WRB—Dec. 7, 2022
banal and hollow on-the-record quotes
Near what appeared to be the end of André Breton’s life, he suggested the time had come for Surrealism to go underground, where it could survive and adapt itself for the future.1
To do list:
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;
and, now for a greatly (40% or so) reduced price for a yearly subscription through the end of the year,
Tristan Foster interviews Harald Voetmann, whose novel about Pliny the Elder [Okay?] was published by New Directions in translation last fall (Awake, 2021), for Full Stop: “So many stories try to deal with the present by looking at the near or distant past. We always hear that exploring the past widens our understanding of what it means to be human. Or something like that. History is fascinating and we do need it to understand ourselves, but looking back is inevitably also looking into a pit of pointless suffering. And literature has a different set of tools for dealing with that than history books. Not better, but different. It can offer the illusion of time travel and bring the senses to life so we feel we can catch glimpses of a different world from a safe distance.”
In the latest issue of Salmagundie Magazine, Robert Pinsky writes about the “shifting plate” of fame and its uncertain pleasures: “The crown coincided with a statue—not in Cato’s Rome, exactly, but lines from a poem by Miłosz were inscribed on the monument in Gdansk commemorating the uprising that unified Polish workers and students in the Solidarity movement. ‘Fame,’ in the phrase of his poem, had not ‘passed him by,’ after all. For Hass and me, the Nobel news included a half-serious ‘Oh shit’ element. Those two appointments we had canceled made it feel awkward to ask Czesław for a new appointment—as though only now did we have time for him. Might we never work with the older poet we admired?”
Department of Visual Experiences: For Artforum, Kaitlin Phillips shares her impression of Art Basel. Sounds miserable, which is about what you’d expect. But on the Interintellect blog, Celeste Marcus illustrates a brief point, in advance of an upcoming online salon, about how great artists may surprise us.
And for American Greatness, Roger Kimball considers the contemporary art museum: “It is true that the art museum in our modern sense had precursors reaching back at least to the 16th century. But what had been once a ‘mere collection,’ as Malraux put it, had by the 19th century become ‘a sort of shrine.’ Whence the element of reverence? And what rites are practiced there?”
Department of Audio Experiences: Sasha Frere-Jones didn’t like Bob Dylan’s new book (The Philosophy of Modern Song, November), and he says as much in his review for 4Columns: “what begins as a set of interpretations ends up as a sour little diary.”
In a follow-up tweet, he notes: “one of the most telling omissions in Philosophy of Modern Song? No Joni.” Jenn Pelly revisits Hejira (1976) for Pitchfork this week: “Hejira built a new sound to match the feminist paradigm it presented for being a woman in the world, with autonomy, adventure, and pleasure all as virtues.” [I was playing Hejira for a friend this weekend
More music: David Meir Grossman, reviewing the latest Weyes Blood album, says “It’s fully possible to listen to a Weyes Blood record without understanding a thing she’s saying on the first go-round. Mering’s voice, which has been compared to Carole King and Joni Mitchell, really is that transportive.” OK, but the thing that interests us is the opening introspection: “Read enough music reviews, and you’ll find the same words over and over again. These phrases, like ‘ethereal,’ ‘transcendent,’ ‘otherworldly’—what do they mean?”
The new new McCarthy novel is out. We’re sure you can find a review to suit you if you hunt around. “Teach the controversy,” we suppose. [OK but Tracy Daugherty for Book Post makes it all about Donald Barthelme, so I’m paying attention again. —Chris]
The Washington Independent Review of Books [Our unattached cousin!] will host the 10th Annual Washington Writers Conference in May.
Everyone here at the WRB has been dumped, but so far as we can remember never for this reason.
[I just want to say here that I think about this tweet about once per week. —Chris]
“At the WRB, we’re not shy about the fact that we often know the people we cover, and we happily eschew some of the stuffier conventions of journalism, like inserting banal and hollow on-the-record quotes just to prove we dropped a call, or marble-mouthed bothsidesism, or vacant euphemisms.”
January 3 | Norton
by Herman Hesse, translated by Kurt Beals
From the publisher: The quest for self-discovery never ends, especially for Harry Haller―better known as the Steppenwolf. After a life spent in self-imposed isolation, Harry meets the mysterious Hermine and becomes captivated by her intoxicating power. Through their nighttime adventures, the Steppenwolf experiences the decadent underbelly of the bourgeois society he always despised. Harry becomes a man divided―lost in a surreal underground world of pleasure and set on a collision course with his innermost desires.
There has never been a translation that fully captures the essence of Hermann Hesse’s own spiritual questioning until now. Kurt Beals restores the original meaning of this hallucinatory German tale in a recognizably modern voice. Beals’s expert introduction traces the impact of The Steppenwolf for readers seeking meaning during the upheaval of world conflicts, the onslaught of new technologies, and life’s uncertainties.
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