WRB—Mar. 29, 2023
The Late, the Dearly Departed, the Barely Managing
[I was extremely behind the ball with this issue, and as you might notice you are receiving this email quite late in the day. Graciously, this post had a lot of help from Steve, of our new monthly Film Supplement; Sarah, from the now-perpetually on-hiatus, and of course Julia, ever of the bottom of Wednesday’s emails. Great thanks to all of them. —Chris]
For the LRB blog, A.E. Stallings write about what’s going on at Eleusis these days:
Has Elefsina even asked for her back – does the museum even want her? She is no Parthenon frieze. But I am haunted by the idea that, as she represented the forces of regeneration in the fields, she might be a (symbolic) catalyst in returning Eleusis from a rusted-out industrial zone to a place where nature is revered again.
Leaving the archaeological site, we drove down Persephone Street back to the Sacred Way in search of a late lunch, then to the seaside for a coffee. Seagulls swarmed overhead, pecking at old loaves of bread someone had dumped into the sea. A large ship rusted at anchor a little way off. But the water was still intensely blue, the islands across the water green.
I had to change direction and, from close-up, get a handle on the two sides of exoticism, inside and outside—because exoticism from within is inherent to all literature. I’d also been led to follow this literature along its journey in space and time, to reconstruct the path of textual memory from the perspective of poetry. I had called this path “France.” But which France, for its own sake and for every foreigner who approaches it from inside and outside?
In Dissent, Matt Weir on Mircea Cărtărescu, a new translation of his novel Solenoid, and the tradition of writers averse to publication of their work:
The privacy of the manuscript is central to his search for this destiny, which he believes will be achieved only through an understanding of his “unknown” life: “I am writing, not in order to read it, as its sole future reader, forgetting myself for a few hours beside the fire,” he says, “but to read it while I write it and attempt to understand. I will be the only writer/reader of this story.” In these lines the narrator seems to share Cărtărescu’s sense of writing as improvised performance.
In JSTOR Daily, H.M.A. Leow on the connections between “Chinese poetry” (as invented in English by Ezra Pound) and poetry written by Chinese immigrants detained at the immigration facilities on Angel Island, where they scratched it into the walls:
While Lai describes the Angel Island poems—which were “usually undated and anonymous”—as largely written in the classical style of the Tang dynasty, Williams remarks that “the rhythms are sometimes irregular, the constructions loose, and the imagery occasionally forced.” He argues that “this looseness in rhythm only means that these particular Chinese-language poems more closely resemble the free-verse forms of Pound’s translations than did the actual Chinese poems he was reading.”
He adds, “It at least makes good ‘intertextual’ sense to associate Pound’s translations with the poems on Angel Island. Many of the poems Pound was translating were held in the memories of Angel Island detainees, and were often referenced in their own poetry.”
[It is impossible not to think of Pound writing “What thou lovest well is thy true heritage / What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee” and the circumstances in which he wrote it. —Steve]
The workers of Solid State Books plan to unionize.
Another one of those big exhaustive interactive animation essays everyone loves, on: the bicycle.
“Everything I, an Italian, thought I knew about Italian food is wrong” [You can 12 Ft Ladder this, it’s worth it.]:
In the story of modern Italian food, many roads lead to America. Mass migration from Italy to the US produced such deeply intertwined gastronomic cultures that trying to discern one from the other is impossible. “Italian cuisine really is more American than it is Italian,” Grandi says squarely.
As opposed to Nic and Chris, who are well aware of what they don’t know about food.
Slant Books is holding a ten year anniversary sale.
“All Proust and the Dead and Star Wars have in common externally is a propensity to go on for too long.” (Michael Robbins for)
Nobody is pretending they keep your cookies fresh. But cookie jars are back.
“The Little Paper That Knew” [Can anything good come out of Long Island? —Chris]
Through April 8 at the Honfleur Gallery: “An exploration of martial arts within the Black aesthetic.”
April 4 | NYRB Classics
The Letters of William Gaddis
edited by Steven Moore, afterwood by Sarah Gaddis
From the publisher: Now recognized as one of the giants of postwar American fiction, William Gaddis shunned the spotlight during his life, which makes this collection of his letters a revelation. Beginning in 1930 when Gaddis was at boarding school and ending in September 1998, a few months before his death, these letters function as a kind of autobiography, and also reveal the extent to which he drew upon events in his life for his fiction. Here we see him forging his first novel, The Recognitions (1955), while living in Mexico, fighting in a revolution in Costa Rica, and working in Spain, France, and North Africa. Over the next twenty years he struggles to find time to write the National Book Award–winning J R (1975) amid the complications of work and family; deals with divorce and disillusionment before reviving his career with Carpenter’s Gothic (1985); then teaches himself enough about the law to produce A Frolic of His Own (1994). Resuming his lifelong obsession with mechanization and the arts, he finishes a last novel, Agapē Agape (published in 2002), as he lies dying.
This newly revised edition includes clarifying notes by Gaddis scholar Steven Moore, as well as an afterword by the author’s daughter, Sarah Gaddis.
The Paris Review excerpted an exchange Gaddis had with David Markson from this volume.
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