“Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green islets and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping, and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city…Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little ’prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon and hanging in the misty clouds.”—Charles Dickens, from Bleak House. Dickens worked as a clerk in a solicitor’s office and a court stenographer before he first gained recognition for his fiction in his mid-twenties, publishing the Pickwick Papers in serial form from 1836 to 1837. One of the greatest and most prolific authors of the Victorian era, Dickens oversaw the publication of Oliver Twist in the monthly magazine he edited, Bentley’s Miscellany. (via laphamsquarterly)
“The next best thing to having your stuff burned, if you’re ambivalent, is giving it to some guy who gives it to some lady who gives it to her daughters who keep it in an apartment full of cats, right?”—Etgar Keret, in Elif Batuman’s piece on Kafka’s papers.
“Suppose it’s October, October or November, let’s say, in 1960 or 1961, October, maybe the fourteenth or sixteenth, or the twenty-second or twenty-third maybe—the twenty-third of October in 1961 let’s say—what’s the difference.”—The opening sentence from The Sixty-Five Years of Washington by Juan Jose Saer orHow to Find Your Target Audience (Me) and Alienate Every Other Conceivable Reader in One Easy Sentence. It’s new this month from Open Letter. (via towirr)
“Every coffeehouse is illuminated both without and within doors…This is the place where several knights errant come to seat themselves at the fame table, without knowing one another, and yet talk as familiarly together as if they had been of many years acquaintance. They have scarce looked about them, when a certain liquor as black as soot is handed to them, which being foppishly fumed into their noses, eyes, and ears has the virtue to make them talk and prattle together of everything but what they should do.”—Thomas Brown, from Amusements Serious and Comical, Calculated for the Meridian of London, c. 1700. Coffee proved so popular among London men that some women drafted a petition against that “black, thick, nasty, bitter, stinking, nauseous puddle water.” By 1700 there were more than two thousand coffeehouses in the city. From “The City,” our Fall 2010 issue. (via laphamsquarterly)
“If I can say that Gob’s Grief asked What shall we do about death? and The Children’s Hospital asked What shall we do about sin?, then I suppose I can say that this one asks What shall we do about love?”
— I didn’t know Chris Adrian had a new book coming out. Thanks to McNally Jackson for being ever in the loop. I did a profile of him for the Phoenix when The Children’s Hospital came out, and he was unnerving in his humility. Adrian talks about his new book, The Great Night, in an interview with Rivka Galchen for FSG’s Work in Progress. (via mcnallyjackson)
For the record, the McNally Jackson tumblr also showed carpentrix The Children’s Hospital, and her writing the profile on Adrian was probably one of the biggest fights we’ve ever been in and I’m still pissed about it. I wanted to write the profile. It’s a good profile though, as far as horrible things your siblings can do to you go.
What brought both of those things about was the disintegration of my relationship with my boyfriend. The novel became a sort of open letter to him about why it was in the universe’s best interest that we get back together, and at the same time it was a sort of weapon of mass emotional destruction aimed, rather angrily, at his heart. It was written out of order, so I had the ending done even when I had only about half of the total manuscript done, and near the halfway mark he asked to get back together, and suddenly it no longer seemed appropriate to seek to bring him to permanent tears by means of a national publication.
“If I can say that Gob’s Grief asked What shall we do about death? and The Children’s Hospital asked What shall we do about sin?, then I suppose I can say that this one asks What shall we do about love?”—Chris Adrian on his new novel, The Great Night, in an interview with Rivka Galchen for FSG’s Work in Progress.
Your Weekend New Book Round-Up is not happening. I’m just back from Boston and have no idea what’s out. Probably books. I’m reading Eula Biss’ The Balloonists, though, and it’s recommended for anyone who liked Bluets by Maggie Nelson. It’s not new; it is great. Here’s a chunk I read on the train this morning—there’s a lot (too much? just enough) of prose-y rhyme. A good kind of hungover, I liked the way it hit me:
I am in the car. Peaches floating in a mason jar. The slant of the early sun is sharp. The glass of the window is too thin and through it everything looks jagged. A lone pumpkin sits on the highway. Behind it a smokestack rises gracefully, thin and burnt. We are at a stoplight and tape from a cassette is glistening and twisting on the road. Sinking and blowing and catching under tires without a sound.
I feel his hand, through a red glove, on my leg. There are boats out there under covers, all different colors.
The cement looks like kitty litter when we add water (kitty litter ranking high on my list of least favorite substances on earth; I’d rather swim in a pool full of pus than wade even ankle-deep in kitty litter). We add water then we mix and mix and it no longer looks like a place for cats to piss and shit.
Did you guys know that my sister—a newspaper-job-quitting, MFA-dodging apprentice carpenter—has a blog and that it’s the best blog? Did you even know that?
Grappling with the disappointment of you guys not loving my Snooki/Marilyn Monroe post as much as I did, and the disappointment of being on a bus to Boston (the bus ride is the disappointment, I mean, not being Boston-bound, though there are reasons I’d like to be in New York City this week)—reading the Stein-edited Paris Review, by the way, and that JD Daniels piece is great, did you read his stuff in n+1, which was also great?, but also grappling with the behind-the-eyes nausea borne of busreading—the McNally Jackson tumblr is going to go quiet for a few days. (You’ll miss it, I’m sure!) Really, though, more of you liked my half-assed & hasty Wes Anderson jokes than you did Snooki/Marilyn, which I’m going to have to take some time to think hard about. I just, I just feel like I don’t know you at all. Bus rides are the worst.
“A couple of years ago I joined one of those clubs where they teach you how to knock the shit out of other people. The first lesson is how to get the shit knocked out of yourself. The first lesson is all there is. It lasts between eighty and a hundred years, depending on your initial shit content.”—From J.D. Daniels’ “Letter from Cambridge” in the new Paris Review.
The Lapham’s Quarterly tote bags that we just got. We are literally—literally!—the only place in the universe—in the universe!—that you can buy these. We shipped a few to San Diego, and a few to some other place.
Stitches, David Small’s graphic memoir about home dentistry and a fucked-up family. Supposed to be one of the best. Someone We Recommended it.
Nick Hornby’s Juliet, Naked
Tao Lin’s Richard Yates. We all have feelings about Tao Lin.
A Paradise Built in Hell, which is Rebecca Solnit on the joys and communities that emerge after disasters.
Verso just reissued Jean Baudrillard’s America with an intro by Geoff Dyer and who couldn’t use a little more French theory with a pretty cover?
Tom McCarthy’s C. Were this not National Month of You’re Only Allowed to Talk about Franzen Month, you’d probably be hearing a lot more about C. Poor C. Dustin loved C. Poor Dustin. He (McCarthy) just got shortlisted for the Booker. And! And! He reads here on the 16th.
I would dedicate a blog to reblogging his blog and only reblogging his blog. It would be called www.rebloggingnicholsonbaker.tumblr.com and it would be a great blog, but not as great as Nicholson Baker’s blog if Nicholson Baker had a blog.
This article is interesting and worth a read (hint: The Millions’ Garth Risk Hallberg thinks the novel is alive and kicking and I’m inclined to agree), but the thing that no one ever seems to acknowledge when confronting arguments about technology making us dumber is that the claim has been around more or less since the beginning of civilization, which is to say: Plato beat you to the punch, so can we put this business to rest yet?
This is something I think about a lot! This is what I studied in college! The thing about Plato is that Plato was right about a lot of things about the externalization of knowledge and how a printed culture would be a different culture. His fears came true, mostly.
Similarly! That piece up on n+1 by Ben Kunkel—"Goodbye to the Graphosphere"—(which gets linked to towards the bottom of the Millions post) thinks interestingly about print culture and the internet.
Similarly! Nicholas Carr’s The Shallowsis maybe sometimes a too little this-study-said-this, and this-study-also-said-this, but it has some good fears of its own on the internerd and our brainboxes.
“Her scent blossomed in the car like heavenly polecat, like flowers manufactured in a tire plant, something dusky and nostril-stinging, like perfumed coal dust, dead rose blossoms on hot oil-grimed engine blocks.”
“I don’t wish to convey messages—period. But I look carefully at certain situations in the world and try to render them honestly. And if someone perceives that to be a bleak situation, it’s the situation’s fault, not mine!”
— My interview with Jonathan Franzen is up at Goodreads. I had trouble picking a favorite part and settled on this. Other contenders were: his evaluation of the pros and cons (primarily cons) of the institution of marriage, his succinct summary of the history of the novel, and the part where I asked if he still wore earmuffs and blindfolds to write and he said “Oh well, yeah, of course, but doesn’t everybody?”
The McNally Jackson tumblr will soon start posting about things other than Jonathan Franzen. (Expect one more tomorrow.) Promise. But this!