'See here, I want you to come to Random House and lose some money for us with literary books,' the press’s president and publisher, Harold Evans, told Daniel Menaker, then fiction editor of The New Yorker, in 1995. 'You have five years to fook oop.'
Tuesday New Release Day
Out this week: The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt; The Heaven of Animals by David James Poissant; Cementville by Paulette Livers; Damage Control by Amber Dermont;Blood Will Out by Up in the Air author Walter Kirn; Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler; and The Haunted Life, a new collection of early writing by Jack Kerouac.
Although I would hardly have been able to articulate the thought at the time, what I found most attractive in Chandler’s work was the sumptuousness of the prose style. Even when the streets that Marlowe was obliged to go down were the meanest, the language in which they were described was rich in metaphor, at once sensuous and crisp, and marvellously redolent of mid-century California, a place and a time we all thought we were familiar with from the movies.
Poems are adept at expressing interior conflict, at enacting complex thought, at feeling strongly through not-knowing—but somehow, when we enter the territory of politics, we expect our poems to shill for votes, to argue strongly for particular beliefs. Emily Dickinson does not know if there is a god or a void, an afterlife, a stasis, or a zero at the bone. But reading her theologically inflected poems allows us to wrestle with these unanswerable questions with her—and to come out not with answers, but with a deeper sense of the questions.
In a Simpsons episode from the late nineties, Lisa Simpson, concerned that her mental skills may be deteriorating, manages to finagle her way onto a local TV news broadcast, where she urges the residents of Springfield to read two books: To Kill a Mockingbird and Harriet the Spy. At first glance, the two novels might not seem to have that much in common, but as Anna Holmes argues in a blog post for The New Yorker, the books share “ideas about the complexity, sophistication, and occasional wickedness of young girls’ imaginations.” (You could also read our own Garth Risk Hallberg on Malcolm Gladwell and To Kill a Mockingbird.)
I couldn’t care less really if I’ve disillusioned you. It is within your gift not to read the book. So really, it didn’t give me the minimum pause for thought.