- Here’s our Southern editor, John Jeremiah Sullivan, on the art of preservation—not in the sense of manly survivalism but in the sense of making jam. His essay was recently nominated for a James Beard Award.
- And here’s Charlotte Strick, our art editor, interviewed about her sharp new designs for the Bernard Malamud centenary.
- While we’re at it, Daily contributor Caleb Crain has asked, “how much gay sex should a novel have?” (“The half answer, half protest that immediately springs to mind is, It depends. Many are the conditions that it depends upon.”)
- And Daily contributor Willie Osterweil found that today’s sports movies have comparatively few feats of athleticism in them. “There’s a new breed of sports movie in town, one that does away with all that pesky team-building and ersatz democracy. These films celebrate the real heroes of sports, the real heroes of any workplace: the bosses.”
- The lost art of memorizing poetry: “Many of today’s prominent poets seem to be writing poems that actively resist memorization. Take John Ashbery, for example … As I walked uphill, repeating Ashbery’s lines to myself, I found them as slippery as an eel.”
- Why do we tend to place painful episodes in parentheses? A variety of literature has “windows in a wall of verse or prose that suddenly open on an expanse of personal pain. Masquerading as mere asides, they might hold more punch than parentheses are usually expected to hold, more even than the surrounding sentences, and have all the more impact for their disguise as throwaways.”
Revolutionary times fuel William Kennedy’s newest book, Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes, which follows the career of journalist Daniel Quinn. The novel’s first half takes place in 1957 Cuba, where Quinn gets writing advice from Ernest Hemingway (“Shun adverbs, strenuously”), falls in love with a gunrunner named Renata, and hikes through the jungle for the ultimate journalist’s prize—an interview with Fidel Castro. The second half finds Quinn, eleven years later, witnessing another kind of revolution, this one in his hometown of Albany after Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, as the city hovers on the verge of race riots. The eighth novel in Kennedy’s Albany Cycle—which includes the Pulitzer Prize–winning Ironweed—Chango’s Beads has a cast of characters that will feel familiar to readers of the earlier books, characters united by jazz, corruption, heroics, journalism, politics, and the perpetual revolution of history. I talked with the eighty-three-year-old Kennedy at his home in Albany—a townhouse where Jack Diamond, gangster, bootlegger, and the subject of Kennedy’s second novel, Legs, was shot to death. Read More
Baseball, perhaps because its players spend so much time in stillness, prompts us to say some pretty silly things about it. Grown men go misty and reach for metaphor: “Baseball is cigar smoke, hot roasted peanuts, The Sporting News, ladies’ day, ‘Down in Front,’ ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame,’ and the ‘Star Spangled Banner,’” as Ernie Harwell—genius broadcaster, magician of nostalgia, limited poet—said in his Hall of Fame induction speech in 1981. The great appeal of Billy Beane, the general manager, beginning in 1998, of the Oakland A’s, who is played by Brad Pitt in the new movie Moneyball, is that he offers us an antidote to such sentimentality. He embraces innovative statistical metrics (called, with a ring of sharpness, sabermetrics); he is on a ruthless quest for efficiency. More thrilling still, he may not even like baseball all that much. One of the suggestions of the book Moneyball, written by Michael Lewis, and of its movie adaptation, is that Beane is at war with the game itself. As a middling professional in the eighties, he was tricked into thinking that he was good enough to play at an exceptional level, and there are hints that all his subsequent maneuverings have been fueled by a vindictive desire to upend baseball’s traditions, to make its most storied franchises look petty and stupid, and to stamp out its most deeply embedded myths. Read More