“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.
You’ve read Elif Batuman’s dissertation on the double-entry book-keeping of novelists (pdf), but now your “debit” balance is low. (Whose isn’t these days?) Enter Sheila Heti and Misha Glouberman. They can document your very essence. The Paris Review has an excerpt from The Chairs Are Where the People Go.
New this week are Mark Haddon’s The Red House, Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins, John Lanchester’s Capital, and a collection of essays from Colm Tóibín, New Ways to Kill Your Mother: Writers and Their Families. Michael Ondaatje’s The Cat’s Table is now out in paperback.
City of Quartz author Mike Davis is writing a biography of the Los Angeles Times‘ bygone publisher Harrison Gray Otis. Appropriately, the installments will be serialized by the Los Angeles Review of Books.
More amusement has been prompted by The History of Love author Nicole Krauss’s arguably over-the-top blurb for David Grossman’s To the End of the Land: “To read it is to have yourself taken apart, undone, touched at the place of your own essence; it is to be turned back, as if after a long absence, into a human being.” Following Guardian’s subsequent contest for who can write the most absurdly laudatory blurb for a Dan Brown novel, Laura Miller at Salon dissects why author endorsements are so unreliable.
“I think it’s important that poets exist in societies because they exist in the realm of affect. Feeling is important to them. How people feel, what they feel, what breaks them, how trauma resonates through their lives… that’s a legitimate space in poetry. It’s a legitimate space for investigation.” Aaron Coleman interviews Citizen author Claudia Rankine about intimacy, her writing process, and her experience in an MFA program.