“More fetching than a girl with a dragon tattoo has always been a girl with a Penguin Classic. With e-books, you have no idea what anyone is reading. This is an incalculable loss, not just to fleeting crushes but to civilization.”—Dwight Garner, our new crush, in his Sunday piece, “The Way We Read Now.” (via classicpenguin)
Not a question, but an answer in contemporary female essayists : I like Molly Young, e.g. her piece on Adderall in n+1
That piece is great. There’s a lot from n+1, in fact: Alice Gregory on Super Sad True Love Story is a book review—a book review!—I still think about often. (Her piece on working at Sotheby’s in the latest issue: Also great.) Elizabeth Gumport and Emily Gould also come to mind. And I have a special fondness for Molly Fischer on ladyblogs.
Oh! And Elif! The Possessed. Everyone looking for this sort of writing must read The Possessed.
Hi Sam! I've been really into essays/nonfiction recently, but I've noticed that my favorite writers -- Geoff Dyer, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Tom Bissell, Wells Tower, David Foster Wallace, Gideon Lewis-Kraus, Eliot Weinberger -- are all male. Can you recommend any female authors who are currently doing similar things in terms of style & content (writing long-form, slightly meandering, personal-journalistic essays / cultural commentary)? Thanks!
Hello Anna! Recently I thought about deciding to go by all three of my names, because that seemed like a good trick to becoming a young man essayist: DFW, JJS, GLK, etc. Anyway, there’s Zadie Smith, of course, but she’s probably only one of that stature. (And, duh, Joan Didion.) Eula Biss comes to mind, and Dubravka Ugresic, but she’s Croatian and I think you’ve read her. Chris Kraus and Maggie Nelson seem almost right, but not exactly. I’ve also heard a good thing or two about Meghan Daum. But I don’t know: It does feel like there’s some kind of complicated lack. Anyone want to try to explain?
“Moby-Dick” has inspired many folks to do many things, from students who have pulled their hair out over it to landlubbers who have gone on sea adventures. Patrick Shea, an elementary-school teacher who lives in Brooklyn, has embarked on a singularly eccentric endeavor: over the past three years, he wrote one song for each of the book’s hundred and thirty-six chapters. He recorded them, posted them to his blog, and now he is performing them with his band, Call Me Ishmael, at a weekly residency at Pianos on Thursday nights this month. Each night has a different theme, and on March 8 the performances are devoted to songs about the ocean. The evening includes guests who will perform sea chanteys in the round as well as rousing instrumental surf rock. (Pianos, 158 Ludlow St. 212-505-3733. For more information, visit callmeishmael.org. Through March 29.)
“There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own.”—Moby-Dick, Melville (via kelsfjord)
I wrote down a bunch of things Jonathan Franzen said at his reading at Tulane last night. Here is part of his response to a question about social networking:
"It’s a free country. People can do whatever they want within the law, and even some things not within the law…I personally was on Facebook for two weeks as part of a piece of journalism I was writing — it seemed sort of dumb to me. Twitter is unspeakably irritating. Twitter stands for everything I oppose…it’s hard to cite facts or create an argument in 140 characters…it’s like if Kafka had decided to make a video semaphoring The Metamorphosis. Or it’s like writing a novel without the letter ‘P’…It’s the ultimate irresponsible medium.”
“How nice it is that spring follows winter, every time.”—Robert Walser, from the story “Winter.” I know it’s sort of cruel that I keep pulling quotes from the out-of-print Selected Stories, but, guys, all the short stuff is so great, like little antidepressant morsels. And in Susan Bernofsky’s hands, Walser is even bouncier, funnier—a joy to read. She did most of the new Berlin Stories, which you can get here.
"May I," I asked with diffidence, "take a moment to acquaint myself with, and taste the qualities of, the most sterling and serious, and at the same time of course also the most read and most quickly acknowledged and purchased, reading matter? You would pledge me in high degree to unusual gratitude were you to be so extremely kind as to lay generously before me that book which, as certainly nobody can know precisely as only you yourself, has found the highest place in the estimation of the reading public, as well as that of the dreaded and thence doubtless flatteringly circumvented critics, and which furthermore has made them merry. You cannot conceive how keen I am to learn at once which of all these books or works of the pen piled high and put on show here is the favorite book in question, the sight of which in all probability, as I must most energetically suppose, will make me at once a joyous and enthusiastic purchaser. My longing to see the favorite author of the cultivated world and his admired, thunderously applauded masterpiece, and, as I said, probably also at once buy the same, aches and ripples through my every limb. May I most politely ask you to show me this most successful book, so that this desire, which has seized my entire being, may acknowledge itself gratified, and cease to trouble me?"
A Robert Walser character walks into a bookstore. He does not, after all that, buy the book. (From “The Walk,” which is in his Selected Stories, out out of print from NYRB (pronounced “nerb”).)
There are books I read as a child that I have re-read periodically ever since; there are children’s books that I have only known as an adult, and then there are the books that I read when I was young but for some reason haven’t read since. There’s nothing really strange about this; I am, after…
Our own Kate Milford, thinking about A Wrinkle in Time. If you like this, perhaps you might like reading the first chapter of her new novel, The Broken Lands, up on Goodreads. But really you should start with The Boneshaker.
Remember how I wouldn’t stop asking you to buy Leaving the Atocha Station, even before it came out? How I offered you 10% off your stuff if you bought it? It was great, I insisted. I continue to insist this, now for n+1.
Hi there, Jonathan Franzen. We hope you are having a lovely Tuesday. So you say Edith Wharton was a prude, confined largely to a sexless marriage, hemmed in by plainness and haunted to write about the very beauty and passion that was lacking in her own life?
“I tried to look serious and journalistic. Then I thought I’d take a crack at the da Hirsti code.”—Newish McNally J staffer Emma has a new column over in the Observer. In the first installment, she looks at a Damien Hirst dot painting for half an hour.
“Meanwhile you have rolled yourself a cigarette, say, and inserted it with great care between your well-practiced lips. With such an apparatus in your mouth, it is impossible to feel utterly without cheer, even if your soul happens to be torn in twain by sufferings. But is this the case? Most certainly not. Just wanted to give a quick description of the magic that a smoking white object of this sort is capable of working, year in and year out, on the human psyche. And what next?”—
Hi there, could you proved a list of all literary magazines you sell in your shop, please? I saw one I loved but didn't buy when I was there in September (already spent all my holiday money at your shop), and would like the chance to get it now.
Oh, Anonymous! I wish I could. We have so many—and so many good ones—but no easy list. Do you remember anything about it: whatever piece made you want it, the shape, the size, the cover, anything?
“A city like Berlin is an ill-mannered, impertinent, intelligent scoundrel, constantly affirming the things that suit him and tossing aside everything he tires of. Here in the big city you can definitely feel the waves of intellect washing over the life of Berlin society like a sort of bath. An artist here has no choice but to pay attention. Elsewhere he is permitted to stop up his ears and sink into willful ignorance. Here this is not allowed. Rather, he must constantly pull himself together as a human being, and this compulsion encircling him redounds to his advantage. But there are yet other things as well.”—“Berlin and the Artist” by Robert Walser at the NYRblog, an excerpt from the recently released Berlin Stories. (via nyrbclassics)
“When Jezebel launched in spring 2007, I myself was keenly interested in being a woman. I was 20 years old: being a woman was a relatively recent development, and I was curious about the ways it could be done. And I had always enjoyed reading about being a girl.”—While we’re closed, we recommend this piece by Molly Fischer on the ladyblogosphere over at n+1: So Many Feelings.
General Liddament pondered this assertion for some seconds in resentful silence. He seemed to be considering porridge in all its aspects, bad as well as good. At last he came out with an unequivocal moral judgment.