The Paris Review Daily

This Week's Reading

What We’re Loving: High Fashion, Arabian Nights, and Field Mice

July 20, 2012 | by

Image via Synchrodogs

The genre of the 1,002nd night is one few storytellers can resist. Poe wrote one, so did R. L. Stevenson, Jospeh Roth, and Naghuib Mahfouz. Some of these sequels are orientalist camp; the better ones concentrate on The Nights’ true drama: that of a woman talking to save her life. I’ve been reading an advanced copy of Tales of a Severed Head, a collection of poems by the Moroccan poet Rachida Madani. Her Scheherazade, a voice that Madina breaks into many different voices, angrily laments the history of modern Morocco and particularly the fate of its leftist intellectuals. It is as much a critique of the legend as a continuation of it. Madina’s poet is even willing, at times, to stop talking:

She is silent so she can breathe
in the empty cannons
lift and weigh the sacks of gunpowder
and take aim.

Marilyn Hacker’s translation from French is scrupulous and lively. —Robyn Creswell

I had a young friend over the other day and was moved to find the well-worn copy of Brambly Hedge I’ve carried everywhere since it was given to me circa Christmas ’89. Jill Barklem’s intricately rendered watercolor illustrations of a bucolic world of English mice living in a hedgerow have, it seems, lost none of their magic for the under-eight set, and, reading them aloud, I was charmed anew. —Sadie Stein

The music of Little Feat, especially that which predates the death of their front man Lowell George in 1978, is ageless. Songs like “China White” and “Spanish Moon” still sound as fresh as pressed linen. This may have a lot to do with the size and diversity of their impressively varied repertoire. But what really sets this group apart was the quality of their live performances. The live versions of songs like “Dixie Chicken” and “Oh Atlanta” were quite literally orchestral. Luckily for those of us who didn't happen to make it to venues like Ebbet’s Field in 1975, a very impressive collection of the live recordings has been preserved. The Rock 'n' Roll Doctor’s advice may not be the key to perpetual youth, but it sounds as though it is. —Arthur Holland Michel

If you’re underwhelmed by the rehashed imagery dominating fashion photography, not to fear: exciting fashion photography still exists. Check out Synchrodogs, a Ukrainian male and female duo whose sparse, sensual images combine frankness with restraint. Their photographs are beautiful, but with harsh lighting and imbalanced compositions, they have just enough friction—along with a subtle psychological undertow—to remain evocative.—Alyssa Loh

At first listen, Ravel’s Menuet antique, a solo for piano, is merely pretty and poised. The German critic H. H. Stuckenschmidt found “visions of gentle Arcadian sunshine” in this piece—one of Ravel’s earliest works—and I don’t disagree. It is upon subsequent listenings that the piece unfolds in all its simple glory: six minutes of pure craft, depth free of despair. One of the best ways I know for keeping the demons at bay. —Anna Hadfield

Adam Shatz’s letter from Alexandria is one of the smartest pieces I’ve yet read on Egypt’s revolution (which begins to look less and less revolutionary). —R. C.

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3 COMMENTS

2 Comments

  1. Taha Hu$$ein | July 20, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    The “h” following the “g” in “Naghuib Mahfouz” is a strange transliterative hypercorrection. It’s Naguib.

  2. Abby | July 20, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    Arthur Holland Michel, I like what you wrote about Little Feat. My mom founded and wrote FeatPrints, their fanzine, from 1989-2002, and my juvenile hatred of Dixie Chicken, constant soundtrack to Mom’s endless phone interviews, I’ve since thank god outgrown. Ben Fong-Torres is working on a Feat book that I can’t wait to read, and their live performances, though Lowell and Richie are missed, are still killer.

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