Jessamine Chan -- December 27th, 2013

In 2014, I want to promise that I’ll become the sort of reader who always finishes one book before starting another, but honestly, I’m usually reading four books at a time and a more reasonable goal might be to finish the following titles by the summer. Here are some selections from my personal To-Be-Read pile: four titles forthcoming in the new year, plus one children’s classic.

barkBark: Stories – Lorrie Moore (Knopf, Feb.) : Though the rest of the world was clued into Lorrie Moore’s genius years, nay decades, earlier, I was introduced to her stories by my teacher, Rebecca Curtis, in 2009. How I survived my twenties without her fiction, I do not know, but I’ve made up for lost time by becoming a loyal, intense fan.


on such a full sea

On Such a Full Sea – Chang-Rae Lee (Riverhead, Jan.) This author plus this spooky cover plus a dystopian plot means that I will make time for this book.



the giverThe Giver – Lois Lowry (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1993) A friend lent me this children’s book just last week, with the short explanation that it’s super dark, also dystopian, and has a perfect ending.



blood will outBlood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, A Mystery, and A Masquerade – Walter Kirn (Norton/Liveright, Mar.): In the new year, I will read more true crime. Kirn tells the story of his 15-year friendship with “Clark Rockefeller,” who turns out to be a serial imposter and double-murderer.



in the course of human eventsIn the Course of Human Events – Mike Harvkey (Soft Skull, Apr.): It pleases me to no end that my former PW colleague Mike Harvkey’s debut novel publishes in the spring. All I know about it is that it’s dark, violent, set in the Midwest, and the result of many years of Mike’s hard work.

For the sake of levity, I will also (finally) finish Anna Karenina, and hopefully tackle The Portrait of a Lady.

Amazon’s New Idea is Old Hat

Rose Fox -- December 6th, 2013

Whether you think the notion of Amazon “Prime Air” delivery via drone aircraft is fabulous or farcical, it certainly seems futuristic. When I saw the images, though, they immediately reminded me of a 1921 piece in Popular Mechanics (featured in the book The Wonderful Future That Never Was) predicting that packages would soon be individually delivered to your doorstep by aircraft. The only difference is that 92 years ago, the proposed delivery system was a parachute:

The nonstop delivery of airplane mail via parachute is being rapidly developed in the United States, France, and England. Valuable matter—the only kind carried by airplanes—must be carefully guarded, which means, among other things, that it must be landed within a few feet of the person authorized to receive it. At present the accuracy with which the bags are landed depends entirely upon the skill and aim of the airman. However, some astonishingly close “hits” are being made with, and still greater accuracy is expected from, a two-speed parachute which is being developed in France. In the meantime it is quite safe to predict that parachute delivery will sometime become the rule.

Quite safe, indeed!

The concerns about security bring up some questions I haven’t seen anyone address regarding Prime Air. How would the drone know it’s delivering to the right person? Could it collect a signature? How would it deal with apartment buildings, offices, and other places where delivery outside the front door is obviously unfeasible? I’m willing to buzz in the UPS delivery driver; I’m a lot less willing to open the door for some random flying robot carrying an unlabeled box. And that doesn’t even get into the FAA aspects. All told, I think Amazon Prime Air is about as feasible as parachuting packages.

I wonder what impossible methods of package delivery will be proposed 92 years from now. Teleportation, perhaps.


Oh Canada!

Annie Coreno -- November 20th, 2013

What do these titles have in common, aside from the fact that they are all on PW’s 2013 best books list? The authors are all women, yes, but they are also all Canadian. Pretty shocking, considering the fact that the entire population of Canada is smaller than that of California. Is this a mere coincidence or is it evidence of something larger?

I may be prone to conspiracy, but I have a theory that Canadian women are the new old white men of the book world. In other words, they are taking over publishing. Come to think of it, this plan of theirs has been in the works for years—decades really. The Canadian literary scene is booming, yet completely under our radar in America. (If you don’t believe me, visit Toronto; there’s a bookstore every block and a half on Bloor Street.) Continue reading

Avant-garde in Istanbul: A Chat with Duygu Demir

T Fleischmann -- November 5th, 2013
Artist: Nilbar Güreş

Nilbar Güreş, The Living Room, 2010

Critic and curator Duygu Demir works out of Istanbul, where she is a programmer at SALT. She is also one of twelve curators chosen to represent their home city in Art Cities of the Future, published in September by Phaidon. Below, she talks about the contemporary art scenes that flourish in Istanbul as well as some of the considerations that come along with Western attention and influence.

What was your process for selecting the artists included in Art Cities of the Future? Did you set out to show the broad range of concerns, modes, and styles that they represent, or did that range come naturally as you curated the text?

My process of choosing the artists was guided by a few different concerns. First and foremost, I wanted to reflect the equality between female and male artists here, because I think unlike many other fields in Turkey, in the arts the practicing artists are more or less equally distributed. I wanted my selection to reflect this. Also, I identified while working on my text that there are about three generations of contemporary artists in the city that are still practicing, Gülsün Karamustafa, in her late 60s, represents the oldest generation, Halil Altındere and Esra Ersen, both in their early 40s represent the mid-generation, and the youngest generation, which features the most artists, is comprised of Cevdet Erek, Köken Ergun, Aslı Çavuşoğlu, Ahmet Öğüt and Nilbar Güreş, who are all in their 30s. Another balance I had in mind was to include artists who work in a diverse range of media, the selection reflects artists working in painting, installation, video, sound and performance.

As a curator and programmer, what about Istanbul most holds your attention and keeps you working there, rather than locating your practice somewhere else on the international circuit?

First and foremost, I am from Istanbul, and it is important that I understand its dynamics as best as I can. As I am quite young, I think it is important that my own formative years are spent here, where the city’s art institutions are also in formation. My practice is very much intertwined with what I experience here, and I have been involved with SALT—an interdisciplinary cultural institution which only opened in 2011—from the beginning, which allowed me to think about how to program in a city that has two distinct audiences for its institutions; an advanced but much smaller group of people who are part of the international art circuit, and another larger group, who are curious, but with much less exposure to art. It is an inspiring challenge, and I feel most fulfilled when I am giving tours of exhibitions to the public or high school groups and it does not always click but you sometimes get to see a slight change in sensibility after the encounter. Also, there is a lot of archival research to be done here, many more artists and collectives and exhibition histories to uncover, areas in which even the most preliminary art historical work has not been done, let alone over-studied, of course this is due to a lack of state structures. Here the private sector is trying to fill in those gaps (of course not without their own agendas) but it is a completely different system compared to more established Western European or North American examples and their support structures, and it remains to be seen how it will work. But in short, there is a sense of excitement and curiosity here that fuels dynamism, which is crucial.

What is the working artistic community in Istanbul like? Do these artist socialize together and collaborate, or do you see them more as representing distinct aspects of the city’s artistic life?

One of the key aspects that the editors of the book wanted us to keep in mind while selecting the artists was that the artists played an active role in the city’s artistic community. The artists I selected all know each other and do socialize together. Perhaps due to residencies and travel that is required for their work they are not always present; however, they are all very invested in Istanbul. Since the city’s art circuit is still in its formative stage these artists take on more responsibility than just their own artistic practice; they participate in discussion groups, give tours, teach either at universities or through workshops. They are very involved with the community and outspoken. And since the Gezi protests, I think the artistic community here even got closer and other channels of communication opened up, there is a new sense of urgency for unity.

You end your introduction with a question, wondering whether artists in Istanbul will “continue to look critically at identity formation, unexcavated histories and local complexities, or succumb to the comforts of commercial patronage.” How much did the sometimes problematic implications of commercial patronage and Western influence weigh on your mind while framing Istanbul for the audience of Art Cities of the Future?

Very much so. I keep saying that the art scene here is rather new and still in formation, and it will sound like a contradiction when I say this, but of course things never happen overnight, except perhaps the commercial interest. As I try to explain in my introductory essay, avant-garde practice in Istanbul has a long history, which nowadays gets easily overlooked because of the hype around what is happening now. It was quite a closed-circuit perhaps until the 1990s, but there are figures still working today such as Sarkis, Nil Yalter or Fisun Onur who were all educated in the West. It is not the Western influence but the commercial interest that is worrisome in my opinion.

And finally, are there any upcoming exhibitions to which you’d like to draw our attention?

The very contested Istanbul Biennial this year has just ended, but perhaps selfishly I would like to draw attention to the Gülsün Karamustafa survey at SALT which will be on view until January 5, 2014. It spans 40 years of artistic practice, and the exhibition also reflects the recent political history of Turkey, as events such as the formation of the Turkish Republic, two military coups (1971 and 1980), population in Istanbul jumping from 1 to 15 million over the course of a few decades through migrations from the countryside to the city, are all reflected in the works of the artist, whether through personal memories, family stories or first-hand experiences, such as her Prison Paintings (1972-78), made right after the artist was imprisoned for her political activism.


Phaidon 2013


Books for the Digital Citizen

Annie Coreno -- October 15th, 2013

Before you read Dave Eggers’s The Circle and swear off Twitter or the internet forever, read these books. Like it or not, we’re living in a technology-crazed world. Rather than sulk about it, it’s time we embrace the change. Here are some new books to help you do so.


Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power and Public Resistance by Heidi Boghosian

>_National Lawyers Guild Executive Director Heidi Boghosian’s purpose is not necessarily to dissuade you from using technology but rather unveil how your personal information is being used and the various implications of its use.  Michael German, a former FBI agent, says its best in his blurb: This book provides “the answer to the question, ‘if you’re not doing anything wrong, why should you care if someone is watching you?’ ”


Without Their Permission: How the 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed by Alexis Ohanian

>_An inspiring tale of success in the internet age. Reddit cofounder Ohanian leads by example showing readers how to harness the potential of the internet by sharing his own success. More importantly, Ohanian shines light on how politics threaten the open internet.


9781594204456.jpgSmarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing our Minds for the Better by Clive Thompson

>_When it comes to technology, Clive Thompson sees the glass half full. Rather than a definitive take on technology, this book is more of a counter point to arguments against the digital revolution. Thompson engages readers while leaving room to debate. It’s a stepping stone for skeptics.

Tough Questions about Families and Technology

Jessamine Chan -- October 4th, 2013

TheBigDisconnect hc c2

In the past week, I’ve told every friend I’ve seen about this book. Some have toddlers and found the scary anecdotes to be too much. A friend who is 6 months pregnant was intrigued. While reading about how texting has replaced normal conversation or even email for today’s kids, I felt so guilty that I phoned my parents and best friend 90’s style and left voicemails and played phone tag. Remember phone tag? (My mom pointed out that she only texts with her daughters because we never pick up the phone.) One friend whose children are grown worries that maybe it’s too late—maybe technology is so much a part of children’s lives, the damage can’t be undone.

But it’s not too late, and you, blog readers who are parents or soon-to-be parents, should all read this book. The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age (Harper, Aug.) by clinical psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair, writing with Teresa H. Barker, charts the negative impact of the digital revolution on parents and children. Continue reading

What the Heck Makes a Book “Best”-worthy?

Alex Crowley -- September 26th, 2013

Right now, in a massive collective effort to determine the best books of 2013, PW’s staff of certified, unassailable geniuses are poring over stacks of books already vetted and approved over the course of the year by our stable of reviewers (they literally all live in a comically oversized stable in Ulster County, NY). It’s a fun but arduous process that will lead to us editors gathering in a pub nearby and arguing about the merits of such-and-such’s book versus that other one that’s clearly unfit for the honor of a spot on the top-10 list (and thus must be content with a place in the bottom 90 *boos* *hisses* or, horror of horrors, not on the long list at all *gasps* *widespread fainting*).

Artist's rendering of our Reviewer Stable

Artist’s rendering of our Reviewers’ Stable

This whole process of making a list of “best” things is, of course, terrifyingly subjective. Frankly, we the editors don’t even necessarily agree on what “best” signifies. We each have our own vague idea(s); some abstract platonic concept existing for itself in the void. But is that even helpful? Probably not, since that entails defining a bunch of other slippery concepts that should be working in perfect symbiosis. So maybe the best we can do for now is run the rule over some of those characteristics that will eventually take their Voltron form (and I speak here from a non-fiction perspective only, the concerns of fiction or poetry differ in both obvious and subtle ways). Anyway, welcome to the sausage factory! Continue reading

Women to Watch: A Report from the Rona Jaffe Awards Reception

Jessamine Chan -- September 20th, 2013

Rona Jaffe Award winners

Tiffany Briere. Ashlee Crews. Kristin Dombek. Margaree Little. Kirstin Valez Quade. Jill Sisson Quinn. Remember these names, because the Rona Jaffe Foundation has a remarkable track record for picking future stars. The only national literary program of its kind devoted to supporting women writers exclusively, the awards were established by novelist Rona Jaffe (1931-2005) in 1995, and provide grants of $30,000 each to six outstanding emerging women writers. Past recipients include Lan Samantha Chang, Rivka Galchen, Tracy K. Smith, and ZZ Packer, a storied group that has gone on to win the Pultizer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Whiting Writer’s Award.

Continue reading