For The Brooklyn Rail, John Ashbery answers some questions about writing in French, crushes on boys, and the presence of “it.” As he puts it, “I’m sort of notorious for my use of the pronoun ‘it’ without explaining what it means, which somehow never seemed a problem to me.”
“We all use a ‘persona’ or mask, to some degree, all the time,” writes poet Robert Pinsky as he challenges the notion—widely held in English classes throughout the world—that a poem’s “speaker” is necessarily separate from a poem’s author. The latest release from Pinsky, the former Poet Laureate of the United States, is Selected Poems, and you can hear him read some excerpts in this video.
Another big, literary title hits shelves today. Tom McCarthy turned heads with Remainder in 2007. Now he’s back with C. Posthumously published is Nobel Laureate Jose Saramago’s The Elephant’s Journey. Also newly released is Sara Gruen’s tale of bonobos and reality television: Ape House, William Gibson’s latest Zero History, and The Widower’s Tale by Julia Glass. Culture mavens will be intrigued by The Official Preppy Handbook reboot True Prep. And this week’s intriguing art book is Full Bleed: New York City Skateboard Photography. And in non-fiction, Bob Dylan In America by Sean Wilentz and Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, so compellingly written up in last week’s New Yorker.
Recommended reading: The Awl takes a look at the “attempt to create a completely logical, absolutely universal language,” which goes about as well as you’d expect (read: not very).