“The worst thing about new books is that they keep us from reading the old ones.”
— Mmmm … ah … .
— Slrrrp …
— … . .
— Aaah … .
— … .
— Slrrp …
— … tea’s not bad.
— Better than the coffee.
— Aaah …
— … … …
— Slrrp …
— … . .
— … … . .
— … slrrrp… .
— … .
— Look … slrrrp …
— Fool …
—Vadimir Sorokin, The Queue
That’s not a flawed copy of The Queue in the photo above. The characters in Sorokin’s book are standing in line waiting for—what were they waiting for again?—and have fallen asleep, hence the blank pages (and the empty cup).
An orange/maroon/blue + feet trend.
More cover themes here.
A bitter winter evening grew a little brighter last night as we celebrated with a full house of Pierre Reverdy lovers at McNally Jackson in Soho. There were readings by Geoffrey O’Brien, Mark Polizzotti, Mary Ann Caws (pictured below) (and: psst, sorry that some of these photos aren’t of the highest quality!) …
…as well as plenty of French wine…
Thank you, thank you to our translators for coming out to read and to all of you who braved the cold for the sake of poetry.
[The quotation in the title of this post is from Reverdy’s poem, “Empty Numbers,” which Richard Sieburth translated and read at last night’s event.]
It Must in Fact Have Been Quite Cold
And all the buzzers in the house went off at once
Why have they brought so many bells and alarm clocks
From the tapestry where my body flattens in profile
hands like a platter asking for mercy I look
at my life from which I’ve withdrawn myself
Distances were done away with and yet everything
stays in place
All that’s lacking is a little air
The harmony of their lines is enough to keep each
piece of furniture solid
Yet sometimes they weren’t recognizable
The visitor is in the sitting room or at the door
waiting after having rung the bell
And all those who pass by hold their hats in their hands
But I can no longer come down
The tapestry is trembling
It’s too cold
Unfortunately Paul Auster will not be able to make it to tonight’s event at McNally Jackson as previous listed. However, Mary Ann Caws, Geoffrey O’Brien, Ron Padgett, Mark Polizzotti, and Richard Sieburth will all still be there reading from their translations of Reverdy’s poem and discussing his work (plus wine). And for those concerned about the temperature, the poem above (translated by Marilyn Hacker) is for you.
To celebrate the New York Review of Books’ reprint of Balzac’s The Human Comedy, we’re excerpting the introductory essay by Peter Brooks which discusses the frame narrative, exploring sexuality through a panther, and “the debt of dishonor.”
Honoré de Balzac is known for immensity, excess, all-night writing sessions in his monk’s robe sustained by countless cups of coffee, producing more than ninety novels and tales in the space of some twenty years. Rodin’s great, looming sculpture suggests a visionary who wanted to capture the whole of French society of his time, and more: the forces that animated it, the principles that made its wheels spin.
It may seem a paradox, then, to link Balzac’s vast Human Comedy to the adjective “short.” We think of Balzac as long, often too long—descriptions, explanations that correspond to the leisure associated with reading nineteenth-century novels, of a length for evenings without television or smartphones. His novels are often freighted with extended presentations of things and people, and weighty excurses on every imaginable subject. He was one of the first generation of writers to make a living from his work, and the need to generate ever more of it—since he was usually in debt—drove his pen. He produced masterpieces nonetheless, though not of the chiseled, perfect sort sought by Flaubert, for instance. Balzac’s claim lies rather in his capacity to invent, to imagine, to create literally hundreds of characters capable of playing out their dramas with convincing power. He stands as the first true realist in his ambition to see society as an organic system. Oscar Wilde came close to the heart of the matter when he declared: “The nineteenth century, as we know it, is largely an invention of Balzac’s.” Balzac “invents” the new century by being the first writer to represent its emerging urban agglomerations, its nascent capitalist dynamics, its rampant cult of the individual personality. By seeing and dramatizing changes that he mainly deplored, he initiated his readers into understanding the shape of the century. “Balzac’s great glory is that he pretended hardest,” declared his faithful disciple Henry James: In the art of make-believe, Balzac was the master.
Yet interspersed among the ninety-odd titles that make up The Human Comedy are a number of short stories and novellas that are among the best work Balzac did. Here he produces his striking effects, his thunderous climaxes, his acute psychological twists with greater economy than in the full-length novels. And he uses short fiction to try out some of his boldest imaginative flights. Here is the place to dramatize extremes of emotion: the loss of self in madness, artistic creation, and passion; the inventive forms taken by vengeance; the monomania of the artist; and, especially, the wilder shores of love, whether of a duchess, a castrato, or a panther. Somehow the short form works to liberate Balzac’s imagination from the need to be “the secretary of society,” as he put it. Not that society is missing here but rather that it, too, is given in its essence: as the conversation and interaction of social beings. In fact, Balzac’s short fiction tends to be extraordinarily fixed on the moment of oral exchange, on the telling of and the listening to stories. In this manner he renews an age-old tradition of oral storytelling, now given a new and knowing form. These stories, which often show us humanity in extreme situations, are also about the power of storytelling—and about the effect of that power on those listening.
Look what just arrived, after a 37-year journey: the third and final volume of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s memoir of his youthful walk across pre-war Europe, The Broken Road (it goes on sale in the US on March 4th).
PLF fans have been writing to us for years, wondering if and when the concluding book would ever come out. What a relief to have a real answer for them.
It’s a new year. What seemingly obscure novel or novelist shall we anoint for 2014?
My modest proposal is something by L.P. Hartley, the late British literary journalist and novelist who was pals with Aldous Huxley at Oxford.”
Nathalie Atkinson notes early signs of a Hartley renaissance.
(event poster by Matthew Wagstaffe)
A glass of papaya juice
and back to work. My heart is in my
pocket, it is Poems by Pierre Reverdy.
—Frank O’Hara, “A Step Away from Them”
Join us at McNally Jackson bookstore next Tuesday, January 28, 2014 @ 7 pm as we celebrate the great French poet (and companion of Coco Chanel) Pierre Reverdy, on the occasion of the latest book in the NYRB Poets series.
Reading will be:
Mary Ann Caws (editor of Pierre Reverdy)
Now I beg that you will sample a drink that I have specially ordered to be prepared for us and which is, I think, not known in your country. It consists of hot wine blended with honey and with rare spices from the Eastland called cinnamon and cardamom. Men well versed in the subject of drink assert that no beverage is so pleasing to the palate or so effective at dispersing heavy humors and morbid cogitations.
—Frans G. Bengtsson, The Long Ships
No coffee or tea in The Long Ships (poor deprived Vikings!) but this hot wine & honey concoction sounds pretty good, too.
This entry into our Classics and Coffee club comes from the north: “Vikings and hockey, must mean winter is in the air up here in Canada.”
Do you have a picture of one of our books with coffee or tea (or a hot toddy)? Send it to this address and we’ll post it here.