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In Valerie Stiverss Eat Your Words series, she cooks up recipes drawn from the works of various writers.
Nescio is Latin for I dont know and was the pen name of a respectable Holland-Bombay Trading Company director and father of four publishing in Amsterdam between 1909 and 1942. The writer, whose real name was J.H.F. Grnloh (18821961), worked in an office by day and by night sparingly penned not-so-respectable short stories about artistic passion, upper-middle-class sexual longing, and the luminous vistas of his water-soaked city. His minuscule output (two books over forty years) is classic literature in the Netherlands but nearly unknown here. Amsterdam Stories was translated into English for the first time in 2012 and published by NYRB Classics.
The book is a series of interlocking stories about a gang of pals who want to be painters and how they fare over time. Some quickly give up the artistic dreams of their youth for the grind of making money. Others struggle longer against the inevitably conventional middle age. The one who succeeds in the art world is portrayed as a successful businessperson of a different stripe. Japi, a character introduced in the story The Freeloader, is the true artist of the bunch but also antisocial, a sponger, and a jerk. The protagonists mostly wind up with boring office jobs and staid marriages, drowning in the daily details of their lives, as we all do. Of packing lunch for children (the way I begin my morning five days a week), Nescio says, You try slicing bread and making sandwiches for four kids just once, if youre not used to it, the way the unfortunate writer of these pages has done on occasion, itll drive you insane. Yes, it will. Yet even faded souls have stirrings, some vague idea toward art and nature, love and greatness. Much of Nescios charm for the modern reader is in how recognizable the issues he examines are, how little has changed.
Appropriately for a book about the daily grind, people in Amsterdam Stories are frequently seen eating that most office appropriate of meals: the sandwich, sometimes mentioned to be ham but usually unspecified. Sandwiches appear enough in the stories that I wanted to know what they were like in Nescios Netherlands and w...
Figurative Design in Hamlet: The Significance of the Dumb Show (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, c1973), by Lee Sheridan Cox (PDF at Ohio State)
For All White-Collar Workers: The Possibilities of Radicalism in New York City's Department Store Unions, 1934-1953 (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, c2007), by Daniel J. Opler (PDF at Ohio State)
A Fatal Drifting Apart: Democratic Social Knowledge and Chicago Reform (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, c2007), by Laura M. Westhoff (PDF at Ohio State)
Folklore in New World Black Fiction: Writing and the Oral Traditional Aesthetics (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, c2007), by Chiji Akoma (PDF at Ohio State)
Fallout: A Historian Reflects on America's Half-Century Encounter with Nuclear Weapons (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, c1998), by Paul S. Boyer (PDF at Ohio State)
For the City as a Whole: Planning, Politics, and the Public Interest in Dallas, Texas, 1900-1965 (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, c1998), by Robert B. Fairbanks (PDF at Ohio State)
Fact Into Figure: Typology in Carlyle, Ruskin, and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, c1979), by Herbert L. Sussman (PDF at Ohio State)
Jornal de Pediatria (in Portuguese and English; issues online 1994-) (partial serial archives)
Contributions to Zoology (issues online 1997-) (partial serial archives)
Motion Pictures, 1894-1912, Identified From the Records of the United States Copyright Office (1953), by Library of Congress Copyright Office, ed. by Howard Lamarr Walls (stable link)
Tropical Diseases: A Manual of the Diseases of Warm Climates (London et al.: Cassell and Co., 1898), by Patrick Manson (multiple formats at arcyhive.org)
Tropical Diseases: A Manual of the Diseases of Warm Climates (6th edition; London et al.: Cassell and Co., 1919), by Patrick Manson (multiple formats at archive.org)
Professional Responsibility (in English and Cambodian; San Francisco; Community Legal Education Center, 2000), by Nick Rine and Ly U Meny (PDF with commentary at Michigan)
Verdict According to Conscience: Perspectives on the English Criminal Trial Jury, 1200-1800 (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1985), by Thomas Andrew Green (PDF with commentary at Michigan)
Debts, Job Choices, and Financial Burden: Educational Debts at Nine American Law Schools (Washington: Association of American Law Schools, 1991), by David L. Chambers (PDF with commentary at Michigan)
Village near a Factory, Henri Rousseau, August 1907
Japanese White-Eyes with Plum Tree and Willow (from Spring Rain Surimono Album), Kubo Shunman, ca. 1810
History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake. James Joyce, Ulysses
Near the beginning of James Joyces 1922 novel Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus famously compares history to a nightmare. It was also in 1922 that Lu Xun penned the preface to his first short-story collection, Call to Arms (published in 1923), in which he asks whether he should try to use his writing to wake up his fellow countrymen still trapped in the proverbial iron house of Chinese feudal values. In these almost simultaneous texts, two of the twentieth centurys leading modernist authors both equated history with sleep and dreams. Whereas Joyces Dedalus wants to awaken from the nightmare that is history, Lu Xun worries that his works might in fact succeed in rousing his blissfully oblivious readers, causing them to awaken to a state of historical awareness for which they would then have no easy remedy.
Nearly a century later, Yan Lianke appeals to a similar set of oneiric metaphors in his novel The Day the Sun Died. Centered on a fourteen-year-old boy named Li Niannian, whose parents run a shop that sells items for funeral rituals and whose uncle runs a crematorium, the story describes a night during which most of the residents of the boys village suddenly start sleepwalkingor, to translate the Chinese term for somnambulism more literally, dreamwalking. The community degenerates into chaos, as many villagers act out the urges that they had kept suppressed during their normal waking state.
Like Ulysses, which famously unfolds over the course of a single day (June 16, 1904), the main narrative of The Day the Sun Died takes place over the course of a single night, beginning at five P.M. on the evening of the sixth day of the sixth lunar month, and concluding early the following morning. The novel is divided into a series of books, each of which opens with a header that notes a temporal interval using the traditional Chinese geng-dian system, and each book is then divided into sections that similarly open with a header that notes the cor...
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Kate Morton came into my life just under 3 years ago. I dont remember how, but I picked up one of her books and absolutely fell in love with her writing style, characters, and multi-dimensional storytelling abilities. After almost 3 years, Ive finished reading all 6 of her books; its a tad amusing that the last one I read is actually the first book she wrote The House at Riverton, or The Shifting Fog, as it was previously known. For me, shes the queen of historical fiction when the focus is on ordinary families in a world from ~ a century ago. The House at Riverton is no exception, and while not my favorite of her tomes, is quite a splendid novel very reminiscent of Downtown Abbey.
In this book, Grace is ~100 years old and dying very soon. She has a story and a secret about the past to tell her wayward grandson whos gone missing after his wife died of an aneurysm. Through flashbacks and other POVs, we learn about Graces time as a maid and ladies maid in the Hartford family household. We witness conversations in the current period between Grace and Ursula, a film director telling the story of what happened when a family friend and renowned poet committed suicide in the 1920s at the Hartford estate. We find out who actually loved whom, and which family members shouldnt have been trusted. All set against the gorgeous backdrop of the English countryside, its a powerful and emotional tale about fighting your desires and knowing when its time to give in.
One of the things that made this book so appealing is how similar it was to Downton Abbey. Theres a family torn apart by war. Girls cannot inherit their fathers estate. Love between classes is forbidden. Estates cost too much. A daughter must marry into a wealthy family to survive. But then it goes off on its own path with a murder, an affair, and a past indiscretion connecting two people who never knew until it was too late. Morton can weave the most elaborate stories to warm the heart. I feel such passion and connection with her words and imagery. I can think of no other author who evokes such lyrical enthusiasm and despair in a scene on multiple levels that overwhelm you and excite you at the same time.
While a majority of this book is amazing, there were a few areas that I struggled with hence 4 stars. The beginning is a bit too slow; it takes time to develop ch...
Steinbergs line is the line of a master penman and artist. It is also a linethat is, a kind of organized talk. The pen of this artist-monologuist brings into being pictures that are also words, e.g., the odd birds at a cocktail party. Or they are visualizations of things said, as in the drawings in his book The Labyrinth, where people utter flowers, strings of beads, heraldic decorations.
Both because of his superb penmanship and the complex intellectual nature of his assertions, I think of Steinberg as a kind of writer, though there is only one of his kind. He has worked out an exchange between the verbal and the visual that makes possible all kinds of revelations. For instance, there is a drawing in which a triangle on one end of a scale weighs down an old, patched-up, decrepit question mark on the other. Axiom: A NEAT FORMULA OUTWEIGHS A BANGED-UP PROBLEM.
To build his labyrinth, Steinberg had only to draw a line from A to B on the principle that the truth is the longest distance between two points: the result is an enormous scrawl within which the original two dots appear as the eyes of the Minotaur.
As if the relations between words and objects werent complicated enough, Steinberg has thrust between them the illusions of the drawing paper. There is perhaps no artist alive, E.H. Gombrich testifies in Art and Illusion, who knows more about the philosophy of representation. A long straight line keeps changing its pictorial functionsfirst it represents a table edge, then a railroad trestle, then a laundry line, until it ends up in an abstract flourish. Steinberg is the Houdini of multiple meanings: the line with which he creates his labyrinth and entangles himself in it is also the string that leads him out of it.
In our column Poetry Rx, readers write in with a specific emotion, and our resident poetsSarah Kay, Kaveh Akbar, and Claire Schwartztake turns prescribing the perfect poems to match. This week, Claire Schwartz is on the line.
I recently realized I wanted to be a poet. Is there a poem for getting over the fear that my poetry wont be good enough?
A Hopeful Poet
Dear Hopeful Poet,
In a way, every poem answers you. Every poem moves against or in spite of the fear that language is not equal to the task. You call yourself both hopeful and afraid. Perhaps fear and hope are two names for the same destination: the first shaped by a mindfulness of loss and the second by an awareness of presence. Fear, like hope, knows that something that matters is at stake. Fear, then, is not something to get over but might, perhaps, be differently held so that it positions you to move toward your desire.
For you, Ilya Kaminskys Authors Prayer, which moves headfirst into the realm of loss, naming it as the authors site of making:
If I speak for the dead, I must leave
this animal of my body,
I must write the same poem over and over,
for an empty page is the white flag of their surrender.
The impossible taskto speak for the deadforms the condition of the authors imperatives: I must I must Halfway through the poem, the momentum from that original ifthe energy of that conditionalshifts. The poem steadies. The speaker affirms: Yes, I live. Now the sincerity of obligation opens onto the exuberance of possibility: I can cross the streets asking What year is it?/I can dance in my sleep and laugh. And then ability makes way for commitment, can moves to will:
I will praise your madness, and
in a language not mine, speak
When the final line retur...
Purchasing an Encyclopedia: 12 Points to Consider (Chicago : American Library Association, 1979), by American Library Association Reference and Subscription Books Review Committee (multiple formats at archive.org)
Purchasing an Encyclopedia: 12 Points to Consider (third edition; Chicago: Booklist, American Library Association, 1989), by American Library Association Reference Books Bulletin Editorial Board, contrib. by Sandra Whiteley (multiple formats at archive.org)
Purchasing an Encyclopedia: 12 Points to Consider (5th edition; Chicago: Booklist Publicaitons, American Library Association, 1996), by American Library Association Reference Books Bulletin Editorial Board, contrib. by Sandra Whiteley (multiple formats at archive.org)
An Interpretation of Friends Worship (Philadelphia: Committee on Religious Education of Friends General Conference, c1947), by Jean Toomer (Gutenberg text)
Bristol Medico-Chirurgical Journal (full serial archives)
Open Landscape at Sunset, Remigius Adrianus Haanen (1812-1894)
Birchbark box of the southeastern Ojibwe people. Artist unknown; after 1865. Now in the Peabody Museum, Harvard University.
The artist Paa Joe makes coffins. But these arent your standard-issue pine boxesthey are red snappers, Spalding basketballs, giant shoes. In the Ghanaian tradition of abeduu adekai (roughly translated, receptacles of proverbs), the dead are honored via figurative coffins that reflect the lives of those interred. A street vendor might be buried in a soda bottle, a gynecologist in a casket shaped like a uterus. In 2004, Joe veered from his typical fare and created thirteen large-scale models of the still-standing slave castles and forts on the coast of Ghana. These buildings served as processing centers for the more than six million people enslaved and sent to the Americas and the Caribbean between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. Seven of Joes sculptures are on view until February 24 at the American Folk Art Museum, in New York, for the exhibition Gates of No Return, named for the doors through which countless souls passed on their entry into forced servitude. Nobody would be buried in a slave castle coffin, Joe has said, but these miniatures signify death just the same, looming as reminders of the millions of lives lost to and the histories decimated by the slave trade.
This year I read mostly while nursing. My daughter was born in January, and those short winter days gave way to long nights spent with her sleeping against my chesta tiny burrito in zip-up pajamas, her rhythmic breath against my neckor waking up to eat, nearly falling asleep in that primal bliss, with the radiator hissing and clanking behind us, my finger stroking her cheek to wake her up again. I read so much about motherhood. Or maybe it was that everything I read seemed to be about motherhood. Grad school had taught me new ways to read, through various theoretical lenses, and so did my daughter. She taught me how to read with one arm, in stolen chunks of time, in half-delirium, in the long hormonal soup of the fourth trimester.
I read Meaghan OConnells And Now We Have Everything, a collection of gloriously unsettled essays about imagining giving birth and then actually giving birth and then circling the tiny creature, lying in his Pack n Play, at first desperate for him to sleep and then desperately afraid he has died. I read the brilliant and unforgettable stories in Octavia Butlers Bloodchild and Other Stories, including the one about a man carrying an alien baby, which is also about what it means to feel both violated by the life you made possible and beholden to it. I reread Meghan ORourkes Sun in Days, whose poems wonder atamong other thingsthe shift from conjuring an imagined child to caring for an actual one, a baby built not from longing but from grapefruit and Rice Chex: you were already you, not / an outgrowth of my mind.
One evening I strapped my baby to my chest with the impossibly complicated stretchy...
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