There’s was a lot of excitement at the...
Black History Month
American Negro history is basically a history of the conflict between integrationist and nationalist forces in politics, economics, and culture, no matter what leaders are involved and what slogans are used. After Malcolm X’s death, the Black Power slogan was actually a swing back to the conservative nationalism from which Malcolm X had just departed. The pendulum swings back and forth,...
'The Letter Killers Club' in Bookforum
Certain writers are too weird to fully belong to their own time. Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky—a Soviet writer obsessed with Kant and Shakespeare, whose own life barely rippled beyond a small coterie of Muscovite writers before his death in 1950—is among them. Krzhizhanovsky wrote philosophical works of fiction that veer between chattiness and, in the fine translations of Joanne Turnbull and...
Walser's 'Berlin Stories' in The Guardian
How artless or artful he is is a judgment that each reader can make for him- or herself, and I suspect that much depends on the serenity of one’s own disposition. Sontag called him an ‘anti-gravity’ writer, both in that he is against seriousness as well as being unbound to the ground. And in this unbelievably delightful and timeless collection of short pieces, we can recover...
Letter Killers Club reviewed in Full Stop
According to Zez, any idea committed to paper is committed to death. To preserve ideas in their purest form, they are spoken. And so, every Saturday Zez and six companions, called ‘conceivers’ and referred to only by nonsense syllables, gather in a room filled with empty bookshelves as one member holds the floor to tell his ‘conception.’ The reader is invited into this...
A poet friend of mine explained my predicament rather vaguely by saying that ‘I...– Frigyes Karinthy in A Journey Round My Skull, subject of this months NYRB Salon at Dog Eared Books. (via harmlessbalderdash)
The meaning of books lies before them and not behind: it is in us. A book is not...– Richard Howard, “A Consideration of the Writings of Emily Dickinson” (via invisiblestories)
An Ermine in Czernopol
You may have noticed that we’ve been talking a lot recently about Gregor von Rezzori’s An Ermine in Czernopol. It’s because it’s a bit of a staff favorite, and it has been getting a lot of reviews and attention, and next week Wallace Shawn and Deborah Eisenberg will be reading from it next week. Reviews: The Nation The Rumpus waggish The Spectator Bookforum (sorry,...
On the Importance of Setting (When Reading)
“I asked him if he often read here. “Yes; things of this kind I read here,” he answered, indicating the title of his book—The Poems of Shelley. “Anything that you really”—and I was going to say “admire?” But I cautiously left my sentence unfinished, and was glad that I had done so, for he said, with unwonted emphasis, “Anything second-rate.” I had read little of Shelley, but “Of...
The Glory of the Sunken
Rezzori’s novel is enjoyable for the sly elegance of his language and for the lively rogue’s gallery he peoples his Czernopol with. It’s valuable for the baroque, nostalgic, ironic yet clear-eyed recreation of a world now long gone, stamped to death beneath the Nazi jackboot. But literature of the first rank must speak to us of our own time as well, must in some way convict or console us in our...