My favorite things London

No, I am not there, but this was a request from a loyal MR reader.  Here goes:

1. Mystery writer: Eric Ambler, most of all A Coffin for Dimitrios; the villain is pathetic, not fearful, and this is most of all a study in collective mythmaking.

2. Philosopher: Francis Bacon.  I’m not a Straussian but he really does have hidden and deep meanings.  Read Perez Zagorin on Bacon for a guide to the complexity of it all.

Honorary mention goes to Jeremy Bentham, whose proposal for interest-bearing currency, ideas on animal welfare, and Auto-Icon (most of all the text, not just the body) still stand ahead of their time.  He was a subtle thinker, not a one-dimensional simpleton.

3. Favorite song off London Calling: "Jimmy Jazz" remains dearest to my heart.

4. Favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie: Vertigo may be the most complete masterwork, but the best segments of The Birds, Psycho, and Marnie (all inconsistent movies) stick most deeply in my mind.

5. Favorite Henry Purcell recording: The Complete Odes and Welcome Songs, and no, eight discs of this music is not overkill.

6. 17th century economics pamphlet: Nicholas Barbon’s Apology for the Builder.  Barbon to Dudley North is a wonderful period in the history of political economy, spend a few weeks reading that stuff sometime.  This short pamphlet has increasing returns, aggregate demand management, urban economics, and the invisible hand, all well before Adam Smith.

7. Favorite neighborhood to stay in: Kensington, it is leafy green and away from both the monarchy and the hideous theatre district.

8. Favorite painting in: The National Gallery offers stiff competition, but how about this Gauguin, in the Courtauld?  As for carpets, here is the Ardebil, in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

9. Pianist: The elegant Clifford Curzon remains underrated.  He produced a lyrical account of Liszt’s B Minor Sonata plus try his Schubert B flat sonata and his Mozart.

Other stuff: Do I really have anything to add about Chaucer, Blake, Defoe, Forster, Keats, Milton, Samuel Johnson, Dickens, Orwell, Turner, Turing, Mick Jagger, Tim Harford, Stephen Jen, and The Economist?  Maybe, but not today.


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