“On closer inspection, however, the book comes off as something more complicated than a flowering of one eccentric and filthy man’s erotic imagination. Its elaborate descriptions of pleasure given and taken start to seem like scrims for a moral argument about what sorts of sexual behaviors should be ‘forbid’ and which should be encouraged—an argument refined in prison by an author deeply occupied with thoughts of punishment, dissipation, and sin.” On John Cleland’s (very erotic) novel Fanny Hill and the importance of its having been written in prison.
There’s a lot of (justified) talk about the power of reading, but simply owning a book can be meaningful. Mabel Rosenheck considers Walter Benjamin‘s perspective on book ownership – “[it] is the most intimate relationship that one can have to objects. Not that they come alive in him; it is he who lives in them.” – and her own experiences with book collecting in San Francisco in an essay for The Toast. Pair with Anne Fadiman‘s essay on relationships, books, and relationships with books, “Marrying Libraries.”
William Carlos Williams‘s birthday was this last week, and Adam Kirsch writes about the poet for New York Review of Books. Though he argues that “today it would be hard to find a reader of poetry who would not acknowledge William Carlos Williams as one of the major American modernists” Kirsch still has to face the question, “why is it, then, that almost fifty years after his death, the reputation of [Williams] still seems to be haunted by a ghost of uncertainty?”
Audio for over 10,000 events – including concerts, poetry readings, and public interviews – is being made available on the 92nd Street Y’s new digital archive. Among the treasures in the trove are readings by Tennessee Williams, Vladimir Nabokov, and Susan Sontag. (Thanks Andrew.)