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.
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.)
Tonight’s event with Stephanie Vaughn and Tea Obreht has been canceled due to illness. We’re trying to reschedule.
In happier news, our event with Eleanor “Up the Punx” Henderson has been rescheduled for Monday, March 12th.
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.”
Read the complete post 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”).)
As tempting as the latest Tim Ferriss is, we will not carry Amazon books.
Find NYRB Classics on Tumblr here.
Like I said on the twitter, some literary genealogist needs to trace the line from Nicholson Baker back to Walser. They’re both so cheery! (At least in Berlin Stories, which I’m reading 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?
Diane Williams, Vicky Swanky is a Beauty
Alan Lightman, Mr g
Gustav Janouch, Conversations with Kafka
Ben Marcus, The Flame Alphabet
Leigh Stein, The Fallback Plan
Michel Houellebecq, The Map and the Territory
Ivan Vladislavic, The Loss Library and Other Unfinished Stories
Nick Laird, The Impossibly
Adam Johnson, The Orphan Master’s Son
Shalom Auslander, Hope: A Tragedy (here tonight at 7pm!)
George Steiner, The Poetry of Thought
Alexis Smith, Glaciers
H.G. Adler, Panorama
Robert Walser, Berlin Stories
Edward St. Aubyn, The Patrick Melrose Novels
And we are closed. Read the books you already own, browse some ebooks, and, today only, you have our blessing to go to Housing Works.
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.
“There ought to be porridge,” he said.
—Anthony Powell, A Dance to the Music of Time