"This is the way that pop ends," music critic Simon Reynolds wrote in his 2011 book, Retromania. "Not with a bang but with a box set whose fourth disc you never get around to playing and an overpriced ticket to the track-by-track restaging of the Pavement album you played to death in your first year in college." The death of originality in music; our cultural obsession with nostalgia; the near-total availability of any kind of music, at any time—these are the themes that made Retromania one of
DAY 1 Date: December 10, 2011 (Saturday) Time: 3:09 pm Location: Cabinet Event Space, Gowanus, Brooklyn Weather: Cold, white sky “We have a picture—” says Brian Dillon, UK editor of Cabinet Magazine. “Here we are—of Shaw turning his shed.” Dillon pulls out a photograph of Bernard Shaw in a military suit pulling a shed. Writerly sheds is one of the subjects Dillon will be—no, is—writing about in his forthcoming book, I Am Sitting in a Room, about writers and their workspaces. Thus far, he
When the Swedish Academy announced Tomas Tranströmer as the 2011 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, I was, first as an admirer and then as one of the poet’s translators, thrilled beyond measure. Not only is Tomas Tranströmer one of the finest and most distinct poets of his generation, he is one of the world’s most beloved poets. These two qualities (genius and popularity) are rarely bedfellows. His books appear in hundreds of editions in nearly sixty languages, and his devoted translators
The crowd that filled the auditorium at the Museum of Modern Art earlier this month twinkled with eccentric glasses and necklaces. Most hair was gray or graying; viewing audience members’ heads from an auditorium perch was a little like gazing down at a cloud from an airplane window. Their color suited the occasion: we had gathered to celebrate the life of Dorothea Tanning, a surrealist poet and painter who turned 101 over the summer. Best known for her early surrealist paintings, which hang in
Translated by Robin Fulton Two Cities Each on its side of a strait, two cities the one blacked out, occupied by the enemy. In the other the lamps are burning. The bright shore hypnotizes the dark one. I swim out in a trance on the glittering dark waters. A dull tuba-blast penetrates. It’s a friend’s voice, take up your grave and walk. The Light Streams In Outside the window, the long beast of spring the transparent dragon of sunlight rushes past like an endless suburban train—we
Pay attention to the poetry world, and you’ll notice a kind of false advertising: most of published criticism is positive even though so much of published poetry is bad. (This is probably why a lot of people don’t pay attention to the poetry world.) One reason for the dearth of critical comeuppances is that even bad poems are often hard to understand and harder to understand conclusively, so negative critics risk missing something and looking like fools. They misinterpret what they malign, they
On a brief visit to Jerusalem I walked the streets of Mea Shearim, one of the city’s more colorful neighborhoods, and home to Haredi Jews. The ingenuous tourist could be forgiven for thinking that he or she has strayed onto a film set depicting the life of a nineteenth-century Jewish shtetl. But life in Mea Shearim is for real, preserved the way it was a hundred years ago. My eye caught a trio of skinny, pallid-looking men in tall black hats and draped in black frock coats. They stood there in
According to Kinsley’s Law, first promulgated by New Republic editor and columnist Michael Kinsley: “The real scandal is what’s legal.” The Watergate scandal – a bungled espionage attempt against the Democratic Party – unseated an otherwise popular President whose bombing of Indochinese civilians was one of the 20th century’s great barbarities. The Iran-Contra scandal, in which a not-yet-impotent Congress’s prerogatives were flouted, embarrassed an even more popular President whose foreign policy
I am always afraid I am about to become one of those bitter New Yorkers. Someone with a constantly sour expression on his face and wrinkled, yellowy skin like an old front page. That person you see in the deli who screams: “Eight dollars for grapes? This city is for yuppies!” Not long ago, in 2009, I went on a trip that sort of put me on the fast track to becoming a bitter New Yorker and I need to tell you about it before you find me raving on the street corner and nervously pass me by. This
On a rainy Monday afternoon in Burlington, Vermont, I wander past the whole-grain sandwich shops and slick ethnic bistros of the Church Street pedestrian mall, drawn by invisible magnets towards the retail zone’s centerpiece—Borders bookstore, a substantial brick building as set against time as the Parthenon. A couple of guys stand around the entrance holding up black and yellow cardboard signs: Up to 40% off all stock! Everything must go! I’ve come to pay my last respects to the dying giant.