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WRB—Mar. 26, 2022
[It is really hard to come up with alliterative subheads every issue and I am trying to stop. —Chris]
Finally, an all-feuilleton, all-the-time email newsletter.
To do list:
Email WRB who your favorite Managing Editor is. [For Technical Reasons only, I swear. —Chris]
“When I read them, I recognize the past me who saw herself in these quotes, but I don’t roll my eyes at her.” In The New York Times Magazine, Charley Locke recommends the comfortable habit of keeping a commonplace book. [I did this for years until one day I forgot to. This forgetting was an error, but I have an email newsletter now, which is a more embarrassing version of the same thing. —Chris] [I recently picked up this habit. —Nic]
Joy Clarkson defends the honor of Mr. Collins in Plough.
The Managing Editors have agreed that they are going to read W.G. Sebald “pretty soon.” [This is a mercenary effort, no promises. —Chris] Until then, Gianluca Didino reviews two Sebald-adjacent books for LARB: “It is a literature influenced by the ADHD that we all suffer, in one way or another, in a world constantly connected, unable to remain focused on a single narrative for more than a few moments.”
Online for The Lamp, Matthew Walther says that cultural aspiration is dead. Consider this newsletter two Managing Editors’ extended attempt at CPR.
[A literary habit into which I have never slipped is reading volumes of collected correspondence, though given its popularity I’m bound to get into it one day soon. —Chris] Managerial-Editorial hangups aside, William Logan reflects on the practice briskly to start his review of a volume of John Berryman’s left-behinds for The New Criterion: “Berryman was an overwhelming force when loosed upon the classroom during the Nicotine Years of American pedagogy, when seminars met in clouds of smoke.” [After Berryman’s death, Saul Bellow wrote a moving remembrance in the Times. The online version is corrupted, but it’s worth clicking into the archived paper to read it. —Nic] [I meet people in clouds of smoke all the time. —Chris]
The Botanic Gardens finally reopen on April 1. [Just in time for Peak Bloom. —Nic]
Right now there are 85 speed cameras in the city, which is already too many. But if the mayor’s office gets its way, next year there could be more than 170.
It is remarkable that, at the age of 86, Calvin Trillin still turns in clean, amusing copy on a regular basis. His latest, on his second tuxedo, is a delight.
A man in Springfield is giving away a player piano. [The first person to write in with the subject line “False Karass” gets a random Kurt Vonnegut novel pulled from my basement. —Nic]
Isaac Butler’s appreciation of Iris Murdoch in Slate reminded the Managing Editors of an anecdote told several years ago by a Dominican priest. Sometime in her dotage, Murdoch was the guest of honor at a Catholic society’s annual dinner. When it came time for her to speak, she stood up and stammered a few words about how she had nothing against the audience’s faith. After she sat down, the crowd gave her a rousing round of applause, if only to soften the awkwardness of the speech.
What we’re reading:
Chris is under the impression that a biweekly newsletter ought to be enough literary activity for a young Managing Editor, which is to say, he’s been busy since Wednesday. Some very dear readers gave him this completely delightful cookbook from up the road, which makes him think: The WRB Cookbook?
Nic can’t stop thinking about A Sorrow Beyond Dreams. He picked up Repetition on Friday. (Who knows where the Handke rabbit hole will end?) After a reader wrote in about Wings of Desire, he rewatched a few clips and reversed his previous opinion: It’s pretty good. [I am just now reading this realizing that I have been confusing Wings of Desire and Chariots of Fire. —Chris]
April 7 | Bloomsbury Academic
The National’s Boxer
by Ryan Pinkard
From the Publisher: We all know the Boxer. The fighter who remembers every glove but still remains. That grisly, bruised American allegory who somehow gets up more times than he's knocked down. This is the fight that nearly broke The National. The one that allowed them to become champions.
Released in 2007, The Nationalʼs fourth full-length album is the one that saved them. For fans, Boxer is a profound personal meditation on the unmagnificent lives of adults, an elegant culmination of their sophisticated songwriting, and the first National album many fell in love with. For the band, Boxer symbolizes an obsession, a years-long struggle, a love story, a final give-it-everything-youʼve-got effort to keep their fantasy of being a real rock band alive.
Based on extensive original interviews with the fighters who were in the ring and the spectators who witnessed it unfold, Ryan Pinkard obsessively reconstructs a transformative chapter in The National’s story, revealing how the Ohio-via-Brooklyn five-piece found the sound, success, and spiritual growth to evolve into one of the most critically acclaimed bands of their time.
“A Lazy Poem on Saturday Evening” by James Wright
Right now, I am going on a journey
To the kind voice.
In cold pools, below gray sands,
I want to drink.
A lazy girl laughs at me.
The moon lets itself fall into the dark pines.
I think of that strange star
At the center of a pine twig.
Animals are very quiet
As they follow solitary people down paths.
I lie back in the grass, shameless,
And surrender to that voice.
My bare forearms are wet
[I thought of James Wright last night because, while I was already thinking about Ohio, because of the Upcoming Book, I came across in that thick volume of Denise Levertov which New Directions does a poem in his honor, titled “Presence.” Levertov says:
Sunlight in Ohio, touching
and the cabbagy yards, strewn
with rusting downhill racers and
of small frame houses near the railroad . . .
of Jim Wright is strong here,
so strong it comes through into the train,
through the thick pane.
. . . . . . . .
I think this is a compelling landscape. She published this poem in Oblique Prayers in 1984, her 16th book of verse.
Some WRB readers, I know, know Wright because he supplied the lines in epigram (and an oblique quotation in the fourth section) for B.H. Fairchild’s long narrative “Beauty”: “Therefore, / Their sons grow suicidally beautiful.” “Beauty” was published in The Art of the Lathe, his first book, by Alice James Books in 1998; before that, it was in Southern Review. The epigraph is taken from “Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio.”
P.S.: Does anyone read/enjoy when I do this for a poem? —Chris]
The WRB Classifieds:
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In D.C./NOVA: Trained singer and pianist (23F) seeks other amateur musicians to play music together casually, and/or conquer DC’s karaoke scene. Some musical ability is a plus, but altogether unnecessary. [Email WRB with subject: “The Song on a Lark”]
In D.C.: PMC (23M) seeking other disillusioned and disaffected youths to read Infinite Jest with. [Email WRB with subject: “The Library, And Step On It!”]
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”]
In D.C.: Young man has found people to play tennis with, but is leaving an open offer to play. [Email WRB with subject: “Tennis, Anyone?”]
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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”]
DC-local male seeking recommendations for DC-local locales to purchase oddities in the service of bedroom decoration. Economical ideas preferred. [Email WRB with subject “Priceless Moments”]
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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”]
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