Odds and Ends

Here is notice of a couple of interesting books recently published.

Looking for an interesting read on a recent trip to New York City, I picked up a copy of Roger White, The Contemporaries: Travels in the 21st-Century Art World (New York: Bloomsbury, 2015), feeding my ongoing interest in art, its production, and its marketing. White, an artist himself, describes the emergence of a “quasi-industrial manufacture of objects for a global market or ambitious ventures into other modes entirely: feature films, festival, political movements” (p. 4). White describes what goes on in art schools, the growing use of assistants by contemporary artists, a case study of the art scene in Milwaukee, and so forth. Academics might find his chapter on art assistants of interest as it describes, perhaps, a counterpart to the academy’s use of teaching assistants and graduate student researchers. From White’s perspective the issue is how these assistants figure into the notion of the creation of art and the idea of originality. But maybe there is something similar at play in the academy as well in the production of research. There continues to be a lot of concern about issues of compensation, responsibilities, and the ethics of the use of such assistants in the university, and White provides a window into the fact that such issues are not limited to higher education.

Another new history of paper has appeared. Mark Kurlansky, the author of the well-known studies of cod and salt, has published Paper: Paging Through History (New York: W. W. Norton, 2016). I have not yet read this book, but I plan to since I read most everything this author writes. Anthony Grafton provides a generally positive review in “Between the Sheets,” New York Times Book Review, May 22, 2016, p. 12. Grafton praises the “versatile introduction to this long and complicated history,” while cautioning that there is more to this history than what Kurlansky provides.


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