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Remembering Jonathan Williams (March 8, 1929–March 16, 2008)

I miss the elegance of the man, the energy of the poet, and above all the generosity that made sure publishing was publick-ing, and that brought to the commonwealth (as he might call it), the shivering needy children we are, news that concerned us and made us better—or at least (often) made us laugh.

In Conversation

Jeanette Winterson with TK Wetter

Jeanette Winterson’s most recent novel, The Stone Gods (Harcourt, 2008), spans time and space to critique humanity’s off-kilter relationship to science, technology, and nature. Over email, fittingly, Winterson chatted about the book, and meditated on the power and potential of art to connect us to history, each other, and the world around us.

Nonfiction: Youthful Anarchy

In Provo: Amsterdam’s Anarchist Revolt, Richard Kempton has laid open one of the most intriguing and unthinkable passages in recent European history. Why unthinkable? Imagine this. In 1965, a group of disaffected Dutch youth, fed up with their society’s englobed, smug dedication to consumerism, began weekly performances around the base of an innocuous statue of a child, which they periodically doused with gasoline and wreathed in flames. Aside from a small coterie, nobody but the police paid much attention.

Fiction: The Trojan War Will Take Place

Zachary Mason’s The Lost Books of the Odyssey, winner of Starcherone’s penultimate fiction prize, purports to be an ancient text, recently decoded by the author along with a moonlighting NSA cryptographer, which gives variants on Homer’s epic of the Trojan War. (You can pick it up for the preface alone, a devilishly clever history of the text’s “discovery” and interpretation.)

Nonfiction: Two Sides of a Showdown

When Samuel S. McClure approved, in 1901, his magazine’s best-known writer, Ida Tarbell, to write a 25,000 word, three-part history of The Standard Oil Company, he ignited public outrage, reformist political will and, eventually, triggered the judicial action that broke up the most monopolistic corporate network of its time. In historical perspective, McClure did something else perhaps equally important.

Fiction: To Come Back Rich, or Die There

Vies minuscles, as it was published originally by Gallimard in 1984, was the first book by the prolific French author Pierre Michon, relatively unknown to American readers but long revered in France and adored by certain American writers such as Guy Davenport and Leonard Michaels. Of his twelve books of narrative, which imagine and track the lives of figures such as Rimbaud, Impressionist painters, the author’s family and his own story, this is Michon’s third to be translated into English.

Nonfiction: Weird America

African-American men dressed as savages, a woman named “Woogie” dancing with a python. Many of the photos were taken at Hubert’s Dime Museum and Flea Circus, a now-defunct Times Square freak show with a long inglorious history and a knack for attracting celebrities, including Tom Wolfe, Bob Dylan and Diane Arbus.

Poetry Roundup

Some poets question the very nature of language. Bob Perelman has written about the “value of the dissonance… in Zukovsky” and Serge Gavronsky elaborates on that value in this new book. Named for three articles, the title is an homage to Zukofsky’s Objectivist masterpiece “A”.

Prose Roundup

Life is rhythmically punctuated by death, just as memory is punctuated by moments of revelation, in which the characters are transformed by sudden glimpses of the world beyond knowledge or language. A young handyman believes he sees the finger of God; a girl confined to bed by a nervous disorder feels blessed by the splendid visible and invisible worlds; a college student dives out of his ninth-floor window to, after a poem by Juan Ramón Jiménez, “catch the stars more quickly.”

In Conversation

David Shankbone with Colleen Asper

David Shankbone is a Wikipedia editor, Wikimedia Commons photographer, and an accredited reporter for Wikinews. The subjects of his interviews have ranged from the President of Israel and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Shimon Peres, to the owners of an S&M dungeon. He has also worked with a wide range of authors, photographing the like of Jonathan Safran Foer and Mary Gaitskill, and interviewing Augusten Burroughs, Edmund White, and many others.


The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2008

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