Discover more from The Washington Review of Books
WRB—May 28, 2022
On Wednesday the Managing Editors will be in residence
When we launched this newsletter we said we were going to be brief.
To do list:
ON TOUR: If you want a WRB sticker, come to the Dew Drop Inn in Brookland at 6 pm on Wednesday evening to meet the Managing Editors. We will review any books you bring.
Tom Moran sets the record straight on how lettered Shakespeare was: “When we examine what Ben Jonson actually said, as opposed to what we think he said, we will realize that not only did Shakespeare know both Latin and Greek, and that Ben Jonson never said he didn’t, but that Shakespeare’s knowledge of Greek is evident in one of the most famous passages he ever wrote.”
“Why Is Every Cookbook a Memoir Now?” asks Tori Latham at Bon Appétit. [Autofiction, autocookery. —Chris]
Elif Batuman does a brief Q&A for the Times about her reading habits. [I think about From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler all the time too. —Chris]
For the Sun [Which rises for all. —Chris], Carl Rollyson reviews two lengthy volumes of Sylvia Plath’s letters—“The gold standard” from Faber—and complains a bit about the literary-epistolary industrial complex.
And for our sister publication, Adam Kirsch writes about the collected correspondence of Theodor Adorno, the social theorist, and Gershom Scholem, the scholar of Jewish mysticism, and their shared friendship with Walter Benjamin: “Benjamin’s letters often give the sense that he was writing for Scholem’s archive the way Soviet authors wrote ‘for the drawer’—giving up hope of a present readership to aim at the future.” [The Managing Editors have recently become interested in Benjaminʼs big book about Paris. As Nic says later in this email, weʼll probably never read it. —Chris]
Also for the Times, Molly Young reviews a book about sharks: “THE ONLY WAY TO COMPLETELY RULE OUT A CLOSE ENCOUNTER WITH A SHARK IS TO STAY ON SHORE.”
For the Washington Free Beacon, Andy Ferguson begins this review with a comforting word: “Don’t worry, all you young bookworms out there! Before too long the baby boomers will be dead and you won't have to worry ever again about anybody asking you to read books like Mark Rozzo’s Everybody Thought We Were Crazy: Dennis Hopper, Brooke Hayward, and 1960s Los Angeles.” [Andy is unfair to Dennis Hopper here, whose entire career can be forgiven because of his performance in The American Friend. —Nic]
Becca Rothfield reviews Phil Christman’s recent collection of essays, How to Be Normal, for TLS: “[Christman] avoids what Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer termed “ticket thinking”, the habitual mode of opinion columnists who promote bundles of views yoked together not by conceptual coherence, but by ideological affinity.” [I read the collection months ago and it hasn’t helped one bit. —Chris]
Also for TLS, George Cochrane reviews a debut novel about a bad art friend: “Lipstein himself, it seems, cannot choose between art and commerce.” [He should consider an email newsletter in that case. —Chris]
May 30, 2022 SHOUTS & MURMURS Review:
“My Torture Idea” by Jack Handey
Jack Handey is the only person qualified to write Shouts or Murmurs at this late date.
Reminder: Today, the Christendom College Graduate School Library is holding a liquidation sale of over 5000 volumes. 10 am–4 pm at 4407 Sano Street in Alexandria. Paperbacks $1, hardcovers $2.
Many of our readers, we know, are fans of “the femcel canon”—and yet so few have placed Classified Ads. Ladies, shoot your shot!
A loyal WRB reader is launching a substack of his own “of book reviews and occasional essays.”
We’ve been silent for long enough: “Booker” is a very silly name for a literary prize.
What we’re reading:
Chris is probably not going to read much this weekend, because he owes the other Managing Editor an essay. [I’m looking forward to reading it. —Nic]
Nic impulsively picked up an eleven-volume set of the Diary of Samuel Pepys at Second Story. As he flipped through it on the way home, his wife told him a hard truth: “You’ll never read that all.” [I’m not looking forward to reading this. —Chris] He certainly won’t this weekend; he owes a WRB reader a book review.
June 14 | Penguin
The Twilight World
by Werner Herzog
From the publisher: In 1997, Werner Herzog was in Tokyo to direct an opera. His hosts asked him, Whom would you like to meet? He replied instantly: Hiroo Onoda. Onoda was a former solider famous for having quixotically defended an island in the Philippines for decades after World War II, unaware the fighting was over. Herzog and Onoda developed an instant rapport and would meet many times, talking for hours and together unraveling the story of Onoda’s long war.
At the end of 1944, on Lubang Island in the Philippines, with Japanese troops about to withdraw, Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda was given orders by his superior officer: Hold the island until the Imperial army’s return. You are to defend its territory by guerrilla tactics, at all costs. . . . There is only one rule. You are forbidden to die by your own hand. In the event of your capture by the enemy, you are to give them all the misleading information you can. So began Onoda’s long campaign, during which he became fluent in the hidden language of the jungle. Soon weeks turned into months, months into years, and years into decades—until eventually time itself seemed to melt away. All the while Onoda continued to fight his fictitious war, at once surreal and tragic, at first with other soldiers, and then, finally, alone, a character in a novel of his own making.
In The Twilight World, Herzog immortalizes and imagines Onoda’s years of absurd yet epic struggle in an inimitable, hypnotic style—part documentary, part poem, and part dream—that will be instantly recognizable to fans of his films. The result is a novel completely unto itself, a sort of modern-day Robinson Crusoe tale: a glowing, dancing meditation on the purpose and meaning we give our lives.
“Panorama” by P.K. Page
In quick panorama with parasol, parrot and panda;
saying perhaps or because,
eating pink end of match
and with pastel tissue for lavatory use
and deparlourized parlour
and cheddar the lamplight of love
they dissolve upon chairs,
write ruin in pearls
on the flesh of inherited faith
and famish in pairs.
They attend us in dreams and in droves
like a filigree shade,
fall down between us and our time
prick the drum with their tune
and fence the inviolate field
with the quick of their eyes.
[This is a poem that feels good on the tongue coming out. —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.
If you or someone you love is afflicted with a syndrome known as “living in DC” or “considering living in DC,” tell them to talk to their doctor about reading The Girl’s Guide to DC. With just one weekly newsletter, you can get your fill of dating and career advice, DC news, and pop culture by clicking this link.
Pray the Rosary daily!