This article from The Financial Times titled “What the South Sea Company can teach us” explores the history book “Money For Nothing” by Thomas Levenson on The South Sea Bubble. From the following quote from the article, it seems that Levenson combines interesting perspectives on the history of science and economics:
What differentiates Levenson’s account from the many earlier ones is his background as a science writer and academic at MIT. His broad thesis is that by the turn of the 18th century the power of mathematics and habits of observation associated with the scientific revolution created new ways to think about the future. In effect, the likes of Newton and Edmond Halley, the astronomer, developed a formal framework for thinking about money, risk and uncertainty, which came to full fruition in the financial engineering that characterised the bubble year of 1720.
Quote from the book “Soul Mountain” by Gao Xingjian. The protagonist is trying to find ancient forests and follows some biologists who are tracking and studying pandas. He asks what scientific value there is in trying to save the giant panda:
“It’s symbolic, it’s a sort of reassurance – people need to deceive themselves. We’re preoccupied with saving a species which no longer has the capacity for survival and yet on the other hand we’re charging ahead and destroying the very environment for the survival of the human species itself. Look at the Min River you came along on your way in here, the forests on both sides have been stripped bare. The Min River has turned into a black muddy river but the Yangtze is much worse yet they are going to block off the river and construct a dam in the Three Gorges! Of course it’s romantic to indulge in wild fantasy but the place lies on a geological fault and has many documented records of landslides throughout its history. Needless to say, blocking off the river and putting up a dam will destroy the entire ecology of the Yangtze River basin but if it leads to earthquakes the population of hundreds of millions living in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze will become fish and turtles! Of course no-one will listen to an old man like me, but when people assault nature like this nature inevitably takes revenge!” (p. 48)
It seems that some "literary elites" feel threatened by the approach of Marie Kondo to only keep books that “spark joy”. I agree that books don’t have to necessarily give you joy, and from my perspective you should only keep the ones that had an impact on you and you reach for regularly. But if you care so much about hoarding your books, is there not some part of you that simply needs them to keep up your profile as an intellectual? I have a few books myself that I want to keep, but most of the books that I have read and shaped me are also on the shelves of public libraries, or I have given away again.
Finished a second novel of Elizabeth Strout, "My Name is Lucy Barton". What a wonderful short novel full of heart and sincerity, I had to read it in one go! 📚 Elizabeth Strout is an exceptional writer I must say; there are some many lovely phrases I was underlining throughout this book. The book is written in a concise way, but there are a lot layers in this story about Lucy Barton who is recovering after a surgery (and who is also writer in the novel), and has an opportunity to reconnect with her mother through gossip. Which allows Lucy to understand more about her own and her mother’s difficult lives.
📖 First time reading a book by Elizabeth Strout, finished "Olive Kitteridge". Very well written prose and amazing how she can give us such a detailed glimpse into all those different characters’ lives using only small stories. I didn’t get any special attachment to Olive Kitteridge herself though, and sometimes her character seems a bit forced in the story to make a link between the different segments. But overall I enjoyed it and found several stories quite memorable.
Via @openculture: Check out these free digitised art books from The Metropolitan Museum of Art.