By all accounts, Atticus Lish, the son of the editor Gordon Lish, has written a great American novel, in the fullest sense of American. Preparations For The Next Life… I haven’t read it yet, but I can’t resist helping to spread the word on this one. Here’s the New York Review of Books review, and several interviews with Lish on his background and how the book came together. Interview here, here and here.
Here’s the opening paragraph of the NYRB review by Cathleen Schine:
“Preparation for the Next Life, by Atticus Lish, is an astounding first novel about a world so large there is, sometimes, nowhere to go; a world so small the people in it, sometimes, get lost. The book has the boundless, epic exhilaration you expect to find only in a writer as mighty as, say, Walt Whitman. It is a love story, a war story, a tale of New York City in which familiar streets become exotic, mysterious, portentous, foul, magnificent. Some of it reads like poetry. All of it moves with a breathless momentum.”
Here’s an essential new book by Greil Marcus, our best writer and social critic on Rock, Blues and early American music. The premise is 10 Rock songs as a way to approach the intertwined history of Rock music. He has an uncanny knack of taking a knife and opening up the heart of songs, putting you inside the music, making you wish for a compilation of the songs he illuminates. The choices are not what you’d expect – some are very obscure – leaving you wishing you had his ears and knowledge to “read” the music. Here’s an interview.
The Spectator has an article here about James, his serious health problems, and the books he hopes to finish: “This month there is a new book of writing on poetry, Poetry Notebook. He still hopes to live to see a new Collected Poems out next year, perhaps finish a final volume of memoirs and write a sequel to his immense 2007 work Cultural Amnesia.”
I’m slowing down the tune
I never liked it fast
You want to get there soon
I want to get there last
It’s not because I’m old
It’s not the life I led
I always liked it slow
That’s what my mama said
– Poem/lyrics from his new album, Popular Problems
Anthony Bourdain has helped put much needed reality into the world of television, with his shows No Reservations and Parts Unknown, while his books deliver good writing and interesting takes on life. Here’s a good interview with him on Blogs of War. Check it out here.
A quote from the interview:
“My crew has NEVER been treated so well – by total strangers everywhere. We had heard that Persians are nice. But nicEST? Didn’t see that coming. It’s very confusing. Total strangers thrilled to encounter Americans, just underneath the inevitable “Death To America” mural. The gulf between perception and reality, between government policy and what you see on the street and encounter in people’s homes, in restaurants – everywhere – it’s just incredible. There’s no way to be prepared for it.”
The Sinosphere blog of The New York Times has published an interview with Bill Porter, who also publishes translations of Chinese texts under the pseudonym of Red Pine, upon the release of his Yellow River Odyssey, a travel journal written just prior to China’s emergence into the modern world. His extensive photographs of the trip capture a China that has largely disappeared. Many of Red Pine’s books are now bestsellers in China, after being translated from English into Chinese, including his translations and commentaries on Buddhist poems and sutras. The interview is by China correspondent Ian Johnson, and can be read here.
Yellow River Odyssey is published by Chin Music Press.
Notes for a prelude to an earlier Q&A interview with poet and novelist Jim Harrison:
“Like a diving board, these questions are meant as jumping-off points. They await your exotic, mid-air maneuvering; no-splash 10-pointers; or massive cannonballs of spray washing the sun-block off the babes at the edge of the pool…
“…Harrison’s warm-blooded media personae sprang from his natural swagger and wit… his love of art, stories, food, drink and a Dionysian-courting of the Word. Like Falstaff, he chose Life as the answer to the question. Wisdom sprang from the tested, hard-earned lessons of walking back-and-forth on Blake’s Road of Excess. Throughout, he followed – most closely –his self-anointed gods on earth, the whispering spirits, the woods and fields, the animals, the birds, the rivers and mountains. True writers and poets read his work as transfusions of the Blood of Art. But again, dim-witted people misread his novels, believing his outlying, brutish, alpha male characters are stand-ins for Harrison rather than witty, ironic metaphors for escaping a life of entrapment – a life in which true consciousness is foreign and forever unapproachable instead of native.”