New and noteworthy – 14 September 2017

On crepuscular delights, kicking against the pricks, common corporate lingos, and wealth and moral worthiness

September 14, 2017
Milford Sound sunset
Source: iStock

The Last of the Light: About Twilight
Peter Davidson
Reaktion Books

A bold attempt to “map the territories of the dusk”, Peter Davidson’s book ranges widely across Western literature, painting and even music while also drawing extensively on his own experiences of seeing landscapes transformed by the late afternoon light. In seeking to define the changing moods and sensibilities associated with twilight, he explores a particular strand of “English melancholy”, the effects of shadows in the garden, the complex feelings associated with cities in the evening and the haunting atmosphere of fireworks and reflected light. With many striking extracts from poetry and fiction both well-known and obscure, The Last of the Light offers a highly unusual contribution to cultural history.

The Asshole Survival Guide: How to Deal with People Who Treat You Like Dirt
Robert I. Sutton
Penguin Books

Robert Sutton, a professor in Stanford University’s department of management science and engineering, believes in telling it how it is: many of our problems in life come from having to cope with “assholes” of various kinds. An earlier book on creating civilised workplaces attracted a huge postbag from people asking him about what they could do as individuals, so he has distilled his insights into guidance on “how to assess, escape, endure, fight, and force out bullies, backstabbers, and arses”. “Survival strategies” include everything from “mak[ing] a clean getaway” to “fighting back” by way of “mind tricks to protect your soul”.

The Language of Global Success: How a Common Tongue 
Transforms Multinational Organizations
Tsedal Neeley

Princeton University Press

In 2010, Hiroshi Mikitani, head of the Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten, announced that communication within the company would henceforth be in English. To assess the impact, Tsedal Neeley did surveys and interviews all over the world. Native Japanese speakers based in Japan suddenly found “their daily work experiences fraught with language challenges”. Initially pleased anglophones soon discovered that “the shift to their native language ironically opened the door to [more Japanese] organizational practices”. Those who had to take on both a new language and new cultural practices often proved the most adaptable. This analysis offers sharp insights for any multinational thinking about adopting a “lingua franca”.

Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence
Rachel Sherman

Princeton University Press

“Scott” and “Olivia” have a flat worth $4.5 million (£3.9 million), yet wonder if they “really want to live in such a fancy place”. They recall leaving a broken door unrepaired, as if determined to keep their lifestyle “just a little bit uncomfortable”. Like most of the elite New Yorkers interviewed for this book, they are deeply conflicted about “how to be both wealthy and morally worthy”. Although it is easy to judge the rich for such “anxieties”, Rachel Sherman suggests that this often distracts us from examining the wider “systems of distribution that produce inequality”.

The Foreigner: Two Essays on Exile
Richard Sennett

Notting Hill Editions

Since he wrote these essays, Richard Sennett explains in the introduction to this new edition, he has “become involved in urban planning work for the United Nations” and come into contact with the migrants who “flood into the giant cities of the developing world” in their tens of millions and need to find ways of “making sense of displacement”. The rest of the book explores how the Jews of Renaissance Venice forged new identities for themselves in Europe’s first modern ghetto and how the radical 19th-century Russian aristocrat, Alexander Herzen, “struggled to understand himself as a permanently unwanted, homeless individual”. Such historical examples, hopes Sennett, can “help illuminate the present”.

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