Links We Loved This Week – 10/20/17

Famous authors from Jane Austen to Zora Neale Hurston respond to your unsolicited dick pics. Via McSweeney’s.

The Harvey Weinstein revelations continue. I’ll draw your attention to a pair of New York Times articles that I think are particularly important. In the first, Lupita Nyong’o describes in an op-ed just how hard Harvey Weinstein worked to try to get around her clearly stated boundaries, and how alone she felt in her situation. In the second, Quentin Tarantino gives a brutally self-aware interview about the fact that he knew about Weinstein and failed to do anything. I think his interview really shows how normal this thought process seems despite the horrifying consequences, and also shows that people who aren’t invested in seeming like perfect allies (ahem, Ben Affleck) are sometimes more capable of learning and improving. (Assuming, of course, that Tarantino does improve in the future.)

“I chalked it up to a ’50s-’60s era image of a boss chasing a secretary around the desk,” he said. “As if that’s O.K.”

Speaking of which, Hachette has quickly and quietly “terminated” Weinstein Books, per The Guardian, but are keeping all of the titles and transferring the women who run the imprint to the main branch. That’s how you do it. 

James Wood wrote a piece in The New Yorker dissecting why Never Let Me Go by recently crowned Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro is so great (or, in his words, “one of the central novels of our age”).

Links We Loved This Week — 10/28/16

It’s here!! A full trailer for Netflix’s Gilmore Girls Revival! At least two Adversion writers have shed actual tears watching it. The third isn’t disclosing.

Christopher Marlowe has officially been credited as a co-author on three of Shakespeare’s plays: all three parts of Henry VI. AKA the Shakespeare plays you never quite made it through.

The Walking Dead came back this week, and the resolution to the cliffhanger was almost as terrible as the cliffhanger itself. There are lots of scathing reviews circulating, but Vox calling it “terminally stupid television” sounds about right.

The Awl has a hilarious piece on creepy milk drinkers from popular culture, including good old Walter from Westworld.

Happy Halloween! Read Flavorwire’s collection of classic literature’s six uncanniest moments.

A Fundamental Misunderstanding of Tess of the D’Urbervilles

Tess is just a humble milkmaid when the local landowner has his wicked way. Her new beau, the smarmy Angel Clare, is none too pleased when he finds out she’s already been deflowered. What is a girl to do? Bloody revenge of course, and an ending to touch the hardest of hearts.

Pulp! The Classics is an inspired idea. Who wouldn’t want to read irreverent re-tellings of classic literature that highlight their universal–and therefore, potentially lowbrow–themes? After all, with slightly different execution, Hamlet is just a revenge story, The Great Gatsby is just a crime thriller, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a forebear to Pineapple Express.

And maybe one could argue that this Tess of the D’Urbervilles cover proves a similar theorem: without Hardy’s sensitive and socially conscious artistry, Tess is nothing more than exploitative erotica. But this cover isn’t just oversimplifying the book’s themes, as the other covers in the series do; it’s actively (and offensively) reversing them. “She’s no angel”?? Tess is about a compassionate, highly moral young woman who is raped, loses her child, and is unfairly ostracized (and then executed) as a result of hypocritical Victorian sexual mores. The subtitle of the novel is “A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented.” It takes its name from “the D’Urbervilles”–the noble name Tess’ father vainly tries to appropriate for their family–rather than her actual name, Tess Durbeyfield, because she possesses nobility in spite of her social standing. The entire point of the book is that she is a goddamn angel, in all the ways that count.

The Pleiades by Ivan Bunin

It’s dark. Not caring where I go, which path I follow,
Past sleepy ponds I stroll.
Of autumn freshness, leaves and fruit the fragrance mellow
Drifts over all.
The garden’s almost bare, and through the branches whitely
The stars of evening show.
Dead silence reigns. Murk clothes the paths. It’s nighttime.
My steps are slow.

They’re slow, but wake the hush… High in the sky’s cool
A princely diadem,
The icy Pleiades blaze diamond-like and sparkle,
Each one a gem.

On its face, “The Pleiades” by Nobel Prize-winning Russian author Ivan Bunin (translation from All Poetry) contains an inspirational (and somewhat unoriginal) message: when life seems dark, confusing, and/or pointless, look at the stars, and their transcendent light will lead you to your spiritual home. Continue reading →

Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie

…every spring cleaning time, except when he forgets, Peter comes for Margaret and takes her to the Neverland, where she tells him stories about himself, to which he listens eagerly. When Margaret grows up she will have a daughter, who is to be Peter’s mother in turn; and thus it will go on, so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless.

“Gay and innocent and heartless” is the perfect last line for J.M. Barrie’s classic novel about never growing up, because children can’t understand it. When I read this line as a child, it nagged at me for years, because I couldn’t reconcile the apparent contradiction. Innocence is the epitome of goodness, or so I thought.

But once I, like Wendy, betrayed Peter Pan by growing older, and reread the novel as an adult, the conclusion made perfect sense. Peter is the embodiment of guilelessness and joyfulness, and so is relentlessly charming, but is also terminally selfish. Innocence is unsustainable unless it is accompanied by a pure self-centeredness, which is why we never blink an eye when Peter forgets Wendy for decades, or is tempted to stab Wendy’s little daughter, Jane, shortly before the end. He wants to eliminate this child out of resentment, because she symbolizes the passage of time that has taken Wendy away from him, and reminds him of the reality that he would prefer to reject. But he doesn’t mean anything by it.

So what better day to celebrate this author than the ultimate symbol of the passage of time: his birthday. Happy 156th birthday, J.M. Barrie!

The advent of Spring, according to Emily Brontë

Why did the morning rise to break
So great, so pure a spell,
And scorch with fire the tranquil cheek

Where your cool radiance fell?

Poetry so often conflates springtime with rebirth, renaissance, hope, and the like, but Emily Brontë’s work begs to differ. The narrator of “Ah! Why, Because the Dazzling Sun” spends the poem shutting her eyes tightly (and vainly) against the “blood-red” light that “throbs with her heart” and destroys her peace. And as she says in “Fall, leaves, fall”:

I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay

Ushers in a drearier day.

Brontë’s poetry seems keenly aware of the Icarus myth: her relationship to daylight and springtime springs from an understanding that sunlight is not the product of a benign reflection, a consumptive fire.

From “Ah! Why, Because the Dazzling Sun” again:

O Stars and Dreams and Gentle Night;
O Night and Stars return!
And hide me from the hostile light
That does not warm, but burn—

“Faustine” by Algernon Charles Swinburne

You have the face that suits a woman
      For her soul’s screen —
The sort of beauty that’s called human

      In hell, Faustine.

The meaning of the name Faustine is “made of the stuff of Faust,” just as Eve was made from the rib of Adam and Pandora at the hands of Hephaestus. By Swinburne’s own admission, Faustine’s unearthly beauty signals a missed opportunity for exaltation, a gift she squanders “to waste the loves and ruin the lives of men.”
The poem is concerned with one central idea, he says:

“…the transmigration of a single soul, doomed as though by accident from the first to all evil and no good, through many ages and forms, but clad always in the same type of fleshly beauty.”

And she has taken many forms through the ages, both in mythology and in literature. The gorgeous Faustine who is caressed by dishonest serpents and receives “flower of kisses without fruit of love”–she could be Daisy Buchanan, or Rosamond Vincy, or even Lily Bart. The awareness that beautiful, hollow monsters are made, not born, varies in each of these works, but there is virtually none in Swinburne’s (otherwise quite moving) poem.
You seem a thing that hinges hold,
      A love-machine
With clockwork joints of supple gold —
      No more, Faustine.

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The City in the Sea”

But lo, a stir is in the air!
The wave- there is a movement there!
As if the towers had thrust aside,
In slightly sinking, the dull tide-
As if their tops had feebly given
A void within the filmy Heaven.

Poe’s “City in the Sea” refers to the city erected by Death, in which all lost souls, squandered riches, and fallen idols are laid to waste in “melancholy waters,” as Death looks “gigantically down” in satisfaction.

But these lines also tend to remind me of the metropolis in which kht, jd, and I reside: New York, of course. On its best days, the towering skyline ascends to the heavens and punctures them, sending their contents spilling down onto us. On its worst days:

Hell, rising from a thousand thrones,
Shall do it reverence.

Virginia Woolf’s The Waves as Both a Loss and Assertion of Individual Identity

The sun had not yet risen. The sea was indistinguishable from the sky, except that the sea was slightly creased as if a cloth had wrinkles in it. Gradually as the sky whitened a dark line lay on the horizon dividing the sea from the sky and the grey cloth became barred with thick strokes moving, one after another, beneath the surface, following each other, pursuing each other, perpetually.

[jd: Shit, that’s good.]

Continue reading →