- Today, Germany (finally) legalised same-sex marriage by snap election in the lead up to Pride 2017. In an essay for the LARB Adrian Daub examines why France ‘of all places’ has yet to do the same. He sees the French as comfortable with ‘folding gay people into some kind of new universal’ but ‘decrying any specific reference to them as divisive’.
- ‘What good was life on one’s own, really, in the face of European decline and the increasing global irrelevance of your social class?’ – Francesco Pacifico’s new novel Class offers a stark indictment of gentrification (‘a redirection of resources within a closed system’) in Rome and New York. If this extract leaves you keen to mend your bourgeois ways, check out the manifesto of the Los Angeles Tenants Union / Sindicato de Inquilinos de Los Ángeles (LATU/SILA), who write ‘in hopes that more artists will finally break with their sense of exceptionalism and consider their roles in gentrification.’
- On 11 July 1960, Harper Lee published To Kill a Mockingbird. Fifty-five years later, Go Set a Watchman, an unfinished work, was published with much controversy, a year before the author’s death aged eighty-nine. For some, the fascination with Harper Lee is founded not just on her potent debut novel, but also her reclusiveness. Authors like J.D. Salinger, Thomas Pynchon and Elena Ferrante have all benefited (or perhaps, suffered) from a similar allure. ‘Life is never more fascinating than when it withholds answers, because in place of answers we create fictions no real person could live up to,’ writes Jonathan Russell Clark.
- Facial recognition technology is growing in sophistication. In the name of identity verification, companies and governments are gathering our faces, fingerprints and irises. ‘It’s time we conspire to shield our meatsacks from such intrusions,’ writes the New Inquiry. They recommend wearing a face mask 24/7, and have helpfully provided downloadable templates featuring ‘the faces from 130 executives at leading biometric corporations around the world’. Elsewhere in the heady (anyone?) world of facial recognition technology, Paul Taylor reports on a machine learning experiment run by Google in which a machine called Inception was shown around ten million images stills from YouTube. In a surprising, yet oddly predictable turn of events, rather than learning to identify humans, Inception instead learned ‘the concept of cat face’.
- This month marks twenty years since the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The anniversary has induced a trove of nostalgia-driven essays on The Boy Who Lived. Kristen Martin examines the pervasive genre of the orphan story, from James and the Giant Peach to Huckleberry Finn. Meanwhile, the Oxford English Dictionary adds a lexicographic perspective, debating which Harry Potter neologisms will follow ‘muggle’ and ‘quidditch’ into the dictionary. If you haven’t taken the (J.K. Rowling endorsed) Pottermore sorting quiz yet, now is the time. Everyone at Granta is Slytherin.
Image © Fuzzy Gerdes