WRB—Sept. 21, 2022
Is the public paying attention?
It’s Banned Reviews of Books Week too. The CRB guys better watch out.
To do list:
order a tote bag;
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;
“What is a common reader?”—at his own Substack by that name this week, Henry Oliver asks a question the Managing Editors asked when they began this newsletter: “Perhaps the real issue is that the common reader today is more likely to read non-fiction, serious non-academic books by experts or professional writers. As Woolf observed, many of these readers will be passing the time (and so what?) but most of them will be trying to learn, to find ways of working or living differently. The room for handing literary culture along the generations is thus somewhat smaller in relative, if not absolute, terms. This is fully within the common reader tradition—think of all those histories, biographies, theologies, books of essays and so on. But the production and analysis of such books is increasingly the job of non-literature specialists.” [Becoming literate is a lifelong task, but it shouldn’t take your entire day. —Chris]
Meanwhile at Saint Louis’ The Common Reader, Jeannette Cooperman does something else close to the WRB’s heart: goes in search of Elvis, and America: “His early music was about “finding space and freedom”—what could be more American? Only our fascination with youth, and he hit the airwaves just as U.S. teenagers emerged as an entity, a market segment, a trendsetting tribe with sass and spending money and giant finned cars with backseats they were eager to test out. Elvis and his peers gave these kids a music all their own, and they faced off against the grownups, restless energy banging into stuffy, predictable old norms. The nation’s golden forms, tv and Hollywood, gobbled up his sexy but somehow innocent beauty.”
For The Bulwark’s “Ideas, Arts, and Culture” section, André Forget looks back on [Remembers? —Chris] a century of New Republic–founder Walter Lippmann’s Public Opinion: “By the time one reaches the end of the book, Lippmann has so ruthlessly demolished any grounds for optimism about our ability to make the maps in our heads correspond to the world outside that it seems hard to imagine what a solution to this mess might look like.”
Not so popular, but at Popula, Jason Katzenstein draws some imagined literary sequels:
Two on translation:
for the LARB, Lily Meyer writes about the world and work of literary translators: “Of course, the question of what constitutes advocacy in the literary world is a complex one. For Words Without Borders, Becker told me, it means crediting translators, paying writers and translators equally, and actively seeking to launch new writers’ and translators’ careers. The magazine has published some 3,000 poems, stories, and essays by authors from over 140 countries, giving many—including every writer mentioned in this essay—their first English-language exposure or helping their work grab the attention of agents who can further their careers. Crucially, that exposure is readily available to anyone with an internet connection: unlike many print-only or print-focused literary journals, which tend to rely on a subscription model, Words Without Borders is free.” [We’re only notionally speaking not-free (so far). But we are reader-supported… —Chris]
And for Slant Books’ Close Reading blog, Brian Volck writes about what may be “gained in translation” and Henry Cole’s renderings of medieval Hebrew poems (The Dream of the Poem, 2007): “If poetry makes an experience available to the reader rather than merely offer a denotative account of that experience, the poem must arrive in a form accessible to its readership. John Keats found George Chapman’s Elizabethan era translations of the Iliad and the Odyssey exhilarating but few readers today would trade their Fitzgerald or Fagles editions for Chapman’s four-hundred-year-old version. Of the making of many translations there is no end.”
More on translation: online for Astra, Noah Warren reviews two recent translations of Chinese poetry (In the Same Light, January; Bloom & Other Poems, July) [One of which we’ve already shared a review of, you may recall, early last month. —Chris]: “It’s hard to hear around Cathay. As anyone a little bruised by the topic will tell you, Ezra Pound’s slim khaki-colored volume, the product of a hundred international coincidences, collaborations, and misreadings, went off like a bomb in the first year of a European war. It defined how ‘Chinese’ poetry was thought to sound — observational, imagistic, elliptical, heavy on landscape and understated pathos — and used it to explode the maudlin hypotaxes of Georgian verse. The values Pound located in ancient Chinese poetry were metabolized as distinctive traits of English literary modernism, which was then exported globally.” [For more on Cathay, see “WRB—June 18, 2022” —Chris]
The Atlantic is hosting their festival down at the Wharf starting today.
Hyperallergic is taking applications for a $5000 “Journalism Fellowship for Curators.”
The Washington National Opera will put on Carmen for their “Opera on the Field” this coming Sunday. And the Washington Concert Opera will put on its Opera Outside show near Union Market on Friday evening.
October 4 | Sublunary Editions
From the publisher: Best known for her gargantuan, elliptical novel Miss MacIntosh, My Darling, Marguerite Young began her career as a lyric poet, working almost exclusively in the form until the mid-1940s. Her monumental study of two failed 19th century utopias in New Harmony, Indiana, Angel in the Forest, began as a collection of some sixty blank-verse sonnets, before she resorted to prose in order to incorporate more facts and figures that the poetic form would allow. Publisher’s Weekly would say that the book was composed with “the extravagance of a poet rather than the pedantry of a historian”.
It is her poetry, writes Young in a previously unpublished introduction included here, that “pointed to what I would become, and there I now see the whole structure of my writing about which I may not have been wholly conscious at the time.” She goes on to say that readers who encounter her poetry “may find keys to the understanding of all my life’s work”.
Included in The Collected Poems are Young’s two poetry collections, Prismatic Ground (1937) and Moderate Fable (1944)—neither of which were reprinted after their initial runs—uncollected poems that appeared in magazines like Accent, The Kenyon Review, and The Saturday Review of Literature, and a trove of previously unpublished poems, including early poems dictated from memory by Marguerite herself—“I Heard a Bird”, which opens the collection, was penned at the tender age of nine.
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