- Orson Welles and Hemingway had a vexed friendship, if friendship is even the word—their first encounter came to blows, after all. In interviews, Welles tended to speak respectfully, if not kindly, of the writer. But now, a 1973 screenplay by Welles, Crazy Weather, has come to light. Set in Spain, the story features a Hemingway-esque tourist with a macho, ersatz approach to the Spanish culture: “The protagonist in the script, Jim Foster, is travelling to a bullfight with his Spanish wife, Amparo, when they encounter a nameless youth who taunts Foster about his misogyny, flirts with Amparo and later sabotages their car tires. Despite having a Spanish wife and spending years living in Spain, Foster speaks the language only in ‘limited and rather stilted’ form, and is continually mocked for his cliched idea of Spain.”
- What do women want in a mate? And what do men want? For years, I’ve looked to late-night phone-sex ads and flimsy self-help books to answer these timeless questions; Adelle Waldman looked to literature instead. “The ideal mate, for Jane Austen’s heroines, for Charlotte Brontë’s, for George Eliot’s, is someone intelligent enough to appreciate fully and respond deeply to their own intelligence, a partner for whom they feel not only desire but a sense of kinship, of intellectual and moral equality,” she writes. “Straight male authors devote far less energy to considering the intelligence of their heroes’ female love interests; instead, they tend to emphasize visceral attraction and feelings. From Tolstoy, whose psychological acuity helped to redefine what the novel is capable of, to unabashed chroniclers of sex like Saul Bellow and Philip Roth to contemporary, stroller-pushing, egalitarian dad Karl Ove Knausgaard, men have been, in a sense, the real romantics: they are far more likely than women to portray love as something mysterious and irrational, impervious to explanation, tied more to physical qualities and broad personal appeal than to a belief—or hope—in having found an intellectual peer.”
- Elena Ferrante’s English translator Ann Goldstein talks about her process and being haunted by Ferrante’s work: “With The Days of Abandonment, partly because it was the first one and partly because it is so haunting, and it’s so concentrated, I was very upset by it. There were things in it that I think everyone recognizes. Like the scene with the key where she thinks she’s locked herself in—I have trouble with keys. And with something like that, she’s writing your nightmare. Those things really did upset me and haunt me. I identified with the narrator—one naturally identifies to some extent with an ‘I’ female narrator going through something that you recognize whether you’ve gone through it or not … When I started translating the first Neapolitan novel, My Brilliant Friend, I had not read the other ones, of course, because they weren’t written yet. So it wasn’t until I got to the end of the last one that I knew the whole story. That was a strange experience: to be reading something, or translating something, that I didn’t really know the end of.”
- Camille Henrot’s latest exhibition featured a series of hotline phones, all designed to show the vagaries and confusions of language. “I picked up and heard a male voice,” Michael Barron writes, “who, friendly enough and definitely assertive, had me run a gamut of bizarre questions, such as ‘If your dad has fathered more than nine children, press 0 / If your father has eaten any of his children, press 1.” “I always felt like language was a way to dominate people,” Henrot told him in reference to the hotlines. “You want to go to the end of the options. That’s the way we—me and the poet Jacob Bromberg—wrote and structured them. The first one we wrote, ‘Hello & Thank You’—the one that was presented at the Lyon Biennial—was so massive, with a maze of multiple choices. Navigating the whole thing from beginning to end would’ve taken over four hours.”
- Attention, shoppers: have you been feeling guilty about buying used books? Probably not. But if you have been, stop.
My mother makes a match.
My mother was open-minded about the boys I brought home. She was, in fact, oblivious to any of their flaws. In high school, in Philadelphia, my platinum-haired boyfriend, Billy, who walked with a strut and stole cars, OD’d in our basement under my black-light poster of Jimi Hendrix; Mom was fine about my visits to him in the locked ward in the Quaker mental hospital across the street from us on Roosevelt Boulevard. My next boyfriend, Randy, a whimsical outpatient with a genius IQ at the same hospital—we met on the bus; he was coming from prep school—got permission to have dinner with us one evening and afterward played with my gerbil. Randy blurted that he hallucinated perpetually because of all the LSD he’d taken and that now he was on Thorazine, Elavil, and a third prescription I can’t recall. My mother’s only comment: he should trim his nails.
She did seem to cotton on to my Mormon suitor in college (my only vice was tea) but criticized his piano playing as “stiff.” She did not seem disturbed when four years later I had a “dancer/artist” boyfriend in sex therapy (“You’re sexually repulsive to me,” he’d confided, “but don’t take it personally, all women are”), and she said nothing disparaging about his successor, an alcoholic Columbia University student/construction worker who accidentally burned, hoping to keep warm during a cold snap, all the savings he’d hidden in his never-used oven. He once showed up drunk at four A.M. with a lipstick-swished cheek and confessed he’d kissed another woman who’d bought him a cabbage, but it was me he really loved, he said, and then punched a hole in my door. Mom remained mute when I confided I’d met, in Egypt, a much younger French Algerian paratrooper named Karim, even when I revealed that he would call me long distance from Marseilles and never talk—simply whisper my name and breathe for twenty minutes, or play a tape of music he’d written. My bass-player roommate at that time, Sara, once quipped, “Karim’s mother’s not going to be very happy when she sees that phone bill.” Read More
From “Serious Trouble” to “Wayposts, No Garlic,” pp. 141–165
And so our narrator has entered the desert in search of Denoon’s Xanadu, the village of Tsau. Last time Tim Horvath left us, after an excellent discussion of boredom, at “Serious Trouble.” Our narrator explains the nature of that trouble: it “began on the fourth or fifth day out. It happened because I was doing a thing I had been warned not to do in the desert: I was reviewing my life.”
Isn’t it always this way? The real difficulty begins when we peer into the labyrinth of ourselves. “The trees were clotted with mud nests, weaverbird nests, sometimes six in a tree,” she explains of the desolate scene: Read More
From “Kang” through “Music,” pp. 116–140
This is the sixth entry in our Mating Book Club. (Sorry for the wait!) Read along.
This latest portion might be dubbed “The Critique of Pure Boredom,” especially given that our narrator name-drops Kant in the midst of it. Early on, she declares, “One attractive thing about me is that I’m never bored, because during any caesura my personal automatic pastime of questioning my own motives is there for me.”
Lest we doubt her, she goes on to wonder whether the journey she intends to undertake to Tsau is the byproduct of certain deep unconscious maternal longings, or something else. She dismisses any neo-Darwinian and Freudian interpretation of her behavior, wrangles with the question of that behavior in relation to Denoon’s childlessness (interesting, she notes), and the overpopulation problem, plus her sympathy for abandoned children globally. And she winds up wanting her decisions in the realm of relationships to be not only deliberate, but “deliberative,” which is where Kant enters into it. Slow and steady.
Yet in the world outside her head, she’s on a flatbed truck that’s flying at hair-raising speeds for 250 miles, with cornmeal, mail, and a “fiendish shavenheaded adolescent at the wheel.” Read More
From “Grace Acts” through “Grace, Again,” pp. 90–116
This is the fifth entry in our Mating Book Club. Read along.
“So here he is, after all this setup: Denoon.” That’s how Joshua Cohen began his post last week, and the moment when we finally confront our “genuinely goodlooking man” does feel exactly that dramatic. It’s a strange kind of meet-cute: girl meets boy at furtive political symposium; girl is foisted on boy by boy’s not-quite-ex-wife.
This section takes in two run-ins between our narrator and Denoon: the first inside the guesthouse of the USAID director’s opulent home, the second near the outhouse on the Tutwane family plot in Old Naledi. After this, our narrator shares a meal with Grace, the not-quite-ex, at the humble Carat Restaurant, “which was doomed to fail because they gave you too much food for your money.”
Cohen wrote that last week’s one-act “operat[es] on multiple time lines,” but so does the novel as a whole: our narrator writes from an undefined future, looking back on life pre-Denoon until we “plunge into Denoon and what followed.” As hints accumulate of the disagreements, passions, and disappointments ahead, our expectation grows fevered, even as the details of the meeting itself remain wonderfully unknowable. Even though we’ve been working our way toward this encounter, and even though we know that this is where the story truly begins, the moment still feels wildly significant. The narrator speaks of “a feeling of fatedness”: “The feeling was that this was supposed to happen, according to the stars in their courses.” Read More
“A Farce Written in Human Blood,” pp. 70–89
This is the fourth entry in our Mating Book Club. Read along.
So here he is, after all this setup: Denoon—the anthropologist beyond anthropology, the man who until this chapter had been kept behind the margins as if in the wings, behind a curtain. Because his entrance here, now, is a stage entrance—he’s going to give us a performance.
Here we have a party whose entertainment consists of an anthropologist’s lecture costumed as an anthropologist’s debate—with politicians, about politics—in the thickly caked makeup of a play: “A Farce Written in Human Blood: THE DESTRUCTION OF AFRICA ACCELERATED BY HER BENEFACTORS, PRESENT COMPANY NOT EXCEPTED.” The caps are Rush’s. Then there’s this heading: Act II. But where was Act I? Did we miss it? We did. Our unnamed narrator gives us access to Denoon only after he’s finished (verbally) demolishing capitalism (rather, “excoriating the capitalist development mode for Africa”)—socialism is next.
But before we get into Denoon’s “objections to the socialist remedy for Africa,” let’s ask a question: Why did Rush write this section as a drama? Why not as a thoroughgoing narrated scene? Read More