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Posts Tagged ‘Muriel spark’

LOL

May 1, 2014 | by

The_Laughing_Boy_by_Robert_Henri_-_BMA

Robert Henri, The Laughing Boy, 1910.

Last night, I was part of a panel on the late novelist Dame Muriel Spark, in concert with the publication of The Informed Air, a collection of her essays. In no way am I an expert, but I am a devoted fan—more and more as I get older—and I was glad to take part in the celebration of a writer who should be more widely read.

As anyone on the East Coast knows, yesterday was characterized by lashing rains and driving winds—a fact that sort of explains why I was dressed like an old salt in a fisherman’s sweater, wellies, and slicker. (Emphasis on sort of. I put on some red lipstick to make it look as though the whole thing was dashing and deliberate, but I don’t think anyone was fooled—or cared.) In spite or maybe because of the monsoon-like conditions, it was a lot of fun, and I came away with a new appreciation for an author whose work is as notable for its guarded compassion as what John Updike termed its “sweet sting.”

Everyone agreed that Spark is frequently hilarious. At least, we thought so. In the course of the conversation, my friend Emily and I discovered that in recent months both of us had attempted to read particularly amusing passages aloud to respective boyfriends, and the men in question were completely unmoved. She wondered if it was a British-American thing; I wondered if it was a male-female thing. Whatever it was, it was awkward. Read More »

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Sex and Sensibility

October 16, 2013 | by

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Joseph Wright of Derby, An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, detail, 1768, oil on canvas. National Gallery, London, UK.

Vivian Gornick describes the journey to self-possession as one of unimaginable pain and loneliness. “It is the re-creation in women of the experiencing self that is the business of contemporary feminism: the absence of that self is the slave that must be squeezed out drop by drop,” she says, quoting Chekhov, in “Toward a Definition of the Female Sensibility,” from her 1978 collection Essays in Feminism.

The journey, Gornick observes, is “one in which the same inch of emotional ground must be fought for over and over again, alone and without allies, the only soldier in the army, the struggling self. But on the other side lies freedom: self-possession.”

Last July, three years to the month that my marriage ended, I also ended my first serious postdivorce relationship, on the eve of the twelfth anniversary of my mother’s death. It was the first year I had forgotten my mother’s anniversary and one month after my divorce became official. My ex-husband, who had vowed to become a better friend the day we told my father we were splitting up, showed up when others were too fed up with my ramblings and hand-wringing over a man who had made me astoundingly unhappy for months. For some, it was not easy to understand that the sexual content of being loved, after so much loss, was simply gripping. Read More »

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Empty Vessels

September 24, 2013 | by

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“You’ve got a lot to learn,” a man she meets on an airplane says to Lise, the protagonist of Muriel Spark’s 1970 novella The Driver’s Seat. “Rice, unpolished rice is the basis of macrobiotics… It is a cleansing diet. Physically, mentally and spiritually.”

“I hate rice,” Lise says.

“No, you only think you do,” he replies.

This character, the overconfident, pushy bore bent on convincing people they do care about things they aren’t interested in, is so familiar that if we laugh in recognition, it’s only to keep from crying. We can all at least be thankful that in the past five years the problem of men explaining things to women has not only come to public attention, but been packaged, meme-ified, and widely distributed—it’s a thing, a concept with which to view power dynamics and discourse, and avoiding mansplaining is maybe becoming a cultural value.

In her November 2012 article “A Cultural History of Mansplaining” for the Atlantic Monthly, Lily Rothman defines mansplaining as “explaining without regard to the fact that the explainee knows more than the explainer, often done by a man to a woman.” This is a phenomenon that people have found instantly recognizable and endlessly applicable to cultural situations and to their own experience. Take for instance this, from Twitter user @PedestrianError: “I don’t normally unfriend people on Facebook, but there’s on perpetual mansplainer that I think is gonna have to go.” Or @abrahamjoseph on the New York Democratic Mayoral Primary debate: “de Blasio using his mansplaining voice on this slush fund question #nyc2013.” It is so useful a concept—and so consistent a pattern, to take The Driver’s Seat as only one example—that it’s strange that no one attempted to articulate it before Rebecca Solnit’s seminal 2008 essay “Men Explain Things to Me.” Read More »

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Staff Picks: A Fan’s Notes, Foster Wallace on TV

September 2, 2011 | by

In light of the recent article about TV producer Michael Schur and his obsession with David Foster Wallace, I spent tropical storm Irene watching the first two seasons of Parks and Recreation for signs of the maestro. At least, that’s why I watched the first couple of episodes. Then, well—it was just like that scene in Infinite Jest with the Saudi medical attaché, only with Netflix. —Lorin Stein

September is officially the beginning of football season in America and the perfect time to read the best football book ever written, Frederick Exley’s fictional memoir A Fan’s Notes, which has nothing to do with the game and everything to do with why we watch it. —Cody Wiewandt

I was immediately taken with Jeff Sharlet’s new book Sweet Heaven When I Die. All I had to do was open to the first lines of  “Sweet Fuck All, Colorado:” “When I was eighteen I fell hard for the state of Colorado as embodied by a woman with long honey blond hair and speckled green eyes, who drank wine from a coffee mug and whiskey from the bottle.” —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

I escaped the hurricane but got stuck in Chicago this weekend, which at least gave me a chance to spend time at one of my favorite Evanston bookstores, Market Fresh Books (they sell books for $3.99 a pound!). Among the treasures I picked up was an illustrated 1882 edition of Nicholas Nickleby, which I was all the more excited to dive into after reading in last week’s New Yorker about all the “fun” at Dickens camp. —Ali Pechman

Let’s hear it for small presses! Bookthug, an indie house in Toronto, recently reissued bpNichol’s The Captain Poetry Poems. Originally released as a mimeograph by bill bissett in 1970, Bookthug’s edition marks the first complete publication of all of the poems in the series, plus a smattering of drawings by Nichol. This is joyous, mythmaking poetry at its best. —Nicole Rudick

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A Week in Culture: Maud Newton, Part 2

June 10, 2010 | by

This is the second installment of Maud Newton’s culture diary. Click here to read part 1.

DAY FOUR

8:07 A.M. I don’t work on Wednesdays, but I’m up early anyway, mildly hungover and with tea in hand, to write. The dinner scene looks clunkier now; commence line-edits.

9:30 A.M. Online grazing: Garrison Keillor publishes an infuriating death-of-publishing op-ed. Kingsley Amis argues that Keats isn’t a great poet. Graydon Carter says that Kingsley Amis was “an accomplished womanizer, drinker, and conversationalist” who was “funny and raffishly rude, and had the thinnest, whitest skin I’ve ever seen on a man—like a condom filled with skim milk.” The NYPL and the Brooklyn and Queens library systems are beginning major layoffs; protest by joining the postcard campaign.

10:30 A.M. More writing, further consultation of Memento Mori.

12:30 P.M. For lunch: bagel with tomato, onion, lox, and cream cheese. I’ve set aside a little time here because I’m excited to take a look at the galley for my friend Amitava Kumar’s A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Bomb, about the U.S. terrorism-detection machine/industry.

2:00 P.M. Back to work on my novel draft.

8:12 P.M. After six hours’ work, I’m feeling more optimistic about the way all the hullabaloo with the dogs leads into the dinner scene.

8:45 P.M. Sushi and drinks with Max. Lately when I drink gin, I’ve been doing it Kingsley Amis’s preferred way, with a little ice, lemon, and water. It’s growing on me. I don’t know why I’m drinking the things he and Muriel Spark did.

11:00 P.M. Time for another episode of Damages (second of Season Two).

1:23 A.M. Amis on owing to/due to: Never say “Due to lack of interest, the carol service has been cancelled"—only “Owing to...”  

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