It’s what he would want.
With reasonable care and a hell of a lot of luck you might last another ten years, or five years, or two years, or six months, but then of course again on the other hand as I’m sure you’ll appreciate trying to be completely objective about the matter you might not. So in future, if there is any, every birthday is going to have a lot of things about it that make it feel like your last one, and the same with every evening out, and after four of your five years or five of your six months the same with most things, up to and including getting into bed and waking up and the rest of it. So whichever way it turns out…it’s going to be difficult to feel you’ve won, and I don’t know which is worse, but I do know there’s enough about either of them to make you wish you could switch to the other for a bit. And it’s knowing that every day it’s more and more likely that one or the other of them will start tomorrow morning that makes the whole business so riveting.
—Kingsley Amis, The Green Man
"When I felt the wind on my face and saw that the tide was in it seemed all at once that I didn’t need answers to anything. The tide and the moon, the beacon on the headland and the wind were so here, so this, so now that nothing else was required. I felt free of myself, unlumbered. Where the moon ended and I began and which was which was of no consequence, Everything was what it was and the awareness of it was part of it.”
—Russell Hoban, Turtle Diary
Peter Brooks and Linda Asher read and discuss Balzac's shorter works at Labyrinth Princeton -
Tonight, Labyrinth Books Princeton will host a celebration of Balzac, particularly his shorter fiction, and the publication of The Human Comedy: The Selected Stories with a reading and discussion by the book’s editor, esteemed scholar and writer Peter Brooks, and one of its (award-winning) translators, Linda Asher. The event starts at 6 pm at 122 Nassau St., Princeton
Best Translated Book Awards finalists announced -
So the Best Translated Book Awards, organized by the University of Rochester, are especially sweet for the people who translate and publish such works. The 20 finalists include multiple works published by New Directions, the Brooklyn-based nonprofit publisher Archipelago Books, and Zephyr Press of Brookline, Mass.
One early spring evening when Celia was fourteen and the rest of us girls thirteen or nearly so, Uncle Dan came home, carrying a sack of groceries Aunt Libby had ordered over the phone, and saw a troop of boys sprawled around on the porch or hanging from the railings and balustrades. He stopped and asked them if there was a problem, had their mothers forgotten something at the market. They slunk off sideways and kicked the porch steps. But when Celia walked through the front door they came alive and in a fevered sprint backed away, running and hollering, to the far road, their speeding eyes in retreat still fastened on Celia, who smiled vaguely with a certain regal privilege. For a moment Uncle Dan’s face was strange to us, unshielded by his bright mocking ironies. Then he recovered. Knew what was what. He appraised her long bare legs, asked if she had take to going about half naked because of internal or external heat. She huffed, “Oh, Daddy! Don’t be so old-fashioned,” her face golden-lighted in the sun’s reflection off her apricot hair, and she went inside tossing that mane, her legs slightly rigid at the knee, like a leggy colt. Uncle Dan flicked his gray, dust-colored eyes over the rest of us, who were dark-haired with sallow complexions, or altogether too high-colored; he smiled outright, also an expression rare for him, and he seemed newly primed for the changed direction life was taking.
—from the first pages of Joan Chase’s novel, During the Reign of the Queen of Persia, which hits shelves today. Bonus: Meghan O’Rourke provides the introduction.
The noon meal for the prisoners without money was the big meal of the day, and was usually a bowl of vegetable stew with meat flavoring, or macaroni and cheese, tea, and two slices of bread. For dessert, there were prunes. The evening meal was bread and jam and tea. Everybody, even the prisoners with money, ate the bread and jam, because the jam was made and sold to the county by the wife of one of the deputies, and was considered excellent. Even the deputies on duty would have some.
—Don Carpenter, Hard Rain Falling
Do you have a picture of an NYRB Classic with coffee or tea? Send it to this address and we’ll post it here (making you an honorary member of the Classics and Coffee Club).
"Ayer me llegó una alegría en el correo." -
(Antonio Muñoz Molina on Josep Pla)
Came to sentence that was clear, made pencil mark in margin. Mark indicated understanding, indicated forward progress in book. Lifted eyes from Foucault, looked at other passengers. Took out notebook and pen to make note about passengers, made accidental mark with pencil in margin of Foucault, put down notebook, erased mark. —
Lydia Davis, A Collection of Stories
The Difficulties with Dirty Words -
There are a number of difficulties with dirty words, the first of which is that there aren’t nearly enough of them; the second is that the people who use them are normally numskulls and prudes; the…
Advance copies of Last Words from Montmartre have arrived. Picture Young Werther as queer, Taiwanese, and living in Paris in the 1990s and you come close to getting a sense of what Qiu Miaojin’s heroine is like.
—Louise Labé, “Sonnet 15”
As the clouds clear on a drizzly, chilly day here in New York, let’s turn to Labé as a reminder that spring, despite all appearances, is nigh. The above poem is included in Love Sonnets and Elegies, which hits shelves today and is translated by Richard Sieburth, with a preface by Karin Lessing.
My friend Dylan was telling me the other day about how woefully under-populated the Hot Gay Scientists tag is on tumblr, so here’s my humble contribution to that noble cause: Louise Pearce and S. Josephine Baker, who were both queer lady scientists and physicians working in the public health field in the early 20th century, and who lived together for over a decade (along with Baker’s other lady-partner, novelist Ida Alexa Ross Wylie.)
For more on Louise Pearce read the rest of the blog post here.
For more S. Josephine Baker, see her memoir, Fighting for Life.
Pretty sure The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne is the female Irish Catholic Stoner. In that it’s sad & beautiful & you should read it.
East Side Babies c. 1910–15, The Library of Congress
The notion that parenting is something that could be, and ought to be, taught is rooted in the history of progressivism. This idea serves as the centerpiece of “Fighting for Life, ” the memoir of S. Josephine Baker, first published in 1939 and recently reissued by the New York Review of Books. Dr. Baker was an early feminist, a graduate of Vassar and the Women’s Medical College in Manhattan who in 1908 began to run the city’s new Bureau of Child Hygiene.
At The New York Times, Ginia Bellafante looks at the history of early-child healthcare in the US and wonders if the current push for pre-kindergarten gets to the neediest children early enough. She suggests that New York City’s new mayor take a page out of S. Josephine Baker’s memoir Fighting for Life:
It is easy to envision someone like Mayor Bill de Blasio, who made compassion so thematic in his campaign, spearheading parenting initiatives that might find national resonance (as Dr. Baker’s did) — prompting mothers and fathers to read to their children as babies, to use everyday experiences to teach small children new words, new ideas, addition and subtraction and so on.
(Source: The New York Times)
On Being Blue, Still
Wednesday, April 9, 7 pm
The New York Institute for the Humanities, New York
Writers and critics reconsider William H. Gass’s sex- and sadness-imbued On Being Blue and discuss its relevance today.
Shakespeare’s Montaigne: Performance & Commentary
Friday, April 11, 6:30 pm
Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn
Stephen Greenblatt and leading actors look at the deep resonances and relationship between Shakespeare’s plays and Montaigne’s Essays.
A Reading and Discussion of Balzac’s Stories
Tuesday, April 15, 6 pm
Labyrinth Books, Princeton, New Jersey
Peter Brooks and Linda Asher will read and discuss Balzac’s short stories, nine of which have been translated in The Human Comedy: Selected Stories.
Sōseki’s Diversity: A Conference
Friday, April 18 – Sunday, April 20
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Scholars will gather at the University of Michigan to reflect on the legacy of Japan’s most widely read modern novelist, author of The Gate.
Stephen Greenblatt on Shakespeare’s Montaigne
Wednesday, April 23, 7 pm
Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, Massachusetts
National Book Award winner Greenblatt will discuss the influence of Montaigne’s Essays on Shakespeare.
Literature of the Great War
Wednesday, April 30, 7 pm
PEN World Voices Festival, New York
Authors highlight recently re-discovered classics, including Gabriel Chevallier’s Fear, and explore the influence of WWI literature.
“From Translation All Science Had Its Offspring”
Wednesday, April 30, 6:30 pm
Barnard College, New York
Peter Platt and Philip John Usher discuss the revised and annotated edition of John Florio’s 1603 translation of Montaigne’s Essays.