Staff Picks: Faust, Ibsen, and Bananas


This Week’s Reading

I’m reading Randall Jarrell’s translation of Goethe’s Faust, for no better reason than that I found a good used copy while browsing at the Strand. Jarrell died before he could finish part I—at times the verse is a little rough—but Robert Lowell stepped in to translate Gretchen’s famous Spinning Song, which now reads, very movingly, like an elegy for his friend: “My peace is gone, / My heart is sore, / I never find it, / I never find it. // When I look through my window, / I look for him. / When I leave the house, / I go on looking.//…If only I could / Catch him and hold him.” —Robyn Creswell

I saw Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman on Tuesday night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Ben Bratley describes James Macdonald’s “thaw-proof” production as having a “sense-numbing wintriness” to it. I loved the sight of Lindsay Duncan, Alan Rickman, and Fiona Shaw standing amid large banks of snow on stage. A small blizzard descended on New York that evening, and when I exited the theater, snow was falling heavily. For a brief moment, it felt as if I hadn’t yet left the play. —Thessaly La Force

The box set of Sandy Denny’s complete recordings are an imposing introduction to one of the most indelible voices of the last fifty years. Fortunately, Rob Young is at hand to steer a course through her work. Denny’s rich and allusive personal mythology—which draws upon maritime literature, pre-Raphaelite poetry, and English classical music—has been a major influence on artists like Kate Bush and Joanna Newsom. Head straight for “All Our Days,” “an eight minute mini-cantata with chords streaking like shafts of sunlight stabbing through clouds, and the alien ripple of a vibraphone recalling the mystical opening of [Vaughan Williams’s] Eighth Symphony.” —Jonathan Gharraie

Do you like bananas? Did you know there are fuzzy pink bananas? Bananas with pulp the color of orange sherbert? Bananas that taste like strawberries?! Mike Peed’s New Yorker story about the great banana blight is a fascinating read on one of America’s favorite fruits. —T. L.

I have finally plunged into Chuck Klosterman’s Eating the Dinosaur, and I wish I hadn’t waited so long. From the failures of star athletes to Kurt Cobain’s affinity for smashing his guitars to the philosophical dilemmas of time travel, Klosterman’s pretentious-yet-charming pop-culture references are endless, but I’m always pleased when I get them. —Sam Dolph

Perpetually behind in my reading, I just finished an article on Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner in Rolling Stone’s September issue. Apparently, in an era of celebrity and self-promotion, Weiner made a conscious decision to hire previously unknown actors so that viewers could project their fantasies onto the characters more fully. —Kate Guadagnino