Posts Tagged ‘August Kleinzahler’
June 22, 2016 | by Robert P. Baird
- If your daily commute this past year was anything like mine, then your daily commute was nothing like Basil Bunting’s in 1965. That was the year Bunting composed Briggflatts, his magnum opus, while riding the train to and from his day job as a newspaper subeditor. Bunting started the poem not long after Tom Pickard showed up at his door and told him, “I heard you were the greatest living poet.” (At the time, Bunting had not published anything in thirteen years; he later said he wrote Briggflatts “to show the boy how it was done.”) The result, first published fifty years ago, in Poetry, was, as August Kleinzahler has it, “a very particular Northumbrian British flowering of all that Pound and Eliot had earlier achieved in their modernist project, while at the same time more emotionally freighted, more ‘human’ than The Cantos or The Waste Land.”
- Ask my sixteen-month-old whether books ought to be devoured or digested and he’ll be quick to demonstrate, locking jaws on his favorite compendium of fire-truck photos, that he’s a “both and” kind of guy. In the eighteenth century, it seems, the question was merely metaphorical: “Educational manuals, essays and advice books pitted ‘digestion’ against ‘devouring’ in order to slow down the increasingly fast-paced reading habits of their modern world, realigning reading with the process of character formation. ‘Readers may cram themselves in vain with intellectual Food … for want of digesting it by proper Reflections,’ cautioned Isaac Watts in The Improvement of the Mind (1741). This distinction allowed writers to position ‘digestive’ reading as an ethical ideal, while condemning ‘devouring’ as unthoughtful and hedonistic.”
- I stopped watching Game of Thrones when I realized that the show existed only to supply grist for Sarah Larson’s ecstatic mill. Why watch the rough draft when you can go straight to the finished objet? This week’s episode pushed her to peak form: “A snow begins to fall, and Sansa, fittingly, gets the last word with Ramsay, who’s tied up in a dungeon, with the vibe of Hannibal Lecter. ‘Hello, Sansa,’ he whispers. She gives him a good cold speech and then reminds him that he hasn’t fed his dogs. Ah, the old bark-and-chew. Never have I been so happy to see someone’s face pounded in, then eaten off by his own dogs. Sansa watches calmly, then smiles. You’ve come a long way, baby. Or she’s become a monster, and so have I.”
- In March, the New York Times held a three-day conference in Qatar, which featured Jeff Koons, Marina Abramovic, and Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr., the newspaper’s publisher and chairman. The conference addressed such themes as “What is the civic responsibility of the collector in the digital age?” and “How can true, untrammelled, artistic creativity be harnessed in the service of social and economic wellbeing?” It did not, apparently, worry much about what “true, untrammelled, artistic creativity” might mean in a country that imprisoned a poet, Mohammed al-Ajami, for writing poems that criticized Qatar’s autocratic emir: “The inflammatory issues of the region’s present—censorship, labor rights, dynastic succession—are left unaddressed in the Times’s plenary sessions. Rather, the proceedings circulate around the placid lexicon of TED Talks, platitudes of futurism veering into the apolitical and commercial. But in Qatar, you cannot separate politics from art, in large part because the emir’s family is the patron of the arts.”
February 12, 2016 | by The Paris Review
One pleasure of living where I do is the giveaway table, where tenants leave unwanted CDs, cassettes, salt-and-pepper shakers, et cetera, and especially books. These tend to be romance novels or thrillers, but the other week someone left the second edition of August Kleinzahler’s Cutty, One Rock—a book I’d given away many times and had eventually forgotten to replace. My wife let me read the title essay aloud, even though I kept slipping into my version of a New Jersey accent (bad, bad). Then, maybe three days later, on the same table, I found a copy of B. S. Johnson’s 1964 novel Albert Angelo. It was crazy—I’d been meaning to read B. S. Johnson for years. If I had come across any of his novels in a bookstore, I’d have bought them. This one’s about a beleaguered substitute teacher in a London slum, a subgenre (the bitter teacher novel) I especially enjoy. Obviously these books—the old favorite and the object of curiosity—have been two clicks away, but serendipity beats intention every time. —Lorin Stein Read More »
December 4, 2015 | by The Paris Review
Lovers of dictionaries and nature can rejoice in John Stilgoe’s new book, What Is Landscape? Stilgoe, who holds the enviable title of Orchard Professor in the History of Landscape at Harvard, wanders the etymology of the landscape lexicon, from the ancient Hebrew word kittor (meaning a stream of water, but also a pillar of smoke) to the difference between a cart path and a cow path. He manages here, as in other of his books, to abut the old and the new, the outmoded and the contemporary in such a way that the differences are plain but the connections between them are still vital—in the way, say, a plowed field abuts a brushy fence line and the beach abuts both the sea and the edge of human civilization. These are marginal spaces, constructed spaces, spaces “easily taken for granted, all too easily half seen.” His examination of highway cloverleafs is particularly good. Though not villages in any sense, they nonetheless provide the basic commercial services of one, and he links them fluidly to their counterparts in the past: “Especially in rural and wilderness areas, the ‘sparsely settled regions’ that slightly unnerve urban and suburban travelers, every cloverleaf might be the isolated tavern or inn of European and British folktale.” —Nicole Rudick
On Nicole’s recommendation, I’ve been reading The Strange Hours Travelers Keep, the Griffin Poetry Prize–winning collection by August Kleinzahler. It’s as good as she says. I’m drawn to poems that revel in their own grit—ones that knead sex and death and deadpan humor in with the erudite and the literary; in Strange Hours, such moments come in delectable little bursts. In a poem to the philosopher Aristippus there’s a “Captain Cunt of the Roaring Forties”; in another, a young woman is chewed out for her unflattering exposé of an ex-lover: “ … Mark, who kissed and indulged you, opened his heart, / only to have you pick up your pen to write / about his belligerent penis …” Kleinzahler takes us to the natatorium, the marketplace, the Oxford River; he introduces us to Calliope and Erato and Lewis Bernard Castel; and all the while he muses on the peculiar hours we keep to eat, to fuck, to pass the time. And yet, my favorite lines are far tenderer. They’re from “After Lady Murakami”: “Just as I found myself / in the dentist chair / only yesterday / hands clenched against my thighs / so I find myself here / in this seat / heart in my throat / as you walk into the room.” —Caitlin Youngquist Read More »
August 5, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Anxiety has always been a fixture of the human experience—who doesn’t enjoy a good bout of angst and fear now and again? But the word worry is, in its current sense, a fairly new addition to the English language: “Although it was used in the sixteenth century, in all of Shakespeare’s works worry appears just once—as a transitive verb denoting strangling or choking. Only in the Victorian era did its contemporary meaning come into widespread use. The advent of literary modernism in the twentieth century placed the personal inner world center stage. From James Joyce’s Leopold Bloom to Virginia Woolf’s Mr. Ramsay, worriers came to abound in the modernist canon.”
- August Kleinzahler is in Montreal and trying to speak French: “In general, Quebecers seem to like Americans, in approximate measure to their dislike of Anglophone Canadians. Insofar as no other nationality that immediately comes to mind ‘likes’ Americans (even the Irish seem to have gone off us during the George W. Bush era), I find being in Montreal again a most genial circumstance. ‘You must find yourself a French lover and learn the language on the pillow,’ the fromagier told me.”
- So you’re looking for a literary agent? Here’s a cool publishing hack: pretend you’re a man. It is, evidence suggests, dramatically easier to find representation that way, as Catherine Nichols learned when she sent out her query letter under a pseudonym: “George sent out fifty queries, and had his manuscript requested seventeen times. He is eight and a half times better than me at writing the same book. Fully a third of the agents who saw his query wanted to see more, where my numbers never did shift from one in twenty-five … I imagined him as a sort of reptilian Michael Fassbender–looking guy, drinking whiskey and walking around train yards at night while I did the work. Most of the agents only heard from one or the other of us, but I did overlap a little. One who sent me a form rejection as Catherine not only wanted to read George’s book, but instead of rejecting it asked if he could send it along to a more senior agent … George’s work was ‘clever,’ ‘well-constructed,’ and ‘exciting.’ No one mentioned his sentences being lyrical or whether his main characters were feisty.”
- In fact, even if you prefer simpler hobbies, such as coloring books, the world is determined to rain on your parade: “The bizarre thing about the new adult coloring books is they are virtually impossible to complete. They have to be difficult, because adults are still embarrassed to be seen working away at infant activities … But the main thing making coloring ‘socially acceptable’ is the link to mental health. The mindfulness industry has planted its flag on the business and many books are being sold as an offshoot of meditation … The new mindful coloring books are mindless. You should be drawing your own pictures!”
- “Flashy neon lights, kidney-shaped pools, asymmetrical design elements, and a plethora of plastic palm trees”: these are the “Doo Wop” motels of the Wildwoods, “the three kitschy southern New Jersey shore towns that are home to the largest concentration of midcentury motels in the nation.” A new series of photos by Mark Havens documents “the interplay of an idealized past and its inexorable disappearance.”
What We’re Loving: Adventures in Silhouette; Red Sauce, Whiskey, and Snow; the Narcissistic Hypocrisy at the Center of Human Nature
January 3, 2014 | by The Paris Review
I’m embarrassed to admit that I barely touched a book over the holidays (besides 84, Charing Cross Road, which I’m in the habit of rereading most years around Christmastime), but I did see a spectacular movie whose imagery I can’t get out of my head. In 1923, a talented artist named Lotte Reiniger was approached by a banker looking to make an investment. He suggested that Reiniger parlay her particular skill—cutting delicate silhouette art—into making a feature-length animated film. Three years and over 250,000 hand-cut images later, The Adventures of Prince Achmed premiered in Berlin. The story is a mélange of tales from the Thousand and One Nights, but good luck paying attention to the plot; the visuals are so arresting that they’ll keep you from focusing on more than one character or bit of pattern during any given scene. The original print of Prince Achmed is lost—a casualty of the Battle of Berlin, in 1945—but thanks to a restoration project completed a little over ten years ago, a fully colorized (and scored!) version is available on DVD from Milestone Films. —Clare Fentress
I’m a sucker for culinary memoirs by authors who aren’t primarily considered “food writers”—a genre that includes work by such varied names as A. J. Liebling, Laurie Colwin, and Jim Harrison. (The Pat Conroy Cookbook and The Roald Dahl Cookbook, respectively, also deserve honorable mentions.) Jason Epstein is best known as a publisher and cofounder of The New York Review of Books, but he’s also an accomplished cook and gourmet. Eating, the 2009 collection of Epstein’s food essays, covers family recipes, his days working as a professional cook, and, of course, the memorable meals he has shared with various literary luminaries. Although Eating is by no means gossipy or indiscreet (the only one who comes under the knife is Roy Cohn, with whom Epstein once lunched at 21), it’s filled with terrific vignettes; one could do worse than lunch, on a ship, with Edmund Wilson and Buster Keaton—“lobster over linguine with a bottle of Chablis beneath a perfect sky.” —Sadie O. Stein
Not long ago—but long enough that I’ve forgotten how it happened—I asked you to explain why exactly the rediscovery of Aristotle, from Arabic sources, mattered so much to medieval theologians. You recommended Étienne Gilson’s 1938 classic primer Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages. Over the vacation a copy arrived at my house from a used bookstore, without any note. I’ve read Gilson’s lectures with great pleasure, and a keen sense of intellectual relief, but I can’t think who you are. Who are you? —Lorin Stein Read More »
September 7, 2012 | by The Paris Review
We all hate to see summer end, but don’t despair: we bring you our Fall issue by way of consolation! And there’s so much to love.
James Fenton on journalism, shrimp farming, interior decoration, gardening, poetry, opera, and more:
What I had got from my teaching experience in the Midwest was a feeling for the enormous pressure on people in the poetry world to conform to an entirely negatively defined notion of poetry. It doesn’t rhyme, it doesn’t have any rhythm one might detect, and it isn’t written for the ear but rather the page. It seemed de-natured. These poets had forgotten the lips and the limbs, the dance, the whole bodily element—that had been banished. The manifesto was a piece of devil-may-care. It was actually anti-Iowa rather than anti-American.
Roberto Calasso on life, film, and publishing—Italian-style:
The publisher after all is considered, especially in Anglo-Saxon countries, a rather eccentric entrepreneur or impresario—a businessman in a very improbable field. But, if he is successful, then he is a good businessman. The author is the successor of the saint, everyone respects the author. So to put the two elements together is highly suspicious in a way, especially in the rather moralistic Protestant countries. In the Latin countries, less so.
Plus! Fiction by Jim Gavin, David Gordon, Ottessa Moshfegh, Peter Orner, and Sam Savage. Poetry by August Kleinzahler, George Seferis, Bernadette Mayer, Jason Zuzga, and Guillaume Apollinaire. A portfolio by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman, and collages by Jess.