Posts Tagged ‘Anthony Trollope’
May 31, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Hot take: There’s a new miniseries adaptation of Trollope’s Doctor Thorne, and it’s not good. Just follow Laura Miller’s lead and read the book instead: “Seemingly everything that happens today has already been covered in one of [Trollope’s] books, albeit in a less technologized form … The resemblance between particular current events and Trollope’s fiction is like the weather: however much it changes from day to day, in one form or another, it’s always there. His novels amount to a compendium of every recurring pattern of human behavior as observed by a wise, amused, and tenderly exacting deity. He sees all our little self-delusions and vanities, but he loves us just the same. In fact, sometime they make him love us more.”
- Plenty of novelists love cinema. The rarer thing, Adam Thirlwell writes, is the filmmaker in love with literature. It’s just Whit Stillman out there: “Stillman has never been shy with his literary provenance. Stillman’s cinematic innovation—in his 1990s trilogy of high bourgeois melancholy, Metropolitan, Barcelona, and The Last Days of Disco, and his 2012 film Damsels in Distress—has been to bathe cinema in a literary tone, a charmed artificiality. (Like his characters, Stillman admires the value in apparently outmoded things.) The atmosphere of his films owes as much to Henry James as it does to Truffaut or Max Ophüls … Stillman’s characters are monsters of literary conversation … People talk syntactically, at high speed, with absolute artistry (one comparison, in a different register, but at a similar pitch of artificiality, is Tarantino). Stillman uses dialogue the way Matisse uses color: it does not necessarily correspond to anything in the real world.”
- In the Middle East, realism is out of fashion—to take on the political moment, writers have had to get weird. “Five years after the popular uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and elsewhere, a bleak, apocalyptic strain of postrevolutionary literature has taken root in the region. Some writers are using science fiction and fantasy tropes to describe grim current political realities. Others are writing about controversial subjects like sexuality and atheism, or exhuming painful historical episodes that were previously off limits. In a literary culture where poetry has long been the most celebrated medium, writers are experimenting with a range of genres and styles, including comics and graphic novels, hallucinatory horror novels, and allegorical works of science fiction.”
- If you’ve lately been avoiding the comments section of your favorite site, fear not—it’s still a wasteland of misogyny, racism, and homophobia. Dawn Foster cites a new Demos report that “analyzed comments over a three-week period, using an algorithm to determine whether tweets that used the words whore and slut were sexist insults or conversational. They found that 6,500 users were targeted by 10,000 ‘explicitly aggressive and misogynistic tweets’ … Has the internet made people more hateful? Perhaps. Or it may simply have made it easier for people to express their hate … Quite often men will tweet photos of their erect cocks to me, in response to nothing at all, and their profiles show they do this to as many women as possible, several a minute, before their accounts get shut down. It must be an easy way to get a kick without leaving the house.”
- When next you encounter a group of med students, be sure to grill them on how they memorialize the cadavers in their lives: “According to Cynthia Klestinec’s book Theaters of Anatomy, Italian students in the fifteenth century felt guilty about their part in ‘defiling’ the human body in the name of scientific advancement … After the demo, students prepared and organized the final ritual: a funeral … A body ‘carried into the anatomical hall, and the cover of the box in which it had been transported was returned to the executioner, who remained at some distance for this purpose,” Roswell Park writes in the 1903 book An Epitome of the History of Medicine. ‘If the corpse was one that had been decapitated, during these solemn ceremonies the head was placed between its legs.’ The proceedings were not always so solemn, though; sometimes there were performances. ‘Finally, an entertainment with music, often furnished by itinerant actors, was given.’ ”
October 12, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
- In which Vivian Gornick lives in New York, and walks, walks, walks, and keeps walking, imagining herself under “citywide house arrest”: “Nothing healed me of a sore and angry heart like joining the endless stream of people moving steadily, as blood moves through veins and arteries, along these democratic streets. The relief I felt stepping daily into the anonymous crowd was almost indescribable; and then relief morphed into vigor, and vigor gave me vital information … What struck me almost viscerally was the sense of expectation that seemed to rise and fall before my very eyes … It was this expectation that supplied New York with its unique brand of energy: avid, noisy, fast-moving; wild to get into the act. That was it, really, getting into the act … To this day, the street achieves for me what I so often cannot achieve for myself: composition.”
- When Trollope published The Duke’s Children in 1879, he had to cull some 65,000 words from it—presumably at the request of his editor. Now the uncut original has been published, and it turns out there was something to those 65,000 words: “The new version will most likely not change anyone’s view of The Duke’s Children, and yet all those tiny excisions do add up. The restored version is a fuller, richer book. And it’s fascinating to compare the two versions and see what Trollope himself thought could go and what he insisted on keeping. Maybe most revealing is a long fox-hunting sequence, about two-thirds of the way through, which Trollope trimmed only lightly. The sequence serves no crucial purpose in the book, other than providing Tregear with an occasion to have an accident that keeps him bedridden and apart from lovelorn Mary. It’s there because there’s almost always a fox-hunting scene in a Trollope novel.”
- Defenders of literary awards usually claim some kind of critical value for them; detractors say they’re just part of the publicity machine. But no one’s even arguing about the potential critical value of blurbs. Maybe it’s time for someone to stand up for them. “Can puffing—the practice of lauding a book’s merits in a few words, usually on its jacket blurb—be considered a kind of literary criticism, however cynically regarded it might be? … If we look at a couple of the puffs for this year’s Booker shortlist, we might be able to bring this question into focus. The claim of the unnamed reviewer in the Independent that Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread is simply ‘glorious’ doesn’t seem to get us very far into the realms of literary criticism. Eleanor Catton’s gnomic description of Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen as ‘awesome in the true sense of the word’ is perhaps more critically promising: what is the true sense of ‘awesome’? Why does this book in particular evoke that sense?”
- Not so very long ago, refrigerators across the land were freckled with tiny, easy-to-lose magnetic words from which passersby were intended to fashion a kind of “poetry.” (More often, people used them to make vaguely naughty sex jokes.) So what became of Magnetic Poetry, to say nothing of the impulse behind it? “By removing the messiest step from the cut-up technique, it made the barrier to entry knee-high. It boxed up the creative process, putting it in the checkout aisle and then, once on the fridge, directly at eye level. It let us indulge all these instincts at once—toward communication, creation, jokes, profanity—and layered the results on the domestic experience. From the end of the twentieth century to the beginning of the twenty-first, it turned kitchens everywhere into an inescapable id pastiche.”
- The men (and they’re always men) who commit mass killings have a discomfiting tendency to write: they nearly always leave behind a manifesto, and it is nearly always inscrutable. Why the compulsion to address oneself to posterity? And what, if anything, can be gleaned from their words? “There have always been killers and they have often left pieces of writing behind (think of Jack the Ripper and his notes written in blood); some of them were even called manifestos. The Manson ‘family’, a previous group of bent fans of popular culture who heard messages in songs, believed in a program of salvation that required the slaughtering of the human ‘pigs’ who put them down. Valerie Solanos wrote a manifesto that wants to be a feminist tract before shooting Andy Warhol. But not even Warhol, who understood something essential about fame, could have guessed that, one day, such would-be killers, or putative cleaners-up of our corrupt and oppressive world, would carry the wherewithal in the pocket of their jeans. All they needed was a smartphone and a set of grievances, and the world was theirs.”
June 4, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Barney Rosset, the “the downtown pugnacious outré rebel” (read: publisher of provocative texts), spent his final years immersed in an artistic experiment—transforming one of the walls of his East Village apartment into an elaborate mural. Now there’s a movement to preserve this mural, even if it’s “an art critic’s worst nightmare. For an esteemed literary publisher to leave behind a final work so unpredictable—and so large—has understandably baffled those who survived him. David Rose, editor-in-chief of Lapham’s Quarterly, typifies most people’s reactions to the wall. ‘It’s the most unexpected thing I would have associated with Barney Rosset,’ he said. ‘Of course he would do this, because it makes no fucking sense whatsoever.’ ”
- The evolving (devolving?) art of songwriting in the streaming age: If everyone’s using Spotify to listen to music, and Spotify pays artists only after their songs have been streamed for thirty seconds … then why bother to write songs that are longer than thirty seconds? “Now that streaming has taken off, will song form react? Will it just be three choruses and nothing else? Is it the return of the ABAB song form, where the sections have a balanced weight and there are no sections dedicated to ‘setting up’ another section? … And bridges? Bridges to what, exactly? Who has time for a bridge? You’re either there or you’re not there. Why get stuck in transit from one section to another?”
- The Sketchbook Project is “a collection of crowdsourced sketchbooks that is, according to its staff, the largest in the world. The project was founded in 2006, when Steven Peterman and Shane Zucker, two art students living in Atlanta, began mailing blank Moleskines to anyone who wanted one for a small fee, and then archiving whatever came back.” The project, which now comprises some thirty-four thousand books, is currently mounting its final world tour.
- “Whenever you introduce a character, you don’t have to specify that they are wearing pants. Most readers will just assume that they are wearing pants unless you say otherwise.” Finally, some useful advice from your favorite established authors.
- The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is many things, most of them reprehensible—but its fixation on capital and cosmetics is arguably instructive, and it has lofty origins. “There’s something weirdly High Tory about the Beverly Hills Housewife profile, more Trollopian dowager than spirited arriviste.”
April 28, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
- It must be said: in this, his bicentennial year, Trollope is trending—and not just because, as we mentioned yesterday, one of his books is soon to become a TV show. “The quality of irony that we value today is omnipresent in Trollope—and that is the habit of turning objects and values upside down, of seeing big and little inverted. Trollope’s people are all doing things that are small: getting on committees, making sermons, writing to newspapers, finding misplaced checks.”
- More than that: Trollope has saved lives. Lives. “To this day [I] credit him with saving me from a nervous breakdown. Reading English at university I’d forgotten what it was to read for pleasure … When I stumbled upon his work, I was looking for a way to understand the world, particularly 1980s London. The ideals—some might say delusions—of the counterculture were being replaced by an enthusiasm for money, efficiency and snobbery, especially among my generation. The people and problems Trollope described seemed then, as now, astonishingly contemporary.”
- Sarker Protick’s series of photographs, “Love Me or Kill Me,” captures film sets at the Bangladesh Film Development Corporation, where the movies are “exercises in extremes, made quickly and with small budgets to appeal to the widest possible audience.”
- An interview with Tim Parks on reading, translating, and difficult writers: “An American author actually doesn’t have to think about anything. He can just write and think for years for Americans—and in fact, everybody’s becoming Americans … But if you’re in Holland, Norway, Sweden, even Italy, to a degree, then apart from the fact that you’ve grown up with the idea that lots of books came from other places and so there’s no reason my book shouldn’t go to other places—and apart from the fact that the number of people buying books in your country is much smaller—your chances of surviving on a book that’s totally in Italy is very small. There’s just a tendency to look outward more.”
- Write a House, the extra-extra-extended residency program in which writers are awarded a house, forever, in Detroit, is accepting its next round of applicants. An inside tip from the last winner: “If you’re considering applying and you’re thinking to yourself, ‘I want to, but it’s in Detroit’—don’t apply. If you don’t want to live in Detroit, or Detroit’s reputation scares you, don’t apply to win a house in Detroit. It’s pretty simple. If you’re not prepared to embrace Detroit for everything it is, you’re going to have a hard time being here.”
April 27, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Rachel Kushner, Francine Prose, Peter Carey, and at least three other prominent writers have declined to attend the PEN American Center Gala on the grounds that it honors Charlie Hebdo, known for its scathing portrayals of Muslims and “the disenfranchised generally.” “I couldn’t imagine being in the audience when they have a standing ovation for Charlie Hebdo,” Prose said.
- Julian Fellowes, of Downton Abbey fame, has announced plans to adapt Trollope’s 1858 novel Doctor Thorne for television. Love, real estate, alcoholism—this novel has it all. No word yet on who will play the Duke of Omnium.
- If Silicon Valley scuttlebutt is right, “snackable content”—bite-size morsels of dubiously nutritious entertainment—is now the most popular stuff on the Internet. What we ought to do, then, is start to serialize novels again. “Publishers could release novels—either completed upfront or written month to month—on their own imprints or through periodicals such as People or The Paris Review.” (We can’t speak for People, but we’ve serialized two novels in the past few years, and we don’t intend to stop.)
- Young writers get all the attention—and, more important, all the awards. But “age-based awards are outdated and discriminatory, even if unintentionally so. Emerging writers are emerging writers.”
- Earlier this month, Adrienne Raphel wrote about the history of “Eeny, meeny, miny, mo” for the Daily—now she’s spoken to NPR’s “All Things Considered” about it.
- Davide Monteleone, an Italian photographer, is working on In the Russian East, a series of “faces and uniforms” taken along the Trans-Siberian Railway—and a tribute to Richard Avedon’s 1985 book In the American West.
April 14, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
- “It’s counterintuitive to think of the British Museum as a happening spot, but for a long time its reading room served as a premier gathering place for London’s brainy bohemians … It was also a pickup scene. Edward Aveling, a science lecturer, playwright, and political activist—and a notorious flirt—described the reading room as ‘in equal degrees a menagerie and a lunatic asylum’ and made a tongue-in-cheek proposal that it be segregated by sex so as to bring about ‘less talking and fewer marriages.’ ” (If you’re getting any ideas—don’t. The reading room has since closed.)
- As an adult, Derrida transformed English and humanities departments around the world; as a student, he had struggles of his own. When he was twenty, he submitted a paper on Shakespeare that earned him a failing grade, along with such (arguably prophetic) remarks as “quite unintelligible” and “totally incomprehensible”: “In this essay,” the instructor wrote, “you seem to be constantly on the verge of something interesting but, somewhat, you always fail to explain it clearly.”
- Dickens’s nighttime constitutionals gave him a chance to “see through the shining riddle of the street,” as G. K. Chesterton put it—but they also granted him a chance for emotional escape. “It seems as if they supplied something to my brain,” Dickens wrote, “which it cannot bear, when busy, to lose.”
- This month marks Trollope’s bicentennial, and though his renown is taken more or less for granted today, it wasn’t always so: Tolstoy found “too much that is conventional” in his work, and Henry James called him “mechanical.”
- Today in teens: they’re still out there, they are legion, they are wild, oppressed, they are everything you fear and want to be. “Teens are the only true nihilists left. Teens can use guns and have sex but their brains aren’t even fully formed. This is an amazing fact … Teens only care about the immediate culture. They are not stuck in dead-time nostalgia. They have never heard of Missy Elliot. They do not care. That is OK. Teens plow their carts over the bones of the dead.”