WRB—May 11, 2022
Biographies, Frenchmen, Bolaño, Highly Effective People, Kristin Lavransdatter, &c
WRB burning bright,
In the morning inbox light.
What editorsʼ hands and eyes
Managed thy links and cheap asides?
To do list:
Follow us on Twitter [Or Instagram. Or Facebook.];
order a tote bag;
avail yourself of our world-famous classified ads [about which more at the bottom of this email], either by placing or responding to one; and, for technical reasons,
email us here: email@example.com.
Cat Hodge for Plough recounts the history of Kristin Lavransdatter, the third volume of which is 100 years old this year, and the life of its author, Sigrid Undset.
Out from the paywall at Liberties, Morten Høi Jensen considers the vicissitudes of literary biography: “To George Eliot, biographers were a ‘disease of English literature,’ while Auden thought all literary biographies ‘superfluous and usually in bad taste.’”
“It’s cliché to say that a writer can give you faith in literature: In Bolaño’s case the reverse may be true”: Nick Burns reviews a new book revisiting Bolañoʼs controversial The Savage Detectives for Americas Quarterly.
For The New Republic, Jennifer Wilson reviews the new Jennifer Egan book, The Candy House: “We have not only lost the plot; we have lost plot, period.” [When you get back to town, Nic, can I borrow your guys’ Egan books? —Chris]
Joshua Hren reviews the Toni Morrison story Recitatif (reissued by Knopf earlier this year) for the Englewood Review of Books: “a feat of mystery.” [Zadie Smith’s new introduction was in The New Yorker in January. Jewish Currents published a series of short essays responding to the story in March. —Chris]
In the Apr. 30 issue, we linked to an excerpt from Eugene Vodolazkin’s newly-translated novel. J.C. Scharl reviews that novel for The European Conservative: “It may not seem high praise to call a novel ‘tortuous,’ but in this case, I can think of no higher praise.”
On Aeon, Peter Salmon surveys the recent history of French philosophy and suggests what might come next.
DC Poet James Lloydovich Patterson Was Once the USSR's Biggest Kid Actor [That’s the whole story. —Chris]
[I absolutely loved this long interactive article on how a mechanical watch movement works. —Chris]
According to José Andrés, “There’s a guy named Yen Lee, at the Bethesda Crab House, who knows more about crabs than anybody else in America.”
Joke about Pulitzer news tk [In my view, the best thing Cohen wrote last year was his killshot review of Blake Bailey’s Philip Roth biography. —Nic] [I have minor and ultimately even negligible episodes almost every week. —Chris]
N+1 has an excerpt from The Netanyahus from last year: An American Historian
Bonus review: That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore
In The Fence: all possible plots by major authors. [Philip Roth: Your acquaintances think you’re self-absorbed, but, in truth, they’re all just your projections. —Nic] [Enough, please, about Philip Roth’s projections. —Chris]
Some woman in Texas bought an ancient Roman bust at Goodwill for $35. For much less than that, you can pick up a piano in Tysons Corner.
When the Managing Editors sell the WRB [What, when it stops being profitable? —Chris] [Everyone cashes out eventually. —Nic] they pledge to choose a distinguished and family-friendly buyer.
What we’re reading:
Chris kept reading several books he’s already mentioned. The Name of the Rose is finally exciting now, Natalie Shapero’s debut collection has some stunners, and Under the Gaze of the Bible is good to read fastidiously when feeling forlorn.
Nic in the past three days has read How to Win Friends and Influence People, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and The Power of Positive Thinking. He plans to read more than forty self-help books this month. He’s also deep into The Recognitions at this point, and, probably without good reason, thinks Gaddis and self-help pair well. [That sounds like a highly personal problem. —Chris] [It’s a journey of self-improvement. —Nic]
May 24 | Dalkey Archive
by Luis Goytisolo; translated by Brendan Riley
From the publisher: This potent drama, a collected volume of Goytisolo's famed tetralogy following a Catalan family, is widely regarded as one of the most profound inquiries ever undertaken on literary creation.
Antagony surveys the social history of Barcelona and Catalonia, primarily since the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939. The work, originally published as a tetralogy and now collected into one volume, follows the youth and education of Raúl Ferrer Gaminde, son of a well-connected, middle-class Catalan family that embraces Franco and Spanish Nationalism. Its potent drama plays out through Goytisolo’s crisp, forceful presentation of youth, humor, optimism, rebellion, violence, sexual awakening, indulgence, punishment, and the realization of one’s artistic vocation.
Alternately modern and historical, Antagony displays intelligent realism, emotional gravity, profane beauty, brute vulgarity, sweeping rhetorical scope, and seamless transitions through long, streaming passages of narrative and introspection.
[I got this from a friend’s Twitter. He has a podcast on the work of William T. Vollmann. Also there: this brief pitch for the above novel from a few years ago. —Chris]
“Then” by Paul Mariani
Glint of mahogany, glint of those pulsing
neon lights, the far shadows in the barroom
buzzing, as he rehearsed the byzantine
stratagems by which he might address her,
afraid she too would fade like all the others....
Scalloped hair, blue eyes, blossoming white blouse,
this brightness, this Proserpine glimpsed
for the first time thirty years ago. The night sky
clear for once above the streets of Mineola, with
here and there a star. His Beta Sigma brothers, to whom
he had just sworn eternal solidarity, off
in the next room already growing dimmer....
She sits across the room from him, bifocals
intent upon her book, head bent as if weighed down,
this woman he has shared a life with.... Can he call her
back as she was then? Can he rewrite their tangled
history as he would have it, now the plot
draws nearer to its close? The mind, the aging mind,
which must one day see itself extinguished....
Expecting nothing, he found her there, there
in a pub, on the corner of Williston & Jericho,
in quotidian Mineola, in the midst of Gaudelli,
Ritchie, Walsh, and all the other hearts,
on a Friday night in mid-December, on the dull end
of the Eisenhower years, his third semester over....
How can such gifts be, he wonders, even
as he looks up from his book to catch sight
of the blossoms just outside his window:
great masses of late June blossoms, white
on white on white, flaring from the shagged catalpa
that seems dead half of every year, until against
the odds the very air around it turned to whiteness.
[Williston and Jericho do not cross anywhere in Mineola, NY. Jericho Turnpike does cross Willis Avenue, however, and on the corner there’s a diner at which I once ate with a girlfriend (during the Obama years), and which we agreed was “very good,” after having gone to meet with my high school teacher, an old brother of the Marianists who had attended the high school decades earlier, at the same time as Paul Mariani, who released a new volume of poems last month. —Chris]
The WRB Classifieds:
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Young man who would like to play tennis. Clay courts preferred, but not required. Weekends best. Tennis experience: High school singles player, 2017 District champion, 2017 Northwest Florida regionals appearance (it wasn’t pretty), Hillsdale Club Tennis not-so-regular. Not USTA rated. Contact me at email@example.com or 202-802-0619.
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Executive Director of Great Hearts Institute for Classical Education seeking a marketing and publications coordinator to support a variety of projects and publications in service to the growing K–12 classical movement. Our goal is the continued development of classical education through scholarship, research, conferences, and publications—all highlighting curricular and pedagogical excellence. Position can be remote; salary is $45–55k; benefits are good; and the work is rewarding. Click here for the full job description.
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Aging millennial looking for a piano teacher near Fairfax. [Email WRB with subject: “Tickling the Ivories”]
Freelance copyeditor with 10 years’ professional experience editing everything from poetry to scholarly works on long-dead Native American languages offering services to writers everywhere. Email email@example.com for rates and availability.
Need a host, MC, or just jokes? Contact DC comedian Joe Pappalardo. For tickets to shows and comedy clips, click HERE. Follow him everywhere @pappalardofunny.
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This Easter, introduce your toddlers to TEN EASTER EGGS, your burgeoning readers and cat lovers to MAX AND MIDNIGHT, and your teenagers to BOUND, all by Vijaya Bodach.
The Militant Grammarian is a non-profit volunteer journal devoted to bringing the best experimental fiction to the web. Our small staff is committed to an aesthetic of bold weirdness and boundary-pushing—the types of stories that other publications might consider too esoteric or theoretical or cerebral. Simply put, we publish stories we love—the stories that we believe deserve to be out in the world. Submit your writing: email@example.com.
Struggle Magazine is a quarterly literary magazine established in Washington, D.C. in 2020. The idea for it started behind a coffee bar from our need to create a tangible expression of what it meant for us to have artistic freedom in this world. We depend on finding contributors and pieces that end up informing one another. We hope that each issue of Struggle comes out buzzing with interesting conversations among artists across genres and mediums that our readers can also participate in. Get the first issue now.
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Pray the Rosary daily!