Dan Shurley

The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse by Pascal Bruckner

The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse by Pascal Bruckner

French cultural critic, Pascal Bruckner, has made a career out of diagnosing strains of psychic weariness in Western life. In The Tyranny of Guilt, he warned that excess levels of guilt over past atrocities had hamstrung Europeans, rendering them incapable of confronting the problems of the present. In a seeming departure, Perpetual Euphoria found Bruckner questioning the shrill consumerist imperative to pursue happiness at all costs, making a case for the right to be maladjusted, even downright unhappy. Unlikely as it seems, there is a loose thread running through both of these books: Neither suffering nor happiness can form the basis for action. Both must be subordinated to freedom. With his latest book, Fanaticism of the Apocalypse, Bruckner has teased out another strain of inertia tugging at the Western conscience: ecological catastrophism.

Read More

A Useless Man: Selected Stories by Sait Faik Abasıyanık

A Useless Man: Selected Stories by Sait Faik Abasıyanık

Nearly all of the stories gathered in Sait Faik Abasiyanik’s A Useless Man: Selected Stories can be read in the span of a short subway ride, say, between Oakland and Berkeley, or Brooklyn and Manhattan. The longest story in the collection, an excerpt from “A Cloud in the Sky,” I reserved for an unplanned jaunt to Ocean Beach, San Francisco. Come to think of it, since I have come into possession of Abasiyanik’s Stories, I have found myself pursuing loosely structured goals in the region just as an excuse to hop on a train and dive into another succinct tale. The stories in this collection can be read slowly and methodically, without any apprehension of not finishing. They are stories of village and urban life in and around Istanbul in the first half of the 20th century, ideally suited for traveling without aim. In other words, they can be read as they were written, in public, and in haste.

Read More

If Hemingway Wrote Javascript by Angus Croll

If Hemingway Wrote Javascript by Angus Croll

Angus Croll’s book-length thought experiment adds a new twist to the common trope in technical writing of using literature as dummy text for exercises: This time the literary references are the exercises. In If Hemingway Wrote Javascript the literary masters tackle classic programming problems in ways that will be recognizable to well-read programmers, with style to spare. BorgesLewis Carroll, Dickens, and David Foster Wallace devise algorithms that generate prime numbers. (At least two of these authors would not have been out of their element here). James Joyce, Jane Austen, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Jack Kerouac take on factorials. Can you guess whose code has a jazzy, improvised feel? and whose abounds with neologisms and non sequiturs? Croll plays the role of omniscient narrator, offering post-code explanations that dig into the rationale behind each writer’s approach.

Read More