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This Week's Reading

What We’re Loving: Works That Work

April 19, 2013 | by

nightattheoperaYesterday I was handed the first issue of a Dutch magazine that bills itself as “a kind of National Geographic of design.” Oddly, the design of Works That Work (in print) leaves much to be desired: it’s the size and shape of a puffy playbill. But there is an online edition, and the features range from an interview with the translator Linda Asher to an article on battlefield cooking to an investigation of that crowd-management fad, the fly in the urinal. (Yes, it’s published in English.) —Lorin Stein

Every now and then, I go back to my copy of Musicality, a collaboration between Barbara Guest and June Felter, and this week was one of those times (maybe it’s the advent—finally!—of spring that drew me to the book). Published in 1988 by Kelsey St. Press, it combines a single poem by Guest interspersed among pages of Felter’s pencil drawings of rural landscapes—scribbled trees, grasses, and hillocks; knotted loops for clouds; and the simplest geometry to describe farmhouses. Guest’s lines likewise employ the smallest marks, the slightest movements to render nature’s, well, musicality: “Hanging apples half notes / in the rhythmic     ceiling    red flagged / rag clefs / notational margins / the unfinished / cloudburst / a barrel cloud fallen from the cyclone truck / they hid under a table the cloud / with menacing disc / Leafs ripple in the dry cyclonic.” It doesn’t hurt that the book’s cover stock has a very pleasing, toothy texture (Fabriano Artistico, for you paper fiends out there), so it’s doubly nice to pick up. —Nicole Rudick

I only began reading Aleksandar Hemon’s fiction after chancing upon one of his personal essays. I came across the piece, entitled “The Magic Mountain,” after having conducted a Google search for strategies to finish Thomas Mann’s novel of the same name (at 400 pages in, I was losing steam fast). Though I never finished Mann’s opus, I did become a fast fan of Hemon’s. His most recent title, The Book of My Lives, is a collection of previously published personal pieces. Some essays made me laugh out loud, and the writing on Chicago caused me to long for my former hometown, but it is Hemon’s ability to communicate sadness—the despair of displacement, the horror of war, the incomprehensible loss of a child—that most compels me to recommend this collection. —Brenna Scheving

Last week, a friend found an early edition of Zbigniew Herbert: Selected Poems at a fire sale in the basement of our alma mater’s library. The librarian who discarded it should have thought twice. An inscription on the title page reads, “To Louis Simpson, with gratitude. Peter Dale Scott.” Even if these names hadn’t meant anything at first glance, the eager shelf-culler could at least have directed his or her eyes further up the page to notice one of them in the translation credit line. Said friend didn’t question his luck and took the book silently to the checkout counter. I am now benefitting from his good fortune—the volume arrived in my mailbox on Saturday. —Clare Fentress

“Film Forum, Jr.” is, as the name implies, a film series aimed at young viewers. I must confess I often go, even without a young friend; the movies are great and it’s so much fun to watch small children experience, say, “Make ’Em Laugh” for the first time. And after this week, I’m seriously looking forward to A Night at the Opera this Sunday. A little inspired lunacy and the joy of discovery might be just what the doctor ordered. (And two eggs.) —Sadie Stein

 

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  1. Evan | April 24, 2013 at 10:07 am

    The Works That Work folks have published a defense of sorts for their choices in the print publication. I don’t know if it helps or not–but I sympathized with their concerns. The tactility of a magazine is important, the weight in the hand, the softness against the thumb, the whispery sound of a page turned; but, the object staying open with a coffee in the hand, that seems like a kind of bliss.

    https://worksthatwork.com/blog/binding

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