WRB—May 18, 2022
The Rich, The Sea, The World, and more
“I don’t read novels. I prefer the Washington Review of Books. That way you get both the novelists’ ideas as well as the Managing Editors’ thinking.”
To do list:
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,
let us know the best place in America to drive at night: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For The Point’s “Criticism in Public” series, Jessica Swoboda interviews writer and critic Tobi Haslett: “Something within me recoils at the invocation of ‘public intellectual.’”
For the LARB, Johanna Winant talks with Emily Ogden about her new book from University of Chicago Press, On Not Knowing: How to Love and Other Essays: “[T]he problem to which I see not-knowing as a solution is also a problem that comes after knowledge, after theory, after falling in love, after deciding you’re an opera fan: how do you retain the capacity to be surprised by the objects of your commitments?” [I, of course, thought of the brilliant and amusing Donald Barthelme essay with a similar name: “It’s appropriate to pause and say that a writer is one who, embarking on a task, does not know what to do.” —Chris]
At Lithub, Nicole Miller writes about Joy Williams’ preoccupation with rooms.
For The Nation, Hannah Gold reviews the recent Library of America volume comprising Rachel Carson’s three books about the sea: “Carson refines her idea of the sea as a great drama full of alliances, clashes, and anxieties, every ounce of water a voiceless, teeming argument.”
Marisa Grizenko recommends three books for Pain Pleasures, “A short & snappy monthly newsletter about worthwhile books featuring childishly drawn illustrations. What’s not to like?” Indeed. [My favorite parts of the Erpenbeck book were the ones about growing up in the DDR, though I can’t say I enjoyed it as much as the really knock-you-off-your-feet Visitation. —Chris]
For The Washington Post, Ron Charles reviews Trust by Hernan Diaz: “He’s interested not only in the way wealthy men burnish their image, but in the way such memorialization involves the diminishment, even the erasure of others.”
May 16, 2022 SHOUTS & MURMURS Review:
“Tucker Carlson on the Alien Invasion” by Teddy Wayne
Persistent reflection on each installment of “Shouts & Murmurs” teaches you that the key to a really effective joke is that it is not immediately obvious how it was written.
[I am rarely drawn to the art of impersonation but I admit to thinking that having a Tucker one in my back pocket could be pretty fun. —Chris] [Tucker, of course, does the best impersonation of himself. —Nic]
Perhaps not technically in the Washington area: the Gaithersburg Book Festival runs all day on Saturday.
Peony Peak Bloom Is Coming to the District. [Will any of us survive it? —Nic]
Plough Quarterly will host its Rhina Espaillat Poetry Award Ceremony online on May 24.
Our Minnesota readers will be pleased to know that they are getting a steal on Chartreuse. [Why is it so cheap up here? —Nic] [I was just looking at the tag on a bottle in D.C. the other day and pursing my lips in displeasure. —Chris]
The Paris Review is hiring someone to write its tweets. [We should do this ourselves. —Chris]
The Managing Editors assure our readers that we never would spend our riches in this manner. [We waste our money on books. —Nic] [And WRB stickers. —Chris]
What we’re reading:
Chris read No Fond Return of Love and thought it was a delight. He read Saint Sebastian’s Abyss and immediately wanted to read it again, it was so fun [Really it was all I wanted to do was read it until I finished. It reminds me in certain aspects of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. —Chris]. He finished Cavafy’s collected poems and thought “C.P. Cavafy should learn how to write a third type of poem.” [The two types of poems are “Somber Reflection on an Attic Tomb” and “This Young Man Sure Is Horny.” —Chris]. He finished Under the Gaze of the Bible and immediately became frustrated that all the rest of Chrétien’s works in translation are savagely expensive paperbacks.
Nic started Hazel Holt’s biography of Barbara Pym, which, if reports are to be believed, is better than the most recent one. He also found about six of the hardcover Dutton editions of Pym’s novels at a bookstore in Lincoln, Nebraska. While he’s hopeful that the new Virago editions will be nice, in his mind, these are still the best. He also picked up the Yale Shakespeare omnibus at a bookstore in Minneapolis.
June | University of Notre Dame Press
Eliot’s Angels: George Eliot, René Girard, and Mimetic Desire
by Bernadette Waterman Ward
From the publisher: In this innovative study, Bernadette Waterman Ward offers an original rereading of George Eliot’s work through the lens of René Girard’s theories of mimetic desire, violence, and the sacred. It is a fruitful mapping of a twentieth-century theorist onto a nineteenth-century novelist, revealing Eliot’s understanding of imitative desire, rivalry, idol-making, and sacrificial victimization as critical elements of the social mechanism. While the unresolved tensions between Eliot’s realism and her desire to believe in gradual social amelioration have often been studied, Ward is especially adept at articulating the details of such conflict in Eliot’s early novels. In particular, Ward emphasizes the clash between the ruthless mechanisms of mimetic desire and the idea of progress, or, as Eliot stated, “growing good”; Eliot’s Christian sympathy for sacrificial victims against her general rejection of Christianity; and her resort to “Nemesis” to evade the systemic injustice of the social sphere. The “angels” in the title are characters who appear to offer a humanist way forward in the absence of religious belief. They are represented, in Girardian terms, as figures who try to rise above the snares of the mimetic machine to imitate Christ’s self-sacrifice but are finally rendered ineffectual. Very few studies have tackled Eliot’s short fiction and narrative poetry. Eliot’s Angels gives the short fiction its due, and it will appeal to scholars of mimetic and literary theory, Victorianists, and students of the novel.
“Solang du Selbstgeworfnes fängst, ist alles…” from Rilke
[As long as you only catch what you’ve thrown to yourself, everything is
expertise and simple achievement—;
only if you will, all at once, catch the ball,
which an eternal playmate
tossed to you, to your center, in a perfectly
skillful swing, in such a far arch
from God’s great bridge itself:
only then is being able catch a great fortune—
not yours, a world’s. And if you would offer
skill and courage as you toss back,
no, more wonderful: courage and skill forget
and have been already thrown….. (as the years
thrown by the birds, flocking birds of passage,
the older one of a young heat
swung out over the sea—) Only
in this drama can you play along validly.
Assist the throw no longer; impede
It no more. From the hand trips
the meteor and hurtles in your rooms…]
[I found this in my notes app without attribution, which makes me suspect I did this translation myself at some point, especially since it was riddled with typos. I have no recollection of this. —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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-802-0619.
Mid-20s Catholic woman in Pittsburgh area, spontaneous, outdoorsy, looking for someone skilled at wordplay to argue with, romantically. [Email WRB with subject “Flannels in the Burgh”]
In Tacoma, WA: Energetic, creative, and voracious reader (F24) seeks nice Catholic boy with a sense of humor and openness to adventure. Cat lover a plus. [Email WRB with subject “Pugetaboudit”]
28, male, in D.C. looking for people to be socially anti-social with at either Suns Cinema or the Landmark theaters (usually Chinatown) where tickets are $7 on Mondays and Tuesdays. Not big on horror, but generally does not discriminate by genre. [Email WRB with subject: “The Search”]
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?”]
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.
Man, single, 26, seeking to enter the next phase of life and settle down. Low-maintenance preferred, but open to a fixer-upper. Will travel to meet with respondent. No Mazdas, please. [Email WRB with subject: “Passengers Not Included”]
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.
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.
Twenty-[redacted] DC-area Catholic seeking participants for an eight-week, completely free weekly course through her church, St. Ann in Tenleytown. Tuesdays at 7:30 PM from June 14–August 2, the course will convene for dinner and discussion of questions of life, faith, and meaning. You need not be Catholic or even Christian to participate; this girl has red hair, so the church door erupts in flames whensoe’er she so much as grazes it with her hand, and they still let her in. The course deepened her faith and was the source of many new friendships. It is a worthy use of a summer evening. Contact Clare Hogan at email@example.com for details.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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!