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Posts Tagged ‘Katherine Larson’

What We’re Loving: Smells, Films, and Flames

April 5, 2013 | by

9781439142004It 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 »

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Staff Picks: Robert Walser, Katherine Larson

May 13, 2011 | by

I’ve been poring over Robert Walser’s Microscripts, a selection from the cache of papers covered in demonically miniaturized handwriting he left at his death. The stories are wonderfully odd, and the book itself is a beautiful object. It includes color reproductions of the manuscripts—often written on the backs of business cards—as well as the deciphered German originals. Walter Benjamin’s afterword praises Walser’s “artful clumsiness,” and I would do the same for Susan Bernofsky’s translation. —Robyn Creswell

I’ve been stealing moments all week to read Katherine Larson’s book of poems, Radial Symmetry. The synthesis of experience and curiosity that Larson no doubt uses in her work as a field ecologist and research scientist is here applied to verse. The natural world has never felt more physical, more alive with tiny movements and infinite textures—and so titillating, as when she writes, “We hear the cactus whisper / pollinate me furry moth.” —Nicole Rudick

Alexander Chee shared an old essay of his on Twitter this morning about being a student of Annie Dillard’s: “You could think that your voice as a writer would just emerge naturally, all on its own, with no help whatsoever, but you’d be wrong. What I saw on the page was that the voice is in fact trapped, nervous, lazy. Even, and in my case, most especially, amnesiac. And that it had to be cut free.” —Thessaly La Force

After seeing a spectacular production of the play on Broadway, I’ve rediscovered Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia. It’s a play about love, sex, transcendence (if there is any), and whatever it is that defines the human experience across time and space. But it also reminds us of the beauty and sustaining force of wonder; “it’s the wanting to know that makes us matter,” because when all is said and done, “when we have found all the meanings and lost all the mysteries, we will be alone, on an empty shore.” —Elianna Kan

In Anthony Burgess’s The Pianoplayers, a retired prostitute tells the story of her father, a man who “called himself not a pianist but a pianoplayer.” (No space between piano and player—that was how close he and the piano were.) The entirely fictional yet perfectly matter-of-fact recollection of a difficult father takes the narrative form of a memoir and turns it on its head. Given my absorption in Burgess’s novel, it was an especially interesting week to experience Reading My Father, Alexandra Styron’s memoir of her father, the literary icon (and friend of The Paris Review) William Styron. —Rosalind Parry

Military dogs jumping out of helicopters. Sick. —Natalie Jacoby

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