Arts & Culture
May 25, 2016 | by Tony Tulathimutte
Who gets to name an author’s book?
When I was readying my first novel for publication, it struck me that writers have far more control over what’s in their books than what’s on them—the cover art, blurbs, jacket copy, but especially the title, where the author’s concerns overlap with marketing ones. Deciding on a name for your life’s work is hard enough; the prospect of changing it at the eleventh hour is like naming your newborn, then hearing the obstetrician say, But wouldn’t Sandra look amazing on the certificate? It took a nine-month war of attrition to secure the original title of my book, Private Citizens.
The history of writers fighting for their book titles is extensive and bloody; so powerful is the publisher’s veto that not even Toni Morrison, fresh off her Nobel win, got to keep her preferred title for Paradise, which was War. (For her most recent book, God Help the Child, she favored The Wrath of Children.) Who knows why George Orwell’s editor thought Nineteen Eighty-Four was more commercially viable than The Last Man in Europe, or why the industry’s gerund fetish turned Helen Simpson’s Hey Yeah Right Get a Life into the insipid Getting a Life? Read More »
May 20, 2016 | by Robert Pranzatelli
When Max de Radiguès began making comics, he had never taken drawing lessons. “I loved to draw but wasn’t especially good at it,” he explains. “I quickly stopped trying to draw in a realistic way and went for an efficient one.” He wanted the reader to understand instantly what he was trying to convey, and as he pursued this goal, his drawings became simpler and simpler. Now, after more than a decade, and with a rapidly growing list of published works, he has begun, he says, “putting in more details and more backgrounds”—though nothing too elaborate; he still wants readers to be caught up in the stories rather than in intricately rendered, virtuosic panels. Here one begins to see the vital connection between his personal and formal modesty: the absence of ego that, in freeing an artist from the impulse to show off, can lead to subtler choices. In a Radiguès work, an economy of line carries, but never competes with, an abundance of empathy. His stories center on adolescents (often boys, often in balanced or opposing pairs) with a warmth, humor, and humane sensibility that occasionally sets the reader up for an unexpected jolt when harsher aspects of reality creep in. Read More »
May 16, 2016 | by Jonathan Lippincott
The art and life of Mark di Suvero
Three decades ago, long before the development of the High Line, the sculptor Mark di Suvero led an effort to transform an illegal garbage dump in Long Island City into a vast green space devoted to large-scale sculpture. Di Suvero was fifty-three years old at the time, and already a veteran of the public-art movement. During the sixties and seventies, he had taken part in several outdoor sculpture exhibitions—in Cincinnati, Houston, and Grand Rapids—and he later created citywide solo shows of his work across the United States and Europe. By 1980, he was working out of a studio in Long Island City, not far from the four-acre landfill, and it wasn’t long before he was dreaming about alternative uses for the neglected riverfront parcel. In 1986, di Suvero arranged to lease the property from the city for a dollar a year. Working with the Athena Foundation, an organization he had created nearly a decade earlier, he employed members of the community to clean up and replant the site. That fall, the newly christened Socrates Sculpture Park held its first public exhibition, which included work by Vito Acconci, Bill and Mary Buchen, Rosemarie Castoro, di Suvero, and others. Read More »
April 21, 2016 | by Matthew Thurber
April 20, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
Longtime readers of the Review will recall our 1997 interview with Barney Rosset, the irrepressible publisher of Grove Press and the Evergreen Review. In the fifties and sixties, Rosset brought scores of ostensibly obscene books to the U.S., often to the gross offense of the era’s leading fuddy-duddies. The unexpurgated Lady Chatterley’s Lover? A Grove title. Tropic of Cancer—also Grove. American editions of Waiting for Godot, Our Lady of the Flowers, Naked Lunch, Last Exit to Brooklyn—all Rosset’s doing. Even I Am Curious (Yellow), everyone’s favorite X-rated Swedish art-house flick, was a Rosset import. As he says in his Art of Publishing interview, all this illicit material came with its share of trouble—some of which he sought out willingly. When he published Chatterley, for example, Rosset was so eager to strike a blow against censorship that he used the book as bait, getting himself hauled into court: Read More »
April 20, 2016 | by Carson Vaughan
A brush with the Sage of Baltimore.
For better or worse, I am a child of the Plains, and so my first experience with H. L. Mencken was less an introduction than a confrontation. I first learned of the Sage of Baltimore during his cameo appearance in a Great Plains history course, at the University of Nebraska. Henry Mencken considered us part of a large and ever-growing species he called homo boobiens, my professor explained. Wedged between the Omaha race riots and the Agricultural Marketing Act of ’29, Mencken showed up during the Scopes Monkey Trial to wield his pen against William Jennings Bryan, whom he described as “one of the most tragic asses in American history.” What a dick, I thought. I liked him immediately.
I liked him so much that I bought The American Language, the pillar of his bibliography, and never touched it again. Unaware of my purchase, my girlfriend gave me a copy of the same book as a gift, but not before gluing the pages together and carving out the middle to camouflage my secrets. Later I purchased a used copy of The New Mencken Letters and schlepped that 635-page tome around wherever I went, reading a letter or two here and there, recklessly quoting from it in term papers.
From the letters, I became smitten with Mencken’s verbal gymnastics, his apparent refusal to say something plain when it could be said with the cocksure verbosity of a Southern lawyer. Perhaps, too, I was charmed by that most convenient of facts: he was dead. Had Mencken still been alive, I have no doubt I’d have raised my guard, but that is the gift of hindsight. Instead I accepted him the way he accepted himself, disregarding the imperfections—of which, I would later find out, there were many.