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Art Of Conversation

"The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries."

~ René Descartes

Now that I have been writing these monthly essays with a slightly fuzzy sense of purpose for almost a year, I’ve begun asking some questions of what I hope to achieve with my writing. I thought a lot about how I would define my larger aspirations and the shape that my monthly contributions towards a cultural conversation take. This led to the project I am now calling ‘Art Of Conversation’. And I thought it would be a good idea to share this with my readers, whoever and wherever you might be. So in this...

A few years ago, an app was released that expunged ebooks – by choice of the individual reader – of a predetermined set of words some people might find offensive. It was a silly endeavour marketed to people who were more concerned with surface than substance. (This inversion of values accounts for the fact that the lowest setting removed only the “major swear words” while the most stringent setting also replaced “some hurtful racial terms” – the developers clearly gave little thought to whether the F- o...

It has become a banality to describe a television series as “novelistic”, as has pointing out that in borrowing from the basically defunct literary practice of serialising a story, television has replaced novels. There is probably some grain of truth suffocating beneath the dead weight of commentary, but on the scales of aesthetic judgment, that kernel cannot outweigh the wealth of properties novels innately hold that cannot be replaced by television. It’s like the emergence of photography and its impac...

I’d never anticipated quoting Benedict Cumberbatch, but here it goes: Discussing the differences between television and cinema, he told The Guardian that the lines “are beautifully blurred now between what big- and small-screen is”. He put it more plainly a moment later: “Fuck it ... If it’s good material, it’s good material.” He should know something about this subject, having starred in Sherlock, a show that can be described in the same terms as its title character: flawed, deeply complex, and loveabl...

Contemporary art theorist Thierry de Duve once wrote that art indicates “one of the thresholds where humans withdraw from their natural condition and where their universe sets itself to signifying”. Or where – in a slight rephrasing – the universe sets to signifying itself. Such self-consciousness is one of the basic prerequisites for culture, and art has long been a reliable (and entertaining) method of self-reflectively interrogating ourselves and our customs. Given this, it is natural that art should...

Convergent, connected, crossover characters are everywhere. Almost by definition and certainly by design, they are appearing – and then re-appearing and re-re-appearing – all over the literary, cinematic, and televisual landscape. From TV spin-offs such as Better Call Saul to the overlapping Marvel movies to the intertwined paths of characters in series such as A Song of Ice and Fire and the expanding universe of David Mitchell, crossovers are increasing in popularity.

There are myriad reasons for writer...

I was recently in the midst of inhaling (such was the speed and ease with which it was consumed) Zadie Smith’s On Beauty. I had begun reading it the previous lunchtime and had read more than half by that evening. And I mentioned this to my sister, who was visiting Mexico, as a prelude to listing all the ways in which it was a poorly written book. Five minutes later, after I’d quoted some of the hackneyed phrases and sloppy sentences rendered unclear by sloppier editing, my sister asked, “So why are you...

Before Tony Shafrazi was seized by a guard at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, he managed to spray-paint three blood-red words across Picasso’s Guernica: KILL LIES ALL. This was in 1974, and it has widely been assumed that this was primarily a political protest against the release on bail of a US lieutenant involved in the awful Sơn Mỹ Massacre in Vietnam. But while Shafrazi was being dragged away by the museum guard, he was shouting out something strange. “Call the curator!” he hollered. “I am an artis...

In The Sea, The Sea, Iris Murdoch’s narrator, a star of the theatre in supernova, tells us that he has been writing over the course of several “wonderful empty solitary days, such as I remember yearning for”. He has at last obtained the removal of his person from the theatre, from city life, from regular contact with other souls. So desperate for solitude, he laments that the coastal path near his place of self-imposed exile permits motor cars, celebrates that the “rocky coast attracts, thank God, no tr...

‘Squatter’, one of the stories in Rohinton Mistry’s first collection, is a simultaneously thoughtful and funny meditation on cultural differences and the experiences of migrants. Despite its toilet-related subject matter and wit, Mistry uses his story to reflect on the drawbacks of migration and offer a somewhat pessimistic view of the effects of cultural differences on one’s identity and psyche.

‘Squatter’ is a nested narrative that contains two stories told by Nariman Hansotia, to the boys of his Mumba...

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