Posts Tagged ‘James Wood’
April 5, 2013 | by The Paris Review
It is wrong to kvell, but according to both Adam Shatz and Yasmine El Rashidi, our poetry editor, Robyn Creswell, has knocked it out of the park with his translation of Sonallah Ibrahim’s modern Egyptian classic That Smell and Notes from Prison. Unlike writers better known in the West, says El Rashidi, Ibrahim “has continuously reinvented the form and language he uses in his work, while probing deeply into the underlying tensions running through Egyptian society. Creswell’s new translation of the novel finally allows English language readers to appreciate these qualities … Despite the differences of syntax between Arabic and English, the translation retains the tone, the vocabulary, and the pared down and staccato rhythm of the original.” We take her word for it. —Lorin Stein
On paper, Sarah Polley’s documentary Stories We Tell and Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color could not be more different, but they made for a nice double feature this past weekend at New Directors/New Films. Both films raise questions about identity and the ownership of memory. Both throw conventional narratives out the window. And when I walked out of each, not all my questions were answered, but maybe that’s the point: life’s complex, and some things unanswerable are still worth exploring. —Justin Alvarez
In Lars Iyer’s Exodus, the friendship between two minor academics, Lars and W., is founded not on shared interest but on a shared sense of failure, self-laceration, and gin. Together Lars and W. bemoan the state of the academy and the seeming impossibility of philosophy, but I laugh loudest when W. bemoans the state of Lars: “‘The true and only virtue is to hate ourselves,’ W. says, reading from his notebook. To hate ourselves: what a task! He’ll begin with me, W. says. With hating me. Then he’ll move on to hating what I’ve made him become. What I’ve been responsible for. Then—the last step—he will have to hate himself without reference to me at all.” For even more Lars and W., also read Spurious, the first book in Iyer’s trilogy. —Brenna Scheving Read More »
March 18, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
- With Charles Dickens’s quill a bit the worse for wear, the Royal Society of Literature begins signing its roll book with T. S. Eliot’s fountain pen. James Wood inaugurates.
- In the New York Post, poet Bob Holman shares a guide to his poetic New York, which includes the White Horse Tavern, the Hare Krishna tree, and the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.
- Will independent bookstores fill the gaps left by Borders? In Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, at least, this might be happening!
- Speaking of: Did you catch this list of über-indie bookstores in private homes?
- Happy birthday, Fabio: here are his best book covers.
December 27, 2012 | by Francesca Mari
We’re out this week, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2012 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!
I knew a kid in college who wanted so desperately to produce a book that he couldn’t stand the sight of their spines. He stacked them—ten or so brown and black books, library hardcovers—in his dorm room, titles to the wall, lips facing forward. He didn’t really buy books, either—at least I don’t recall that he did—but he never passed a bookstore without entering to read. These same stores have since displayed his books in their windows.
“‘You can tell how serious people are by looking at their books,’” Susan Sontag told Sigrid Nunez, long ago when Nunez was dating Sontag’s son. “She meant not only what books they had on their shelves, but how the books were arranged,” Nunez explains. “Because of her, I arranged my own books by subject and in chronological rather than alphabetical order. I wanted to be serious.”
There are many varieties of nerd, but only two real species—the serious and the nonserious—and shelves are a pretty good indication of who is which. “To expose a bookshelf,” Harvard professor Leah Price writes in Unpacking My Library, a recent collection of interviews with writers about the books they own, “is to compose a self.” In Sontag’s case, a very rigorous self. And, of course, that’s just the sort of self someone anxious about his aspirations might shy away from. “A self without a shelf remains cryptic,” Price notes. It’s like the straight-A student who says he hasn’t studied for finals: if you haven’t confessed to caring, no one can consider you to have failed.
There’s not a lot of anxiety about keeping libraries in this collection, however, because the adults featured—Junot Diaz, Steven Pinker, Gary Shteyngart, James Wood, Claire Messud, to name a few—are all solidly successful. Price’s interviews are less about each writer’s affairs and encounters with individual books than his or her shepherding of the whole herd—what’s treasured, tossed, bought twice, allowed to be lent. The interesting questions focus on each writer’s feelings about intellectual signaling and methods of overall arrangement. In other words, the stars of the pictures aren’t the books but the shelves. Read More »
August 31, 2012 | by The Paris Review
Of the first volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s long, uneventful bildungsroman, My Struggle, James Wood wrote, “Even when I was bored, I was interested.” Wood is a man who knows how to pay attention to long, boring books, even at times enjoys them, so I began My Struggle with trepidation; it was misplaced. The book kept me up till two almost every morning for a week. All the good things Wood says about the novel seem to me true; but I loved it even when the narrator slipped into clichés, because they made him seem that much more real and singleminded in his storytelling. I don’t read Norwegian, but it’s hard to believe that the translator, Don Bartlett, could have made such vital, humane prose—over such a long stretch—unless he was hewing close to a work of genius. —Lorin Stein
“Here’s my brutal / many-minded / poem / to the new city,” are the first words of Manuel Maples Arce’s “City: Bolshevik Super-Poem in 5 Cantos.” The poem was first published in Mexico City in 1924, and the subtitle isn’t entirely ironic. Another stanza begins, “Russia’s lungs / blow the wind / of social revolution / in our direction. / Literary dick gropers / will understand nothing.” I first read about Arce in Savage Detectives, where he is one of the deities in Bolaño’s pantheon of the Latin American avant-garde, identified as “the father of stridentism.” I thought this was a made-up group, but it really existed (that’s them, in the photo). They gathered in a café called Multánime (“many-minded”), where a contemporary reports that “the waiters placed their order via radio and the Pianola played music from intercepted Martian concerts.” —Robyn Creswell
August 24, 2012 | by The Paris Review
Have you ever had one of those days where it’s best, for everybody, that you stay in your room and turn off your phone and promise never to talk to anyone ever again? Gabrielle Bell understands. Her autobiographical comic strip The Voyeurs just rescued one such Thursday night for me. Bell makes social awkwardness verging on phobia look cool, or at least perfectly rational, and even at her most despondent, her pen notices what’s going on outside the window or in a friend’s facial expression—and as often as not, it’s funny and endearing, even beautiful. For an artist who skewers her own fecklesness and self-pity, Bell spends a lot of time secretly celebrating the world. —Lorin Stein
As my friends know, I have long held a somewhat irrational prejudice against all shades of purple, and when pressed, have only ever been able to come up with vague allusions to wizards and Lisa Frank. Imagine my glee, then, when, in a Q & A with The New York Times Magazine, Monocle editor and full-time jet-setter Tyler Brûlé declared the following:
December 14, 2011 | by The Paris Review
Come listen to John Jeremiah Sullivan read tonight at an event hosted by The New York Times Magazine! We can’t promise James Wood on bongos, but there may be music from Michael Jackson, Axl Rose, Bunny Wailer, or Geeshie Wiley, and there’s sure to be lots of good bourbon-drinking.
John Jeremiah Sullivan
At The Half King
Tonight: Wednesday, December 14
505 West 23rd St
New York, NY 10011