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What We’re Loving: Dune, Anno, Common Prayer

November 9, 2012 | by

Not long ago I had the honor of officiating at the wedding of a Swede and a Russian Jew. It was not a religious ceremony (unless you count the Universal Life Church), but when the three of us sat down to discuss vows, the bride and groom agreed that the Book of Common Prayer couldn’t be beat; we just had to kill the “obey” clause and the stuff about God. It felt funny, crossing out words in my great-grandfather’s prayer book, but according to a new monograph by Daniel Swift, Shakespeare did pretty much the same thing, repeatedly. Shakespeare’s Common Prayers: The Book of Common Prayer and the Elizabethan Age makes a case for the Anglican liturgy as a work of politics and art and as a crucial influence on English literature. It made for perfect candelight reading after lower Manhattan lost power. —Lorin Stein

This week marks the eleventh anniversary of the death of the writer and musician Anno Birkin, who was killed at the age of twenty in a car crash alongside two of his Kicks Joy Darkness bandmates, Lee Citron and Alberto Mangili. I first discovered Anno’s writing in 2008 and it had a profound and lasting impact on me, to the point where I initially ignored friends for days on end in favor of reading Who Said the Race Is Over?, a posthumously published collection of his poetry and lyrics. “This was a very gifted young man, and I don’t say it lightly (I’ve seen a lot of writing by people his age),” Margaret Atwood wrote after reading some of the poems. “It’s really unbearable to think of all that talent—not being unable to unfold as it should have—well, it tempts one to believe in reincarnation.” Go to www.annosafrica.org.uk to learn about how Anno’s legacy is helping arts education in Kenya. —Charlotte Goldney

I moved to New York last Sunday with only one book to my name: Frank Herbert’s Dune, the first book in the author’s mystical science-fiction saga about the desert planet Arrakis. A friend lent it to me in early October and I’ve been making my way through it since. It has been strange to spend these past two weeks alternating between the fictional landscape of Arrakis, where water is a precious commodity to kill and die for, and the reality of a waterlogged, Sandy-stricken East Coast. —Clare Fentress

Here comes the lamest story of the hurricane: my Internet connection went out for several hours while I was streaming a movie. And while my story stinks, the movie didn’t. Submarine, the 2010 directorial debut of Richard Ayoade, is the familiar tale of an amorous and alienated fifteen-year-old guy. As such, it should vacillate between Salinger and Rushmore until it vanishes in a puff of inexpertly exhaled cigarette smoke. But while works of the angst canon generally look at adult life with the righteous scorn of an as-yet uncorrupted adolescent mind (Bueller, Bueller), Submarine casts both teenage melodrama and middle-aged compromise in the same awkward light. It is the kind of uncomfortable that comes from true things, and a very good movie. [Note: Submarine is based on a Joe Dunthorne novel that I haven’t read yet because the “read book first always” rule doesn’t apply during times of great peril.] —Samuel Fox

We Paris Review interns often find ourselves chatting about Moby-Dick. I don’t know if it’s because one of us did a senior thesis on it, or because it’s the book I’ve been reading for the longest but have not finished (go easy on me—I’ve read War and Peace twice!), but it seems like Melville’s whale tale comes up pretty often in our conversation. Here’s the good news for all of you Moby-Dick enthusiasts in New York: the city will be home to a Moby-Dick read-aloud marathon from November 16 to 18. There will be more than a hundred readers, and the quest to conquer this white whale of a book will take New Yorkers to three great bookstores in Brooklyn and Manhattan: Word in Greenpoint, Housings Works Bookstore Café in Soho, and Molasses in Bushwick. Perhaps this is how I’ll make it to the end... —Emma Goldhammer

Walking north past Columbus Circle (once I used up my candles and went looking for higher ground) I spotted a copy of Malcolm Cowley’s 1954 survey of American writing, The Literary Situation. I’ll take Upper West Side street vendors over any airport bookstoreand I’ll take Cowley, a book editor whose career spanned most of the last century, over even the best critics of his day. Cowley had the advantage of thinking about books like a salesman, and of reading thousands of manuscripts that never saw print. Whether he compares the novelists of World War II to the Lost Generation or to Jean Stafford and Truman Capote, or to writers you’ve never heard of, he writes with discernment, dash, and an unmatched knowledge of the field. —L.S.

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