Monday. 29/7/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

If it ain’t broke…

If Italian readers had to point out the country’s most experimental novelist, few would think of Federico Moccia. The 56-year Rome-born author is famous for his uber-cheesy romantic young-adult fiction – cringeworthy early 2000s teenage bible Tre metri sopra il cielo (Three Metres Over Heaven) among them – and less for his writing prowess.

And yet Moccia has just made headlines as a publishing innovator. He announced that his next title will be written in collaboration with eight amateur writers, the winners of a contest open until 31 October. His forthcoming La ragazza di Roma nord (The Girl from Rome North) already has the skeleton of a plot in place; the submitted contributions will sit as separate stories inserted in the book via a canny narrative device. Moccia believes that this is a way to “give back” to a public that’s always supported him. The CEO of Sem, the publishing house due to release the book next year, thinks that this is an “experiment to innovate a market that’s clinging on to a world that no longer exists”.

It’s true that the publishing industry has had to adapt to a huge shift in the way people consume information. But is mimicking the interactivity of the digital domain the way forward? Readers often make their opinions heard on comment sections, forums and fan-fiction portals online: that freedom is both revolutionary and pernicious. The reason we love books is because they often function as an antidote to time spent staring at a screen – not an echo of it.

Diplomacy / The US & China

Trading places

Tomorrow representatives from the US and China return to the table in an attempt to resolve the enduring trade dispute between the two countries. The trade war has descended into a year-long slugging match as the adversaries ratchet up tariffs on the other. The impasse is having an adverse effect on the global economy according to the International Monetary Fund and there aren’t many reasons for economists to be optimistic about the forthcoming talks. There is currently no deadline set for resolving the dispute and China is likely to dig its heels in and wait to see whether there will be a new occupant in The White House (and better terms) after 2020.

Geopolitics / Cyprus & Turkey

Pouring oil on troubled waters

Newly minted Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis arrives in Cyprus today. It’s tradition that all new Greek leaders make a trip to the island but the outing is about more than glad-handing. A diplomatic spat is escalating – Turkey has pitched up in Cypriot national waters and started drilling for oil and natural gas (its ships and installations protected by naval vessels). Dimitris Tsarouhas, associate professor of international relations at Bilkent University believes that for now, Mitsotakis can do little except show support. “Mitsotakis’s visit is an opportunity to display solidarity in the Greek-speaking world,” he says. “The drilling explorations by Turkey take place in what Cyprus considers its Exclusive Economic Zone, and are therefore illegal according to international law.” Surely some slick diplomacy is necessary.

Society / Berkeley

'Man' overboard

Manholes aren’t just for men: women can just as easily fit down them to carry out the necessary work within the bowels of a city. With this in mind, the city of Berkeley in California has decided to remove masculine words from its municipal code. For instance, there will be no manholes within the city limits but there will be “maintenance holes”; the term “craftsman” will be replaced with “craftspeople” (“artisans” is permissible too); and “human effort” wins out over “manpower”. On the list of changes there is only one that rankles: fraternities and sororities on Berkeley College campus will be known hereafter as “collegiate Greek-system residences”.

Retail / Tokyo

Taking stock

Toyoko Tokyu Department Store has emerged as the latest casualty of Tokyo’s Shibuya Station redevelopment. The heritage department store will close its doors in March to make way for a new building on the same plot; details are yet to be announced. The announcement comes amid much hand-wringing in Japan about the viability of department stores – sales declined last year, with many stores responding with closures. The Shibuya branch, however, remains Tokyu’s most profitable. Sadly its boxy aesthetic is out of step with the new-look district: a separate 47-storey complex next door is due to open in November – and it will dwarf the nine-storey department store.

M24 / The Foreign Desk

Hong Kong’s stalemate

As the demonstrations in Hong Kong continue, we look at the stand-off between Beijing and the people of Hong Kong, and ask if Hong Kong’s government will ever have any real say in this. We hear from Badiucao, Fernando Cheung, Johnson Yeung, Diane Wei Liang and Monocle’s Hong Kong bureau chief James Chambers.

Monocle Films / Global

Retail rewards

The neighbourhood-building power of retail shouldn’t be underestimated. We go on an inspiring global tour with the shopkeepers, designers and business owners who know a thing or two about physical retail.

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