I have two very particular books of letters on my desk. Particular in that neither is the collected correspondence of one writer in touch with a number of recipients over time, nor gathered together to reflect the breadth of the recipients, nor the myriad points of connections the writer made in a lifetime, nor focused on an event of significance—a crisis lived through and reported on, personal or universal. More particular than that. Keep Reading
For me it all started in 1991 in Munich at the Glyptothek. First visit there and unsure about the city with its place as a fertile bed for the rise of the National Socialist Party, indeed its foundation was there in 1919. Even though it was May, the weather had turned and we were faced—dressed in light jackets, jeans and sneakers—with angled sheets of rain and snow… Keep Reading
Larry exhibits obsessive-compulsive behaviour. When he was a young man, its manifestations were more prevalent, the urges to follow the inclinations directed by this disorder more compelling. Now he is a mature adult, the expressions of the disorder have receded, are in check. My obsession—of a milder, readerly sort—is with the author of the book kaddish.com, which houses the character Larry. It’s Nathan Englander and it’s this book and the others by the same author. Keep Reading
Carolee Schneeman’s Body of Letters
I’ve just finished reading Correspondence Course, An Epistolary History of Carolee Schneemann and Her Circle, edited by the noted art historian Kristine Stiles (Duke University Press, 2010)—a powerful bound sheaf of paper—more than 500 pages filled with letters, mostly written by Carolee Schneemann, with a number written to her. They date from 1956 to 1999 and there are more not included in this volume. Keep Reading
Fleur Jaeggy is the most accomplished scribe of detachment. In her collections of short stories, I Am the Brother of XX and Last Vanities, and in the novels, SS Proleterka and Sweet Days of Discipline, there is a prevailing sense of isolation—readily recognizable as the epidemic condition of our time—an almost truculent inability to connect, and desperation without surfeit. And here is Patrick Modiano as heartbreakingly accomplished in these unfortunate states as she is, describing the daily coming into being of the abandoned child who builds a person from the sad materials of neglect, lack of regard, of never having been held, or insufficiently—and then overlooked and left behind. Keep Reading
Before global warming and the publication of Gertrude Stein’s “The Making of Americans”, Paul Klee noted in his diary (“The Diaries of Paul Klee 1898–1918”) that in Switzerland the summer of 1911 was one of extreme heat.
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