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Posts Tagged ‘Robert Lowell’

Walk Like Updike, Live Like Lowell, Eat Your Words

April 4, 2012 | by

A cultural news roundup.

  • RIP illustrator John Griffiths. A slideshow of his Penguin covers.
  • Speaking of covers, Meg Wolitzer asks whether male authors garner better ones.
  • The best spokesman for an Ernest Hemingway novel? Papa himself.
  • The world's first edible cookbook is printed on sheets of fresh pasta, blueprints for its own destruction that, when baked, turn into a lasagna.
  • Perhaps not shockingly, members of Russia's Public Chamber have criticized a school notebook, part of the Great Russians series, the cover of which features an image of Stalin in military regalia. The publishers, defiant, point out that in a recent TV contest, Stalin placed third in a vote on the country's “greatest historical figures.”
  • The Awl’s number-one tip for writing the Great American Novel? “Move out of Brooklyn.”
  • The big news in Salt Lake City was not that yours truly was there (although I was): luminaries of the horror genre converged on the Beehive State for the 2012 Bram Stoker Awards, where writers Joe McKinney and Allyson Byrd won big.
  • In which Ian McEwan helps his son with an essay on one of his own novels … and gets "a very low mark."
  • Sylvia Plath slept here (and take a peek into fourteen other writers' bedrooms).
  • Robert Lowell wrote here—on Manhattan’s West Sixty-seventh Street—and it can be yours for $685,000.
  • The Little House books are canonical—literally. Laura Ingalls Wilder's autobiographical series join the Library of America.
  • John Updike predicted New York's newly announced 6 1/2 Avenue in a 1956 New Yorker article: “As a service to readers who are too frail or shy for good-natured hurly-burly, we decided to plot a course from the Empire State Building to Rockefeller Center that would involve no contact with either Fifth or Sixth Avenue.”
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    Love Stories

    October 20, 2011 | by

    Photograph courtesy of Elisabeth Moore.

    F. and I were introduced by a mutual friend while I was on a visit to L.A. I was living in D.C., newly single and working at a political magazine. I had given myself a firm dating rule: no journalists. In a sleepy company town, where ethics precluded romantic liaisons with my sources, it had begun to feel as if I’d doomed myself to celibacy. F. was a writer who’d just finished his first film and was passing time as a listings editor. He was my best friend’s occasional tennis partner. “You’ll love him,” she promised, sending him a text as I shoved my bag in the backseat of her car at LAX. “I’ll have him meet us for drinks at this outdoor German place.” We hit it off instantly.

    It started with a challenge. I told him that first night that I’d found Donald Antrim’s The Verificationist overly self-conscious, so he slid The Hundred Brothers into my carry-on for the red-eye back east. Antrim’s endlessly multiplying brothers and claustrophobic prose were right at home in the repetitious concourses of LAX. My perfume leaked in my suitcase during the flight, but I returned his copy anyway, with a handwritten note, reeking of the nape of my neck. Read More »

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    The Wilde Boys Read Elizabeth Bishop

    March 18, 2011 | by

    Elizabeth Bishop in 1954.

    Elizabeth Bishop only published about one hundred poems during her lifetime, but these days, it’s possible to know more about Bishop than ever before. Last month saw the publication of a new book revealing her decades-long correspondence with The New Yorker’s poetry department. “What I think about The New Yorker,” she wrote to her friend and fellow poet Marianne Moore, “can only be expressed like this: *!@!!!@!*!!” A lengthy volume documenting her epistolary exchanges with Robert Lowell was published in 2008. It’s easy to forget that Bishop was a very private person, often refusing to talk publicly or artistically about her personal life. “How stunning,” wrote The New York Times, in 2002, of a Bishop biography, “to learn that the love of Bishop’s life was a swaggering Brazilian woman, the aristocratic self-trained architect Lota de Macedo Soares.” “Art just isn’t worth that much,” Bishop once wrote to Lowell, after he had published his wife’s letters in his work. But for admirers and diehards alike, sometimes an inquiry is.

    And so I found myself at a gathering in a downtown apartment last week for an event called the Wilde Boys: a queer poetry salon, where Richard Howard, who knew Bishop, and his former student Gabrielle Calvocoressi, the author of Apocalyptic Swing, were invited to “queer” the writer by talking about the way she coded sexuality into her work.

    Beforehand, there was heavy mingling. “We’re all poets and classmates, and graduated from different M.F.A. programs in New York around the same time,” said Alex Dimitrov, the well-groomed twenty-six-year-old who founded the group in 2009. Liam O’Rourke, an elementary-school teacher who was wearing a pin with a black-and-white photograph of Bishop on it, said he teaches Bishop to his third graders. “I mention that she had a partner, but I don’t teach her sexuality as a key to her work,” he added.

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    Staff Picks: Faust, Ibsen, and Bananas

    January 14, 2011 | by

    I’m reading Randall Jarrell’s translation of Goethe’s Faust, for no better reason than that I found a good used copy while browsing at the Strand. Jarrell died before he could finish part I—at times the verse is a little rough—but Robert Lowell stepped in to translate Gretchen’s famous Spinning Song, which now reads, very movingly, like an elegy for his friend: “My peace is gone, / My heart is sore, / I never find it, / I never find it. // When I look through my window, / I look for him. / When I leave the house, / I go on looking.//...If only I could / Catch him and hold him.” —Robyn Creswell

    I saw Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman on Tuesday night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Ben Bratley describes James Macdonald’s “thaw-proof” production as having a “sense-numbing wintriness” to it. I loved the sight of Lindsay Duncan, Alan Rickman, and Fiona Shaw standing amid large banks of snow on stage. A small blizzard descended on New York that evening, and when I exited the theater, snow was falling heavily. For a brief moment, it felt as if I hadn’t yet left the play. —Thessaly La Force

    The box set of Sandy Denny’s complete recordings are an imposing introduction to one of the most indelible voices of the last fifty years. Fortunately, Rob Young is at hand to steer a course through her work. Denny’s rich and allusive personal mythology—which draws upon maritime literature, pre-Raphaelite poetry, and English classical music—has been a major influence on artists like Kate Bush and Joanna Newsom. Head straight for “All Our Days,” “an eight minute mini-cantata with chords streaking like shafts of sunlight stabbing through clouds, and the alien ripple of a vibraphone recalling the mystical opening of [Vaughan Williams’s] Eighth Symphony.” —Jonathan Gharraie

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    A Week in Culture: Dan Chiasson, Poet

    December 1, 2010 | by

    DAY ONE

    6:15 A.M. Our children wake us up. Nobody wants anything read to them this morning. They are involved in some kind of acrimonious negotiation involving Lego heads (“That’s my head!” “It’s MY head!” “No, mine!” et cetera) so I go into the next room and start thinking about a class I am guest teaching today at BU. I’ve been reading (and writing) father-son poems, and I think, Why not just tell the students what’s on my mind: Sir Walter Raleigh’s poem for his son, “Three Things There Be.” The poem comes in several variants; I print them out and look at a brief discussion of the variants as well as the provocative “spoiled riddle” poems (poems that act like riddles but give their solutions away) on Slate, by Robert Pinsky.

    I go to the Times website, and there is (fortuitously) this article on metaphor and the brain. I skim it for something I can say to the class. Neuroscience is very keen on poets and poetry these days: It turns out that when you call someone a cockroach, you activate the same part of your brain that can recall the picture of an actual cockroach

    8:30 A.M. I head into Boston. It’s an hour drive this time of day. I get a four-shot latte at Karma Coffee, Route 20 in Sudbury (do yourself a favor). I am listening a lot to the Byrds’s Sweetheart of the Rodeo these days, especially “One Hundred Years from Now.” I have a problem that technology has solved. When I like a song, I listen to it over and over for weeks at a time. You used to have to keep rewinding the tape, and the tape would snap or come unraveled. Now, with iPods, it’s no problem.

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    A Week in Culture: Hilton Als, Writer

    August 11, 2010 | by

    DAY ONE

    There is not enough time for anything, ever. The point was to start this journal yesterday, a Monday, since everyone's “official,” week begins then—back from the weekend, off to MOMA, what's at the Frick, that kind of thing—but I didn't. And this has nothing to do with my general tardiness as much as it does my ambivalence about keeping a record of anything that can't be contained in a photograph; sometimes I sit in my underwear in my house in despair over how paltry a thing words can seem, particularly when I've written them. But challenge is my middle name, and this journal, this record of my life in culture that I meant to begin at the start of the week but didn't, is my attempt to meld experience and memory with words and see what we come up with.

    As it happens, my week in culture began not today or Monday, but Saturday, when I was standing on a train platform in Jamaica, Queens, and I saw a beautiful older man in a sky-blue Mao jacket; he was fine-boned, as though drawn out of thin air by Ingres, or David Hockney. Bill Cunningham, of course, the great documentary photographer who, for over fifty years, has been chronicling the hem-lines and moral fashions of any number of New York-based women. Bill was on his way to Bridgehampton to cover an event for The New York Times, but he wasn't staying overnight. “I never do,” he said, silently wondering. He's an incorrigible romantic, in love with Manhattan, a city the poet Marianne Moore described as being home to “the savage's romance.” Bill is a former hat maker from Boston, and his pictures finds a forum where female beauty plays itself out, gladiator fashion: who will win in the world of trend? Ever trendy, I was off to Sag Harbor to visit some fashionable friends.

    As a matter of fact, my week with culture didn't begin until several days before that, when I went to visit beauty editor Jean Godfrey June at Lucky Magazine. Jean is the best writer in the fashion business, but I don't consider beauty fashion since beauty has less to do with the fluctuations—and insecurities—of fashion as it does with wanting to put a nice face on most things, not to mention people. In any case, Jean was very excited by Rodarte's latest foray into trying to make fashion and beauty fit their world view: cosmetics they'd designed for MAC. Eyeshadow that looked like shimmering, electrified goldfish circling in black vials; “gothic” colors that felt like the best color field painting I'd seen in a while. Read More »

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