WRB—Aug. 6, 2022
Romance, Children, Death, and Good Manners
Every Managing Editor who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is totally unobjectionable.
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;
Two from The Atlantic:
Sophie Gilbert in defense of the romance novel and the work of Elinor Glyn [We mentioned a review of the recent Glyn biography last week. Here’s one more, from Slate, just to close things out. —Chris]: “Elinor Glyn knew that the impulse to fall in love with another human being, to connect physically, emotionally, and mentally in a way that enriches—and challenges—everyone involved, is one of the most crucial forces in human history. So why is the genre of romance left largely on its own to unpack that impulse?”
Cynthia Ozick reminisces about the 1940s.
We’re working on launching our long-awaited, long-requested Children’s Literature Monthly Supplement, along with several other recurring extra-biweekly features [If you have a swell idea for a monthly feature that you, or even better, an unsuspecting friend, could contribute, email us!]. Until then, you can read Betsy Golden Kellem at the Jstor blog on “Dime Novels and Story Papers for Kids.”
Also there, Emily Zarevich considers “The Symbolic Survival of The Master and Margarita.”
What Does God Smell Like?: John Last in Noema. Readers may remember that the old hieromonk Zosima in The Brothers Karamazov expires and does not smell anything like holiness. For the TLS, Irina Dumitrescu writes about another monk with the same name, in the Old English translation: “Virtue does not thrive in either seclusion or ostentation, the Life suggests. It flourishes in conversation between two people – intimate, risky, painfully honest.”
In The New York Review of Books, which you may have heard of, two things:
Simon Callow reviews a book from earlier this year by Isaac Butler (The Method, 2022) about the history of American method acting: “One of the challenges of writing about acting is that it constantly reinvents itself, always believing that its latest recension at last tells the truth about the human condition.”
Jenny Uglow reviews a pretty sumptuous-looking (from the press photos) printing of our nation’s most famous bird guy (Audubon at Sea: The Coastal and Transatlantic Adventures of John James Audubon, 2022).
In the LRB, Tom Stammers [I’ll assume he truly doesn’t. —Chris] reviews Alex Ross’ Wagner book (Wagnerism, 2020): “‘Wagnerism’, Alex Ross claims, has become a ‘synonym for grandiose, bombastic, overbearing, or, simply, very long’. His analysis of Wagner’s reception attempts to pinpoint the origins of these associations and interrogate their legitimacy.… his subject is Wagner as cultural phenomenon, his pervasive (and sometimes surprising) influence on other arts. The depth of this influence reflects Wagner’s own versatility, and modest self-perception as an Aeschylus, Shakespeare and Beethoven rolled into one.”
Jean Rhys time:
Miranda Seymour’s biography of the author (I Used To Live Here Once, 2022) came out this summer; Amber Medland reviews it for the TLS: “Seymour’s investigations into Rhys are inseparable from her sensitive close readings of the novels. She is shrewd and careful (‘it’s reasonable to assume’), unlike Rhys’s first biographer, Carole Angier, who was more interested in Rhys as a badly behaved woman than as a writer, and filled in the gaps in her (valuable) research with speculative italics, diagnosed a personality disorder and asserted that Rhys ‘could only write instinctively, unconsciously’. It’s hard to imagine anyone saying that about Hemingway, who was also published by Ford.”
At Strange Horizons, Prashanth Gopalan reviews Adam Roberts’ new sci-fi piece (The This, 2022). [On June 25, we plugged his Medium post. —Chris] Roberts said this about the novel in an interview on Phil Christman’s Substack back in March: “There are aspects of The This I do like, but I don't, honestly, think it's as good as Thing Itself. Partly that's to do with the more misshapen form of it. I could try to excuse myself by saying the form was imposed on me by the weird, misshapen structure of the Phenomenology of Spirit itself, as opposed to the nice clean and symmetrical, if complex, structure of Kant's Critique that undergirds Thing Itself, but I have to concede: nobody put a gun to head and forced me to try and ape the shape of Hegel’s mad book.” This is insane—this is a man you wouldn’t want at parties or next to you in the subway—but we think a significant portion of our readers will instead find it compelling.
More in quirky novels: for the Times, Dan Chaon reviews a new book by Adam Levin (Mount Chicago, 2022): “Mount Chicago is one of those sweeping, polyphonic, absurdist epic novels like they used to make—think, for example, of A Confederacy of Dunces or The Bonfire of the Vanities.”
In The Lamp, Sam Kriss reviews a new translation of the Epic of Gilgamesh (Sophus Helle, 2022), in what becomes an extended meditation on mortality: “The Epic of Gilgamesh is here to confront you with the problem of death, not to solve it. It is not therapy. It was not written to make the world any less cruel. But this is precisely why, against myself, I do find it comforting.” [Also in The Lamp this week: R.I.P. Pope Michael. —Chris]
Angela Riechers demands more serifs, serifs everywhere! These typefaces are unreadable.
NPR has a little feature on the stuff people leave in library books.
Over at the New Yorker, Erin Overby seems to have taken a page out of our Barely Managing Intern’s book.
Book sale at U and 14th all day tomorrow. “A Tree Grows at BookPlace is a recurring outdoor bookstore locating in several neighborhoods. Featuring select, pre-owned literature by and about African American people, BookPlace also prides itself in curating MASALA, a vast selection of titles relating to all existences, human and humane.”
The crossword people are underpaid—they should take their talents to Substack.
October 4 | Ten Speed Press
Emily Post’s Etiquette, The Centennial Edition
by Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning
From the publisher: For the past one hundred years, Emily Post has been America’s definitive source for how to navigate—and enhance—every social interaction. In an increasingly diverse and intersectional world, the need for a trusted primer on how to put people at ease and treat others with confidence and kindness has never been greater.
Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning—the great-great grandchildren of Emily Post and co-presidents of The Emily Post Institute—provide a fully updated and relatable guide. From advice on entertaining, table manners, and using titles and pronouns, to personal and professional communication etiquette, this stylish and essential reference provides thoughtful guidance on how to do it all well. Rooted in a foundation of consideration, respect, and honesty, this edition continues the Post family legacy of upholding traditions while moving forward with the times.
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