Categories: NER Classics
I shall never forget the horses’ heads—the feet in the metopes! I felt as if a divine truth had blazed inwardly upon my mind and I knew that they would at last rouse the art of Europe from its slumber in the darkness.
These passages from Benjamin Robert Haydon’s 1853 Autobiography were published as a rediscovery in NER 19.3:
The first thing I fixed my eyes on was the wrist of a figure in one of the female groups, in which were visible, though in a feminine form, the radius and ulna. I was astonished, for I had never seen them hinted at in any female wrist in the antique. I darted my eye to the elbow, and saw the outer condyle visibly affecting the shape as in nature. I saw that the arm was in repose and the soft parts in relaxation. That combination of nature and idea which I had felt was so much wanting for high art was here displayed to mid-day conviction. My heart beat! If I had seen nothing else I had beheld sufficient to keep me to nature for the rest of my life.
Categories: NER Classics, Poetry
Mark Jarman’s poem “Northern Insomnia” appeared in NER 13.3-4:
Passing out of the rain into dull cloudlight,Through heather, a field of sleep, and rock,Into the discovery of waterAnd with it the recognition of wind.
Dark water, water showing,In a basin cut lengthwise below a hill,Nothing of the sky, a sheepish gray,Nothing of the eye’s desire for rest…
Categories: Fiction, NER Classics
Gwen Strauss’s essay, “A French Love Affair,” appeared in NER 21.2.
We live on a converted barge, a houseboat, on a canal,
on the eastern edge of Burgundy almost in the Jura mountains . . .
We live on a converted barge, a houseboat, on a canal, on the eastern edge of Burgundy almost in the Jura mountains, next to Switzerland. Driving to the closest town in our new, very old 1952 Peugeot 203 takes about fifteen minutes. Of course, in a newer car you’d get there faster—and I wonder, would the town seem more modern? Because when I’m in our car, I notice again that our village is full of old people, that the French countryside has been abandoned by the younger generations. When I pull into the gas station, or into the market place, inevitably an old French man will come running out of the nearby café. With pastis on his breath he’ll exclaim, “C’est ma jeunesse!” Then he will moon over the dashboard. It’s the same, the very same as the one he had as a young man! There will follow some discussion, mixed with patriotic disbelief, about how I, as a youngish American woman, got possession of this car. How could that be? they ask. I want to answer: by sheer pathological stupidité. But I just smile and shrug my shoulders and sigh a lot, “C’est comme ça.”
Categories: Fiction, NER Classics
. . . he’d come into my head, unbidden, unconjured,
the way long-ago boyfriends will do . . .
Dwight Allen’s story, “Not Renata,” appeared in NER 21.2.
Now and then, he’d come into my head, unbidden, unconjured, the way long-ago boyfriends will do, if you aren’t careful. I’d be chewing on my pencil or a fingernail, say, or looking at the blue California sky while pumping gas into my car, and there he’d be, lying on a three-legged, rummage-sale couch in our graduate school apartment of twenty years before. (The fourth leg was a cookbook my mother had given me. “Hope this will inspire you,” she said.) In this picture he’s as still as a painter’s model, cigarette smoke veiling him like stage fog. I peer at him, this secretive, cowardly boy I once loved, and then the picture dissolves and I’m inhaling gasoline fumes or listening to Mrs. Ramirez or Mr. Kuhn or someone else at the senior center tell me a story. I work with the elderly. With the crabby and unpopular Mr. Kuhn, I sometimes play checkers, waiting for the moment he says “King me!” and stirs me from my daydreams. The last time my former boyfriend appeared before me, I was in the dentist’s chair.
Categories: NER Classics
“Wallace took a similar line in more abusive terms, declaring that readers under age forty—particularly female ones—had no time for what he termed the G.M.N.s (Great Male Novelists) and disliked Updike in particular . . .”
William H. Pritchard’s “Updike’s Way,” appeared in NER 21.3:
In the fall of 1997, at the time John Updike’s novel Toward the End of Time was published, the New York Observer featured a page headlined “Twilight of the Phallocrats, “consisting of pieces by the critic Sven Birkerts and the novelist David Foster Wallace about the current state of American fiction. That state was not good insofar as it concerned what Birkerts called “our giants, our arts-bemedaled senior male novelists.” He was referring to Updike, Philip Roth, Norman Mailer, and Saul Bellow, whose recent novels were “manifestly second-rate,”yet who were not “getting called onto the carpet for it.” Birkerts suggested that these eminent writers would be well advised to yield their crowns to a younger generation of “brothers,” novelists such as Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, Robert Stone, and John Edgar Wideman, who had their eyes on politics and society, the “larger world” Updike and his contemporaries, in their obsessive preoccupation with the self, were neglecting. Wallace took a similar line in more abusive terms, declaring that readers under age forty—particularly female ones—had no time for what he termed the G.M.N.s (Great Male Novelists) and disliked Updike in particular. Toward the End of Time was a prime example of what these novelists shared—”their radical self-absorption and their uncritical celebration of this self-absorption both in themselves and in their characters.”
Categories: NER Classics, Nonfiction
“The Long March of ‘Orientalism': Western Travelers in Modern China,”
Nicholas R. Clifford’s report from abroad, appeared in NER 22.2:
Graves, graves, graves, countless ancestral graves in countless ancestral fields! Always the presence of death! A few naked trees along the railwayembankment . . . now and then the dark crenellated walls of some ancient city . . . (Agnes Smedley, 1943) . . .
They are drawn conventionally enough, these pictures. Travelers finding in a foreign land—here, the China of fifty or sixty years ago—a waste of unchanging hopelessness: a land perceived as corrupt, superstitious, and burdened by a conservatism so rigid it might be taken for stupidity. The images themselves betray a frustration, a kind of fed-upness by the observer with the observed. In no sense are they original, for their pedigree reaches back a century and more, each succeeding generation adding its own detail and coloration to the features conjured up by Western fancies of the country.
Categories: NER Classics
Robert Cohen’s “The Fickle Gods,” appeared in NER 21.4.
“Christ knew, she was in need of some grace today . . .”
Though she was running almost ridiculously early for her doctor’s appointment that morning, Bonnie didn’t mind. She liked going to doctors. She had a pretty fair tolerance for dentists, accountants, and lawyers too. It was a professional age. She delivered herself with gratitude to their buzzing offices, sought out their informed opinions, their brisk, impersonal evaluations. They made her feel located; they made her feel known. After nine-odd years of graduate school—the last five spent crawling through the tunnel of her dissertation—people who not only talked about things but actually went around doing them were like evidence to her of some casual secular miracle. In their presence she became calm and penitent, open to the ministrations of grace.
Christ knew, she was in need of some grace today. In addition to her usual strenuous bout of pre-dawn vomiting, there had been at breakfast a rather nasty and gratuitous argument with her kids which had left her utterly depleted. It was almost as if they knew what was up. But how could they? She herself didn’t know. Not officially. Not clinically. Which was why she had made her appointment with Dr. Siraj.
Categories: NER Classics, NER Community
Pimone Triplett’s poem, “Bird of Paradise Aubade
With Bangkok Etching Over the Bed,” appeared in NER 22.2.
“. . . your body’s parse of sweat and salt . . .”
Woke to hear you refuse
to stop working in heavy rain, shoveling the mud
that beggars our part
of the yard. After a while, I heard the rasp of iron’s
rake on gravel, wet earth, your bending for the gaps
to get the seedlings right. Then for hours from the window
I watched all your muscles connecting up, your body’s parse
of sweat and salt, hollows
between the ribs appearing, then not, around your
breath’s steady reed and thrum. Watched,
you see, until I knew, for once, I wouldn’t try to leave.
Though I did want to walk out and say something else
about moving through the myth
of ask and answer once.