The Daily

On Sports

Northern Powerhouse

February 11, 2016 | by

David Storey’s classic rugby novel, This Sporting Life, speaks to an enduring schism in English culture.

From a Penguin paperback edition of This Sporting Life

“I went straight for the full-back,” the up-and-coming rugby star of David Storey’s 1960 novel, This Sporting Life, tells us: “and when he came in I gave him the base of my wrist on his nose. The crack, the groan, the release of his arms, all coincided with a soaring of my guts.” Crucially, the sport here is rugby league, the fast and furious sister of rugby union—the latter being what most people would recognize simply as “rugby.” Save for a few rule differences, the two are similar, yet in a thousand intangible ways, many of them to do with the inescapable pall of class that covered English life throughout the twentieth century, they’re worlds apart. Much of the unique power of This Sporting Life, crafted straight from Storey’s personal experience, is in how it shows us these ways. Read More »

Our Daily Correspondent

Silver Lining

February 11, 2016 | by

From Early Silver of Connecticut and Its Makers, 1913.

It’s hard not to have mixed feelings about Florence King after reading her famous memoir, Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady (1985). She’s … idiosyncratic, certainly. Brave, in certain respects. Independent-minded, yes, and not afraid of being disliked. But King, a notorious crank, was hard to pigeonhole: Where do you fit an openly gay writer who wrote a famously cantankerous and conservative National Review column for decades? Or a feminist who hated the women’s movement and an outspoken agnostic who regularly attended church? 

Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady is as singular as its author. King is at her best when she talks about the South in broad, acid terms. She offers a particularly adept explanation of the Southerner’s relationship to silver—one that I read with relish, as I come from a family that fetishizes silver. Read More »

On the Shelf

3-D Demon Eruptions in ’s-Hertogenbosch, and Other News

February 11, 2016 | by

Bosch’s Haywain Triptych. Photograph: Rik Klein Gotink for the Bosch Research and Conservation Project

  • A small Dutch town with the incredible name of ’s-Hertogenbosch is planning a truly legendary celebration of Hieronymus Bosch: “The whole city (already famous in the Netherlands for its wild Shrovetide carnival) is planning to go slightly bonkers with Bosch fever. There will be moving projections of Bosch paintings in the marketplace and 3D recreations—erupting through pavements or hanging from lampposts—of angels, demons, damned souls, mermaids riding on flying fish, drunken priests, lascivious women, and monsters with the legs of a giant chicken and the body of an egg. More images will be projected under the bridges and in the tunnels of the river and canals, for an adventure billed as ‘The Boat Trip of Heaven and Hell.’ ”
  • Meanwhile, in London, the art scene is drawing its inspiration from a more contemporary source: One Direction fan fiction. The artist Owen G. Parry’s latest work “explores the world of ‘Larry Stylinson,’ that is, fanfiction and fanart that explore a sexual relationship between One Direction band members Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson … Parry’s pieces include Larry Underwater Kiss, a digital silk print, Larry!Hiroglyfics, etched drawings of the couple on Perspex alongside the slogan ‘ship everything,’ and Larry!Domestic: masks of Louis and Harry in pink containers, alongside a wearable pregnant belly marked with Harry’s tattoos.”
  • Olly Moss’s new video game Firewatch derives its subversive power from something you don’t find often in the medium: solitude. It does, after all, feature a pair of “rudderless forty-somethings” who keep their eyes to the horizon for a living: “The game is set in a few acres of a fictional national park in Wyoming, where you play as a fire lookout who intends to spend the lingering days of summer working alone at his typewriter, occasionally scanning the horizon for curls of smoke … The core of the game is the relationship between Henry and Delilah, a neighboring lookout with whom Henry keeps in near constant contact on his battery-powered radio. Delilah, who has spent many summers here, is by turns a mentor, a therapist, and a flirt. You choose how Henry responds to her jibes and inquiries, selecting from a range of options to reply either in kind, in defense, or with silence.”
  • From 1940 to 1948, New Yorkers could enjoy the the New York PM Daily, a distinctive tabloid that served as a progressive voice for the city, complete with unflinching photography and a mission statement that feels positively Sanders-esque: “PM is against people who push other people around. PM accepts no advertising. PM belongs to no political party. PM is absolutely free and uncensored. PM’s sole source of income is its readers—to whom it alone is responsible. PM is one newspaper that can and dares to tell the truth.”
  • Most of us (i.e., me) assume that translating is a total paradise—a famously lucrative sideline free of pressure, stress, or neurosis of any kind. The translator Natasha Wimmer sets the record straight: “By translating something you’re implicitly recommending it. I always think about that when I choose a project. I was just reading an interview with the translator Michael Hofmann who translates from German, and he was saying that in his ideal world people would consider his name an imprimatur. I’m really not sure how many people look to the translator to see what to read next, but I do try to make coherent choices … There’s a reason I'm translating a woman next. I think about that; I think about the question of women writers in translation. I’ve translated on commission a lot, so I tend to just choose the best of what I’m offered, and that’s happened to be male writers. But I do think that it’s my responsibility to seek out women writers and to translate them.”

Sleep Aid

The Administration of Timberlands in Canada

February 10, 2016 | by

Bernardo Strozzi, Sleeping Child, after 1607

It’s late, and you’re still awake. Allow us to help with Sleep Aid, a series devoted to curing insomnia with the dullest, most soporific texts available in the public domain. Tonight’s prescription: “Administration of Timberlands in Canada,” a chapter from Bernhard E. Fernow’s A Brief History of Forestry in Europe, the United States, and Other Countries, published in 1911.

In the development of ownership conditions, the realization of the valuable assets in timber growth had not been overlooked by the home government, care of supplies for naval construction giving, as in the United States, the first incentive to a conservative forest policy.

Even under the early French rule, the grants of land were made under reservation of the oak timber fit for naval use, as is evidenced from a landgrant made in 1683. This reservation led to considerable friction as it hampered the colonists in making their clearings on the best lands. Later, the reservation was extended to include other timber needed for military purposes, and when the British occupation began, these established rights of the crown were not only continued, but reservations of larger areas for the timber were ordered, notably around and north of Lake Champlain. In 1763, and again in 1775, the home government ordered reservations to be set aside in every township. Read More »

Arts & Culture

How Repulsive

February 10, 2016 | by

On the merits of disturbing literature.

Frederic Leighton, Study at a Reading Desk‎, 1877.

In a letter to a reader who was disturbed by his novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “If [Malte] contains bitter reproaches, these are absolutely not directed against life. On the contrary, they are evidences that, for lack of strength, through distraction and inherited errors we lose completely the countless earthly riches that were intended for us.”

Faced with a reader like Rilke’s, it can be hard for a writer to defend the need for “bitter reproaches”—to uphold the disturbing above the merely distasteful. After all, some “disturbing” books do nothing more than shock. Charlotte Roche’s Wetlands, for instance, is a litany of gross and obscene bodily functions that never adds up to more than grossness and obscenity. But good books disturb for good reasons. To disturb is, among other things, to guard against complacency: to make the reader face the underbelly of dark thoughts and actions, see how circumstances can make even good people go astray if they are not vigilant in honoring the best in themselves and in the outside world. Disturbing passages, when skillful, make a vital inquiry into the subtle causes and effects of human behavior. Read More »

Our Daily Correspondent

Cat Fight

February 10, 2016 | by

From “Professor Welton’s Boxing Cats.”

Once, some years ago, I went with a good friend to see that Russian cat circus. It was my friend’s birthday, and seeing said cat circus was a long and dearly held dream of hers. If memory serves, the cat circus took place at a college of criminal justice, but why would that be true? Read More »