WRB—Nov. 5, 2022
Classical Scenes of Farewell
I enquire now as to the genesis of a Managing Editor and assert the following:
1. A young man cannot possibly know what Greeks and Romans are.
2. He does not know whether he is suited for finding out about them.
To do list:
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 Baffler, Jackson Arn writes about Edward Hopper and a new exhibit of his work running at the Whitney until next spring: “Hopper depicted his city over and over, but there are times when it might as well be Cleveland. Few painters of New York left out so much for so long—some of his work from the Fifties and Sixties looks like it could be from the Twenties or Thirties. The reddish row of buildings in 1952’s Morning Sun looks like it was plucked from Early Sunday Morning, painted a generation earlier; in Sunlight in a Cafeteria, a man and a woman sit in a dull little room flanked by gray buildings, apparently unaware that it’s 1958, rock n’ roll is in bloom, and the Seagram Building has just opened for business. If there are any skyscrapers at all in Hopper, they’re dots on the horizon, and if there are any crowds, they’re hiding around the corner—a funny kind of New York realism. Even King Kong showed the Empire State Building.”
Facets of the tuna fish from Katherine Rundell in Granta.
Bookforum has an excerpt from Lee Konstantinou’s upcoming book (The Last Samurai Reread, November) about Helen DeWitt’s The Last Samurai (2000): “An encounter with aesthetic difference is, of course, not guaranteed to expand one’s imagination. Such an encounter might lead one not to appreciate new possibilities—’All these possibilities!’—but to double down on one’s commitments. . . . But though the major characters in The Last Samurai fail to have the revelation that DeWitt describes herself as having had, DeWitt’s biographical revelation nonetheless drives her novel. The Last Samurai is structured around the pursuit of aesthetic education, the possibility of educating oneself and honing a critical sensibility.”
For Bomb, Jasmine Dreame Wagner interviews Meghan Maguire Dahn about her new collection of poems, Domain (September): “Reading in Middle English, which is close enough to English that you don’t need anything more than a dictionary, words start to feel auratic, like there’s a fuller sense of them that you haven’t felt before. ‘Sudden,’ for example—we use it pretty automatically these days because we’re used to sudden things. It feels almost corporeal when you encounter it in Middle English—like they’re really impressed by it. So it starts you thinking, what matters about something that is sudden?”
At Full Stop, Brianna Di Monda writes about Elena Ferante’s recent book of essays (In the Margins: On the Pleasures of Reading and Writing, March): “Ferrante has cast a spell that allows her to retain complete control over her public image—and demonstrates that other female authors deserve the same respect. By preserving her pseudonym, Ferrante insists the female story should be regarded as worthy of political and philosophical conversation.”
In The New Yorker this week, Vinson Cunningham writes about a new play out of Britain about Robert Moses: “This is a bit of a pattern: Straight Line Crazy has a glossiness that cuts against the crude, blunt force of Moses’s still contested achievement. (In this way, it matches the irony of its setting at Hudson Yards, a sleek, strange airport-terminal-esque complex plopped down on the West Side like one of Moses’s roads.) It scrupulously declines to portray Moses as blinkered and corrupt—the traditional stance, more or less, since The Power Broker encased the man in villainous amber, back in 1974. This is Moses smoothly repaved, if not essentially rerouted.”
For The American Conservative, Santi Ruiz reviews a new book by a Finnish historian, “the éminence grise on Native American history” Pekka Hämäläinen, on the colonization of North America (Indigenous Continent: The Epic Contest for North America, September): “Hämäläinen, perhaps the world’s preeminent scholar of the ‘expansionist equestrian regimes’ the Comanche and Lakota, argued in his previous books that the arrival of the horse into the American West gave rise to new imperial forms. Hämäläinen understands these nations as colonial, no less so than the American model. ‘The systematic repetition of key political acts,’ including raids, tribute extraction, and diplomatic missions, made up the power projection of Lakotas and Comanches. Only an American innovation in mobility, the railroad, allowed the federal government to finally impose its own order on the indigenous interior.”
In The New Republic, Scott Bradfield reviews Lucy Worsley’s recent biography of Agatha Christie (Agatha Christie: An Elusive Woman, September): “For a body of work so vastly populated with dead bodies, the Christie oeuvre may ironically be the most peaceful, predictable, comforting space in twentieth-century literature. The stories rarely (if ever) refer to our ugly political world; the simplistic psychology of the characters is easily dissolved by either love or money; and each novel takes place in a timeless space lacking any actual historical or cultural landmarks, such as market crashes, wars, death camps, crime families, corrupt politicians, or pandemics. And at the end of each story, after the victory of wits is won by a slightly-more-brilliant-than-the-murderer detective, the murderer is clearly identified and eliminated—usually by a hangman’s noose, or by their discreetly removing themselves offstage, where they commit suicide. For they are easily the most obliging and polite murderers in crime fiction.”
Poet Gerald Stern, R.I.P.
The Mount Vernon Triangle Literary Festival is today.
November 8 | Knopf
Novelist as a Vocation
by Haruki Murakami
From the publisher: Aspiring writers and readers who have long wondered where the mysterious novelist gets his ideas and what inspires his strangely surreal worlds will be fascinated by this engaging book from the internationally best-selling author. Haruki Murakami now shares with readers his thoughts on the role of the novel in our society; his own origins as a writer; and his musings on the sparks of creativity that inspire other writers, artists, and musicians.
Here are the personal details of a life devoted to craft: the initial moment at a Yakult Swallows baseball game, when he suddenly knew he could write a novel; the importance of memory, what he calls a writer’s “mental chest of drawers”; the necessity of loneliness, patience, and his daily running routine; the seminal role a carrier pigeon played in his career and more.
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