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Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Vandermeer’

How to Piss Off W. Somerset Maugham, and Other News

June 18, 2014 | by

Maugham_retouched

You shouldn’t have said that. Somerset Maugham in a portrait by Carl Van Vechten, 1934.

  • Beneath Picasso’s painting The Blue Room, infrared technology has revealed another painting, “a portrait of a man wearing a jacket, bow tie, and rings.”
  • Literary Feud of the Day: Patrick Leigh Fermor versus W. Somerset Maugham. The latter called the former “a middle-class gigolo for upper-class women,” but “at least a small part of Somerset Maugham’s hostility can be attributed to an evening during which Leigh Fermor, a guest at the older writer’s table, entertained the company by making fun of his host’s stutter.”
  • Pablo Delcán on his complex, eerie cover designs for the Spanish editions of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy: “It was about giving a twist to the natural and known world, a way of making it fictional and distorted.”
  • Charles Barsotti, one of The New Yorker’s greatest cartoonists, died yesterday. Among his many masterworks is a cartoon of a cheerful God talking to a nervous new arrival in heaven: “No, no, that’s not a sin, either. My goodness, you must have worried yourself to death.”
  • An interview with Barbara Cassin, whose Dictionary of Untranslatables is now available in English: “I wanted something else, and this something else is rephilosophizing words with words and not with universals. And these words are words in languages. Let us see what it means, how it can bring us to dwell a little bit on the difference between mind, Geist, and esprit. What happens if we look at the words, where they emerge and where they philosophize? Let us have a look.”

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What We’re Loving: Foam, Florida, Fiction Binges

January 24, 2014 | by

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I received my first issue of Mothers News this week—and now I wonder what I’ve been doing with my life. A free monthly broadside out of Providence, Mothers News is hyper, delirious, and weird. And, I now realize, essential reading. The eight-page rag is best known, and rightly so, for its comics—with regular strips by C. F., Michael Deforge, Mickey Z, Brian Chippendale, and others—but all the content is of a piece. This issue manages, for instance, a column devoted to foam (“What do we know about foam?”—quite a bit, it turns out); a top-ten list that includes a brief excursion into the etymology of “hoist by my own petard”; and an announcement that the UN has designated 2014 the International Year of Family Farming and Crystallography (IYFF 2014 and IYCr2014, respectively). There’s also, of course, the Ambrose Bierce Memorial Word Jumble and a coveted ad from the Lon Chaney Society of New England. —Nicole Rudick

I’ve been dipping into T. D. Allman’s Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State, whose bright jacket belies its sharp dressing-down of our twenty-seventh state. In Allman’s telling, Florida is, and always has been, an accursed microcosm of the American dream—from its geology to its politics to its economics, everything about the place invites delusion, violence, and disaster. Some critics found this too apocalyptic, but I think Allman’s gloom is a valuable corrective, and he’s far from humorless; even his bibliography has fizz. (“Where the Boys Are [1960]. Groovy LA starlets play beach blanket bingo in Fort Lauderdale.”) You can read Florida, longlisted for last year’s National Book Award, as an erudite complement to Florida Man, a Twitter feed that lists the frighteningly constant stream of follies coming from the Sunshine State. The latest: “Florida Man Arrested for Beating Uncle with Toilet Seat.” —Dan Piepenbring

Over the long weekend I went on a New Yorker fiction binge and read every short story I’d missed in 2013. Among the gems I’d somehow overlooked: Tessa Hadley’s impeccable “Bad Dreams,” Thomas McGuane’s “Weight Watchers,” and “The Christmas Miracle,” by Rebecca Curtis, which is simply the funniest short story I have read in a year. It’s easy to carp at The New Yorker, because it’s an institution, but forget that and read the stories first. From week to week, they are often as interesting, as much fun to read, as anything in the magazine. —Lorin Stein Read More »

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