The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘reviews’

Live Your Best Pod Life, and Other News

September 30, 2016 | by

Photo: scarletgreen

  • Today in extravagant acts of self-protection: Julian Barnes wasn’t a fan of his first novel, 1980’s Metroland. So he wasn’t surprised when it got a savage notice in an organ called The Daily Sniveler by one “Mack the Knife”—a nom de guerre for Barnes himself. Yes, Barnes trashed his own novel, just so he could be sure he got there first. “In the old days,” he wrote, “the Sensitive Young Man, after producing his novel, would slide back into the obscurity of book-reviewing and hock-and-seltzer; he would in middle age be much taken with writing letters to the newspapers; and in old age, chairbound in his club, he would reveal himself to be the unremitting philistine which his earlier manifestation had sought to conceal. We must wish Mr Barnes well as he sets off on this inevitable journey.”

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Tap It Out

August 17, 2016 | by

The nonlogic of Dorrance Dance’s ETM: Double Down.

Photo: Hayim Heron.

Dorrance Dance’s ETM: Double Down. Photo: Hayim Heron.

Remember Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia in the movie Big, jumping around a supersize electronic keyboard on the showroom floor in FAO Schwarz? There’s a moment in Dorrance Dance’s ETM: Double Down, just performed at Jacob’s Pillow Dance, that brings this to mind. Seven dancers line up on a keyboard comprising triggerboards all in a row. Triggerboards are, more or less, the uniting principle of ETM: Double Down. They’re musical tiles, perhaps a couple of feet square: both an instrument and a dance floor. Tapping on them with the foot produces notes, or other kinds of sounds, through a computer. During the course of the evening, the sounds and sequences produced by tap dancers on triggerboards are sometimes looped and played back, becoming canons or echoes, overlaying new, “live” sounds. Read More »

The Backside of the Painting, and Other News

July 29, 2016 | by

Vik Muniz, Verso (Illha de Itamaraca), 2016.

  • The hatchet job isn’t what it used to be. To read Tobias Smollett’s book reviews from the eighteenth century is to discover, as J. H. Pearl writes, ever-higher concentrations of venom: “Smollett, who helmed The Critical Review from 1756 to 1763, never minced words in his judgment of whether a particular text was worth the paper it was printed on … All Smollett needed, it seems, was a target for his wrath. And as the pages of the Review attest, targets abounded … Specific reviewers remained anonymous, the better to create the impression of a unified voice, but writers of badly reviewed books tended to blame Smollett, returning their fire on him. It’s easy to understand that anger. Would you want your book called ‘a very trivial, insipid, injudicious and defective performance, without plan, method, learning, accuracy, or elegance; an unmeaning composition of shreds, rags, and remnants … a patched, a pie-bald, linsey-woolsey nothing’? (That was the assessment of a book called A New and Accurate History of South-America.)”
  • Because people excel at finding new ways to waste other people’s time, a small but vocal faction of conservative educators and politicians have called on our schools to start teaching cursive again. Tamara Thornton, the author of the 1996 book Handwriting in America, sees the reactionary anxiety at the center of their argument: “Learning cursive has never been just about learning how to express yourself in writing … In the early twentieth century, it’s about following models and suppressing your individuality … We get very interested in cursive when we feel that our morals are in a state of decline, all hell is breaking loose, people are doing whatever they want … And I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch that the sort of people who believe in the standard model of the family get very nervous when we depart from the standard models of the cursive script. So there have been periodic bouts of hysteria about the decline of cursive. And it’s always when we feel that as a society, we’re going down the tubes.”
  • At the White Plains Annual Reptile Expo, Madeline Cash dissects the strange bond between lizard and lizard keeper: “That unspoken connection no one else could understand, which maybe didn’t even exist, echoed all over the Convention Center. A lizard’s inhuman qualities are its appeal. They are whatever you need them to be—loving, smiling, a good listener — because the relationship is all a projection … When I saw the bearded dragons, my heart swelled. The gold-breasted beasts had the same long mouths carved across their faces that, as a child, I’d understood to be a smile. The vendor handed one over in an attempt to make a sale off my nostalgia. It cocked its head up at me with that permanent grin and it all flooded back.”

Tell Me How You Really Feel, Bro

June 6, 2016 | by

Thomas Mann, right, with his brother Heinrich.

In December 1903, Thomas Mann wrote his older brother, Heinrich, a long letter reviewing the latter’s novel—with brutal candor. Some of the most scathing bits are below. The complete missive is in The Letters of Heinrich and Thomas Mann, 1900–1949.

My impressions? They are not exactly very pleasant—which impressions, indeed, don’t absolutely need to be. It didn’t exactly make agreeable reading—which, indeed, however, is absolutely not necessary either. I struggled back and forth with the book, threw it aside, took it up again, groaned, complained, and then got tears in my eyes again … For days, in the lowest barometric pressure in a hundred years (according to the meteorologist), I went about in the agony your book caused in me. Now I know approximately what I have to say to you.

That I am not in agreement with your literary development—that must finally be said … When I think back ten, eight, five years! How do you appear to me? How were you? A refined connoisseur—next to whom I seemed to myself eternally plebeian, barbaric, and buffoonish—full of discretion and culture, full of reserve toward “modernity” and historically as talented as could be, free of all need for applause, a delicate and proud personality for whose literary endeavors there would quite probably be a select and receptive public … And now, instead of that? Instead, now these strained jokes, these vulgar, shrill, hectic, unnatural calumnies of the truth and humanity, these disgraceful grimaces and somersaults, the desperate attacks on the reader’s interest! … I read them and I don’t know you anymore. The psychological constant of the work, the desire of weak artificiality for life, this desire that would gladly masquerade as amorous desire within the lonely and sensuous artist—how is it supposed to move, to work convincingly when not even an attempt is being made to come close to life, to observe and capture even the air of the inner impulse of this simple madcap? Everything is distorted, screaming, exaggerated, “bellows,” “buffo,” romantic in the bad sense … Read More »

Poignant Comic Magic

March 25, 2016 | by

All illustrations by Jason Novak.

As Paris Review subscribers know, every once in a while we serialize a novel. That is, we publish it in sections, usually over the course of a year, with recaps to bring new readers up to date. And we hire the best illustrators we can find—a stable that has included Tom Keogh, Leanne Shapton, Samantha Hahn, and a young “Andrew” Warhol. 

Over the past five years, we’ve brought you a lost work by Roberto Bolaño, a breakout novel by Rachel Cusk, and, most recently, the winner of this year’s Terry Southern Prize for Humor—a football novel for people who don’t know the rules—The Throwback Special, by Chris Bachelder, with illustrations by Jason Novak.

This month, The Throwback Special came out in hardcover—and the crowd, as they say, went wild. The Minneapolis Star Tribune calls it “2016’s first Great Book … A wise, patient examination of American culture.” The Los Angeles Times praises its “poignant comic magic ... powerful, intelligent, and entertaining.” And now the New York Times Book Review has weighed in: “Wistful and elegantly written ... The Throwback Special conjures the rewarding melancholy of Richard Ford’s Frank Bascombe novels.”

Don’t miss the next great book of 2016, or years to come—subscribe now


Classic Dionysian Shit: An Interview with Richard Hell

December 8, 2015 | by

© Rebecca Smeyne

“Without a doubt, the single most influential thing I’ve done was my haircut,” Richard Hell writes in Massive Pissed Love, his new collection of nonfiction. It’s a characteristically self-deprecating statement from a writer who started as one of the main sparks in New York City’s 1970s punk-rock movement. Hell has authored novels, books of poetry, and an acclaimed memoir—but his most lasting achievement, in his view, is that groundbreaking haircut.

Maybe it’s a strangely fitting legacy: Hell has been fascinated with hair since childhood. “Because it’s dead but personal and because I’m moved by the futility of its attempts to warm and protect the places where it grows,” as he put it in 2013’s I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp. Rachel Kushner’s review of that memoir lauded Hell’s commitment “to the unvarnished truth, about himself and others.” That honesty remains on display throughout Massive Pissed Love; at one point, he imagines asking Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth whether her hair is real or if she scalped an angel.

The collection is divided into three sections: long-form essays (“Massive”), angry takedowns (“Pissed”), and adoring panegyrics (“Love”). Hell, a prolific essayist and critic, has published everywhere: in Bookforum, the New York Times Book Review, GQ, and in the cunnilingus-themed issue of Ecstatic Peace Poetry Journal, where he envisions eating out a deer whose “vagina would taste like warm folds of liquefying bubblegum and then like lobster meat drenched in lemon butter sauce.” Elsewhere, he writes on culture, politics, emotions, spirituality—anything he wants, really.

I first spoke to Hell for an essay I was working on about Michel Houellebecq and the nineteenth-century French writer Joris-Karl Huysmans, who figures prominently in Houellebecq’s latest novel, Submission. The discussion below took place soon after Houellebecq, who did a literary event alongside Hell in Spain in 2008, wrote a widely discussed op-ed for the Times. (Antonin Baudry, The Paris Review’s newly appointed Paris editor, comments on it here.) Houellebecq’s call for France to be run without political parties or a government, through direct democracy, seemed like a fittingly punk-rock place to begin the conversation. Read More »