Two of John Vernon Lord’s illustrations from the new Folio Society edition of Finnegans Wake, plus two pages from the elaborate notebooks he keeps when working on such a project. I think I may have to buy the book, but I also wish I could buy a facsimile of Lord’s notebooks!
"The other day, we ran into an old man who is also an old fan. He loves the Roots and what we do. Someone mentioned the changing nature of the pop-culture game, and it made him nostalgic for the soul music of his youth. “It’ll be back,” he said. “Things go in cycles.” But do they? If you really track the ways that music has changed over the past 200 years, the only thing that goes in cycles is old men talking about how things go in cycles. History is more interested in getting its nut off. There are patterns, of course, boom and bust and ways in which certain resources are exhausted. There are foundational truths that are stitched into the human DNA. But the art forms used to express those truths change without recurring. They go away and don’t come back. When hip-hop doesn’t occupy an interesting place on the pop-culture terrain, when it is much of the terrain and loses interest even in itself, then what?"
"I believe a man is happier, and happy in a richer way, if he has ‘the freeborn mind’. But I doubt whether he can have this without economic independence, which the new society is abolishing. For economic independence allows an education not controlled by Government; and in adult life it is the man who needs, and asks, nothing of Government who can criticise its acts and snap his fingers at its ideology. Read Montaigne; that’s the voice of a man with his legs under his own table, eating the mutton and turnips raised on his own land. Who will talk like that when the State is everyone’s schoolmaster and employer? Admittedly, when man was untamed, such liberty belonged only to the few. I know. Hence the horrible suspicion that our only choice is between societies with few freemen and societies with none."
In Penn Station, I hardly garner a sideways glance. On the Acela train back to D.C., everyone in my car is so absorbed in their own electronics—their iPads, their iPhones, all of their iSundries—I find it impossible to raise iBrows, since I can hardly make contact with the iBalls under them. An attractive businesswoman, Kimberly Shells, is sitting across from me. With earbuds inserted, she is lost in her own iWorld. Or so I think. After watching her pick mixed nuts out of a cup for a while, I decide to break the ice by winking a picture of her, then asking her if she wants to see it. I expect her to tell me to get bent, or to call the authorities. Instead, she smiles warmly, if slightly warily. “Oh, I was wondering what that is. I thought maybe you had an eye handicap or injury.”
When I inform her of my exalted status as a Glass Explorer, the guy next to her asks if I’m selling them. In fact, I explain, I had to pay 1,500 bucks for the privilege of wearing these. “I would think they’d pay you,” says Shells. I ask her if she might wear them when they’re finally released. “Uhhh, no,” she says, not wishing to offend. “It’s just . . . I don’t want the Internet on my eye. I’m already as connected as I need to be.”
From the looks of the hunchbacked, thumb-clacking herd around us, so is everybody else.