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Posts Tagged ‘Scott Spencer’

What We’re Loving: Bejeweled Ostriches, Robot Dancers

May 25, 2012 | by

I know it’s dumb to bet on which novels—which anything—will endure and which won’t. So why, reading Endless Love, Scott Spencer’s 1979 novel of romantic obsession, do I keep thinking, This will outlast us all? Maybe because it reminds me of other novels that have stayed fresh over the decades without the benefit of “classic”—or even cult classic—status: books like Victory, or Rebecca, or The Transit of Venus or The White Hotel or, in a funny way, Mating. You could make a much longer, even more random list, but there’s something they all have in common, something to do with technical sophistication, urgency, and shamelessness, as if the plot came welling up out of a nightmare. They are, you might say, too strong to be classics; they don’t need champions or explaining. People will just keep making each other read them. —Lorin Stein

After my most recent binge at Westsider Books, I found myself holding a copy of something titled The Minikins of Yam. Maybe it’s all these rainy afternoons, but lately I’ve missed the middle school era of my reading life, when “guilty pleasure” was the only category. I freely admit that I chose this paperback by Thomas Burnett Swann, an almost entirely forgotten 1970s author of “neo-romantic fantasy,” solely on account of its awesome cover art, in which a horned lady sallies forth atop a bejeweled ostrich. But Yam delivers exactly what George Barr’s cover art promises: basilisks, subterfuge, and beast-headed gods. If you, too, are an adult human still coping with the end of Harry Potter, look for one of these gorgeous DAW paperbacks to help fill the void. —Allison Bulger

Happy Memorial Day Weekend! If mysophobia (or better options) keep you from the opening of public pools this weekend, I suggest reading David Foster Wallace’s “Forever Overhead,” a story from Brief Interviews with Hideous Men in which a pubescent boy celebrates his thirteenth birthday at a local public pool. You get splash fights, diving-board lines, too-tight suits, Marco Polo—the stuff of poolside dreams—and the fierce awkwardness and exposed, liquid thoughts that public pools and puberty bring forth. Wallace tells the story with manic detail and emotional exactitude, and, as always with dear DFW, it’s at once playful and meditative, unlikely and perfect. —Elizabeth Nelson

I’ve been home sick for the past two days and have found that Space Oddities: A Compilation of Rare European Library Grooves from 1977–1984 is the perfect sound track to a fever. Not a ringing endorsement? Well, you may just have to listen to this collection of carefully culled (by French DJs, naturally) clips from commercials, movies, and TV shows for yourself. I still have my ’08 CD, but good news: the whole album is on Spotify! Try “Robot Dancer.” —Sadie Stein

My experience with Egyptian art is limited mostly to the blockbuster stuff—I remember seeing traveling shows in Texas, where the heavy eye makeup and big jewelry of the statuettes and masks seemed to make a certain kind of sense—and it’s impressive, to say the least. But now I’m finding myself wowed by the smaller, less overtly extraordinary objects in the Met’s “Dawn of Egyptian Art” show (I’ve spent a lot of time with the catalogue as well). The flash of gold and scale is replaced here with the innate beauty of natural materials and form, like a frog carved from a black stone flecked with white; a basket filled with tiny fish, all incised into a single piece of powdery steatite; and the head of a bovid chiseled from clay-hued flint. I’m also unduly impressed with the various hippopotamus-shaped objects—not surprising, since I’ve long been the proud owner of a tubby blue “William.” —Nicole Rudick

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Father’s Day; Church Going

June 17, 2011 | by

Dear Lorin:
Father’s Day is coming up, and this year I want to get my dad something he’ll actually read. The last three books I am certain he has read are: something by George Pelecanos,
Lush Life by Richard Price, and certainly something by Sue Grafton. What would be something different, but not too different?
Best,
Bryant

Bryant? My long-lost half-brother? Can it really be you?

On the theory that our fathers are the same person, I would recommend Pete Dexter, Scott Spencer, the oft-mentioned-in-this-column Elmore Leonard, and maybe most of all The Main, by Trevanian, about which I remember almost nothing except that Dad lent it to me once when I was home sick and said it was really good. (And that I liked it, too.)

Dear Paris Review,
I have been struggling to understand the final stanza of Philip Larkin’s “Church Going” for a month or so. The more I think about it, the more I doubt my thoughts. Could someone please help give an explication of the stanza? I’m having problems answering bigger and smaller questions—for example, why is the air “blent”? Who is recognizing “our compulsions”? And why are they “robed as destinies”? And by whom are they robed? And to what is “that” referring in the line “that much can never be obsolete”? The final two lines baffle me as well. I’m sorry. Usually I am a very good close reader, but I have failed with this one. Please help. —Caroline Grey

A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognized, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete,
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.

P.S. It wouldn’t hurt to remind your readers how to read poetry well. Consider this a general service, too.

Thank you for sending me back to “Church Going.” I enjoyed rereading it and thinking about it again. I’m afraid these (very rudimentary, very literal-minded) answers will have occurred to you, but here is where I’d start:

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