WRB—Mar. 19, 2022
Shorts & Saints, Phonographs & Peak Bloom, Leopardi & Lockwood, and more
The Managing Editors are comparatively normal for guys who weren’t raised in Brooklyn.
To do list:
“If you have needs, we have leads!” There are over 400 of you and only a small handful have taken advantage of our Classified Ads (about which you can read more at the bottom of this email). We encourage you to spend your Saturday reflecting on your wants and desires and asking yourself the serious question: “Could this lack I feel, this pain in my chest—in my heart of hearts—be helped by a felicitous set-up with another loyal reader of the WRB?”—we assure you that in almost any case the answer resounding across Washington, D.C., is: “Yes.” Email us your ad today: email@example.com.
A subject close to the Managing Editors’ minds: “The Life and Death of a Cutting Edge Literary Journal, c. 1989” from Kurt Hollander on The Portable Lower East Side on Literary Hub. [He should have just started a Substack.]
Across the pond, Patricia Lockwood has some thoughts on who Kafka would have been had he been kicked around today.
In the new First Things, Algis Valiunas has an essay on “perhaps the most lugubrious man of artistic genius who ever lived,” Giacomo Leopardi. [His Zibaldone is the best big book to open at random if you want exclusively cranky thoughts. —Chris]
Here are some quick reads [You might prefer to save these for Monday; there’s something unfitting about reading brief pieces on a weekend. —Chris]:
Two short ones from our independent cousin: Amanda Holmes Duffy remembers her time at The New Yorker: “It was more like something out of a Barbara Pym novel” [Shouts and murmurs, the most comfortable bedside reading. —Chris], and Joel Looper reviews a new biography of St. Ambrose of Milan.
Our readers have expressed their love for walking, so here are two more short essays on perambulation: for Orion Magazine, Pico Iyer on walks in Japan, and for Joyland, Victoria Livingstone on learning to walk with her daughter in the New Jersey suburbs.
On Public Discourse Matthew J. Franck has a brief homage to that favorite haunt [I assume. —Chris] of every WRB reader: the used bookstore.
Irina Dumitrescu comments “In defense of criticism” on the flurrious reaction to a recent Becca Rothfeld review.
The Managing Editors are often up very late preparing this newsletter, and so are comforted by the suggestion that sleep isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. (Daisy Dunn getting two WRB hits in a row, here for Engelsberg Ideas)
[As we read in the Analects: “Zai Wo was sleeping during the daytime. The Master said, ‘Rotten wood cannot be carved, and a wall of dung cannot be plastered. As for Zai Wo, what would be the use of reprimanding him?’” —Chris]
David Stromberg begins this essay on reading the famous analyst, “The truth is that I never thought I’d get through an entire book by Jacques Lacan.” [“I was in analysis with a strict Freudian, and, if you kill yourself, they make you pay for the sessions you miss.” —Nic]
Peter C. Baker in The New Yorker: “How It Felt to Have My Novel Stolen”: more Italio Calvino than Barbara Pym.
“The cheapness of book bindings these days is a very sore subject with Godine.”—And with the Managing Editors! [Or at least with me. —Chris] The Times up the coast has an article paying attention to the recent retrospective on 50 years of, and published by, the venerable imprint.
At Slate Colin Dickey says that the story of a new book on the American Frontier “come[s] straight from a Cormac McCarthy novel”—everyone has to get theirs in before this fall.
John Updike would have been 90 on Friday. Fans in his hometown of Shillington, Pennsylvania, celebrated the occasion by reading his work aloud for 90 minutes. One teacher told the local paper that it’s her mission to get his books in the hands of her students. [Let’s hope not Rabbit Redux! —Nic] [Can we not do banned book discourse. —Chris]
It is also our mission to get Updike in the hands of our readers. The first person to write in with the subject line “Were you really a hooer?” gets a copy of Due Considerations.
Elle Griffin suggests that “You will not make money from your Patreon or Substack platform”—she obviously hasn’t thought of charging for ad space by the word.
A woman in East Falls Church is selling a hand crank phonograph.
Peak Bloom Is Coming—Use This Map to Find Your Nearest Cherry Blossoms [A great way to spend an afternoon with someone from our Classified Ads! —Chris] [Some of the best spots are nowhere near the Tidal Basin. —Nic]
This Washingtonian feature on the outrageous birthday parties D.C. parents throw for their children reminded the Managing Editors of a time, not too long ago, when the Great Zucchini surreptitiously wasted some perfectly good cannoli after his magic show at Pete’s in Northwest. A shameful day for the Italian people. [It feels rude to mention this on Saint Joseph’s Day. —Chris]
What we’re reading:
Nic picked up a collection of Muriel Spark’s essays. He found that he prefers her as a novelist, but he enjoyed her piece on being in love, especially the bit about the horses. He also picked up Don DeLillo’s play Valparaiso. On a scale of White Noise to The Silence, he rates it a Cosmopolis. [Brutal. —Chris]
April 26 | Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Continuous Creation: Last Poems
by Les Murray
From the publisher: In Continuous Creation, the final collection from Les Murray, the preeminent poet of modern Australia recalls moments from his youth and wryly observes the changing world, moving back and forth through time and history with characteristic curiosity and an ever-fresh commitment to capturing the rhythms of life in verse. This collection displays Murray’s miraculous ability to reinvent language in order to plant his and our reality on the page, whether he writes about the Australian landscape (“Kangaroo sleeping / ahead on the road turns out / to be twigs and leaves”) or unsold books sitting in department stores. Continuous Creation demonstrates, once more, that Murray was one of the great poets of the English language. As Joseph Brodsky said, he was, “quite simply, the one by whom the language lives.”
“Evening” by H. D.
The light passes
from ridge to ridge,
from flower to flower—
the hepaticas, wide-spread
under the light
the petals reach inward,
the blue tips bend
toward the bluer heart
and the flowers are lost.
The cornel-buds are still white,
but shadows dart
from the cornel-roots—
black creeps from root to root,
cuts another leaf on the grass,
shadow seeks shadow,
then both leaf
and leaf-shadow are lost.
[I’m still thinking about Daylight Savings Time. —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.
[I found the output of our resident Obscene poet seeking etc. unprintable this week and want to apologize to their fans and admirers. —Chris]
In D.C.: Young man looking for people to play tennis with. [Email WRB with subject: “Tennis, Anyone?”]
In NOVA: Young man, Christian, in finance, needs fiancée. 6ʼ3”. Byronic. Dog dad seeking dog mom. [Email WRB with subject line “Doggone It!”]
Literate + fit Christian girl, professional engineer in middle America (northwest Arkansas), is open to the idea of meeting marriage-worthy young man. [Email WRB with subject: “Lost in the Beau-zarks”]
Nice Christian girl wanted for nice Christian boy. Him: 25 y/o 6’2” homeowner. Seattle area. Her: Tall a plus. Ex athlete a plus. Must love kids. [Email WRB with subject: “Sleepless in Seattle”]
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single (1) woman (26, Catholic), in possession of no (0) fortune at all, must be in want of housemates (3, Alexandria). [Email WRB with subject: “Chill Penury”]
Aging millennial looking for a piano teacher near Fairfax. [Email WRB with subject: “Tickling the Ivories”]
Young Cleveland woman seeks employment as a babysitter. Christian with years of childcare experience. Available evenings and weekends. Ideal client would have scores of unruly children and not stay out too far past midnight. [Email WRB with subject: “Cuyahoga Dreaming”]
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 email@example.com.
Comedian Joe Pappalardo demands you watch him perform. Reach out to him on social media @pappalardofunny for more info:
TODAY March 19, St Joseph Arts Festival, (Chinatown, D.C.) [speaking of which:]
If you or someone you love is afflicted with a syndrome known as “living in DC” or “considering living in DC,” tell them to talk to their doctor about reading The Girl’s Guide to DC. With just one weekly newsletter, you can get your fill of dating and career advice, DC news, and pop culture by clicking this link.
Pray the Rosary daily!