Book Reviews? LRB vs the failing New York Review of Books vs ... ?

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Not to further derail the NYRB publishing imprint thread and to continue this discussion.

The NYRB seems to be really unravelling under Buruma. I let my subscription lapse a couple of years ago but from the occasional issue I've picked up or read bits of online, it seems to be inconsistent in tone both from issue to issue and within an issue. Which I think is a pity because I like many of its regular contributors and don't know where else you would be able to find several of them published in the same place.

The whole Fall of Men seems almost parody and at best appears to be a shameless and tasteless attempt to have an issue go viral. Maybe there'll be an editorial coup in the office and they'll replace him with one of their female editors/regular contributors and/or return to two editors(Silvers/Epstein) to provide a better counterbalance (Darryl Pinckney? Daniel Mendelsohn?).

I do think the LRB is still pretty good but also not as consistent as it used to be. I only pick up the occasional issue where there is an article or two or three I know I want to read. I do like that they continue to publish more interesting younger writers (at least relative to other places).

Where else do people regularly read reviews? James Wood is sometimes good in the New Yorker, depending on what he's writing about. I haven't read the TLS in a long time - maybe worth revisiting?

Federico Boswarlos, Monday, 17 September 2018 15:15 (two years ago) link

I often enjoy book reviews in the NYer but it probably doesn’t compare in hypothetically comprehensive usefulness to the three outlets mentioned. I don’t know how many books LARB actually reviews but they’ve got to be a bit fresher in editorial outlook.

faculty w1fe (silby), Monday, 17 September 2018 16:34 (two years ago) link

Before this later Fall of Men Donnybrook (on which I will reserve judgement until I read the piece in question) I hadn’t noticed any particular decline at the NYRB. It seemed like mostly the same writers covering mostly the same subjects. It was never a magazine known for consistency of tone.

o. nate, Monday, 17 September 2018 17:14 (two years ago) link

Reluctantly say TLS is best for fiction reviews/coverage although I look mainly online, scavenge whatever I am interested in. All sorts of off piece in The New Republic and The Nation.

The other copycat RBs (there is a Brixton review of books now: http://www.brixtonreviewofbooks.net/) are all mildly interesting as an area.

xyzzzz__, Monday, 17 September 2018 17:18 (two years ago) link

o.nate, maybe it's a reflection of my lack of personal interest on areas of its coverage? It dates back to the last couple years of Silvers' reign to be sure but I've just been finding less and less of it very engaging and I've skipped over an increasing % of articles (and I feel like it's been more the case since Buruma took over).

There have also been a few pretty bad/weak one-off reviews over the last few years that I feel wouldn't have meet their editorial standards earlier, as well.

I don't mean to say that regular contributors continuing their beat(s) - so to speak - have all of a sudden declined, but that outside of that I personally find it's been getting less interesting.

Federico Boswarlos, Monday, 17 September 2018 20:00 (two years ago) link

I'll go back and look, but I think there have still been a fair number of interesting articles per issue. If there's been a decline, I'd say it's been fairly slight. It's not like NYRB under Silvers never courted controversy either. Silvers continued publishing Freeman Dyson for instance, even after he fell afoul of climate activists by taking a slightly skeptical stance on how much certainty was possible and suggesting that technological solutions might be worth considering (to be fair Silvers also published Bill McKibben and others).

o. nate, Tuesday, 18 September 2018 00:49 (two years ago) link

Hate to say good things about a Murdoch publication but I do like the TLS, I think it reviews a much wider range of things than the LRB or NYRB. I find myself reading about mediaeval calligraphy or something I'd never normally read about and finding I'm getting something out of it. All too rare an experience with online reading.

Zelda Zonk, Tuesday, 18 September 2018 01:22 (two years ago) link

A glib, but perhaps accurate, statement would be something like:

The NYRB is for people who think Colm Toibin is a good critic.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 18 September 2018 09:30 (two years ago) link

Unfortunately this statement would also somewhat redound on the LRB, to which I am a long-term subscriber.

The NYRB always feels attractive to me, as something comparatively unknown - and bulky, hefty, dense.

But I fear that in truth it is worthy, stuffy, bulky or hefty in a more figurative and unattractive sense.

It's also obsessed with the minutiae of US politics -- understandable maybe, but to a degree that makes it almost like a news review (Spectator, New Statesman or something) rather than a reflective literary / intellectual journal.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 18 September 2018 09:33 (two years ago) link

Another statement that I fear could be a bit accurate is:

The NYRB is the place where even Lorrie Moore writes uninterestingly.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 18 September 2018 09:33 (two years ago) link

I subscribe to the NYRB on-line, primarily to be honest for its archive. Since Charles Rosen died I think the only NYRB writers I actively care about are Garry Will, Joan Didion and very occasional ilxor Luc Sante. Probably I've forgotten someone obvious and important. I feel Buruma was a poor choice as editor: even ignoring his bad opinions, he seems out of his depth.

I subscribe to the New Yorker on-line, also primarily for access to its (enormous) archive. I posted that I'm not a huge Remnick fan on the other thread, and it's true -- I don't like his own writing and I think some of his big-name hirings have been bad. Jia Tolentino's take-down of the Ghomeshi affair was good, though.

I subscribe to the LRB to arrive in the post (and generally read most of it, except the fiction reviews). It probably actually has the widest scope of the three.

mark s, Tuesday, 18 September 2018 11:59 (two years ago) link

I find myself reading about mediaeval calligraphy or something I'd never normally read about and finding I'm getting something out of it. All too rare an experience with online reading.

This kind of thing has totally happened to me w/ the LRB.

Daniel_Rf, Tuesday, 18 September 2018 13:46 (two years ago) link

It would be great if they offered an option to digitally bundle articles from each for a monthly fee but from their POV would probably be a bad move, eating into their subscriber base.

Lol, I like Colm Toibin's essays and think you could say the same about the LRB. I do agree it has the widest scope and a less Anglo bias.

The archives of each are a great resource - was something I dove into when I had my subs to NYRB and LRB (I like how the LRB links off to related articles online - one of my university libraries had all of the old print issues going back to the mid 80s, it was good fun to go back and look through the old personal ads which alas I don't think migrated to the digital archives).

Luc Sante posted here, really? He's also one of my NYRB faves.

Federico Boswarlos, Tuesday, 18 September 2018 13:50 (two years ago) link

I subscribe to the LRB, but it's a bit like gym membership: rarely feel I'm getting the most out of it. No matter how much of each issue I read, all the interesting letters in the next one are about stuff I missed. I *never* read the poems.

fetter, Tuesday, 18 September 2018 13:51 (two years ago) link

The NYRB is for people who think Colm Toibin is a good critic.

er..the people at the LRB think so:

https://www.lrb.co.uk/contributors/colm-toibin

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 18 September 2018 17:06 (two years ago) link

There is much crossover between contributors at both places. Obviously you'd expect the NYRB to have more on the US and less on the NHS (and vice-versa for the LRB).

Ultimately its been a poor year for the LRB - and that's not to include the mountains of poems by Frederick Seidel! The Grenfell piece, Lanchester's fiction, Perry Anderson's two parter on Powell (whatever his merits we could do with better coverage of fiction, and that really wasn't it).

I don't really see both publications being that sustainable in the long run. Politically it does feel - more than ever - like these projects are at the end of their runs, along with their politics (I never cared much for The New Yorker - like all of these good stuff is published - but the Bannon invite is where you see the writing on the wall for these ppl...just this very basic failure to be decent).

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 18 September 2018 17:17 (two years ago) link

Another vote for the TLS here. Also The Literary Review, https://literaryreview.co.uk/

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Wednesday, 19 September 2018 01:49 (two years ago) link

The NYRB is for people who think Colm Toibin is a good critic.

― the pinefox, Tuesday, September 18, 2018 Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Unfortunately this statement would also somewhat redound on the LRB, to which I am a long-term subscriber.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 19 September 2018 08:17 (two years ago) link

No, I wouldn't expect the NYRB to write about the NHS, as the LRB sometimes does. But I said "the minutiae of US politics -- understandable maybe, but to a degree that makes it almost like a news review (Spectator, New Statesman or something)".

Writing about the NHS is somewhat different: long-range analysis of social issues.

The politics minutiae is something that the LRB used to do (but less than the NYRB) in Ross McKibbin's regular reviews. He was clearly retired out of that role - surely he can't have asked to quit it? - and the paper no longer carries many of those contemporary politics articles. The closest thing to the new McKibbin has been Tom Crewe, who I find mostly very creditable.

The obvious reason for the paper stopping rolling politics coverage in print is the sense that such fast moving developments are better covered online, in its blog. So you could plausibly say that the LRB blog is its answer to the NYRB's vast print political coverage.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 19 September 2018 08:22 (two years ago) link

The claim that any print publication is unsustainable necessarily looks plausible.

But if a specific claim is made that these publications are unusually unsustainable, I don't see evidence for that in the LRB's case.

re the LRB specifically: I have heard here and there that it now has a bigger print circulation than ever, as well as its online readership. It also has its own healthy though small promotional / esteem-building ecosystem with its author events and films, which are always packed -- the shop in general would appear to be solid infrastructure in the LRB's make-up now.

If the claim is that the LRB's politics are out of date, eg because it is 'centrist', I don't agree because by UK standards it has been quite far to the political Left for many years. Anderson, Eagleton, Hatherley, even Jameson and Zizek (who longer appears for some reason) are regulars, or contributors, who are Marxists. More to the point, perhaps, Crewe is closer to the Corbyn position and movement, as many of us are. And it has embraced the latest wave of feminism in a big way, albeit still provoking claims of imbalanced coverage, which I think have in turn led to more women writing and being written about, in the last year or so.

I can't claim that any of the above applies to the NYRB - a different matter.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 19 September 2018 08:29 (two years ago) link

mckibbin is 76 so he may have bowed out decided of his own accord

mark s, Wednesday, 19 September 2018 09:57 (two years ago) link

he started writing sentences like that

mark s, Wednesday, 19 September 2018 10:07 (two years ago) link

I agree.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 19 September 2018 10:09 (two years ago) link

I was just thinking about Alan Bennett as an LRB political figurehead (long quoted as saying he likes it cos it's the most radical literary review).

His schtick in effect is: 'the "national treasure" that "Middle England" loves, but who is actually a left-wing critic of our society, radical in a way that would worry many of his admirers'.

As such, it occurred to me that he could literally be called an avant-gardist - as in, say, someone who covertly takes the fight deep into enemy territory.

I wouldn't call him an avant-gardist in other ways.

It might possibly be that AB's status as key LRB totem is well on the wane, and that he is withdrawing much as McKibbin did (as above).

the pinefox, Wednesday, 19 September 2018 10:13 (two years ago) link

The LRB and NYRB are entwined with a kind of pre-cold war politics. It's left, but its Perry and Tariq Ali, no intersectionality. Like nyrb it engaged with the issues but as the stats show it doesn't have enough women reviewing, and I can see the LRB making the exact same mistakes the NYRB made.

Ultimately and once the trust fund cash runs out I can see the whole thing dying off.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 19 September 2018 10:25 (two years ago) link

Sorry cold war, like its left but as the Grenfell piece showed it has different colours.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 19 September 2018 10:28 (two years ago) link

I don't like the Grenfell piece, but I don't think it represents the political stance of the whole LRB (certainly not all of its contributors) -- more the political stance of its author.

It's true, though, that in publishing it across the whole issue, the paper allied itself with the article, which I think was very poor judgment.

The Cold War seems a red herring to me. The LRB has an interest in Russian history (Sheila Fitzpatrick) but otherwise the Cold War isn't really much part of its politics at all, no more than anyone else's. Once again, Crewe's engagement with Momentum, et al, seems more significant than any of that.

If 'no intersectionality' means that not many of the writers (or topics) are non-white or female, then this is broadly true, but not more true than of most equivalent titles (are they all also unsustainable for the same reason?). More to the point, the engagement with a) changing that, at least re gender and b) taking on big political issues of the time, eg Rose on Trans, Mishra on white nationalism, etc, seems genuine and increasingly extensive. That's not to say that the actual writing has always been good.

The LRB doesn't need me to defend it - I have been frustrated by it as much as most people - and it will survive or it won't, regardless of what we say. So I suppose I am merely trying to state facts.

Once more, the financial facts are another matter - you may know more than the rest of us about the balance of the paper's income. I don't know about trust funds, do know that it was long recipient of an Arts Council grant. I agree that such sources of income can be important to keep these presses going, and think it's a good thing that they do.

Once more, the NYRB seems to be a different thing, part of a somewhat different culture. But we would need evidence for the claim that it is financially unsustainable.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 19 September 2018 11:53 (two years ago) link

The LRB's underwritten by Mary-Kay Wilmer's family fortune - low estimates are about a million a year. I think… accounts show a £3m loss last year..

(fwiw I think it's an excellent way to use an inheritance)

woof, Wednesday, 19 September 2018 12:07 (two years ago) link

Mary-Kay Wilmers' father was a successful Belgian industrialist which helps fund the LRB and lets it operate at a loss (a good use of the money, I would say). It has a wide circulation for a magazine/journal/paper of its kind (bigger than the NYRB, maybe, if we incl Europe?) but I don't think it's a profitable enterprise (maybe because it's never felt as much pressure to be it hasn't had to make sacrifices or changes to aggressively try).

I remember reading that the NYRB was successful year over year (not sure if this is still the case), but I think it has a wide subscriber and institutional sub base that keep it afloat. Also there are maybe more ads? Or am I just cranky and noticing them more?

I definitely am more sympathetic to the LRBs politics and while, yes, there is a generational thing think it's mostly among their old guard of regular contributors (Perry, Tariq, etc.). I think some of the younger contributors they've been bringing in are better engaged with different currents in the left (Benjamin Kunkel, Thomas Chatterton Williams, Adam Shatz - also in the NYRB but mostly just writes about jazz, Joanna Biggs, Emily Witt). It's not the same, but they do also publish other good younger writers on their blog. The NYRB on the other hand seems pretty firmly fixed in its leftish early 90s post-Cold War liberalism which - with the notable exception of some individual writers - seems fairly out of date.

(I didn't read the Grenfell issue though was discouraged after hearing some of the critiques about its treatment of it).

Even though I read both much less frequently, I hope both remain sustainable in one way or other, whether it be as the recipients of public funding/a benefactor or by subs/ads. I

Federico Boswarlos, Wednesday, 19 September 2018 12:18 (two years ago) link

mary kay wilmers subscribe to my patreon

mark s, Wednesday, 19 September 2018 12:38 (two years ago) link

Largely agree with Federico. FWIW I'm not sure that Adam Shatz is young.

There was a moment, perhaps about 2007, when the LRB tried to bring on board n+1 writers -- Batuman, Kunkel, at least. That was one of those moments of partial generational transition, which was something of a precursor to the present with Witt, Heti, Diane Williams et al in it regularly. We probably discussed it on here, over a decade ago.

Though people often complain about the same old names, it is fair to say that for good or ill, it is a different paper from what it was. Kermode, Rorty, McKibbin, Sturrock, James Wood, various others used to be regulars; several are now dead. It's largely a different generation now, with continuities (Collini) and new staples (Runciman).

The copy-editing has declined (Mark S and I both see this), and possibly parts of the writing are also worse. I don't think either of these will damage it commercially at all.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 19 September 2018 12:50 (two years ago) link

The closest thing the LRB has to a regular / old guard US 'cold war [?] liberal' type, who would tie it in with the NYRB, is ...

David Bromwich.

I don't much like him and I'm glad he no longer appears very often.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 19 September 2018 12:52 (two years ago) link

twitter is claiming that buruma is out at NYRB

mookieproof, Wednesday, 19 September 2018 17:27 (two years ago) link

Confirmed: Ian Buruma is out as editor of the New York Review of Books, following much criticized decision to publish piece by Jian Ghomeshi. "I can confirm that Ian Buruma is no long the editor of The New York Review of Books," said a spokesman

— Cara Buckley (@caraNYT) September 19, 2018

mookieproof, Wednesday, 19 September 2018 17:42 (two years ago) link

:D

illegal economic migration (Tracer Hand), Wednesday, 19 September 2018 17:45 (two years ago) link

Must be a real trip to reach the apex of your profession and then lose all credibility with your entire organization in one fell swoop.

faculty w1fe (silby), Wednesday, 19 September 2018 17:48 (two years ago) link

aww I was kinda looking forward to my first angry cancellation letter

Uhura Mazda (lukas), Wednesday, 19 September 2018 17:55 (two years ago) link

it’s not too late

I don't know the story here, or whether IB should go over this particular incident -- but I'm instinctively inclined to be glad about this, as I remember him writing a regular Guardian column, maybe 15 years ago, that I found unpleasant and reactionary.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 19 September 2018 17:57 (two years ago) link

It seems puzzling to me that someone should publish an essay, presumably after lots of discussion, copy-editing, official agreement, etc -- *then* be told (by bosses?) that it was unacceptable.

Wouldn't or shouldn't they have made this clear at an earlier stage?

the pinefox, Wednesday, 19 September 2018 17:58 (two years ago) link

lol kicker in the NYT story about it

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DneaxZFVYAAA4rW.jpg

mookieproof, Wednesday, 19 September 2018 17:59 (two years ago) link

Note: the Brixton Review of Books doesn't seem to have any content online?

the pinefox, Wednesday, 19 September 2018 18:00 (two years ago) link

i would guess that robert silvers published whatever the hell he wanted, so there may have been no apparatus overseeing buruma editorially. i would also guess that his publisher (and buruma himself, obviously) had no idea what kind of firestorm it would bring. i don't know what the NYRB's last major public fracas was, but i'll bet it happened before twitter was available to magnify things beyond a series of angry letters over the following issues

mookieproof, Wednesday, 19 September 2018 18:07 (two years ago) link

i was a NYRB subscriber from ... 2010 to 2015ish.

i was always a month or three behind reading them. the ability of their US politics writers to make predictions that, in the time it took me to get around to reading the article, turned out to be laughably wrong was notable. i'm sure i'd feel the same way about other politics writing if i read it on a 3 month delay. but the tone was so above the fray that i kind of felt/feel they should do a better job than the news.

their science (and history of science) coverage was (and perhaps is) excellent and afaict unique (serious, accessible, humane, etc.)

daryll pinkney being the fossil they wheeled out (and perhaps the only person on their roster) capable of reviewing ta-nahesi coates earlier this year doesn't bode well. (it was a good review though.)

i've never had an LRB subscription but i read more of their stuff these days via the web. e.g. i have saved 5 LRB pieces this year, and zero NYRB (unless you count the odd blog post, e.g. https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2018/06/17/world-cup-2018-the-yob-swagger-of-inger-land/ was fun).

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Wednesday, 19 September 2018 20:26 (two years ago) link

*Darryl *Pinckney

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Wednesday, 19 September 2018 20:27 (two years ago) link

also: i liked it more when i didn't live in new york. when i lived in mitteleuropa it felt like they might know lots of things i didn't, but it seemed more obviously out of touch when i moved to NYC and had more direct knowledge of the culture/institutions it covers.

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Wednesday, 19 September 2018 20:32 (two years ago) link

Well, look at that...

This is certainly an opportunity for them to re-think the mag and have a more considered approach to who takes over the editorship (I think in large part Buruma was named because he was there and regularly contributing for so long).

I think it would be swell if they went back to two editors and perhaps opted to not continue only under the helm of an older white guy. I don't know if I'm optimistic this will be the case, but you never know...I think they are self-aware enough, like the Paris Review was, not to do it but, you never know.

Federico Boswarlos, Wednesday, 19 September 2018 20:52 (two years ago) link

Note: the Brixton Review of Books doesn't seem to have any content online?

― the pinefox, Wednesday, 19 September 2018 Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

I know its very small, only 2/3 issues and I've only seen it sold in our local 2nd hand bookshop lol.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 19 September 2018 20:57 (two years ago) link

I pretty much read the NYROB for Elizabeth Drew.

The Silky Veils of Alfred (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 19 September 2018 21:00 (two years ago) link

i was always a month or three behind reading them. the ability of their US politics writers to make predictions that, in the time it took me to get around to reading the article, turned out to be laughably wrong was notable. i'm sure i'd feel the same way about other politics writing if i read it on a 3 month delay. but the tone was so above the fray that i kind of felt/feel they should do a better job than the news.

Can believe that although iirc Michael Tomasky was dispassionately assessing Trump's chances and wasn't discounting him.

I think these two papers are not much better than the general media in terms of analysis and prediction (trying to think of Adam Shatz (writing for the LRB) on Egypt but I'm too exhausted to check and assess).

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 19 September 2018 21:06 (two years ago) link

the tolentino take down is good imo. even though i don't particularly warm to oyler while reading it and have enjoyed things by tolentino that i've read

frederik b. godt (jim in vancouver), Saturday, 8 February 2020 00:00 (nine months ago) link

Yeah, I've liked ust everything I've read by her, though didn't finish the recent piece on TikTok (note to self: must.extend. my interests. na) Wrote this on current What Are You Reading:
I just read a book first published in 2019, by an actual youngperson! Jia Tolentino's Trick Mirror---Reflections on Self Delusion. At thirty, she looks back to her Canadian-Filipina origins, with prodigious parents who got religion in Toronto, and vaulted to a megachurch lifestyle complex, which the author and her friends referred to as "The Repentagon," somewhere in the "fathomless sprawl" of Houston---which had no zoning laws, so it was near a teen club dedicated to the music and memory of DJ Screw---and as a young and restless, yet well-schooled teen, she found the szzyrup experience compatible with her ideal of eternity---later sought in the desert, while doing psychotrophics---which might have something to do with her attraction to the writings of Simone Weil, the Christian mystic who escaped to WWII London yet starved herself to death in solidarity with the victims of Hitler (since this book came out, JT's New Yorker archive has incl. illuminating, disturbing examination of what had seemed to me something of a mystery trend: millenials posting "just kill me now, blow me away," in ecstatic context).
Back to life: her storytelling essays may have been strengthened by actual journalism, which she first practiced while going back to her alma mater, the University of Virginia, in the wake of the Rolling Stone debacle. She immediately recognizes and sharpens her view of shady nuances, while meeting people close and closer to the center of the recent furor.
Also rides the rapids through tunnel of mirrors, "The 'I' in Internet," seeking to make sense of some involvements, to get perspective on others that make all too much sense, or seem to (Russian nested doll tendencies of some psychedelic and even weed experiences, splitting difference between self-awareness and self-consciousness, may also apply). And she works hard to make the money required for the good food and exercise (esp. a mostly female-inhabited hivetivity known as the barre, which might have come from an unholy collaboration of Ballard and Atwood) required to make the money for
Oh well, she's got a good acerbic sense of humor about all this. Also a lot of good stuff about her favorite children's books, and discussions of seemingly familiar voices---Weil, Plath, Ferrante, several others--while pointing out things I hadn't thought of and didn't know about them.
The only section I have doubts about is "The Story of a Generation in Seven Scams," mainly because Trump upstages everybody.

dow, Saturday, 8 February 2020 01:22 (nine months ago) link

I'm too cheap to subscribe to anything, and lazy enough to stick to the local library's latest print WSJ (weekend Wall St. Journal). Usually a few titles and quotes to note, avoiding easily-spotted Murdochy reviewers (also I'm taking a break from reading anything about WWII, which saves a lot of time).

dow, Saturday, 8 February 2020 01:32 (nine months ago) link

Murdochy (etc.) key phrase: "identity politics," which never means anybody to the Right.

dow, Saturday, 8 February 2020 01:34 (nine months ago) link

feel like I've read that story before

It's not a new narrative, but he adds some interesting color.

o. nate, Saturday, 8 February 2020 02:06 (nine months ago) link

two weeks pass...

seem to be an issue behind, but enjoyed Alexander Zevin’s combative response to Collini’s review of his book on The Economist.

As an adept of ‘voice’, Collini delights in the conceit that the Economist speaks as if from On High. What it is saying hardly matters. ‘If you want to know what’s happening in the world, read the New York Times,’ he urges us. ‘If you want to know what’s wrong with what’s happening in the world, read the Guardian. If you want to know what’s going to happen next in the world ... read the Economist.’ A sillier flourish is hard to imagine. The Times was telling us what was happening in the world as it toasted Hillary’s Clinton’s cruise to the presidency? The Guardian was telling us what was wrong with the world when it cheered New Labour and adored Obama? Was the Economist telling its readers what was going to happen when it hailed the invasion of Iraq as the dawn of a new world order as wonderful as America’s forging of the Free World in the time of Acheson? Or when it had no glimmering of the financial meltdown of 2008?

Fizzles, Friday, 28 February 2020 08:07 (eight months ago) link

I like Collini but Zevin is spot on with that

Neil S, Friday, 28 February 2020 09:06 (eight months ago) link

tbf i can imagine sillier flourishes

mark s, Friday, 28 February 2020 12:43 (eight months ago) link

Yeah, and he could have said worse about all those three---but I sure wouldn't want any of my (music) reviews judged by where they appeared---although some reviewers do seem proudly to ingest and exude the surrounding airs and disgraces---and maybe I have too, without getting called on it---?

dow, Friday, 28 February 2020 18:14 (eight months ago) link

that “impossible to imagine x” formula in its various formats is always so rubbish. literally that’s what imagination is capable of.

anyway i was as much approving of its slightly overmuscular combativeness as its sentiment tho also the sentiment is correct and the flourish was also i maintain silly as it often is.

Fizzles, Friday, 28 February 2020 19:22 (eight months ago) link

Yes, I side with Fizzles here - and Zevin.

I am about 3 issues behind so his quotation is a FUTURE PREVIEW for me.

the pinefox, Saturday, 29 February 2020 14:22 (eight months ago) link

No it's not - I've now opened that issue, 20.2.2020! But I think I'm still at least two behind, as I read almost everything in every issue except the poems.

the pinefox, Sunday, 1 March 2020 12:33 (eight months ago) link

go back to the beginning and read all the poems pinefox

mark s, Sunday, 1 March 2020 12:40 (eight months ago) link

two weeks pass...

LRB 20.2.2020:

1: Colin Burrow's 'Fiction and the Age of Lies' is like an exemplar of the things that people here have been saying is bad about the LRB for ages. I'm surprised no-one here has mentioned this.

2: ILB people like Jenny Turner - somewhat more than I do. But her memoir of Deborah Orr is, I think, rendered a bit ridiculous by its opening admission that she hadn't seen Orr for over 16 years. There are lots of people who I liked from ILX in 2003 whom I haven't seen since, but if they died now I wouldn't really feel best placed to write a massive memoir about them in a top literary paper.

If that doesn't convince you to agree with me, as I don't expect it will -- she also repeatedly, favourably quotes Suzanne Moore.

the pinefox, Monday, 16 March 2020 15:53 (eight months ago) link

as much as anything it's a memoir of shared work-time and (very intense) life in the city limits editorial office in the late 80s, which is i think a little different from encounters on a message board, however joyful? but i am interested -- some wd say over-invested -- in the qualities and values of the alt.press in that era, what gave it its drive and flavour, and why that dissipated

mark s, Monday, 16 March 2020 16:02 (eight months ago) link

dissipated or in fact gradually became bad not good -- which is an argument JT might indeed have made, tho i think it wd be a sour place to make it and despite being joint editors of CL at that time orr and moore are not merely interchangeable

(disclaimer: i delivered review copy to jenny during this time and remember its travails fondly, its surprisingly large office was in curtain road)

mark s, Monday, 16 March 2020 16:07 (eight months ago) link

Email from LRB shop concludes:

"The paper itself will, for now, continue to be published."

the pinefox, Monday, 16 March 2020 18:26 (eight months ago) link

1: Colin Burrow's 'Fiction and the Age of Lies' is like an exemplar of the things that people here have been saying is bad about the LRB for ages. I'm surprised no-one here has mentioned this.

i can't tell what might be bad about this piece because my eyes glazed over before the end of the first column.

Paperbag raita (ledge), Monday, 16 March 2020 19:39 (eight months ago) link

i read it while trapped in a hospital waiting room so i actually finished it: at the time i found some of it was p interesting tho i'd have to look back to see what (it is overlong)

mark s, Monday, 16 March 2020 19:41 (eight months ago) link

re that Age of Lies article, for once I would say I would like to see XYZZ's view on it -- as he knows, I usually diametrically disagree with him on these things but this time we might just be in accord.

(But more likely he would perversely find a way of approving of it.)

the pinefox, Monday, 16 March 2020 20:10 (eight months ago) link

Haha I will read it later. The piece on the Japanese Royal family is the first thing I have read from the LRB in a while.

xyzzzz__, Monday, 16 March 2020 20:21 (eight months ago) link

as much as anything it's a memoir of shared work-time and (very intense) life in the city limits editorial office in the late 80s, which is i think a little different from encounters on a message board, however joyful?

I actually can't really endorse this defence - that would be a very worthwhile article, but this is actually not very much about that. It's mostly self-indulgence and passive-aggressive self-promotional whingeing, an unfortunate aspect of Turner.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 17 March 2020 11:31 (eight months ago) link

to be fair to me (the best kind of fair) my declaration of investedness and hence distortion of response is contained in my second sentence

mark s, Tuesday, 17 March 2020 11:46 (eight months ago) link

three weeks pass...

I've been enjoying the "Pandemic Journal" dispatches in NYRB. This is a good one about being on literal coronavirus lockdown:

https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2020/04/06/pandemic-journal-april-6-12/#longworth

o. nate, Tuesday, 7 April 2020 02:17 (seven months ago) link

three months pass...

tfw you tweet something p sour abt the buruma affair to a twitter pal and one of the signatories of the open letter protesting it (who i entirely forgot follows my twitter pal) faves yr tweet

maybe bcz they now regret signing? or bcz skullduggery in gathering said signatories? anyway they didn't sign the stupid harpers letter (tho naturally buruma did)

mark s, Tuesday, 7 July 2020 19:24 (four months ago) link

three months pass...

pssst...The New York Review of Books (@nybooks) has a new website. To celebrate, the full site (including the archive of 50+ years of articles), is unpaywalled from now until Nov. 3! https://t.co/cjeZB9HPLe pic.twitter.com/rzoKcAG6zo

— NYRB Classics (@nyrbclassics) October 19, 2020

mookieproof, Thursday, 22 October 2020 15:28 (one month ago) link

Moderately distressed to find that the mention of me in the NYRB didn’t make it to the site because it was in a little call-out box rather than the main article :(

Tim, Thursday, 22 October 2020 16:25 (one month ago) link

The website is beautiful.

Started reading a few pieces last night. I didn't realize Empson wrote a couple of pieces for them including an exhausting review of a book on Donne by John Carey.

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 24 October 2020 07:48 (one month ago) link

having a look now. will definitely “do the donne” but please post any good articles people itt find during the free period. (i get access via an institution normally but don’t make anywhere near enough use of it, so re ups for old pieces gratefully received as well)

Fizzles, Saturday, 24 October 2020 08:18 (one month ago) link

gonna send an email congratulating them on the new website but complaining about the lack of tim tbf.

Fizzles, Saturday, 24 October 2020 08:19 (one month ago) link

classic empson letter

The first thing we need to recognize, because modern Christianity goes to extreme lengths to hush it up, is that the moral character of God had become very hard to defend, and that this was widely known, by the time Calvin and Luther had followed Aquinas.

Fizzles, Saturday, 24 October 2020 08:22 (one month ago) link

The chief new defense invented for God is that he intends to resign, and will do so as soon as he conscientiously can, as soon as a workable alternative to his rule has been prepared.

Fizzles, Saturday, 24 October 2020 08:23 (one month ago) link

also the review (of a Raymond Williams book on cultural vocabulary, that starts

The book is continually interesting; never more so, from my point of view, than when it is plainly wrong; but it is usually right, I could not deny.

love the way he starts from the position that any book reads is in likelihood wrong. always looking of course to pick an argument with a book.

Fizzles, Saturday, 24 October 2020 08:26 (one month ago) link

Part of the gloom, I think, comes from a theory which makes our minds feebler than they are—than they have to be, if they are to go through their usual performance with language. The entry on the word interest is a good example. Our modern uses of the word, he explains, derive from capitalist procedures, and at first ranged from “compensation for loss” to “investment with a right or share.” In medieval times, usury was forbidden, but compensation was allowed, so there could be a gradual development of capitalist practices; interest in the modern financial sense had arrived by the end of the sixteenth century. But the “subjective” use, for curiosity or attention, is not clear before the nineteenth century:

The question is whether this sense of an object generating such interest is related to the active sense of interest—of money generating money…. It seems probable that this now central word for attention, attraction and concern is saturated with the experience of a society based upon money relationships.


So the poor word is like an old prayer-book which had been clutched by Mary Queen of Scots at her beheading and is still saturated with her blood; it is accursed. But there is no evidence for this linguistic phenomenon. We would often like an influence from past uses to survive in a word, when it plainly doesn’t.


but in bold is otm.

Fizzles, Saturday, 24 October 2020 08:29 (one month ago) link

I went straight for some Helen Vendler but would absolutely welcome recommendations.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Saturday, 24 October 2020 09:07 (one month ago) link

I did not know that Michael Wood wrote the original review of Gravity's Rainbow! https://www.nybooks.com/articles/1973/03/22/rocketing-to-the-apocalypse/

Piedie Gimbel, Saturday, 24 October 2020 09:27 (one month ago) link

thse guys also have their lore

mark s, Saturday, 24 October 2020 09:32 (one month ago) link

time to ilx it up imo

mark s, Saturday, 24 October 2020 09:32 (one month ago) link

Will fuck about with The Charles Rosen archive:

https://www.nybooks.com/contributors/charles-rosen/

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 24 October 2020 09:50 (one month ago) link

donne piece contains a section of pure Empson, arguing a controversial textual reading via dramatising an imaginary but commonplace scene (he does this with Shakespeare a few times):

Whereas, if we look at the matter the other way round, every step is intelligible. One evening around 1600 Donne’s boss, the lord keeper, was giving a dinner party for some other top legal figures and invited his secretary to read them a few of his poems afterward, before the music. Donne felt that this poem, put among some more romantic ones, would suit the old buffers very well, so long as the point of it was left out; as a porner they would like it, but they would feel positively insulted if told that the affair was innocent. So, while dressing for dinner and considering what to read, he drew a line through due to and wrote “much less” over the top, merely to remind himself on the occasion. He could speak these words so as to sound encouraging and conniving, though they might look bad to a reader; he had no intention of altering his poem permanently. Maybe he crossed out the addition next morning, leaving a complete bafflement for the copyists.


it makes you gurgle at the effrontery and audacity of it, almost trolling, and the thing of it is, that i think his reading is (must be actually) the right one, which reverse engineering from that conclusion means he may well not be wrong in his scene (or if not the scene, the motivation for the emendation).

Fizzles, Saturday, 24 October 2020 10:25 (one month ago) link

couple from the archive: pieces by john gregory dunne on policing in LA, written just after the king beating but before the uprising

https://www.nybooks.com/articles/1991/10/10/law-disorder-in-los-angeles/
https://www.nybooks.com/articles/1991/10/24/law-and-disorder-in-la-part-two/

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Saturday, 24 October 2020 21:24 (one month ago) link

also everything by freeman dyson is at least good fun, if not better

https://www.nybooks.com/search/?size=n_10_n&filters%5B0%5D%5Bfield%5D=author&filters%5B0%5D%5Bvalues%5D%5B0%5D=Freeman%20Dyson&filters%5B0%5D%5Btype%5D=all

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Saturday, 24 October 2020 21:26 (one month ago) link

this was true of lots of people who wrote for the nyrb but most notable to me in dyson, perhaps because he lived so long -- the fucking ground they covered was just incredible. dyson would be like 'this one time i was having beers with niels bohr and enrico fermi . . .' yes please tell me everything about your personal interactions with a guy who won his nobel 90 years ago

mookieproof, Saturday, 24 October 2020 21:58 (one month ago) link

Ha, I just dipped into his review of the James Gleick Newton biography and

“We knew that the fat young man was second in command to Sir Oswald Moseley in the British Union of Fascists, and if his friend Adolf had successfully invaded England he would probably have been our Gauleiter. Being well-brought-up English children, we listened to the fat young man politely and never showed him our contempt.

When I was bringing in the harvest and listening to the fat young man, I did not know that he had been the owner of the Newton papers. I learned this two years later from the economist John Maynard Keynes.”

circles, Saturday, 24 October 2020 23:17 (one month ago) link

Lmao perfect

𝔠𝔞𝔢𝔨 (caek), Saturday, 24 October 2020 23:38 (one month ago) link

lol

mookieproof, Sunday, 25 October 2020 02:10 (one month ago) link

Even as a long-term fan, I was beginning to find Patricia Lockwood insufferable in the LRB, but her piece on Nabokov in the new issue is simply delightful.

Piedie Gimbel, Wednesday, 28 October 2020 19:25 (four weeks ago) link

two weeks pass...

I ended up sorta logging boring reactions to my read of the Charles Rosen archive (with links to the relevant pieces)

Terrific piece on Burton and 17th century prose, time to chase protestants:https://t.co/tMURjGOVXR

— non consumiamo marx (@xyzzzz__) October 26, 2020

xyzzzz__, Friday, 13 November 2020 17:56 (one week ago) link

Are you still able to read NYRB pieces? For some reason I can't log on..

xyzzzz__, Friday, 13 November 2020 17:57 (one week ago) link


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