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Posts Tagged ‘Russell Hoban’

Staff Picks: Turtles, Tornados, Teen Dirt-bike Racers

May 27, 2016 | by

From Works and Days.

“I’m not even sure anything happened to me. / Or to whom everything happened.” So ends Brenda Shaughnessy’s long poem of adolescence “Is There Something I Should Know.” Reading those lines, I realized I had been waiting for that wisdom—that formulation—a long time. Her new book, So Much Synth, is full of these moments. Soulfulness is not a quality I always look for in poets of my generation, but over the last two decades Shaughnessy has stripped herself down to a voice that can sing plainly about disappointment and love in hard circumstances and the lost art of the mix tape, here revived in verse:

As it records, you have to listen to each
song in its entirety, and in this way

you hear your favorite song with the ears
of your intended, as they hear it, new.

Lorin Stein

I’ve never been very diligent about keeping a journal, but the form is one I enjoy reading: the lists one makes, the mundane things that fill an afternoon. Works and Days is Bernadette Mayer’s forthcoming book, at once a collection of poetry and a dated record of a past spring: woven among her verse are her journal entries. I found myself pulled toward these other, more austere little notes. Comprising teensy, often inconsequential moments—like whether it’s rained or has been threatening to rain—these prosaic morsels are gorgeous and serene. Hardly any of Mayer’s days are spectacular, but her eye is so keenly attune to all that surrounds her that nearly everything feels touched with grandeur. She writes of the grackles that remind her of Donald Trump and her broken ulna, of the tornados in Duanesburg and the poems she wrote with Jennifer Karmin and Niel Rosenthalis. She says she hates rye bread and recalls the sound of New York City pavement being swept. But there are delectable, sometimes even bawdy bursts of excitement in the collection, too, like when she writes about the poet Bill Berkson bringing a dildo to sex camp or the heron that “ate my heart.” —Caitlin Youngquist Read More »

Turtle Thoughts (Two of Them)

February 4, 2014 | by


Photo: Tarek Chowdhury

Russell Hoban, a Pennsylvanian who lived most of his life in London, was born in 1925 and died in 2011, leaving behind a wondrous collection of sixteen novels for adults and even more for children. Hoban’s Turtle Diary—in which two aloof, single Londoners conspire to free sea turtles from the zoo—was reissued last year and should be required reading for anyone who lives alone, feels alone, or may one day reckon with loneliness. It’s endlessly quotable, and not in the cheap, aphoristic way that people sometimes mean when they say “endlessly quotable”—Hobanisms do not belong on tea bags or T-shirts, or even necessarily in Bartlett’s. It’s more that the whole novel demands to be read aloud, ideally to an audience of one. It might be most fitting, actually, if you read it aloud to yourself. Here are two of the novel’s many delightful “turtle thoughts”:

The sign said: “The Green Turtle, Chelonia mydas, is the source of turtle soup … ” I am the source of William G. soup if it comes to that. Everyone is the source of his or her kind of soup.

I think of the turtles swimming steadily against the current all the way to Ascension. I think of them swimming through all that golden-green water over the dark, over the chill of the deeps and the jaws of the dark. And I think of the sun over the water, the sun through the water, the eye holding the sun, being held by it with no thought and only the rhythm of the going, the steady wing-strokes of the flippers in the water. Then it doesn’t seem hard to believe. It seems the only way to do it, the only way in fact to be: swimming, swimming, the eye held by the sun, no sharks in the mind, nothing in the mind.



On the Shelf

December 14, 2011 | by

A cultural news roundup.

  • Cult author Russell Hoban has died at eighty-six.
  • Just what every child hopes to find under the tree: a Joyce Carol Oates doll.
  • Not so much? How about some grammatical correction?
  • A children’s science book?
  • Or a Vonnegut-inspired tee?
  • (#booknerd)
  • These same people might enjoy an at-home table-reading party.
  • The Utne Reader pulls up stakes for Kansas.
  • Tuck Everlasting: The Musical.
  • Literary novels, the HBO shows.
  • On Joan Didion’s “Oh, wow.” : “Much of the fun in these rather bitchy back-and-forths is seeing literary heavyweights get just this peevish.”
  • Capote in the buff!
  • Pooh’s predecessor!