What We Are Reading Today: Uncanny Valley

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Updated 04 January 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Uncanny Valley

Author: Anna Wiener

Anna Weiner’s Uncanny Valley is a memoir of working in Silicon Valley in her mid-20s.
“Part coming-age-story, part portrait of an already-bygone era, Wiener’s memoir is a rare first-person glimpse into high-flying, reckless startup culture at a time of unchecked ambition, unregulated surveillance, wild fortune, and accelerating political power,” said a review in goodreads.com.
“With wit, candor, and heart, Anna deftly charts the tech industry’s shift from self-appointed world savior to democracy-endangering liability, alongside a personal narrative of aspiration, ambivalence, and disillusionment,” said the review.
Wiener’s story “lends significant insight into this world, which at times feels very much like an alternate reality from the rest of the country.”
Lauren Oyler said in a review for The New York Times that just as Wiener wants to believe that tech can solve the world’s problems, she is sympathetic to the Bay Area’s “new-school old-schoolers” who are “sorting out a way to live,” obsessed with “radical honesty,” “processing” and “checking in.”


What We Are Reading Today; Goya: A Portrait of the Artist by Janis Tomlinson

Updated 22 September 2020

What We Are Reading Today; Goya: A Portrait of the Artist by Janis Tomlinson

The life of Francisco Goya (1746–1828) coincided with an age of transformation in Spanish history that brought upheavals in the country’s politics and at the court which Goya served, changes in society, the devastation of the Iberian Peninsula in the war against Napoleon, and an ensuing period of political instability. 

In this revelatory biography, Janis Tomlinson draws on a wide range of documents—including letters, court papers, and a sketchbook used by Goya in the early years of his career—to provide a nuanced portrait of a complex and multifaceted painter and printmaker, whose art is synonymous with compelling images of the people, events, and social revolution that defined his life and era.Tomlinson challenges the popular image of the artist as an isolated figure obsessed with darkness and death, showing how Goya’s likeability and ambition contributed to his success at court, and offering new perspectives on his youth, rich family life, extensive travels, and lifelong friendships. She explores the full breadth of his imagery—from scenes inspired by life in Madrid to visions of worlds without reason, from royal portraits to the atrocities of war. 

She sheds light on the artist’s personal trials, including the deaths of six children and the onset of deafness in middle age, but also reconsiders the conventional interpretation of Goya’s late years as a period of disillusion, viewing them instead as years of liberated artistic invention, most famously in the murals on the walls of his country house, popularly known as the “black” paintings.

A monumental achievement, Goya: A Portrait of the Artist is the definitive biography of an artist whose faith in his art and his genius inspired paintings, drawings, prints, and frescoes that continue to captivate, challenge, and surprise us two centuries later.