WRB—Feb. 18, 2023
No such meeting has happened, or could happen, at the WRB.
The question of what is meant by “the WRB” seems to mock the clear-cut definitive answer. Just as the historical origins of the form are disappearing into the fog of the recent past, so its range is disappearing within its ambivalent use at the present moment.
To do list:
order a tote bag or now a MUG;
avail yourself of our world-famous classified ads, either by placing or responding to one;
McCarthy seems to include real-life details in his fiction just so he can “[throw] his readers a curveball,” as Dwight Garner realized when researching the cuisine of McCarthy’s books. When Garner reached out to McCarthy’s publicist to ask why Bobby Western, Alicia’s twin, eats fettuccine with clams at Mosca’s in New Orleans, even though Mosca’s has never served fettuccine with clams, McCarthy responded via the publicist, “No goddamn clams! Put a note at the bottom of the page!” “An investigation of a fever dream” by Sam Jaffe Goldstein.
“Why is chicken broth the first ingredient in chicken broth? . . .After my wife found me collapsed on the floor from boredom, she resuscitated me and I tried to read the statement again. . . . ‘What I thought was our friend was in fact a conceit of the industry to lull us into complacency.’ . . . It felt like I’d finally found the smoking gun, if the gun was used to shoot a chicken that was already dead, and nobody cared about it except me.”
At 4Columns, Ania Szremski reviews Adam Zagajewski’s final, posthumous collection of poems now out in translation from the Polish (True Life, February 21):
Just as much as he might be someone’s 9/11 poet, for me, sunflowers were written by him. For me, he is the poet of nettles, and waiting rooms, and looking through windows in cars and trains. And the poet of cats, who, arching their backs around an old woman with treats, reveal little pink tongues like orchids. He is the poet of walking down the street, listening to the past; he is the poet of September.
One from TLS: Joseph Phelan reviews Elizabeth K. Helsinger’s book out from Cambridge last year about dialogue in Victorian poetry (Conversing in Verse: Conversation in Nineteenth-Century English Poetry, August 2022):
The nineteenth century’s interest in ekphrasis was, according to Helsinger, in part due to an increasing acknowledgment of the role of the observer in the construction of reality, complicating “earlier assumptions that everyone who looked could see, or see the same things”. Pater’s aesthetic criticism was one outcome of this development, the articulation of an “embodied vision” that did not attempt to disguise the fact that the observer’s response to the work of art was uniquely coloured by his or her experiences and feelings.
Three from our sister publication’s latest issue:
Gavin Francis reviews two books on memory and its opposite (Forgetting: The Benefits of Not Remembering, July 2021; A Primer for Forgetting: Getting Past the Past, June 2019):
Mark Twain wrote that the American Civil War could “in great measure” be blamed on the novels of Sir Walter Scott, bloated as they are “with the silliness and emptinesses, sham grandeurs, sham gauds, and sham chivalries of a brainless and worthless long-vanished society.” If the drama and theater of novels can lead societies to war, Hyde wonders whether more authentic drama and theater could be harnessed for a new kind of memorial—one that might lessen grievance and encourage peace.
Michael Gorra on the last Janet Malcolm book (Still Pictures, January) [Past Janet Malcolm content here.]
And Michael Dirda writes on Walter de la Mare:
In the 1920s and 1930s Walter de la Mare was considered one of Britain’s major literary figures, a triple threat as poet, storyteller, and anthologist. As late as 1948 a tribute volume marking his seventy-fifth birthday featured a Max Beerbohm caricature, a verse greeting from T.S. Eliot, and an appreciation by Graham Greene, who argued that de la Mare’s prose was “unequalled in its richness since the death of [Henry] James, or dare one, at this date, say Robert Louis Stevenson.”
And one from The Critic: David Wootton reviews Gary Kates book on the enlightenment (The Books that Made the European Enlightenment: A History in 12 Case Studies, September 2022) from last fall:
I think Kates’s fundamental perception, that the Enlightenment can be thought of as a programme of reading a set of books that writers and readers had in common, is sound. . . . This is not Kant’s Enlightenment: none of these authors favor despotism. Nevertheless an obvious criticism of Kates’s book is that it is skewed away from the radicals: the book effectively stops in 1780, so no Godwin or Wollstonecraft. America is present only as a place where people read books, not where they wrote them, so no Common Sense. All Kates’s books were bestsellers, partly because they did not provoke too much hostility from the authorities, so no direct attacks on Christianity, no d’Holbach, no La Mettrie. We have Voltaire’s Philosophical Letters (1734), not his Philosophical Dictionary (1764). Kant’s Enlightenment, which was above all an attack on religious doctrine, is visible here primarily in misreadings (as we might see them)—in the accusation, for example, that Montesquieu was a disciple of Spinoza.
Never Say ‘Nice to Meet You’ More DMV etiquette. [DCist has a long-running editorial crusade against claiming “you’d never cross the river” to Virginia, which I think is a tedious hangup. But I appreciate the passion. —Chris]
Further etiquette: Stop talking! [“Non-bores can have no conception of how many opportunities I perceive in the course of an hour to intrude this kind of information.” —Chris]
The Boston Review is accepting applications for internships.
[I just noticed that The Rumpus runs these “Sketch Book Reviews” by Kateri Kramer where a book is reviewed very briefly in a comic strip format. Fun! —Chris]
My Ex Recommends from the Friday Paris Review column. [Most of my exes read this newsletter. I still haven’t read The Idiot or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Sorry! But I have read Infinite Jest. —Chris]
The Fence is accepting fiction submissions of 2000–5000 words at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New issue of The Drift is launching March 7—but not in D.C. though, so who really cares?
New issue of The New Criterion available for subscribers. It’s the purple one!
New issue of Fare Forward coming…someday.
“We’re overdue to return to the question concerning technology”—New issue of The Point. Annotated ToC.
“It can’t be easy creating a good textile for public transit.”
Shakespeare Theatre Company is playing King Lear from February 23–April 2.
[I’m still not 100% sure how the under-35 discount (which I gather would be helpful to at least some of our readers) works at STC. —Chris]
Today is the second day of the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival.
And American Ballet Theatre is performing Romeo and Juliet through tomorrow.
From the local Post’s spring theater round up:
A bunch of shows up north? [What is even the point? —Chris]
Including a staging of The Seagull adapted to be about “a group of urbane theater people.” Joy.
Clyde’s at Studio Theatre starting March 1, “Lynn Nottage’s highly entertaining comedy of kitchen nightmares at a Pennsylvania truck stop” “the most-staged play in America” [Look, I don’t know anything about this stuff. Someone else should do this. Please. Especially if you don’t live in New York. —Chris]
March 7 | Transit Books
by Brigitte Reimann, translated by Lucy Jones
From the publisher: 1960. The border between East and West Germany has closed.
For Elisabeth—a young painter—the GDR is her generation's chance to build a glorious, egalitarian socialist future. For her brother Uli, it is a place of stricture and oppression. Separating them is the ever-wider chasm of the Party line; over them loom the twin spectres of opportunity and fear, and the shadow of their defector brother Konrad. In prose as bold as a scarlet paint stroke, Brigitte Reimann battles with the clash of idealism and suppression, familial loyalty, and desire. The result is this ground-breaking classic of post-war East German literature.
Considered a master of socialist realism, Brigitte Reimann (1933–1973) wrote irreverent, autobiographical works that addressed issues and sensibilities otherwise repressed in the GDR. She wrote in her diaries: “I enjoyed success too early, married the wrong man, and hung out with the wrong people; too many men have liked me, and I’ve liked too many men.” After her death from cancer in 1973 at the age of 39, she garnered a cult-like following. This is Reimann’s first work of fiction to appear in English.
Here’s a piece from The Guardian about Siblings and Reimann: “In short she was one of the coolest chicks in town.”
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