WRB—Sept. 7, 2022
This one has a famous tree and a lot of sad ideas
You could tell people about the WRB—but who would believe you?
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;
At Gawker, Kate Shannon Jenkins laments the moral universe of contemporary fiction: “Among a certain class of trendy intellectual novels more interested in ideas than in plot per se—a class of novels that might, in other eras, have been especially invested in provoking and in challenging our assumptions about character—there is instead stagnation. Our Ben Lerners, Sally Rooneys, Ottessa Moshfeghs, and Lauren Oylers—stunningly talented, all—seem unmotivated to explore either redemption or disgrace.”
NYRB will publish two of English author Gwendoline Riley’s novels next week (excerpt from My Phantoms here). Rachel Connolly briefly profiled Riley for NY Mag last week. And Jane Hu reviews both novels in the fall issue of Bookforum: “If Sally Rooney’s novels tell stories of ‘people who, over the course of several years, apparently could not leave one another alone’ as the fulfillment of the romance plot, then Riley’s seem to narrate that same compulsion in the key of tragedy.”
For Emergence Magazine, Daegan Miller writes about a trip to visit a tree that was famous in the 19th century.
Ayelet Haimson Lushkov writes for the Marginalia Review of Books about the relevance of Livy: “Livy offers a mode of historical thinking that resonates especially clearly during a crisis of leadership when we search for language and method to hold political personages up for inspection, examination, and account. History according to Livy is not one event after the other, but the lives and customs of people, what they do and what they say, and above all their capacity to learn from their past and adapt to their present.”
For the LRB, Stephanie Burt writes about the poetry of Natalie Shapero.
Travis Woods has an essay at Bright Wall/Dark Room about the 1987 film Withnail and I: “Behind his red-rimmed eyes haloed with John Lennon spectacles, ‘I’ begins to mull the desperately hopeful decision—because everything in Withnail and I is both desperate and hopeful—that befalls all doomed relationships, be they with a friend, a lover, a career, a dream, an age, a decade: perhaps a change of scenery will help.”
In the September Artforum, Hal Foster writes about the troubling association of minimalism with Nazism: “Readers may wonder what possible utopia could be glimpsed in the linking of Minimalist object and concentration camp. The very question is offensive, but dialectical thinking is often perverse, an overturning (per-version) of the accepted framing of a problem.”
For The New Republic, Patrick Blanchfield reviews a new book on Sigmund Freud, a history of his last years by Andrew Nagorski (Saving Freud: The Rescuers Who Brought Him to Freedom, August): “He shows Freud—and, more crucially, those around him—navigating the gaps between abstract awareness of danger and personal decisiveness, against the backdrop of historical events unfolding in real time. The result is hard to put down, poignant, and distressingly timely. Because if Freud himself, so attuned to the dark undercurrents of human behavior and so critical of the false security offered by our wishful illusions, proved unable to think clearly even as his country became unrecognizable around him and as nightmare after nightmare became real, what are our chances now?”
Rachel Aviv appeared on a panel this past weekend at the National Book Festival; in the fall Bookforum, Charlotte Shane writes about her new book, out next week (Strangers to Ourselves, September): “If the world is one element of what makes people crazy, it doesn’t distribute the effect evenly.”
The Booker Shortlist is out.
The unionized staff of Politics and Prose bookstore has reached a contract agreement with management.
Chris and Julia met Blelvis outside the 9:30 Club on Saturday night. Perhaps he will add the WRB to the list of publications in which he has been featured. [The rumors are true: Elvis really is everywhere. —Julia]
Happy news: The Paris Review has not abolished fiction. [A number of months ago I was reading Issue 125 (Winter 1992) and got through an entire Barry Lopez story without realizing, until I checked the table of contents, that it was a piece of fiction. So I sympathize with Walter here. —Chris]
Bad news: Things continue with the D.C. Metro.
Mediocre streams: The District’s streams are of middling quality.
The 2022 Hugo Award winners have been announced. Best novel: A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine (Tor, 2021). [Fascinating. —Chris]
A reader pointed out that another Substack newsletter has followed our lead and is offering to run Classified ads. We wish them all the best.
September 13 | Norton
Victory Is Assured: Uncollected Writings of Stanley Crouch
edited by Glenn Mott
From the publisher: With Stanley Crouch’s untimely death in 2020, American literature lost “a critic without peer” (Ta-Nehisi Coates). Born in Los Angeles in 1945, Crouch—a towering stylist, fearless columnist, and without question, one of the finest jazz critics of all time—was Rabelaisian both in stature and in intellectual appetite. Beloved yet cantankerous, Crouch delighted and enflamed the passions of his readers in equal measure, whether writing about race, politics, literature, or music.
In these essays—some discovered on his computer, unpublished until now—Crouch tackles subjects ranging from Malcolm X (“a thorned bud standing in the shadow of sequoias”) to the films of Quentin Tarantino (“With Django, Tarantino has slipped down . . . into a shallow and bloodstained hip-hop turn that his own best work has well-refuted”). Introduced by Jelani Cobb, with an afterword by Wynton Marsalis, and collected by his longtime editor Glenn Mott, Victory Is Assured canonizes the legacy of an inimitable, indispensable American critic.
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