WRB—June 1, 2022
The WRB Road Show
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To do list:
ON TOUR: If you want a WRB sticker, come to the Dew Drop Inn in Brookland at 6 pm this evening to meet the Managing Editors and have whatever books you bring reviewed on the spot.
In the new Bookforum, Leo Robson takes the long view on the transformation of sports journalism.
Ann Kjellberg’s Book Post is frequently a fascinating note. Two recent excerpts worth attention: The story of Kafka’s struggle with his publisher about illustrating his work, by Andreas Kilcher, and Noga Arikha from her new book on memory and narrative.
Annie Sand reflects on living anxiously for Guernica: “When we use metaphor to conceal the unknowable, we make symbols out of human beings and allegory out of experience. We reduce our own pain to a precursor, a line item, a weather report.”
And Jake Marmer reflects on a different kind of mental illness for Tablet: “Not Unpacking My Library”
For The New Criterion, William Logan surveys much new poetry, good and bad: “deftness of perception….maunderings of a gaseous sort….empty-headed blather….a bit of a genius, a bit of a scamp, a bit of a nutjob….a competent, unexciting poet of a familiar sort….some of the best poems of her generation.”
For the Times, Ben Ehrenreich reviews Barry Lopez’ final essays: “a writer who, as long as he can keep our attention, holds our souls in his hands.” [I think Light Action In the Caribbean (especially the pieces “The Construction of the Rachel” and “Rubén Mendoza Vega, Suzuki Professor of Early Caribbean History, University of Florida at Gainesville, Offers a History of the United States Based on Personal Experience”) and Outside (with that Barry Moser art!) are both delightful, though I’m embarrassed to admit I still haven’t made it to Arctic Dreams. —Chris] [One of my great regrets is selling my copy of Horizon, not because it was an especially good book, but because the shade of blue on the cover is one of the most brilliant things I have seen. Commonweal published a real downer of an interview with Lopez shortly after his death that’s worth reading. —Nic] [Maggie Nelson reports that in the 18th century Horace Bénédict de Saussure invented a device to measure the sky’s quality of blue. —Chris]
For our sister, Nathaniel Rich writes about Un-su Kim’s books translated from the Korean: “Why, then, does Un-su Kim introduce his novel with this parable? Why commingle fact and fiction so promiscuously? Why, Un-su Kim, why?”
For TLS, David Gallagher discusses Macedonio Fernández, who was a great influence on Borges [And goes a long way towards preempting any desire I might have had to read him: “a great conversationalist, but a bad writer.” —Chris]
Gawker’s humor critic is back for some deserved lashes against David Sedaris. [His big excerpt in the April 4th New Yorker was one of the least funny things I’ve read this year. I’m not bitter about it though. —Chris] [For how long will the critics flog Dave Eggers? When will his suffering cease? —Nic] [A Heartbreaking Genius of Staggering Work. —Chris]
Dissent is launching a program for “emerging writers.”
Will there soon be a new edition of the Analects on the way? [My brother says that recently he’s been dreaming of the Duke of Zhou. —Nic]
from Emily Post’s Etiquette:
It is heartless and delinquent if you do not go to the funeral of one with whom you were associated in business or other interests, or to whose house you were often invited, or where you are a friend of the immediate members of the family.
What we’re reading:
Chris said he wasn’t going to read anything this weekend, and then he read The Middle Stories, How Should a Person Be?, Vox, and The Second O of Sorrow. He only really recommends the first and last ones. He’s basically through with all of Sheila Heti now. He also looked at the amusing illustrations in the new issue of Current Affairs.
Nic, in anticipation of his air conditioning not working for the third summer in a row, [Please not another No A/C D.C. —Chris] burned through The Days of Abandonment and The Hothouse by the East River over the long weekend. He also picked up Ulysses, which, if all goes according to plan, he will finish in nine weeks. [Not too late to join the reading group! —Nic]
August 2 | Farrar, Straus and Giroux
by Robert Lowell
From the publisher: Robert Lowell’s Memoirs is the renowned poet's most personal writing. Steven Gould Axelrod and Grzegorz Kosc have unearthed the manuscript of Lowell’s autobiographical study of his childhood that he wrote in the 1950s. Unpublished until now, it is a precursor to his groundbreaking book of poems Life Studies, which signaled a radically new, prose-inflected direction in his work and indeed in American poetry.
Memoirs also includes intense depictions of Lowell’s mental illness and his efforts to recover. It concludes with reminiscences of other writers, such as T. S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Ezra Pound, John Berryman, Anne Sexton, Hannah Arendt, and Sylvia Plath. Memoirs demonstrates Lowell’s expansive gifts as a prose stylist and his powers of introspection and observation. It provides more evidence of the range and brilliance of Lowell’s achievement.
“Tears for Saint Catherine” by Sean Thomas Dougherty
When my eyes won’t weep for the world,
I hear the hiss of metaphysics at my feet
tears of fire burning the ground black.
The bark of the birch tree calls to the clouds for rain,
hands of thunder slap my shameful ears.
Some nights I believe the stars really are the eyes of God,
the remnants of a great sadness sobbing across the cosmos.
In a wild meadow, I imagine the medieval shadow
of a female saint, a cricket’s bronze legs, a grave.
The WRB Classifieds:
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Freelance copyeditor with 10 years’ professional experience editing everything from poetry to scholarly works on long-dead Native American languages offering services to writers everywhere. Email email@example.com for rates and availability.
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Twenty-[redacted] DC-area Catholic seeking participants for an eight-week, completely free weekly course through her church, St. Ann in Tenleytown. Tuesdays at 7:30 PM from June 14–August 2, the course will convene for dinner and discussion of questions of life, faith, and meaning. You need not be Catholic or even Christian to participate; this girl has red hair, so the church door erupts in flames whensoe’er she so much as grazes it with her hand, and they still let her in. The course deepened her faith and was the source of many new friendships. It is a worthy use of a summer evening. Contact Clare Hogan at email@example.com for details.
The Militant Grammarian is a non-profit volunteer journal devoted to bringing the best experimental fiction to the web. Our small staff is committed to an aesthetic of bold weirdness and boundary-pushing—the types of stories that other publications might consider too esoteric or theoretical or cerebral. Simply put, we publish stories we love—the stories that we believe deserve to be out in the world. Submit your writing: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Struggle Magazine is a quarterly literary magazine established in Washington, D.C. in 2020. The idea for it started behind a coffee bar from our need to create a tangible expression of what it meant for us to have artistic freedom in this world. We depend on finding contributors and pieces that end up informing one another. We hope that each issue of Struggle comes out buzzing with interesting conversations among artists across genres and mediums that our readers can also participate in. Get the first issue now.
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