No rambling original ruminations on literature tonight, only some great links with competent commentary. Stay safe this weekend. Read too much.
- From the LA Review of Books, a concise, perceptive review of the latest volume of Hemingway’s letters. Published by Cambridge University Press, this is Volume 2 (of a projected sixteen!), and according to Joshua Kotin it is beautiful even though it doesn’t “fundamentally alter our understanding of Hemingway or his art or modernism or American literature[.]” These missives “complement, rather than revise, the mythologies cultivated and analyzed by countless artifacts — novels, memoirs, films, biographies, and, of course, Hemingway’s own writing,” he argues, concluding that while “the letters are wonderful; they are not crucial.” My favorite part of the review is the end, where Kotin speculates on the possibility of a database containing all the networks of responses between cultural potentates from the Modernist era, a “complete letters of modern art.”
- Historian Jill Lepore once again graces The New Yorker. This time she writes about Roger Ailes (Fox News’ begetter), William Randolph Hearst (the early-twentieth-century jingoist publishing magnate), and American tastes in news. The piece will introduce you to the fantastically named Cora Baggerly Older (Hearst’s official biographer) and her husband Fremont Older. Fremont Older!
- Do hubcaps serve a purpose? No, they do not. So does my beloved forest-green 1995 Camry need to stop flowing with the mysterious black wheels? No, it does not. Thanks as always, Car Talk, for the clarity: you should have won some Pulitzers.
- Pacific Standard on the continuing water horror in West Virginia. Turns out that allowing your state regulatory infrastructure to decay is a very bad idea. Read about this right now if you haven’t already done so. America gets her coal from often-incompetent companies that poison Appalachia, one of America’s treasures, and too many Appalachians, especially rich dumbasses with ties to those companies, keep helping. I grew up in a VA/West VA border town called Covington, deep in enormous tracts of National Forest land, and I knew some ghastly water there. The town sits on the Jackson River, which feeds Virginia’s freshwater mainline, the James River; and the Westvaco (now MeadWestvaco) paper mill sits on Covington. As the Commonwealth of Virginia officially puts it, “There is a two mile segment, from the water treatment plant in Covington to City Park in Covington[,] that is legally navigable, but is not recommended for recreation due to heavy industry.” When I lived there in the 1990s, the mill—most people just called it “the mill”—was Covington’s biggest employer, even though it was (and still is) shrinking its workforce, thanks to progressive automation and the willingness of other nations to host paper-pulp facilities that produce incredible amounts of toxic waste. The size of the plant is staggering: as a teenager I would drive up the wide street on the bluffs across from its holding ponds and light towers, and pretend I was sneaking past the Death Star. Above Covington is some of the sweetest fly fishing in the eastern United States. Below the mill, the oily river smells like frog guts. Maybe things have gotten better since I left for college. But probably not, given Virginia’s light-regulation ethos and the fact that the Bush administration had a decade to hollow out the EPA. Please leave a comment if you have some news.
- Just look at this Miller Lite TV spot from the mid-1990s. In case you miss the subtitle at the beginning, that silver-haired gentleman is Kenny “The Snake” Stabler, a satyr (according to Wikipedia he “was known for studying his playbook by the light of a nightclub jukebox and for his affinity for female fans”) who quarterbacked the Raiders to a Super Bowl win in 1977, and the guy in the comfy shirt is Dan Fouts, the most successful bearded quarterback in NFL history. (He wasn’t all that successful.) A suburban eatery? Bottled swill? Well-compensated passive-aggressive male companionship? Off-camera lady voice? Floppy shirt collars? This one has it all.
- Amy Clampitt is a solid poet. Not enough people read her work. Here is a link to one of her poems, “Vacant Lot With Pokeweed.” Go there. It is brief and will make your weekend better, I promise.