WRB—Jan. 25, 2023
Everything in here is really brief!
In the years 1778–82—that is to say, either toward the end of the elaboration of the Critique of Pure Reason, or just after it’s publication—one finds in Kant’s notes the following two mentions:
Mega biblion: mega kakon
System or rhapsody.
Elegance of the system.
—Jean-Luc Nancy, The Discourse of the Syncope: Logodaedalus (2008)
In this great spirit, then, a return to brevity:
[Quick] To do list:
avail yourself of our world-famous classified ads, either by placing or responding to one;
On Antigone Journal, Martha Nussbaum briefly writes about Cicero’s writing about friendship:
Consider, then, the type of friendly intimacy, teasing, and self-mockery revealed in this elaborate joke. It goes to the heart of my concern: for it reveals a type of closeness based on complementarity, long-time knowledge of difference, and sheer daily familiarity that Cicero’s two philosophical works ignore or even deny. If we investigate the two works, though, against the background of the friendship of Cicero and Atticus, which is so amply chronicled in the surviving corpus of letters, we find that Cicero’s official and philosophical arguments omit much about friendship and aging that his letters reveal. If friendship matters for aging, as it surely does, we need, then, to ponder the whole texture of a real friendship, not just Cicero’s philosophical schema, however admirable it is.
Nicolson Baker with his four favorite, brief, quotes from a book about papyrus (Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World, October 2021): “On being read to every night by her mother: The time we spent reading seemed to to me to be a small, impermanent paradise. I have since learned that every paradise is like that: modest and fleeting.”
Two quick ones in the TLS:
In promising to “take the dust covers off the Greeks and Romans”, Exposed turns out to be repackaging versions of the Greco-Roman body that are as entangled in European classicism as the Apollo Belvedere. There’s no “go[ing] back to the drawing board.” It is precisely because they are paragons of rationality that it’s exciting to see ancient Greeks in the gutter.
And Jade French reviews two university press books about modernist poet H.D. (Winged Words: The Life and Work of the Poet H.D., June 2022; H. D. & Bryher: An Untold Love Story of Modernism, November 2021):
That there is still appetite for her life and work is no surprise. Her role as a “modern woman” of the early twentieth century speaks to contemporary, nonconformist configurations of family, love and creativity. Ever committed to the idea of the palimpsest, she viewed even her own life as a process of layering and relayering, allowing echoes of the past to reverberate in the present. There is much to discover in her biography.
Another bio: The third volume of Michael Posner’s Leonard Cohen biography (Leonard Cohen, Untold Stories: That’s How the Light Gets In, December 2022) reviewed for the Free Beacon by David Skinner: “This very fallen character reaches for the divine and it is quite moving.”
For him, writing had little to do with technique, plot devices, acceptable notions about politics and religion, or educating his readers. It was only about writing as quickly as possible about the world he knew. “What is there to teach?” one of his many writerly characters asks. “There is nothing to teach. Sit down and write.” Don’t waste life on theorizing about it, Chekhov said, again and again. Which is why Chekhov’s most cerebral characters are unhappy—they think too much about the things they should be doing (telling someone they love them, moving to Moscow, selling the family estate, etc.). If there is any panacea for the stress and bitterness of human life, it is only by exhausting one’s anxieties and ambitions through hard work. And working hard was something that Chekhov rarely stopped doing until he died.
A reader alerts us: “There is no conservative case for tote bags, because they’re not something a conservative would carry. They’re merely an approximation of something liberals carry.” We could not disagree more strenuously—tote bags have no political valence. Tote bags are for everyone, just like the WRB!
- linked to this the other day: Modernist Archives Publishing Project. Neat!
University of Chicago Press sale. [It’s that time of year again.]
Upcoming [72 page!] book:
February 7 | Graywolf Press
Meet Me at the Lighthouse
by Dana Gioia
From the publisher: Dana Gioia has been hailed for decades as a master of traditional lyric forms, whose expansive and accessible poems are offerings of rare poignancy and insight. In Meet Me at the Lighthouse, he invites us back to old Los Angeles, where the shabby nightclub of the title beckons us into its noirish immortality. Elsewhere, he laments the once-vibrant neighborhood where he grew up, now bulldozed, and recalls his working-class family of immigrants. Gioia describes a haunting from his mother on his birthday, Christmas Eve. Another poem remembers his uncle, a US Merchant Marine. And “The Ballad of Jesús Ortiz” tells the story of his great-grandfather, a Mexican vaquero who was shot dead at a tavern in Wyoming during a dispute over a bar tab. “I praise my ancestors, the unkillable poor,” Gioia writes. This book is dedicated to their memory.
Including poems, song lyrics, translations, and concluding with an unsettling train ride to the underworld, Meet Me at the Lighthouse is a luminous exploration of nostalgia, mortality, and what makes a life worth living and remembering.
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