Literature

literature

riverrun runs wild in Brooklyn, with performance artist Olwen Fouéré

Olwen Fouéré in riverrun at BAM. Photo Rebecca Greenfield.

You’ve doubtless read somewhere or another or heard someone say that our relationship to novels is much like our relationships to people (our relationships to their authors, living and dead, are a whole other thing). That may sound trite, but it has its degree of truth. In no case is it so true as in the case of Finnegan’s Wake. In most cases James Joyce’s last novel is like some celebrity academic, who jets constantly between, say, Paris and Berkeley, but never crosses our path. Others may have approached the great man at the podium after a lecture and tried to ask a private question, only to be

John Banville talks to Michael Miller about Love in the Wars, his English adaptation of Kleist’s Penthesilea

Heinrich von Kleist and John Banville

John Banville and Michael Miller discuss Love in the Wars, his free English adaptation of Heinrich von Kleist’s play, Penthesilea, with a digression about the rest of Mr. Banville’s work, before returning to the play, which will receive its world premiere at Bard College Summerscape. Kleist’s theatrical ambition was to fuse Greek tragedy with Shakespearean “burlesque.” The work shows his pessimistic world view spiced with black Prussian humor.

Seneca Rides Again! James Romm, Dying Every Day – Seneca at the Court of Nero

Seneca, from double herm of Socrates and Seneca. Antikensammlung Berlin.

I was seduced into reviewing this book by a very upbeat and encouraging event at the New York Public Library on 42nd Street—an institution from which little encouraging has emerged in recent years. (Opponents of the obscene plan to gut the stacks and set up an Internet café in their place should remain on the watch!) Following an afternoon of research, during which I learned that in mid-nineteenth century Providence, Rhode Island purveyors of “healthy, hungry leeches” and tamed performing grizzly bears had more visibility in the marketplace than calligraphers, I felt drawn to a conversation between James Shapiro, the Columbia Shakespearean, who has written numerous well-received books on and around WS, and James Romm of Bard College, the author of a new book about Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger, Dying Every Day – Seneca at the Court of Nero. Both have been fellows of the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center, Shapiro wrote his splendid Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, surely the best treatment of the topic ever, while a Fellow, and Romm now follows him with his contribution to the “Seneca Problem.”

W. B. Yeats and Ireland: Photographs, Music, and a Reading, with Dorien Staljanssens, James Cleveland, and Lloyd Schwartz

Portrait of William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) by John Butler Yeats (1839-1922). National Gallery of Ireland.

In the spirit of the Twelve Days of Christmas as a time for quiet reflection and a turning inwards, we’d like to offer a gift of a recording of New York Arts‘s second performance event, held on June 1, 2013, at 7 pm, in connection with my own exhibition of photographs of Western Ireland at the Centerpoint Gallery in New York City: a reading/concert in which the acclaimed poet, Lloyd Schwartz, Senior Classical Music Editor of New York Arts, read poems by W. B. Yeats with interludes of traditional Irish music played by Dorien Staljanssens, flute, and James Cleveland, fiddle.

Proust, architecte

Proust.

— “C’pauvre vieux, i m’fait d’la peine1”.
— Mais pourquoi?
— Son truc est bourré de SPOILERS. Il m’a gâché pour moi le bouquin de Marcel.
— Mais il ne faut que lire l’avertissement au lecteur; voilà au tout début t’es bien prévenu:

Avertissement au lecteur: cet article est bourré de SPOILERS.

Robert A. Caro’s The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power

I had a professor in architecture school who said that you couldn’t draw up a building properly at 1:100 scale until you had worked out all the details at 1:20. Whether or not this is true for architecture, Robert Caro demonstrates how well such an approach works for writing history. Throughout The Years of Lyndon Johnson, and most particularly in his fourth and latest volume, The Passage of Power, Caro zooms in and out without ever losing the complex whole he has so carefully built up. Immense as Caro’s project is, The Passage of Power demonstrates the logic of his decision to extend the project to a fifth volume (he originally planned only three). The first 47 days of the Johnson administration, in which the best version of the man took charge, culminate this volume and are well worth the several hundred pages Caro devotes to them. There will be plenty of space for “ruthlessness, secretiveness, deceit,” the worst aspects of Johnson’s character, in the Years to come.

Rok Miłosza (The Miłosz Year) Comes to Williams College: Inspired by Miłosz, a Tribute by Omar Sangare and his Students

Czesław Miłosz (proonouced Cheswav Meewosh), who died in 2004, was perhaps the best known of Polish literary men in the U.S., thanks to his 20-year tenure as a professor of Slavic languages at the University of Calfornia at Berkeley, where he carried on his work as an essayist, poet, fiction writer, and translator. While he could communicate and occasionally write in English, his poetry became familiar to American readers through translations published in magazines like The New Yorker. He became widely recognized as an ambassador from the land of exile, continually bearing the cross of his numerous emigrations. A Lithuanian Pole, he left for Warsaw under the German occupation. He received his education in Wilno (Vilnius), a city which was long a part of Poland, with many Polish associations, above all literary, since the two great nineteenth century poets, Adam Mickiewicz and Juliusz Słowacki, like Miłosz, spent their formative years there. A diplomat of Communist Poland in the U.S. and France, he sought political asylum in 1951 and lived as an expatriate intellectual in Paris until 1960, when he emigrated to the United States and claimed citizenship in the great everywhere and nowhere of academia. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980. After 1989 he divided his time between Berkeley and Kraków.

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