Results for “knausgaard”
65 found

The book culture that is Norway

So long as a new Norwegian book passes quality control, Arts Council Norway purchases 1,000 copies of it to distribute to libraries—or 1,550 copies if it’s a children’s book. (This comes on top of the libraries’ acquisition budgets.) The purchasing scheme, I was told, keeps alive many small publishers that could not otherwise exist. American independent presses would drool at the prospect. Another effect of the scheme is that it subsidizes writers as they build a career. They make royalties on those 1,000 copies—in fact, at a better royalty rate than the contractual standard. Books are also exempted from Norway’s value-added tax.

There is more here, partly on Knausgaard, here is more TNR on Knausgaard, via Scott Sumner.

I would note that, other than Knausgaard, the merits of recent Norwegian literature are…subject to debate.

Assorted links

1. How to survive falling through ice, an illustrated guide.  And the fate of the Danish giraffe with ZMP genes, illustrated.

2. Is my job in another state?

3. Vending machine markets in everything: Vancouver, crack pipes.

4. “Choco Pies are an important mind-changing instrument…Other North Korea analysts have commented on the psychological meaning of Choco Pies to North Koreans…

5. “The goal is to get all of the town’s citizens’ chronotypes in an online database.” (the culture that is Bad Kissingen)

6. An information age glossary.

7. The WaPo’s new narrative journalism project.  And Knausgaard in The New Yorker.

Best fiction books of 2013

Every year I offer my picks for best books of that year, today we are doing fiction.  I nominate:

1. Karl Knausgaard, My Struggle: Book Two: Man in Love.

2. Claire Messud, The Woman Upstairs.  Great fun.

3. Amy Sackville, Orkney.  Not every honeymoon works out the way you planned.

4. Mohsin Hamid, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.

5. Kathryn Davis, Duplex: A Novel.  Non-linear, not for all.

Since I think the Knausgaard is one of the greatest novels ever written, I suppose it also has to be my fiction book of the year.  (Except, um…it’s not fiction.)  But otherwise I found many books disappointing, perhaps because my own expectations were out of synch with contemporary writing.

Elizabeth Gilbert and Donna Tartt produced decent plane reads, but I wouldn’t call them favorites.  The new Thomas Pynchon I could not stand more than a short sample of.  I sampled many other novels but didn’t like or finish them.  I read or reread a lot of Somerset Maugham, which was uniformly rewarding.  The Painted Veil may not be the best one, but it is a good place to get hooked.  I reread quite a bit of Edith Wharton and it rose further in my eyes.  Ethan Frome and The Age of Innocence are my favorites, more intensely focused than the longer fiction.  I loved discovering the Philip Pullman trilogy and vowed to give George Martin another try this coming year.

Assorted links

1. Robin Hanson on automation and wealth.

2. Currency substitution models as they curse India, and what India should do.  And problems with Indian land reform.

3. Will Big Data bring more price discrimination?  And Diane Coyle on starfish, economics, and Average is Over.

4. Are bicycles better than cash? (pdf)

5. China’s dilemma concerning interest rates and financial repression.

6. Short, nostalgic autobiography of Scott Sumner, who also loves Knausgaard.

*Securities Against Misrule*, the new Jon Elster book

The subtitle is Juries, Assemblies, Elections and the book focuses on the very Nordic concern of how to make better political decisions within a democratic framework.  Elster thinks that social choice theory presents insoluble dilemmas with ranking outcomes, so we should focus on improving how political decisions are made.  It’s all about “preventing the prevention of intelligence.”  He promotes secret voting, public deliberations, incorporation of diverse opinions, waiting until passions have subsided, and various methods of running better jury trials.  The influence of Bentham here is paramount, albeit a lesser-known Bentham, that of his own tract Securities Against Misrule, among other writings.

I found this one of the most stimulating social science books so far this year, and it has Elster’s impressive intelligence, breadth and clarity.  But I see many points quite differently, so I will pass along a few issues that come to mind:

1. I worry about the standard philosopher’s comeback to Elster’s proceduralism.  If we cannot very well judge or compare outcomes, how ultimately are we supposed to evaluate procedural changes?  Furthermore the theory of the second best suggests that procedures which “sound good” may not in fact lead to better outcomes.  We get stuck rather quickly.

2. I don’t myself find aggregation problems to be insuperable.  We all know that Norway is a great place, and cardinal information will get us over the usual Arrow problems , a’la Sen (1984).  A lot of the rest is what I call details.  Without intending any bias against explicit norms of rational discourse, the more fundamental question is how a country can enjoy the luxury position of debating such matters peacefully in the first place.  Ask Egypt.

3. If I think about the historical decisions which I consider wise and important, they very often are based on a certain amount of Machiavellianism, rather than on the standards for an ideal speech community.  The ratification of the U.S. Constitution is one obvious example.  Might Elster’s proceduralism work best at the micro level, when embedded in a broader realpolitik framework that already gives some Machiavellian control to “the good guys”?

4. Elster never considers markets or betting (apologies to Carow Hall) as mechanisms for preference revelation, though at one point he evinces skepticism about vote trading.

5. The idea of giving more influence to smarter people also is not on the table (see p.85 for a brief discussion, and also the bottom of p.5).

6. There is occasional talk of the private sector, such as the stipulation that Norwegian corporate boards appoint 40% women.  Yet there is no systematic discussion of how private companies or private non-profits run meetings, conduct elections, obtain board consensus, or otherwise reach decisions.  This point is not unrelated to #5.  I’m not suggesting government can be “run like a business” but it is odd to write as if private sector experience with decision-making is irrelevant.  It is those procedures which have to pass some kind of market test.  So more Hayek, less Habermas.

7. At the end of the day, the losers in these dialogues will suffer under coercion and the winners will exercise power.  This limits what kind of upfront discourse is possible.  I wished for this topic to receive more attention.

Elster has been writing excellent books for over thirty years, and you can buy this book here.

Assorted links

1. Me on Italian vs. French food (in German).

2.  The culture that is England, at first I thought this was parody, I guess she won’t be friends with me.  My favorite line was “I have to.”  Killer video.

3. 44-pp. overview of some Chinese financial institutions.

4. Interview with Knausgaard.

5. Amazon is now raising the prices of many books, including university press books.

6. A profile of Warren Mosler and Modern Monetary Theory.

7. Alex posts on income-contingent loans.

8. Thai Hitler fried chicken markets in everything.

The world’s longest interview

Defying the stereotype of the tight-lipped Scandinavian, popular Norwegian crime writer Hans Olav Lahlum set the world record for the longest interview on Thursday after spending more than 30 non-stop hours chatting in an online broadcast.

Lahlum, who rarely paused for more than a few seconds, discussed topics ranging from U.S. presidents to his fictional characters during the online show hosted by VG Nett, the online arm of Norwegian tabloid VG.

The new record awaits approval from Guinness World Records.

Fast-talking Lahlum, who is also a left-wing politician, historian and top chess player rarely stumbled during the gabfest, which also covered such scintillating topics as his preferences for mixing puddings and kebabs.

“I think I can safely say that tonight I might go to bed a little earlier than usual,” he said as he and interviewer Mads Andersen beat the old record of just over 26 hours.

Shortly after surpassing the previous record, Lahlum plunged into a weighty discussion on world literature in general and Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen in particular.

“Do you have a plan for how you will get Lahlum to stop talking when the interview ends?” one viewer asked VG on its online forum.

There is more here, and the article explains this is part of a broader Norwegian trend toward “slow TV”:

Norway, a pioneer in slow programming, has spawned several lengthy television hits in recent years, and public broadcaster NRK earlier this year aired a 12-hour show centered on a burning fireplace with experts discussing the intricacies of fire wood.

In 2011, it broadcast 134 hours non-stop of a cruise ship going up the Norwegian coast to the Arctic, bagging the world record for the longest continuous TV program along the way.

And an earlier broadcast of an eight hour train journey from Oslo to Bergen was so popular, NRK had to repeat it.

As I’ve mentioned before, so far the Norwegians are having an awesome century.

For the pointer I thank Øystein Hernæs.

Catch-up splat

Having been traveling, I neglected some of the more controversial issues of the last week, but here are a few points of catch-up.

On the immigration study, I liked Reihan’s recent post very much.  It is now the case that 23 student organizations at Harvard’s Kennedy School are protesting the fact that the dissertation was awarded, while nominally defending academic freedom of course.

For all of the brouhaha over Niall Ferguson, everyone is forgetting what Robert Skidelsky wrote in 1977, Skidelsky too it seems.  I don’t agree with either the immigration study or with Ferguson (at all, in either instance), but the response has been a case study in…something or other.  There is a glee and also a selectivity to it all which I am uncomfortable with, to say the least.

Within the span of a week, it is remarkable how rapidly the UK has moved toward a serious debate over leaving the EU, and that is after the UKIP election results were revealed (calling Timur Kuran!).  Our London cabbie, on the drive to the airport, still calls it “the EEC.”  With apologies to Thomas Friedman, I say this movement is for real.

The Novel Coronavirus seems to be human-to-human transmissible in a manner which is very worrying (more here).  When your thought is “that one might be too deadly to be a real problem,” it isn’t actually good news.  Fortunately the French health minister tells us that “Nothing is being left to chance,” including presumably which mutated strains of the virus will survive and spread.

What’s remarkable about the IRS tax scandal is that it was admitted, keep that in mind when revising your Bayesian priors.  Don’t forget about Bloomberg too.  Are all of our phone calls being recorded?

I do understand the back story, but still I become uneasy when the Secretary of HHS goes on a fundraising campaign from affected parties.  In lieu of naming rights, you get…what?  Can you say you “gave at the office”?  The voting booth?  Can they then rent out the mailing list of which companies gave?

The Republicans on Benghazi have learned from the Democrats on Mitt Romney and leveraged buyouts; define your opponent early in the public eye.  It is working, if only because most media accounts, even sympathetic ones, do not include pictures of a radiant and smiling Hillary Clinton with the story.

A twelve-year-old stabbed his eight-year-old sister to death.

Might we have a budget surplus in two years’ time?

The WSJ reviews Knausgaard, and “Babs” Walters will be retiring.

What have the old gods done for us lately?

Could it be this pizza?

OK people, now you can go nuts in the comments, get it out of your system.