Trade Tokens #4 – Week Ending 22/1/11

Running late this week, but nonetheless, here’s a round-up of things I found on the internet that I wanted to share.

The Politics of (Science) Fiction
Last week, I noted that Dreams and Speculations would be running a book club in 2011, encouraging people to read more sf by women. Hot on the heels of this comes a series of similar initiatives. At Torque Control, Shana Worthen has instituted Reading Future Classics by Women, beginning with Gwyneth Jones’s Bold As Love in February. Martin Lewis, Vector reviews editor, will be reading and reviewing an sf novel written by a woman every month in 2011. Ian Sales is carrying out a similar reading challenge. I shall be aiming to join in wherever possible.

Elif Shafak talks about the politics of fiction. I’m slightly late to the party on this one but it is worth seeing. It’s too easy to think of fiction, writing in general, as something disposable. There are repercussions. There are always repercussions.

And I can’t resist setting it against this link to Jorge Luis Borges’ 1967 Harvard lecture, ‘The Riddle of Poetry’. I realised, when I started listening to this, that I hadn’t, so far as I could recall, ever heard a recording of Borges before. His voice was not quite what I had expected.

The Library of Babel
An interesting piece from The Paris Review, with a lot of links to writers writing about their libraries. I have also tracked down an online copy of the Walter Benjamin essay, Unpacking My Library: A Talk About Book Collecting. As it happens, I’m currently listening to a rather good Radio 3 play about Montaigne, Living With Princes, and it has obligingly just referred to his description of his library. Roger Allam plays Michel de Montaigne. Well worth listening to (and you have another seven days to do so).

Department of Dereliction
Not so much dereliction this time as using/reusing space in imaginative ways, this time for the raising of food. Via the ever-interesting Building Blog, I give you Spaces of Food, in particular The Mushroom Tunnel of Mittagong (which, oddly, reminds me of the rhubarb sheds of northern England where, allegedly, you can hear the sound of rhubarb leaves breaking free of the soil – imagine). Check out the other links, in particular the Betel Nut Beauties, pictures of betel-nut shacks.

Also, an explanation of why the ‘tiny house’ movement is not quite what it seems to be. Given I hadn’t even realise there was a tiny house movement until I read this piece, I found this fascinating. Also, I like elbow room. Ultimate elbow room would be the city under the ice, in Greenland, detailed in Project Iceworm, via the ever-wonderful Building Blog.

And I suspect this doesn’t really fit under ‘dereliction’ either: it’s the Palais Ideal built by Ferdinand Cheval, a French postman who was inspired by a particular rock he found to devote his spare time to building this extraordinary structure. Naive art? Outsider art? More and more, I find these terms unsatisfactory, other than to indicate that someone worked outside the formal structures that say what a building should and shouldn’t be. Unfettered creativity, perhaps, would be a better term.

Light Box
More photos from the New York Times’ photoblog, Lens. These are by Dima Gavrysh and document the coffeehouses around the area where he lives in NYC. I like them in part because of the warmth of the colours, not to mention the unusual angles on coffeehouse activities, and in part because I am pining for the coffeehouses of NYC and the West Coast.

This is a bit of an oddity. A man in New York found a roll of film in Prospect Park during the recent blizzards. He’s now trying to find the person who took the photos.

Book Art
This time, it’s book origami. Half of me resists the notion of doing things to books; the other half of me knows perfectly well that the book is far from being a sacred object.

And finally, in the Department of Refraining From Comment I give you Yvette Marie Dostatni, who photographs the attendees at US conventions of all sorts.