WRB—Apr. 6, 2022
Faulkner, Philosophers, Didion, Guitar, and An Old Wooden Sailing Ship
Two months is a pretty long time when you’re an email newsletter that’s only two months old.
To do list:
Wish a Managing Editor [Me, again. —Chris] [It’s never me up here. —Nic] [It can be you when you write the To do list section. —Chris] a happy (belated) birthday here [we’ll leave your motivations up to you]: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Plough, Daniel Walden reviews two recent group biographies treating philosophers and their intersecting lives.
For the first time since she gave it, a commencement speech from Joan Didion in California is publicly available. [“‘This is water.’ —David Foster Wallace” —Nic] And in the L.A. Review of Books [our western confrères], Ana Quiring writes about the disaffected, conservative cool around which she built a cult following.
Jonathan Clarke points out in an essay in City Journal that “Faulkner simply was not greatly interested in the mean of human behavior, or in social convention, and so he was not invested in many of the traditional purposes of the novel, whose gregariousness and gossip have been so essential to its durability.”
For The New York Times, Nabil Ayers considers the history and legacy of the rock guitar solo, with—and get this—convenient song samples embedded. [The Managing Editors have been listening to “Simulation Swarm” basically nonstop.]
Sheila Heti interviews Caren Beilin, whose new book, Revenge of the Scapegoat, comes out next week, on The Paris Review’s website. [I am trying to stop repeating myself too. By the way, I liked this essay in Jewish Current on Heti, if you missed it last month. —Chris]
From Emily Post’s Etiquette:
Although picnic table manners are less exacting than those at a set table at home, they do not grant to the children the privilege of eating like little savages and offending the sensibilities of those nearby who cannot help but see them.
A reader wrote in several weeks ago to recommend that we—and this is paraphrase—“put rhubarb bitters in everything.” Chris has been trying this to basically compelling results, but in Punch you can read in more detail about how to enjoy a soda bitters. [On a similar note, putting rose water in your Coca-Cola improves it immensely. —Nic]
The Managing Editors have done the reading, but they are still unable to agree whether the WRB is gnomecore or not. [Or indeed whether it is desirable for it so to be.] Related, from Hyperallergic: Why we can’t have mid-century modern.
In the old days [the Bush Era], one of the Managing Editors always went to the White House Easter Egg Roll, because it was the patriotic thing to do. [It still is. —Nic] [I can’t relate, I went to a Clinton one. —Chris] [lmao. —Nic]
The WRB has no official position on how you spell the subway noise.
The Lamp is hosting an issue launch party at The Catholic University of America on Thursday. [You really should come. —Nic]
We recently discovered that one of our favorite grocery stores, Rodman’s, infrequently posts wine reviews on its YouTube channel.
“The book The Particulars of Peter is considered the main ‘hot girl book’ for summer 2022.” So don’t say we didn’t warn you.
A man in Annandale is selling a wooden model of the HMS Victory.
What we’re reading:
Chris looked up this weekend and realized that he was in the middle of an indefensible number of books, and so, having resolved to chip away at least some of this pile, separating the weak from the herd and so forth, he received Bluets in the mail and read that instead, and loved it.
Nic, along with his wife, is reading A Visit from the Goon Squad. The Candy House somewhat mysteriously showed up on his doorstep Tuesday afternoon. So did a collection of Tove Ditlevsoen short stories. [What better way to end spring than with some gloomy Dane? —Nic] In perhaps related news, he picked up a 2010 Neo2 Alphasmart word processor this week from a guy in Petworth.
April 19 | Black Sparrow Press
Ferlinghetti: A Life
by Neeli Cherkovski
From the publisher: Poet, publisher, bookseller, activist—this is the story of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the bookshop he made a landmark in San Francisco, and a life beautifully lived with writers and books.
In this, the first biography ever published of Ferlinghetti (originally released in 1979), Neeli Cherkovski recreated those early years of the poet-publisher and examined the content and import of his work. Long out-of-print, this is a crucial literary document by a man who knew the legendary poet-publisher-bookseller intimately.
This expanded edition—published just one year after Ferlinghetti’s passing in 2021 at the age of 101—includes a fascinating, hilarious new foreword about how the book came to be written in the late 1970s, an epilogue covering the last forty years of Ferlinghetti’s life, and a personal, tender afterword about the long relationship between the author and his subject.
“The Burthen of the Mystery Indeed” by Maurice Manning
Let’s think about the landscape now
where all of this is happening,
the work-worn shoulder of the hill,
the brush of trees above like hair
uncaught by a hat brim, the sky
of unknown mind, the deafened head
inside the salty hat, and across
the darkened skin of naked neck
a line of muddy cows. Let’s say
the line is muddy, too, because
it’s far enough away for you
to see it vaguely. There's nothing else
to say about this scene, too wrought
perhaps, too willfully described,
implying love and tragedy.
at once. There is no center point,
no frame to hold it still, but you
are in the landscape, too. I need
to know if you are shamed or glad,
if this is doom or grace, because
I know the terrible side of you
would burn it all if you could, this spot
of time outside of time, this place
of too much kindness for your kind.
[This poem was published in 2010ʼs The Common Man, Manningʼs fourth collection of poems. Maurice Manning is someone I think about whenever I am in the grocery store, because I inevitably see okra and collard greens in produce and think about how passionately he defended their culinary dignity to us when he came to speak at my college. I’m still not convinced, but his poems are worth your time anyway. At least one loyal reader is avid on his most recent book, which explores the hypothetical: “What if there was a poem about Abe Lincoln?” —Chris]
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