WRB—Feb. 9, 2022
The Secret Books of Others, Ulysses, the Goodreads Industrial Complex, the WRB Classifieds
To do list:
Follow us on Twitter, forward this newsletter to your favorite uncle, take advantage of industry-leading pricing on WRB classified ads, about which more is said at the bottom of this email, and, for technical reasons, whine about something here: email@example.com.
In The Guardian: the Red Poet’s Society. And in the Wall Street Journal: the Red Leader was a Red Reader. We are glad the headline writers are having fun out there.
In The New Yorker, Merve Erme ponders “The Seductions of Ulysses”, a novel that, if you hadn’t heard—if you haven’t heard—is 100 now.
Casey Cep examines a century of King Tut mania in The New Yorker. The Managing Editors [Nic] searched in vain for reference to Steve Martin’s pharaonic ditty, beloved by everyone over the age of fifty.
Oscar Swartz does mortician’s work on the TED Talk in The Drift [I guess we are catching The Drift’s drift now? —Chris].
In Tablet, your occasional reminder that Leo Strauss, who is oddly popular in the United States, is also oddly popular in China.
A man in Arlington (across the river) recently discovered that his grandmother saved the cover page of nearly every New Yorker issue from 1962 through 2013. She kept them, in order, in a series of tupperware containers. He’s selling them.
The Managing Editors are not the podcast type, but have to admit that “Poems read aloud, beautifully” is a compelling pitch for a minute or two of listening.
Someone is trying to disrupt the monopoly stranglehold Goodreads has on the “Social media with ISBNs” space. They can hardly do a worse job than “Big G.”
One last piece of Ulysses content: this boutique press has launched a Kickstarter for editions of the book in a variety of quite handsome-looking multi-volume formats. [When I do this it won’t cost $1000 starting. —Chris]
What we’re reading:
Chris has the feeling with All the King’s Men of reading something for the first time which has its real pleasures in being revisited. He’s enjoying (for the first time) Reality and Dreams from Dame Muriel Spark, her 20th novel.
Current Affairs, which he had forgotten about, came in the mail. Free magazine title: Going Concerns.
Nic spent much of the weekend flipping through the newly released Everyman’s Library poetry anthology No Place Like Home. He was baffled by its organization and by some of the selections. In general, he also wishes that the Everyman’s Library were better about copyediting (not that he’s any saint either).
On Tuesday morning, he scooped up about two hundred books in Adams Morgan from a woman who was unloading her library onto the street. These included nearly every Booker Prize finalist in the past five years, the novels of Sally Rooney, and a few nice—but apparently untouched—Italo Calvino paperbacks. Tucked in the pages of many of these books were all sorts of curiosities: postcards from Italy, furious diary entries, and most strange, a doctor’s note confirming a positive pregnancy test. Congratulations!
University of Chicago Press | May 2022
Inventing the Alphabet: The Origins of Letters from Antiquity to the Present
by Johanna Drucker
From the publisher: Inventing the Alphabet provides the first account of two-and-a-half millennia of scholarship on the alphabet. Drawing on decades of research, Johanna Drucker dives into sometimes obscure and esoteric references, dispelling myths and identifying a pantheon of little-known scholars who contributed to our modern understandings of the alphabet, one of the most important inventions in human history.
Beginning with Biblical tales and accounts from antiquity, Drucker traces the transmission of ancient Greek thinking about the alphabet’s origin and debates about how Moses learned to read. The book moves through the centuries, finishing with contemporary concepts of the letters in alpha-numeric code used for global communication systems. Along the way, we learn about magical and angelic alphabets, antique inscriptions on coins and artifacts, and the comparative tables of scripts that continue through the development of modern fields of archaeology and paleography.
This is the first book to chronicle the story of the intellectual history through which the alphabet has been “invented” as an object of scholarship.
[According to the Midrash, since he created the world, God has consulted the Torah, has created other worlds, and has discussed with the letters of the alphabet which of them should be the agent of creation.]
“The Man Who Married Magdalene” by Louis Simpson [courtesy of a reader]
The man who married Magdalene
Had not forgiven her.
God might pardon every sin ...
Love is no pardoner.
Her hands were hollow, pale, and blue,
Her mouth like watered wine.
He watched to see if she were true
And waited for a sign.
It was old harlotry, he guessed,
That drained her strength away,
So gladly for the dark she dressed,
So sadly for the day.
Their quarrels made her dull and weak
And soon a man might fit
A penny in the hollow cheek
And never notice it.
At last, as they exhausted slept,
Death granted the divorce,
And nakedly the woman leapt
Upon that narrow horse.
But when he woke and woke alone
He wept and would deny
The loose behavior of the bone
And the immodest thigh.
from The Owner of the House: New Collected Poems 1940-2001
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.
Nice Christian girl wanted for nice Christian boy. Him: 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
THE WEDDING COLUMN MURDERS
Death stalks the clueless and pampered members of New York's upper crust against a backdrop that includes a reality tv star turned president, an Instagram poet writing about his IBS, and The Church of the Gun in Strange Fruit, Texas.
“A dark, witty and thrilling novel... A brilliant debut” — Charlie Tyler
Read here: http://mybook.to/weddingcolumn
Critically acclaimed visionary filmmaker Joe Pappalardo demands you watch RODENT KING.
The Farragut Review of Books | Douthat Edition
The Deep Places: was the disease Connecticut all along?
The Decadent Society: did a dearth of horny teenagers put Trump in the White House?
The Douthat Column: it’s pronounced DOWthot.
Pray the Rosary daily!