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Posts Tagged ‘Jhumpa Lahiri’

Staff Picks: Cuppy, Cloverleaves, Captain Cunt

December 4, 2015 | by

Illustration by Ed Nofziger, from How to Attract the Wombat, by Will Cuppy.

Lovers of dictionaries and nature can rejoice in John Stilgoe’s new book, What Is Landscape? Stilgoe, who holds the enviable title of Orchard Professor in the History of Landscape at Harvard, wanders the etymology of the landscape lexicon, from the ancient Hebrew word kittor (meaning a stream of water, but also a pillar of smoke) to the difference between a cart path and a cow path. He manages here, as in other of his books, to abut the old and the new, the outmoded and the contemporary in such a way that the differences are plain but the connections between them are still vital—in the way, say, a plowed field abuts a brushy fence line and the beach abuts both the sea and the edge of human civilization. These are marginal spaces, constructed spaces, spaces “easily taken for granted, all too easily half seen.” His examination of highway cloverleafs is particularly good. Though not villages in any sense, they nonetheless provide the basic commercial services of one, and he links them fluidly to their counterparts in the past: “Especially in rural and wilderness areas, the ‘sparsely settled regions’ that slightly unnerve urban and suburban travelers, every cloverleaf might be the isolated tavern or inn of European and British folktale.” —Nicole Rudick

On Nicole’s recommendation, I’ve been reading The Strange Hours Travelers Keep, the Griffin Poetry Prize–winning collection by August Kleinzahler. It’s as good as she says. I’m drawn to poems that revel in their own grit—ones that knead sex and death and deadpan humor in with the erudite and the literary; in Strange Hours, such moments come in delectable little bursts. In a poem to the philosopher Aristippus there’s a “Captain Cunt of the Roaring Forties”; in another, a young woman is chewed out for her unflattering exposé of an ex-lover: “ … Mark, who kissed and indulged you, opened his heart, / only to have you pick up your pen to write / about his belligerent penis …” Kleinzahler takes us to the natatorium, the marketplace, the Oxford River; he introduces us to Calliope and Erato and Lewis Bernard Castel; and all the while he muses on the peculiar hours we keep to eat, to fuck, to pass the time. And yet, my favorite lines are far tenderer. They’re from “After Lady Murakami”: “Just as I found myself / in the dentist chair / only yesterday / hands clenched against my thighs / so I find myself here / in this seat / heart in my throat / as you walk into the room.” —Caitlin Youngquist Read More »

Spellbound

June 26, 2015 | by

In memory of James Salter, who died last week, the Daily is republishing a series of essays from 2011, when Salter received The Paris Review’s Hadada Prize. In today’s piece, Jhumpa Lahiri writes about Light Years.

To learn more about Salter, read his 1993 Art of Fiction interview or one of his stories from the magazine: “Sundays” (1966), “Am Strande von Tanger” (1968), “Via Negativa” (1972), and “Bangkok” (2003) are available in full online.

For over half my life, I have returned repeatedly to Light Years. It was the first of James Salter’s books I discovered; it has since led me to all his others. Light Years is the one I know best. The first copy was borrowed. It belonged to my college roommate and was among the handful of books she’d brought with her from home, having nothing to do with our classes. It was a beautiful paperback published by North Point Press: yellow border, rough edges, thickly woven pages, a Bonnard painting on the cover. It was 1985. The book was ten years old; I was eighteen. I was new to New York, a freshman at Barnard College. I was unsophisticated, unmoored, bewildered by college and by the city. Reading the novel was like opening a window for the first time in spring, after a long winter has passed. Something worn out was set aside, something invigorating ushered in. Read More »

A Demand for Love

September 19, 2013 | by

flamethrowerscover

For the first time in its sixty-three-year history, the National Book Foundation has published longlists for each of its four award categories. The fiction longlist was announced this morning, and it features a range of celebrated and debut authors, including Thomas Pynchon, Jhumpa Lahiri, Anthony Marra, and Paris Review contributor Rachel Kushner, for her latest novel, The Flamethrowers. Congratulations to all!

On The Flamethrowers, Kushner writes in her essay from our Winter 2012 issue:

As I wrote, events from my time, my life, began to echo those in the book, as if I were inside a game of call and response. While I wrote about ultraleft subversives, The Coming Insurrection, a book written by an anonymous French collective, was published in the United States, and its authors were arrested in France. As I wrote about riots, they were exploding in Greece. As I wrote about looting, it was rampant in London. The Occupy movement was born on the University of California campuses, and then reborn as a worldwide phenomenon, and by the time I needed to describe the effects of tear gas for a novel about the 1970s, all I had to do was watch live feeds from Oakland, California.

An appeal to images is a demand for love. We want something more than just their mute glory. We want them to give up a clue, a key, a way to cut open a space, cut into a register, locate a tone, without which the novelist is lost.

It was with images that I began The Flamethrowers. By the time I finished, I found myself with a large stash.

You can read an excerpt from The Flamethrowers here.

 

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Spellbound

April 5, 2011 | by

Our Spring Revel is on April 12. In anticipation of the event, The Daily is featuring a series of essays celebrating James Salter, who is being honored this year with The Paris Review’s Hadada Prize. If you’re interested in purchasing tickets to the Revel, click here.

For over half my life, I have returned repeatedly to Light Years. It was the first of James Salter’s books I discovered; it has since led me to all his others. Light Years is the one I know best. The first copy was borrowed. It belonged to my college roommate and was among the handful of books she’d brought with her from home, having nothing to do with our classes. It was a beautiful paperback published by North Point Press: yellow border, rough edges, thickly woven pages, a Bonnard painting on the cover. It was 1985. The book was ten years old; I was eighteen. I was new to New York, a freshman at Barnard College. I was unsophisticated, unmoored, bewildered by college and by the city. Reading the novel was like opening a window for the first time in spring, after a long winter has passed. Something worn out was set aside, something invigorating ushered in.

At the time I had not read much contemporary literature. I had certainly never read sentences so precise, so clean, so fervent and yet so calm. I reacted to the novel as I did to the books of my childhood: it cast a spell in the same way, provoking a reaction that was visceral and dreamlike and whole. But here was a book that was about adulthood, the undiscovered country that lay on the other side of a bridge I was only beginning to cross.

I loved the mood of the book, which was sober and sophisticated, but also casual, playful. I loved its structure, restrained and orderly, while at the same time loose and unspooling. I loved its intimate texture and its images: Nedra’s hands flat on a table, her oat-colored sweater. Pigeons crowding into the R of a furniture store, a martini that is like a change in the weather. I loved the devotional rendering of meals, peoples’ faces, rooms and the objects they contained. Though it felt startlingly modern, I recognized certain ancient forms of literature I was studying in my classes: myth, elegy, ode. The five acts of Shakespeare. Long passages of conversation, as unadorned but as revelatory as dialogue in a classical play.

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