WRB—May 7, 2022
Essays and Essayists, Peatland and Persia, Frankly not nearly so many jokes as usual
The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between issues of the Washington Review of Books.
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,
tell your favorite places to go camping [about which more in the Links and Poem sections] near Washington, D.C., here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Edmund Richardson tells the engaging story of Henry Rawlinson’s transcribing and deciphering the Behistun Inscription for Inference. [The notion of “a frenzy in Victorian Britain for all things Assyrian” is very funny. —Chris]
On The New York Times, David Segal reports on the rush to save Scottish peatland with lots of bleak landscape photos and amusing anecdotes.
In the May 16 issue of National Review, Joseph Epstein reviews a new biography of Charles Lamb, “one of the great essayists in English literature.”
“I am myself the subject of my book”: Matt Dinan reviews Why We Are Restless, on the legacy of another great essayist, Montaigne, for The Hedgehog Review.
A new travel guide to Washington, D.C., is “a composite essay—a ‘try,’ in Montaigne’s sense—meant to discern the nature and literature of the city,” according to William Fleeson in our independent cousin.
In the new issue of NYRB, Anahid Nersessian reviews a new volume of selected poems by the Persian poet Forough Farrokhzad: “For Farrokhzad, all desire is catastrophic.”
In Collectors Weekly, a little history of camping gear.
Karolina Watroba writes about how much it sucks to read Thomas Mann for The Point.
May 9, 2022 SHOUTS & MURMURS Review:
“Mastering the Art of Stress Eating” by Jiji Lee
So many “Shouts and Murmurs” are about being so, so sad. And not in a funny way.
[I liked Saïd Sayrafiezadeh’s short story (pg. 62) and Juan Gabriel Vásquez’ essay on two novels of by Fernanda Melchor recently translated for New Directions (pg. 75). —Chris]
From Business Insider, an explanation of why big political books continue to break new stories years after the events they describe would have been in the news. [The Managing Editors have never held back from breaking news in these metaphorical pages. —Nic]
What we’re reading:
Chris looked at the copy of How Should a Person Be? sitting on his desk and thought about what Jonathan Franzen says in his introductory essay for Desperate Characters, about his hope that the book “might actually tell me how to live.” [This is one of the fundamental things a book can promise you, and I wish it were ever true. —Chris] Then he reread Valerie Cornell’s essay “On Being Unable to Read”: “Regarding reading, a person can become too busy for it—overdecorated with motives, needs, desires. It’s necessary to come to a temporary rest in order to read, even to a flash point of comfortable boredom.”
Chris hopes to find some comfortable boredom this weekend.
Nic is traveling.
May 31 | Celadon Books
by Jean Hanff
From the publisher: The Latecomer follows the story of the wealthy New York City–based Oppenheimer family, from the first meeting of parents Salo and Johanna, under tragic circumstances, to their triplets born during the early days of IVF. As children, the three siblings—Harrison, Lewyn, and Sally—feel no strong familial bond and cannot wait to go their separate ways, even as their father becomes more distant and their mother more desperate. When the triplets leave for college, Johanna, faced with being truly alone, makes the decision to add a fourth child to the family. What role will the “latecomer” play in this fractured family?
A complex novel that builds slowly and deliberately, The Latecomer touches on the topics of grief and guilt, generational trauma, privilege and race, traditions and religion, and family dynamics. It is a profound and witty family story from an accomplished author, known for the depth of her character studies, expertly woven storylines, and plot twists.
“Face it” by Ryan Wilson
A silence, bodied like wing-beaten air,
Perturbs your face sometimes when parties end
And, half-drunk, you stand looking at some star
That flickers like a coin wished down a well,
Or when you hear a voice behind you whisper
Your name, and turn around, and no one’s there.
You’re in it then, once more, the stranger’s house
Perched in the mountain woods, the rot-sweet smell
Of fall, the maples’ millions, tongues of fire,
And there, whirl harrowing the gap, squint-far,
That unidentified fleck, approaching and
Receding at once, rapt in the wind’s spell—
Pulse, throb, winged dark that haunts the clean light’s glare—
That thing that you’re becoming, that you are.
[A reader mentioned this poem to me over dinner this week. It was published in The New Criterion. I want to spend more time in the mountains, looking at stars. —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 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.
Executive Director at Lincoln Network seeking Research Editor to support him and rest of the team. Position can be remote, salary is $60–80k, benefits are good, including unlimited PTO. If you are like technology, know what MITI is, write and research well, and are literate, please email email@example.com with a pitch for yourself.
Mid-20s parents looking for young, unmarried Catholic woman who’s interested in children and wants to be in the DC area long term.
DC-local male seeking recommendations for DC-local locales to purchase oddities in the service of bedroom decoration. Economical ideas preferred. [Email WRB with subject “Priceless Moments”]
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.
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.
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.
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: 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.
Looking for a podcast that's delightfully unchained from the drudgeries of reality? In every episode of The Readers Karamazov, your hosts the Bastard Sons of Hegel—Karl Bookmarx, Friedrich Peachy, and Søren Rear-Guard—explore the intersection of philosophical thought and literary form in great works of fiction. Each season builds outward from a central anchor book to consider how different works of literature speak to each other over time. Catch up with the entirety of Season 2, “Middlemarch,” now, before Season 3, “The Name of the Rose” begins in April. Listen wherever you get your podcasts, and follow on Twitter @thereadersk.
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!