WRB—Mar. 22, 2023
meticulously crafted and humbly presented
Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the Managing Editor.
What are you doing? Go outside! Look at the flowers! It’s this city’s one redeeming quality and it lasts for a week!
In The New Statesman, Oliver Eagleton on the Marcuse revival:
But to achieve the Marcusean reconciliation of subject and object, something drastically different is needed: not the empowerment of environmentally conscious investors, but the reorientation of our economic and political structures towards participatory ecological planning. Aesthetic harmony with nature demands more than tax breaks for Tesla.
In Nautilus, Regan Penaluna on scenes from Mary Wollstonecraft’s personal life:
The other motivation for her trip was more personal. She was chasing down a ship captain on behalf of Gilbert Imlay, the father of her daughter, Fanny. Imlay had sent Wollstonecraft to Scandinavia both to attend to some business on his behalf (the details of which are unclear) and, also likely, to shake her off. It was a humiliating mission made worse by the fact that only two weeks before her departure, Wollstonecraft had attempted suicide after learning Imlay had cheated on her with a young actress. (A man his age, he said, needed “variety.”)
In The Point, Ben Libman on the repetitive and meditative nature of the work of Jon Fosse:
Septology and Fosse’s train of sketches and preparations leading up to it, from Morning and Evening (2000) to Trilogy (2014), are so striking and distinct from the other works on our shelves in large part because of their repetitive and meditative nature. They can hardly be said to entertain; instead, they task us with a challenge, that is, to pay attention to the dependency of the present upon the past that preceded it and upon the future that will follow it. This, despite Fosse’s avoidance of any overt political engagement in his work, is a political act.
But there have been moments lately when I feared we were speaking and writing in a new adverbial age. I took the appearance of Daniel Handler’s 2006 novel Adverbs, a love story in which every chapter is named with a word like “immediately,” and Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2005 9/11 novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, whose title signals the child narrator’s voice, as signs that this century would be friendlier to that part of speech than the one ruled by Hemingway, whether I liked it or not. I thought it might have something to do with the death of the typewriter and the rise of the internet, a zone with an excess of feeling and an amateur taste for the rhetorical flourish. Was the adverb winning?
“The Midwest is a big, civically-inclined region so the situation can be improved with some gumption and teamwork as we all adjust to the post-newspaper chain era. All these things can be true and we can still rightly pine for a big newspaper to sit down to coffee with and read about what is happening in the area and ponder what some well-grounded and fully-sourced local columnists are opining about that day.” (Jonathan Lauck on the Midwest’s newspapers, or contemporary lackthereof)
But much of what she imagines is excessive, gratuitous, or oddly beside any satirical point, so that you have to conclude her intentions lie some distance from mere dystopian parallel or warning. Sometimes this happens on a small scale: Connie Converse did not disappear, Frank O’Hara survived his brush with a dune buggy in 1966, Bowie’s mischievous collaborator in his late-1970s Berlin albums was one Brianna Eno. In other cases the alternative is pleasing if implausible: in the Northern Territory in the 1970s, most people call themselves feminists, even if “the definition of ‘feminism’ kept morphing.” Elsewhere, as in the ascendency of Goldman, or a 1943 massacre that kills off prominent male artists so that women may flourish, the detail is so unlikely that it joins the fictions in the life of X as an expression of—what? An idea of American history from the 1940s onward as itself a dream or fantasy?
This longing to belong with the world is the fulcrum of our yearning for meaning. Whitman knew it when, after his paralytic stroke, he arrived at what makes life worth living; Mary Shelley knew it when, in the wake of her staggering bereavement, she reckoned with what gives meaning to a broken life; Lopez knows it, locating the cure for our existential loneliness in our intimate relationship to place.
For Compact, Valerie Stivers reviews Szilvia Molnar’s debut novel (The Nursery, this week):
There are, of course, mommy bloggers and the communities of women-in-the-thick-of-it who admittedly discuss little else, and whose talents are often minimized by the cordon sanitaire isolating parenting-talk from the rest of the culture. In all likelihood, The Nursery, with its pink cover emblazoned with a giant breast, will be relegated to this world, despite that it has the depth and illuminating qualities of serious literature. (Molnar on this phenomenon: “The fundamentals lie in motherhood, that is why it is vilified.”)
Just in from Sally Rooney: Ireland sucks! [Who called it Normal People and not An Immodest Proposal? —Chris]
If you are a freelancer, make sure to write off as much as you can (within the bounds of legality). [This year, I wrote off all my WRB Managing Editors’ lunches —Nic]
From the new Harper’s: Similes
The winners of the 2022 Novel Prize, which is in some ways different from the Nobel Prize, have been announced: Anne de Marcken and Jonathan Buckley.
Submissions for the Rhina Espaillat Poetry Award are due at the end of the month.
In Cleveland Park, the “iconic” Uptown Theater will become “a nonprofit venue that combines arthouse film screenings, dining, and space for events.”
The Annapolis Film Festival will run this weekend (March 23–26).
March 31–April 1 at the Kennedy Center, Midori plays Korngold’s Violin Concerto and Kevin John Edusei conducts Ravel.
April 4 | NYRB Classics
by Martin A. Hansen, translated from the Danish by Paul Larkin, introduction by Morten Høi Jensen
From the publisher: One of the greatest works of modern Scandinavian fiction, The Liar tells the story of Johannes Lye, a teacher and parish clerk on tiny Sand Island off the coast of Denmark, a place that in winter is entirely cut off from the world at large by ice. It is winter when the book begins, and for years now Johannes has lived alone, even as he nurses a secret passion for Annemari, a former pupil. Annemari is engaged to a local man, Olaf, who has left the island but is due to return come spring. She is also being courted by a young engineer from the mainland. Such are the chief players in a compact drama, recorded in Johannes’s ironic, self-lacerating, and anything but reliable diary.
Martin A. Hansen’s novel beautifully evokes the stark landscape of Sand Island and the immemorial circuit of the seasons as well as the mysterious passage of time in the human heart, all the while proceeding to a supremely suspenseful conclusion.
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