Morris does an especially lovely job of elevating the ordinary. Men without much money or glamour to their lives smoke and drink, ride the bus, and sit home alone in the evenings; he makes it beautiful, transmuting daily existence into something gleaming and sensual the way a car’s dull steel frame shines with chrome. Morris notices a neighborhood with ‘glass glittering on the sidewalks, houses in need of paint, black bruises on the street where cars had leaked their vital fluids.’ Placing a call to Alabama, Doyle imagines ‘Rod Steiger sitting at a desk chain-smoking cigarettes and sending gouts of tobacco juice into a Maxwell House coffee can while the blades of a ceiling fan chopped the foggy air.’ One man’s face ‘sagged like a melting candle.’
There are many flavors of noir, but the one that may be the most relevant to our lives today, Julia Ingalls argues, is corporate noir, which often takes the form of science fiction. At the LARB, she writes about several examples of the genre, including Alan Glynn’s Graveland and Natsuo Kirino’s Out.
As in many other Western countries the ‘elite’ has become suspicious, but in Danish even ‘ambition’ has a negative connotation. When I look it up in my English dictionary, it’s associated with words like ‘achievement’ and ‘performance,’ ‘will power’ and ‘hard work;’ the examples suggest that ambition is an acceptable, or even admirable, way to achieve your goals (ambitious students; an ambitious attempt to break the record; an ambitious program to eliminate all slums). Definitions in my Danish dictionary, on the other hand, are notably different: ‘1) Which is full of ambition = desirous, pushy: an ambitious career-hunter. 2) Which requires great effort, perhaps too great: a very ambitious project, an ambitious goal.’
Works have been published by women veterans from all four branches of service, officers and enlisted, active duty and reservists, and from multiple ethnic backgrounds. Their diverse voices can significantly deepen our understanding of both who volunteers to serve in today’s military and what they experience.
Too often I read reviews that are concerned with nothing but the book in question, and there’s a hermetically sealed quality to such reviews, a narrowness of scope. I’ve come to believe that good reviewing requires engaging with the world outside of the individual book. At the very least, the book should be placed in the context of other books, but ideally—and I recognize that this is an entirely subjective opinion—I prefer reviews that go beyond talking about literature, so that the book under review is considered in the context of the surrounding world.
At the LARB, Anne Trubek quotes Lionel Trilling in a review of The Son and American Rust, the two books published thus far by New Yorker 20 Under 40 alum Phillipp Meyer. “In the American metaphysic,” Trilling wrote in his essay “Reality in America,” “reality is always material reality, hard, resistant, unformed, impenetrable, and unpleasant.” Those of you who read our pieces on both books may be able to guess why the quote is relevant.
The booger in the pool is way more important to me than what place I came in at the 1988 or 1992 trials.
The most important literature we write in the Anthropocene will be the words that enable us to ensure breathable air, drinkable water, nutritious food, and the persistence of the abundant life that makes it all possible on this rocky mothership.