“What is missing from Testimony is the customary idealistic hero, the one last encountered in Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass who doesn’t avert his eyes from suffering and sordidness, but who nevertheless is full of hope for a better future. Testimony is a corrective, an anti-epic.” Charles Simić recounts Charles Reznikoff’s long poem Testimony: The United States (1885-1915): Recitative in the NYRB.
“He represents a failure of empiricism — an unreliability arising not from the absence of rationality, but from the stubborn complexity of perception. This, I would argue, is precisely how the 2016 election went down.” In an article for The Los Angeles Review of Books, Aaron R. Hanlon argues that Cervantes’ classic provides the perfect framework for understanding contemporary America, concluding that “Don Quixote is such a player in US politics that he might as well run for office.” Our own C. Max Magee read Quixote not long after founding the site, deeming it “essential to all who wish to understand ‘the novel’ as a literary form.”
We’ve seen a lot of interesting literary fundraisers (and are still a bit in awe of Catstarter) but a recent campaign goes beyond the usual Kickstarter: a group of well-known American writers, from Heather McHugh to Philip Levine to Rebecca Makkai, will be selling manuscript critiques later this month to benefit Caregifted.org.
If you’re like this writer, you’ve read enough by now about the scourge of writer’s block. The literature on authors having trouble producing literature is enough to sustain a whole genre by itself. Which is why it’s refreshing to read this article, which tackles another problem: the vexing, peculiar strain of overload known as reader’s block.
John Domini reviews Joseph McElroy’s Cannonball in the pages of Bookforum. In our Great Second-Half 2013 Book Preview, our own Garth Risk Hallberg wrote that, “this, his first novel in many a moon, concerns the Iraq War, among other things, and it’s hard to think of an author more suited to reimagining the subject.”