WRB–Feb. 23, 2022
Courtesy, Classifieds, Clarification, Confusion, and more.
The Managing Editors wish to clarify that the WRB is in no way affiliated with the fine folks at the Washington Independent Review of Books. The Managing Editors are dependent in manifold ways, most of all upon you, our dear readers.
[I recently broke a shoelace. First person to reply to this email with the subject “Slum Honey” gets a copy of The Mezzanine. —Chris]
To do list:
Follow us on Twitter [Or Instagram now, for some reason.], add “WRB #1 FAN” to your email signature at work, reply to at least two WRB classified ads [I think really anyone can teach piano if they bring the right mindset to the task. —Chris], about which more is said at the bottom of this email, and, for technical reasons, tell us your favorite link from this issue here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the other review, Brenda Wineapple has more dirt than you knew you needed on a recent, and, from the sounds of it, exhausting chronicle of the transcendentalists and their times.
Patricia Lockwood is both perennially entertaining and newly interviewed in The New Yorker.
In Granta, an excerpt from “the post human landscape”—Scotland, of course. [Not to repeat myself, but better than this is the section on St. Kilda from Judith Schalansky’s Atlas of Remote Islands. —Chris]
P.J. O’Rourke is dead, you might have heard. An obit roundup feels pointless, but we enjoyed this NYT rememoir from Chris Buckley. Keeping it in the family: Sarah Weinman tracks out the friendship of Buckley, Sr., and V. Nabokov, at least one of whom was also a very funny man.
Objectively speaking, “The Troubles with Northern Irish literature” is a great headline, whatever people have to say about it.
We recommend with Nicholas Russell in Gawker that, in order to truly understand the connotations of “vibe shift,” Meet Me In The Bathroom is essential reading.
Addison Del Mastro ruminates on the death of blogs in The Bulwark. The Managing Editors, being young and long of plans, assure you no such fate will befall your beloved WRB.
We fear the tedium of an ongoing bit, but reader enthusiasm has been strong for that book about indexes. Here’s an excerpt on LitHub.
A reader mentioned another interview in The New Yorker: Stevie Nicks. The Managing Editors assure their readers that they do know where Silver Spring, Maryland, is, though they would never willingly go there. [It’s no Rockville. —Nic]
What we’re reading:
Chris finished How to Be Normal, and he is unfortunately less sure than ever on the topic.
More confusion: Mark Jarmanʼs Epistles is a strange book that has not clarified Chrisʼ thoughts about the “prose-poem” one bit.
Wilmer Millsʼ Light for the Orphans earns the fawning big-name praise on the back cover. The narrative poems—one long sequence, in the voice of a young man leaving home, and many shorter pieces from speakers identified by their vocation or relations (deer hunter, foster-mother, beekeeperʼs wife)—bring out <blah blah blah something that doesn't sound too crit-cliche tktk>
More poems: Chris is proud to have done the typesetting for this book, and happy to have read the poems inside. He frankly enjoyed them a lot more than most chapbooks he reads.
Nic picked up Newman’s Apologia Pro Vita Sua, which he could not resist after all the jokes about it in Loitering with Intent. The good saint is remarkably readable, especially when he’s angry.
When Nic was in high school, his grandmother gave him a copy of Hugging the Shore and informed him that it was “the Bible.” These days, he finds himself often reading Updike—always the essays, never the fiction—throughout the day and often late into the evening. It’s a relaxing pastime, if nothing else.
As promised, the Pym binge has begun. Up first: Less than Angels.
Georgetown University Press | February 28, 2022
Sixteenth Street NW: Washington, DC’s Avenue of Ambitions
by John DeFerrari and Douglas Peter Sefton
From the publisher: A richly illustrated architectural “biography” of one of DCʼs most important boulevards
Sixteenth Street NW in Washington, DC, has been called the Avenue of the Presidents, Executive Avenue, and the Avenue of Churches. From the front door of the White House, this north-south artery runs through the middle of the District and extends just past its border with Maryland. The street is as central to the cityscape as it is to DCʼs history and culture.
In Sixteenth Street NW: Washington, DC’s Avenue of Ambitions, John DeFerrari and Douglas Peter Sefton depict the social and architectural history of the street and immediate neighborhoods, inviting readers to explore how the push and pull between ordinary Washingtonians and powerful elites has shaped the corridor ― and the city. This highly illustrated book features notable buildings along Sixteenth Street and recounts colorful stories of those who lived, worked, and worshipped there. Maps offer readers an opportunity to create self-guided tours of the places and people that have defined this main thoroughfare over time.
What readers will find is that both then and now, Sixteenth Street NW has been shaped by a diverse array of people and communities. The street, and the book, feature a range of sites ― from Black Lives Matter Plaza to the White House, from mansions and rowhomes to apartment buildings, from Meridian Hill (Malcolm X) Park with its drum circles to Rock Creek Park with its tennis tournaments, and from hotels to houses of worship. Sixteenth Street, NW reveals a cross section of Washington, DC, that shows the vibrant makeup of our nation’s capital.
[For a history of some of the other streets in Washington, check out Gil Scott-Heron’s tour of the city. —Nic]
from Emily Post’s Etiquette:
Traveling with children who are old enough to read, write, or play games need not be a problem. By taking along a supply of papers, crayons, or one of the excellent game books that are sold just for the purpose, the time can be made to fly. Verbal games, too, such as “Twenty Questions,” help to pass the hours. You may find that more frequent stops are necessary—young stomachs seem to demand a steady flow of nibbles when motoring—but the stops will help to avoid restless wiggling while in the car.
For little children, a mattress laid in the back of the station wagon, or a little play pen with a well-padded mat on the back seat is a boon to the parents. The baby is free to move about safely, rather than endure the restraint of a car seat or his mother's lap. Even the older child will enjoy the luxury of being able to stretch out on such a mattress if you can afford to use the space in this way, and many children will sleep away many hours if they can lie down comfortably.
“The Fishermen” by Jon Sands
for J.V. C.H. A.F. E.H. E.M.
Sometimes you dance slow with your best friend
while a woman you love differently than you love Etta James
sings At Last into a karaoke machine
like she wrote it in the bathroom.
Sometimes every person you know is drunk enough;
it becomes a new definition for sober.
There is a bar on the west side of Brooklyn
the fishermen call home (or they used to,
when Brooklyn had fishermen), a lighthouse carrying them back
to their whiskey. Sometimes there is tonight.
We are six people who make footsteps that never disappear.
Can you imagine the lines we have drawn to get here?
There are people who have called us their homes.
Tonight, there is family in the oxygen. Sometimes,
two people is its own person. It has a lifespan,
it gets hungry, it too, can lie underneath its sheets
and wonder how it can still feel alone—
sometimes it is more.
There is a phone booth in the bar that seats one.
Six of us scramble inside, crawl up the walls
until even our drinks fit, our bodies rediscovering
what it is to be possible. It is one night
when the clocks in Brooklyn begin to spill backwards,
then stop. The bartender—still as a stalagmite,
while the perfect pour stays perfect.
The couple at the corner table,
together like popsicle sticks in a freezer—
the ovvvvv from I love you suspended
in the air like a vibrating chandelier.
We, with our songs, with our slow dances,
our smiles—which on any other day
rotate like the swing on a jump rope—
we are the last to go, we are the last to go,
we are last—
From The New Clean
[I’ve known this poem for years, since it was first published, and it’s lived in my notes app since then. For this newsletter, I corrected it against the version in my paperback, and though nothing really changed, it was a fascinating experience making each edit word by word, point by point, with the poet. —Chris]
The WRB Classifieds:
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Roses are red
I’ll never know joy
Since towers are topless
Not Helen of Troy.
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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”]
Aging millennial looking for a piano teacher near Fairfax. [Email WRB with subject: “Tickling the Ivories”]
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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.
Critically acclaimed visionary filmmaker Joe Pappalardo demands you watch RODENT KING.
Pray the Rosary daily!