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This Week's Reading

What We’re Loving: Psycho-Biddies, Illusions, MTV

July 19, 2013 | by

Psycho-Biddy-Paris-Review

It’s hard to read in a heat wave, but the July issue of Asymptote is so absorbing I hardly notice my sweat drops hitting the keyboard. Even more impressive than the diversity of things translated—book reviews in Urdu, fiction in Bengali, poetry in Faroese—is their quality. I’ve especially enjoyed the excerpt from Operation Massacre, a novela negra by the great Argentinian writer Rodolfo Walsh, and the interview with David Mitchell about his translation of a memoir by Naoki Higashida, an autistic Japanese thirteen-year-old. Here is Mitchell on the misery of translation: “As a writer I can be bad, but I can’t be wrong. A translator can be good, but can never be right.” —Robyn Creswell

I usually behave at museums, but last weekend, at “Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective,” currently at the Met, the guards were just waiting for my friend and me to leave. A number of the amorphous, neon, strangely suggestive ceramics for which Price is particularly known appeared to have small windows carved out of their exteriors to reveal dark, hollow interiors (see, for example, Price’s Pastel). But upon closer examination, it became difficult to tell whether the windows truly exposed new space, or whether they were simply painted on—perfectly executed optical illusions. Clearly, the only option was to get even closer. This is not allowed. Repeat offenses were unavoidable, though; I wanted an answer! The sculptures gleamed so! I felt taunted. A definitive answer could not be determined before we were ultimately shooed away. A partner exhibition of Price’s work, at the Drawing Center, which I hope to see this weekend, consists only of works on paper; it will be easier to be better there. —Clare Fentress

The sweltering temperatures the East Coast is currently experiencing created the perfect environment for Monday’s screening of Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte at Bryant Park’s Summer Film Festival. A tale of murder, mayhem, and deceit, Hush… Hush is just what you would expect from the “psycho-biddy” genre of sixties and seventies (depending on your preference, also known as “hagsploitation,” “hag horror,” or, my personal favorite, “Grand Dame Guignol”). While a relief from the heat arrives this weekend, how about you crank up the temperature indoors with a “psycho-biddy” marathon of your own: Hush… Hush’s predecessor, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, William Castle’s Strait-Jacket, Roger Corman’s favorite Bloody Mama, or simply bow down to Geraldine Page’s terrifying turn in What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? When talking of her neighbor, Page’s Claire Marrable remarks, “She’s like crabgrass–never really quelled–only cropping up secretly and victoriously in another spot.” Amen. —Justin Alvarez

I added The Selected Essays of Gore Vidal to my ever-growing TBR list after reading through his Art of Fiction interview for our Fall 1974 issue; the book begins with a harsh analysis of the state of literature in the 1940s and continues with a piece claiming that the best sellers of May 1973 are essentially just regurgitations of popular movies. Although this collection may include some dated viewpoints, I’m drawn to Vidal’s unflagging, and often brutal, honesty. —Ellen Duffer

I went to the beach last weekend toting a monograph on Rousseau, but it quickly became clear that I was ridiculous. (Luckily there was a little book and magazine exchange by the snack bar and I was able to find an old InStyle.) The next day, I asked BookHampton’s master-recommender Kim for some interesting-but-fun nonfiction, and I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution turned out to be exactly what I wanted. —Sadie Stein

Since I’ve started reading Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It, more than one stranger has tapped me on the shoulder to say, “That’s me! I can’t be bothered!” It sounds odd in a not-British accent, but it’s an odd phrase in general, more passive than “I don’t care” or “I could care less.” In the book, to do something is to bother to do something, so every action is, by definition, an annoyance. That said, Geoff Dyer annoys us very eloquently: “Pessoa was right … Frank O’Hara was right … Auden got that right … ‘Goethe put it neatly: / no one cares to watch / the loveliest sunset after / quarter of an hour.’” In what is, essentially, a postcolonial travel narrative, Dyer both makes us aware of his privileged status as a white, heterosexual male and of how little that means: he is a completely relatable guide, at the mercy of a rapidly globalizing world and his own maddeningly circular thought process. Best of all, he is, as always, hilarious. —Nikkitha Bakshani

Spectacle is a new collection of short stories from Graywolf Press. Susan Steinberg writes stream-of-consciousness narratives that refuse to follow typical storytelling structures, choosing instead to rely on flashbacks almost as often as she employs the present-tense scene. Her characters are haunted and frustrated and speak to the reader in short, defensive sentences, always struggling to build excuses in worlds that always seek to lay blame and take credit. —E.D.

 

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