In 1817, the painter Robert Benjamin Haydon invited several guests over for what he called an “immortal dinner.” Why the bombastic name? The guests included Keats and Wordsworth, whom Haydon wished to introduce to each other. In the WaPo, Michael Dirda takes a look at The Immortal Evening, a new book about the event by Stanley Plumly.
Out this week: All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews; The Letters of TS Eliot: Volume 5; Rocket and Lightship by Adam Kirsch; The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion by Meghan Daum; and a single-volume edition of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great Second-half 2014 Book Preview.
Morrisey, Lauren Groff, and Erica Jong are among the finalists for the 2015 Bad Sex in Fiction award. The award is presented annually by the British magazine Literary Review in an attempt to “draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction, and to discourage them.” Past winners include Norman Mailer and John Updike (the sole recipient of a prestigious lifetime achievement award).
If you thought the English language went downhill when the emoticon was introduced, you can blame a 17th-century poet. Editor Levi Stahl found that English poet Robert Herrick used the first emoticon in his 1648 poem "To Fortune." As Herrick writes, "Tumble me down, and I will sit/ Upon my ruines (smiling yet :)" For more on the potential ruin of language, read Fiona Maazel's piece on commercial grammar.
"You could say that Fancy is about a couple of comical old kooks stuck in a dismal town finding creative ways of making themselves (and some luckless bystanders) crazy … and you wouldn’t be wrong. But you could also say that it’s the story of the composition of the manifesto of a bizarre and protean (protozoan?) order of being in which we’re all just patterns mistaking ourselves for people." In a piece for BOMB Magazine, Scott Esposito interviews Jeremy M. Davies about Bernhard, Olive Garden, writing Fancy and reintroducing humor into modernist literature. Their conversation pairs well with our own Nick Ripatrazone's look at, well, the conversations of BOMB interviews.
At Read by Famous, you can purchase secondhand books and know their previous owners—actors, comedians, athletes. There’s one week left in the auction, and all of the proceeds benefit charities. Pair with our own Jacob Lambert’s thoughts on thirty minutes at a used book sale.