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WRB—Apr. 30, 2022
The Internet, Daydreams, Distraction, and Demons, Sales and Cigarettes
I hear you’re buying a synthesizer and an arpeggiator and are throwing your computer out the window because you want to make something real. You want to make the WRB.
To do list:
We’re curious, since we just got so many new subscribers: how did you find the WRB? Email us at email@example.com and let us know. [We may need to reveal whether Books are good or not sooner than we thought. —Nic] [We love corresponding with readers! —Chris]
We are still waiting for our tote bag from Astra [You, today, however, can order your own WRB tote. —Chris]. In the meantime, they’ve begun publishing pieces on their website. Jackson Arn has an essay about the art of being distracted from art [I liked the line he quotes about The Recognitions. —Chris] and Leslie Jameson one about daydreaming. Also, Rowan Hisayo Buchanan has a short piece about cars.
Justin E.H. Smith reflects on listening to auto tuned music at the gym as a way into the nature of music itself: “This was, specifically, musalgia, musical pain.” And Sam Kriss reviewed his new book The Internet is Not What You Think at Damage [Revisiting themes from this 2020 post that I never stop thinking about. —Chris]. We don’t know what to do with In Search of the Third Bird, but are continuing to pay attention.
Gary Saul Morson reviews two recent volumes of Solzhenitsyn for our sister publication.
Mary Beth Keane reviews a novel about an excruciating-sounding church committee for the Times. [No comment. —Chris]
For Berfrois, Paul Vacca writes about the art of the opening sentence: “The incipit gives birth to a world.” [A screaming comes across the page. —Chris]
Review of SHOUTS & MURMURS as a whole:
“What If Someone From 1850 Had a Phone” by Dan Brooks
Funnier than most shouts &/or murmurs.
The Managing Editors have never reviewed each other’s books. [I’d only allow it if I thought it would be funny. —Chris]
Radiopaper is a new social platform that promises to be “a place for conversations.” [I think the website looks very pretty. And it has an edit button. —Chris]
The good stuff may already be gone, but the Friends of the Arlington County Public Library are hosting their annual sale through the end of the weekend. [My sister reports that this year’s offering is particularly good. —Nic]
Like many Washingtonians, we are sorry to see menthol bans go nationwide, but if you email us with the subject line “Alive With Pleasure!” we will tell you where you can still get your fix in the city.
Princeton University Press has a 30% off sale on their history catalog through the end of June with code P317.
A woman in Arlington is selling a copy of the final edition of the Washington Star, the city’s evening newspaper from 1852 to 1981.
from Emily Post’s Etiquette:
If you are a young girl—or even a not-so-young woman—and are determined to write a letter to a man that contains any possibility of emotion, then at least put it away overnight in order to reread it and make sure that you have said nothing that may sound different from what you intended to say.
[Young men could probably heed this advice as well. —Nic] [And Managing Editors, alas. —Chris] [While we’re on the subject, Emily Post’s descendants have some thoughts about texting etiquette. —Nic]
What we’re reading:
Chris mentioned on Wednesday that he wasn’t sure why he’d placed a hold on a Clarice Lispector book at the library. Now that he’s reading it, he’s realized it’s probably because Sheila Heti wrote the afterword. She says there “Before I start reading a book by Clarice Lispector, I always go off somewhere I can be alone, and I don’t check my phone or do anything else until the final page. I prefer to read her from start to finish, without interruption.” Chris read the book on his phone while he was walking to work, which was also fine.
A reader asked Chris on Thursday: “What’s the whole deal with Sheila Heti?” B.D. McClay says she’ll be read long in the future. Chris is less bullish, but did think Motherhood was extremely moving, and that’s what he told her.
Nic has been pretty busy these past few days. He found time on Friday to reread some of Browning’s monologues after committing to reacquaint himself with the Victorians.
May 31 | Knopf
Planes: A Novel
by Peter C. Baker
From the publisher: For years, Amira—a recent convert to Islam living in Rome—has gone to work, said her prayers, and struggled to piece together her husband’s redacted letters from the Moroccan black site where he is imprisoned. She moves as inconspicuously as possible through her modest life, doing her best to avoid the whispered curiosity of her community.
Meanwhile, Mel—once an activist—is trying to get the suburban conservatives of her small North Carolina town to support her school board initiatives, and struggles to fill her empty nest. It’s a steady, settled life, except perhaps for the affair she can’t admit she’s having.
As these narratives unfurl thousands of miles apart, they begin to resonate like the two sides of a tuning fork. And when Mel learns that a local charter airline serves as a front for the CIA’s extraordinary renditions—including that of Amira’s husband—both women face wrenching questions that will shape the rest of their lives.
Written with piercing insight and artistry, Planes is a singular, assured, and indelible first novel that announces a major new voice.
“A Letter” by Denise Levertov
I know you will come, bringing me
an opal. Good! I will come
to meet you. And walk back with you
to meet whatever it is raves to us
for release. New courage
has stirred in me while you were gone.
They are stripping the bark from the trees
to make soup
and sitting down I crush fifty
blackeyed susans, each no bigger than a
one-cent piece. I’m tired
of all that is not mine. Lighting
two cigarettes by mistake, lying back
one in each hand, surprised,
Buddha of the anthill. A great day!
The first to waken as a bear
from cosy smelly comfort (“a rock
dressed in brown moss, little eyes
glinting”) and walk out
to the hunt.
[Now this is a good springtime poem! This is from With Eyes an the Back of Our Heads (1959), Levertov’s fourth collection of poems, and her first with New Directions, who published her for the rest of her career until her death in 1997. New Directions did a really wonderful job with the layout on this volume. It’s on heavy linen paper and in a distinctive font throughout.
One of my favorite little recurring images in Infinite Jest is when characters give “the impression somehow of having several cigarettes going at one time,” and I’m going to connect that with this poem from now on. —Chris]
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