1. Going the ‘Lonely Way’: Gopnik on J. F. Powers in THE NEW YORKER Page-Turner Blog

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    "With the sudden appearance of a “liberal” Pope…there may be no more serendipitous moment to be thinking again about the writer J. F. Powers."

    —Adam Gopnik, “'America's Cleanest Writer Goes His Lonely Way': The Letters of J. F. Powers,” The New Yorker's Page-Turner blog.

    In this review of the recent collection of Powers’ letters, Suitable Accommodations, Gopnik attempts to explain the National Book Award–winning author’s fall from readership grace, landing on the simple conclusion that this writer of Midwestern Catholicism and priestly ennui might simply be too Catholic for contemporary America.

    Powers’ novel, Morte d’Urban, which won the National Book Award over Nabokov’s Pale Fire (and over Updike’s Pigeon Feathers and Katherine Anne Porter’s Ship of Fools), and The Stories of J.F. Powers are also available as NYRB Classics.

    P.S. Powers self-deprecatingly dubbed himself “America’s Cleanest Writer” in a letter to a friend, but presumably before he wrote that scene in Wheat that Springeth Green where his young (semi-autobiographical) hero has a three-way with two neighbors—and proceeds to repeat the act every day for the next three weeks. You know, the typical pre-priesthood antics.


    Now, here’s a picture of Powers apparently pitching for a Little League Baseball game…

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  2. Happy Birthday Nancy Mitford

    Voltaire in Love still stands as a portrait of the French Enlightenment as it really was, with intrigue and idealism in strange but fizzy solution.Why did Nancy Mitford have the insight into the nature of French intellectual life denied to so many others? Many English people live for a long time in France, and though they often love it, they rarely ‘get it’ in quite this way. It may be significant that all of the Mitford girls had to go elsewhere to find an identity. Aristocrats raised aristocratically, they ‘took’ better elsewhere than in England: Unity pitifully and horribly in Germany, Jessica in America. France saved Nancy, much the best pure writer of the sisters. She grasped, and sets out here in exquisite detail, the other side of the constant vendettas and intrigues of Parisian life. She saw the workings of a society rooted in a set of manners designed, at whatever cost in truthfulness, on making other people feel comfortable and valued, a set of manners based on compliments and what the English call ‘affectations.’

    —Adam Gopnik, from his introduction to Nancy Mitford’s Voltaire in Love, which went on sale on November 6th. Mitford was born on this day in 1904 at 1 Graham Place, Belgravia, London, and was the eldest of the notorious Mitford sisters.