Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

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Benjamin Chambers writes:

Boy, the literary news has just been piling up. Here’s a quick taste:

  • The Nobel prizes were just handed out, and American poets got skunked—as usual, according to David Orr in the Times. According to Orr, New Yorker poets John Ashbery and Adrienne Rich both shoulda been contendas. (Larissa MacFarquhar did a profile on Ashbery in the November 7, 2005 issue, but no one seems to have done the same for Rich, although D.T. Max did a Talk piece on her refusal of the National Medal of the Arts in 1997.)
  • Philip Roth was recently interviewed on NPR about his new novel. I’m not a fan of Roth’s work, but I found Robert McCrum’s long interview with him in The Guardian fairly interesting, particularly the section that talks about the hostile reception his story, “Defender of the Faith,” which appeared in the March 14, 1959 issue of TNY: “For much of the Sixties he was declared a traitor to his people, abused and denounced up and down as worse than anti-Semitic.”
  • This week, Yale celebrates the 250th birthday of Noah Webster, author of the eponymous dictionary. Webster, I learned, is the person responsible for separating American English from British English in key ways: “The French version of words like ‘centre’ [also used by the Brits] became ‘center’ and he dropped the British ‘u’ in words like colour’ and the redundant ‘k’ in musick and other words.” Jill Lepore, who wrote a November 6, 2006 essay on Webster for TNY, is a fan: “You cannot look up a dictionary definition today and not stumble across many definitions that were written by Noah Webster.” Happy birthday, Noah.
  • In this Kansas City Star profile of novelist and poet Jim Harrison, I found a reference to his September 6, 2004 TNY piece, “A Really Big Lunch.” Concerns a 37-course meal he once had, which took 11 hours to eat. Gotta look that one up … feeling a bit peckish.
  • May not be as good for sales as the Oprah Book Club, but Melville’s Moby-Dick may soon become the Massachusetts state (er—commonwealth) novel, if its state House of Representatives has anything to say about it, and apparently it does. The bill proposing the honor for Moby-Dick was filed “at the request of fifth-grade pupils at Egremont Elementary School so they could follow the bill through the legislative process.” However, “those pupils are now in the seventh grade, and the bill still isn’t law. It needs to pass the state Senate and get the signature of Governor Deval Patrick.” While you’re waiting for it to become official, check out John Updike’s May 10, 1982 TNY review of Melville’s career after Moby-Dick came out. Updike reverses quite a few myths about Melville, chiefly that Moby-Dick was not, as is popularly supposed, a financial or critical flop.
  • Not sure this qualifies as “news,” but I’d never seen these writing commandments from Henry Miller before. Not sure if they’re really his or not, but they might be worth checking out.

Have fun surfing!


The other day I was looking into some restaurant recommendations in Paris, and in a ">http://www.lexpress.fr/styles/saveurs/restaurant/l-epigramme_474539.html> L’Express review, an establishment called L’Epigramme is said to “Enflamme la plume et le fusil de l’écrivain-chasseur-bâfreur Jim Harrison.” (Bâfreur, péjoratif, from bâfrer, “to guzzle, to gobble.”)

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