The further we get from the world Melville actually lived in, the more we seem to be living in the world he told us about. American culture tends to embrace a kind of a-historicism that on the one hand is forward-looking and optimistic and many other fine things, but…
Deborah Eisenberg’s most recent story, “Recalculating.” I described it to a friend the other day as “a story with a solid beginning—dialogue, stark realism, thoughtful aging characters—that in the middle tears itself open to reveal a giant, forgiving white hole in the universe.” Mercifully, it is available for free online from New York Review of Books, here.
Keith Gessen’s Vanity Fair profile on Chad Harbach (author of the wonderful The Art of Fielding—read immediately if you haven’t). I worked with both of them at n+1 and it was fascinating to read about them as they were starting out as writers. The fact that the two of them have been friends for so long elicits sentimentality—something along the lines of a literary brotherhood. Stick by your friends! Fun fact that Harbach was also a student of Eisenberg when she taught at UVA. Keith’s piece is also an interesting, transparent look into the publishing industry and how a “big book” is made from start to finish. It’s not online but can be purchased as an eBook from Vanity Fair for a very small amount of money. If you are like me and you don’t have a Kindle or a Nook, you’re out of luck. Maybe someone can lend you a back issue.
“A baseball team is a lot like a whaling ship: in each case, a group of men who might otherwise have little in common spend an inordinate amount of time in close and not-so-comfortable quarters, excluding the world, in pursuit of a common goal.”—
“Because he was born in January 1957, Baker is technically a Fire Monkey, but my acupuncturist explained that astrological influences don’t begin and end on exact dates — some overlap occurs —, which means that Baker is a unique combination of Monkey under the influence of Fire Cock.”—
Mark Haskell Smith reviews House of Holes, Nicholson Baker’s new sexplosion of weirdness, for the LA Review of Books (which, have they started calling themselves the LARB yet?). (via mcnallyjackson)
Yes—they’ve been calling themselves LARB from the beginning!
“It’s kind of about letting go of that feeling of my 20s, that feeling that I will do absolutely everything, I will have sex with everyone, I will go to every country,” she says. “In your 30s, it’s obvious that a finite amount of things will happen.”
One hundred years ago today, our iconic marble lions, Patience and Fortitude, were placed on their Fifth Avenue pedestal to guard the the 42nd Street Library, now known as the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. A few days later on May 23, 1911, the building officially opened. We’re celebrating…
“I hope when people ask what you’re going to do with your English and/or creative writing degree you’ll say: Continue my bookish examination of the contradictions and complexities of human motivation and desire; or maybe just: Carry it with me, as I do everything that matters. And then smile very serenely until they say oh.”—
Without religion, no one knows what to say about death—their own or others—nor does anyone know after someone’s death how to talk about (think about) the rest of their lives, so we invent diversions. … Mesmerized—at times unnerved—by my 97-year-old father’s nearly superhuman vitality, I undertook an investigation of the human physical condition; the result was a book called The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead, which tries to look without blinking at our blood-and-bones existence, at the fact that each of us is just an animal walking the earth for a brief time, a bare body housed in a mortal cage. Some people might find this perspective demoralizing, but I don’t, truly. Honesty is the best policy; the only way out is deeper in: a candid confrontation with existence is dizzying, liberating. … Vladimir Posner says that when a Russian is asked how he’s feeling, he tends to go on and on about how he’s actually feeling, whereas when an American is asked the same question, he invariably answers, “Fine.” We’re doing fine. We’re moving forward, moving ahead, no problems, unto death.
More than what Shields says about reacting to death, I like what he has to say about literature. The need for it to be passionate and un-static. “I like art with a visible string to the world,” he writes elsewhere in the piece. This has always been pretty important to me. I’d rather read something verging, or careening, over-the-top than something else that’s a “slice-of-life” (I really hate this designation.) but gets me nowhere. Of course, a writer doesn’t have to make grand statements, subtlety is also or even more underrated. All of this seems obvious to me, but I see these things happening in all sorts of novels and stories people are reading. The good, the grand, the ugly. It’s something I think about, a lot.