WRB–Feb. 16, 2022
Tailoring, Food, Another Sale, Götterdämmerung, Wine, Orthography, and more
If the Managing Editors were to become involved in an elaborate international publishing heist, they would think of something much more amusing than the Talented Mr. Bernardini.
What to do in D.C. this week:
Follow us on Twitter, forward this newsletter to five of your friends [or what, you’ll die at midnight? –Chris], take advantage of basically-free pricing on WRB classified ads, about which more is said at the bottom of this email, and, for technical reasons, share a cocktail recipe with us here: email@example.com.
In Harper’s, Rivka Galchen considers a newly translated biography of educational pioneer Maria Montessori. [I’ve never given much thought to the method before, but this paints a compelling and complicated portrait of its mother. –Chris]
And in Literary Review, Robert Bickers on a newly translated book on Chinese orthography.
Neil Serven briefly appreciates Nicholson Baker’s captivating essay “Lumber” [Collected with much other worthwhile material in The Size of Thoughts –Chris] for Ploughshares.
In the Los Angeles Review of Books, Bennett Parten argues that Blood Meridian can easily be read as a work of history.
In The New Yorker, a man sells his books on Monday nights. In Washington, we give them away for free. [First person to write in with the subject line “Schlegel” gets a copy of this one. –Nic]
Princeton University Press is having a sale until the end of the month, and there are some screamin’ deals. Lectures on Dostoevsky—$7.50! An Auden biography—$8.75! Robert Alter on translation—$6.24! Wow!
Maureen Dowd says that both James Joyce and Washington, D.C., pass all understanding—we only know of one newsletter that can help with both.
The Managing Editors [Nic] would like to recommend the Wall Street Journal’s Saturday wine column to anyone who enjoys inconclusive writing.
We linked to the Times review of the new book on indexes on Saturday, but this one in the Journal is a more amusing read. We regret the error.
What we’re reading:
Chris has frankly been rather busy, but he found When We Cease to Understand the World extremely diverting in spare moments. Labatut conjures in these essays anecdotes from the recent history of scientific discovery, producing an effect somewhat like a modern Diogenes Laërtius—save the amusing epigrams. Itʼs stylish and easy reading that is probably worth a few hours of your time, even if it shades into melodrama at its loose points.
Pro patria mori are words on everyone’s mind these heady days, if they keep up on the news, and to that end, Chris has found a copy of Long Island Poets: An Anthology, to try to find out more about his place of birth. The hardcover is more handsome than he expected.
He is holding himself back from beginning this exciting-looking book from J.L. Chrétien until he finishes Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism, like he promised himself.
Nic recently read two of John Updike’s children’s books, The Magic Flute and The Ring, adapted from the operas by Mozart and Wagner, respectively. Neither were quite satisfactory, and both books are long out of print. It’s hard to fault Updike though. Stories in opera are notorious for their lack of substance, a challenge for any author, no matter how airy his style. There’s also the issue of length. A full performance of the Ring cycle can run more than fifteen hours. And not everything can make it into the children’s version. Updike handled this problem admirably, however, especially in his condensation of Götterdämmerung, which he fit into two sentences: “Sigfried and Brunhilda knew joy in one another, but did not live happily forever after. No human beings do.”
Several readers last week asked the Managing Editors about Barbara Pym. Nic at least has only read the greatest hits (Excellent Women and Quartet and Autumn), but as soon as he finishes off Spark, Pym is his next completionist project. [Completionist projects, as a lifestyle, are never finished. —Chris]
Taschen | March
The History of Graphic Design. 40th Ed.
by Jens Müller
From the publisher: Through the turbulent passage of time, graphic design—with its vivid, neat synthesis of image and idea—has distilled the spirit of each age. Surrounding us every minute of every day, from minimalist packaging to colorful adverts, smart environmental graphics to sleek interfaces: graphic design is as much about transmitting information as it is about reflecting society’s cultural aspirations and values.
With his sweeping knowledge of the field, author Jens Müller curates the standout designs for each year, a running sequence of design milestones. This collection of important graphic works represents a long-overdue reflection on the development of a creative field constantly changing and challenging itself. These key pieces act as coordinates through contemporary history, helping us trace the sheer influence of graphic design on our daily lives.
[Lots of people have been asking me for a recipe section, and I think the best way to do this without adding too much bloat is just to throw it in as laconically as possible every Wednesday. —Chris]
I’m making these rather-involved meatballs for my houseguests tomorrow. I’ve followed this recipe a few times before, and they really do come out marvelous, unreal, like no meatball I’ve ever had. And maybe a kale salad.
“On a Well-Dressed Man Much Married” by X.J. Kennedy [for after Valentine’s Day]
Primper, whose crease is sharper than his wit,
Tried on nine wives, but found not one to fit.
Why should he wear loose women all his life?
Tell him to have the tailor make his wife.
in Peeping Tom’s Cabin: Comic Verse 1928-2008
The WRB Classifieds:
To place an ad, email firstname.lastname@example.org or DM @washingreview on Twitter. Rates are 1¢ per word, per issue. Content is subject to the approval of the Managing Editors.
Male (27) seeking dreamers, mad prophets, literary types with bold poetic vision to found an intentional community in upstate New York. Experience working soil a plus, but by no means required. Angelic dispositions preferred. We can make it work this time. [Email WRB with subject: “Work of Human Hands”]
Nice Christian girl wanted for nice Christian boy. Him: 25 y/o 6’2” homeowner. Seattle area. Her: Tall a plus. Ex athlete a plus. Must love kids. [Email WRB with subject: “Sleepless in Seattle”]
Single male (23) seeking female to apply to the Claremont Institute’s Lincoln Fellowship with me. All my male friends have already met the requirements of a Lincoln Fellow and used all of their stipends as dowries. Frankly, I do not want to become a Lincoln Fellow; I hate all the Californians and Lincoln. But my dignity compels me to apply. Please join me. [Email WRB with subject: “New Birth of Freedom”]
Rockville parents looking for evening sitter for 15 m/o. For details email email@example.com.
Editor of agriculture publication looking for freelance reporters interested in farming, supply chains, markets. Pays competitively. For details email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to start a podcast but have no idea where to start? Contact podcast expert and Washington Review of Books reader Shadrach Strehle! One client called his rates “cheap,” and his work “exceptional.” But don’t take his word for it, try Shad yourself! For info and a consultation contact Shadrach Strehle at email@example.com.
Young, scrappy, hungry journal of politics, arts, and culture seeks curious and open minded readers. if that's you, visit athwart.org.
Want to learn Latin, Ancient Greek, or Biblical Hebrew? Skip the silly apps. Take an online class with the Ancient Language Institute. We get our students reading, speaking, and listening to the language on the first day of class. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can learn one of these “dead languages” when you study it like it’s a living method of communication instead of a linguistic fossil. Group classes and one-on-one Tutorials are available. Scheduling is flexible. Perfect for students, clergy, working professionals, and retirees. Learn more at ancientlanguage.com.
Seasons of Thought is a self-published collection of poems exploring the beauty of human experience across the canvas of the seasons. Goodreads reviewers have compared the poems favorably with the work of Mary Oliver and commented on their “thoughtfulness and pleasantness.” Seasons of Thought is available for purchase from Amazon.
Critically acclaimed visionary filmmaker Joe Pappalardo demands you watch RODENT KING.
Pray the Rosary daily!