Last week, the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened its renovated and newly enlarged wing of Islamic art, now called Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia. The new space, which is gorgeous, is entirely redesigned. The galleries are now organized by theme and material as well as period. There is more figurative art—paintings, illuminated manuscripts, glazed pottery—and greater geographical breadth. Many of the pieces displayed in the old galleries are also here, newly contextualized. Others, never displayed, have been taken out of the museum’s twelve-thousand-object collection. And some pieces were acquired over the past eight years, while the wing was closed to the public. Among the most seductive of these new objects is a zoomorphic dagger (pictured above) from sixteenth-century Deccan India. I recently took a tour of the galleries with curator Navina Haidar, who talked to me about some of its treasures, new and old. Read More
Just this morning—at five o’clock, to be exact—I was staring at the ceiling, thinking about Krapp’s Last Tape and how shocked my favorite college professor would be if he knew I still haven’t seen or read it. At least I hope he’d be shocked. I have never got through any of Beckett’s novels (and have seen almost none of his plays, or anybody else’s). I have never got through Henry Green’s Living or Concluding, though neither one is a long book, and I have sometimes heard myself call Green my “favorite” postwar English novelist, as if I had read enough to have one. I have never got through Jane Eyre or Giovanni’s Room or Journey to the End of the Night or Zeno’s Conscience or Pierre—I have never got through chapter one of Pierre. I have never read The Life of Henry Brulard and am not sure it’s even a novel. I have never read Memoirs of an Anti-Semite (but have said I have). I will never reread Dostoevsky as an adult, which in my case is more or less the same as not having read him. I couldn’t finish The Recognitions: I stopped 150 pages from the end, when the words just stopped tracking, and have never managed five pages of JR. I can’t remember which Barbara Pym novels I read, it was so long ago, and there are so many I haven’t. I have never made it to the cash register with a novel by Ronald Firbank. Thomas Hardy defeats me. So does D. H. Lawrence: you can love a writer and never actually feel like reading any more of his novels. I have never read Lady Chatterley’s Lover. I never got to the end of Invisible Man. I have never read Stoner or Gormenghast or Blood Meridian or Wide Sargasso Sea (see Jane Eyre, above). Or any Faulkner novel all the way through besides The Sound and the Fury. I have never enjoyed a novel by Eudora Welty enough to keep going. I think I got to the end of V., which may be even worse than having put it down, and know for a certainty I never got far in Gravity’s Rainbow. I have never read U.S.A. or Tom Jones or Tristram Shandy or Pamela or any novels by Irwin Shaw, James Jones, Mavis Gallant, or Dashiell Hammet. Or Raymond Chandler. I have never read Tender Is the Night, but just the other night someone used it as an example of something, and I nodded. Read More
“I must find an explanation and a justification for my ridiculous life in the theories of others, in literary types … Last night, for instance, I comforted myself by thinking repeatedly: Oh, how right Tolstoy was, how unmercifully right! And this made me feel better.” Does everybody else know that Chekhov wrote a novel? I had no idea—until I came across Margarita Shalina’s new translation of The Duel, all about a “superfluous” man who has moved with his mistress to the Caucasus to start a new life, which, you can guess how well that goes … —Lorin Stein
I’ve always been fascinated by Peter Pan, from the Mary Martin musical to the frankly somewhat twisted details of Barrie’s biography (says Anthony Lane: “the actual making of love lay outside his interests, or beyond his grasp”). What a pleasure, then, to happen upon The Annotated Peter Pan, released last month. Here I learned that Barrie saw a “touch of the feminine in Hook, as in all the greatest pirates”; that Tinkerbell, far from a fetching blond, was once “a fairy-tinker, a creature who mended pots and pans”; and that Barrie was obliged to add a warning to the play, cautioning children against leaping out of their windows thinking “lovely wonderful thoughts,” after hearing that some children had in fact given it a try. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn
I’ve been reading translations of the Turkish poets Cevdet Anday and Yahya Kemal, the Pakistani Faiz Ahmed, and the Polish poet Tadeusz Rozewicz, all published on the blog of that exemplary little journal, Little Star. The first two print issues were a delight, and I’m told a third issue is due any day. —Robyn Creswell
If you are trying to build your own art collection, but your pockets are a bit too shallow for the Chelsea gallery scene, be sure to check out the collage show at The Ugly Art Room in Williamsburg, curated by skilled collagist Charles Wilkin. —Charlotte Strick
Charles Simic’s Dime-Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell illustrates the patchwork beauty of Cornell’s artwork and, like his famous shadow boxes, the book is structured using surreal yet precise vignettes. There’s nothing quite as exciting as reading a poet’s prose. —Jessica Calderon
It takes guts to apostrophize a heavenly body. Everybody’s seen them: Sappho, Keats, Mayakovsky, O’Hara, you name it. After all these millions of years, what’s left to say? And to write a poem addressing the moon herself—a breakup poem, no less!—you had better be extremely naive, or else know exactly what you’re doing, and get lucky, too.
This is what bravery looks like in a poem. It is not (necessarily) a matter of sharing personal information. To my mind, a brave poem is one that risks seeming stupid or grandiose or frivolous, that nods in recognition at various poems that came before, then sweeps past, racing toward the thing it came to say.
The first time I read Brenda Shaughnessy’s poem “I’m Over the Moon” five years ago, it was a Sunday and I was sitting at the breakfast table. I remember because “I’m Over the Moon” is the only poem I have ever read out loud at a breakfast table. Having read it, I had to share it. The poem marked a new directness in Shaughnessy’s work (“I’ve had to learn to be direct”), but all the sass and sense of humor I loved from before were intact. Lately “I’m Over the Moon” has been on my mind again (ever since we published two of Shaughnessy’s more recent poems in the Review).
It is the first entry in our series “The Poem Stuck in My Head”: Read More
Great news in this morning’s Observer: Cooper Union has agreed to give St. Mark’s Bookshop a break on the rent, and the store will remain open. Many thanks to our readers who helped save St. Mark’s, whether by signing the petition or just by picking up a copy of the Review. (The save–St. Mark’s discount will remain in effect until our winter issue appears.)
And three cheers for Cooper Union!
When I was a senior at Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn Heights, I was one of the editors of our school yearbook. We used the school darkroom to print every photograph in the book by hand, a massive task. My fingernails smelled like chemicals for months, and my eyes, I was sure, had permanently adjusted to the dark. There were eight of us, six girls and two boys, whom we called the “sex toys,” as if any of us had ever seen such a thing. Saint Ann’s had (and continues to have) the reputation of an artsy school, and we did our best to keep it that way. We divvied up the tasks with the guidance of our photography teacher, Heather, whom we trusted because she sometimes snuck cigarettes in the school building after hours.
Somehow it fell to me to take a photograph of our founding headmaster, Stanley Bosworth, for the front of the book. The picture I took of Stanley was unremarkable—he is leaning against the building, looking slightly off into the distance. He’s wearing a plaid sports jacket, and the frames of his eyeglasses are tinted. He looks like an owl crossed with the hero of a seventies French film, and that’s just how Stanley was. He had founded the school in 1965 and had been its fearless leader ever since. I printed the photograph on the same paper as a photograph of the school building, so that the building and Stanley would be together forever. I certainly couldn’t imagine one without the other. The limestone lines of the beaux arts building zigzag across Stanley’s plaid jacket, and come to a point over his head; he is the mermaid on the prow of the ship, hands behind his back, always at ease.
Stanley loved the photograph. One evening, when I was alone in the darkroom, Heather passed me a piece of paper, told me it was top secret, and that she would take it back when I was through reading it. It was Stanley’s letter, which was to run opposite the photo in the yearbook, and it was addressed to me. Read More