WRB–Mar. 5, 2022
Tech, TV, & Thiel; Glass, Gifts, & Genius
What to do this weekend in D.C.: The Managing Editors recently explored the finest community mausoleum in the world, featuring a series of stained glass windows depicting “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. [And inexplicably, at the end of one long alcove, a Longfellow window. —Chris]
To do list:
tag “SUB WRB” on the overpass nearest your home,
tell yourself: “this time it will be different” and respond to one of our classified ads or place your own, and, for technical reasons,
let us know your favorite place in the DMV to read the WRB here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For The New Atlantis, Samuel Matlack, using Jacques Ellul, makes the case for hopeful living with technological despair. And in Comment, John Milbank writes that Marcel Mauss’ The Gift offers another vision of “neither a crude progressivism nor a simplistic primitivism.”
One unambiguous blessing of tech: Sophie Haigney celebrates the cozy comforts of watching blizzard coverage on the local news for The New York Times Magazine.
Nathan Shields considers the state of classical music composition, the troubled legacy of the 19th century, and the concept of “genius” and hopes for the field’s renewal in The Baffler. In the same issue and along similar lines, Jessa Crispin has a piece on Ulysses and its legacy as a work of difficulty and “genius.” [“Canon Fodder” was a better headline. —Chris]
“J. Kenji López-Alt Says You’re Cooking Just Fine” in The New Yorker. “The affirmation I didn’t know I needed!” —one WRB reader.
In the pages of our [estranged] New York sister, Jenny Uglow wonders if Hans Holbein thought Henry VIII was “a fool of questionable virility.” Meanwhile, in Buzzfeed, Joseph Bernstein concludes that Peter Thiel probably is.
March 7, 2022 SHOUTS & MURMURS Review:
“We Demand Age Forgiveness Now!” by David Kamp
[I wrinkled my nose a few times in exasperation. —Chris]
Astra Magazine—a new biannual literary pub (in four colors throughout, printed in Canada)—is shipping its first issue in April, and offering a free tote bag for subscribers with a built-interior pocket. The WRB can’t make such promises, but we do have a few test-print pocketless tote bags, one of which could be yours if you email WRB quick enough with the subject line “MERCH”.
The New York Sun is running a “Poem of the Day” selected by Joseph Bottum and Sally Thomas, if any of our readers find the Managing Editors’ biweekly picks too light a diet of verse.
Commonweal is offering complimentary subscriptions to current undergrads, grad students, and anyone who has graduated from some form of higher education in the last three years. [An excellent deal for career students. —Nic]
The Managing Editors still can’t figure out what “Dimes Square” is. [We live differently down south. —Chris]
Amazon is closing all of its physical bookstores, which apparently existed. [They’ve closed so many others this seems like the next logical step for the company.] According to Alex Shepherd (for TNR), they were terrible anyway.
A woman in Bethesda is selling (most of) a 25-volume Japanese history of Japan.
What we’re reading:
Chris has had it up to here with “Novels” this week, so he turned to this collection of short stories which he found in a Little Free Library with gushing comparisons to Baker, DFW, Nabokov, whoever, on the back. Chris’ review: “Like reading Gen X Borges—just get a Gene Wolfe collection instead.” It inspired him to pick up the Borges-inspired Lost in the Funhouse, however, which is wonderful and strange and from the era before metafictional bits were tedious. Barth was born and raised on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay.
He also started Peter Brown’s The Cult of the Saints, which is up to the quality you’d expect from Brown in content and style, and thought about picking back up The Anatomy of Melancholy, but decided against it.
Nic has been catching up on the London Review of Books (for some reason he received several issues in the mail on the same day). He reread a lot of Kafka. He drank too much espresso Thursday night and had to watch L’Avventura to put himself to sleep [Not a book! —Chris].
Paul Dry | March 15
by Abraham Socher
How did Humphrey Bogart end up telling Lauren Bacall a Talmudic story in the film Key Largo, and what does that have to do with Plato’s theory of recollection—or American Jewish assimilation? Precisely what poem of Robert Frost’s inspired Nabokov’s Pale Fire, and how did Walter Benjamin learn about the remarkable stones of Sinai? Abraham Socher wears his learning lightly. These witty and original essays embody the spirit of the liberal arts, but the highlight of this collection may be his devastating account of the illiberal arts at work in Oberlin College, where he taught for eighteen years.
[Paul Wet Books? Don’t know where this is going. —Chris]
“Praise” by Yaedi Ignatow
here in the kitchen
there is something in the air
to my tongue like flutters of an eyelid.
I cannot write fast enough and yet
I cannot even write it.
Heaven has descended
sending shafts of light
raining down, like a thousand
trails of falling stars—though
so near the heart I send praise
into the salad before me
[This is from Long Island Poets, which attentive and loyal readers may remember my mention of several weeks ago. Yaedi (d. 2017) was the daughter of the well-known poet David Ignatow and was raised in the Hamptons. Besides a single chapbook (1984) this anthology by Robert Long seems to be one of the only places her work can be found. —Chris]
The WRB Classifieds:
To place an ad, email email@example.com. Rates are 1¢ per word, per issue. Content is subject to the approval of the Managing Editors.
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”]
Obscene poet seeks female audience to horrify. E.g.:
Roses are red,
I find Helen’s chest
And now I’m depressed.
[Email WRB with subject: “Irascere Iterum Meis Iambis”]
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”]
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Columbia Heights Rowhouse (f125) seeks resident for one of six bedrooms (ideally m27+) to replace housemate pulled into Brookland’s gravitational field. Available immediately. Must love antics. [Email WRB with subject: “Egg and Dart Era”]
Aging millennial looking for a piano teacher near Fairfax. [Email WRB with subject: “Tickling the Ivories”]
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.
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Pray the Rosary daily!