WRB—Aug. 13, 2022
When people ask the Managing Editors what the WRB is all about, their answer is very simple and always the same: the WRB is about having a good time.
To do list:
Order a tote bag;
avail yourself of our world-famous classified ads, now stored on this page for non-paying readers to access, either by placing or responding to one;
Anne Wallentine writes up an exhibit somewhere on the West Coast that explores the long history of the middle ages’ legacy: “The fantastical imagery that many of us consider ‘medieval’ today has been invented, at least in part, in the centuries since. While some legends are rooted in the period, like the stories of King Arthur and Camelot, many others were embroidered onto an imagined, ‘medieval-ish’ past through fantasy stories, films, and other forms of popular culture, especially from the 19th century on.”
Matthew Gasda—it is said—sent to you, the one apart, the wretched subject, the tiny shadow that fled far, far from the imperial sun, precisely to you he sent a message from Compact.
Jonathan Russell Clark reviews Adam Levin’s new brick of a novel (Mount Chicago, this week) for Esquire (“a 600-page satire about a comedian, a mayor, and an aide grappling with the fallout of a giant sinkhole swallowing an enormous chunk of Chicago”) and takes the opportunity to reflect on the maximalist novel’s supposed decline: “Readers are down for unwieldy fiction that wears its idiosyncrasies proudly. They’re not, obviously, exclusively interested in them, as they take a long time to read and require more mental focus than many people can often give to any endeavor, let alone pleasure reading. But that audience is there, and perhaps when confronted with two titles of comparable ambition, these readers may pick up the one not written by a dude, because as citizens of our culture, they’ve probably read one or more novels by dudes before. Novels are, after all, meant to be novel.”
Emma Heath reviews two recent books out in translation from the Japanese with New Directions (Jessica Au, Cold Enough for Snow; Yoko Tawada, Scattered All Over the Earth) for The Cleveland Review of Books: “Both Tawada and Au use place as a way to write about identity over time—about the selves that inhabit the here and now, and the past selves, overlaid onto the landscape like variegated watermarks. As their characters seek connection through language in foreign countries, both authors question what it means to belong, but they frame the tension between being an insider and an outsider through opposite lenses. Scattered All Over the Earth is a broad, kooky, character-driven dystopia that revolves around Japan’s absence. Cold Enough for Snow employs subtler prose that traces the emotional associations evoked by the palpable, sensory presence of Japan.” [A regionally focused journal of criticism. —Chris]
Also from New Directions, Jared Marcel Pollen reviews Helen DeWitt’s new, uh, “novelette” [?] (The English Understand Wool, 2022) for Gawker and writes about some difficulties of the publishing industry: “Every now and then a few masterpieces are permitted to slip through. That is, after they receive proper sponsorship. It is only by the grace of good souls like Susan Sontag that American readers even know about writers like Sebald, Bolaño, or Krasznahorkai. Ditto Calvino, whom Gore Vidal helped introduce to the English-speaking world. And Tom McCarthy, whose debut Remainder became a success only after Zadie Smith wrote in the New York Review of Books that the novel represented a path forward for fiction, at which point, the very editors who had previously rejected McCarthy came back with generous advances.” [We linked to the “Storybook ND” series in July. —Chris]
Of all the wild elements of the Salman Rushdie stabbing, surely the strangest is that his attacker was born a full decade after The Satanic Verses’ publication.
You thought we could get through this one without a Times link? Deepest apologies.
September 6 | Paraclete Press
Christian Poetry in America Since 1940: An Anthology
edited by Micah Mattix and Sally Thomas
From the publisher: Showcasing thirty-five American poets born in or after 1940, this anthology confirms that one of the most vibrant developments in contemporary verse has been a renewed engagement with the Christian faith. Across a full spectrum of Christian belief, including the struggle to believe at all, these poets bring the power of their art to bear on serious questions: how to understand the goodness of God in a fallen and tragic world, how to reconcile universal truths with the particularities of human experience, how to render familiar events of salvation history in new language that generates its own epiphanies. As Christian engagement assumes a multiplicity of modes and voices, so does contemporary poetry in America. This volume, then, selective yet representative, features the work of early-, mid-, and late-career poets, formalists, free-verse poets, and experimenters in prosody. This anthology bears witness to the poetic mind as it seeks that which is above.
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