“A vast human action is going on. Death watches. So if you have some happiness, conceal it. And when your heart is full, keep your mouth shut also.” Saul Bellow saw a bit of resurgence this year with the publication of his collected non-fiction, There Is Simply Too Much to Say. Why do we need him now more than ever? According to Michael Weiss at The Daily Beast, it’s because he has “a bit of the opposition in him.” This essay is exhaustive and thoroughly researched and well worth your time.
John Steinbeck’s son criticizes the state of Texas for invoking Of Mice and Men‘s Lennie Small, in ruling that certain mentally retarded individuals can be sentenced to the death penalty. The great-great-great granddaughter of Herman Melville wonders where her great-great-great-grandfather’s editor was when he wrote Moby Dick.
Now is as good a time as there ever will be to go and check out the Art Institute of Chicago. A new exhibit, “Invisible Man: Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison in Harlem,” combines the photography of Parks, who eventually went on to gain a measure of fame in the ’70s as a Hollywood movie director, and the writing of Ralph Ellison, in an attempt to offer a portrait of Harlem in the post-World War II years.
“The plot, obviously, is kind of difficult to explain, like an earnest, pared-down, hipster Foucault’s Pendulum. Not only are all of the plot turns above laid out through a multiframed narrative, replete with several people’s footnotes, but the events are interwoven with disquisitions on the history of map-making, Situationist philosophy, urban planning, and pop music.” At Slate, our own Lydia Kiesling reads Catie Disabato’s The Ghost Network. (ICYMI, Dan Lopez reviewed the book for The Millions.)
Last week, I wrote about the disparity between Norman Rockwell’s inner life and the cheerful art that made the painter famous. In the new issue of The Atlantic, James Parker writes about the “unconscious energy” of Rockwell’s work, while on the magazine’s website, Jennie Rothenberg Gritz republishes an old article that examines how Rockwell’s style could seem outdated even in the fifties.