The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

Writing Is a Nefarious Business

November 10, 2015 | by

“Have you been doing anything you shouldn’t, William Carlos Williams?” asks the venerable women’s-hour host Mary McBride. 

“Writing for forty years!” replies the poet with alarming jocularity. “That’s a nefarious business, you know!” Read More »

Kafka on the Shore Stage, and Other News

August 10, 2015 | by


From Kafka on the Shore. Photo: Takahiro Watanabe

  • “It wasn’t easy to interest glossy magazines in poverty in the 1980s and 90s,” Barbara Ehrenreich writes: “I once spent two hours over an expensive lunch—paid for, of course, by a major publication—trying to pitch to a clearly indifferent editor who finally conceded, over decaf espresso and crème brulee, ‘OK, do your thing on poverty. But can you make it upscale?’ ” That was then. Today, things are even worse: “Now there are fewer journalists on hand at major publications to arouse the conscience of editors and other gatekeepers. Coverage of poverty accounts for less than 1% of American news.”
  • How New York Review Books is perfecting the art of the reissue: “It was our intention to be resolutely eclectic, and build our classics series as different voices build a fugue … We set out to do the whole mix of things that a curious person might be interested in, which would take you back and forth from fiction to certain kinds of history … We were picking low-hanging fruit, only no one knew the fruit was out there, hanging from the branches.”
  • In 2003, the Russian writer Kirill Medvedev lifted the copyright from his publications, putting them all into the public domain worldwide. Twelve years later, he defends his choice:Do you, as a poet or writer or musician, really want to go the way of prohibitions, fences, barbed wire and guard towers to defend texts and music the way some would defend private cottages, private forests, private fields and private earth?”
  • Nearly a century after it was composed, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” remains the quintessential adolescent poem: “Eliot himself was barely out of his teens when he wrote it, uncannily in touch with the exquisite torments of hypersensitive youth, and with the peculiar burden of seeing through everything without having experienced much of anything. This was a different species of verse. It exuded cinematic urgency rather than exam-ready ‘messages’ and ‘themes.’ It was full of sudden rhythmic jolts and colliding tones, and could make emotional pirouettes on a vowel. Unapologetic, brash, discontinuous, ‘Prufrock’ taught me the thrill of disorientation in language. No matter how often I returned, it was never tamped down by classroom-style explanations. It grew. It seemed to understand me more than I understood it.”
  • Murakami’s novel Kafka on the Shore has been adapted for the stage at Lincoln Center by Yukio Ninagawa: the production is “a collage of modern, neon-lit, commercialized, glitzy Japan, haunted by dark, mostly unspoken memories of World War II, including the atom bomb, shown in what looks like a stylized advertising logo … [it’s] still unmistakably Japanese: stylized, poetic, comical, violent, full of spectacular effects, and often exquisitely beautiful to look at.”

A Very Interesting Excursion

June 29, 2015 | by

Looking for van Gogh in Belgium’s mining district.


Vincent van Gogh’s The Sower, 1888, which was inspired by paintings by Jean-François Millet.

Earlier this month, Nellie wrote for the Daily about van Gogh’s time in the Borinage and its effect on his art. In this follow-up piece, she reflects on her own travels in the region.

On a sunny but cool afternoon in mid March, I stood on the muddy ground of a closed and abandoned mine in Belgium. Behind me, a handful of pigs screamed from inside a pen in one of the decrepit buildings. A large, lean, mean-looking dog, which in fact was not mean at all, stood nearby, tethered to a long rope.

It was my first time in this place, the former mining district of Belgium, called the Borinage, though I spent the nearly six years prior writing a novel that took place there. From 1878 to 1880, before he declared himself an artist, Vincent van Gogh lived in the Borinage, trying to be a preacher, and the story of what may have happened during that time is my novel’s subject. I didn’t go to Belgium while I was researching or writing the book—the mines are all closed these days and the area developed; I told myself there was no point in going if it didn’t look just like it had in the late nineteenth century. But Mons, the city that sits right at the tip of the Borinage region, is this year’s selection for the European Capital of Culture and, as a result, is home to all sorts of interesting exhibits and performances, including the first-ever exhibition of van Gogh’s work from and related to this period of his life: it opened, strangely, just a few weeks after my book had been published. It was a coincidence too odd to ignore, and I got on a plane to go see this place I had long imagined.

I have been struggling to articulate what this visit was like in any coherent way. I knew, all those years, that the place I was envisioning was real, but in my mind it was a place that no longer existed, a place to be conjured and imagined, not to stand on with two real feet. To be confronted with the reality of the place in physical space was quite a different thing. I expected that there would be nothing left. In a way I was right, and in a way very wrong. Read More »

Idle Bird

June 10, 2015 | by

Van Gogh finds art in the Borinage.


Vincent van Gogh, Coalmine in the Borinage, 1879.

In October of 1879, Theo van Gogh went to visit his brother, Vincent, in the Borinage coal-mining district of Belgium. Theo was en route to Paris, where he had business to conduct as an art dealer; Vincent was doing self-appointed missionary work. The pair walked along an abandoned quarry that reminded them of a canal they’d frequented as children in Holland, but now there was an undeniable rift between them. Theo, upset by Vincent’s appearance—he had given away nearly all of his clothes to the miners, and had ceased bathing—told him, “You are not the same any longer.” He felt that Vincent was wasting his time in this squalid place, and suggested that he leave to take up a different trade.

Angry at his brother’s inability to understand him, Vincent wrote a letter to Theo on October 15 that would be the last for ten months. The brothers had been writing letters to each other almost unceasingly since 1872, when Vincent was nineteen and Theo fifteen. This would be the first and deepest rupture between them, a silence that would never repeat itself. Referring to Theo’s accusation of “idleness,” Vincent wrote with bitterness, Read More »

Advice to a Rhinestone Cowgirl; How Not to Write a Poem

August 27, 2010 | by

I'm young, poor, and unemployed in New York. I have no family connections, and my friends are all similarly destitute. I want an inspirational text; are there any novels about sympathetic social-striver types who pull themselves up by their own bootstraps without losing their friends and their souls in the process? —Camilla D.

Funny you should ask. All day I've been walking around with the Glen Campbell song "Rhinestone Cowboy" stuck in my head:

I've been walking these streets so long
Singing the same old song
I know every crack in these dirty sidewalks of Broadway,
Where hustle's the name of the game
And nice guys get washed away like the snow and the rain ...

One identifies. As Glen says, there'll be a load of compromisin' on the road to his horizon: I worry that this tends to be the case. And even though I know you don't want me to tell you to read Lost Illusions, you must read Lost Illusions, if you haven't. It is spooky how often some detail of Balzac's Paris will remind you exactly of New York—like seeing your own face in a daguerrotype. A very louche daguerrotype. The hero does lose his friends and his soul. Plus his illusions. But you can handle it. I believe in you!

(Plan B: Breakfast at Tiffany's?)

Read More »


Cité Soleil

June 15, 2010 | by

Jeff Antebi’s photography appears in the summer issue of The Paris Review. Below, he describes his time in Cité Soleil, Haiti.

I went to Haiti for the elections in April, 2009. When I got back home and started showing my work, people were most gripped by the photographs from Cité Soleil. People kept asking me what they could do to help improve the lives of people there. I think it was a profound awakening for Americans to know that only an hour and a half from Miami, people were existing in deplorable conditions. It was the proximity that drew people in. It’s one thing to say “the largest slum in the Western hemisphere.” It’s quite another to show people what it’s like to live on top of eight feet of garbage, where during the day, toxic fumes burn off the plastic bottles and waste. That was really the first time I had ever experienced that kind of reaction from one of my essays—people specifically asking what they could do. I immediately started making plans to go back and focus exclusively on Cité Soleil. I returned three months later.

I had put a lot of my photos from my April trip on to my phone. Once I was back in Cité Soleil, I was able to track down a lot of the kids and show them the portraits I’d taken of them. The kids went nuts. I mean, these are kids who are so funny to begin with—animated, humorous, curious, engaging kids. They had a lot of fun scrolling through photos and recognizing their friends.

Read More »