“Sitting down to read The Actress, Amy Sohn’s newest novel, is even better than standing in line at the grocery store while the person in front of you disputes the price of a carton of orange juice, giving you extra time to read the tabloids. The Actress might be as licentious as a tabloid, but it is far more intelligently written. And, you probably won’t be reading it while standing in line inside a grocery store.”
Between the 1880s and World War I, Hawthorne worked as the literary editor of the New York World, interviewed Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, covered the scandalous Stanford White murder case, reported on the 1900 Galveston hurricane and starvation in India, published five detective novels, became a friend of presidential hopeful William Jennings Bryan, and wrote frequently about sports for various newspapers (being among the first to predict the greatness of Babe Ruth). But needing money in 1908, Hawthorne foolishly lent his name and pen to what turned out to be a bogus silver mine scheme. Convicted of fraud, he served a prison term — and in 1914 produced a major exposé of penal conditions called The Subterranean Brotherhood.
There’s a new edition of The Sun Also Rises, complete with a previously unpublished opening chapter-and-a-half, but Jonathan Goldman argues the new text only emphasizes the novel’s unsavory undertones.
Had my piano teacher scrawled, ‘Play one wrong note and you die’ across my sheet music in addition to her helpful but not particularly inspirational fingering suggestions, I probably would have practiced more diligently.
So there it was, still intact despite the technological advances and laconic delivery: the lyricism of night flight as first and famously evoked by Saint-Exupéry. It was as if he had revealed something intimate to me, the experience that was at the core of his being: a realm of poetry accessible only to those whose world-view is based on technology, knowledge and calculation rather than wide-eyed wonder.
Geoff Dyers’ book Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the U.S.S. George W. Bush, gives us a look at the humdrum beauty of the routine on the largest aircraft carrier in the world.
Young God is a strong entry in the tradition of the Southern Gothic Novel (redneck noir subcategory), but, while reading it and after watching the HBO series True Detective, I began to wonder if the genre still has any explanatory power for contemporary America. Stripped of its context and without invigorating it with new significance, that familiar mood has become an affectation. The style is still there, nestled between the derelict churches and the epic violence, but without the expansive critique that ran like a quicksilver thread through Wise Blood and Absalom! Absalom!
Caveat Emptor is a kind of shaggy dog story in dialog with a well-known masterpiece from the Western Canon. It begins with a shocking thing happening to a nondescript man. After this explosive occurrence, a series of other things proceed to happen with depressing predictability. Meanwhile, other characters do things to themselves and to others before everything culminates in one big anti-climactic event that nonetheless changes things forever. A more competent author (and indeed a more considerate human being) would surely have ordered things differently and dug deeper into the various political, social and economic implications so clearly lurking in every twist and turn I’ve outlined above.
If Labor Day had existed when I was pregnant, I am honestly not sure if it would have helped me to answer my doctor’s question or left me feeling even more confused, but I’m certain I would have read every single one of these essays anyway. Most birth stories I know were delivered second-hand; they’re a little fuzzy around the edges, a little watered-down, and often simplified so as not to frighten. But there’s nothing watered-down about the stories in this volume: they are blunt, wistful, confessional, wise, loving, sorrowful, witty, and sometimes eerie.