Tag: New York Review of Books

Gass and Gaddis and Blue language

Tuesday, 25 February, 2014 0 Comments

On Being Blue by William H. Gass was first published in 1976, the year when the Apple Computer Company was formed, the Ramones released their first album and Agatha Christie died. Now, it’s being republished by NYRB Classics, with an introduction by Michael Gorras, and here’s a snippet from his appreciation of the amazing flexibility of the English language in the hands of Gass:

“Say it. Go ahead, stand before the mirror, look at your mouth, and say it. Blue. See how you pucker up, your lips opening with the consonants into a kiss, and then that final exhalation of vowels? Blue. The word looks like what it is, a syllable blown out into the air, and with the sound and the sight of saying it as one. You blew blue, though let’s pause a while before getting on to that, and try it out in the other languages you might claim to know. Bleu. But it’s just not the same, your lips don’t purse as much, the eu cuts the syllable short where the ue prolongs it, sustaining it like a piano’s pedal. Blau — that doesn’t work either, and the ow makes the mouth open too far. It’s not quite a howl, it’s a touch too soft for that, and yet it’s a blowsy sound, and untidy. As for azzurro or azul, well, those suggest something else entirely.”

Blue

“The ship’s surgeon was a spotty unshaven little man whose clothes, arrayed with smudges, drippings, and cigarette burns, were held about him by an extensive network of knotted string.” The Recognitions by William Gaddis.

While Michael Gorras pays tribute to the musical language of William Gass in his introduction to On Being Blue, Gass did something similar for William Gaddis in his introduction to The Recognitions: “I particularly like the double ts with which our pleasure begins, but perhaps you will prefer the ingenious use of the vowel i in the sentence with which it ends… or the play with d and c in the same section,” he wrote. Michael Robbins looks at “How perfectly strung-together words can delight the ear” in the Printers Row Journal.


Expressing the inexpressible with Bach

Saturday, 8 February, 2014 0 Comments

How did Johann Sebastian Bach manage to express the inexpressible, especially with regard to death? What guided his compositional decisions? The search for the answers to these questions lies at the heart of a new book, Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven, by the British conductor John Eliot Gardiner. Praising Gardiner’s work in the New York Review of Books, George B. Stauffer gives us an overview of a composer’s music that is hallmarked by an exuberance and a grace “that gives it extraordinary emotional depth and drama.” In the words of Gardiner, Bach “celebrates the fundamental sanctity of life, an awareness of the divine and a transcendent dimension as a fact of human existence.”

Here, from the St Matthew Passion, which was written by Bach in 1727, is the magnificent bass aria Mache dich, mein Herze, rein, sung by Stephan MacLeod and conducted by Philippe Herreweghe.


The New German Question does not have an Answer

Friday, 2 August, 2013 0 Comments

“The trouble with the German prescription for the eurozone is that it is — according to taste — either just not working or not working fast enough. One simple, theoretical point seems to me worth stressing. Germany, the export champion, has been described as Europe’s China. Just as not everyone in the world can be China, and if everyone were like China, China could not be China — for who would then buy its exports? — so not everyone in the eurozone can be Germany, and in the unlikely event that they did become like Germany, Germany could no longer be Germany. Unless, that is, you assume that the rest of the world would cheerfully expand its domestic demand to buy an all-German eurozone’s increased supply of exports.”

A witty, insightful snippet there from “The New German Question” by Timothy Garton Ash in the 15 August issue of the New York Review of Books. As Professor of European Studies at the University of Oxford, Isaiah Berlin Professorial Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Timothy Garton Ash is well qualified to discuss German questions, old and new. The fact that he is one of the few English historians who speak German fluently and has spent years living in the country copper-fastens his authority on the issues. Unlike some of his English historian colleagues, however, Garton Ash is sympathetic towards and supportive of the German position in most matters, European and global. Not everyone in Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal or Ireland would agree with his conclusion: “Germany therefore needs all the help it can get from its European friends and partners. Only together can we generate the policies and institutions, but also that fresh breeze of poetry, to get the European ship sailing again. The answers to this new German question will not be found by Germans alone.”

This is a bit rich as Germany’s “European friends and partners” will have no say in the Bundestag elections on 22 September. Because they won’t be asked The New German Question, they cannot answer; they can only guess. And that’s Europe’s dilemma.

Germany


The depraved architects of death

Wednesday, 25 July, 2012

Architecture in Uniform: Designing and Building for the Second World War by the French architectural historian and architect Jean-Louis Cohen establishes “one big, awful, inescapable truth”, writes Martin Filler in the New York Review of Books. According to Filler: “the full potential of twentieth-century architecture, engineering, and design was realized not in the social-welfare and […]

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