WRB—Nov. 12, 2022
The WRB, a radical American newsletter
Managing Editors of the Washington Review of Books are not permitted to travel by boat.
To do list:
order a tote bag or now a MUG;
avail yourself of our world-famous classified ads, now stored on this page for non-paying readers to access, either by placing or responding to one;
For the Boston Review, Jonathan Levy writes about lunch and political engagement: “In this scheme, lunch may be beautiful, sublime, or neither. A lunch that unifies a manifold in an especially satisfying way could well be beautiful—bello, as Italians would call it, a word they use not only for objects and places but also experiences and states of being. But, if in their solitude one wants to know what a particularly delicious mozzarella is, as a thing-in-and-of-itself, by striving to know it by tasting it, and to be swept away by the sublime experience beyond description, then one certainly has the right. Should one find lunchtime companions so motivated, no problem there, either—you have started a new religion. Or perhaps lunch holds no value for you whatsoever. That is fine, too.”
For the Marginalia Review, physicist Tom McLeish writes about the troubled “notion that beautiful ideas are more likely to be true than ugly ones”: “Perhaps beauty is always contested, always the nexus of conflict, because it continuously challenges our out-of-joint temporal assumptions, our current misconstrued set of symbols, our manifestly incomplete set of representations of the world. An act that looked at first wasteful and messy, after a new work of beauty, points to the crucifixion—a larger act of apparently gruesome violence, but which constitutes the greatest expression of love in history. Beyond that new significance, both acts belong to a series that points forward to a future of unimagined healing and reconciliation. When that degree of radical creation is let loose within a confined cultural context that looks to the past, and which concentrates on the benefit of its established hierarchies, then such ‘beauty’ is bound to be invisible at best, the provocation of violent resistance at worst.”
For the LARB, Jason Crawford writes about perhaps the first comedian: “The crowds that came to see him in the late 1590s might not have known it, but Robert Armin was inventing a new kind of comedy. He was, even more, inventing the comedian, a whole new way of thinking about the vocation of the comic performer. By day, he was in the trenches as a professional clown, acting in plays and fashioning his Snuff persona. By night, he was at his desk, writing up his best bits and working on a book about what he, in the vernacular of the time, called ‘natural fools,’ those born atypical or disabled. All the while, he was crafting a comic art rooted in his own atypical selfhood, his own experiences of disability and difference.”
🚨 Patricia Lockwood in the LRB on George Saunders 🚨: “Liberation Day, down to the title, is a spiritual successor to Saunders’s last collection, 2013’s Tenth of December. (That long ago, really? Well, he was busy becoming an international institution.) At first, it doesn’t seem to progress much beyond those stories. Being something of a desk guy, Saunders works from templates: Rat Named Kyle Trapped in America-Themed Diorama That Is Wired to Electrocute Him, at the End He Gets a Four-Cent Raise; Loser Must Save a Ten-Year-Old Boy from Death; Frantic Forty-Car-Pile-Up of an Inner Monologue; Keeping Up with the Joneses, Dystopia Edition; Teens in a Lab. It’s been a while since we had a writer so widely revered who has such a limited range, though it sometimes jumps high above itself.”
For the Hedgehog Review, Joseph Keegin reviews the recent UC Press reissue of D.S. Carne-Ross’ literary essays (Instaurations: Essays In and Out of Literature, Pindar to Pound, 1979, reissue April): “‘Poetry cannot save us,’ he concedes, ‘and yet the poets could do a great deal to redirect our minds and senses back to the proper object of their love…eyes schooled by the poets, as they look out on the ravaged landscape of our world, might rediscover there the lineaments of a sacred that man has not made and is not licensed to disfigure or destroy.’ Our language is entangled with our living, and the decay of one entails that of the other. The hermeneutical bears immediately upon the moral and political: Learning how to read—in the fullest sense of what literacy entails—means learning how to live, both individually and in community.” [Joey notes this in the text, but geez is that an ugly cover on this paperback. —Chris]
For The Common Reader, Timothy J. Moore reviews Edward J. Watts’ book from last year on the idea of the fall of Rome (The Eternal Decline and Fall of Rome: The History of a Dangerous Idea, 2021): “Watts’s concentration on the rhetoric of decline and renewal combines various kinds of phenomena: political leaders who genuinely believe in decline and those who cynically claim decline to gain power; ‘decline’ and ‘restoration’ of various types; earnest attempts at “restoration” and empty rhetoric about renewal. It is admittedly often impossible to distinguish between these categories. Nevertheless, one could wish that Watts had worked harder to make such distinctions. Because notions of ‘decline’ are different, and because rhetoric of restoration sometimes seems tangential rather than central to the historical characters Watts discusses, Watts’s emphasis on his ‘dangerous idea’ as the source of so much of the suffering in Roman history sometimes appears an oversimplification. Augustus, for example, the first Roman emperor (ruled 27 BCE–14 CE), famously professed to have restored the Republic when he created his autocracy. The brutal wars that led to Augustus’s rule, however, are far more about political factions than about claims of decline and restoration.”
The American Conservative is hiring a managing editor, and the local Post is hiring a nonfiction book critic.
“Blackbird Spyplane, a popular but niche “dude-leaning” newsletter, introduces Concorde, a new endeavor aimed at women.” We already have that.
“Are Americans Bad at Reading?” Only, we assume, if they haven’t yet subscribed to the WRB.
November 22 | Bloomsbury
Mesozoic Art: Dinosaurs and Other Ancient Animals in Art
Edited by Steve White and Darren Naish
From the publisher: Dinosaurs are endlessly fascinating to people of every age, from the youngest child who enjoys learning the tongue-twisting names to adults who grew up with Jurassic Park and Walking with Dinosaurs. As our knowledge of the prehistoric world continues to evolve and grow, so has the discipline of bringing these ancient worlds to life artistically. Paleoart puts flesh on the bones of long-extinct organisms, and illustrates they world they lived in.
Mesozoic Art showcases twenty of the best artists working in this field, representing a broad spectrum of disciplines, from traditional painting to cutting-edge digital technology. Some provide the artwork for new scientific papers that demand high-end paleoart as part of their presentation to the world at large; they also work for the likes of National Geographic and provide art to museums around the world to illustrate their displays. Other artists are the new rising stars of paleoart in an ever-growing, ever-diversifying field.
Arranged by portfolio, this book brings this dramatic art to a wide, contemporary audience. The art is accompanied by text on the animals and their live, written by palaeontologist Darren Naish. Paleoart is dynamic, fluid and colourful, as were the beasts it portrays, which are showcased in this magnificent book.
[I just found this on John Wilson’s Twitter. —Chris]
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