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Posts Tagged ‘Ben Lerner’

The Pour of Melted Chocolate, and Other News

January 15, 2016 | by

Hebden Bridge, 1970.

  • Ben Lerner remembers C. D. Wright: “She was part of a line of mavericks and contrarians who struggled to keep the language particular in times of ever-encroaching standardization. I think of the messy genius of James Agee and Mary Austin as two possible antecedents for her genre-bending, lyrically charged, often outraged and outrageous American English … She had no illusions about what poetry could do in the face of ‘the factory model, the corporate model, the penitentiary model, which by my lights are one and the same.’ But she had no patience for disillusion, for those who would surrender their wonder before the world.”
  • Bernard Williams attempted a rare thing for a philosopher: clarity. Exasperated by the discipline’s obscurantism and by Continental philosophy’s aversion to plain speaking, he wrote his books, emphatically, to be read. As Nakul Krishna writes, “The hardest thing in philosophy, Williams wrote in the preface to Morality … was finding the right style, ‘in the deepest sense of style in which to discover the right style is to discover what you are really trying to do’ … Could a piece of philosophical writing combine abstract argument with concrete detail? Could its inevitably schematic descriptions of complex situations ever represent enough of their reality? Could philosophy, in other words, have room in it for a real human voice?”
  • Ted Hughes once wrote of sitting with Sylvia Plath at a pub in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, where he was born: “A gorge of ruined mills and abandoned chapels, / The fouled nest of the Industrial Revolution / That had flown.” What’s in Hebden Bridge today? The remains of an awful flood, as Tom Overton writes. “Up on the moors on Boxing Day last year, the level of rainfall gave normally modest streams a resonant fullness. In ‘Four March Watercolours’, from River, Hughes calls it ‘baroque superabundance’; ‘the pour / Of melted chocolate.’ Turning into something more like the apocalyptic flood at the beginning of Tales from Ovid, it poured into the boutiques and cafes on Hebden’s Market Street, and washed a small bus along with it. The independent bookshop lost its entire stock. The canal and river burst their banks and met in the pub between them, the Stubbing Wharf.”
  • At last, the days of digitized pop-up books are upon us. You can now peruse a translation of Johann Remmelin’s 1613 work Captoptrum Microcosmicum, a medical text with 120 flaps—proof that that pop-up was once the province of adult pedagogy, not children’s entertainment. “Astronomy, geometry, theology and technology have all been the subject of early pop-up books … They were once called mechanical books, for the moving flaps and revolving parts they featured … Mechanical books were almost exclusively used in scholarly works until the 18th century, though that delay may be because few of these early tomes were aimed at children. The first examples of moveable books for children were Paper Doll Books produced beginning in 1810 and William Grimaldi’s lift-the-flap The Toilet.”
  • “How is it that this novel could be sexy, entertaining, experimental, politically radical, and wildly popular all at once? Its success was no sure thing,” Paul Elie writes of One Hundred Years of Solitude. Its creation, to say nothing of its arrival on the international stage, was a complicated affair. Mario Vargas Llosa said, “This was the book that enlarged the Spanish-language reading public to include intellectuals and also ordinary readers because of its clear and transparent style. At the same time, it was a very representative book: Latin America’s civil wars, Latin America’s inequalities, Latin America’s imagination, Latin America’s love of music, its color—all this was in a novel in which realism and fantasy were mixed in a perfect way.’”

A Fun Time at the Frost Fair, and Other News

January 8, 2016 | by

Mehetabel Lovell, a 1740 frost-fair souvenir. Image via Slate

  • Over the course of the “Little Ice Age” that befell Europe some centuries back, the River Thames froze twenty-three times—such an unlikely occurrence that people had no choice but to party on the ice. These “frost fairs” often lasted for days; people set up tents and printers commemorated the occasion by selling letterpressed sheets of souvenir paper. “The men who dragged their presses onto the ice and produced these keepsakes were a competitive lot, each trying to offer the most enticing product … Promiscuity and sexual license were constitutive elements of the frost fair … Some of the tents set up on the ice were brothels.”
  • Five booksellers and publishers have gone missing in Hong Kong, and their disappearance may be linked to a contentious manuscript about China’s president. “The book’s title was being debated by the publisher before the abductions … The two choices were: The Lovers of Xi Jinping or Xi Jinping and His Six Women It is unclear whether the book alleges Xi had an extramarital affair. As part of his crackdown on corruption since he took office in 2012, Xi has led an anti-corruption campaign that made adultery grounds for banishment from the Communist Party.”
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy long ago overtook psychoanalysis as the dominant form of therapy—and it had results to back up this dominance. In more recent studies, though, the talking cure has proven increasingly effective. Is it time to bring Freud back into the fold? “In contrast to the meandering conversations of psychoanalysis, a typical CBT exercise might involve filling out a flowchart to identify the self-critical ‘automatic thoughts’ that occur whenever you face a setback … Yet rumblings of dissent from the vanquished psychoanalytic old guard have never quite gone away. At their core is a fundamental disagreement about human nature—about why we suffer, and how, if ever, we can hope to find peace of mind … CBT doesn’t exactly claim that happiness is easy, but it does imply that it’s relatively simple: your distress is caused by your irrational beliefs, and it’s within your power to seize hold of those beliefs and change them. Psychoanalysts contend that things are much more complicated. For one thing, psychological pain needs first not to be eliminated, but understood. From this perspective, depression is less like a tumor and more like a stabbing pain in your abdomen: it’s telling you something, and you need to find out what.”
  • Many of us enjoy a good walk. I myself embarked on a walk this very morning, and plan to walk more throughout the day. But I’ll probably never walk as much, or as far, as Werner Herzog, whose book Of Walking in Ice tells of his journey on foot from Munich to Paris in 1974. “‘Walking on foot brings you down to the very stark, naked core of existence,’ Herzog told a Film Comment interviewer in 1979, a year after Of Walking in Ice was first published in Germany. ‘We travel too much in airplanes and cars. It’s an existential quality that we are losing. It’s almost like a credo of religion that we should walk.’ Over the course of many years, and in countless different interviews, Herzog has spoken of his filmmaking—and of walking—in vaguely spiritual, even divine terms (‘It’s like a grace, like a gift of God that has fallen into my lap’).”
  • In which Ben Lerner pays a visit to the new Whitney’s conservation department: “For many modern and contemporary artists, ephemerality is part of the point. Dieter Roth, to take just one example, didn’t cover his canvases with yogurt for the sake of durability; they were built to biodegrade. Picasso and Braque told friends that they would rather let their canvases deteriorate than have them varnished … In the absence of explicit and complete instructions—that is, most of the time—conservation is fundamentally an interpretive act … The work of a conservator can re-sacralize the original art object … Conservation can help produce—not just protect—the aura of the original.”

The I and the You

December 9, 2015 | by

Last night, Pioneer Works, an artists’ space in Red Hook, Brooklyn, hosted a celebration of John Ashbery, who turned eighty-eight this year. The poets Geoffery G. O’Brien, Mónica de la Torre, and John Yau read some of their work and their favorite poems by Ashbery. Before Ashbery came to the stage, Ben Lerner made the following remarks. —D. P. 

Good evening.

Some of my favorite words written about John Ashbery were written by John Ashbery about Gertrude Stein. Reviewing Stanzas in Meditation, in the July 1957 issue of Poetry, he wroteRead More »

Tuesday: Ben Lerner and Thomas Demand at MoMA Store

November 9, 2015 | by

Our Spring issue featured “Sample Trees,” a portfolio by Thomas Demand and Ben Lerner. Demand constructed and photographed paper flowers based on a detail from a news photo of Katherine Russell, the widow of the Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev; Lerner wrote a series of poems to accompany the photos.

“Sample Trees” is part of a larger cycle, Blossom, available now from Mack Books in a lavish Japanese-bound hardcover. Tomorrow, November 10, the pair will be at the MoMA Design and Book Store (11 West Fifty-third Street) to celebrate and sign copies of the book. The signing begins at seven P.M. We hope to see you there.

Eileen Myles on Reading Out Loud

October 6, 2015 | by

From the cover of I Must Be Living Twice. Photo: Catherine Opie

“The most exciting thing is to read a poem out loud for the first time,” Eileen Myles tells Ben Lerner in our new Fall issue:

There’s a whole kind of inside thing bursting out, and I’m always dying to hear it. I do hear it in my head, but I never read it out loud to myself until I’m in front of people … What is so great—I’ll even say holy—about reading a poem for the first time in front of people is that you’re sharing what you felt in the moment of composition, when you were allowing something. When I’m writing the poem, I feel like I have to close my eyes. I don’t mean literally, but you invite a kind of blindness and that’s the birth of the poem. Writing is all performance. Something’s passing through … The performance is us writing what’s using us, remarking upon it.

(Subscribe now to read the whole Art of Poetry interview.) Read More »

2015 MacArthur Fellows in The Paris Review

September 29, 2015 | by

Nicole Eisenman, Black Pepper Marlboro, ca. 1993, ink and mixed media on paper, 22" x 30". Courtesy the artist and Anton Kern Gallery, New York. © Nicole Eisenman.

Congratulations to the MacArthur Foundation’s Class of 2015, four of whom you can find in the pages of The Paris Review and here on the DailyRead More »