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This Week's Reading

What We’re Loving: Simultaneity, Latin Lovers

September 28, 2012 | by

I’m not really a fan of family-drama novels—I make exceptions for Lionel Shriver and Jane Smiley—but when one is set in your home state and the author teaches at your alma mater, it seems like required reading. Now I can make Andrew Porter’s In Between Days an exception, too. This story of a family’s collapse begins after the falling apart—infidelity, divorce, coming out, leaving for college—has already taken place. There’s more dysfunction to come, but the real treat is Porter’s plainspoken treatment of his characters, quiet and intense, and the revelation of fine but substantive fractures that are impossible to repair. —Nicole Rudick

Blaise Cendrars and Sonia Delauney published The Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of Little Jeanne of France in 1913, calling it “The First Book of Simultaneity.” Cendrars’s poem, recounting a journey he may or may not have taken from Moscow to Manchuria, was accompanied by Delauney’s scroll of abstract forms in bright colors. The idea was that the reader should take in the text and painting simultaneously, and the poem strives gamely toward the same goal: “So many associations images I can’t get into my poem / Because I’m still such a really bad poet / Because the universe rushes over me / And I didn’t bother to insure myself against train wreck.” A facsimile edition of the original book—a gorgeous, unfolding paper accordion—has been published by Yale, and I’ve been staring at it all afternoon. —Robyn Creswell

Who knew William Faulkner could be so damned brief? In a three-sentence resignation letter, he produces a lucid analysis of capitalism, bemoans the plight of the modern worker, and terminates his employment as postmaster for the University of Mississippi. Southerners, especially the drunk variety, have always struggled to march to beat of the Man’s drum. It appears Mr. Faulkner was no exception. —Graham Rogers

There is a good deal to recommend in the 2012 edition of Dave Eggers’s catholic The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012, including an essay from our own John Jeremiah Sullivan. But even if it weren’t full of sundry terrific things, TBANR would be worth buying for Ray Bradbury’s introduction, written weeks before his death. With a clarity that’s astounding for a human of any age, height, or shoe size, Bradbury pens a mash note to the act of reading itself, a reminder that good books are, at their core, a kind of magic and a reason to get out of bed in the morning. It's something worth remembering from someone we aren't likely to forget. —Samuel Fox

On Netflix, looking for something mindless to take me away for a few hours, I lit upon 1944’s Brazil. Probably best known (if at all) for showcasing the theme song that Terry Gilliam would later use in his cult classic of the same name, the original is, frankly, ludicrous: an American journalist comes to Rio to research her book, Why Marry a Latin? She encounters a local (actually Mexican singer Tito Guízar, but whatever), there’s a furious investor hounding him for a song, for some reason he has to pretend to be twins, Edward Everett Horton is there, they seem to spend eighty percent of their time in night clubs with elaborate floor shows, and romance ensues. In short, just what the doctor ordered! —Sadie Stein

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4 COMMENTS

4 Comments

  1. Ellis Weiner | September 28, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    “Probably best known (if at all) for introducing the theme song that Terry Gilliam would later use in his cult classic of the same name…”

    Not so. American audiences heard it in the Disney animated feature Saludos Amigos in 1942. Today it’s synonymous with cheesy lounge music, but it was controversial when first introduced and is one of the 20 most recorded songs of all time.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquarela_do_Brasil

  2. Sadie Stein | September 28, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    Thanks for the correction!

  3. greg hoey | September 28, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    sums it up

  4. greg hoey | September 28, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    meaning the faulkner comment included by graham rogers

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