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Posts Tagged ‘Robyn Creswell’

The Moral Foulness of the Age, and Other News

June 1, 2015 | by


A 1799 cartoon by Gillray: an obese, gouty man drinking punch with two companions.

  • Our poetry editor, Robyn Creswell, writes with Bernard Haykel on jihadi poetry: “Analysts have generally ignored these texts, as if poetry were a colorful but ultimately distracting by-product of jihad. But … it is impossible to understand jihadism—its objectives, its appeal for new recruits, and its durability—without examining its culture. This culture finds expression in a number of forms, including anthems and documentary videos, but poetry is its heart. And, unlike the videos of beheadings and burnings, which are made primarily for foreign consumption, poetry provides a window onto the movement talking to itself. It is in verse that militants most clearly articulate the fantasy life of jihad.”
  • And Garth Greenwell—whose story “Gospodar” appeared in our Summer 2014 issue—on Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life as the definitive gay novel of our times: “Just as Yanagihara’s characters challenge conventional categories of gay identity, so A Little Life avoids the familiar narratives of gay fiction. Yanagihara approaches the collective traumas that have so deeply shaped modern gay identity—sickness and discrimination—obliquely, avoiding the conventions of the coming-out narrative or the AIDS novel … But queer suffering is at the heart of A Little Life.”
  • Writing on the Internet is full of hostility, melodrama, and blind ego-mongering, but there’s an easy way to fix that: by adopting the voice of a Jane Austen character. “You can make your contribution to a better, more Austenesque world in every email, letter, tweet, update, blog post that you write.”
  • Copulation, excretion, fungus growing from a dunghill: you’ll find all these and more in the work of the eighteenth-century caricaturist James Gillray, whose work was so prickly that “a history of caricature published in 1904 suggested his pictures came from an unclean and unbalanced mind and symbolized ‘the moral foulness of the age.’ ”
  • In 1945, before Chester Himes found fame for his detective novels, he published If He Hollers Let Him Go, which in its “sheer dark rage” is an exemplar of a genre that hadn’t really been invented yet: “Even by the conventions of noir literature, it is Himes’s debut novel that was, inadvertently, truest to the form.”

Your Newspaper: Writer’s Cut, and Other News

October 21, 2014 | by


A handyman at the H. C. Johnson Grocery Store in Robertstown, Georgia, reads a newspaper, July 1975. Photo: National Archives

  • “There’s an endless appetite among film buffs for the contents of the cutting-room floor. We’re forever being offered outtakes and alternative endings and ‘director’s cuts’ of movies. But what do newspaper editors excise from raw copy destined for the printed page? What would a ‘writer’s cut’ look like?”
  • Area Novelist Super Pissed He Keeps Getting Compared to Cormac McCarthy: “This is testament to the McCarthy hegemony, to how wholly he dominates an entire sector of American fiction, and to how he has usurped our understanding of a certain literary pedigree. Write a novel with a specific poetical register adequate to the task of addressing nature and redemption, one which includes the sanguinary madness of men, and McCarthy is the artist languidly at hand for every reader itching to make a connection.”
  • “It was difficult sometimes to eat lunch with Robert because his makeup was so realistic. His brains were hanging out of his prosthetics.” An oral history of A Nightmare on Elm Street.
  • Photographers have found themselves “in the age of citizen Instagrammers, in which phones carry an endless roll of virtual film, and there are so many photos that we think we’re entitled to have them for free.” What to do? Litigate!
  • Our poetry editor, Robyn Creswell, on the novels of the Lebanese writer Rabih Alameddine: “The heroes of his fiction are all misfits of one sort or another. They rebel against what they take to be the tyrannical conventions of Lebanese society—its patriarchy, its sexual norms, its sectarianism. In most of his novels this revolt takes the form of flight to America … In America, Alameddine’s characters discover that the pleasures of individualism often turn out to be empty, and their host country’s foreign policy, particularly its support for Israel, is a constant irritant. So their emigration is only ever partial; the old world haunts all their attempts at reinvention.”


Balzac the Intern, and Other News

September 29, 2014 | by


A drawing of Balzac attributed to Achille Devéria, ca. 1820.

  • Our poetry editor, Robyn Creswell, interviewed the Moroccan writer Abdelfattah Kilito: “A writer was a sort of creator, naturally, but I always liked to think of him as a reader as well—a great reader. By way of his writing, I tried to make out, or guess at, what he’d read. A sort of literary voyeurism. And the writer would often show his hand, as though by chance. I felt a wonderful sense of complicity when I was able to recognize a title, or a line of poetry, or an allusion.”
  • Once he’d graduated from the Sorbonne, Balzac took an internship at a Paris law firm. “An intern is to the Civil Service what a choirboy is to the Church, or what an army child is to his Regiment, or what rats and sidekicks are to Theatres: innocent, gullible, and blinded by illusions,” he wrote in 1841’s The Physiology of the Employee.
  • On Scorsese’s new NYRB doc, which debuted this weekend: “Most literary publications, running smoothly, are about as well suited to cinematic narrative as a long-term janitorial project. Scorsese has attempted to pep things up by casting the Review as a front-lines political journal with a rock-star stable of writers. The result is forced, befuddled, and frequently weird. Still, it’s a fine introduction to the long arc of the paper’s history.”
  • The art of recording: John Vanderslice quit his job as a waiter at Chez Panisse to open one of the most innovative recording studios in the country. His mantra: “sloppy hi-fi,” which means “capturing loose, spontaneous performances on the best microphones in the world. It means gritting a pretty song with white noise, pink noise, high-quality distortion (not an oxymoron: ‘It has to be high-quality distortion’), tube amps, and tube compressors, and also by physically distressing and damaging the tape. Basically, Vanderslice wants powers of violence over the loveliest sounds.”
  • Today in highly unforeseen merchandise: “Prufrock”-themed flats. “These flats feature a mix of lines from the poem and theme collage imagery (peaches, mermaids, coffee spoons, etc). The edges and flexible areas of the flats are black for an extra accent.” (Also available: Pride and Prejudice and Catcher in the Rye flats.)


Tomorrow: Robyn Creswell at NYU

September 8, 2014 | by


Image via Bidoun

Tuesday evening at seven, join us at NYU’s Abu Dhabi Institute (19 Washington Square North) where our poetry editor, Robyn Creswell, will appear on a panel called “The Authoritarian Turn: On The State of the Egyptian Intelligentsia.” The panel, sponsored by New Directions and Bidoun, will

bring together a distinguished group of writers and scholars to reflect upon the predicament of the Egyptian intellectual in the year since President Mohamed Morsi’s dramatic fall. From Ibrahim himself to the bestselling author Alaa Al Aswany, countless writers and artists–many of them of historically contrarian bent–have expressed their support for a military-backed government whose abuses and excesses have on occasion surpassed those of the Mubarak era. How to begin to understand the role of the public intellectual in such times?

Robyn appears alongside Khaled Fahmy (American University in Cairo) and Mona El Ghobashy (an independent scholar); Negar Azimi moderates.


Darling, Come Back, and Other News

February 14, 2014 | by


Photo: Jnlin, via Wikimedia Commons

  • In Taiwan, a commemorative Valentine’s Day train ticket sold out in less than an hour: it takes you from “Dalin (大林, pronounced similarly to ‘darling’ in English) station in Chiayi County to Gueilai (歸來, literally: ‘come back’).” A journey any of us should be willing to make after we’ve behaved badly. It’s love on a real train.
  • Voltaire in love: “She understands Newton, she despises superstition and in short she makes me happy.”
  • But we can count on literature to remind us that things are not always so sweet. Here are the ten unhappiest marriages in fiction.
  • Can atrocity be the subject matter of poetry? Our poetry editor, Robyn Creswell, on Carolyn Forché’s new anthology.
  • “I also like to catch dangling modifiers, because we all miss those … I have had authors who say that dangling modifiers are part of their style and don’t want to change them.” An interview with a crackerjack copyeditor.



What We’re Doing: Talkin’ Translation

January 21, 2014 | by


Tonight at seven, brave the snow, the cold, and any other inclemencies the sky may belch on us and come to Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, where our poetry editor, Robyn Creswell, is discussing translation with Eliot Weinberger (acclaimed translator of Octavio Paz, Jorge Luis Borges, and Bei Dao), Idra Novey (translator of Clarice Lispector), Daniella Gitlin (translator of Rodolfo Walsh), and Jeffrey Yang (poet, editor, and translator of Liu Xiaobo). It’s all to celebrate the third anniversary of Asymptote, the international literary journal.