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Posts Tagged ‘Malcolm Lowry’

CivilWarLand in Bad Decline: Preface

January 7, 2013 | by

We loved Joel Lovell’s profile of George Saunders in yesterday’s Times Magazine. Lovell quotes generously from Saunders’s preface to the new edition of CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. By special arrangement with the publisher, we bring you the preface in full.

1.

This book was written in the Rochester, New York, offices of Radian Corporation between 1989 and 1996, at a computer strategically located to maximize the number of steps a curious person (a boss, for example) would have to take to see that what was on the screen was not a technical report about groundwater contamination but a short story.

I had graduated from the Syracuse MFA program in 1988 and had been writing stories that owed everything to Ernest Hemingway and suffered for that. They were stern and minimal and tragic and had nothing to do whatsoever with the life I was living or, for that matter, any life I had ever lived.

We billed our hours, and I would respond to any disrespect toward my person by declaring (in my mind, always only in my mind): “Thanks, a-hole, your project has just funded a Saunders grant for the arts.” And, for an edit that could have been done in an hour, I would bill that program manager’s project an hour and a half, then use the liberated half hour to work on my book.

This book.

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Staff Picks: Whither the Library, Mafia Men

March 23, 2012 | by

Like many editors and critics, I depend on the New York Public Library because it has the books I need when I need them—whether it’s an obscure edition of Les Fleurs du Mal or a monograph on Mary Lamb—and because it is one of the few places in New York where anyone can work in peace and quiet, and with free help from experts in their fields. Now there are plans to overhaul this unique institution and tear out seven floors of stacks. Scott Sherman and Caleb Crain make me wonder why.  —Lorin Stein

“The Mafia is the consciousness of one’s own being, the exaggerated concept of one’s individual strength, the only arbiter of every conflict of interests or ideas.” So wrote Giuseppe Pitrè, a nineteenth-century scholar of Italian folklore, and so opens Cosa Nostra: An Illustrated History of the Mafia, which landed on my desk this week. It’s strewn with more bars, cops, and bloody corpses than the best crime movie. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

The Keith Haring show just opened at the Brooklyn Museum, and though I haven’t made it out there yet, I’ve been following the museum’s Tumblr blog featuring selections from Haring’s journals. They’re putting up a page each day, and most so far are from the early seventies, when he was a teenager, but some of the site’s earliest posts show Haring playing around with ciphers and visual repetitions—hints of what is to come. —Nicole Rudick

Ron Padgett and John Ashbery discuss the life and work of Frank O’Hara in this recent conversation at Harvard. The bittersweet reminiscences include O’Hara’s introduction to Larry Rivers at a party. To hear Ashbery tell it, it wasn’t long till they were canoodling behind a window drape. —Josh Anderson

I was recently blown away by Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry’s famous account of a day in the life of a British Consul suffering from latest-of-late, DT-stage alcoholism. The Consul, one Geoffery Firmin, has reached that fatal apex of the disease in which reality splinters into an inscrutable funhouse, and the quotidian becomes demonic. The vivid depiction makes a sad kind of sense, for in many ways it was a porthole into the late Lowry’s own troubled mind. (Although it must be noted that Volcano’s tragic star is also totally hilarious.) Even if you haven’t read Lowry’s work, you can watch the entire 1972 Oscar-nominated documentary about his life here for free. It is truly fascinating. —Allison Bulger Read More »

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