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Posts Tagged ‘Allen Ginsberg’

W. H. Auden at the 92nd Street Y

January 22, 2014 | by

W. H. Auden at the Poetry Center, 1966. Photo: Diane Dorr-Dorynek, courtesy of 92Y Unterberg Poetry Center

W. H. Auden at the Poetry Center, 1966. Photo: Diane Dorr-Dorynek, courtesy of 92Y Unterberg Poetry Center

75 at 75,” a special project from the 92nd Street Y in celebration of the Unterberg Poetry Center’s seventy-fifth anniversary, invites contemporary authors to listen to a recording from the Poetry Center’s archive and write a personal response. Here, Cynthia Ozick reflects on W. H. Auden, whose readings she remembers attending as a Poetry Center subscriber in the fifties.

There must be sorrow if there can be love. —From “Canzone”

Ah, the fabled sixties and seventies! Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs! The glorious advent of Howling! Of Getting Stoned! The proliferation of Ginsbergian Exclamation Points! To secure the status of their literary subversion, these revolutionary decades were obliged, like the cadres of every insurrection, to denigrate and despise, and sometimes to blow up, their immediate predecessor, the fifties—the middling middle, the very navel, of the twentieth century. The fifties, after all, were the Eisenhower years, stiff and small like Mamie’s bangs (and just as dated), dully mediocre, constrained, consumerist, car-finned, conformist, forgettable, and stale as modernism itself. Randall Jarrell, one of its leading poets and critics, named this midcentury epoch “The Age of Criticism”—and what, however he intended it, could suggest prosiness more? And what is prosiness if not the negation of the lively, the living, the lasting, the daring, the true and the new? The reality was sublimely opposite. It was, in fact, the Age of Poetry, a pinnacle and an exaltation; there has not been another since. Its poets were more than luminaries—they were colossi, their very names were talismans, and they rose before us under a halo of brilliant lights like figures in a shrine. It was a kind of shrine: the grand oaken hall, the distant stage and its hallowed lectern, the enchanted voices with their variegated intonations, the rapt listeners scarcely breathing, the storied walls themselves in trance—this was the Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y in the heart of the twentieth century. Read More »

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Mysterious Skin: The Realia of William Gaddis

December 24, 2013 | by

-1Most people with scholarly inclinations will visit a novelist’s literary archive to follow the paper trails, as manifested through gathered correspondence, stray postcards, marked-upon stationery, and scattered drafts. A couple of months before the recent publication of his collected letters, I visited the William Gaddis Papers at Washington University in Saint Louis in search of something near the polar opposite.

I had harbored a minor obsession with the novelist for years, even before reading a single word of his writing, probably due his reputation as a writer who crafted a string of unapologetically dense works while almost entirely avoiding the fickleness of the literary limelight. I had bought a used hardcover of Carpenter’s Gothic, one of Gaddis’s shorter novels, at a library booksale just after my early-twenties Pynchon obsession had tapered off a bit. That book sat unread on a shelf for a few years until I decided to make the plunge into Gaddis’s work after seeing his specter, both his name and the titles of his books, floating through David Markson’s great anecdote—and allusion-heavy novels.

More dilettante than scholar, I was on the hunt for certain pieces of the novelist’s realia, that archival category of physical, three-dimensional objects rather than the usual rectangular flatland of manuscripts. Gaddis—who wrote “only” five books over the course of a forty-odd-year career (though amounting to around 2,640 pages in total), with each tome encompassing every possible spectrum of American vernacular and obsession; who won a MacArthur Award and two National Book Awards; and who was famous, as Cynthia Ozick once put it, for not being famous enough—had one object in his collection that I had never seen in a library catalog before. I found this particular entry buried deep within the online finding aid for the Gaddis Papers:

“Box 166.2/- : Zebra Skin, (1 item), Stored in oversize; box on order.”

After scanning across this listing while doing cursory research for something else, I instantly became obsessed with the idea of the zebra skin in the library. What, exactly, did it look like? How was it stored among Gaddis’s papers? Why had he owned it? What was it doing in the special collections of an academic library? Read More »

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Wretched Writing, and Other News

August 9, 2013 | by

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  • “I draw a hot sorrow bath in my despair room.” This quote, by Keanu Reeves, is part of an anthology called Wretched Writing.
  • Herewith, the Kill Your Darlings trailer, featuring Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg.
  • Meet idiosyncratic Houston-area used bookstore Good Books in the Woods.
  • A beautiful missed connection electrifies the Internet; the author is revealed.
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    Celestial Homework, and Other News

    May 22, 2013 | by

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    • This is Allen Ginsberg’s reading list for his class “Literary History of the Beats.” (Yes, he is on it.)
    • RIP children’s author Bernard Waber, who brought us Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile.
    • Australias Qantas Airlines is introducing a series of novels, Stories for Every Journey, designed to last the duration of each flight. (Well, not every journey; this seems to be specifically aimed at the “Bronze to Platinum One” customers.)
    • “‘Let me use your reading material as an impetus for awkward conversation’ is a time-honored tactic of creepers the world over.” A plea to be left in peace. [Editor’s note: That said, being randomly asked, in a Left Bank branch of Paul bakery, if I was reading “a novel of old Paris” remains one of the highlights of my life.]

     

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    Romance of the Rose: On Jay DeFeo

    May 14, 2013 | by

    DeFeo, 1960. Photo via The Whitney Museum of American Art

    DeFeo, 1960. Photo via the Whitney Museum of American Art.

    “Civilization,” Gertrude Stein says, “begins with a rose.” And also: “It continues with blooming and it fastens clearly upon excellent examples.”

    You understand what she means when you stand before Jay DeFeo’s massive painting The Rose, a two-ton, twelve-feet-tall canvas sculpted in oil, wood, and mica, a bold burst of grisaille. At the Whitney Museum of Art, where the work is part of the permanent collection, it hangs like an altarpiece, the focal point of a retrospective of DeFeo’s art. Read More »

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    Teen Writers, and Other News

    March 26, 2013 | by

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