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Posts Tagged ‘Renata Adler’

Charmed Objects

August 25, 2014 | by

Phantom-Shelf

An example of a Phantom Shelf. Credit: EM Photography

People talk about a “Keeper Shelf” for those books they love more than any others. Those which, I suppose, are worth owning in this time when owning a physical book means something more than it once did. (Or, as much as it once did.) For my money, though, there is no better proof of love for a title than not owning it—that is to say, having given it away. Call it the Phantom Shelf.

When my coffers are in a particularly robust state, I will sometimes indulge in the extravagance of replenishing those favorite books I am most inclined to give away. It is always the same few—titles that I need to share with someone like-minded, right now!—and by the same token, those which I always miss when they are gone. Read More »

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What We’re Loving: Genealogy, Pathogenecity, Bloomsbury

June 6, 2014 | by

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Detail from Chuck Close’s Emma, which appears on the cover of this month’s Harper’s.

I relish hearing my mother’s crazy tales about her forebears, many of whom got kicked out various European countries, throughout history. And then there’s her maternal grandfather, about whom the stories are legion—they begin with him leaving home at fifteen to fight with Pancho Villa. I often wonder what he and I have in common, whether there is more than blood that connects us. It’s that impulse that partly explains the contemporary obsession with ancestry, as I’ve learned from Maud Newton’s absorbing essay in the June issue of Harper’s. Newton’s research into her family tree has led to revelations about her lineage, but by and large her search seems directed at the branches on which she is borne—her parents—and it describes the central tension in the modern hunt for ancestry: the desire to explain or to explain away certain aspects or ourselves, but also to make some kind of sense of where we come from, without losing sight of who we are as individuals. “We come from our parents, who came from their parents, who descended, as the Bible would put it, from their fathers and their fathers’ fathers,” Newton writes, “and then we enter the world and we become ourselves.” —Nicole Rudick

Angelica Garnett was Bloomsbury royalty: the daughter of Vanessa Bell and niece of Virginia Woolf, she grew up at Charleston, the colorful East Sussex farmhouse that became the movement's literal and spiritual home. Until the age of eighteen, Garnett believed herself to be the daughter of the art critic Clive Bell; in fact, she was the product of her mother’s affair with the artist Duncan Grant, who often made his home at Charleston. At twenty-four, she married fifty-year-old David Garnett—Duncan Grant’s former lover. It should come as no surprise that Garnett’s 1984 memoir Deceived with Kindness: A Bloomsbury Childhood is somewhat … ambivalent. She describes a world ostentatiously devoted to freedom yet still fundamentally hidebound by Victorian convention—in which she and other children were largely casualties of an adult experiment. Even years later, the author’s anger at her parents’ self-absorption is palpable, and she is not necessarily sympathetic herself. It can be uncomfortable reading. But to anyone interested in either the romance or reality of Bloomsbury, I'd recommend it highly. —Sadie Stein

My fiancée and I joke that bacteria and viruses are actually alien life-forms that have been here for billions of years, lying in wait for the chance to wipe humans out. (Look under a microscope and try to disagree.) But in Ed Yong’s fascinating look at bacteria’s pathogenicity, bacteria attack us more by accident, not to assassinate us—people are just “civilian casualties in a much older war” between microbes. Yong writes, “We’re not central actors in the dramas that affect our lives. We’re not even bit players. We are just passers-by, walking outside the theatre and getting hit by flying props.” —Justin Alvarez

Anne Carson’s poem “The Albertine Workout,” which appears in this week’s London Review of Books, is an ineffable marvel—it seems to have emerged from the same winking achronological wormhole that Barthelme’s “Eugenie Grandet” came out of more than forty years ago. —Dan Piepenbring
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Being a Tough Guy, and Other News

January 21, 2014 | by

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A lobby card for The Tough Guy, 1926. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

  • What’s it like to share a name with a Tom Clancy hero and teach at the Naval Academy? “I would be lying if I didn’t say that when I walk out Gate Three of the Academy from time to time—which is the gate that Jack Ryan walks out of during Patriot Games and gets shot—that there’s a sense of surrealness to it.”
  • Speaking of which, masculinity in art is undergoing a transformation. We’re “questioning yesterday’s tough guys.” Condolences, tough guys!
  • In honor of MLK Day, The New Yorker has lifted the pay wall on Renata Adler’s 1965 classic “Letter from Selma.”
  • What New York’s editors want in a good book: “Are you writing a dinosaur erotica novel, or the book that all dinosaur erotica novels will be measured by?”
  • The poet Mamoun Eltlib on writing and reading in Sudan: “You don’t feel it’s a living language; you just feel it’s like a dead language, a bloody language.”
  • Now accepting applications for admission: the Yale Writers’ Conference, a summer program with a formidable faculty including Nathaniel Rich, Je Banach, Teddy Wayne, Trey Ellis, Marian Thurm, Colum McCann, Rick Moody, Chuck Klosterman, and others.

 

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What We’re Loving: Screwball, Gothic, and Southern, to Name a Few

December 6, 2013 | by

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“We all find we cannot take on any more patients. We are all waiting for calls from superiors, pick up the phones each time hoping it is one of them, then find it is only another patient. The superiors of course think of us as patients and dread our calls.” Last Sunday I spent the hours between five and eleven A.M. finishing Renata Adler’s 1983 novel Pitch Dark, and they were the best four solid hours of my week. Thanks to NYRB Classics, which recently reissued Pitch Dark and Adler’s earlier novel, Speedboat, Adler is coming to be recognized as one of the great novelists of our time, on the strength of two slim books. Until now I had avoided Pitch Dark because it has the lesser reputation, and because Speedboat seemed to me so perfect, I couldn’t imagine lightning striking twice. But Pitch Dark—the story of a breakup, and of a solitary vacation gone awry—has all the suspense of a mystery, all the wit and companionability of an essay, and all the satirical worldliness I loved in Speedboat. Adler should be required reading for M.F.A students, at the considerable risk of shutting young writers down for lack of anything to say. The rest of us can read her for pleasure. —Lorin Stein

When you think about it, there really are a startling number of remarriages in screwball comedies: His Girl Friday, My Favorite Wife, The Philadelphia Story, The Awful Truth—and those are just the films in which Cary Grant ends up with an ex-wife. The philosopher Stanley Cavell takes on this phenomenon in 1981’s Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage, and argues that the plot device was more than just a way to flirt with the Hays Code. As he writes, “Can human beings change? The humor, and the sadness, of remarriage comedies can be said to result from the fact that we have no good answer to that question.” —Sadie O. Stein

The Fargo Moorhead Observer reports that a Fargo man has been arrested for clearing snow with a flamethrower. The man stated that he was simply “fed up with battling the elements” and that he did not possess the willpower necessary to “move four billion tons of whitebullsh-t.” —John Jeremiah Sullivan Read More »

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Book Blasphemy, and Other News

March 12, 2013 | by

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  • Books carved with surgical tools
  • Related: “I’m sure what I did was completely blasphemous, but y’all ... it turned out really cool.” Wallpapering with Faulkner. (His pages, not him.)
  • How many copies need to move to qualify a book as an Amazon bestseller? PW does the math and finds: not that many
  • Speaking of inflation! In the UK, the sinister-sounding “inflation basket” indicates that people are buying more e-books, less champagne
  • “These are fundamentally probing, even discomfiting, books.” Meghan O’Rourke pays tribute to Renata Adler. 

 

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Falling Hard

November 27, 2012 | by

You see things differently when you’re in love. Two outpatients from a methadone clinic slap each other on the corner. A goiter rides the crosstown bus. We attend a dinner party; none of the dogs have tails. Men in the map room of the New York Public Library surveil passing breasts. Nights slip by. I sit on the curb outside a magazine launch and watch a famous author pour cold water down a woman’s arm. “Don’t be jealous,” my companion says impatiently, cupping his own elbows. “He’s only applying a temporary tattoo.”

I was in love and then I wasn’t, and sometime during the drifting gray interim I was told by a bookseller friend to read Renata Adler’s 1976 debut, Speedboat, a novel that had long been out of print but was absolutely, he insisted, worth the trouble of the search. I did not know whether this recommendation was meant to be sympathetic or encouraging, but I found it on eBay in two minutes, for three dollars. My friend was correct, as booksellers usually are; it was as though the novel had outstretched arms and I fell in.

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