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WRB Mar. 12, 2022
Ouds, odes, foods, samovars, and more
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To do list:
In The New Criterion, Carla Main revisits Silas Marner, once George Eliot’s most popular novel in the United States.
Wang Yangming, the Ming Confucian scholar-official, is having a moment in China, explains George Israel. [Mencius says, “a ruler who will truly accomplish great things will always have subjects he does not summon—if he wishes to consult with them, he will go to them.” —Chris]
Raffi Joe Wartanian has a wonderful essay in Lapham’s Quarterly on learning to play the oud, a stringed instrument strongly tied to Armenia and its diaspora.
Three on cooking:
In the other one, Anahid Nersessian reviews Winter Recipes from the Collective, Louise Glück’s first poems since her Nobel win. [The lede—that there seems to be no instructions for the preparation of food in this volume—is buried deep here. Imagine this Managing Editor’s disappointment. —Chris]
If the words “the fascinating history of the egg carton” don’t do anything for you, we don’t really know what to say.
Valerie Stivers has another of her “Cooking with…” posts for The Paris Review—Dorothy Sayers.
In Gawker, Kelly Conaboy makes the case for rebuilding the fourth wall in film. [But hopefully never on Substack. —Chris]
March 14, 2022 SHOUTS & MURMURS Review:
“Reëntry Talking Points” by Henry Alford
[I'll just admit I don't entirely “get” what the joke is supposed to be, but I do enjoy reading series of surreal sentences. —Chris]
[I was so delighted to find that McSweeney’s still publishes regularly to their “Reviews of New Food” section that I immediately sought out a Reese’s Big Cup with Potato Chips King Size Peanut Butter Cups and found that the most recent review’s negative verdict on this new treat was completely off-base. Whither the elder millennial, in our late days? —Chris]
Roger Stone offers free advertising for a Japanese line of dress shirts in The American Spectator. [Roger, place an ad with us!]
The Paris Review awarded its annual Plimpton Prize to Chetna Maroo, whose fiction appeared in a recent issue. The Managing Editors will pay tribute to George Plimpton (in their own manner) for the first person who writes in with the subject line “Paper Lion.”
What we’re reading:
Chris is still just thinking about a Louise Glück-inspired tasting menu. He found a great book to give away this coming Wednesday at Second Story. He picked back up Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, which is of course a wonder. He continued reading all those short stories, including starting a Jim Shepherd collection after having enjoyed You Think That’s Bad tremendously many years ago.
Nic read Cynthia Ozick’s new short story in The New Yorker and was surprised to learn that she’s only ninety-three years old. He also picked up The History of the Yale Club of New York City: a Century at 50 Vanderbilt Avenue, a book whose price tag suggests a limited audience. Shakespeare continues apace [I’m never going to read Aeschylus, am I? —Chris]: Twelfth Night this weekend.
April 26 | Dalkey Archive
Their Four Hearts
by Vladimir Sorokin; translated by Max Lawton
From the publisher: Their Four Hearts follows the violent and nonsensical missions carried out by a group of four characters who represent Socialist Realist archetypes: Seryozha, a naive and optimistic young boy; Olga, a dedicated female athlete; Shtaube, a wise old man; and Rebrov, a factory worker and a Stakhanovite embodying Soviet manhood. However, the degradation inflicted upon them is hardly a Socialist Realist trope. Are the acts of violence they carry out a more realistic vision of what the Soviet Union forced its “heroes” to live out? A corporealization and desacralization of self-sacrificing acts of Soviet heroism? How the Soviet Union truly looked if you were to strip away the ideological infrastructure? As we see in the long monologues Shtaube performs for his companions—some of which are scatological nonsense and some of which are accurate reproductions of Soviet language—Sorokin is interested in burrowing down to the libidinal impulses that fuel a totalitarian system and forcing the reader to take part in them in a way that isn’t entirely devoid of aesthetic pleasure.
“Classified Ad” by Kate Ellen Braverman (1949–2019)
I teach fourth grade
batik and weave plant hangers
with seashells bound in the yarns,
pine cones and stones glassy
from waves and age.
I make ceramic vases and cups,
bake breads, dance and read books.
Last summer I hiked forty-seven miles
alone in the High Sierras.
I do not smoke or take drugs.
I have lived four years
in a cottage on a hill.
My windows face the sky.
I am responsible.
Painters have shared my bed,
stockbrokers and psychologists.
All are strangers,
sleeping encased in sheet
strange unreachable mounds
fearful I will touch their dreams.
They close doors while they piss
and decline my shower.
Breakfast finds them angry
staring at a black well of coffee
complaining my cats bit their toes,
restless, wanting to change
their underwear. Winding watches.
Bound to other things.
I want to love a blue-eyed man
and have blue-eyed babies,
sleek and smooth as cats.
And a yard perhaps,
to grow spices and flowers.
I am twenty-six
I embroider, I sing.
I am punctual and clean.
[A reader kindly sent us this poem from the archives of The Paris Review about a subject close to the Managing Editors’ hearts. Thank you, reader! If you or someone you know is hiding a poem like this from us, we urge you to cut that out at once and email us.]
The WRB Classifieds:
To place an ad, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Rates are 1¢ per word, per issue. Content is subject to the approval of the Managing Editors.
In NOVA: Young man, Christian, in finance, needs fiancée. 6ʼ3”. Byronic. Dog dad seeking dog mom. [Email WRB with subject line “Doggone It!”]
Literate + fit Christian girl, professional engineer in middle America (northwest Arkansas), is open to the idea of meeting marriage-worthy young man. [Email WRB with subject: “Lost in the Beau-zarks”]
Obscene poet seeks female audience to horrify. E.g.:
Roses are red,
Helen is great.
Paris should learn,
How to ask for a date.
[Email WRB with subject: “Irascere Iterum Meis Iambis”]
[The continuing publication of Obscene Poet Seeking &c. Is sponsored by an anonymous benefactor, who wishes to note: “Roses are red / Helen's a freak / Your poetry? / Quelle horrifique!”]
Nice Christian girl wanted for nice Christian boy. Him: 25 y/o 6’2” homeowner. Seattle area. Her: Tall a plus. Ex athlete a plus. Must love kids. [Email WRB with subject: “Sleepless in Seattle”]
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single (1) woman (26, Catholic), in possession of no (0) fortune at all, must be in want of housemates (3, Alexandria). [Email WRB with subject: “Chill Penury”]
Columbia Heights Rowhouse (f125) seeks resident for one of six bedrooms (ideally m27+) to replace housemate pulled into Brookland’s gravitational field. Available immediately. Must love antics. [Email WRB with subject: “Egg and Dart Era”]
Aging millennial looking for a piano teacher near Fairfax. [Email WRB with subject: “Tickling the Ivories”]
Young Cleveland woman seeks employment as a babysitter. Christian with years of childcare experience. Available evenings and weekends. Ideal client would have scores of unruly children and not stay out too far past midnight. [Email WRB with subject: “Cuyahoga Dreaming”]
Want to start a podcast but have no idea where to start? Contact podcast expert and Washington Review of Books reader Shadrach Strehle! One client called his rates “cheap,” and his work “exceptional.” But don’t take his word for it, try Shad yourself! For info and a consultation contact Shadrach Strehle at email@example.com.
Comedian Joe Pappalardo demands you watch him perform. Reach out to him on social media @pappalardofunny for more info:
March 19, St Joseph Arts Festival, (Chinatown, D.C.) [speaking of which:]
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Pray the Rosary daily!