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Posts Tagged ‘Max Frisch’

Tough Guys Don’t Dance

November 30, 2010 | by

Norman Mailer in 1949. Photograph by John H. Popper.

Why can’t we keep our literary heroes where they belong, at the top of the bookshelf next to all the others? And why must we ache for their approval, their admiration, their love?

I can’t help but think of an anecdote about Norman Mailer, who was provoked one day to reach out to his hero, big Papa himself. Mailer had just completed The Deer Park and sent off a copy inscribed

To Ernest Hemingway:

—because finally after all these years I am deeply curious to know what you think …

—but if you do not answer, or if you answer with the kind of crap you use to answer unprofessional writers, sycophants, brown-nosers, etc. then fuck you …

Norman Mailer

The book came back to Mailer unopened, stamped “Address Unknown—Return to Sender,” in Spanish. (See Mailer’s Advertisements for Myself for a complete telling in hard-earned italics.)

I have my own relationship with one of my heroes, and the mere fact that I call it a “relationship” is in itself deeply sick. I’m veiling a juvenile obsession, hiding behind the very word: hero. In truth, this relationship consists of a few encounters, some good, some bad, the first of which happened one night at Hunter College when I was an M.F.A. student.

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Staff Picks: Mahmoud Darwish, Neutral Milk Hotel

November 12, 2010 | by

Photograph by Amarjit Chandan.

Journal of an Ordinary Grief, by the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, is a mixture of memoir, history, dream dialogue, and political polemic. Originally published in Arabic in 1973, it has now been translated for the first time into English by Ibrahim Muhawi (who also translated Darwish’s genre-bending memoir of the Beirut war, Memory for Forgetfulness). Darwish’s prose is a miraculous, quicksilvery substance, slipping from lyricism to analysis to Beckettian humor in the space of a paragraph. His subject is Palestinian life under occupation, and this is one of those rare works able to register the complexities of that experience while also being politically and artistically uncompromising. —Robyn Creswell

This week I read my favorite essay ever on (what else?) Michel Houellebecq. It’s by Ben Jeffrey, and it can be found in The Point, a Chicago magazine devoted to literary and cultural criticism. I just took out a two-year subscription. —Lorin Stein

I picked up Montauk, the slim novel by Max Frisch, at the recommendation of a young writer. I’m now obsessed. Frisch’s writing has a way of sticking in my head, and, I’ve discovered, slipping into my dreams. —Thessaly La Force

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