Thursday, July 14, 2011

One Constant, If I May

A few New Yorker-ish things:

* The short story "Homage to Hemingway" by Julian Barnes from the July 4 issue was very thought-provoking. A combination of fiction, literary criticism, playful meta-textuality... good stuff, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Hemingway's death. And I loved this little passage:
He told them his theory of writers and cooking. Novelists, who were in it for the long haul, were temperamentally equipped for stewing and braising, for the slow mixing together of many ingredients, whereas poets ought to be good at stir-fry. And short story writers? someone asked. Steak and chips. Dramatists? Ah, dramatists – they, the lucky sods, were basically mere orchestrators of the talents of others, and would be satisfied to shake a leisurely cocktail while the kitchen staff rustled up the grub.
Bonus link: Julian Barnes reads Hemingway's "Homage to Switzerland," which inspired "Homage to Hemingway."

* Paul Muldoon, the magazine's Poetry Editor, gave the commencement speech for the Bennington College writers' program -- in terza rima. Actually, this poem is a meta-textual homage too, to W. H. Auden's poem for the 1946 Harvard commencement, "Under Which Lyre". I'm not sure Muldoon's poem will endure as long as Auden's (there might be too many snarky pop-culture references in it), but I enjoyed several passages from it, especially this one:
The challenge is how to kick-start
ourselves and name some grand ambition shining there
at which we may, albeit briefly, set our caps
before throwing those same caps in the capricious air.
and the concluding advice:
think outside the frame
unless you’re a photographer; be frugal
in everything but praise; never jump a small claim;
always write “some pig” of the least porker
in the barnyard; remember those who fly far look like fair game;
refuse to pay corkage; make every line a corker;
let your main tactic be tact
and—one constant, if I may—read The New Yorker.


Dr.J said...

Talking about Homage that we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the spanish Civil War where Hemingway played a dubious role as journalist/enthusiast let me remember the much more true (truer?) Homage to Catalonia by G. Orwell.
A spanish novelist talking about Hemingway too, said that novelist are preservers and they can reach their goal either by a long and slow brew or by heavy salting their ingredients, Ernest concluded this writer was all for the salt. Do young american writers feel any interest for Hemingway books nowadays?

Marissa said...

The Julian Barnes short story contains some commentary on Hemingway and his contemporary reputation -- how Hemingway's persona tends to overshadow his writing and make people (especially women) predisposed to dislike his work. He has a reputation as a ridiculously macho writer: wars, bullfights, big-game shooting. And yet, even young dudes who like reading "macho" stuff are unlikely to read Hemingway nowadays -- they are much more likely to read Charles Bukowski or Chuck Palahniuk.

I might actually have a higher opinion of Hemingway than many of my peers -- I really admire his skill with dialogue. In the 1920s he wrote better dialogue (more condensed and understated and full of subtext) than most playwrights of the era!

Has Woody Allen's latest film "Midnight in Paris" opened in Spain yet? I think you would really like it -- and Hemingway puts in an appearance!

Dr.J said...

I take that Allen´s films are shown at the same time worldwide. Not that i have watched his last one but I have read comments about it from the end of May. Hope it is better than Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
Do you like Gertrude Stein or Scott Fitzgerald better than Hemingway? I know it is a silly question but I was taken aback by The night forest.
By the way, do you mean you are not exactly a fan of bullfight?

Marissa said...

I do like F. Scott Fitzgerald; haven't read much Stein. What is "The Night Forest"? (perhaps this is a translation problem)

Hmm, I'm not actually sure what I think of bullfighting (and I have never had the opportunity to attend a bullfight). If I went to one, would I get caught up in the excitement and the spectacle, or would I be disturbed by the killing of an animal for entertainment? I don't know.

Dr.J said...

Sorry, I meant Djuna Barnes "Nightwood" of course, funny how titles translations confuse us.

Marissa said...

Ah, "Nightwood"! I've heard of it but haven't read it.