Sunday links

15th November 2020

John Wyver writes: back to standard-issue links this week, and I’m determined not to lead with gloomy analyses of the world, but rather with a clutch of recommendations both for and about The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix, above – a framegrab from ep 5), which is one of the most joyful television series I’ve seen in a long time. Search it out if you’re able, and meanwhile…

The Queen’s Gambit is honestly one of the best new series of 2020, and here are 19 reasons why: Nora Dominick for Buzzfeed.

The Queen’s Gambit is the most satisfying show on television: Rachel Syme is very smart about the series for The New Yorker.

The Queen’s Gambit: the hidden depths of Netflix’s word-of-mouth smash:  Cassie da Costa for Vanity Fair is very good also:

The Queen’s Gambit is so thrilling because it offers a kind of fantasy to Americans engaged in a daily hustle designed to reward the most mediocre offerings with praise and capital. Beth and her friends show us a different kind of endgame: one in which victory is never achieved alone.

Check her out: how Netflix hit The Queen’s Gambit thrills with fashion: Morwenna Ferrier for Guardian is great on the fashion in the series – and now I want to read comparable analyses of the interior design, the cars, the music…

Herman Mankiewicz, Pauline Kael and the battle over Citizen Kane: Richard Brody’s piece for The New Yorker is absolutely what you need to read as prep for David Fincher’s Mank.

Kira Muratova and the Communist love triangle: Muratova remains absurdly under-valued and her films under-seen, as is demonstrated once more by Steffanie Ling’s essay about her early features for

The quickest bite: Julia Alexander and Zoe Schiffer for The Verge on the final days of Quibi is a great read.

The Quibi anti-phenomenon and the narrative underground: at Reverse Shot Chloe Lizotte is very good on short-form story-telling and much more.

Small Axe: the black British culture behind Steve McQueen’s stunning new series: the first Small Axe film airs tonight, and Ellen E. Jones’ Guardian piece is great background…

‘These are the untold stories that make up our nation’: Steve McQueen on Small Axe: … and this Sight & Sound interview by David Olusoga is essential.

A day at the archives: BBC Written Archives Centre: for the Iamhist blog Tom May hymns the BBC’s essential resource for researchers.

Alone in Venice [£, but limited free access]: beautiful, beautiful writing from Colm Tóibín for LRB about Tintoretto and Titian, James (of course) and Mann.

Sheets ahead: the pioneering photography of Imogen Cunningham – in pictures: I loved this Guardian collection of a photographer whose work I have to learn more about (which is linked to Imogen Cunningham: A Retrospective published by Getty Publications), including this…

The Unmade Bed, 1957; © Imogen Cunningham Trust/J Paul Getty Museum

Continuous Page: Scrolls and Scrolling from Papyrus to Hypertext: a wonderful open access book from The Courtauld of 12 essays (with some lovely digital enhancements), edited by Jack Hartnell. The Introduction by Hartnell is especially good as a way in to the subject.

The word at MoMA is ‘rotation, rotation, rotation’: a vividly informative report on the re-hang of the world’s finest permanent collection of modern art, by Roberta Smith for The New York Times.

How I write visual analysis: Professor Jill Burke made this 25-minute video for her students, focussed on (but in no sense limited by) a still life by the Dutch early 17th-century artist Clara Peeters (for a written version, go here) — but wonderfully for the rest of us she shared it to Youtube:

Robert Gottlieb on Dickensworld — the great novelist’s grand universe: writing for The New York Times the critic reflects on Dickens and those who have written on his life, including the latest ‘highly peculiar biography’ by A.N. Wilson.

The electric city: a fascinating article for History Today by Rohan McWilliam about the impact of electric light on London’s West End in the first years of the 20th century.

Electrophone – the Victorian-era gadget that was a precursor to live-streaming: great piece for The Conversation by Natasha Kitcher drawing on her research about a great subject 9and with wonderful images):

From 1893 to 1925 the London Electrophone Company streamed the sound of live theatre into the home using a telephone device known as an Electrophone… Music concerts, scientific lectures, church services and theatre shows were “streamed” into the homes of those that could afford it across the country. For those with a smaller budget, listening salons were created. For the first time, you could experience a show without being in the theatre. This was, of course, well before the first live radio broadcast in 1920.

JBS Haldane – the man who knew almost everything [£, but limited free access]: for New Statesman, Ray Monk on Samanth Subramanian on the pioneering geneticist.

• Augmented reality and omniscient capitalism – reviewing Mark Pesce’s Augmented Reality: Bill Thompson on Pesce’s perspicacious warning in his new book from Polity Press:

The book’s key point… is that ‘augmented reality is a technology of networked surveillance’ and that this is not side-effect like the data exhaust of web searches, but a fundamental design requirement. You can’t put an elephant in my visual field and let me walk around it unless you have scanned the room, captured my position, noted my head and eye movements, and watched my hands. All that data is being uploaded and processed in the cloud, with no real controls over what happens to it next.

Reading and writing again: on Zadie Smith’s Intimations: Scott Korb for LA Review of Books is really good on death and discrimination, grief and privilege and art.

What our contributors are reading this fall: this whole Paris Review post is, of course) worth your time, but I was especially struck by the final piece by David Kirby:

Not only am I happy when I’m watching the YouTube video of the Commodores singing ‘Nightshift,’ I’m only happy when I’m watching this video. Like anything by Mozart or George Eliot or Van Gogh, it has unfathomable depths, but first it pulls you in with its surface. 

How Gillian Welch and David Rawlings held on to optimism: a terrific story about the folk duo for The New York Times Magazine by Hanif Abdurraqib.

Democracy’s afterlife [£, but limited free access]: as for the wider world, Fintan O’Toole’s essay for NY Review of Books is perhaps the best piece I’ve read this week, although…

The last man to believe in the system [£, but limited free access]: … Michael Woolf’s finely-crafted TLS review of Evan Osnos’ Joe Biden – American Dreamer runs it close.

The liar’s dividend: Luke Warde for Dublin Review of Books contributes a fine essay in response to Will Davies’ new This is Not Normal: The Collapse of Liberal Britain.

The National Trust is under attack because it cares about history, not fantasy: important argument by Peter Mitchell for the Guardian.

Spitfire Britain and the zombie Union: a complex but rewarding essay about the forthcoming constitutional car crash by Scott Hames at The Drouth.

Why are politicians suddenly talking about their ‘lived experience’?: another Guardian article, I know, but truly stimulating thoughts by Kwame Anthony Appiah, professor of philosophy and law at New York University.

Joan Baez – ‘We Shall Overcome’: recorded at BBC Television Theatre, London, 5 June 1965:


  1. Clare Paterson says:

    I want to study with Prof Jill Burke…

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