Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

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An admirably self-effacing friend and neighbor of Emdashes sent us at least one of the links below way back in 2007, but it is only in ‘08 that this post manifests itself. So it sometimes goes with a blog of little staff. You already know that I’m nearly a lifelong appreciator of Otto Soglow, and will no doubt recall the enchanting animation of the Little King from a few months ago (scroll down through the rhyming couplets; you’ll find it).

Anyway, here’s a wonderfully detailed, gorgeously illustrated post about Soglow by Austin Kleon (classy site design, by the way); it even includes Soglow’s New Yorker obituary, from 1975. He links to an excerpt from “Otto Soglow and The Ambassador,” an essay by Jared Gardner, in The Comics Journal. There is a lot here about Soglow’s work for The New Yorker; it’s really engrossing. Read it! Eddie Campbell followed up the latter with a worthy entry of his own.

Speaking of in-depth inquiries, Richard Eder, one of the kindest and most intelligent writers I’ve known, wrote a review in the Times of the second volume of those famously elaborate Paris Review interviews. A snippet in which you’ll be especially interested, I’d wager:
Interviews run the risk, particularly when long and literary, of declining into monologue. A mirror is held up; writers, who for so long have been their own mirrors, gaze into it…. The interviews that shine get away from this. Performing — the word again — informs better than informing does. Concealing reveals more than revealing. Where the otherwise brilliant Robert Lowell and William Gaddis dutifully stand still to be questioned, others take questions as things not to be answered but launched from.

James Thurber flaps off, like a partridge diverting from her eggs, to talk about bloodhounds. Then he recounts how, when a friend once told him he’d forgotten an argument, Thurber was able to repeat it for him: “It’s strange to reach a position where your friends have to be supplied with their own memories.”

That could be one of his well-known cartoons for The New Yorker; say, the man introducing a woman crouched naked on all fours on top of a bookcase as “the first Mrs. Harris.” Which leads to Harold Ross, the magazine’s editor, calling Thurber, demanding whether she was supposed to be alive, stuffed or dead, and Thurber claiming to have consulted his taxidermist and doctor to conclude that she was alive. Then to writing, eventually, and Henry James’s reminding him of a bulldog who carried around a fence rail that kept jamming against the gate post.

“I had that feeling in some of the James novels: that he was trying to get that rail through a gate not wide enough for it,” Thurber says.
This same self-effacing neighbor who provided some of the Soglow links said semi-seriously that David Byrne, who here visits Ikea, should try a Shouts & Murmurs. Why not? Celebrities should be encouraged in their witty, writerly pursuits; it might prevent some of them from making asses of themselves. Not that Byrne is in any danger of that; indeed, his “How New Yorkers Ride Bikes” event at this past year’s New Yorker Festival was one of the biggest hits of the program. It’s not online (for some reason, I thought it was), but some of the other highlights are. I especially recommend the Seymour Hersh, Judd Apatow, and Steve Martin videos. If you listen closely, you’ll hear me laughing (and/or quietly panicking at the dire state of the world) in the audience.

This seems as good a place as any to say that I still haven’t gotten over the sweetness and poignancy of Rosanne Cash playing and singing at her festival event, not to mention talking and flirting, endearingly, with Hendrik Hertzberg. She slayed everyone in the room with her generosity, wit, and beauty, and it was all just before she had brain surgery, too. I continue to be spellbound. I know that’s a lot of adjectives, but she deserves them.

Finally, via the AP, it’s the Lake Superior State University Banished Words List for 2007. It’s perhaps not as galling a collection as our own Banned Words and Phrases, but it’s got “authored,” “webinar,” and “waterboarding” on it, among others. Waterboarding really is as stupid a word as it is a reprehensible practice; surely we can come up with something that makes it sound as bad as it is.

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2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree