“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.
“Maybe Gnossos, had [Richard] Fariña lived long enough for a sequel, would have wound up on a commune in Canada, nibbling feta and blissed out on retsina, exhaling paregoric joints in some lush and fragrant garden … But he died in his twenties, like a lot of energetic young men of his era. It was the kind of romantic death we feel we understand almost too well, a promising talent suspended, that sense of exemption he wrote about—from mediocrity, from bourgeois compromise and midlife disappointment—a membrane forever intact.” On the enduring joys and exuberant voice of Richard Fariña’s Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me.
Norman Rockwell was an unhappy and enervated man who became iconic by painting scenes of happy, energetic people. He developed a style that became synonymous with idyllic visions of America. At Page-Turner, Lee Siegel reads Deborah Solmon’s American Mirror, a new biography of Rockwell that acknowledges the painter’s contradictions without “mocking or scolding” him for the gulf between his life and his art.