The Daily

On the Shelf

Roth’s Reading Room, and Other News

October 27, 2016 | by

A postcard of the Newark Public Library

  • Today in hometown heroism: Philip Roth, having recovered from yet another year without a Nobel, is donating his book collection to the Newark Public Library. Young readers will be able to flip through them and look for the dirty bits—just as he once did—for generations to come. (The library will likely see an uptick in visitors, as well. T-shirt idea: “I VISITED THE NEWARK PUBLIC LIBRARY BEFORE PHILIP ROTH’S BOOKS WERE THERE.”) “ Roth’s library, some 4,000 volumes, is now stored mostly at his house in northwest Connecticut, where it has more or less taken over the premises … The books will be shelved in Newark exactly as they are in Connecticut—not a window into Mr. Roth’s mind exactly, but physical evidence of the eclectic writers who helped shape it … He chose Newark, he added, because like a lot of people of his generation, especially those who had attended Weequahic High School, he retained a singular attachment to his old hometown. ‘It may also be true of people who grew up in Cleveland or Detroit,’ he said. ‘I don’t know. I do know that kids who graduated between when Weequahic opened in the ’30s and the great population shift that occurred in the 1960s remain very devoted to their memories and to the school.’ ”
  • Claire Jarvis on reading Sarah Waters—whose latest novel, The Paying Guests, has a graphic abortion scene—while pregnant: “For the past two decades, Sarah Waters has been the best-known contemporary novelist of women’s sexual history. Her novels all develop, in some way, from her earlier work as a researcher focused primarily on lesbian and gay historical fiction. Her first, Tipping the Velvet, which Waters conceived of while writing her PhD thesis, details the hidden-in-plain-sight world of what we would now call queer life in Victorian London. An unexpected success when it was published in 1998, it was followed by two more Victorian pastiches, Affinity and Fingersmith, both bodice-ripping lesbian reworkings of nineteenth-century sensation novels. Waters’s three most recent books, which have been set in the 20th century, are moodier, and more self-consciously literary, combining the suspense plotting of her earlier work with domestic fiction’s absorption in the details of everyday life. To these genre pastiches, Waters adds graphic descriptions of the bodily experiences of people—particularly women—in the past, making the blood, dirt, and pleasure of those lives as explicit as possible.” 

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This Thursday: Yasmine El Rashidi and Robyn Creswell

October 26, 2016 | by

Photo: Brigitte Lacomb

Join us this Thursday, October 27, at the New York Public Library for a conversation between our poetry editor, Robyn Creswell, and the Egyptian writer Yasmine El Rashidi, a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books and an editor of the Middle East arts-and-culture quarterly Bidoun. They’ll discuss her debut novel, Chronicle of a Last Summer, which is narrated by a girl growing up in Cairo over three tumultuous summers from 1984 to 2014. Claire Messud calls it “rich in its quiet implications … An entire nuanced world emanates from these apparently offhand recollections.”

The event begins at seven P.M. It’s free, but we recommend reserving seats in advance through the NYPL’s website. See you there!

At Work

Love, Jimmy: Hilton Als and Jacqueline Goldsby in Conversation

October 26, 2016 | by



Photo: Allan Warren

At fourteen, James Baldwin “underwent … a prolonged religious crisis” and discovered “God, His saints and angels, and His blazing Hell.” At the same age, Hilton Als was given a copy of Nobody Knows My Name and discovered James Baldwin. He then entered into a tempestuous love affair with Baldwin’s work, one that shifted, over the years, from ardent infatuation and reverence to disaffection, settling somewhere in between: “no matter how much I tried to resist my identification with Baldwin,” he writes in his 1998 New Yorker essay “The Enemy Within,” “we were uneasy members of the same tribe.”

Last month, Als discussed Baldwin’s legacy at the Windham-Campbell Prize festival, where he was honored for his work in nonfiction. His interlocutor was Jacqueline Goldsby, a professor of English and African American Studies at Yale. What follows is a sliver of that conversation, published with permission by the Windham-Campbell Literature Prizes.
—Caitlin Youngquist Read More »

First Person

My Strange Friend Marcel Proust

October 26, 2016 | by

Marcel Proust in Cabourg, 1896.

Marcel Proust in Cabourg, 1896.

Next month, City Lights will publish Lost Profiles: Memoirs of Cubism, Dada, and Surrealism, a series of reminiscences and miniportraits of modernist writers and artists—Blaise Cendrars, James Joyce, Pierre Reverdy, and others—by Philippe Soupault, a Dadaist who, with André Breton, wrote Les Champs magnétique in 1919, kicking off the Surrealist movement. Soupault’s sketches in Lost Profiles were originally published in French in 1963; this translation, by Alan Bernheimer, marks their first appearance in English.

The personal impressions Soupault provides of these “great” men, who comprise his contemporaries and his heroes, elucidate their individuality, the nature of their friendship, and essential qualities that underpin their artistic reputations. He writes, for instance, that critics’ use of the terms primitive and Sunday painter in describing Henri Rousseau perpetuated a misunderstanding of the man, despite his artistic success. The cause of the misunderstanding is simply that “no one has yet tried to depict the true personality of Henri Rousseau.” In his afterword, Ron Padgett recalls meeting Soupault in the seventies, when he performs the same service for his own literary hero, observing that Soupault’s “personal manner was a reflection of the lightness of touch of his best poems, a delicacy that is so artful that it never calls attention to itself.” —Nicole Rudick Read More »

On the Shelf

“Happy as Hell,” and Other News

October 26, 2016 | by

Paul Beatty.

  • With his novel The Sellout, Paul Beatty has become the first American ever to win the Man Booker Prize. “I don’t want to get all dramatic, like writing saved my life ... but writing has given me a life,” he said at a press conference, where he described himself as feeling “happy as hell.” Chris Jackson interviewed Beatty for the Daily last year. “I hope that in my audience of weirdos, there’s some of those people of all races,” he said. “As people of color, as black people, we all have to have this ability to speak these different languages and make these different references—we don’t have to have it, but it helps. So for me, it’s still all in one big thing, and these cultures overlap more than they ever have. You know, in the 1970s people wanted this ‘authentic angry’ stuff that was still directed at them but in a weird I-want-to-slit-your-throat way. I’m not saying those people aren’t a part of my audience. I’m just yelling. I know their ears will hear. But I’m hoping there are a ton of ears out there that hear. I’m trying not to yell in one direction, even though I can’t really help but to do that.”
  • The last time I listened to the voices in my head, I wound up causing seven figures of property damage, inventing a new way to violate the Geneva Conventions, and becoming a father. Why? Charles Fernyhough’s new book, The Voices Within, addresses the vagaries of self-conversation, but in Casey Schwartz’s summation, it’s too vast a subject for a single volume: “Inner voices are a facet of ordinary life: They grumble and chastise and offer up opinions, though to what extent differs from one person to the next. Fernyhough starts to ask questions: How and when did these voices first enter our heads? Do young children hear voices the same way adults do? What distinguishes the inner voices that we all hear from the auditory hallucinations of schizophrenia? What is the relationship between pathological hallucinations and the exalted experiences described by medieval mystics, who believed they were hearing the voice of God?” 

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Sleep Aid

Different Varieties of Glue and Their Preparation

October 25, 2016 | by

David Rijckaert, Man Sleeping, ca. 1649.

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: a chapter from Glue, Gelatine, Animal Charcoal, Phosphorous, Cements, Pastes and Mucilages, a 1905 book by F. Davidowsky.

Besides the broadly distinguished forms of skin- and bone-glue, the trade recognizes a large number of varieties, distinguished either by their value or their fitness for special purposes.

Joiner’s Glue.—This variety is without doubt the oldest in use and most in demand, and its principal requisite is its great adhesive power. It is used for joining wood, leather, paper, etc., and varies very much in quality and price. Read More »