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Category Archives: This Week’s Reading

  • This Week’s Reading

    Staff Picks: Chad Harbach, The Mets, Masters of the Sob

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    Last Sunday I stayed in bed till one P.M.—then stayed up till two A.M.—reading the galleys of Chad Harbach’s first novel, The Art of Fielding. To say it’s the best novel I’ve read about a college shortstop would be true, as far as it went, but it’s about more than that: “For Schwartz this formed the paradox at the heart of baseball, or football, or any other sport. You loved it because you considered it an art: an apparently pointless affair, undertaken by people with a special aptitude, which sidestepped attempts to paraphrase its value yet somehow seemed to communicate something true or even crucial about The Human Condition. The Human Condition being, basically, that we’re alive and have access to beauty, can even erratically create it, but will someday be dead and will not.” —Lorin Stein

    I’ve been reading Jeffrey Toobin’s New Yorker article about New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon with mixed feelings. What Wilpon says about his players makes one wonder if he’s trying to sabotage his own team (which is also mine). Carlos Beltran is overpaid, David Wright is overpraised, José Reyes is always injured. These are opinions an owner should keep to himself. But when Wilpon says, “We’re snakebitten, baby,” he sounds like a true Mets fan to me. —Robyn Creswell

    If you haven’t read any of Diana Athill’s work, I highly recommend Midsummer Night in the Workhouse, a collection of her short fiction recently released by Persephone. Funny, engaging, and unexpected. —Sadie Stein

    I very much enjoyed Francine Prose’s short essay “Other Women” in the new feminist-themed Granta. Prose was secretly writing her first novel as a graduate student. She joined a feminist consciousness-raising group, and, after selling the book, she left her husband and moved to San Francisco. Somehow, she says, she became a feminist. But was it before or after she discovered her husband had slept with nearly every single woman in the group? —Thessaly La Force

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  • This Week’s Reading

    Staff Picks: 60 Fotos, Maud Newton’s Rapture

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    More looking than reading: Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s 60 Fotos. Errata Editions has reprinted the entirety of the original 1930 book, a series of photographs, photograms, and photomontages. Truth be told, each image—geometric, abstract, fluid, distorted, and disquieting—requires as much reading as just looking. —Nicole Rudick

    It sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel, but it’s not: soon, you may be able to take a blood test that can estimate how long you have to live. It may be too late, though, seeing as the Rapture is due to occur tomorrow. —Natalie Jacoby

    Whether or not you believe the world is going to end tomorrow, read Maud Newton on having her fortieth birthday coincide with the Rapture. —Thessaly La Force

    With a stunning and tragic Giro d’Italia in full swing in Europe and the Amgen Tour of California rolling closer to home, it’s been a good time to dig out The Rider, Tim Krabbé’s fictionalization of the 1977 Tour du Mont Aigoual race in southern France. The bikes are heavier and sprockets smaller than the feats of engineering raced today, but the raw drive to suffer and dominate that animates Krabbé’s lean staccato hasn’t aged a day. —Peter Conroy

    In his recent Paris Review interview, Ray Bradbury claims to have modeled The Martian Chronicles after Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio. I’m fond of Bradbury, and I’m fond of (and from) Ohio, and a friend recently passed Anderson’s short-story cycle along as suggested reading. It hit the mark for me, not least for its chilly evocations of claustrophobic, small-town America. —Stephen Andrew Hiltner

    Rob Delaney really panders to my weird, should-I-open-this-URL-at-work sense of humor. Recently, I was very happy to learn he’ll be writing a new column for Vice magazine. I’ve never been more excited about feeling like I did something wrong or inappropriate, which is how I feel when I read his jokes. —N. J.

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  • This Week’s Reading

    Staff Picks: Robert Walser, Katherine Larson

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    I’ve been poring over Robert Walser’s Microscripts, a selection from the cache of papers covered in demonically miniaturized handwriting he left at his death. The stories are wonderfully odd, and the book itself is a beautiful object. It includes color reproductions of the manuscripts—often written on the backs of business cards—as well as the deciphered German originals. Walter Benjamin’s afterword praises Walser’s “artful clumsiness,” and I would do the same for Susan Bernofsky’s translation. —Robyn Creswell

    I’ve been stealing moments all week to read Katherine Larson’s book of poems, Radial Symmetry. The synthesis of experience and curiosity that Larson no doubt uses in her work as a field ecologist and research scientist is here applied to verse. The natural world has never felt more physical, more alive with tiny movements and infinite textures—and so titillating, as when she writes, “We hear the cactus whisper / pollinate me furry moth.” —Nicole Rudick

    Alexander Chee shared an old essay of his on Twitter this morning about being a student of Annie Dillard’s: “You could think that your voice as a writer would just emerge naturally, all on its own, with no help whatsoever, but you’d be wrong. What I saw on the page was that the voice is in fact trapped, nervous, lazy. Even, and in my case, most especially, amnesiac. And that it had to be cut free.” —Thessaly La Force

    After seeing a spectacular production of the play on Broadway, I’ve rediscovered Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia. It’s a play about love, sex, transcendence (if there is any), and whatever it is that defines the human experience across time and space. But it also reminds us of the beauty and sustaining force of wonder; “it’s the wanting to know that makes us matter,” because when all is said and done, “when we have found all the meanings and lost all the mysteries, we will be alone, on an empty shore.” —Elianna Kan

    In Anthony Burgess’s The Pianoplayers, a retired prostitute tells the story of her father, a man who “called himself not a pianist but a pianoplayer.” (No space between piano and player—that was how close he and the piano were.) The entirely fictional yet perfectly matter-of-fact recollection of a difficult father takes the narrative form of a memoir and turns it on its head. Given my absorption in Burgess’s novel, it was an especially interesting week to experience Reading My Father, Alexandra Styron’s memoir of her father, the literary icon (and friend of The Paris Review) William Styron. —Rosalind Parry

    Military dogs jumping out of helicopters. Sick. —Natalie Jacoby

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  • This Week’s Reading

    Staff Picks: Geoff Dyer, Lydia Davis’s Cows

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    Thanks to a three-day flu I read Rebecca Wolff’s witchy coming-of-age novel The Beginners, then stayed up late reading the rest of Jennifer Egan’s juggernaut A Visit From the Goon Squad (it lives up to the New Yorker excerpts), then started rereading Geoff Dyer’s deeply charming book on photography, The Ongoing Moment, plus a bunch of his old magazine pieces, now newly collected in Otherwise Known as the Human Condition … all worth a good deal of coughing and sneezing. —Lorin Stein

    I picked up Lydia Davis’s The Cows, a chapbook about, well, the cows that live across from her. “She moos toward the wooded hills behind her, and the sound comes back. She moos in a high falsetto before the note descends abruptly, or she moos in a falsetto that does not descend. It is a very small sound to come from such a large, dark animal.” —Thessaly La Force

    Amid the impeccably constructed drama of the last of John Updike’s Rabbit novels, Rabbit at Rest, sits an unforgettable line about how popular culture produces and reproduces itself, one generation after another: “They lead us down the garden path, the music manufacturers, then turn around and lead the next generation down with a slightly different flavor of glop.” —Rosalind Parry

    Thanks to associate editor Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic, my summer reading list has unmistakably flipped its wig. Friedersdorf has compiled

  • This Week’s Reading

    Staff Picks: A Bouquet to Sybille Bedford; Martin Amis in Brooklyn

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    Five Dials released their latest issue last evening, but I’m still enchanted by “A Bouquet to Sybille Bedford,” with an essay by Aliette Martin, Bedford’s translator and literary executor. —Thessaly La Force

    I’ve been racing through The Tale of the 1002nd Night, Joseph Roth’s last published novel. Set in pre-WWI Vienna, when “the world was deeply and frivolously at peace,” it begins with a fairy-tale visit by the Persian Shah and ends in bankruptcy, alcoholism, and despair. But Roth’s basic buoyancy—unless it is that of the translator, Michael Hofmann—makes this sad story a joy to read. —Robyn Creswell

    Terry Eagleton’s On Evil is a cogent study of a subject about which much is assumed, and little questioned. I often found myself disagreeing with his views, but I appreciated his careful writing, his stylish analysis, and, most of all, his ability to make theory both relevant and exciting. —Rosalind Parry

    This Sunday, I read David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary. The narrator writes nonlinearly about a relationship through definitions for words like aloof and fraught. Here’s Levithan with “catharsis”: “I took it out on the wall. I LOVE YOU. I LOVE YOU. YOU FUCKER, I LOVE YOU.” Is the couple still together? We never find out. —Angela Melamud

    Christian Lorentzen on Martin Amis’s move to Brooklyn. And rambling with W. G. Sebald in East Anglia. —T. L.

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