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Posts Tagged ‘After Claude’

Staff Picks: Lucian Freud, Beryl Bainbridge

August 5, 2011 | by

Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, 1952, oil on metal.

Let America wonder about Untitled by Anonymous—I got my Madoff fix in Paris, from a profile in XXI magazine. A quarterly devoted to long-form journalism, with generous helpings of fact-based bandes dessinées and photo essays reminiscent of the old National Geographic, XXI has been a somewhat unlikely hit with readers and bookstores. The magazine runs no ads, has no publicity department, conducts no market research, has minimal Web presence, and offers no discount to subscribers. As cofounder Patrick de Saint-Exupéry explains, “The magazine’s worth what it’s worth.” —Lorin Stein

I’ve been reading Beryl Bainbridge’s last novel, The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress, which was published posthumously this year. It’s strange and bleak and interesting, a little disturbing. It’s apparently based on Bainbridge herself, as well as the mysterious woman rumored to have been involved in Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination. —Sadie Stein

This weekend I plan to check out the Lucian Freud show at the Met. Freud, who died in July, once said, “I paint people, not because of what they are like, not exactly in spite of what they are like, but how they happen to be.” He’s not for everyone, and that’s a good thing. —Cody Wiewandt

I’m currently working my way through this little audio treasure: forty years of Polish experimental radio. —Natalie Jacoby

I’ve been flipping through Nabokov’s annotated copy of Madame Bovary at the Berg Collection in the New York Public Library. If Flaubert’s prose doesn’t astound, then Nabokov’s illustrations of Emma Bovary’s chignon, his passing jibes at less than adequate translators, and the chronological maps of the author’s life will. —Mackenzie Beer

The relaunch of Take the Handle—an “online hub of rascalism, repartee & recreation”—includes short pieces by former Review editor Nathaniel Rich as well as an interview with the makers of Plimpton!, the forthcoming documentary of the Review’s first editor. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

In Paris I found myself reading several postbreakup novels: After Claude (thanks, Sadie!), plus two books by Jean-Philippe Toussaint about a recurring ex-girlfriend named Marie. (My favorite, The Truth About Marie, comes out next month.) Toussaint has been described as a writer of nouveaux nouveaux romans, but he is dreamy and funny and haunted in a way all his own. —L. S.

The New York Post outdid itself with this piece of reportage.S. S.

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#Undateable; Toolkit Reading

August 4, 2011 | by

Inspired by the new hashtag sensation, who are your top “undateable” literary characters (and your top “dateable”)? —Rhonda

Heathcliff is definitely up there. So is Cathy. (My favorite entry is “Detective, possibly with Asperger Syndrome, opium addict, involved in bromance with roomie.”) At the risk of double-dipping, this week I’d award the palm to Harriet, narrator and heroine of the aforementioned After Claude:

“I’m not a charlady. I’m a sensuous woman. Please, Claude, please. I’m not asking you to take me to rapturous heights. Your feeble efforts mean more to me than all your mountain goats rolled into one. Remember how it was for us at the beginning, Claude? Gigantic. You were a tidal wave. All right. Maybe it’s not in you to maintain that hectic pace. I don’t care. I’m not like other women. I’m not asking for heaven, Claude, I’m just asking to be held.”
When the echo of my shrill voice died out, there was a resounding silence left in the room, as if a monster rock-and-roll concert had ended on one abrupt note.
“Harriet, don’t cry.”
“Why not? After all we’ve meant to each other, suddenly you’re horrified by my touch.”
Claude, completely dressed, took my hand and held it tightly. “I’m sorry if I’ve given you that impression, Harriet, because it’s not correct. I had no right to blame the breakup on you.”
“There doesn’t have to be a breakup. I don’t want to hear about breakups,” I wailed.
“You’re a beautiful girl, an intelligent girl, a sensitive girl. It’s just that we’re not suited.”
“Are you determined to spend your life with a stupid slut?”
Claude sighed. “I need to be alone.”
“What is this suicidal despair? So you haven’t been King Farouk for a couple of weeks. It’s not such a tragedy.”

The most dateable woman—the most dateable character—I can think of is Viola in Twelfth Night, but my eleven-year-old self would have killed to have a Coke with Jolenta, of The Book of the New Sun.

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Larry David Humor; Fairies and Mushrooms

July 22, 2011 | by

I'm a huge Curb Your Enthusiasm fan and totally addicted to Larry David’s brand of car-wreck-that-I-can't-stop-watching humor. I was wondering: can you think of a book that induces the same cringe-worthy yet high-inducing experience? —Hannah, NYC

That, Hannah, I can tell you in two words: After Claude. While I can’t pretend Iris Owens’s 1973 novel of a humilating New York summer is great all the way through, the first two-thirds are so great, and so cringe-inducing that I’d be remiss not to bring it up. And given that it takes place during a particularly blistering heatwave, anyone on the eastern seaboard will be able to relate all too well.

 

Do you believe that when a circle of mushrooms spring up around a tree, it’s proof that a fairy lived and died there? —Kim

Yes.

I broke up with my boyfriend and he told me I was never going to love anybody because I’m Blanche Dubois (!). I’m really upset, but primarily because he meant it to be insulting. I can’t help but identify with a desire for incessant fantasy—does that make me a bad person? Or more pointedly, which character can I accuse him of being? —NOT Stella

Well, without knowing the specifics of the case, it’s hard to know what would be especially apt (or, for that matter, especially cutting). I know one friend who was really insulted to be compared to The Razor’s Edge’s Elliott Templeton. I once called someone an Ellsworth Toohey, which has the added sting of invoking Ayn Rand. But as to all-purpose digs? Well, I can’t imagine anyone would be thrilled to be likened to Uriah Heep.

As to your other question: craving escape through fantasy certainly doesn’t make you a bad person, just human. And if you have a tendency to retreat too much from reality, well, being aware of it is probably a good sign, no? But as a general rule, I don’t think it’s a good idea to put too much stock in anything said in the heat of a break-up—particularly when literal drama is invoked.

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