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Posts Tagged ‘Don DeLillo’

Where Are They Now? Part Two

August 26, 2014 | by

The second in a week-long series of illustrations by Jason Novak, captioned by Eric Jarosinski.

image_19image_1 Read More »

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How Your Gender Affects Your Vocabulary, and Other News

June 24, 2014 | by

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Hans Thoma, Adam and Eve, 1897.

  • George Saunders talks “about his family’s sense of humor, the connection between satire and compassion, his early comedy influences, and how he came to embrace the funny side of his writing.”
  • Some words that men are likelier to know than women: claymore, scimitar, solenoid, dreadnaught. Some words that women are likelier to know than men: taffeta, flouncing, bodice, progesterone. The conclusions are yours to draw.
  • I Was a Digital Best Seller”—the horrifying true story!
  • It sounds like a spinoff of DeLillo’s The Names: a journalist named Rose Eveleth becomes obsessed with a small town that shares her name: Eveleth, Minnesota. She visits it only using Google Street View.
  • Spending time with Prince at a listening party for his new record: “When you arrive at Paisley Park, you switch to Prince time. After nearly an hour’s wait, I was ushered into Studio B [at] about one a.m. … My next two hours at Paisley Park would be filled with funk, frustration, and funny lines—all courtesy of Prince.”

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What We’re Loving: Pop Stars, Rock Stars, The Fault in Our Stars

June 13, 2014 | by

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The Fault in Our Stars—now a major motion picture.

Last week I read a dazzling novel about a starcrossed young couple and a reclusive, grouchy, alcoholic novelist who changes their lives. That was Mao II, by Don DeLillo. But in the middle of reading Mao II—on the very same plane ride—I dipped into a friend’s copy of The Fault in Our Stars. Somehow I had missed all the hype, and didn’t know what to expect. (Said my traveling companion: “You’re already crying? You’re what, two pages in?") I finished the book one sitting later. More accurately, I was lying down, in a hammock, to obviate the need for a hanky. Among its many tear-jerking qualities, the book powerfully evokes the work of David Foster Wallace, the only real-life novelist who could fill the shoes of the fictional Van Houten. As Laura Miller writes in Salon, The Fault in Our Stars is full of Wallace allusions; scenes like the one where a teenager sobs over his girlfriend, while playing a first-person shooter game, read like Wallace come back to life—if he came back and wrote for kids. In a week that saw the passing of the great children’s-book publisher Frances Foster, The Fault in Our Stars filled me with hope for young readers, even as it made me mourn, all over again, for friends we’ve lost. —Lorin Stein

Britney Spears must be some kind of a journalistic muse. In 2008, David Samuels wrote about her in “Shooting Britney,” a perceptive look at the paparazzi and the surrogate intimacy of celebrity culture. Now, in “Miss American Dream,” Taffy Brodesser-Akner—what a name!—pulls back the curtain on Britney’s new residency in Las Vegas. The piece gets inside the lurid pageantry that’s become a prerequisite of “Britneyplex, which is the enormous machine built around Britney Spears.” It’s also an acutely observed study of the longueurs of fame; moments of synapse-frying overstimulation are followed by episodes of surreal blandness. E.g.:She was sitting in a room in the semi-dark, slightly hunched over, a little bored, at the tail end of a daylong junket in which TV journalists asked her questions like ‘What do people not know about you?’ (‘Really that I’m pretty boring.’) and ‘What was the craziest rumor you ever heard about yourself?’ (‘That I died.’)” —Dan Piepenbring

One of these days, U2 is going to release a new album—in the meantime, there’s U Talkin’ U2 to Me?, a bizarrely wonderful podcast I’ve laughed out loud to on the subway. Described by its hosts (Scott Aukerman of Comedy Bang! Bang! and Between Two Ferns, and Adam Scott from Parks & Recreation) as “the comprehensive and encyclopedic compendium of all things U2,” the show talks about U2 pretty sporadically, but it’s worth checking out for the improvisations from the two Scotts, including a hysterical Harold-like game in which they make up fake podcasts within the world of the show, each with its own fictional history and quirks. This week’s episode takes the form of an audio commentary on the podcast itself. It’s even weirder than that sounds. —Chantal McStay

A recent article in the Huffington Post suggests reading Rumi for a more meaningful life—advice I found both unsurprising and unnerving. I come from a Persian household where Rumi’s poetry was always at the literary forefront, but in more recent years, the poet’s words have been reduced to captioning photos of perfectly timed sunsets and vast ocean views. I prefer the darker Rumi, even if a line like “Either give me more wine or leave me alone” isn’t likely to inspire enthusiasm. Rumi’s work is much too varied to be reduced. “Two there are who are never satisfied—the lover of the world and the lover of knowledge,” he wrote. That a poet from the thirteenth century is still so widely read testifies to his intuition and candor. —Yasmin Roshanian

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What We’re Loving: Archives, Architects, the Arctic Sky

April 25, 2014 | by

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Lebbeus Woods, San Francisco Project: Inhabiting the Quake, Quake City, 1995. Image via the Drawing Center

Sadie Stein already recommended Arlette Farge’s little book-length essay The Allure of the Archives. A year later, I have to second the recommendation. On the surface, this is a personal memoir by a feminist historian whose research—into eighteenth-century police files—fundamentally changed our picture of pre-revolutionary Paris. But really this is a handbook about how to write, how to think about, history. Gripping, graceful, and beautifully translated by Thomas Scott-Railton, it captures the fun and the dangers of library work like nothing I’ve ever read. —Lorin Stein

A new anthology from Brick introduced me to Don DeLillo’s “Counterpoint: Three Movies, a Book, and an Old Photograph,” an essay from 2004. That title belies both the piece’s range and its force of concentration. It looks at Glenn Gould, Thelonious Monk, and Thomas Bernhard, three isolated, brilliant men who craved and feared the seclusion that came with their work. DeLillo is interested not just in their difficult lives but in the cultural consensus we reached upon their deaths—who did we decide these men were, and why? As its images begin to collect, all of them rendered in that laser-cut DeLillo prose, the essay becomes a haunting account of the distance between an artist and his audience, his art, and himself. DeLillo has a rare gift for writing about the sensory experience of art, for tracing the vectors of meaning in sight and sound. “In a busy diner,” he writes of a scene from Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, “there are voices in layers and zones, some folded over others, in counterpoint.” And he condenses The Fast Runner into a solitary image, an image of, well, overwhelming solitariness: “The man is running, eyes wild, into the arctic sky.” —Dan Piepenbring

Lebbeus Woods, who died in 2012, was an artist’s architect. He imagined the buildings that cities would need when calamity came calling. His work exists almost exclusively as experiment—only one of his ideas was actually constructed—and 175 of his graphite dreams are currently on display at the Drawing Center in SoHo. Some look like gashes in the side of a building, or what would happen to a street if it suddenly woke up. Some are like seedpods split open and engorged, a home for one suspended by a slender stalk, and some are simply floating, free of the city entirely. Or maybe these are cities, untethered, finally free to found themselves. —Zack Newick Read More »

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All the Parts Combined

February 25, 2014 | by

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Diagram from the Colt Revolver patent, 1836

178 years ago today, in 1836, Samuel Colt was granted a U.S. patent for his revolver, which he called “a new and useful Improvement in Fire-Arms,” those most brutally useful of devices. As EDN (Electrical Design News) noted last year, Colt’s design “was a more practical adaption of Elisha Collier's earlier revolving flintlock. It included a locking pawl to keep the cylinder in line with the barrel, and a percussion cap that made ignition more reliable, faster, and safer than the previous designs.” (This is much more edifying when you learn what a pawl is: “a pivoted curved bar or lever whose free end engages with the teeth of a cogwheel or ratchet so that the wheel or ratchet can only turn or move one way.”)

If you can refrain from asking yourself what sort of man would want to invent a more efficient killing machine, Colt’s patent is worth reading, or at least skimming, for the sense it gives of technical writing in the mid-nineteenth century: it’s a strict, unvarnished account of how a thing works, surprisingly direct in its syntax, and full of great machine-age terms like pawlarbor, shackleratchet, and mainspring. Today, when technical writing is a muddle of jargon and pleonasm, it’s pleasing to see how accessible this patent is—all the more so because it’s such a famous invention. Granted, this isn’t scintillating reading by any stretch of the imagination, but if you sat down with a tall urn of coffee and summoned your very best self’s powers of concentration, you could actually learn how to craft and operate a fucking gun.

Take this sentence, for example: “Fig. 9 is a spring, which holds the rod, Fig. 5, toward the hammer, that the connecting-rod may catch in a notch at the bottom of the hammer to hold it when set.” See? Lucid, if not limpid. In other places, the simple declarative sentences accrue in rapid sequence, achieving an almost poetic cadence, or at least an admirable degree of compression: Read More »

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The Pram in the Hall

January 29, 2014 | by

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Photo: Silver Cross UK, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most popular quotations about creativity and parenthood is Cyril Connolly’s: “There is no more somber enemy of good art than the pram in the hall.” This aphorism, snobbish in its dismissal of human distraction, has been passed down through generations of artists as a black warning banner—Have Children, Be Creatively Screwed Forever.

Having a child isn’t easy, of course. When my son, Julian, was born sixteen months ago, I became intimately acquainted with sleep deprivation and time constraints. The third night after we’d brought him home, I remember being in bed, so mentally and physically exhausted that when I looked up at where the ceiling and the wall met, I saw the seam crack open, revealing a horizon of white light and red lava.

I slept in naps, and although I found the first several months to be brutal and strange and basically a new realm of reality, my role as a father worked as a kind of energizer. The pram in the hall was no “somber enemy”—rather, because I was baggy-eyed, vein-drenched in coffee, and blindly stepping into the new world of fatherhood, producing work had never felt more important to me. I was creatively explosive, if a little loose and wild. I can’t remember showering or looking in the mirror for weeks. Given the sudden constrains on my time, the pockets in which I could work were like mines where I hacked away with a speed I’ve never experienced before, discovering and polishing work.

What’s been most difficult, really, is balancing the weird mix of father and writer online, where the community I know is mostly childless. This online world, which I love and cherish, is also detached and ironic and so image-based that being a dad doesn’t seem to fit. To age out, a writer must pass through three stages: First, you turn thirty, thus becoming “online old.” Second, you get married. Third, you have a child. I’ve done all three, and now I’m having to define myself online: Am I a writer or a dad or a husband? Can I be all three? Read More »

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