Posts Tagged ‘books’
May 20, 2016 | by The Paris Review
In 1925, Alfred Stieglitz began a series of moody, diminutive photographs of cloud patterns (abstracted, they resembled curls and skeins of smoke); he called it Songs of the Sky, before later changing it to Equivalents. He showed the images to his friend, the composer Ernest Bloch, who, according to Stieglitz, declared it to be music. Partly in response to his friend’s photographs, Bloch composed “Poems of the Sea.” A show at Bruce Silverstein Gallery takes its name from Stieglitz’s series and presents five pairings of art and music, including Stieglitz/Bloch. The idea is to listen to a piece of music while looking at artworks that were inspired either by that composition, that composer, or by music more generally. Though it’s not always convincing, the idea of having two mediums respond and react to and provoke one another is intriguing. I love Frederick Sommer’s ink drawings of musical notation (they’re hieroglyphs and also stacked Futurist cityscapes), but his coupling with Chris Washburne is too on the nose. The obliqueness of Lisette Model’s photographs of people’s shadows resonates well with Arnold Schoenberg’s atonal Pierrot lunaire. My favorite, though, may be Aaron Siskind’s black-and-white photographs of male bodies tumbling through space set to a string-quartet arrangement of John Cage’s delicate, gorgeous Cheap Imitation: neither transcends its medium, but instead seems more acutely, more exquisitely itself. —Nicole Rudick
I spent some time this week on websafe2k16.com, an Internet project dedicated to cataloging memories of the early web. Built by three artists—Ben Sisto, Josephine Livingstone, and Joe Bernardi—the “literary/graphic” project asks writers to draw inspiration from one of the 216 web-safe color codes, such as the offending #66FF33 or the wistful #0099CC, writing personal recollections in 216 words. I scrolled through Web Safe’s rainbow grid, reading lyric memories about the conversant gargle of dial-up (Andrew Blevins, #CC6600), multiplayer computer games (Adrian Chen, #33CC00), LiveJournal (Anna Weiner, #003366), and other relics of the early web. Colors in the palette regularly inspire memories of braces and prom, group chats and forums. I wondered, reading about MySpace and MSN, what the colors of the early Internet trigger for me. Maybe Ask Jeeves, the first man in my life to whom I never could ask the right questions. Or Xanga, where I lurked on blogs written by my classmates. Or maybe Machu Picchu, an obscure nineties computer game I’ve lost nearly all memory of and haven’t ever found again. All that’s left is the name, and the bellow of nostalgia. —Caitlin Love Read More »
May 20, 2016 | by Sadie Stein
I’m not afraid of flying, but I’m deathly afraid of flying underprepared. I’m a light packer when it comes to clothes, but my carry-on is unwieldy and absurd. Any trip demands at least two books—one fun, one serious—and a couple of magazines—worthy and trashy—because the idea of being stranded in the air without sufficient reading material is terrifying.
The variety is crucial. Who knows, after all, what you might crave in the world of the air? You might be a different person. Read More »
April 27, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Deaccessioning: it’s one of the cruel realities of our time. But how do libraries determine which books turn to pulp and which remain to yellow on shelves? According to Mary Kelly and Holly Hibner, who’ve created a blog called Awful Library Books, it’s easier than you think: “Kelly and Hibner created the site in 2009. Each week, they highlight books that seem to them so self-evidently ridiculous that weeding is the only possible recourse. They often feature books with outlandish titles, like Little Corpuscle, a children’s book starring a dancing red blood cell; Enlarging Is Thrilling, a how-to about—you guessed it—film photography; and God, the Rod, and Your Child’s Bod: The Art of Loving Correction for Christian Parents … ‘I pull one or two books a week. Nobody’s going to even question that,’ Hibner said. She also keeps a bag of her favorite weeded books under her desk—Vans: The Personality Vehicle, Be Bold with Bananas—in case any inquisitive patrons want examples.”
- It’s not always easy to muster one’s enthusiasm for railways—even train buffs get the blues. But James Meek has been reading The Railways: Nation, Network and People, and so can offer a vital refresher for a world suffering from rail fatigue: “The shock of the speed of the first trains, three times faster than a stagecoach, wasn’t only physical, embodied in the sensations of acceleration and travel, but conceptual: the old measures of distance, how far town X was from town Y, were rendered irrelevant, leading to what commentators as early as 1833 were calling ‘the annihilation of space by time’, twenty-five years before Karl Marx used the phrase in the Grundrisse. Along with the speed of the trains was the shock of the speed with which the railways spread, gouging cuttings out of hills, flinging embankments across bowls of land, boring and blasting tunnels through solid rock, hurling viaducts over valleys and gorges … Writing in the 1960s, Michael Robbins said: ‘The Victorians who created the railway look like a race imbued with some demonic energy.’ ”
- David Means discusses his new novel, Hystopia, and the way he manipulates time in his fiction: “For me, grace lies in a paradox: the moment you are fully in existence while also fully aware of the vastness of time itself; so you’re sitting there in a hospital hallway holding a baby and the baby is looking up at you and you’re in the moment but also aware of the hugeness of the moment, the inexplicable forgiveness in the tactile feeling of this newborn life in your hands and the absolute innocent need inside the baby’s gaze. The writer’s job is to be as true as possible, not only in the drafting but the revision process, to the words and the reality that they are representing and creating. That requires an attempt at humility before the material, somehow. Humor and grace, for me, are entwined.”
- It’s great that Harriet Tubman will soon grace our twenties, but isn’t it time to spice up the ol’ government oil-portrait collection, too? “Looking through the House and Senate portrait collections, you’ll find a wealth of white legislators in ill-fitting suits posing awkwardly among symbolic objects: dogs, children, clocks, gavels, and flags—lots of flags … But if you’re not a white man, gay or straight, good luck getting a portrait painted before you die. The first Asian American in Congress, Dalip Singh Saund (D-CA), served as a representative for four years until a stroke ended his political career in 1962 … Saund died in 1973, but his portrait wasn’t commissioned until 2007, over forty years later, and it shows him standing in the Capitol rotunda, bordered by the places and people that influenced his career: India, California, Gandhi, and Lincoln.”
- Today in new exhibitions: “Olsen Twins Hiding From the Paparazzi.” “Ever wish that visiting a museum was more like watching reality TV and simultaneously browsing TMZ, all while a few wine coolers deep? You’re in luck … [the artist Laura Collins] had a series of paintings depicting the Olsen twins hiding from the paparazzi … Collins’s artwork lines the hallway, which is operating under a ‘jungle’ theme, complete with large green-paper leaves. Mary-Kate and Ashley are not identified in each painting, which Collins says is intentional. ‘I have no idea who’s who. I wanted it to be like, they’re kinda interchangeable. We almost don’t care who’s who.’ ”
April 14, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
When The Paris Review last interviewed Mark Leyner, in 2013, he announced his next book. “Gone with the Mind is my autobiography in the form of a first-person-shooter game,” he said. “You’ll have to blast your way back into my mother’s womb.”
Now, three years later, Gone with the Mind has arrived, and it’s … almost nothing like that. The autobiographical elements are intact, yes, and Leyner’s mother appears early and often—but the notion of a first-person shooter is unceremoniously jettisoned on page forty-six. (“Pretty much everyone I mentioned it to thought it sounded really cool, but what is that, actually? What would a book like that actually be, y’know?”) In its place is a loose frame story in which Leyner appears at the Nonfiction at the Food Court Reading Series at Woodcreek Plaza Mall, where he reads before a crowd of precisely three: a Panda Express employee on break, a Sbarro employee on break, and his mom.
The introductory speech he gives comprises the bulk of Gone with the Mind, a discursive farrago that touches on Freudian mother-son dynamics, constructivist aesthetics, fascist metaphysics, Twizzlers, women’s antiperspirant commercials, prostate cancer, and formative episodes from his youth. In earlier novels, Leyner cast himself as a paranoid egomaniac (Et Tu, Babe) or a feckless, oversexed adolescent (The Tetherballs of Bougainville), but the Mark Leyner we meet in these pages is transparent, erudite, self-deprecating, even tender. This is an autobiography that dramatizes its own creation—the pathos in attempting to express “the chord of how one feels at single given moment, in this transient, phantom world.”
I met Leyner at Marco & Pepe, a restaurant in Jersey City, where he arrived with a copy of Gershom Scholem’s The Messianic Idea in Judaism tucked under his arm. We began our conversation by learning, courtesy of our waitress, what a Portuguese muffin is.
So it sounds kind of like an English muffin, but bigger.
Does that mean anything called Portuguese is just a bigger variant of the English version?
Yes. Portuguese-breakfast tea is just a vat of English-breakfast tea. Anyway—it’s been three years since your last interview with the Review. I gather there’s been a sort of formalist struggle for you since then.
I waited on the idea for this book for a very long time. It’s important to me that each book is starting from scratch. I’m trying to think of a vital, unprecedented idea for a book that I haven’t seen. It’s not because I’m so ambitious—it’s just the way I’ve always worked. I have a feeling it comes from my being most engaged and inspired by visual artists when I was younger. Duchamp, Picabia, all the Cubists, Apollinaire and his people, André Breton, his people. And then all the great Abstract Expressionists, whom I adore still. I’m a big Clement Greenbergian. I’m a high formalist. I would always say that when, back in the day, people talked about postmodernism and things. I thought, No, I’m a card-carrying modernist, and I’m proud to say it. I approached this book in a formal way. How does one represent an autobiography, which in itself is a representation of confabulated memories? I began thinking about my mother—the meals we used to have at various restaurants and how we’ve always been so keen to make an audience out of each other. And that’s one of the really fundamental themes of this book—how intimates make audiences of each other. I really do think there’s a reading of this book that sees it as just me and my mom talking, and the rest of it being some kind of wonderful filigreed delusion—this pathetic event. Read More »
April 12, 2016 | by Sadie Stein
Beverly Cleary has turned one hundred. And while there’s no shortage of well-deserved and lovely tributes out there, I wanted to take a moment to talk about one of my favorite of her books: Fifteen, a YA novel published in 1956. Like all of Cleary’s work, it combines gentle observational humor with a genuine understanding of young people. And like the rest of her oeuvre, it holds up, even decades down the line. Read More »
April 7, 2016 | by Susannah Hunnewell
In 1999, Edwin Frank founded New York Review Books to reintroduce out-of-print works—many in first translations from around the world—to the reading public. “From the beginning, it was our intention to be resolutely eclectic, and build our classics series as different voices build a fugue,” Frank told the New York Times last year. “We set out to do the whole mix of things that a curious person might be interested in, which would take you back and forth from fiction to certain kinds of history.” In the last seventeen years, you’ve likely picked up a New York Review Book—maybe because you were taken with its arresting design, or because you recognized a work you didn’t know by a major author: Walt Whitman’s unexpurgated Drum-Taps, say, or unpublished stories by Chekhov, or new versions of Aeschylus and Balzac, Dante and Euripides, or essay collections by Sartre, Lionel Trilling, Renata Adler, and Janet Malcolm.
Since its inception, the series has won dozens of awards for its translations; the New York Times chose Magda Szabó’s The Door as one of the ten best books of 2015. New York Review Books have met not just with critical plaudits but commercial success, which naturally leads the curious reader to wonder: Who is Edwin Frank, anyway? We met in his apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn to discuss his process: how he finds the books he publishes and what provokes his interest. Frank has a soft-spoken manner and a reader’s excellent dispatch of vocabulary, but he clearly enjoys regular punctuations of loud laughter, provoked by his knowing, bone-dry sense of humor.
You’ve published two books of poetry. Has your background as a poet affected your tastes as an editor?
Well you could say that reading and writing poetry saved me from ever being a professional reader or writer. I had a Stegner Fellowship after college, but the main thing I took away from it was a permanent aversion to the world of writing programs, and poetry is also a pretty effective inoculation against commercial publishing. And I was always sure that I wanted to have nothing to do with the academic study of literature. Then again, poetry did in some sense lead me to publishing—a kind of gateway drug—since in the nineties my friend Andy McCord and I started a small press, Alef Books, in which we published Joseph Lease, Ilya Kutik, Melissa Monroe, Michael Ruby. But that was a labor of love. In fact I came to editing very late, in my midthirties, which is unusual in publishing, a business people mostly go into right after college. It was a lucky break. I needed a job and I thought that having put out a handful of books of poems would make me of interest to publishers, which of course was dead wrong.
Read More »