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Posts Tagged ‘The Atlantic’

Lorrie Moore on Alice Munro

October 10, 2013 | by

Vintage-Postcardlarge

“Well, I have no relationship to her. I’ve never met her. And as for her work, I came to it too late probably for it even to have been an influence, which fills me with despair. I am merely a big fan. She is a great artist, alive and among us, and still writing as well as she did at the start—if not better, which is really saying something, since if you look again at Lives of Girls and Women, her first book, you will see it is a masterpiece, not like any other first book I can think of offhand. (You will also find in it many of the elements of Love of a Good Woman and other later fiction—the obsession with drowning, the allure and menace of men, the erotic moment as narrative pivot and the glimpses of wickedness that only the young are able to act upon to save themselves; the middle-aged must attempt to endure, make do, compromised and complicitous, with what they know.) Her later fiction is quite bold structurally—its handling of time is fearless and satisfying and not to be imitated. She seems over and over again to be writing a kind of ghost story. She is also witty and cruel (that is, unblinking) and painterly. Although she writes of the provinces, she is the least provincial writer I can think of. I’m not sure that this is always understood about her.” —Lorrie Moore, the Art of Fiction No. 167

 

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Staff Picks: Bathtub Reading, Germaine Tailleferre

December 23, 2011 | by

“Is it dreamed,” Jude asked Teddy, “or dreamt?” From the first sentence of Ten Thousand Saints, you know you’re dealing with a real novelist. Eleanor Henderson’s debut, about a Vermont stoner in 1980s New York, slipped under my radar. (Apparently no one else missed it—it appears on every best-of list from The New York Times to O.) If only I owned a bathtub, I’d be reading it there right now.  —Lorin Stein

What a thrill to discover that Spotify has all of Germaine Tailleferre’s piano works! The only woman in the group of French avant-garde composers knows as Les Six, Tailleferre’s engaging, inventive compositions make for perfect winter listening. —Sadie Stein

It took me weeks, and several recommendations, to sit down and read Zach Baron’s fifteen-thousand-word article on Hunter S. Thompson (“a savant at … writerly failure”), the self-loathing of journalism, traffic jams, desert hackers, and the depressing truth of Las Vegas, but I’m glad that I did. It’s territory that could be trite but here feels both thoughtful and fresh. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

I think I’ve discovered literature’s best (literal) snake: Kaa, from Kipling’s Jungle Book—specifically at the end of the chapter “Kaa’s Hunting.” After barreling into a terrified throng of monkeys and bashing through a stone wall with his head, the massive rock python begins coiling and uncoiling his more than six feet of body in a mesmerizing slow dance that lures all who watch into his deadly grip. Chilling! —Nicole Rudick

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Staff Picks: Barbie’s Dream House, All the Single Ladies

October 14, 2011 | by

Lisa Yuskavage, Babushkas, 2011, oil on panel, 8 x 6 inches. Courtesy David Zwirner.

While I was in Los Angeles, I had the chance to see two very different—but very “California”—exhibits, both of which I’d recommend to anyone. The first, Robert Irwin’s “Way Out West” at L&M Arts, is a light installation that's visually engaging on its own terms, but even more so to those familiar with Irwin’s writing. More straightforward but just as interesting, LACMA’s “California Design, 1930–1965” is a colorful, exhilarating showcase of all things “modern,” from lobster-print swimsuits to Ray and Charles Eames’s living room (which is fully reassembled in the museum) to the original Barbie Dream House. It’s a survey not just of West Coast design, but of the crafting of the modern conception of California as we know it. —Sadie Stein

Sigrid Nunez’s Sempre Susan doesn’t just evoke Susan Sontag, the person, with hard-won sympathy, insight, and cool; it contains (in a very tiny space) material for an entire novel of idealism and disillusionment. This Sontag—who “often struck me as someone who wanted to be feeling ten times what she actually felt”—is a tragic figure, and this memoir captures the spirit of the spirit of her times. —Lorin Stein

I had, much to my shame, never read the fiction of Alan Hollinghurst until this last Indian summer weekend, when I found myself utterly absorbed in the world of The Stranger’s Child. Its prose is marvelously precise, its subjects both literary and sensual, and its general character inimitably English. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

Lisa Yuskavage’s ethereal paintings are on display at David Zwirner until November 5. —Jessica Calderon

Last spring, the culture guerrillas at Bidoun went to Cairo to check in on the revolution. They came back with their Summer issue (#25), which includes interviews with graffiti artists, tour guides, ex-members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and hard-core metal musicians. Also, dream narratives, photographs, and thumbnail sketches of the dozens of the new political parties. There is very little analysis and no claim to know what comes next. But, more than anything else I’ve read, it gives you a sense of life on the ground. —Robyn Creswell

I just discovered the blog Letters of Note and could not tear myself away. They’ve archived, photographed, and transcribed amazing correspondences: everything from a letter Kurt Vonnegut wrote to his family describing his capture in 1944, to a vintage rejection slip from Sub Pop records addressed to “Dear Loser.”  —Artie Niederhoffer

Everyone I know has been sending me Kate Bolick’s fascinating piece on marriage, coupling through history, gender imbalances, and, well, as the title says, “All the Single Ladies.” —D. F. M.

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Staff Picks: Sea Voyages; Cats in Space

August 12, 2011 | by

I can’t pretend it’s a light read, but Michael Kimball’s Us is heartbreakingly lovely. It’s a story of death, loss, and loneliness—but the writing’s a pleasure, and sometimes you just need to read something with weight. –Sadie Stein

Accounts of scientific expeditions and sea voyages have long been my preferred summer reading—they seem particularly suited for never-ending afternoons spent lolling by the ocean. I’m using the last warm days to finish The Journey of Anders Sparrman. –Clare Fentress

I first encountered Wodehouse during a childhood August, and slurped up all of Jeeves immediately. What better time to indulge in the unflagging fun than now, when Norton has just released stupendously colorful new editions of the books? –Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

I didn’t go on vacation this summer, so I’ve been vicariously living through the galley of The Best American Travel Writing 2011. It includes a round-the-world sea voyage with Christopher Buckley and trashy Miami parties with Emily Witt. –Ali Pechman

I’m really eager to get my hands on Faye Dudden’s Fighting Chance—which tells the story of how women’s suffrage fractured the like-minded abolitionist community. Here’s a great piece on the book from the Wilson Quarterly.S.S.

While browsing The Atlantic’s new video channel, I came across this clip documenting some important bioastronautics research. –Natalie Jacoby

NYRBlog quite bluntly states what I’ve thought more than once in “Here’s What I Hate About Writer’s Houses”: “That art can be understood by examining the chewed pencils of the writer.” –A. P.

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Staff Picks: Chad Harbach, The Mets, Masters of the Sob

May 27, 2011 | by

Last Sunday I stayed in bed till one P.M.—then stayed up till two A.M.—reading the galleys of Chad Harbach’s first novel, The Art of Fielding. To say it’s the best novel I’ve read about a college shortstop would be true, as far as it went, but it’s about more than that: “For Schwartz this formed the paradox at the heart of baseball, or football, or any other sport. You loved it because you considered it an art: an apparently pointless affair, undertaken by people with a special aptitude, which sidestepped attempts to paraphrase its value yet somehow seemed to communicate something true or even crucial about The Human Condition. The Human Condition being, basically, that we’re alive and have access to beauty, can even erratically create it, but will someday be dead and will not.” —Lorin Stein

I’ve been reading Jeffrey Toobin’s New Yorker article about New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon with mixed feelings. What Wilpon says about his players makes one wonder if he’s trying to sabotage his own team (which is also mine). Carlos Beltran is overpaid, David Wright is overpraised, José Reyes is always injured. These are opinions an owner should keep to himself. But when Wilpon says, “We’re snakebitten, baby,” he sounds like a true Mets fan to me. —Robyn Creswell

If you haven’t read any of Diana Athill’s work, I highly recommend Midsummer Night in the Workhouse, a collection of her short fiction recently released by Persephone. Funny, engaging, and unexpected. —Sadie Stein

I very much enjoyed Francine Prose’s short essay “Other Women” in the new feminist-themed Granta. Prose was secretly writing her first novel as a graduate student. She joined a feminist consciousness-raising group, and, after selling the book, she left her husband and moved to San Francisco. Somehow, she says, she became a feminist. But was it before or after she discovered her husband had slept with nearly every single woman in the group? —Thessaly La Force

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All Together Now

August 25, 2010 | by

Lorin has written more for Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog over at The Atlantic. I hope you'll read everything he's written so far, but I thought I'd take the time to mention today's entry. Here, Lorin addresses the death of the book review, and his very inspiring reasons for moving from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux to The Paris Review:

I left book publishing to edit The Paris Review because I think the situation can be dramatically improved. Not in the high-stakes game of bestsellers and Time covers, but down here on the ground, where reputations and markets are built and readers make up their own minds. I want there to be a magazine where fiction and poetry come first, where there's no hype, and where the aim is to reach the 100,000 people who, a few years ago, had never heard of Roberto Bolano—but whose lives have been slightly changed by his fiction.

I am one of those people. For what it's worth, I have also been one of the people who say they don't like stories or poems. It wasn't actually true in my case. (I suspect it's not true in general.) What annoys me is the idea that I should like a story or a poem, just because somebody took the trouble to write it. We are indeed competing for limited airspace. With apologies to Ezra Pound, a story or poem needs to be at least as involving as an expose by David Grann, as tough-minded as a comment by Hendrik Hertzberg. Which is to say, it must if possible be even better written.

Literary writing (or, if you prefer, imaginitive writing) has certain advantages of its own, none of them weakened one bit by technology. It can often be funnier than other kinds of prose. It can deal more humanly with sex. It can say shameful things about family life—not by treating them as scandals but, on the contrary, by showing that they're normal. More sins are confessed more deeply, through the screens of verse and make-believe, than you will ever find on a talk show or reality TV. Literature gives the best accounts of intimacy. Lena McFarland is right—you may not learn stuff you didn't know from a work of fiction. But there can be great comfort in seeing the troubles of daily life put into words of power and beauty.

And as David Foster Wallace observed, literature has a way of making you feel less alone. TV doesn't do that. It entertains and entertains, but there is a part of you it gives the silent treatment. In my experience, even the Web can you leave you feeling lonelier, once you turn off the computer. Fiction and poetry connect you, or they can, to something bigger and quieter and more lasting than the day you had at work. The question of posterity is fascinating. Some writers hope to live on, through their words, after death. Some write for the present day. Either way, they take us out of the moment and out of our smallest selves.

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