Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The psychological end of summer

My newest scent column is up. It's on difficult pleasures. In trying to come up with a catchy title, I kept thinking of that Sylvia Plath poem, "On the Difficulty of Conjuring up a Dryad" (which has a partner poem, "On the Plethora of Dryads"). But there's really no cute way to pun on that title. Also, what's a dryad? A little sprite of some kind? I love how "sprite" is a video game term. Anyway, here's an excerpt from the column:
The assumption from the Contract side, of course, is that it isn’t difficult to write a difficult novel. It’s a common assumption (the idea that it’s harder to write a hit pop song than a strangely beautiful melody), but a problematic one—the problem arising from the fact that we can’t evaluate what we don’t understand. And this problem isn’t unique to art; it’s very difficult to verify mathematical proofs or review scientific papers that are both novel and advanced, simply because so few people are in a position to do so. Given the probability that some art seems complex when we approach it because its form or method or structure or materials are unfamiliar—not because its creator is a willful obfuscator—it seems wise to give complexity the benefit of the doubt, until inspection proves it meaningless.
The new issue also includes a great poem by Ben Mazer and an essay by Joshua Harmon, which I haven't read yet, but I can almost guarantee is brilliant. (When will I learn to spell "guarantee"?)

Also in my inbox this morning, very happy news of an awesome review of The French Exit in The Rumpus, by the very smart and thoughtful Virginia Konchan:
The prison of time, according to polyglot Vladimir Nabokov, is “spherical and without exits, short of suicide.” Freedom, and even happiness, to follow this logic, would be to carve a space for oneself within this time-bound context, yet in Elisa Gabbert’s The French Exit, the options for assertion of presence, and, conversely, the Stevensian art of “waving adieu,” abound. To leave without saying goodbye is to render a “French Exit,” yet Gabbert’s debut collection skims this idiom of connotations of peremptory haste, imparting to the concept (here rendered literally by the word SORTIE emblazoned on French doors which demarcate an interior) a molten wealth of contradiction: nostalgia sans sentimentality, anxiety sans self-preoccupation.
I love her reading of the book; I think she caught lots of little Easter eggs.

SOTD: Rossy de Palma. LOVE. Like top 10 love.

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