New this week is Jonathan Evison’s West of Here, Joyce Carol Oates’ memoir A Widow’s Story about the death of her husband (this was the source of her recent, quite moving essay in the New Yorker), and the expanded rerelease of Alexander Theroux’s The Strange Case of Edward Gorey. Also new on shelves from NYRB Classics is Irretrievable by Theodor Fontane, with an introduction by Phillip Lopate, who discussed Fontane in our Year in Reading in December.
"Yes, he cheated, he cracked up, he was irresponsible and even cruel in the way he marshaled his life for his art. Lowell nonetheless believed that women were his intellectual and artistic equals. He spent most of his life behaving accordingly even as he treated his wives and mistresses so terribly, in romantic terms, that it was almost operatic. That is the puzzle of Robert Lowell and women." It's not quite Valentine's Day yet, but this piece on the inarguably tumultuous relationship between Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Hardwick is sure to make you feel something.
The Washington Post reports that Spanish writer and Cervantes Prize winner Juan Goytisolo has died at age 86. Bruna Dantas Lobato wrote about Goytisolo's 1970 novel of dispossession Count Julian for us, noting that "[j]ust like the nature of exile itself, the narrative offers no relief, no place of rest: just fragment after fragment of dry landscapes, lonely characters, and rooms in disarray."
"Why do we lust for lists?" Sandra M. Gilbert may not have an answer, but she does have a response to all those "100 Best American Novels" lists (and a list of her own). The Millions has a few lists too, of course - be sure to check out Janet Potter's "28 Books You Should Read If You Want To."
"On closer inspection, however, the book comes off as something more complicated than a flowering of one eccentric and filthy man’s erotic imagination. Its elaborate descriptions of pleasure given and taken start to seem like scrims for a moral argument about what sorts of sexual behaviors should be 'forbid' and which should be encouraged—an argument refined in prison by an author deeply occupied with thoughts of punishment, dissipation, and sin." On John Cleland's (very erotic) novel Fanny Hill and the importance of its having been written in prison.
“When you read these books—I suggest perusing them, martini in hand, while your children (or better your friends’ children, for whom you are babysitting) run around shrieking—you’ll see every parenting stance you’ve ever adopted, every parent-story trope you’ve ever told or heard, expressed more perfectly than you ever could have.” Dan Kois on Shirley Jackson’s two memoirs on parenting.
Fresh on the heels of his gargantuan New York Times Magazine profile, as well as the announcement that he's led Jon Huntsman Jr. in the South Carolina polls, political prankster Stephen Colbert has decided to run for "president of the United States of South Carolina." This, of course, is not the first time he's pulled this stunt, but it is the first time he's done it with this much funding. All of this raises the question of whether this is political satire or "School House Rock on Steroids." But don't get too excited. Apparently folks from the Palmetto State will not actually be able to vote for him.