Posts Tagged ‘Ralph Ellison’
June 7, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Our editor Lorin Stein talks to Frederick Seidel about his poems, his persona, and the kind of seedy back-alley porn shops you just can’t find in London anymore: “I think it’s too bad, but unsurprising, that this myth of the beautifully outfitted, elegant, elegantly sinister, Baudelaire sort of fellow striding and sliding down the streets of New York has become a way of not talking about the poems. Some reviewers over the years have liked that figure, liked summoning him up. He doesn’t exist, and isn’t really in the poems. Baudelaire is a hero of mine. Baudelaire and how he did it is of great interest. But this persona does get in the way, I think … Personally, I enjoy someone saying to me: I very much enjoyed that poem, I was moved by that poem, that poem really surprised me. I like the simplicity of statements of that sort. I understand they do not a review make, however large their meaning may be, or however much they may contain.”
- Because even hell must have a sound track, there is music playing at Penn Station, and someone is responsible for managing the playlist. Bizarrely enough, that unenviable task falls to three women in a windowless office in Austin, Texas: “Amy Frishkey, one of the programmers, understands the otherness of picking the music that people hear between the train-boarding announcements … The puny-sounding speakers at Penn Station play a stream of classical pieces along with ‘easy instrumentals’ that sound like dentist-office arrangements, mostly contemporary piano and guitar solos—and, one afternoon last month as the evening rush was approaching, a Sinatra hit that seemed to have been arranged for French horn. The result is a Beethoven quartet one minute, something vaguely New Age the next … ‘It’s almost as if you’re trying to D.J. the world’s largest wedding reception,’ Danny Turner, Ms. Frishkey’s boss, said. But it is a reception without a bride or groom, and the 650,000 people who pass through Penn Station every day do not dance to the music.”
- In 1947, a small magazine asked Ralph Ellison if he’d want to do a photo essay on Harlem’s Lafargue Psychiatric Clinic, which had made a name for itself by standing against segregation. Ellison and the photographer Gordon Parks took the assignment, but the magazine soon folded—and so their work is only now coming to light. Vinson Cunningham writes: “In a conceptual note, outlining what he called the project’s ‘pictorial problem,’ Ellison wrote that Parks’s prints ‘must present scenes that are at once both document and symbol; both reality and (for the reader) psychologically disturbing “image.” ’ Parks’s ingenious solution to this ‘problem’—which, essentially, is a re-articulation of what we mean by photographic art—can be seen in an image of a shadow-shrouded man walking in an alley. Before him sit huge, indiscriminate mounds of rubble. Lines of white laundry hang far above his head, between tenement fire escapes. Light travels from the upper corner of the composition, softly through the drying clothes, then slantingly toward the camera’s eye, making the man little more than a silhouette while—somewhat paradoxically—throwing every detail of a nearby wall into sharp, sculpted relief.”
- Today is Prince’s birthday—the Minnesota governor has declared it Prince Day, and I’m wearing my Purple Rain T-shirt. “The Morning Papers,” a collection at Media Diversified, invites writers of color and Prince devotees to reflect on his legacy. Tanuja Desai Hidier, who was many moons ago an intern at the Review, remembers him in the poem “Zindagi bhar nahin bhoolegi woh Purple barsaat ki raat”: “Pulsing purple Om. / Love symbol. Id. / Strumming us home: / A compass. The Kid.” And in “Camille Ain’t Dead, Honey,” Gemma Weekes mulls on his death: “We remembered all his talk about the Spooky Electric. Some of us thought The Kid was irresponsible and that the Spooky Electric was a train he’d jumped on in the middle of the night, taking him off to some traitorous adventure elsewhere. He’d not read section 3, passage 33 of the Town Rules that stipulated he choose a successor before quitting city limits … A growing percentage theorized that The Spooky Electric was a It wanted his light. It wanted to stop his light from spreading, so The Kid was kidnapped, or scrubbed free of glitter and buried under a thousand layers of darkness.”
- In which Diana Hamilton embarks on a journey to define “fictional poetry”: “I realized I had never been writing about ‘postconceptual poetry’ at all, but about something I started to call ‘Fictional Poetry’—i.e., poetry that uses the style, plot, characterization, or forms of fiction … Key to this sense of the ‘fictional’ is a quality of aboutness that prevents overemphasis on form—and on the repetition of the forms that often characterizes the appearance of schools—and especially resists the belief that the shape a poem takes, rather than its ‘topic,’ is always the source of its politics / interestingness / literariness / purpose. Instead, the books I want to write about don’t mind being about things … A lot of contemporary poetry does not deal very directly with its ‘content’; or rather, it seems contentless. Most things that pass for poems today are list poems without knowing it: by trying to focus on the lyrical image’s mediation of reference, they become mere collections of images that pride themselves on their irrelevance.”
January 16, 2014 | by Timothy Leo Taranto
September 30, 2013 | by Adam Leith Gollner
What have we not done to live forever? Adam Leith Gollner’s research into the endless ways we’ve tried to avoid the unavoidable is out now as The Book of Immortality: The Science, Belief, and Magic Behind Living Forever. Over the past seven weeks, this chronological crash course has examined the ways humankind has striven for, grappled with, and dreamed about immortality in different eras throughout history. This is the final installment.
You have to get old. Don’t cry, don’t clasp your hands in prayer, don’t rebel; you have to get old. Repeat the words to yourself, not as a howl of despair but as the boarding call to a necessary departure. —Colette, Les Vrilles de la Vigne
In 1927, before Charles Lindbergh set off across the Atlantic Ocean, newspapers described the flight as a guaranteed “rendez-vous with death.” While the Spirit of St. Louis hummed toward France, human-formed phantoms and vapor-like spirits materialized before Lindbergh’s eyes. These “inhabitants of a universe closed to mortal men” spoke to him, reassuring him and helping him find his way. This inner experience, he wrote, seemed to penetrate beyond the finite. It was an epiphany that guided the rest of his life.
After his pioneering flight, he received millions of letters, thousands of poems, countless gleaming accolades. Whole cities attended parades in his honor. Wing-walking skywriters spelled HAIL LINDY high in the air. Former secretary of state and later U.S. Supreme Court chief justice Charles Evans Hughes gave a speech in New York heralding “science victorious.”
In the euphoria’s wake, having managed one impossibility, Lindbergh wondered if he mightn’t help solve another. Working alongside Nobel Prize–winning cell biologist Alexis Carrel (who claimed, erroneously, that cells divide endlessly and are therefore naturally immortal), Lindbergh came to question whether death is “an inevitable portion of life’s cycle,” musing that perhaps scientific methods could hasten the arrival of bodily immortality.
Lindbergh had been raised to believe that “the key to all mystery is science.” The idea that science will allow men to become gods was instilled in him by his grandfather, a well-known surgical dentist. For postflight Lindbergh, solving the basic mystery of death seemed only as challenging as flying across the sea. It just meant doing what people said couldn’t be done. Yet as he aged, and as his experiments didn’t yield the hoped-for results, he began questioning his desire for immortality. He became an environmentalist, spending time in the wilderness and observing cycles of life and death in nature. Read More »
September 23, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
August 22, 2012 | by Casey N. Cep
The New Yorker made headlines this month by publishing “new” work by F. Scott Fitzgerald. “Thank You for the Light” had been rejected by the magazine in 1936 when Fitzgerald first submitted it, but editorial judgments—like love, pain, and kitchen knives—have a way of dulling over time.
“We’re afraid that this Fitzgerald story is altogether out of the question,” read the original note spurning the story. “It seems to us so curious and so unlike the kind of thing we associate with him, and really too fantastic.”
Resubmitted by Fitzgerald’s grandchildren, “Thank You for the Light” was, at least by Fitzgerald’s own standards, ready for publication. Its condition differs greatly from his final work, tentatively titled The Love of the Last Tycoon but published as The Last Tycoon in 1941. Fitzgerald died of a heart attack before he could finish the novel, so what went to press was a version of his incomplete draft, notes, and outlines pieced together by the literary critic Edmund Wilson. In his preface to the novel, Wilson wrote, “It has been possible to supplement this unfinished draft with an outline of the rest of the story as Fitzgerald intended to develop it.”
December 5, 2011 | by Sarah Funke Butler
In 1963, a sixteen-year-old San Diego high school student named Bruce McAllister sent a four-question mimeographed survey to 150 well-known authors of literary, commercial, and science fiction. Did they consciously plant symbols in their work? he asked. Who noticed symbols appearing from their subconscious, and who saw them arrive in their text, unbidden, created in the minds of their readers? When this happened, did the authors mind?
McAllister had just published his first story, “The Faces Outside,” in both IF magazine and Simon and Schuster’s 1964 roundup of the best science fiction of the year. Confident, if not downright cocky, he thought the surveys could settle a conflict with his English teacher by proving that symbols weren’t lying beneath the texts they read like buried treasure awaiting discovery.
His project involved substantial labor—this before the Internet, before e-mail—but was not impossible: many authors and their representatives were listed in the Twentieth-Century American Literature series found in the local library. More impressive is that seventy-five writers replied—most of them, in earnest. Sixty-five of those responses survive (McAllister lost ten to “a kleptomaniacal friend”). Answers ranged from the secretarial blow off to a thick packet of single-spaced typescript in reply.
The pages here feature a number of the surveys in facsimile: Jack Kerouac, Ayn Rand, Ralph Ellison, Ray Bradbury, John Updike, Saul Bellow, Norman Mailer. Each responder offers a unique take on the issue itself—symbolism in literature—as well as on handling a sixteen-year-old aspirant approaching writers as masters of their craft.
Even if he approached them en masse, with a form letter.
And failed to follow up with a thank-you note.