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This Sunday: Alexander Kluge in Conversation with Ben Lerner

October 21, 2016 | by

Alexander Kluge.

We hope you’ll join us this Sunday, October 23, for a conversation between Alexander Kluge and Ben Lerner at Goethe-Institut New York.

Kluge is a German writer, theorist, and filmmaker; W. G. Sebald called him “that most enlightened of writers,” and Susan Sontag wrote that “more than a few of Kluge’s many books are essential, brilliant achievements.” He’ll discuss his latest book, The Great Hour of Kong (Kongs große Stunde, Suhrkamp) and share a selection of new writings prompted by Lerner’s poetry. (We have it on good authority that these pieces will appear in a forthcoming issue of a certain literary quarterly, maybe even the one whose website you’re currently reading.)

Kluge will also share a short film program and some live piano music, including Jacques Offenbach’s Bataclan and Giuseppe Verdi’s Attila.

The event begins at 5:30 Sunday evening. See you there!

Staff Picks: Mortar, Machine Guns, Manuscript Porn

October 21, 2016 | by

Marc Yankus, Haughwout Building, 2016.

When the paleologist Christopher de Hamel first conceived Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts, he wanted to call it Interviews with Manuscripts, but his publisher wouldn’t let it fly. His pitch, eccentric though it may be, was that encountering texts like The Copenhagen Psalter and The Hours of Jeanne de Navarre in their original forms, deep in the bowels of the world’s most esoteric and inaccessible libraries, is not unlike interviewing famous celebrities in their current homes. “The idea of this book, then,” he writes in the introduction, “is to invite the reader to accompany the author on a private journey to see, handle and interview some of the finest illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages.” For how seriously De Hamel takes the premise—and he takes it, like, aggressively seriously—Meetings can feel, somewhat hilariously, like big-league manuscript porn: “As you sit in the reading-room of a library turning the pages of some dazzlingly illuminated volume,” he says, “you can sense a certain respect from your fellow students on neighboring tables consulting more modest books or archives.” Each of the book’s twelve studies is meticulously researched, and De Hamel showcases them with such self-evident joy that they’re irresistibly immersive. —Daniel Johnson

We featured a portfolio of the artist Marc Yankus’s “Secret Lives of Buildings” series in our Winter 2014 issue. Last week, Yankus packed the newly relocated ClampArt gallery for his fifth solo show, up through November 26. His new work furthers his obsession with New York’s architecture; once again, Yankus plays with geometry, texture, and ornament, tricking the eye with his masterful and often painterly attention to brick and mortar—obsessively blurring the lines between photography and illustration. Yankus seems to bring out the very best in these buildings, some that we’re so familiar with that we have ceased really seeing them. His work asks us to take a second look—and the images are imbued with optimism and splendor at a time when it’s often difficult to feel uplifted. Yankus has left behind the sandpaper tones and textures from his last body of work, introducing more light through a whitewashing effect. The sheer scale of some of the prints gives the impression that you could easily step, like Alice through the looking glass, from the gallery floor into one of Yankus’s deserted streets. —Charlotte Strick Read More »

Tonight at McNally Jackson: A Celebration of Henry Green

October 17, 2016 | by


New Yorkers: tonight at seven, join The Paris Review’s Lorin Stein at McNally Jackson, where he’ll be in conversation with Deborah EisenbergMichael Greenberg, and Craig Lucas; they’re discussing the brilliant Henry Green (1905–1973), whose novels BackLoving, and Caught will be reissued this fall by New York Review Books. Green talked to The Paris Review about Loving back in 1958:

I got the idea of Loving from a manservant in the Fire Service during the war. He was serving with me in the ranks, and he told me he had once asked the elderly butler who was over him what the old boy most liked in the world. The reply was: “Lying in bed on a summer morning, with the window open, listening to the church bells, eating buttered toast with cunty fingers.” I saw the book in a flash.

Green was a divisive writer in his lifetime. W. H. Auden called him “the best English novelist alive” (NB: he was still alive at the time); The Partisan Review called him “a terrorist of language.” Who was right? The answer to this question and many others, tonight.

Staff Picks: Murderous Teens, Mechanical Cities, Message Boards

October 14, 2016 | by


The first thing—maybe the only thing—we all learn about art history is that standards of beauty change. The ideal body gets fatter or thinner, different body parts get emphasized or flattered away—and the fashions of the time serve this ideal. At least, that’s how we usually think. Recently I’ve gone back to Anne Hollander’s 1978 masterpiece Seeing Through Clothes, which turns that way of thinking on its head. When we look at a nude body, Hollander argues, we are always seeing the clothes that aren’t there, whether we know it or not. The big pregnant-looking belly on an early Renaissance Eve is meant to support the heavy woolen gathers of a gown. The “unaccountable hummocks of flesh” on a Rubens nude evoke the satin she doesn’t have on. Whether Hollander writes about dresses or men’s tailoring or classical drapery, she leads us, like no other historian I’ve read, into the erotic imagination of the past. Seeing Through Clothes blew my mind when I first read it twenty years ago, and now it’s keeping me up late all over again. —Lorin Stein

One day during Salvador Dalí’s first visit to New York City in 1934, he woke “at six in the morning … after a long dream involving eroticism and lions.” He was surprised by the insistence of the lions’ roars—the savage cries of his dreams, which were so different than what he expected in a “modern and mechanical” city. Reading this, I thought of the Surrealist master dreaming of great orange cats roaring in his ears. But the roars weren’t in his imagination: he and his wife, Gala, were staying near the Central Park Zoo, and he discovered at breakfast that the sounds were real. It’s amusing to read Dalí’s impressions of the city, which he gives in his autobiography, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí. During his stay, he hops from one cocktail party to another, drinks in a Harlem night club, attends a “surrealist ball,” visits an exhibition of his works, and does a fine bit of walking “all alone in the heart of New York.” Here’s his take on the city’s skyscrapers: “Each evening [they] assume the anthropomorphic shapes of multiple gigantic Millet’s Angeluses … motionless and ready to perform the sexual act and devour one another, like swarms of praying mantes before copulation.” Caitlin Love Read More »

Staff Picks: Mandolins, Meaning, Mr. Cui

October 7, 2016 | by

René Magritte, photographed by Duane Michals.

The Surrealist painter René Magritte apparently dressed like a banker (dark suit, tie) but under these “innocent allures,” a friend recalled, he “was a very revolutionary personality.” That makes him rather like the subject in his 1964 painting Le fils de l’homme, in which an apple obscures the visage of a man dressed in a suit and bowler: we see him but do not see him. Such is the sense I have of him throughout the newly published Selected Writings, a collection of unpublished bits and bobs written between 1922 and 1967. Of his own paintings, he observes, “What I paint does not imply that the invisible is superior to the visible: the visible is rich enough to create a poetic language, evoking the mystery of the invisible and the visible.” Though he withholds full meaning, his meaning is there. And when he writes, “It is difficult to think while thinking of nothing,” I know exactly what he means. —Nicole Rudick

Yesterday, after Rita Dove was named a finalist for this year’s National Book Award for Poetry, I read her 1986 collection Thomas and Beulah, a harrowingly gorgeous book that traverses the earlier half of twentieth-century America by way of Dove’s maternal grandparents. Comprising two parts—Mandolin, for Thomas, and Canary in Bloom, for Beulah—its forty-four elegiac poems reimagine the couple’s past, beginning on a Mississippi riverboat and moving effortlessly through the years from courtship to curtains, kneading in the somber truths of the era: the suicides of the Great Depression, the lynchings of black Americans. We see Thomas sleeping in his work barracks, wooing Beulah with his tater-bug mandolin, walking under the viaduct where men have jumped. Of all the poems, though, I find Beulah’s to be the most beautiful, her sorrow subtle yet profound. From “Daystar”: “Later / that night when Thomas rolled over and / lurched into her, she would open her eyes / and think of the place that was hers / for an hour—where / she was nothing, / pure nothing, in the middle of the day.” (You can listen to Rita Dove read from Thomas and Beulah here.) —Caitlin Youngquist Read More »

This Year’s #ReadEverywhere Contest Winners

October 5, 2016 | by

This summer we invited you to #ReadEverywhere with The Paris Review and the London Review of Books. And guess what? We did it. We read literally everywhere. Good work, everyone.

The time has come to announce our contest winners, so that they may become the envy of their communities.

THIRD RUNNER-UP: When he’s not softening the image of a certain multinational entertainment conglomerate, this mouse man beheads himself and settles down with the London Review of Books. For his willingness to do this in public, he’ll receive a bundle of swag from the LRB and The Paris Review. (T-shirts, vintage back issues, fancy office supplies, and the like.) Kudos, mouse man!


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