Curating The Week: John McPhee, Ben Ratliff, Charring Wood


More structural advice from John McPhee.

“Much of McPhee’s work sits at some thrilling intersection of short story, essay, documentary, field research and epic poem…He gathers every single scrap of reporting on a given project — every interview, description, stray thought and research tidbit — and types all of it into his computer. He studies that data and comes up with organizing categories: themes, set pieces, characters and so on. Each category is assigned a code. To find the structure of a piece, McPhee makes an index card for each of his codes, sets them on a large table and arranges and rearranges the cards until the sequence seems right. Then he works back through his mass of assembled data, labeling each piece with the relevant code. On the computer, a program called ‘Structur’ arranges these scraps into organized batches, and McPhee then works sequentially, batch by batch, converting all of it into prose.

Ben Ratliff on how to better listen to music.

“The idea that hums in the background of the book is how I don’t think genre is that important anymore. Lately, I’ve come to understand that there is a difference between genre and tradition in music. I like tradition a lot—it is inherently about growth and moving through time. But genre is a static idea. Genre is for merchants and spectators; tradition is for involved listeners and musicians.”

An article on the Japanese practice of shou sugi ban or charring wood.

“Like industrial lighting or reclaimed wood, shou sugi ban has a certain rustic, homespun appeal. The yearning for this aesthetic has led, over the past decade, to a general return to treating materials in traditional ways and, more specifically, to an adoption of principles that have long been fundamental to Japanese architecture: simplicity, the use of natural materials and a sensitivity to the surrounding environment.”

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