Eddie S. Glaude Jr. on James Baldwin • Rick Perlstein on Ronald Reagan • Fredrik Logevall on John F. Kennedy • David S. Reynolds on Abraham Lincoln • Judith Thurman to give the Annual Leon Levy Lecture on Biography • David Nasaw on his new book, ‘The Last Million’
‘This is Burroughs the self-styled revolutionary at his most historically explicit, the courageous whistle-blower in 1960 denouncing and exposing media magnates, business moguls, bankers, political leaders and scientists as part of a larger, deeper conspiracy at work behind the scenes of the mid-twentieth century.’ By Oliver Harris BATTLE INSTRUCTIONS addresses particular individuals, which marks a […]
As I continue to read “All the Sonnets of Shakespeare,” edited by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells, I’m more than ever impressed by the remarkable clarity of the presentation. An added bonus is the intimacy of the scholarship, especially for a non-specialist like me. “The year 1591 saw the beginning of a sudden vogue,” they write, “for the composition and publication of sequences of interrelated sonnets initiated by the posthumous publication in that year of Sir Philip Sidney’s ‘Astrophil and Stella’.” Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets are “on the whole, a collection of often highly personally inflected poems written over at least twenty-seven years, rather than a sequence aimed at catching the mood and developing the taste for a literary fashion. His sonnets are not public poems written and published for money; . . . they were published a decade after the vogue for sonnets had passed, printed only once, and were ‘clearly a flop on their first appearance.’ He seems interested primarily in using the sonnet form to work out his intimate thoughts and feelings.”
Instead of reading the sonnets in the numbered sequence of the 1609 folio, which is the usual way, the editors of ‘All the Sonnets of Shakespeare’ examine them in what they believe was their order of composition. This puts a special focus on the considerable tinkering that went into them. Their method yields lovely insights that bring us closer to the man himself and his development as a writer.
It’s a 16,000-word letter that Neal Cassady wrote to Jack Kerouac, who said it was his inspiration for On The Road. The letter, written in 1950, went missing and was found in an attic in Oakland, California, in 2011. Now for the first time it is being brought out in full by the London-based publisher Black Spring with an introduction by the noted Beat scholar A. Robert Lee, along with illustrations. I’m betting Lee will tell us if the letter really was the inspiration for On the Road—Kerouac, true to his calling, loved to make things up— and if he really did adopt his prose style from it. The reality is likely more nuanced than the legend.
A summer package for the avant garde:
‘BRION GYSIN LET THE MICE IN’ edited and with a foreword by Jan Herman and with an introduction by Douglas Field.
“MINUTES TO GO Redux’ edited and with an introduction by Oliver Harris.
‘THE EXTERMINATOR Redux’ edited and with an introduction by Oliver Harris.
‘BATTLE INSTRUCTIONS’ edited and with an introduction by Oliver Harris.
Readers wanted to know all about their celebrities, or at least about my encounters with them. From A-listers and B-listers right down to Z-listers. The whole stupid alphabet top to bottom. Names to be forgotten one day. They needed the publicity and I needed the job. I wasn’t a star fucker—I’ll say that, having come from the newsroom with no more interest in celebrities than any routine reporter. I was a stand-in for star fuckers.
Follow the countdown—the days, hours, minutes, and yes, even the seconds—to Blake Gopnik’s chat with Annalyn Swan about his biography of Andy Warhol. Well, it IS a big book. Big in page count (976). Big in subject (Warhol’s influence rivals Picasso’s.) Stellar in praise. (I’ve read only one review that dumps on it, persuasively.) So okay, a countdown.
Jeff Ball, collector extraordinaire of rare Burroughsiana, tells me he recently picked up a handful of relevant little magazines at auction in his seemingly endless quest to capture an intriguing slice of literary history. His collection also includes scattered ephemera which illuminate peculiar nooks and crannies of that literary history sometimes to telling effect. Have a look at a postcard to Herbert Huncke—signed by Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Peter Orlovsky, and Gregory Corso—that he also recently acquired. The ironies abound.
Jeff Ball’s latest acquisition—a first-edition copy of “The Exterminator”— is not only signed by both William Burroughs and Brion Gysin but has original artwork that Gysin drew and signed on an inside page. “I’m giddy!” says Ball, whose collection of rare first editions by Burroughs and associated writers, includes some of the most hard-to-find materials anywhere.
“My texts belong to the world / Even when they are forged copies / My translators complain of climbing steps to attics / They complain of sifting through the debris in basements / They complain over the endless boxes stored / In countries that don’t even allow them entry / A watchdog guards a box somewhere in Moscow / An irate lover protects another box / My translators complain of bad backs and dust / One translator complained because of the food …” —William ‘Cody’ Maher