Quick Study: May 2008 Archives
See in particular the recent item about Rock Against Racism.
Which reminds me....My essay about Joe Strummer from five years ago is now up at the site of the magazine that originally published it. The preferred title would be "Hearing Music From Another Time" (per the song "Spanish Bombs") but so it goes.
Only in one case was that cause for real grief. By then, I had for some years been on the editorial board of New Politics, the socialist journal founded by Phyllis and Julius Jacobson.
Somehow the journal has outlasted them. (Phyllis is still alive, but a very bad stroke has left her unable to communicate.)
Having subsequently parted ways with the Chronicle, I am happy now to say that I've been asked to rejoin the New Politics board. The journal's website will be undergoing a substantial overhaul before long. More on that as things develop.
So I learn from my friend Emily Gordon, who has made kept a close watch on the magazine over the years. Thanks for the bulletin, Emily.
Well, I certainly did not see that coming. So far this month, posting anything to this blog has been a pretty low priority -- nor have I been doing much at either Crooked Timber or Critical Mass lately. It has not been a matter of going on hiatus so much as being very preoccupied with the sort of considerations described by James Baldwin in that passage quoted here recently.
In any case, I've been meaning to pick up the pace again -- and now there's more incentive to do so. No idea who at The New Yorker reads Quick Study, or how this came to pass. But welcome to any new visitors. By all means look around in the archives.
In 1985, a friend lent me a 4-song, 7-inch EP song by Billy Bragg. The name didn't ring a bell. But a couple of years earlier I'd read Christopher Hill's book about the underground groups that had emerged during the English Civil War (the Diggers, the Ranters, the Fifth Monarchy Men) some of which were putting forward a revolutionary socialist vision in religious language -- and here was Bragg bringing that tradition into the present day....
In the interest of accuracy, I should make clear that the photo at Critical Mass was taken before the gray hair started taking over (in particular, the beard). My days as a sad young literary man are well behind me.
As a matter of fact, I sometimes carry around a piece of paper containing an extract from an essay by James Baldwin, written in his mid-forties:
"Though we would like to live without regrets, and sometimes proudly insist that we have none, this is not really possible, if only because we are mortal. When more time stretches behind than stretches before one, some assessments, however reluctantly and incompletely, begin to be made. Between what one wishes to become and what one has become there is a momentous gap, which will now never be closed. And this gap seems to operate as one's final margin, one's last opportunity, for creation. And between the self as it is and the self as one sees it, there is also a distance even harder to gauge. Some of us are compelled, around the middle of our lives, to make a study of this baffling geography, less in the hope of conquering these distances than in the determination that the distance shall not become any greater."
I must have gone over this passage a hundred times now. No maps available for navigating through "this baffling geography," alas. But it's good to have one's location so precisely identified.
"Who would have guessed that when you remove Garfield from the Garfield comic strips, the result is an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life? Friends, meet Jon Arbuckle. Let's laugh and learn with him on a journey deep into the tortured mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness in a quiet American suburb."
"Garfield Minus Garfield" archive here.
Via Obey Your Signal Only.
1. Richard Price, LUSH LIFE, Farrar, Straus & Giroux
2. Jhumpa Lahiri, UNACCUSTOMED EARTH, Knopf
3. Steven Millhauser, DANGEROUS LAUGHTER, Knopf
*4. Charles Baxter, THE SOUL THIEF, Pantheon
*4. Peter Carey, HIS ILLEGAL SELF, Knopf
*4. J. M. Coetzee, DIARY OF A BAD YEAR, Viking
*4. James Collins, BEGINNNER'S GREEK, Little, Brown
*4. Brian Hall, FALL OF FROST, Viking
*4. Roxana Robinson, COST, Farrar, Straus & Giroux
*4. Owen Sheers, RESISTANCE, Nan A. Talese: Doubleday
* tied for this position
1. Nicholson Baker, HUMAN SMOKE: THE BEGINNING OF WORLD WAR II, THE END OF CIVILIZATION, S. & S.
2. Drew Gilpin Faust, THIS REPUBLIC OF SUFFERING: DEATH AND THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR, Knopf
3. Mark Harris, PICTURES AT THE REVOLUTION: FIVE MOVIES AND THE BIRTH OF THE NEW HOLLYWOOD, Penguin Press
4. Honor Moore, THE BISHOP'S DAUGHTER: A MEMOIR, Norton
5. Susan Jacoby, THE AGE OF AMERICAN UNREASON, Pantheon
1. Grace Paley, FIDELITY, Farrar, Straus & Giroux
2. Frank Bidart, WATCHING THE SPRING FESTIVAL, Farrar, Straus & Giroux
3. Eric Gansworth, A HALF-LIFE OF CARDIO-PULMONARY FUNCTION, Syracuse University Press
4. Marie Howe, THE KINGDOM OF ORDINARY TIME, Norton
5. Robert Pinsky, GULF MUSIC, Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Once again, the titles I nominated did not make the cut. But then again my nomination for best nonfiction book last time was Julian Bourg's From Revolution to Ethics: May 1968 and Contemporary French Thought. Which, by the way, rocks.
The books I suggested this time were, perhaps, slightly easier to find at your nearby strip-mall, but still....I won' t say any more about what they were for now, since the nominations will be posted at Critical Mass at some point.
UPDATE: Here are my recommendations