2001: Art History with Metaphor is part of a series of pedagogical videos by the Bruce High Quality Foundation. It debuted this month at “Retrospective: 2001–2010” at Galerie Bruno Bischofberger in Zurich, Switzerland.
The Ticking Is the Bomb, the second memoir by nonfiction writer and poet Nick Flynn, describes his experiences with fatherhood, writing, and the Abu Ghraib torture victims, some of whom he met personally. It also covers territory explored in his first memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City: addiction in his own and his family’s lives and the ongoing need for a relationship with the past that doesn’t let it off too easily. I recently asked Nick about his book by e-mail.
You’ve mentioned that The Ticking Is the Bomb originally started as poems and evolved into memoir. What was that process like?
That book started as a meditation on the Abu Ghraib photographs; the moment I first saw them, they snagged on something in my subconscious landscape, and I spent the next six years following the thread of it. As I reluctantly dug into the unpleasant topic of state-sponsored torture, specifically America’s long role in it, one thing I noticed was how each element—earth, air, fire, and water—were used to torture. People were buried, suffocated, burned, and waterboarded. The first poems were these element poems, which will now be in a book of poems called The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands, coming out in February from Graywolf. The four element poems were the scaffolding of the eventual memoir, which emerged from behind these poems.
I recently found myself craving some terrifying literature—the idea of reading something frightening feels so seasonally appropriate. That said, I’d like to avoid fiction that panders to generic tropes and also isn’t by Irving or Poe. Could you recommend a work of genuine literary merit that’s also disturbing and Halloween-ish? —Ryan Sheldon
Two spooky writers spring immediately to mind: Shirley Jackson and Angela Carter. Jackson is the more Hallowe’eny of the two. You might begin with her last novel, first published in 1962 (and reissued last year), We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I’m not sure what you mean about generic tropes: This is absolutely pure New England Gothic, but there is no pandering in it. I think the literature of the uncanny depends on genre conventions—and, at its most uncanny, plays with them, so the spooky and the banal get mixed up together.
Readers of The Daily have seen me recommend Angela Carter’s stories, collected in Burning Your Boats. They are favorites of mine. (Burning Your Boats came to me, originally, as a present from kid-lit expert Laura Miller. It is one of those favorite books that I lent out years ago and never got back.) When Carter rewrites a fairytale, she doesn’t make light of it, she finds what is really and truly disturbing in the original and burnishes that until it shines. If you like Bruno Bettelheim, you’ll love Angela Carter.
Zoë Heller’s savvy essay on Roald Dahl presents the enduring master of children’s fiction (somewhat less enduring, though still somewhat masterly, in his writing for adults) as a perfect misanthrope:
At dinner parties, Dahl’s potent gifts of vituperation regularly sent fellow guests home early. He was once thrown out of a London gambling club for complaining at the top of his voice about the disgusting Jews who were spoiling the place. When his seventeen-year-old daughter Tessa accused him, accurately, of having an affair with Felicity Crosland, the family friend for whom he would later leave Neal, he berated her for being “a nosy little bitch.” He was forever bashing out bitter letters to his publishers and his agents, complaining about perceived slights to his authorial dignity. When he finally threatened to leave Knopf, his editor Robert Gottlieb was only too happy to show him the door. “Let me reverse your threat,” he wrote to Dahl. “Unless you start acting civilly to us, there is no possibility of our agreeing to publish you. Nor will I—or any of us—answer any future letter that we consider to be as rude as those we’ve been receiving.”—David Wallace-Wells
Eugène Guillevic called his charming 1967 book, Euclidiennes, a “somewhat peculiar bestiary.” Each short poem is a caption or ekphrasis for a geometrical figure: line, ellipse, cylinder, spiral. Some figures are apostrophized, others speak in their own voice, and the result is as witty as anything in La Fonatine. Here is “Tangent” (you remember, a straight line that touches a curvaceous line at just one point), expertly “Englished” by Richard Sieburth in the recently released Geometries: “I will only touch you once. / And it will only be in passing. // No use calling me back, / No use reminding. // You will have plenty of time / To rehearse and remember / This moment, // To convince yourself / We’ll never part.” —Robyn Creswell
It seems we’re going to have lots to talk about over the next few weeks, from haircuts to hurt. For starters, an answer your question: A fielder’s choice is recorded when the batter reaches base or a runner advances while another runner is put out. The infield fly rule prevents a trick double play on a pop-up. It’s important to note that The Paris Review team does not play with the infield fly rule in effect.
I became a fan the old-fashioned way: My father took me to a baseball game. Dad cut work, I cut school, and the Orioles beat the Indians, 2–0. Around that time (I was ten years old), my father also bought me a baseball glove. (OK, it was a softball glove, but I insisted on breaking it in with a baseball.) My little sister got one too, but after I showed off my arm by throwing at her head a few times, she went inside for good.
A few years later, when I was beginning my mornings with box scores, my dad started giving me books: David Halberstam’s Summer of ’49, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Wait Till Next Year, a copy of Out of My League inscribed by one George Plimpton. In high school, I worked summers and Friday nights in the Washington Post sports section; in my interview for the job, I discussed the relative merits of Roger Angell and Roger Kahn, the Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio of baseball scribes.
This is the second installment of Kellogg’s culture diary. Click here to read the first.
7:00 A.M. I wake up to finish Bound by Antonya Nelson, and then spend the rest of the day running errands, sorting through books that have arrived, and trying to wrap my head around what to say in my review. It’s due Monday and runs next Sunday.
1:00 P.M. It’s back to Book Soup, this time for my friend Cecil Castellucci’s midday reading from her young-adult novel Rose Sees Red. I give Cecil a ride to the airport—she’s off to Wordstock in Portland—and head right back to Book Soup. There are plenty of other places to go for readings and signings in Los Angeles, I swear, but it’s become Book Soup week. This time, Lorin Stein talks to a full house about The Paris Review with David L. Ulin. Nobody gets punched in the nose.
5:00 P.M. Leave the paper to drive the hour-plus to UCLA for the Look at This F*ing Panel: A Sociological Discussion on the Hipster, a follow-up to one held last year in New York. The audience, mostly students, is not overly hipsterized, except for the proliferation of crocheted hats, which can only be an unfortunate fashion statement on an eighty-degree day.
6:00 A.M. Writing up the hipster panel for Jacket Copy, Tao Lin and his fans in the audience look good, and my admiration for Gavin McInnes, shirtless and full of counterintuitive interruptions is too subtle. Alas, McInnes, a cofounder of Vice Magazine, later tweets that my review is “wimpy,” which I tell myself is marginally better than “boring,” his other critique.
11:30 A.M. At my desk at the paper, trying to sort out ongoing login problems and prepping for the Man Booker Prize announcement. There are people in London gathered at a gala event; me, I’m frustrated that the BBC, which is broadcasting it, isn’t making the stream available in the U.S. Luckily, someone tweets a version of the feed I can see. It’s jittery, a hack I think, but it does the trick. Read More