The book’s central problem is that Dyer does not appear interested in the people he meets on the ship as people, but as corporeal representations of work ethic and purpose. I lost track of the references to ‘the fourteen-hour days’ that the crewmates work, but I’m pretty sure there were somewhere around fourteen. These men and women have something important to do, and Dyer doesn’t want to let you to forget it, even though you don’t get to know any of the men or women very well at all. Are any of them annoyed by the captain’s enforced cheeriness? We don’t know. Is the chef, who dreamt of becoming the chef at the White House but found her application thwarted by bureaucracy, bitter? Dyer wonders for a moment, but quickly gets distracted. The closest we come to differentiation among these people is when one man is referred as ‘more in love — if such a thing were possible — than the other people I’d met who were seriously in love with what they did.’
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.’
"In four seasons, Don’s argument on behalf of advertising has gone from There’s something missing in the world that you’re uniquely able to provide to You need something to do to occupy your time until you die on your couch.”
It wasn’t long after ‘The Beast Attacked’ (in fact it was the next night) that Iglalik told the story, ‘A Bigger Beast Attacked Me Last Week.’ Another compelling tale, even if some felt it derivative. Iglalik added three crucial elements: he made the beast bigger, he told how he felt when the beast attacked, and he told us what he did: run away. Many of us, especially the younger listeners, thrilled to the added suspense and detail.
For Austrian novelist and short story writer Stefan Zweig (1881–1942), it is precisely those Habsburgian frivolities that define Vienna’s tragedy in their presence and absence alike. If The Third Man is cynical, Zweig’s is elegiac, beckoning us into a vanished world: a world of Baronesses and bibliophiles, gamblers, and actors — all suffering from the inevitable decline of their own personal eras of innocence.
Denmark has a new superstar, and he’s a poet named Yahya Hassan. At 18, Hassan has published a poetry collection that sold 100,000 copies in three months — a figure that, in Denmark, translates to one copy for every fifty residents. At the LARB, Pedja Jurisic delves into the young poet’s incendiary politics.
At the LARB, Millions contributor Nathan Deuel reviews Silence Once Begun by Jesse Ball, which we covered as part of our Great 2014 Book Preview. Nathan calls the novel “daring and odd” and notes that, as the plot advances, “even we readers become slightly shaky witnesses.” You can learn more about Jesse Ball’s work in our own Janet Potter’sreview of his novel The Curfew.
"The trouble is that monsters have a lineage too, and our monsters have changed. Errol Childress is a quaint monster, a monster of convenience, a camp monster, a monster in drag. Monster, as every English professor likes to remind us, comes from the same root as demonstrate: a monster is supposed to mean, to signify, to instruct. Errol Childress has nothing to teach us, and neither does True Detective in its fond hope that these old manly genres can keep operating in the exhausted currency of mutilated women, or its insistence that evil somehow proclaims itself."
Through such experiments, Lee seems preoccupied by the need to make this familiar form something different from what we think it is, so that it can more capably capture a reality that has fast been veering into the unreal. It’s not just that the world outside the novel has made this jump, but also that we cannot evade the world’s strangeness when the storytellers, and the characters into which they breathe life, increasingly come from such different perspectives.