WRB—Nov. 9, 2022
The Results are In
It’s the WRB in a landslide.
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;
In the latest issue of The Point, John Michael Colón introduces the issue’s two excerpts of fiction, from Bárbara Jacobs and Leon Forrest, as examples of “stream of consciousness” in the wake of Ulysses: “But one can’t help but notice the lack of such techniques in much contemporary American fiction. This would be no great disaster if we’d moved on to greater heights of innovation. But if anything our living writers seem to suffer from a kind of amnesia. Open up almost any U.S. novel from the current century and the texture of the mind is almost nowhere to be found; what abounds instead is a style of narration and description even more formulaic than that of novels from before modernism. Even autofiction—the most promising recent literary movement, which does have its own virtues—retains the same tone (by turns journalistic and lyrical) and structure (sentences narrated crisply as if they were plain conscious speech) as any old conventional story.”
In the new issue of the NYRB, Mark O’Connell writes about Jennifer Egan and Vauhini Vara’s novels of “slightly speculative literary fiction” from earlier this year (The Immortal King Rao, May; The Candy House, April): “As a rule, Egan likes to give her characters happy endings, even when it means occasionally erring (as above) on the side of triteness. The book’s characters, for all the variety of their stories, have two things in common: they tend to be glamorous—her pages heave suavely with not just high-flying record execs and tech billionaires but also sexy spies, elusive anthropologists, and film stars—and they tend to make good in the end. The Candy House, despite its skillful construction, can feel as sweetly unsatisfying as its name suggests. And although it’s a more intriguing and enjoyable fiction than The Immortal King Rao, it is no more interested in exploring the profound implications of the technologies it invokes.” [For more on The Candy House, see What we’re reading. —Chris]
In the latest 4Columns, Brian Dillon reviews a new collection of poetry by Bernadette Mayer out this month from New Directions (Milkweed Smithereens, November): “Mayer’s Covid Diary doesn’t so much punctuate the book, or frame the other works in it, as rush out among them here and there, like a partially culverted water course. In its lowercase, italicized flux, the diary is a reminder of John Ashbery’s well-known assertion that poetry is a constant babbling stream into which you simply dip a cup or ladle now and then. At one point in the diary Mayer says people have got it in their heads that poetry is easy—’the Frank O’Hara method’—and it is easy, ‘especially if you don’t try to say more than you are thinking.’ What Mayer may be thinking, day to day, hour to hour, is not however at odds with formal ambition or complexity” [Dillon has a new book coming out next spring from NYRB; see the Upcoming book below. —Chris]
The Managing Editors will be in South Bend this week. Say hi!
Podcast where Christian Lorentzen talks about the White Noise movie.
Alex Shepherd on the Penguin Random House–Simon & Schuster Merger.
April 25 | NYRB
Affinities: On Art and Fascination
by Brian Dillon
From the publisher: In Affinities, Brian Dillon, who Joyce Carol Oates has said writes “fascinating prose … on virtually any subject,” explores images and artists he is drawn to or loves, and tries to analyze the attraction.
What do we mean when we claim affinity with an object or picture, or say that affinities exist (not only formal) between such things? What do feelings of affinity imply about individual or collective experience of art, and of the world?
The word “affinity” used to mean an attraction of opposites, between chemical elements. In his Elective Affinities, Goethe used the idea to think about the orbits and collisions of love. In the poetry and essays of Baudelaire, the writings of Walter Benjamin and Aby Warburg, the art of Tacita Dean and Moyra Davey, a partly buried history of affinity can be found.
Affinities is a critical and personal study of a sensation that is not exactly taste, desire, or allyship, but has aspects of all. Approaching this subject via discrete examples, this book is first of all about images (mostly photographs) that have stayed with the author over many years, or grown in significance during months of pandemic isolation, when the visual field had shrunk.
Some of these are historical works by artists such as Julia Margaret Cameron, Dora Maar, Claude Cahun, Samuel Beckett and Andy Warhol. Others are more or less obscure scientific or vernacular images: sea creatures, migraine auras, astronomical illustrations derived from dreams. Also family photographs, film stills, records of atomic ruin. And contemporary art by Rinko Kawauchi, Susan Hiller, and John Stezaker.
Written as a series of linked essays, interwoven with a reflection on affinity itself, Affinities completes a trilogy, with Essayism and Suppose a Sentence, about the intimate and abstract pleasures of reading and looking.
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