The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘staff picks’

What We’re Loving: Gremlin Jokes, Spiritual Paths, Sundae Ire

January 17, 2014 | by

Backgammon (1982) by Jane Freilicher

Jane Frelicher, Backgammon, 1982.

It’s been almost fifteen years since Akhil Sharma published his first novel, An Obedient Father. This terrible, improbably funny book—about a single mother forced to share an apartment with the father who raped her as a child—won Sharma a PEN/Hemingway prize, a Whiting Award, and praise from the likes of Jonathan Franzen and Joyce Carol Oates. (I remember because it was the first novel I had the honor of editing.) Now Sharma is back with Family Life, the tale of an Indian American boy coming of age in the shadow of a family disaster. It too is terrible and improbably funny, and is excerpted in this week’s New Yorker. With acid, deceptively artless prose and a faultless ear for dialogue, Sharma strips his characters bare from page one and dares us to love them in their nakedness. I cannot think of a more honest or unsparing novelist in our generation. —Lorin Stein

Michael Hofmann is the only translator whose work I would read no matter what he decided to English—if only I could keep up with him! In the excellent new issue of Asymptote, he tells a story about interviewing Wolfgang Koeppen in 1992, four years before the German novelist’s death. (“With my English reticence and youth, I met Koeppen halfway: in other words, we were both barely out of our shells.”) He also writes of the Joseph Mitchell–like silence that Koeppen fell into after the publication of Death in Rome (1954) and lauds the still-untranslated last book, Youth (1976)—giving us reason to hope he might be at work on an English version. The final remarks on Koeppen’s sentences—continually “sidestepping into freedom,” “scrupulously managed, supple, cadenced, sumptuously lexical, expressive prose”—double as a description of Hofmann’s own writing. —Robyn Creswell

Poetry’s January issue contains a thirty-page feature on Jane Freilicher: her artwork and her close friendships with a number of poets, among them Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, and James Schuyler. The section is adapted from Tibor de Nagy Gallery’s wonderful exhibition, last summer, “Jane Freilicher: Painter Among Poets” (it’s currently on view at the Poetry Foundation, in Chicago). I remembered having glimpsed the show’s catalogue in Lorin’s office. I liberated it, and I’m not sure I’ll give it back. It’s like having a scrapbook made by the people whose work you most admire, and it shows that they had as good a time in one another’s company as you’d imagined. “Some little gremlins seemed to have popped loose in my idea factory and I think they may have been sent over from Koch’s brassiere factory,” writes Freilicher to O’Hara. And in what may be my favorite letter in the whole book, from Jane to Frank on a poem of his: “it just don’t seem to have that real low-down smelly sexy everyday Olympian quality your admirers depend upon.” —Nicole Rudick Read More »

NO COMMENTS

Horror Story

October 25, 2013 | by

“First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys.” So begins Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury’s 1962 tale of a demonic carnival that descends on a Midwestern town. I’ve long loved the 1983 Disney adaptation (which is way scarier than many a grown-up horror movie, and actually nothing like the synth-heavy trailer) but until this fall, had never read the book. When I did, I was intrigued by the dedication: “With love to the memory of GENE KELLY, whose performances influenced and changed my life.” In his afterward, Bradbury explains the unexpected dedication—altered for the second edition—and also relates the anecdote below, in a talk he gave in Pasadena a few years ago.

 

NO COMMENTS

What We’re Loving: Ham Biscuits, Victoriana

January 25, 2013 | by

Over the weekend, I had one of those magical visits to the Strand where you find exactly the book you’re looking for: in this case, Julia Reed’s Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns, and Other Southern Specialties, a collection of Reed’s food essays for the New York Times Magazine. I read it in a single sitting and came out feeling like the author was an old friend, and with a serious hankering for deviled eggs. Reed’s life sounds glamorous and fun and filled with friends, and she writes about the South’s idiosyncrasies with warmth and authority. Only, don’t try to get it at the Strand: I nabbed the only copy. —Sadie O. Stein

How does The New York Review of Books even exist? Historians will marvel that something so good could last so long. Although we may never wrest an interview from our hero Robert Silvers—who founded the Review fifty years ago with the late Barbara Epsteinothers are ready to talk. Radio host Janet Coleman kicks off a series of New York Review reminiscences at their blog. —Lorin Stein

Downton Abbey has lately inspired me to read serial novels of Victorian England, allowing me to experience the same kind of long-term relationship with characters and the same range of social strata. Recently, I’ve been enjoying The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins, of which T. S. Eliot said, “Everything that is good in the modern story can be found in The Moonstone.” A Victorian mystery with a dash of Indiana Jones, far from esoteric and very accessible. —Andrew Plimpton

Romanian concert pianist Radu Lupu performed at Carnegie Hall last night. It was a lovely program, by all accounts, but the second half of the evening was truly phenomenal. Sitting in a high-backed chair and moving his body infrequently, and then only slightly, Lupu played Book II of Debussy’s Préludes with tender forcefulness. The tension between his stoic person and romantic musicality was performance enough; in some ways, the music itself seemed irrelevant, though it’s been running through my head since. There’s no recording of Lupu playing it, that I can find, but this series on YouTube features a rendition by Sviatoslav Richter. —Clare Fentress

Mad Men fans were buoyed this week by the news that season six is set to premiere April 7. I doubt that I need to convince anyone of Matthew Weiner’s brilliance at this point—but what other show would use “Meditations in an Emergency” to illustrate a character arc? References to Frank O’Hara bookend season two, even taking “Meditations in an Emergency” as the finale episode’s title. If this intrigues you, check out this blog run by Steve Brauer, a professor at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York. Especially good is this bit of criticism: “What Frank O’Hara Tells Us About Don Draper.”  —Laura Creste

In Love, by Alfred Hayes, is a slim novel from 1953 that deserves to be better known. The cover of the new edition features an Elizabeth Bowen quote in which she terms the book “a little masterpiece,” and I’ve rarely seen the breakdown of a relationship, in all its banality and pettiness, evoked more vividly. It’s tough, fresh, very lovely, and will stay with you. —S.O.S.

NO COMMENTS

What We’re Loving: Saintly Comics, High Relief

January 11, 2013 | by

In 1974, David Esterly was pursuing a career as an academic when he encountered a limewood carving by the seventeenth-century master Grinling Gibbons. He gave up English literature, devoted himself to the art of high-relief carving, and in the process became not merely the foremost Gribbons expert, but a master carver himself. The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making details Esterly’s restoration of a Gribbons drop at Hampton Court, but it is more than this. “I was apprenticed to a phantom, and lived among mysteries,” he writes of that time, and the memoir is indeed as much about engagement with the past, and the preservation of ancient arts, as it is one man’s journey. If you are in New York, through January 18, you can see Esterly’s intricate and beautiful work on display at W. M. Brady and Co. —Sadie Stein

No matter how hard you try, you can’t help but stare at a train wreck, and Stephen Rodrick’s behind-the-scenes New York Times Magazine profile of Paul Schrader’s film The Canyons fills the guilty-pleasure, sweet-tooth fix quite nicely. A director desperate for a hit; a screenwriter (Bret Easton Ellis) more concerned with waging social-media jihads than actually writing; a porn star (James Deen) with a sensitive side; a budget that wouldn’t cover Kanye West’s ego; and, of course, Hollywood’s favorite child-star-turned-TMZ-punchline Lindsay Lohan: while this equation might not add up to a box office hit, it’s a fascinating look at the absurdity of Hollywood filmmaking. To see what’s become of the film so far, check out the trailer. —Justin Alvarez

Read More »

1 COMMENT

What We’re Loving: Dune, Anno, Common Prayer

November 9, 2012 | by

Not long ago I had the honor of officiating at the wedding of a Swede and a Russian Jew. It was not a religious ceremony (unless you count the Universal Life Church), but when the three of us sat down to discuss vows, the bride and groom agreed that the Book of Common Prayer couldn’t be beat; we just had to kill the “obey” clause and the stuff about God. It felt funny, crossing out words in my great-grandfather’s prayer book, but according to a new monograph by Daniel Swift, Shakespeare did pretty much the same thing, repeatedly. Shakespeare’s Common Prayers: The Book of Common Prayer and the Elizabethan Age makes a case for the Anglican liturgy as a work of politics and art and as a crucial influence on English literature. It made for perfect candelight reading after lower Manhattan lost power. —Lorin Stein

Read More »

NO COMMENTS

What We’re Loving: Angry Generals, Contemptuous Gumshoes

October 19, 2012 | by

Several of us are in San Francisco at the moment. As such, I am obviously revisiting that hard-boiled Fog City classic, The Maltese Falcon. How can you beat it? “Spade took her face between his hands and he kissed her mouth roughly and contemptuously. Then he sat back and said: ‘I’ll think it over.’” —Sadie Stein

This week I’ve returned to The Coal Life, the 2012 debut collection from Birmingham Poetry Review editor Adam Vines. And it’s still staggeringly good. Vines has this way of delivering a deliciously playful line with a face so straight you feel like a fool for thinking words could work any other way. Check out “River Politics” over at Poetry for a prime example, and then spring for the full set—Samuel Fox

Read More »

NO COMMENTS