Category Archives: culture

A Small Sebald

A small effigy of W. G. Sebald holding a copy of his book The Rings of Saturn.

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Why Sebald put pictures in his books

In a recently published video clip of W. G. Sebald reading at 92nd Street Y in New York, he explains why he puts pictures in his books: I put these pictures in in the first instance for my own satisfaction. But as I kept doing this I realised that conceivably they had other functions in […]

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The Genius and the Soil: Open Access and the Politics of Information

The following article was originally published in the April-May 2013 edition of Red Pepper (Issue 189). Who can share what on the internet? There is an increasing awareness of debates around illegal sharing through high profile court cases and controversies in the news – through things like the Pirate Bay, Wikileaks, or the recent tragic […]

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The Sleepless City

From Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi’s The Dictionary of Imaginary Places (New York: Macmillan, 1980): SLEEPLESS CITY, in northern Nigeria. The inhabitants have the singular habit of never sleeping, and have therefore no idea of what sleep is. The city is a particularly dangerous place for strangers. If a traveller should happen to overlook the […]

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The Future of Memory

The following is a short piece on “The Future of Memory” written for The Junket, an online literary quarterly edited by actor and Man Booker Prize judge Dan Stevens. In his À la recherche du temps perdu Marcel Proust writes of memories unfurling and unfolding like Japanese paper flowers suspended in water – from small […]

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The Sea of Stories

Earlier this week the Guardian, Forbes and others covered the discovery of 500 fairy tales collected by 19th century folklorist Franz Xaver von Schönwerth. I sent a note about this to Professor Jack Zipes, who promptly replied urging caution about the discovery and pointing to many other (in his view more interesting) 19th century collections […]

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The Swedenborgian Legacy

Swedenborg’s system of the world wants central spontaneity; it is dynamic, not vital, and lacks power to generate life. There is no individual in it. The universe is a gigantic crystal, all whose atoms and laminae lie in uninterrupted order and with unbroken unity, but cold and still. What seems an individual and a will, […]

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Shrigleyian, Shrigleyesque, Shrigleyish

Brain Activity at the Hayward Gallery is one of David Shrigley’s biggest exhibitions to date. If you’ve seen Shrigley’s drawings or books before, you’ll immediately recognise the world that the exhibition exhibits, with its roughly scrawled figures and thinly underlined block capitals.

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Here is St. Valentine

An impromptu St. Valentine’s day inspired group missive from my friend Alex Pickup inspired its impromptu spirited republication.

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On Archiving Everything: Borges, Calvino, Google

This piece was cross-posted on, the European counterpart to the French investigative reporting and data journalism outfit Today Google marks the 112th birthday of Jorge Luis Borges with this colourful sketch.

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