Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products – review

“Quoting his subject’s words at the head of the chapter on the design and development of Apple’s iPhone, Leander Kahney makes Jony Ive sound oracular: “When we are at these early stages in design … often we’ll talk about the story for the product — we’re talking about perception. We’re talking about how you feel about the product, not in a physical sense, but in a perceptual sense.” Throughout his biography of Apple’s design magus for nigh on the past two decades, Kahney comes at Ive’s notion of the “narrative” of a product time and again, but it’s this formulation that most closely approaches the metaphysical, seemingly suggesting that all those iMacs, PowerBooks, iPods and iPads that Ive has been responsible for mind-birthing should be considered not as mere phenomena, but actual noumena; for, what else can he mean by “perceptual” — as  distinct from “physical” — if not some apprehension of how the iPhone is in itself, freed from the capacitive touch of our fingers?

Snake Dance by Patrick Marnham – review

At the dead centre of this book’s snaking path down the friable face of human history stands Aby Warburg, a scion of the well-known banking family and a dilettante scholar at a time – and in a place – when to be so was still intellectually respectable. When Patrick Marnham writes that Warburg “mocked the keepers of academic purity as ‘border police’”, I suspect a strong sense of identification is at work. Michael P Steinberg, the translator of Warburg’s discipline-transgressing monographs on the snake dances of the Hopi, characterised his voice as one of “spiralling and endless mediation, between peoples, between pasts and presents, between the self that is known and the self that is secret”. I suspect that this, too, could be a description of Marnham’s own efforts in this book to which he would assent.

Underground, Overground review

‘I don’t know if I’m going to be able to convey – surely the apposite word – the full extent of my love of the London tube. It’s a love that exists prior to any sense I have of an estrangement from the world – I suppose if I were inclined to all that Freudian malarkey I’d say that the tube is not “other” to me, for it – or possibly she – is no mere transitional object, but my very internalisation of Mother London herself. Let me expand: I grew up about 10 minutes’ walk from East Finchley tube station, and I cannot properly remember a time when I didn’t travel by tube. That said, the first regular journeys I clearly remember were when, aged about eight, I began going to school in Hampstead. My older brother and I would travel the five stops to Camden Town, change to the northbound Edgware platform, and go the further three stops to Hampstead. A more direct route was to take the 102 bus to Golders Green, but while I liked the 102 well enough – and especially the breakneck plunge from the back platform as the Routemaster caromed on to the station forecourt – I loved the tube.’

Megachange: The World in 2050 review

“Daniel Franklin, the executive editor and business affairs editor at the Economist, is a tentative chap for a prognosticator. As well as editing this round-up of seers’ views of the four decades ahead, he and his co-editor John Andrews are also responsible for the Economist’s annual publication on the coming year ‘The World in …’. Perhaps it’s this workaday familiarity with the imperfections of futurology that makes Franklin so keen to distance himself from any great likelihood of being right.

Willpower review

“From time to time, as if heaven-sent to annoy, someone will ask me if I’m self-disciplined when it comes to my work. I usually look witheringly at them and snarl, ‘What do you think? I mean, how do you imagine anyone writes a quarter of a million words a year for publication?’ The hapless fools then mutter about inspiration or some such rot before turning tail and fleeing. Good riddance. The life of the professional writer – like that of any freelance, whether she be a plumber or a podiatrist – is predicated on willpower. Without it there simply wouldn’t be any remuneration, period.