The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘archives’

The Fine Art of American Small Talk, and Other News

July 6, 2016 | by

George Ameal Wilson, Friendly Conversation.

  • Today in poetry as panhandling: Rowan McCabe pitches himself as “the world’s first door-to-door poet.” (An insult to the many lyrically inclined encyclopedia salesmen who once roamed this earth.) McCabe is based in the UK and will likely never make it to the U.S., where poets are routinely shot. But maybe you’d like to pay him a visit: “McCabe is more usually found on the streets of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, writing bespoke verse for whoever happens to answer the buzzer when he calls. He’s penned poems about birds and love and parenting; one to remember a couple’s first date, another for someone’s dog. He composed the piece ‘To Amy, Sitting Her Final Policing Exam’ for a future constable and Gospel for a woman he nicknamed ‘Agnostic Ana.’ ”
  • The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is host to one of the biggest races in America, which means that its parking lot is, at least one day a year, a very good place to sell shit. And what shit it is, as John Paul Rollert discovered on his trip to the Indy 500: “Among the more ingenious entrepreneurs were Kyle and Scott, two men I discovered lugging enormous duffle-bags stuffed with homemade t-shirts. Kyle wore one featuring the disembodied heads of Hillary Clinton and Monica Lewinsky and an uninspired pun involving suck. Scott, however, wore the shirt that elicited endless commentary from all who passed. It read simply: DONALD FUCKIN’ TRUMP. With its ambiguous modifier—does it mark enthusiasm, amazement, horror?—the shirt was a hot item among race fans, which was a good thing for the itinerant salesman, as between the two shirts, they had 2,700 to sell. While Kyle attended a car-full of boys trying to resolve whether to buy one shirt for $20 or take the two-fer deal at $35, I asked Scott why he thought people were so drawn to the shirts. He shrugged. ‘They like cuss words,’ he said.”
  • In which Karan Mahajan comes to America and learns that we all pretend to be bosom buddies for no apparent reason: “American life is based on a reassurance that we like one another but won’t violate one another’s privacies. This makes it a land of small talk. Two people greet each other happily, with friendliness, but might know each other for years before venturing basic questions about each other’s backgrounds. The opposite is true of Indians. At least three people I’ve sat next to on planes to and from India have asked me, within minutes, how much I earn as a writer (only to turn away in disappointment when I tell them). In the East, I’ve heard it said, there’s intimacy without friendship; in the West, there’s friendship without intimacy.”
  • Twitter deletes inactive accounts after a certain period of time, which means that Prince, David Bowie, and other recently deceased celebrity users will have their tweets vanished forever. Sonia Weiser asks: “Should famous artists’ social-media profiles be saved? Archiving their digital materials would follow the tradition of old-school paper archives, the ones that are responsible for maintaining collections like hundreds of Emily Dickinson’s letters, notes from Mary Shelley that show her succumbing to a brain tumor, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s working drafts and photographs. If journals, sketchbooks, letters, and scribbled-on napkins are venerated and kept for insights into great minds, there seems to be a case that tweets should be held onto, too … Archivists now have the challenge of working through the kinks of determining digital material’s place among artists’ greater estates and settling on a feed’s value.”

After the Loss of a Limb

March 2, 2016 | by

Eugène-Louis Doyen, nineteenth century

Elena Wilkinson’s poem “After the Loss of a Limb” appeared in our Spring 1974 issue. Her contributor’s note said only that she lived in New York City. Read More »

From the Guy Davenport Collection

February 24, 2016 | by



The Harry Ransom Center’s Guy Davenport collection opens to the public this month. The papers cover sixty years of his career as a writer, scholar, and painter; they include journals, artwork, and manuscript pages. But much of the collection is given over to correspondence. From his home in Kentucky, Davenport traded letters with some twenty-three hundred people, many among the brightest minds of their day: John Updike, Eudora Welty, Marianne Moore, Louis Zukofsky, Cormac McCarthy, Hugh Kenner, Joyce Carol Oates, Dorothy Parker, Ezra Pound, and more, their exchanges sometimes spanning decades.

To celebrate the collection, the Ransom Center has shared the three letters below with us—one from the writer and designer Roy Behrens, whose stationery is appropriately a work of art, and the other two from Davenport himself. To explore the collection more, use the Ransom Center’s finding aid and schedule a visit

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February 8, 2016 | by

“Homesickness,” ca. 1948. This page is from the Vassar College Library, Department of Archives and Special Collections, where Bishop’s papers are stored. Click to enlarge.

Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “Homesickness” appeared in our Summer 2005 issue as part of a portfolio of her notebooks. Alice Quinn wrote of the poem,

Bishop began “Homesickness” in 1948, and the handwriting suggests that this draft may date from that time. In 1964, in a letter to Anne Stevenson, Bishop writes, “My mother went off to teach school at 16 (the way most of the enterprising young people did) and her first school was in lower Cape Breton somewhere—and the pupils spoke nothing much but Gaelic ... she was so homesick she was taken the family dog to cheer her up. I have written both a story and a poem about this episode but neither satisfy me yet.”

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Favorites from the Archive

December 10, 2015 | by

Fact: nearly every one of the 214 back issues in our archive, going all the back to 1953, is available for purchase—and they make great last-minute gifts. We’re recommending few of our favorites: the undisputed classics, the oddities, the sleeper hits.


A Writers at Work interview with Rebecca West (Q: “Are there any advantages at all in being a woman and a writer?” A: “None whatsoever.”); fiction by Faulker and Gass; an epistolary squabble between Laura (Riding) Jackson, Martha Gellhorn, Stephen Spender, and the ghost of Yeats; work by thirty-eight poets, including Brainard, Sexton, Creeley, Schuyler, Baraka, and Swenson, and much more—there’s nothing not to love in the double-size twenty-fifth-anniversary issue from Spring 1981. And, perhaps best of all (which is saying a lot), issue 79 contains “The Paris Review Sketchbook,” a hundred-plus-page, mischievous oral history of the Review’s first quarter century: “Literary magazine people never work. They spend hours on end playing pinball machines in cafés.” —Nicole Rudick Read More »

A Century of Censorship, and Other News

November 18, 2015 | by

Audrey Munson, in a still from Inspiration.

  • Our new anthology, The Unprofessionals, is out now. What does it mean to be unprofessional, you ask? In many cases, it’s as easy as spitting in someone’s food or showing up to work in bondage gear. But if you’re a writer, escaping the rising tide of professionalism proves more difficult. Fortunately, our editor, Lorin Stein, has some advice: “The stories that excite me most tend to have three qualities. First there’s a voice, a narrator who urgently needs to speak. Even if they never say ‘I.’ Second, the narrator tries to persuade you that he or she is telling the truth. The third thing is, for lack of a better word, wisdom. A kind of moral authority, or at least the effort to settle a troubled conscience … There’s a kind of realism—not just in stories, but in poems and essays—that assumes we live in dishonesty, that we lie to others and ourselves as a matter of survival, but that part of us knows the truth when we see it. That’s what interests me: the truths we can’t tell except when we put on the mantle of this authority.” 
  • Karl Ove Knausgaard hears this voice, too: “The novel is an oddly intimate genre: at root, it is always a matter between two individuals, writer and reader, whose first encounter occurs when the writer writes—for in writing, the very act of it, there is always an appeal to a you, redeemed only by the insertion of a reader. This you may be inserted at any time, even hundreds of years after the event of writing, the way, for instance, we might read a novel written in seventeenth-century Spain, or eighteenth-century Russia, or early-twentieth-century Germany, and yet still induce the voice of the self to rise anew within us, remoteness dissolving. And that self may also reveal itself to us in the reading of novels from places geographically remote to us, such as China, Kenya, Colombia.”
  • A century ago today, on November 18, 1915, cinema saw its first nude woman, and people have been in a tizzy over sex and censorship on-screen ever since: “The bare breasts and buttocks of Audrey Munson, the actress in Inspiration, seemed to enter the public consciousness only obliquely. One contemporary critic wrote that the film was ‘both inspiring and intellectual,’ with Munson giving a performance of ‘innocence, modesty, and simplicity’; others noted that it was ‘daring’ and a ‘triumph of Film Art.’ One, the Daily Capital Journal, scoffed at the idea of anyone being offended by it. After all, it pointed out, this is a work of ‘extreme artistic and educational value,’ not a titillating striptease.”
  • Today in nests and nesting: in Zvenigorod, forty miles west of Moscow, there stands a cathedral with a wealth of rare printed matter hidden inside: letters, newspaper clippings, candy wrappers, banknotes, some as old as the early nineteenth century. For this horn of archival plenty, we can thank the birds: “flocks of swifts and jackdaws had built nests in the attic out of various bits of papers, dirt, branches, and trash that over the centuries came to form a considerably thick layer of preserved history … Other documents record the town’s civic, religious, and educational affairs; among the lot: bus tickets, delivery contracts, a county court slip, students’ notebooks and diplomas, parish registers, and even church confessional statements.”
  • The photographer Andrew Moore’s new book, Dirt Meridian, features ten years of his pictures of homestead sites, taken along the hundredth meridian line that runs through Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, where once pioneers were attracted by the Homestead Act. What’s there now? “Almost World Famous Dixie’s Café,” crumbling houses, Simon’s Schoolhouse Museum, and a lot of property that looks more or less the same.