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Posts Tagged ‘Gilbert Adair’

What We’re Loving: Fictional Memoirs, Unreliable Narrators

February 15, 2013 | by

51eJO4rgNrLAs we close our Spring Issue, plan our Spring Revel, and try to find a new office, I’ve been taking refuge in two books at once. At dinner I’m reading Edward Limonov’s outrageous and very funny “fictional memoir” It’s Me, Eddie, about living as a penniless émigré in a New York SRO. In later years, Limonov has had a confusing political career (he may be the only living Russian poet to have raised a private army or campaigned for Zhirinovsky), but back in 1978 he was pure punk. After dinner it’s the new translation of Climates, by André Maurois, an irresistible, micro-Proustian novel about a jealous husband and the woman who tries to save him. I can’t explain why these two books go so well together, except to note that each one broods on a painful breakup, and that I don’t want either one to end. —Lorin Stein

I’ve been paging through the late Richard Stern’s Still on Call, a collection of essays, reflections, and general miscellany. In one section, Stern describes his encounters with other writers, including a near-stalking of Sinclair Lewis in Central Park and a leisurely lunch with Thomas Mann, but it was Stern’s meeting with “Japan’s most distinguished poet,” Shuntarō Tanikawa, that especially interested me. Unfamiliar with Tanikawa, I tracked down a translation of his 1980 collection, At Midnight in the Kitchen I Just Wanted to Talk to You, and felt an immediate affinity after reading “My Favorite Things,” Tanikawa’s take on Oscar Hammerstein’s famous lyrics. If you can’t get your hands on a copy of the collection, you can still read the poem here—Brenna Scheving

Who writes a novel-length lipogram, and furthermore, who translates it? Sadists? Cat lovers without a cause? Georges Perec and Gilbert Adair have, respectively, accomplished this feat. A Void (translation of the French title, La disparition) could rescue you from the winter doldrums as a cerebral, cleverly disguised detective tale. Written sans the letter e, it forces you to acknowledge the absence while following the protagonist, Anton Vowl. In this paragraph alone, I have used e sixty-two times. If you need further evidence of Perec’s merit as a writer, look at his author photo. —Kendall Poe

I picked up a galley of The Other Typist on a whim, and from the first page was absorbed: I haven’t been able to put it down. Suzanne Rindell’s story of a 1920s police stenographer who becomes increasingly obsessed with a glamorous new typist reminds me at points of Notes on a Scandal and Patricia Highsmith, but has creepy charms all its own. —Sadie Stein



Staff Picks: ‘At Last,’ Ambivalence

February 10, 2012 | by

“I couldn’t make her amusing,” says David Melrose after asking his girlfriend to eat off the floor like a dog, “but I did at least keep her quiet. I was dreading having another talk about the agonies of being rich. I know so little about them, and she knows so little about anything else.” From the first pages of Edward St. Aubyn’s Never Mind, it’s clear that his cycle of Patrick Melrose novels will be delightfully packed with gross privilege, dysfunction, and savage humor. The first four novels have just been released as a single paperback alongside the fifth and final book, At Last. I look forward to devouring them all. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

If you’re a Thomas Mann fan—or, anyway, someone who’s fascinated by his work (fan doesn’t seem the right word)—it’s worth seeking out Gilbert Adair’s The Real Tadzio, the story of the ten-year-old Polish nobleman who inspired Mann’s Death in Venice. The object of the thirty-six-year-old author’s fixation was unaware of the connection for years. The book deals with his reaction to the odd sort of celebrity he acquired and, of course, with the summer in Venice that inspired the novella. It’s a slim volume, but it packs a punch and is ultimately as much about the end of an era in Europe as it is about the creative process or Mann’s disquieting obsession (about which his wife was oddly blasé). —Sadie Stein

Ambivalence may be the moral failing of the twenty-first century. Or perhaps not. It depends. I’m as guilty of it as anyone (maybe more), and I don’t feel good about my role in what Kenneth Weisbrode describes as a collective pathology. But in reading his engaging minihistory, I do feel encouraged to just make a decision already. —Nicole Rudick

The Library of Congress has made available, via Flickr, all sixteen hundred jazz photos by William P. Gottlieb. From 1938 to 1948, Gottlieb documented the New York and D.C. jazz scenes with the obsession of an avid collector. Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Django Reinhardt, and even Doris Day—all are represented. —Josh Anderson

Weighing in at ten pounds, A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I-XVIII, the nine-hundred-page volume of photographer Taryn Simon’s latest body of work, is not the easiest book to curl up with. Compiled over four years, Simon’s project records the bloodlines of eighteen different families across the world, charting the forgotten details of their family histories. It is an unforgettable exploration of survival, inheritance, and the forces of fate. —Elizabeth Nelson

“Anyone who takes pleasure in modesty will get on well here,” writes Robert Walser of a bar in his Berlin Stories. The same could be said of his work, as the excerpts now running at The New York Review blog prove. —D.F.M.

I really liked this piece on Jewish designers’ appropriation of WASP style—and how often is a title this perfectly suited to its subject? —S.S.