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Posts Tagged ‘this week’s reading’

What We’re Loving: Toomer, Kusama, and Train

July 13, 2012 | by

Yayoi Kusama, Self-Obliteration No. 1, 1962–67, watercolor, ink, graphite, and photocollage on paper, 15 7/8 × 19 13/16 in. Collection of the artist. © Yayoi Kusama. Image courtesy Yayoi Kusama Studio Inc.; Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo; Victoria Miro Gallery, London

Six years ago I wrote a little article about my favorite Washington, D.C., novels—and was roundly chastised for leaving Cane off the list. First published in 1923, Jean Toomer’s modernist classic isn't exactly about Washington, and it isn’t exactly a novel. It’s an early response to the Great Migration, in linked stories and verse, that moves from rural Georgia to U Street and back again. Still, it may well be the District’s greatest hit. It is pure lyricism, perfect for these late summer nights. —Lorin Stein

I caught a preview of the Yayoi Kusama retrospective that opened at the Whitney yesterday. If you’ve heard of her at all, it’s likely for her signature polka dots (or perhaps for her recent collaboration with Louis Vuitton). As a video in the show attests, her use of those dots was compulsive and obsessive: she sticks them on prone nudes, reclining cats, distracted dogs; they litter the ground, the wind, the sky. But most intriguing are her very early paintings, in which you can see Kusama working through the early masters of Western modernism. Of particular interest was a very odd painting incredibly titled Accumulation of Corpses (Prisoner Surrounded by the Curtain of Depersonalization), in which waves of red curtain folds pinhole a scene of bare trees. As chance would have it, the painting perfectly represented the book I’ve been reading, Windeye, Brian Evenson’s adroitly creepy new story collection. It’s kismet! —Nicole Rudick

What is glamour and how does one attain it? Is it curated, cultivated—or does it just arrive, like inspiration? Jim Lewis’s article for W magazine, “Face Forward,” is the perfect starting point for anyone intrigued by (or dismissive of) this fleeting, shimmering quality. For me, if beauty is an image, then glamour is imagery: aesthetics in the service of narrative. What is glamour, after all, but good storytelling? Presenting a glimpse of a lifestyle—or perhaps, a way of being—other, elsewhere, and then gone. —Alyssa Loh
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What We’re Loving: All Kinds of Poetry

June 8, 2012 | by

Iris DeMent

When Anthony Heilbut isn’t producing beautiful gospel, he tends to be writingslowlyeither about German modernism or else about the music and musicians he loves. The Fan Who Knew Too Much is the book Heilbut's gospel fans have been waiting for since The Gospel Sound (1972). In this connection, I can’t resist quoting our Southern editor right off the back cover: “Nothing new in the last year gave me as much pure reading pleasure as pages of this book. Heilbut ranges over the culture like a madman, but with a fierce sanity in his eye, debunking myths and erecting new ones. I finished The Fan Who Knew Too Much wondering how, without it, I’d ever thought I understood a thing about America in the twentieth century. Let me ask: Are you familiar with the history of gays in gospel? Or with the early, radio roots of soap operas? Then you too are similarly benighted. Get with this.” Amen. —Lorin Stein

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Staff Picks: Anne Roiphe, Fanny Howe, Now’ruz

March 18, 2011 | by

Katie and Anne Roiphe.

Two nights ago, in one long fit of insomnia, I read Anne Roiphe’s memoir of midcentury Paris Review shenanigans, Art and Madness. —Lorin Stein

At night, I have been switching between Fanny Howe’s new collection of poems, Come and See, and David Orr’s Beautiful and Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry. Howe is plainspoken, serious, visionary; Orr is companionable, smart, fun. Last night I dreamed they were having a conversation, but this morning I can’t remember what either one said. —Robyn Creswell

I liked Charlotte Silver’s Modern Love essay from a few weeks ago, about a young couple obsessed with the romantic rituals from the fifties. —Thessaly La Force

This week is Now’ruz, the Iranian New Year, and I’ll be celebrating on Sunday by trying to synchronize a tricontinental diasporic Skype chat with relatives and friends. For now, the least heart-breaking way into Iranian culture is the cooking, and there’s no better introduction to that than Margaret Shaida’s classic, The Legendary Cuisine of Persia. Of course, on the day itself, I wouldn’t dream of eating anything other than the customary sabzi polo mahi, but I’ve always been drawn to Shaida’s description of the koofteh Tabrizi, an immense meat dumpling that encases an entire stuffed chicken. Before the advent of the food processor, “considerable strength and stamina were required to pound the ingredients together into an adhesive mixture. One lady from Tabriz told me to knead the mixture until my arms fell out.” —Jonathan Gharraie

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Staff Picks: Lord of Misrule, Irish Tweets

November 19, 2010 | by

If you can get your hands on Lord of Misrule, the novel by Wednesday’s National Book Award winner Jaimy Gordon, let me know (Amazon doesn’t count). In the meantime, check out this interview with her in Gargoyle Magazine that took place sometime in 1983. —Thessaly La Force

Amid all of the bleak Ireland-is-down-the-toilet-again talk emanating from across the Atlantic (often via those miserly analysts at Standard & Poor’s), I was tickled and cheered by a short piece in The Irish Times in which readers tweeted their favorite things about the country. I found myself laughing and nodding in agreement as I scanned the list of oddities that all Irish people seem to indulge in or enjoy. —Brenda Collins

I finally cracked What Is All This?, Stephen Dixon’s mammoth collection of previously unpublished stories—and it’s terrific stuff. The book itself is also quite pleasing. Dixon still composes his stories on a typewriter (a Hermes Standard, the same brand Douglas Adams used), and Fantagraphics’ whiz art director, Jacob Covey, has mimicked the unevenness and smudges of typewritten text on the cover and section pages. It’s great design porn. —Nicole Rudick

How can you deny your love for Joan Didion, especially when she’s writing about Woody Allen? A vintage piece from The New York Review of Books. —T. L.

Larry Levis isn’t exactly a household name—then again, so few poets are—but he should be. Start with his collection The Widening Spell of the Leaves, specifically the poem, “The Spell of the Leaves,” which begins, “Her husband left her suddenly. Then it was autumn." Some lines later, this brutal description of the abandoned wife waiting in the car, out of habit, for her husband to drive her to work: “Later she couldn’t / Say whether an hour or only a few minutes / Had passed before she realized she didn’t / Have a husband.” It’s heartbreaking (and also, strangely, an excellent tool of seduction). —Miranda Popkey

Once upon a time, Kate Bernheimer asked forty contemporary authors to pen stories that riffed on the fairytale tradition. What took shape was the dizzying My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, a collection by turns wicked, lyrical, and very, very funny. Where else can you find Jim Shepard in dialogue with Italo Calvino, or Aimee Bender working from Charles Perrault? All the readers in the kingdom lived happily ever after. —Kate Waldman

What’s it like to have sex with someone with Asperger’s? —David Wallace-Wells