The first time someone told me the premise of Sudden Death by the Mexican novelist Álvaro Enrigue (translated by Natasha Wimmer), she followed it up by saying, “but it’s not really about that. It’s about everything.”
She was right, of course.
Sudden Death is about a tennis match between the famous Italian painter Caravaggio and the famous Spanish poet Francisco de Quevedo in Piazza Navonna in Rome on October 4, 1599. This tennis match is not exactly a historical fact, but you can’t exactly prove it didn’t happen, either. Tennis, in those days, was an almost unimaginably rough sport, a contest for drunken ruffians and rowdy young aristocrats. Dueling at tennis was an acceptable alternative to dueling to the death. In this duel, Quevedo is “seconded” by Pedro Téllez-Girón, 3rd Duke of Osuna, while Caravaggio’s second is the estimable Galileo Galilei. Each point of the tennis match is narrated in rapturous detail, as if Enrigue were reporting from the sideline at Wimbledon. Continue reading
Chris Jackson co-founded the bookstore McNally Jackson, edited Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and is making the stupidly white world of literary publishing a little more diverse: “The lens that we have is a way in which we can claim the entire world.”
How an old Philip Roth remark sort of predicted Donald Trump: “The American writer in the middle of the twentieth century has his hands full trying to understand, describe, and then make credible much of American reality.”
And speaking of the absurdity of American reality: “Amazon is planning to open hundreds of physical bookstores.”
Nathan Heller on airplanes: “Flight is the best metaphor for writing that I know.”
Saudi Arabia almost executes a poet: “The pen has yet to be proven mightier than the sword.”
Photo of Chris Jackson by Shaniqwa Jarvis for the New York Times
The Yid by Paul Goldberg comes out today!
It’s the rather outrageous story of a Jewish actor in 1953 who gets confronted by Stalin’s goons during a pogrom. He responds by assembling a band of misfit heroes to assassinate their Shakespearean villain of a ruler. This debut novel has been compared to Inglourious Basterds and Seven Samurai, and the movie analogies are apt–you’ve never seen a book like The Yid before.
We asked the author one question.
How are you celebrating the publication of The Yid? Continue reading
Black Deutschland by Darryl Pinckney: “Jed–young, gay, black, out of rehab and out of prospects in his hometown of Chicago–flees to the city of his fantasies, a museum of modernism and decadence: Berlin. The paradise that tyranny created, the subsidized city isolated behind the Berlin Wall, is where he’s chosen to become the figure that he so admires, the black American expatriate.”
The Heart by Maylis de Kerangal: “The Heart takes place over the twenty-four hours surrounding a fatal accident and a resulting heart transplant as life is taken from a young man and given to a woman close to death.”
The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee: “Lilliet Berne is a sensation of the Paris Opera, a legendary soprano with every accolade except an original role, every singer’s chance at immortality. When one is finally offered to her, she realizes with alarm that the libretto is based on a hidden piece of her past.”
Also this month: We’ll review new releases Wreck and Order by Hannah Tennant-Moore and Sudden Death by Álvaro Enrigue.
New music! Sometimes old music. Music that we love!
Who wants to hear some data!!!!!?
Much like Wikipedia itself, the Listen to Wikipedia project can be simultaneously fascinating and pointless. It delivers the sound of real-time edits. This can be a beautiful way to help you work, or distract you from work, depending.
“Bells indicate additions and string plucks indicate subtractions. Pitch changes according to the size of the edit; the larger the edit, the deeper the note. Green circles show edits from unregistered contributors, and purple circles mark edits performed by automated bots. You may see announcements for new users as they join the site, punctuated by a string swell. You can welcome him or her by clicking the blue banner and adding a note on their talk page.”
Sonifying data is not a new concept, but it’s always interesting when done well. You know, like the sound of a New York Subway map lines intersecting, or the infamous Tomato Quintet.
It’s around page 850 of Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire when the action really gets going.
Plenty happens in the preceding pages, sure, but it is only toward the very end that the various narrative threads finally begin to twist and knot: It’s past 2:00 a.m. on the night of the New York City blackout of 1977. Detective Larry Pulaski, one of at least nine major characters who have carried the story so far, has followed a handful of dead-end leads surrounding a New Year’s Eve shooting to this moment — a desperate race to prevent something (no spoilers) that is part of “a scenario so screwy it wouldn’t pass muster at a movie house.” Continue reading