Long Reads

A Brief History of the Modern Man’s Hat

In the final decade of the eighteenth century, impelled by the ideals of the French Revolution, the top hat replaced the tricorne as the vogue item of headwear for fashionable Europeans. Already popular in France where it would become part of the costume of the Incroyables, the first top hat in England has been credited to the Frenchman George Dunnage, a master hatter…

George RR Martin and the Art of the List

On 10 May 2016 George RR Martin published an excerpt in the form of a chapter from The Winds of Winter, the sixth novel in his epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire and one which fans have been eagerly anticipating now for almost five years. A Dance with Dragons – itself the product of a five-and-a-half-year wait,…

Great Long Opening Sentences in World Literature

Some of the greatest first lines in world literature are but a few words long, consisting of a lone and simple clause: ‘Call me Ishmael.’ from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851), and for a more recent example, ‘See the child.’ from Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian (1985). Others too suggestively introduce a central figure, whether the narrator or the object of the narrator’s gaze:…

Themes and References in Joanna Newsom’s Sapokanikan

Yesterday Joanna Newsom announced Divers, her fourth studio album and her first since 2010’s beautiful and generous Have One on Me. Divers is due out on 23 October on Drag City. Accompanying this revelation, she also unveiled the video for the album’s first single. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, ‘Sapokanikan’ shows Newsom strolling, striding, and sashaying through the streets of New York City. ‘Sapokanikan’ is…

Poetry

Emily Dickinson – ‘I Can Wade Grief’ (1862)

Emily Dickinson was born on 10 December 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts, the town where she would live the duration of her life. She attended Amherst Academy, newly opened to female students, for seven years, punctuated briefly by spells of illness and a stay in Boston in the aftermath of the death of her cousin, Sophia Holland. In her teens she…

The Early Poetry of Mina Loy

For last weekend’s Cultureteca, among other things, I looked at some of the poetry being written and published in Russia and the United States a hundred years ago, in July 1915. This included a brief recap of the formation of the literary magazine Others: A Magazine of the New Verse, founded in New Jersey by Alfred Kreymborg. When the first…

Fyodor Sologub: His Life, and ‘At Times There Comes a Strange Smell Wafting’

Fyodor Sologub: His Life, and ‘At Times There Comes a Strange Smell Wafting’

Fyodor Sologub was born Fyodor Kuzmich Teternikov on 1 March, 1863, in Saint Petersburg. Accounts of his father’s life evoke Gogol’s The Overcoat and Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, for Kuzma Afanasyevich Teternikov was a shoemaker and tailor, and apparently the illegitimate son of a local landowner. When Kuzma Afanasyevich died in 1867, Fyodor’s mother became a domestic servant, and Fyodor…

Cinema

Capsule Movie Review: What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

What We Do in the Shadows Vampire Mockumentary | 85 Minutes | 2014 | New Zealand * Vampires on film are best taken seriously. As archetypes, strange and sad figures who permeate given spaces while proving difficult to grasp, they model for us fear, loneliness, and alienation, and are uniquely suited to expressive visual contrasts of light and dark. The great vampire films, Nosferatu (1922),…

Buster Keaton and His Pork Pie Hat

Following the rise of the top hat, bowler or derby, Panama, fedora, and flat cap across the nineteenth century, by the first decades of the twentieth century a man could scarcely open his front door, much less appear before a discerning public, without some suitable form of headwear. In the realm of silent comedy, Charlie Chaplin tramped about in a tight…

Capsule Movie Review: Rams (2015)

Rams (Hrútar) Tragicomedy| 92 Minutes | 2015 | Iceland * * * * * Ageing, unmarried, and unkempt, brothers Gummi (Sigurður Sigurjónsson) and Kiddi (Theodór Júlíusson) work side by side as sheep farmers in a cold and desolate valley in Iceland’s northeast. Each the master of their own flock, they have not spoken for forty years owing to a dispute over their father’s…

Behind the Song

Behind the Song: Chuck Berry – ‘You Can’t Catch Me’

‘You Can’t Catch Me’, one of Chuck Berry’s early singles, proved an unexpected commercial flop. It failed to chart upon its release at the onset of 1957 – despite being given prominence by the fledgeling rock and roll feature Rock, Rock, Rock!, which had opened in cinemas the previous month – briefly halting the run of success which Berry had enjoyed…

Behind the Song: David Bowie – ‘Subterraneans’

‘Subterraneans’ is the closing song on what has become perhaps David Bowie’s most critically acclaimed album: Pitchfork placed Low at number 1 on their ‘Top 100 Albums of the 1970s’, on Q’s list of the ‘100 Greatest British Albums Ever’ Low was Bowie’s highest entry at number 14, and while elsewhere it vies with Ziggy Stardust and Hunky Dory, and occasionally Station to Station and “Heroes”, Low is the constant,…

Hot Where I'm At

A Cultural Guide to Amsterdam

I lived in Amsterdam between the autumn of 2012 and the autumn of 2013, with an apartment in the Oud-Zuid neighbourhood; and have visited the city on several occasions, most recently last week. During my year in Amsterdam, I maintained an almost-daily blog at amsterdamarm.com, featuring photography, concert guides, exhibition and restaurant reviews, festival and event information, Dutch recipes, the…

New York: A Week in Food and Photographs

ast summer, my partner and I spent a week in New York City. This was our first time visiting the city; and for me, despite having covered the breadth of Europe, my first time to the United States and to the Americas (my partner holidayed in Florida in her youth). It was also our first time using Airbnb. We rented an…

Bookshops in York

I am spending this week in York, the city in which I lived from the age of two until the age of nineteen; returning, after four years in Sweden, for three years before moving to Amsterdam last October. York’s city centre is compact but plentiful, with a decent variety of shops, an abundance of places to eat and drink, and…

Photo Series

Iceland: Grótta and the Lighthouse

In the township of Seltjarnarnes at the north-westernmost tip of Greater Reykjavik, looking out over the Faxaflói bay, lies Grótta with its rugged beach and lighthouse. The small spit becomes an island at high tide, and it is closed off for around a month while birds nest in the early summer, but otherwise it is one of the most beautiful spots…

Iceland: Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is the most popular tourist route in Iceland. Looping approximately 300 kilometres from Reykjavik into the Icelandic interior and back, its main sites are always the same: overlooking Þingvellir national park; the geothermal area Haukadalur, home to Geysir, which is so intermittent that tours tend to stop near Strokkur instead, a fountain geyser which erupts every 5-10 minutes…

York Inundated: The December 2015 Floods

With water levels already high across the north of England, and in parts of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales – after Storm Desmond in the first week of December brought record rainfalls and flooded thousands of homes in Cumbria and Lancashire, with heavy rain persisting throughout the month – on 26 December, Boxing Day, more rain caused the Environment Agency to issue 7 severe…