Only one coveted retailer got away: Apple. Hines so badly wanted the world’s largest tech company to open in CityCenter that it tailored an enormous storefront for it in the complex’s most visible location, overlooking the triangular park along New York Avenue, looking out toward the convention center. But the iPhone dispenser decided against it. Ironically, Ahrendts now oversees retail at Apple, which recently expressed interest in leasing the former Carnegie Library nearby — a twist that clearly irks Riker.
Apple, which draws throngs of people with its product releases and, increasingly, with company-sponsored concerts and events, would likely have helped to neutralize two of CityCenter’s most common criticisms: It’s rarely crowded, and there isn’t much to buy or do there for anyone other than one-percenters.
Rubery is not interested in these comparisons. His stated purpose in The Untold Story of the Talking Book is not to weigh up the comparative advantages of media forms but to parse the whole concept of reading through the history of one of them. What do we mean when we say we’ve read, or in Hungerford’s case, not read, a book? How do we imagine it getting into our brain? Rubery’s pitch for this as his real question is risky given that what he actually delivers is a detailed, lively, and well-peopled history of the technologies, economies, and organizations that have driven the recording of novels over the last 150 years. The more abstract question of what reading is floats around, mostly out of sight, as something the book leaves us to answer for ourselves.
But this risky strategy for telling a more implicitly conceptual history largely pays off: Rubery’s project is more than the sum of its parts. He covers different phases in the history of recording books in a fairly predictable way: a long one stretching over most of the 19th century and focusing on the creation of audio libraries for the blind, and three short ones covering the early commercial stages of artistically curated spoken-word recordings, books on tape, and the current Audible market. The larger effect of all this is somewhat more surprising.
The book vividly describes the harrowing conditions under which strong young men based in West Berlin dug the tunnels; some had fled the East and now wanted to help their loved ones left behind. Mitchell shows how would-be escapees made their way to secret entrances and then crawled through the cramped, damp tunnels, all the while trying to make sure — not always successfully — that they eluded the dreaded Stasi, the East German secret police.
No Man's Sky does not tell a great story, but it contains multitudes of them. And any time it begins to grow dull or rote or predictable, all I have to do is look up, into the starry sky, and wonder what else might be out there.
And then go find out for myself.