WRB—May 25, 2022
Considerations, Interviews, Reviews, and some other stuff
“One senses not only that the Managing Editors are suffering, but that nobody can see why they shouldn’t suffer, like Victorian cab horses.”
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: do you dig our vibe? here: email@example.com.
Laura J. Martin for Laphams Q. considers the Wild Flower Preservation Society: “Soon Wild Flower Preservation Society members were split over whether to focus their efforts on immigrants or on automobilists. The schism ended only when Percy Ricker engineered a hostile takeover.”
Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker considers the rhymes of rap: “The art of making linked lines end with the same sound remains limitless in its variety and in the plurality of its effects.”
Will Di Novi considers the city alley: “what we do with alleys, what we’ve always done, chasing dreams and nightmares in the world behind our homes.”
[This one is a little old, but I am really looking forward to getting to this novel on my desk. —Chris] Emma Dries interviews Emily St. John Mandel, the author of Station Eleven, about her new novel for Bookforum. [Sinjin? —Nic]
Over at TLS: Alan R. Young on two books at several degrees of remove from Shakespeare.
At our sister publication, Tim Parks reviews Dead Souls by Sam Riviere: [I’ll just quote the seller of a lede here. —Chris]: “If you are writing a comedy about imitation, plagiarism, or simply the monotonous sameness of so much contemporary literature, so much contemporary discourse, it makes sense perhaps to borrow the title of your work from one of the most celebrated novels of all time and to write it in one of the most radical and recognizable of modern prose styles.”
For the Journal, John J. Miller reviews the new Mark Kurlansky, on Ernest Hemingway: “The challenge of writing about Hemingway is different. It involves discovering something new to say about an interesting but overdone subject.”
In the Times, Benjamin Moser reviews Translating Myself and Others by Jhumpa Lahiri: “Hearing a mother tongue is like stepping into a warm bath. But one of the disquieting discoveries that studying foreign languages brings is the awareness that your own can be a trap.”
The Managing Editors couldn’t attend a publication launch party yesterday evening, but they encourage the new endeavor nonetheless.
New York City recently decommissioned its last pay phone, which raised a number of questions in our minds. When was the last time you used a pay phone? Does D.C. even have them anymore? [For me, it was to call my ride from Dulles airport in 2013. —Nic] [I am pretty sure it was trying to place a call home from the Hicksville LIRR station in 2012. It didn’t work. —Chris]
Of presumable interest: The author of Lincoln in the Bardo and some other books which were a bit more funny has a Substack himself.
We miss the days when writers had to come to bookstores in person for events.
A woman in Arlington is selling copies of the Washington Post from the days immediately following Ronald Reagan’s death. Perhaps related: another person is selling the vocal scores for the Requiem Masses of Mozart, Verdi, and Brahms.
Cormac McCarthy’s forthcoming novel The Passenger will receive a 300,000 copy first printing. [I really can’t get over this number. —Nic]
Good taste prevents us from joking too much about the Woodbridge Commanders, as they are no longer our hometown team.
What we’re reading:
Chris read Peter Brown’s The Cult of the Saints and finished Clarice Lispector’s An Apprenticeship or The Book of Pleasures. After the Managing Editors’ lunch yesterday, he decided to open Marcovaldo, because they both agree that there’s a lot of unfinished work to be done on cities. [New York City is a spiritual practice. —Chris]
Chris opened up a kind reader’s copy of An Academic Question and it immediately fell apart.
Nic read Deep Work on the Metro. He will not burden you with his thoughts on it. At the suggestion of a reader, he picked up Swann’s Way again and found this gem scrawled on the inside cover. [Two more links: In TNR: “There is a certain type of reader who, working her way through Proust, can think only of her own most recent heartbreak.” And in the Post: “Joyce eventually woke up and chatted with Proust. The Frenchman spoke first: ‘I have never read your works, Mr. Joyce.’ In response, the Irishman showed him the same courtesy: ‘I have never read your works, Mr. Proust.’ And that was that for their conversation.” —Chris]
May 31 | Yale University Press
by Andreas Kilcher and Pavel Schmidt
From the publisher: The year 2019 brought a sensational discovery: hundreds of drawings by the writer Franz Kafka (1883–1924) were found in a private collection that for decades had been kept under lock and key. Until now, only a few of Kafka’s drawings were widely known. Although Kafka is renowned for his written work, his drawings are evidence of what his literary executor Max Brod termed his “double talent.” Irresistible and full of fascinating figures, shifting from the realistic to the fantastic, the grotesque, the uncanny, and the carnivalesque, they illuminate a previously unknown side of the quintessential modernist author.
Kafka’s drawings span his full career, but he drew most intensively in his university years, between 1901 and 1907. An entire booklet of drawings from this period is among the many new discoveries, along with dozens of loose sheets. Published for the first time in English, these newly available materials are collected with his known works in a complete catalogue raisonné of more than 240 illustrations, reproduced in full color. Essays by Andreas Kilcher and Judith Butler provide essential background for this lavish volume, interpreting the drawings in their own right while also reconciling their place in Kafka’s larger oeuvre.
“Mr. Frost Goes South to Boston” by Firman Houghton
WHEN I SEE buildings in a town together,
Stretching all around to touch the sky,
I like to know that they come down again
And so I go around the block to see,
And, sure enough, there is the downward side.
I say to myself these buildings never quite
Arrived at heaven although they went that way.
That’s the way with buildings and with people.
The same applies to colts and cats and chickens
And cattle of all breeds and dogs and horses.
I think the buildings Boston has are high
Enough. I like to ride the elevator
Up to the top and then back I come again.
Now, don't get me wrong. I wouldn’t want
A ticket to New York to ride up higher.
These buildings come as close to heaven now
As I myself would ever want to go.
[I found this in Parodies: An Anthology from Chaucer to Beerbohm—and After, published in 1960 by Random House and edited by Dwight Macdonald, which I became interested in after reading John Updike describe it as “a book so manifoldly praiseworthy that the reviewer puzzles where to begin.” I think the really excellent feature is the enjambment between the eleventh and twelfth lines. The buildings in the District of Columbia, of course, are all by law of humane stature. —Chris]
The WRB Classifieds:
To place an ad, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Rates are 1¢ per word, per issue. Content is subject to the approval of the Managing Editors.
Byronic student looking for room in Brookland area/on the red line, from June/August 2022 to June/August 2023.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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: 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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