What We’re Loving: Angry Generals, Contemptuous Gumshoes


This Week’s Reading

Several of us are in San Francisco at the moment. As such, I am obviously revisiting that hard-boiled Fog City classic, The Maltese Falcon. How can you beat it? “Spade took her face between his hands and he kissed her mouth roughly and contemptuously. Then he sat back and said: ‘I’ll think it over.’” —Sadie Stein

This week I’ve returned to The Coal Life, the 2012 debut collection from Birmingham Poetry Review editor Adam Vines. And it’s still staggeringly good. Vines has this way of delivering a deliciously playful line with a face so straight you feel like a fool for thinking words could work any other way. Check out “River Politics” over at Poetry for a prime example, and then spring for the full set—Samuel Fox

Lately I’ve been enjoying the Fitzwilliam Museum’s online exhibition of illuminated manuscripts. —Charlotte Goldney

Never have death and the infirmities of old age made me laugh so hard as in Flannery O’Connor’s “A Late Encounter with the Enemy.” The Southern gothic suffers not an ounce of dilution, leaving the foul-mouthed centenarian Civil War veteran and his monomaniacal granddaughter to shine in all their full twisted glory. As with all O’Connor, there’s a healthy dose of philosophical pondering about the crippling weight of history and the power inherent in words. More importantly, this story contains what is maybe the greatest line of dialogue in American literature, a phrase I try to incorporate into my own speech as often as possible. When the decrepit Confederate general reaches the peak of his rage and exasperation, he screams, “God damm every goddamm thing to hell.” So give it try, use it with your friends, family, spouse, or even children. I’ve found it really does pack all the wallop and vitriol that General Sash intended. —Graham Rogers

Clarice Lispector, a Ukrainian Jew who emigrated with her family to Brazil, was considered a treasure of Portuguese modern letters. Her fascinating first novel, Near to the Wild Heart, is getting fresh attention in the English-speaking world thanks to a new translation by Alison Entrekin. I picked it up recently and have been engrossed. Sam Gold at the L Magazine called Lispector “a virtuoso of the murky,” and indeed the description feels apt. Lispector’s stream of metaphors seem to charge off in all directions at once, and the connections aren’t always easy to make, but her protagonist Joana’s sensual meditations on femininity, family, and consciousness participate in the tradition of the modern phenomenological novel (many have compared Lispector to Proust). The prose, by turns lyrical and grotesque, still feels vibrant seventy years later. —Emma Goldhammer