The phrase “music before counting” comes from Debths, Howe’s new collection of poems. Arriving in her eightieth year, the book pushes forward with fresh experiments in poetic form, while looking back on the whole of her life and career. Concerned with first and last things, with childhood and old age, it is a summing up of what is essential and abiding; and it is also just the opposite, a book of dispersals and vanishings that gives the last word to the illegible and incomplete. [Read more…]
Translated into English by Hester Velmans
Reviewed by Christopher Michno
In Dutch writer Niña Weijers’ debut novel, The Consequences, the story of a young conceptual artist and rising star in the rarified world of international art fairs and blue chip galleries, a portrait emerges of a person who has been on the verge of disappearing into herself from the earliest moments of her life. Through various turns, Weijers explores the question of what it means to be–both as an artist and, in an even more basic sense, as a person–present in one’s skin and one’s own life. [Read more…]
In 1969, Cary Raditz, a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina, quit his job in advertising and headed to Europe to bum around with his girlfriend. They ended up in Matala, on the island of Crete, where they found a bunch of hippies living in a network of caves. Raditz soon decamped for Afghanistan in a VW bus; when he returned, his girlfriend had bailed, but there was word that a new girl was headed to Matala. Raditz didn’t know much about Joni Mitchell, but “there was buzz” among the hippies, and, soon enough, he found himself watching the sunset with one of the most extraordinary people alive. Raditz and Mitchell shared a cave for a couple of months, travelled around Greece together, and parted ways. That’s where you and I come in, because Mitchell wrote two songs, among her greatest works, about her “redneck on a Grecian isle”: “California” and “Carey.” I’ve been singing along to those songs, or trying to, since I was fifteen. I learned from them what you learn from all of Mitchell’s music, that love is a form of reciprocity, at times even a barter economy: “He gave me back my smile / but he kept my camera to sell.” Mitchell’s songs were the final, clinching trade.
Carey, from Blue
“Strangler Bob” is one of five stories from Denis Johnson’s forthcoming collection, The Largesse of the Sea Maiden, which was completed just before his death in May of this year. See Riot Material’s earlier tributes to Denis Johnson here.
You hop into a car, race off in no particular direction, and, blam, hit a power pole. Then it’s off to jail. I remember a monstrous tangle of arms and legs and fists, with me at the bottom, gouging at eyes and doing my utmost to mangle throats, but I arrived at the facility without a scratch or a bruise. I must have been easy to subdue. The following Monday, I pled guilty to disturbing the peace and malicious mischief, reduced from felony vehicular theft and resisting arrest because—well, because all this occurs on another planet, the planet of Thanksgiving, 1967. I was eighteen and hadn’t been in too much trouble. I was sentenced to forty-one days. [Read more…]
–from the October 2017 issue of Harper’s Magazine
Camilla Grudova’s story collection The Doll’s Alphabet, was published earlier this year in England, and it has already garnered comparisons to Angela Carter, Margaret Atwood, Leonora Carrington, Ben Marcus, and Franz Kafka. To this list let me add another name: George Orwell. Not the dystopian Orwell of 1984 or the allegorical Orwell of Animal Farm but the down-and-out, grubby-oilcloth Orwell of The Road to Wigan Pier and Keep the Aspidistra Flying. Grudova does mermaids and magic, but she also does moldy, dingy, scratch-and-sniff interiors that reek of cabbage and old shoes. [Read more…]
An extract from “What Is the Critic’s Job?” in the September 28th issue of The New York Review of Books. In his review, Mendelson also addresses two other critical works: This Thing We Call Literature, by Arthur Krystal, and Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, by Erich Auerbach, translated from the German by Willard R. Trask, with an introduction by Edward W. Said.
Two lucid and intelligent books, A.O. Scott’s Better Living Through Criticism and Arthur Krystal’s This Thing We Call Literature, explore the same complex theme: criticism as a public art and a public service, performed, however, by critics who speak for themselves, addressing individual readers, not a collective public. Both books draw maps of the disputed border between popular and elite culture and find ways to cross it without pretending it doesn’t exist. [Read more…]
In the 2004 film, The Libertine, Johnny Depp, playing the Earl of Rochester, delivers an acidic opening monologue, which begins, “Allow me to be frank at the commencement, you will not like me. The gentlemen will be envious and the ladies will be repelled. You will not like me now and you will like me a good deal less as you go on.”
The ego, as a mouthpiece for rebellion, as an exiled priest dispatching its sermon-of-self from a rogue pulpit, creates itself through voice. In the “Letter from the Editor” section of Elizabeth Ellen’s new novel, Person/a, the author states: “… I write this letter to you, dear reader, as both editor and author of this novel, with full awareness and with full admission that if there is a ‘Monster at the End of this Book,’ that monster is I. I am that monster. Let this then serve as an introduction.” [Read more…]
Ernest Hemingway: A Biography by Mary V. Dearborn Reviewed by John Biscello
Can I believe myself as others believe me to be? Here is where these lines become a confession in the presence of my unknown and unknowable to me, unknown and unknowable for myself. Here is where I create the legend wherein I must bury myself. — Miguel de Unamuno.
Perhaps no other 20th century writer has invited more scorn, worship, lampooning, lionization, and soapbox scrutiny than Ernest Hemingway. Or rather the “legend” of Ernest Hemingway. His name became not only synonymous with American literature, and a laconic style of writing, but also with a specific he-man persona that wore its balls on its torn sleeve. [Read more…]
In his New York Review of Books commentary, excerpted below, Martin Filler speaks to the wealth of new material out on Frank Lloyd Wright, including two current exhibitions and four new books. You can read the full review in the August 17 issue, or read it on site at nybooks.com
Few things are more satisfying in the arts than unjustly forgotten figures at last accorded a rightful place in the canon, as has happened in recent decades with such neglected but worthy twentieth-century architects as the Slovenian Jože Plečnik, the Austrian Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, the Austrian-Swedish Josef Frank, and the Italian-Brazilian Lina Bo Bardi, among others. Then there are the perennially celebrated artists who are so important that they must be presented anew to each successive generation, a daunting task for museums, especially encyclopedic ones that are expected to revisit the major masters over and over again while finding fresh reasons for their relevance. [Read more…]
No more should Black English be presented largely as a dialect that leaves out this and reverses that, with specialists then wondering why the public continues to think of it as a cluster of errors and isn’t impressed that the errors are systematic. Rather, Black English must be introduced via a collection of ways in which it is more complex than Standard English, not less.
People respect complexity. People like simplicity in their music and in ways of preparing food, but in terms of grammar, not so much. Some people involved with presenting Black English to the public might wonder just what such a collection of complex features would consist of, other than the shadings of verb usage I just mentioned. The simple fact is that specialists in Black English have not been primed to seek out those features that outdo Standard English in complexity. Systematicity will intringue and stimulate academic linguistic analysis, but the public isn’t having it, so we must change the lens.
Below I will discuss five things in the dialect that demonstrate that anyone speaking Black English is doing something subtle and complex.
1. Up what?
I once had occasion to ask a black American with a solid command of Ebonics what up means in a sentence like “We was up in here havin’ a good time:’ [Read more…]
Consider the parts of speech. In Latin, the verb has up to 120 inflections. In English it never has more than five (e.g., see, sees, saw, seeing, seen) and often it gets by with just three (hit, hits, hitting). Instead of using loads of different verb forms, we use just a few forms but employ them in loads of ways. We need just five inflections to deal with the act of propelling a car — drive, drives, drove, driving, and driven — yet with these we can express quite complex and subtle variations of tense: “I drive to work every day,” “I have been driving since I was sixteen,” “I will have driven 20,000 miles by the end of this year.” This system, for all its ease of use, makes labeling difficult. According to any textbook, the present tense of the verb drive is drive. Every junior high school pupil knows that. Yet if we say, “I used to drive to work but now I don’t,” we are clearly using the present tense drive in a past tense sense. Equally if we say, “I will drive you to work tomorrow,” we are using it in a future sense. And if we say, “I would drive if could afford to,” we are using it in a conditional sense. In fact, almost the only form of sentence in which we cannot use the present tense form of drive is, yes, the present tense. When we need to indicate an action going on right now, we must use the participial form driving. We don’t say, “I drive the car now,” but rather ‘I’m driving the car now.” Not to put too fine a point on it, the labels are largely meaningless. [Read more…]
Meridel Le Sueur’s The Girl, written in 1939—the year in which World War II began, the Manhattan Project got underway, and The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind premiered—had to wait nearly forty years before its publication date in 1978. If it hadn’t been for John Crawford, the founder and publisher of West End Press, whose goal was to “print works by American writers neglected by publishers in the ‘mainstream,’” this small masterwork may have remained an unknown treasure collecting dust in Le Sueur’s basement. [Read more…]
Joe pushed open the door and a bell sang.
Max followed Joe into Red’s.
The men’s dark hats and trenchcoats were beaded in snow.
Joe took off his hat and waved it profusely, air-drying the moisture that had accumulated on it. He put the hat back on and surveyed the diner.
The place was empty except for two customers.
An old woman, wearing a green hat that fit her head like a woolen conch shell, was seated at a table in the far corner. Arms gelatinously splayed on either side of the table, she was hunched over her bowl as if divining messages from it. When Joe and Max entered, she raised her eyes and stared at them with listless gravity.
At the counter, which was lined with red vinyl stools, sat a rumpled, doughy-looking man with an eyepatch.
Snow in April, Joe piped, as if announcing the title of a hit song. [Read more…]
Doctor Walker was a cold incisive surgeon; he went by the book. He was one of the first that created to-do lists and this made the operations run smooth. The scalpel has no heart. He was a sort of literalist. And Bob, as they called the anesthesiologist, came always rumpled with the same plaid shirt everyday and seemed to click the gas just at the right time to put the patient under the spell. There was an ether about him. [Read more…]
Igor Posner’s untitled photograph (below) is from his newly released book, Past Perfect Continuous. Mary Di Lucia’s response to that photograph, titled “A Brief History of Mid-Century Portraiture” (also below), is excerpted from her new collection, titled Accompaniments. The companion books are newly out on Red Hook Editions. [Read more…]
A new day comes
like something you cannot name.
And perhaps because once again,
you must bend yourself
to the task of living
you begin to hack your way
through the mute glyphs
and weird print of your own thinking.
Searching among the splayed alphabet
of time and space
for the word’s cordite shape. [Read more…]
Was it all a dream—
I mean those old bygone days—
Were they all what they seemed?
All night long I lie awake
listening to autumn rain.
This poem from the Zen monk, Ryokan, could serve as an emblematic preface to Haruki Murakami’s Men Without Women. Claustrophobic poignancy and stringent wistfulness, shot through with quirky humor, characterize the autumn-flavored tone of the seven stories comprising the collection. [Read more…]
1949 | 2017
Excerpted from Jesus’ Son
Car Crashing While Hitchhiking
A salesman who shared his liquor and steered while sleeping . . . A Cherokee filled with bourbon . . . A VW no more than a bubble of hashish fumes, captained by a college student . . .
And a family from Marshalltown who headonned and killed forever a man driving west out of Bethany, Missouri . . .
. . . I rose up sopping wet from sleeping under the pouring rain, and something less than conscious, thanks to the first three of the people I’ve already named–the salesman and the Indian and the student–all of whom had given me drugs. At the head of the entrance ramp I waited without hope of a ride. What was the point, even, of rolling up my sleeping bag when I was too wet to be let into anybody’s car? I draped it around me like a cape. The downpour raked the asphalt and gurgled in the ruts. My thoughts zoomed pitifully. The travelling salesman had fed me pills that made the linings of my veins feel scraped out. My jaw ached. I knew every raindrop by its name. I sensed everything before it happened. I knew a certain Oldsmobile would stop for me even before it slowed, and by the sweet voices of the family inside it I knew we’d have an accident in the storm.
I didn’t care. They said they’d take me all the way. [Read more…]
A Third Gender: Beautiful Youths in Japanese Edo-Period Prints and Paintings (1600–1868)
at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto
excerpted from a review by Ian Buruma
Read the full review in the May 11, 2017 issue of New York Review of Books, or read it on site at nybooks.com
Lusting after pretty teenage boys was not considered shameful in premodern Japan. Experienced older women did it. Young women did too. Older men indulged in it (as long as the boys were passive sexual partners). Adultery was not permitted, on the other hand, and it was unseemly for grown men to love other grown men. But the love of older men for young boys, a practice called shudo, literally “the way of boy love,” was considered, especially during the eighteenth century, and notably among samurai, to be a mark of erotic discernment. [Read more…]
I was on the phone with my father and I can’t remember exactly how we got to the part of the conversation we were destined to get to—the part of the conversation everyone was destined to get to—as we watched the unfathomable unfold on that morning of September 11, 2001. Two flights out of Boston bound, on paper anyway, for the city I was calling my father from on an otherwise normal Tuesday morning.
George W. Bush had been president for all of eight months. [Read more…]