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Letters & Essays: J-L

Letters & Essays of the Day

Denis the Pirate

By Denis Johnson

Ever since the earliest humans learned to sail boats on the sea, there have been pirates. Their main job is to steal treasure and bury it in secret places, but they also sink ships, take prisoners, collect strange animals, and perform bizarre tricks of magic. The most bloodthirsty and terrible pirate ever to sail the Caribbean Sea was my own great-great-great-great grandfather, Denis the Pirate. In the early 1700s no man lived who did not fear his name.

Guerre de Plume

By Laura (Riding) Jackson

The passage in the interview with Stephen Spender published in your issue no. 77 in which Mr. Spender played about with a reference made by W.B. Yeats to Laura Riding, in a talk presumably witnessed by Mr. Spender, came to my attention when I was in the midst of composing a chapter for a book of memoirs, the chapter having the title “Importance.” The reference to myself exhibits an attitude to me as one who is an item of literary mention outside the bounds of the Important Mentions but useful as something of a flourish of special sophistication. Literary interviews bring out this particular worst—addiction to strategic mentions—of the literary—world worsts.

Madame, I’m Quite Drunk

By William Jovanovich

Over the last three decades of his life Erich Maria Remarque lived in the town of Ascona on Lago Maggiore. His house and the gardens below it were on a hillside between the lake and a narrow road cut into the mountain slope that runs southeast from Locarno. Inside the rather small building was a prodigious collection of Pisarro and Picasso, Monet and Manet, gold-leaf Venetian commodes and other seventeenth-century artifacts-so many objects, with so few available spaces left, that a Cezanne hung in the downstairs "powder room" and on the living-room floor were late medieval tapestries stacked like rugs. 

Mishima in 1958

By Donald Keene

Yukio Mishima was born Kimitake Hiraoka on January 14, 1925 in uptown Tokyo. His father was the deputy director of the Bureau of Fisheries in the Agriculture Ministry; his mother, from a family of educators and Confucian scholars, was herself well-versed in literature. The family lived in a well-to-do neighborhood in a rented two-floor house with a houseboy and six maids, an unusual extravagance. But for the first twelve years Mishima lived downstairs with his grandmother in her sickroom, leaving the room only with her permission.