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This Week's Reading

Staff Picks: Robert Walser, Katherine Larson

May 13, 2011 | by

I’ve been poring over Robert Walser’s Microscripts, a selection from the cache of papers covered in demonically miniaturized handwriting he left at his death. The stories are wonderfully odd, and the book itself is a beautiful object. It includes color reproductions of the manuscripts—often written on the backs of business cards—as well as the deciphered German originals. Walter Benjamin’s afterword praises Walser’s “artful clumsiness,” and I would do the same for Susan Bernofsky’s translation. —Robyn Creswell

I’ve been stealing moments all week to read Katherine Larson’s book of poems, Radial Symmetry. The synthesis of experience and curiosity that Larson no doubt uses in her work as a field ecologist and research scientist is here applied to verse. The natural world has never felt more physical, more alive with tiny movements and infinite textures—and so titillating, as when she writes, “We hear the cactus whisper / pollinate me furry moth.” —Nicole Rudick

Alexander Chee shared an old essay of his on Twitter this morning about being a student of Annie Dillard’s: “You could think that your voice as a writer would just emerge naturally, all on its own, with no help whatsoever, but you’d be wrong. What I saw on the page was that the voice is in fact trapped, nervous, lazy. Even, and in my case, most especially, amnesiac. And that it had to be cut free.” —Thessaly La Force

After seeing a spectacular production of the play on Broadway, I’ve rediscovered Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia. It’s a play about love, sex, transcendence (if there is any), and whatever it is that defines the human experience across time and space. But it also reminds us of the beauty and sustaining force of wonder; “it’s the wanting to know that makes us matter,” because when all is said and done, “when we have found all the meanings and lost all the mysteries, we will be alone, on an empty shore.” —Elianna Kan

In Anthony Burgess’s The Pianoplayers, a retired prostitute tells the story of her father, a man who “called himself not a pianist but a pianoplayer.” (No space between piano and player—that was how close he and the piano were.) The entirely fictional yet perfectly matter-of-fact recollection of a difficult father takes the narrative form of a memoir and turns it on its head. Given my absorption in Burgess’s novel, it was an especially interesting week to experience Reading My Father, Alexandra Styron’s memoir of her father, the literary icon (and friend of The Paris Review) William Styron. —Rosalind Parry

Military dogs jumping out of helicopters. Sick. —Natalie Jacoby

3 COMMENTS

1 Comments

  1. Antigone | February 1, 2014 at 2:27 am

    Hi

    We need ur help.
    Please tell us about the correct spelling of “Walser”.
    In our country someone sais Walzer and other say Walerz!

    Thank u
    With rispect

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  1. […] Paris Review – Staff Picks: Robert Walser, Katherine Larson, The Paris Review […]

  2. […] —Nicole Rudick, The Paris Review Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in LITERATURE, Poetry and tagged Katherine Larson, Louise Glück, Nicole Rudick, Radial Symmetry, the Paris Review, Yale series of younger poets, Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition, Younger Poets by Sigrun. Bookmark the permalink. […]

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