Current Top Picks – N° 3
Considering the publishing date, this article might at first seem out of place in recommendation lists of our time. It was written 20 years ago by the famous cook Anthony Bourdain (†61), who throughout his life had grown to become not only a celebrity chef but moreover a vividly passionate advocate for cooking, the restaurant business, food traveling and life’s adventures within different cultures. The piece came to my attention again through the New Yorker's twitter account which reminded readers of this classic in honor of Bourdain's life, as the first anniversary of his death occurred in early June. I first read the article on the occasion of his death last year and was so astonished by how much I enjoyed reading it that it has remained my favorite English article of all time.
In "Don't Eat Before Reading This", Bourdain describes kitchen life in New York, in particular during his time as Executive Chef of Brasserie Les Halles located in Manhattan. His writing style is clever, blunt, witty, honest and a pure testimony of his love not only for cooking and the preparation of exquisite food but more so for the messy yet incomparable New York restaurant life behind the scenes of chic dinner tables and soirées. For foodies like me, this is a treat that is worth a read at least once a year.
The New Yorker: "'I'm an Outsider on the Inside': An Interview with Bruce Davidson" (by Chris Wiley)
This is an interview with the established 85-year-old photographer Bruce Davidson, who is also part of the world's most renowned photo agency called Magnum Photos. Right when I became seriously interested and invested in photography last year I researched the most recognized and talented photographers around the world of the past and present, so it was only a matter of time before I came across Magnum Photos and its accomplished founders, namely Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Seymour and George Rodger, along with the many talented members that followed in the years after its establishment. The agency's self-proclaimed values are uncompromising excellence, truth, respect and independence –hence leaving me no choice but to take it on as a constant source of inspiration and a fountain of technical knowledge for learning the craft and developing my own unique style of photography.
This interview gives a glimpse into the interesting and eventful life that Bruce Davidson often documented through the fine art of photography, which is also where his most known photographs emerged from – the heart of society. It is as insightful as it is motivating for anyone that has a passion for photography and wants to get a good look into the mind of one of the industry's pioneers from the 20th century. I especially loved the depicted photos in the article showing Davidson's darkroom, a mark of authenticity and originality in the ever-evolving world of photography.
Most memorable quote from the interview:
"Interviewer: But with your work you were also doing politics.
Davidson: If you wake up in the morning, you are making a political statement."
Book recommendation of the month:
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, © Ayn Rand 1957, © renewed Eugene Winick, Paul Gitlin, and Leonard Peickoff 1985, published by New American Library
The author Ayn Rand (born as Alissa Sinowjewna Rosenbaum, *1905 – †1982) was a Russian-American writer and philosopher.
Although I am only almost 200 of 1070 pages into "Atlas Shrugged", I already adore Rand's style of writing and narrating beyond measure. Sometimes I feel like it could have been written by myself; not because I am so incredibly convinced of my own writing abilities to compare myself to the greats but because she frames the thoughts of the protagonists in a way that I can perfectly identify with, and her choice of words on most pages is a mixture of prose and poetry – simply wonderful and a pleasure to read if you are in love with the art of storytelling through the uncovering of deep thoughts, troubles and desires.
The novel is set in a dystopian United States in an undefined time period, however, considering the themes, the story could most fittingly take place in the early 20th century. Two of the main protagonists, Dagny and James Taggart (siblings who are not too fond of each other), are both executives running the railroad construction company they inherited from their father, called Taggart Transcontinental. The main underlying themes of the novel are carried by Ayn Rand's own philosophical view that she developed throughout her career, called Objectivism. If this interests you further, you can read all about this school of philosophy and Rand's work on https://www.aynrand.org/.
To give a little taste of the talented and extraordinary writing in "Atlas Shrugged", below are some of my favorite paragraphs from the pages I have read so far:
"She had always been–she closed her eyes with a faint smile of amusement and pain–the motive power of her own happiness. For once, she wanted to feel herself carried by the power of someone else's achievement. As men on a dark prairie liked to see the lighted windows of a train going past, her achievement, the sight of power and purpose that gave them reassurance in the midst of empty miles and night–so she wanted to feel it for a moment, a brief greeting, a single glimpse, just to wave her arm and say: Someone is going somewhere… ." – p. 67–68
"It was his Fourth Concerto, the last work he had written. The crash of its opening chords swept the sights of the streets away from her mind. The Concerto was a great cry of rebellion. It was a "No" flung at some vast process of torture, a denial of suffering, a denial that held the agony of the struggle to break free. The sounds were like a voice saying: There is no necessity for pain–why, then, is the worst pain reserved for those who will not accept its necessity?–we who hold the love and the secret of joy, to what punishment have we been sentenced for it, and by whom?… The sounds of torture became defiance, the statement of agony became a hymn to a distant vision for whose sake anything was enduring, even this. It was the song of rebellion–and a desperate quest." – p. 69
"Miss Taggart," he said, a tone of gentle, bitter persuasiveness in his voice, "I am older than you. Believe me, there is no other way to live on earth. Men are not open to truth or reason. They cannot be reached by rational argument. The mind is powerless against them. Yet we have to deal with them. If we want to accomplish anything, we have to decide them into letting us accomplish it. […]" – p. 180