To be clear, I wasn’t their teacher, so Dahl’s accusation somewhat missed the mark. I was a school parent who had volunteered for this weekly activity in lieu of registering for the PTA, organizing a holiday party, leading classroom sessions on character building, or — God forbid — chaperoning 24 children on a field trip through Los Angeles. I had suggested this activity to make myself feel like a good parent, to deploy one of my few translatable professional skills, and, on some semi-conscious level, to offset the possibility that I had, through my recent divorce, irreparably traumatized my son.
That I’d envisioned my reception differently was no doubt colored by my own memories of being read to as a child. According to essayist Adam Gopnik, children’s books have to please two audiences at the same time: the child, who uses stories to escape childhood, and the adult, who uses children’s books to recapture it. In the childhood I remembered, there were the hours spent with the books I paged through, but even more, there were the hours spent with the books I heard. More specifically, there was my English professor father, who taught me to revere the act of reading aloud not as a domestic duty, or as a ritual for only the very young, but as a deeply felt display. Love, and be silent — I’d worshipped him as a result.
Why has food, which is arguably an essential part of our day-to-day lives, been so marginal in so many games? It could be due to ingrained assumptions about their intended audiences: If these products were meant to appeal to men, why waste effort on rendering food when one could focus on more masculine motifs, like monsters and spacecraft? And yet, one of the earliest examples of game developers’ thinking outside of the box and bringing food to the forefront is one of the earliest games: Pac-Man. In an interview with Eurogamer, the game’s developer, Toru Iwatani, admits that his inspiration for the overall design had culinary origins. The fruits that Pac-Man eats up are easy to spot, but the design for the protagonist himself is, notoriously, related to food, too: “I was trying to come up with something to appeal to women and couples. When I imagined what women enjoy, the image of them eating cakes and desserts came to mind, so I used ‘eating’ as a keyword. When I did research with this keyword I came across the image of a pizza with a slice taken out of it and had that eureka moment. So I based the Pac-Man character design on that shape.” In a burgeoning scene where games were mainly about shooting asteroids and aliens, Pac-Man stood apart for having gameplay that only asked the participant to eat.
A terrace overlooks the Aegean Sea. Bookshelves swing back to reveal hidden, lofted beds where the shop’s workers can sleep. Somewhere along the way, word spread that visiting writers too could spend summer nights scribbling and snoozing there, and the owner began receiving emails requesting a bunk at earth’s most stunning writer’s colony, on an island Plato believed was the lost Atlantis.
But the writer-in-residence program was also a Greek myth.
“The idea was not to come here to write the great American novel, it was to sling books,” Craig Walzer, the store’s owner, said. “You are here for the bookshop first.”
Over the last 15 years, as cruise-ship hoards and souvenir schlock have overrun the village of Oia on Santorini’s northern tip, Atlantis Books has become an unlikely oasis of authenticity and cultural sanity.
There’s a legend about the New York blackout of 1977: that the dark provided cover for a generation of early hip-hop artists to steal the new equipment they needed to develop their sound but could otherwise not afford. In turn, the blackout catalyzed the development and spread of a new sound and a new culture. It’s unfalsifiable, of course. But it’s a useful story nonetheless, one that traces connections between technology, culture, class, race, and the possibility to build the future on the ruins of the past. Infinite Detail plays it out on a grand scale.
We are a world of migrants, a planet of comings and goings. The itinerant carry stories of pain and remembrance, cruelty and kindness, renewal and possibility. They move among us, a constant pulse, escaping war, persecution and poverty or striking out on an adventure to build a better life in a distant land.
They flow by the millions every year across borders. Their identities lie between departure and arrival. Some live in penthouses; others in tents at the edge of conflict. Some pick our fruit; others heal our sick. Their languages and histories are diverse but each has a different story, a treasure or scourge they bring with them to either bury or celebrate on the path to the unknown.