‘Playboy’ After Dark
Peace at last returned to Dublin one hundred years ago this week after the riots that greeted the Dublin debut of J. M. SYNGE’s The Playboy of the Western World.
Apparently, the word shift (petticoat) was so provocative, so exciting, that only an ax-wielding callboy could stop the crowd from taking the stage.
Imagine what they would have done to Stravinsky! . . . MILAN KUNDERA comes onstage with his seven-part essay on the novel, The Curtain. A film adaptation is unlikely, given how Mr. Kundera found the last movie of his work too, too unbearable. . . . But maybe DAVID MATTHEWS’s memoir Ace of Spades, about growing up biracial in Baltimore and passing, will find a taker at Miramax? Especially recommended for readers who like their misogyny raw and unfiltered.
If the Suit Fits
Twenty-seven February 15s ago (look, not all anniversaries are nice round numbers), LILLIAN HELLMAN filed a libel suit against Mary McCarthy for saying, on The Dick Cavett Show, that “every word [Hellman] writes is a lie, including and and the.” And, well, the outcome was that the suit was dropped five years later—over Hellman’s
dead body. . . Good news for writers down under: Entries for THE AUSTRALIAN / VOGEL LITERARY AWARD open this month. Those on top will just have to stay there.
In Israel with nothing to do? Why not stop in at the JERUSALEM INTERNATIONAL BOOK FAIR? They’re announcing the biennial Jerusalem Prize. Past winners have included Antonio Lobo Antunes, Susan Sontag, Don DeLillo, and Graham Greene. The prize goes to a writer who expresses “the freedom of the individual in society.” . . . Someone who probably values that more than most is ISHMAEL BEAH , a member of the Human Rights Watch Children’s Rights Division Advisory Committee, whose memoir on being a child soldier in Sierra Leone, A Long Way Gone, comes out this week. . . . Perhaps now is the time to quote some pithy words of W. H. AUDEN? “May I, composed like them / Of Eros and of dust, / Beleaguered by the same / Negation and despair, / Show an affirming flame.” The centenary of the poet’s birth is February 21. . . . Salutations also to EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY, whose 115th anniversary arrives the next day.
Art Is Long, Longfellow Longer
FEBRUARY 26–MARCH 4
And LONGFELLOW’s got them all beat! Henry Wadsworth turns two hundred this week. . . . ’Twas warm by the flames with the Fireside Poets, but it’s considerably chillier in Chicago, which MICHAEL LESYvisits in Murder City: The Bloody History of Chicago in the Twenties. Each chapter tells a different story of mayhem and madness in 1920s Chicago, where in 1924 the murder rate was 24 percent above the national urban average. Between 1875 and 1920, Lesy writes, female-perpetrated murders rose 420 percent. And a number of juries let them get away with it. “Every white woman who killed her husband between August, 1905, and October, 1918, was exonerated or acquitted.” When she was good, she was very good indeed, but when she was bad . . .
Pool for Love
LIONEL SHRIVER took the Orange Prize in 2005 for talking about Kevin; her new novel is The Post-birthday World. Suffering from an unfortunate moniker (what’s next, The Pre-anniversary Moment of Reckoning?), TPW tells the story of a children’s-book illustrator who must choose between two men—her current partner and a snooker player. Will she get snookered? Whom will she snooker? Shriver tells both versions of the story, in alternating chapters, to draw out the consequence of her protagonist’s choice (and/or lack thereof.) Canoodling awaits ye who enter here! . . . And what’s this I spy, with my little eye? A new book by KURT ANDERSEN? Heyday debuts this week.
Stayed up all night performing shamanistic rituals to celebrate MIRCEA ELIADE ’s hundreth birthday? Stay in tonight with JONATHAN LETHEM’s latest, You Don’t Love Me Yet. The boy-meets-girl story concerns the high jinks that result when a complaint hotline (and a Complainer) meet a rock band.
Guerrillas in the Mist
LAURA RESTREPO’s Delirium comes out in English translation this week. In the ’80s, Restrepo was part of the commission that negotiated peace between the Colombian government and the M-19 guerrillas—how’s that for delirium? . . . And while we’re on the subject of young guns, MICHAEL WALLIS’s Billy the Kid is out. The Kid, or, if you prefer, Henry McCarty, is said to have laid nine men down and was eventually laid down himself by Sheriff Garrett (who also wrote the first Kid biography, The Authentic Life of Billy, the Kid). . . . Slightly less exciting than gangsters, if slightly more exciting than LOUIS L'AMOUR’s birthday (March 22), the ORANGE PRIZE long list is announced this week. Recent winners include Zadie Smith, Andrea Levy, and Ann Patchett.