WRB—June 8, 2022
We have an announcement.
Some publications publish long missives about why they’re putting up a paywall. But we’ll try to be brief. Producing the WRB is an incredible amount of work for us to do for free. Basically, what’s going to happen is this: the links, upcoming books, and classifieds will remain free. The other stuff—our reading diaries, poetry, and all our other nonsense—will be available in the same email “below the fold” for $5 per month [plus a free ticket to the gala! —Nic]. This will start on Saturday. We understand that not everyone wants things like our favorite lines from Emily Post or “Shouts & Murmurs” reviews, but we respect and love those who do. [And we love the rest of you too.]
To do list:
At Pitchfork, Jeremy D. Larson laments streaming music’s hegemony: “Music is now leased to you through a secret system that you don’t understand, by a company with which you should have no emotional connection.”
Justin E.H. Smith, no stranger to these bullets, has posted the last entry in his series of engaging posts for each volume of In Search of Lost Time. Bonus: in the Times, Edmund White reviews Living and Dying with Marcel Proust: “In his words: ‘Daily, I attach less value to the intellect,’ while arguing that only the intellect can see through its ephemeral blandishments.” [For even more on this theme, see the Poem later in this email. —Chris]
Real heads will remember that for several years “China Grove” was the surround sound sample music in the Mercedes G-wagon. [And with good reason! —Chris] In the Free Beacon, Christopher Scalia reviews a book about the band that wrote it.
It’s officially summer in the District of Columbia now, as the intolerable weather and influx of interns make clear for who has eyes to see. Here’s two on “summer reads”: Sarah Lyall in the Times, on edifying vacation reads past, and Charles Dudley Warner for Lapham’s on [?] “How to Dress Like the Perfect Summer Read” [Sure. —Chris] The WRB, of course, aspires to be the only guide you need to what to train your eyes on this summer, and in any season.
On that note, again in the Times, the Managing Editors read that finding new books is increasingly difficult, and a new app aims to “reproduce online the serendipity of walking into a bookstore and discovering new books and authors.” You can imagine our response.
Another kind of book discovery app: FSG [The Fish —Nic] has a TikTok. If that’s your speed.
Providence is hiring a managing editor. [Them and everyone else, it seems. —Nic]
For everyone’s good, will someone locate the other twelve minutes of this Oprah interview?
The Managing Editors have been recently wondering: who had to write all the often hilariously literal descriptions of New Yorker archival pieces? [I noticed a small filler bit in this issue from 1982 that I haven’t seen in contemporary issues when I was looking this up this weekend:
I only could have recommended that they make use of italics and brackets for their editorial quips. —Chris] [Cutting the newsbreaks was one of the worst decisions that The New Yorker ever made. My understanding though is that it was inevitable after E.B. White left. He invented the genre when the magazine couldn’t fill all its ad space. It proved so popular that he kept it up for a decade. —Nic]
What we’re reading:
The heat has done strange things to Chris, and he decided to start reading the fourth volume of The Glory of the Lord. He found the fifth volume richly rewarding many years ago, and hopes this one will be too. The reading of Homer’s religious and metaphysical content seems fundamentally correct to him so far.
He also read the last half of Marcovaldo in a park after work on Monday. It’s a delight!
Nic received the latest McCarthy novels in the mail [Oh, I have to get these. —Chris], so what could he do but read them? More to come on this subject later (in longer form). He also picked up The Lying Lives of Adults, which didn’t really grip him. [I guess I just don’t hate my daughter. —Nic] [Who could? —Chris]
June 21 | Penguin
Lapvona: A Novel
by Ottessa Moshfegh
From the publisher: In a village in a medieval fiefdom buffeted by natural disasters, a motherless shepherd boy finds himself the unlikely pivot of a power struggle that puts all manner of faith to a savage test, in a spellbinding novel that represents Ottessa Moshfegh’s most exciting leap yet
Little Marek, the abused and delusional son of the village shepherd, never knew his mother; his father told him she died in childbirth. One of life’s few consolations for Marek is his enduring bond with the blind village midwife, Ina, who suckled him when he was a baby, as she did so many of the village’s children. Ina’s gifts extend beyond childcare: she possesses a unique ability to communicate with the natural world. Her gift often brings her the transmission of sacred knowledge on levels far beyond those available to other villagers, however religious they might be. For some people, Ina’s home in the woods outside of the village is a place to fear and to avoid, a godless place.
Among their number is Father Barnabas, the town priest and lackey for the depraved lord and governor, Villiam, whose hilltop manor contains a secret embarrassment of riches. The people’s desperate need to believe that there are powers that be who have their best interests at heart is put to a cruel test by Villiam and the priest, especially in this year of record drought and famine. But when fate brings Marek into violent proximity to the lord’s family, new and occult forces upset the old order. By year’s end, the veil between blindness and sight, life and death, the natural world and the spirit world, will prove to be very thin indeed. [Oh, gosh. —Nic]
“Proust’s Questionnaire” by John Ashbery
I am beginning to wonder
Whether this alternative to
Sitting back and doing something quiet
Is the clever initiative it seemed. It’s
Also relaxation, and sunlight branching into
Passionate melancholy, jealousy of something unknown;
Are nonetheless responsible. Nights
And our minds, parked in the sky over New York,
When the paper comes
And you walk around the block
Wrenching yourself from the lover every five minutes
And it hurts, yet nothing is ever really clean
Or two-faced. You are losing your grip
And there are still flowers and compliments in the air—
“How did you like the last one?”
“Was I good?” “I think it stinks.”
Itʼs a question of questions, first and last:
The nuts and bolts kind you know you can answer
And the impersonal ones you answer almost without meaning to:
“My greatest regret.” “What keeps the world from falling in.”
Flowers that have kept company with me
As I advance into the night, feeling this has
Gone on too long. And then the results
Someone is summoned to a name, and soon
A roomful of people becomes dense and contoured
And words come out of the wall
To batter the rhythm of generation following on generation.
And I see once more how everything
Must be up to me—here a calamity to be smoothed away
Like ringlets, there the luck of uncoding
This singular cipher of primary
And secondary colors, and the animals
With us in the ark, happy to be there as it settles
Into an always more violent sea.
[I found this poem totally by chance in the issue of The New Yorker I was discussing skimming through above in this email. —Chris]
The WRB Classifieds:
To place an ad, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Rates are 1¢ per word, per issue. Content is subject to the approval of the Managing Editors.
In Olympia, WA: Early 30s male looking for a tennis partner while wife is busy with residency and pregnancy. Flexible regarding rain forecasts. [Email WRB with subject “Olympic Games”]
Young man who would like to play tennis. Clay courts preferred, but not required. Weekends best. Tennis experience: High school singles player, 2017 District champion, 2017 Northwest Florida regionals appearance (it wasn’t pretty), Hillsdale Club Tennis not-so-regular. Not USTA rated. Contact me at email@example.com or 202-802-0619.
In D.C.: Young man has found people to play tennis with, but is leaving an open offer to play. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michigan 29-y.o. female’s raw milk share is closing shop in September. Seeks able-bodied male as partner in small-scale dairy farming, marriage, theosis, and other preparations for the apocalypse. [Email WRB with subject “Milk of Human Kindness”]
Byronic student looking for room in Brookland area/on the red line, from June/August 2022 to June/August 2023. [Email WRB with subject “A View Without A Room”]
Mid-20s Catholic woman in Pittsburgh area, spontaneous, outdoorsy, looking for someone skilled at wordplay to argue with, romantically. [Email WRB with subject “Flannels in the Burgh”]
In Tacoma, WA: Energetic, creative, and voracious reader (F24) seeks nice Catholic boy with a sense of humor and openness to adventure. Cat lover a plus. [Email WRB with subject “Pugetaboudit”]
28, male, in D.C. looking for people to be socially anti-social with at either Suns Cinema or the Landmark theaters (usually Chinatown) where tickets are $7 on Mondays and Tuesdays. Not big on horror, but generally does not discriminate by genre. [Email WRB with subject: “The Search”]
Wanted: 30ish woman for The National-esque doctor in American midwest. Belief in predestination and disbelief in fibromyalgia preferred. [Email WRB with subject: “Coffee and Flowers”]
Man, single, 26, seeking to enter the next phase of life and settle down. Low-maintenance preferred, but open to a fixer-upper. Will travel to meet with respondent. No Mazdas, please. [Email WRB with subject: “Passengers Not Included”]
Aging millennial looking for a piano teacher near Fairfax. [Email WRB with subject: “Tickling the Ivories”]
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.
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.
If you have a penchant for folk music, listen to “Circles” by Lost Mary, the first single off their upcoming album, Hymns from a Backwood.
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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Pray the Rosary daily!