Posts Tagged ‘Edna St. Vincent Millay’
June 28, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
I think we can all agree that what this day needs is Joan Crawford dramatically reading Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Dirge Without Music.”
June 21, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
Why aren’t there more novels about Quaker worship? It’s inherently dramatic, people sitting in silence and waiting for God to speak through them. Dramatic—and really, really funny. For proof look no further than Nicholson Baker’s forthcoming novel, Traveling Sprinkler. The hero, Paul Chowder, spends a lot of time attending Quaker meetings (i.e., church). Most of the rest of the novel he spends trying to teach himself the guitar, write (incredibly dorky) songs, and win back the girlfriend who left him in Baker’s earlier novel The Anthologist. There are lots of reasons to love Traveling Sprinkler: Baker gets sweeter with each new book, and underneath the sweetness lie witty arguments about poetry and song and taste. Among other things, this is the best novel I’ve read about Spotify. It also vividly captures Quaker beliefs and practices at a moment when, as Paul Elie wrote last year in the New York Times, many novelists have trouble writing about religion. —Lorin Stein
“Beautiful and brilliant, possessed of an eye protected against sentiment coupled with a steel-trap mind and a tongue feared by all who had been at the receiving end of its talented sarcasm, a sarcasm that for some would always be wickedly amusing, for others just wicked.” So says essayist (and issue 204 contributor) Vivian Gornick of critic and writer Mary McCarthy on The New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog. In a piece drawn from her introduction to a new edition of McCarthy’s 1949 novel, The Oasis, Gornick highlights the book’s biting satire but, more importantly, McCarthy’s fearlessness in barely disguising her characters from their real-life counterparts (mostly her Partisan Review colleagues). As McCarthy stated in her Art of Fiction interview, “What I really do is take real plums and put them in an imaginary cake.” —Justin Alvarez Read More »
March 1, 2013 | by The Paris Review
There are moods in which even a used bookstore can defeat you, when you can’t imagine why anyone ever bothered, when every first sentence is an effort and a rebuke. Next time you find yourself in that mood, look under A for Ackerley (J. R.). His memoir My Father and Myself is a masterpiece of calm self-hatred. My Dog Tulip is the unforgettable true story of how he gave up on human beings and fell in love with a German shepherd. But the book I needed, and found, the other night is Ackerley’s one novel, We Think the World of You. This too is a dog book. Without having yet read the introduction (I’m a few pages from the end), I suspect it too is autobiographical. Set in London just after the war, it concerns a middle-aged gay man, desperately in love with a young prison inmate, who transfers his overbearing affection to the man’s dog, Evie. Ackerley was, by all accounts, including his, an unpleasant guy. The magic is how clearly he sees himself, with a clarity almost amounting to forgiveness. He is also very funny. Four chapters in, behind two pints at a quiet bar, I felt ready to face the world. —Lorin Stein
I still mourn the loss of Gourmet—the exquisite photography, like eighteenth-century still lifes; the insane, days-long dinners that I never intended to prepare—but I’m grateful to have been directed to Ruth Reichl’s Twitter feed. Her entries are haikus of deliciousness: “Gray. Rain coming. Curled up with the cat, a book, and a comforting bowl of lemon rice soup. Edible sunshine.” “So cold! Tiny tug shoves a big black boat up the river. Bowl of butter-toasted oatmeal. Almonds. Apricots. Brown sugar. Heavy cream. Warmer.” “Cold. Sunny. Blue Tiepolo sky, dappled with clouds. Fluffy pancakes. Lace-edged fried eggs from Barry’s hens. Smoky bacon. Maple syrup. Yes!” —Nicole Rudick Read More »
February 14, 2013 | by Ross Kenneth Urken
Three Fourth of July weekends ago, on a crowded Hampton Jitney, beach bag strategically placed so no one could take the seat next to me, I watched a flustered blonde board and sit down directly across the aisle. Think Marilyn Monroe gone boho in the East End swelter. The LIRR had broken down, and she had spent several frustrating hours in the humidity of Westhampton waiting for a train that wouldn’t be fixed.
By contrast, I was cool and composed, having spent the day at a painter friend’s vernissage. At the time, I was a lowly twenty-three-year-old magazine intern and had met the artist while covering an event. Now I was craving some solitude. Slouched and brooding, knees tucked up into the seat before me, I closed myself off. Coupled with my tote-bag force field, I hoped my general vibe said, “No conversation please.”
As she threw down the bag slung over her shoulder, I saw she was clutching a faded pink hardcover, a book of collected poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay. I caught her looking at me—a glance I interpreted as one of contempt. People who take up two seats... But when she had settled in and we began to furtively study each other through the half-light, I realized my misappraisal: she was more curious than anything. We tested the limits of our peripheral vision like elementary school pupils.
The captivity of a bus—coupled with the urgency of a short trip—blends with the spontaneity of bus reservations (compared, say, to planes booked in advance) to make chance encounters inevitable and last minute shifts in fate possible. Millay’s poem “Travel,” in retrospect, seems freakily appropriate for the cancelled LIRR and the day’s noisy disruption: “The railroad track is miles away, / And the day is loud with voices speaking, / Yet there isn’t a train goes by all day / But I hear its whistle shrieking.”
She would later tell me she was struck by how relaxed I appeared when she, by contrast, had undergone such an ordeal. How composed my body language, how casual my unbuttoned shirt (truth be told, what she interpreted as Zen was really just exhaustion).
I decided to say hello first, and we started to talk; the memory of the exact exchange is hazy, imbued as the moment was with the fluttering nerves and saccharine rush of a first encounter your subconscious recognizes as significant before you truly do.
She was an actress who nannied in the Hamptons between roles. Judging by my madras shorts and boat shoes, she assumed I was some kind of pool boy. Not quite, but I was probably one of the few on our bus without a family home somewhere between Quogue and Montauk. We playfully guessed each other’s names.
“Vanessa?” I said. (What, does he think I’m some kind of bitch?)
“Joshua?” she tried. (Is it that obvious I’m Jewish?) Read More »
June 29, 2012 | by Sadie Stein
Dear Paris Review,
For the last few months I have been rotting my brain with nothing but trash. (I am ashamed to admit how trashy, but let’s just say a certain mommy-porn trilogy may have been involved.) And the worst part is, now I find myself unable to read anything good. How do I transition back to respectable books? Sincerely, Trashy
I think this has happened to a lot of us, in one form or another. I’ve also had a variation on this experience with movies: the Ozus and Bergmans in my Netflix queue mock me as I sheepishly skip over them, yet again, in favor of season 2 of The Borgias or some competitive-cooking show that forces people to re-create a taste memory using one hand, a Bunsen burner, and a palm frond. Sometimes we need transitional fare, the literary equivalent of a basically formulaic romantic comedy with a low budget and indie pretensions, if you will.
The good news is, there is no shortage of reads that are every bit as fun as what you term trash, but won’t leave you feeling like you just wasted six hours of your life. Lorin gave a good rundown not long ago. To his list I’d add classics like The Secret History, Case Histories, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Bonjour Tristesse, and newer titles Skippy Dies, The Chaperone, and Ghost Lights. If you like thrillers, there’s no shortage. I enjoy Tana French, although she’s not everyone’s idea of a beach read. If you’re really having a tough time weaning yourself, maybe try a different genre entirely: humorous essays always go down easy, and, along the same lines, short-story collections provide a gradual transition. Personally, I’m a sucker for a juicy biography: The Sisters, American Gothic, and Savage Beauty all got me through periods of intellectual exhaustion. Good luck, and I look forward to more suggestions from our readers!
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May 22, 2012 | by Sadie Stein
Thanks to Tongue Journal and the Poetry Foundation for bringing us this fantastic bit of annotation! In November 1924, Ernest Hemingway published “The Lady Poets with Foot Notes” in Der Querschnitt. It's a satirical poem full of lit-world in-jokes and allusions to female poets of the day, and Hemingway scholar Michael Reynolds has IDs them. The poetesses are:
1. Edna St. Vincent Millay
2. Aline Kilmer
3. Sara Teasdale
4. Zoe Akins
5. Lola Ridge
6. Amy Lowell
The Poetry Foundation has more to say about all of them!