The Magic and Mystery of Literary Maps

Robert Macfarlane, Frances Hardinge and Miraphora Mina at The Guardian: In the beginning was the map. Robert Louis Stevenson drew it in the summer of 1881 to entertain his 12-year-old stepson, Lloyd Osbourne, while on a rainy family holiday in Scotland. It depicts a rough-coasted island of woods, peaks, swamps and coves. A few place names are…

‘Berlin Alexanderplatz’ by Alfred Döblin

Adrian Nathan West at The Quarterly Conversation: In the tempest-plagued teapot of English translation, Michael Hofmann’s dust-ups are notorious: he compared Stefan Zweig’s suicide note to an Oscar acceptance speech, eviscerated James Reidel’s translations of Thomas Bernhard’s poems, brushed off George Konrad’s A Feast in the Garden as “dire… export-quality horseshit.” Critics seem generally pleased with his…

Stravinsky’s Late 12-tone Masterpiece

Sudip Bose at The American Scholar: The origins of this masterpiece can arguably be traced to 1948, the year Stravinsky met Robert Craft, who was then a 25-year-old musician schooled in the works of the Second Viennese School. Stravinsky employed the young man as his secretary, but over time, the two artists became colleagues as…

Kyiv: A Love Letter

Oksana Forostyna at Eurozine: During the warm summer nights three years before Maidan, just as my Kyiv life began, I often stood where my grandma lived when her Kyiv life ended. Of all what drew to a close. Given everything that she told me, it seemed that those days were the happiest of her life:…

Renegades from Sixties Abstraction

Peter Schjeldahl at The New Yorker: Downes’s own meticulously descriptive pictures of the woebegone subjects that he favors—industrial zones, Texas deserts, highway structures, the New Jersey Meadowlands—do that, too, with a deadpan restraint that has kept his fan base small but ardent throughout the half century of his career. I’m a member. We cherish Downes’s…

Notes on Trap

Jesse McCarthy at n+1: RAINDROP. IF THE MARK of the poetic, of the living force of lyric in the world, is the ability to change the inflection and understanding of a single word, to instantly evoke and move speech into song, then what better example do we have than the poetics of Migos and their breakthrough…

The Resolution of America’s Best-Known Feud

Jayne Anne Phillips at Lapham’s Quarterly: The so-called Hog Trial took place against a background of bitterness regarding Cline-McCoy loss of land in West Virginia. It’s hard not to recognize the hardships of the postwar decades in the mountains, particularly for the less affluent McCoys, for whom the butchering of a hog could mean the…

Thomas Cromwell: A Life

Peter Marshall at Literary Review: In the conduct of public affairs in the 1530s, Cromwell seems ubiquitous and MacCulloch does more than any previous scholar (or even previous scholarship in aggregate) to track the range of his activities. There is a fascinating retelling of a familiar story: his role in dissolving monasteries. Cromwell was not,…

Simone de Beauvoir: Freedom and Forgiveness

Skye C. Cleary at the Times Literary Supplement: The emphasis on situation is one of the key factors that distinguishes Beauvoir from other existentialists. For Beauvoir, we are free, but we are also thrown into contexts where we don’t always have the freedom to choose. This is very different from Jean-Paul Sartre’s emphasis on radical…

On ‘On Color’

Gina Barreca at Psychology Today: Yet perhaps one of the greatest compliments I can give “On Color” is that despite the indisputable scholarly erudition found on every page, the clever edge to its witty prose and its own defiantly unclassifiable nature, it’s a book about aesthetics, literature, language, art, physics, optics, race, class and technology—it remains an…